Authors: Rebecca Chance
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #dpgroup.org
Praise for Rebecca Chance
‘A bright new star in blockbusters, Rebecca Chance’s
sizzles with glamour, romance and revenge. Unputdownable. A glittering page-turner, this debut had me hooked from the first page’
‘I laughed, I cried, I very nearly choked. Just brilliant! This has to be the holiday read of the year. Rebecca Chance’s debut will bring colour to your cheeks even if the credit crunch means you’re reading it in Bognor rather than the Balearics’
‘Glitzy, hedonistic and scandalous, this compelling read is a real page-turner’
‘A fun, frivolous read’
Also by Rebecca Chance
First published in Great Britain by Simon and Schuster, 2011
A CBS Company
Copyright © Rebecca Chance, 2011
This book is copyright under the Bernae Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.
The right of Rebecca Chance to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
222 Gray’s Inn Road
Simon & Schuster Australia Sydney
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman,
Reading, Berkshire RG1 8EX
or a crisis meeting, everyone round the table was very silent. The trouble was, there was very little to be said. The clippings lying on the conference table – some from newspapers and magazines, others printouts from online news and gossip sites – spoke for themselves. British journalists prided themselves on their headline-writing skills, and from the selection of articles present, there might have been a nationwide competition to find the most creative way to inform the country not only that Devon’s latest cookery show was a failure, but that its hostess seemed to have been spending much more time stuffing her face than she had on concocting recipes.
DEVON HELP HER!
, over a very unflattering picture of Devon in a loose-flowing black dress and flip-flops.
NO MORE PIES, FOR DEVON’S SAKE!
, in much the same vein.
LITTLE BIT EXTRA? PULL THE OTHER ONE!
WHEN DOES INDULGENCE TURN TO GLUTTONY?
asked – more polite, but just as pointed.
‘It’s not a complete disaster,’ Bettany, the producer of
Devon’s Little Bit Extra
, said finally, in a voice doing its best to sound confident. But she didn’t have the nerve to lift her head and look anyone in the eye. ‘I mean, the ratings are quite strong.’
‘Book sales aren’t,’ snapped the publisher of the tie-in-book, shoving a copy forward petulantly. ‘They’ve fallen off a bloody cliff.’
Everyone looked at the cover of the book, a lavishly produced hardback. Devon’s face in the cover photo was as beautiful as ever, her lush dark hair cascading onto her shoulders, a snug red velvet top lifting her bosoms to a perfect amount of white cleavage, just enough to attract without being so overtly sexual that it would put off the mums who bought Devon’s book in droves. Her lipstick matched the velvet top, her cheeks were glowing with blusher, her eyes wide and perfectly made-up; she was smiling seductively while holding out a plate of strawberry shortcake. Luscious red berries, white cream spilling out from the glowing golden split biscuit, curls of dark chocolate decorating the white plate; the crimson, white and deep brown shades cleverly echoing Devon’s own colouring, the whole image evoking celebration, summer, rich indulgent sweetness.
A perfect shot. Only no one looking at it could avoid seeing what wasn’t in the photograph: the rest of Devon’s body. The photo had been originally intended as at least waist-length. And previous book covers of Devon’s had shown her entire body in pretty little printed tea dresses that finished just on the knee, and suede sandals that fastened around her elegant ankles.
This one, however, had been ruthlessly cropped just below her breasts, to display her remaining assets: her face and her bosoms. Unfortunately, on a TV show it wasn’t so easy to conceal the rest of your presenter. There had been one ill-judged shot of Devon bending over to put a tray of biscuits in the oven that had made her look positively huge. One of the online sites had freeze-framed that, blown it up and posted it with the caption:
NEEDED: BIGGER OVEN FOR XMAS TURKEY!
to be a show about food you eat every day,’ Devon mumbled eventually, looking down at the articles from
which were focussed, negatively, on the nutritional value of such suggested treats as Brie and redcurrant toasties and Baileys-and-cream cocktails. The
journalist had even totted up the calorie count of some of the recipes, to staggering results.
‘No, absolutely not,’ Bettany agreed quickly. ‘They’re really misunderstanding the point of it.’
‘I mean, it wasn’t called
Devon’s Daily Diet
,’ Devon said, warming to her theme now she had Bettany’s support. ‘You don’t eat pasta carbonara with bacon and cream every day!’
‘No, of course you don’t,’ Bettany echoed, not that she was Devon’s most unbiased supporter; her neck was on the line if the series was considered a disaster.
Rory Shipman, the head of the independent TV company that produced Devon’s shows for the BBC, banged his fist down on the table, making everyone jump. He was a large, square-built Yorkshireman, pragmatic and blunt, and the clippings nearest to him scattered away with the impact of his blow. Devon and Bettany looked over at him apprehensively.
‘Right,’ he said bluntly. ‘If no one else will say it, I will. Devon, you look like you
eat sodding pasta carbonara every day! You’ve piled on the pounds since the last series! When you showed up for filming, there were a lot of comments, OK? I didn’t have a go at you at the time, because I thought the audience might like it. You know, woman on TV who looks like woman on the street, that kind of thing. Average woman in the UK’s what, a size 16?’
One of his researchers bobbed her head in swift confirmation.
‘So here we go, lots of birds with one stone, show we’re not sizeist, bung on one of our stars who happens to have porked up a bit, get a bit of relief from all the overweight women out there who keep complaining that we’re not representing them on TV . . .’ He rolled his eyes. ‘As if TV’s there to represent people! Stupid arses!’
All the researchers tittered dutifully at this.
‘But you know what?’ Rory banged his fist down on the table again. ‘It hasn’t – bloody –
! It’s a sodding disaster! All those fat heifers out there say they want to see themselves on TV, and when they do, they don’t – bloody –
!’ He looked around the table at his audience, none of whom would have dared to say a word to interrupt him. ‘They might keep watching the show to poke fun at you, Devon, but no one’s buying the damn book! What does that tell you?’
Devon opened her mouth to answer him, but no words would come out.
‘They’ll watch you to have a laugh,’ Rory continued, ‘but they won’t shell out their hard-earned dosh to buy a book with recipes that are going to make them as fat as you!
the elephant in the room!’
Devon and Bettany gasped in horror; even the researchers cringed, wide-eyed, at the spectacle of Rory pointing at Devon and using the word ‘elephant’.
‘Rory!’ Bettany said feebly, torn between sucking up to him and defending her star.
‘What?’ he snapped. ‘It’s no more than the truth!’
‘I’m not fat!’ Devon said in a very small voice.
Rory rounded on her like a tiger who had been just toying with its prey up till now. ‘On TV, you are,’ he said straightforwardly. ‘And you’re not supposed to be fat. You’re supposed to be sexy, for fuck’s sake. This isn’t
Two Fat Ladies
, or that porky bloke on
. You’re supposed to be the girl men want to fuck and women want to be! That’s what we’ve sold you as! It’s not like you’re even a proper
If Devon’s weight had been the first elephant in the room, this was the second. It was perfectly well known at the production company and Devon’s publishers that most of the recipes didn’t originate from her, but from the team of researchers sitting around the table. Devon was a truly gifted presenter, not just a pretty face that they put in front of the cameras and told what to say; she had a real knack for taking a basic concept and putting her own spin on it, lacing a creamy Brie sandwich with fresh sharp redcurrants, adding mint chocolate swirls to a Baileys cocktail, ideas that made a viewer genuinely excited to try them out. In her most creative moments, she’d been responsible for supermarkets selling out of ingredients the day after she’d been on TV, talking through a recipe, selling it with the charm and charisma that had made her a star almost overnight.
a cook!’ Devon said, outraged. ‘I cook all the time!’
‘Devon . . .’ Rory started.
‘No!’ she said furiously. ‘OK, I may not have been much of a cook when I started out, but I’ve been doing this for years now! I’m not saying I could walk into a restaurant and do a dinner service, but I
cook, and I come up with tons of good ideas!’
‘Icing on the cake,’ Rory said. ‘You don’t bake the bloody cake.’
the bloody cake, by the looks of you!’ he said. ‘And if you don’t lose the weight you’ve put on, we won’t be commissioning you again, Devon. No one will. You’re getting like the before picture in a weight-loss ad!’
It was like being slapped across the face – in front of a group of people who, before this awful meeting, had done nothing but crawl to Devon, telling her how wonderful she was. Total humiliation. And the worst part was that, years ago, Devon had actually had a brief affair with Rory. He’d been the producer who spotted her on
Wake up UK
and decided to give her a cooking show. It hadn’t been a casting-couch situation – Rory hadn’t made it a condition that she sleep with him – but, dazzled with excitement, Devon had done it anyway. The sex hadn’t been anything memorable, and nor had Rory’s pink, freckled, slightly podgy body, which looked a lot less impressive out of his smart business suits.
He’d talked dirty, she remembered bitterly. Told her how beautiful she was. Said he couldn’t believe he was getting to do it with her, to be exactly where so many men wanted to be. He hadn’t even lasted that long, too carried away with excitement at getting to see Devon McKenna naked. It had fizzled out quite soon –
just like him in bed
, she thought meanly – after the initial buzz had worn off. When the sex wasn’t that great, that was what happened. There hadn’t been any bad aftertaste. Rory was all business, and it had been a mutual, unspoken decision to let things tail off.
But now, looking at him, Devon felt her blood boil.
He’s put on weight, too
, she thought savagely,
and he wasn’t exactly skinny to begin with. All those expense account lunches and dinners – I can tell he’s got a paunch under that posh suit he’s wearing. Bastard! How dare he call me fat!
She stood up, pushing back her chair, all eyes in the room riveted to her. ‘I know I need to lose some weight,’ she said bravely. ‘I’ll go on a diet.’
Every single person there sagged visibly with relief. Devon was a high-earning brand, and their careers were all closely tied to hers; if she could pull herself out of this downward spiral, diet herself back into the size 12 Devon the nation loved . . .
,’ she said, a martial light in her eyes, ‘I’m going to go on
. They’ve been asking me for years, and I never did it, because all you lot told me not to! Well, I
bloody cook, and I’ll show you I can!’
It would have been comical, the way her audience’s faces gaped in horror – from happiness to tragedy in a few seconds – if their expressions hadn’t demonstrated all too clearly how little faith they had in her cooking skills.
‘Devon!’ blurted out the previously loyal Bettany. ‘The reason we didn’t want you to do it is . . . well . . .’
She glanced swiftly round the table, hoping someone else would step in. No one did, not even Rory; but he gave her a sharp nod of assent, almost a command to continue.