Authors: Sharon Owens
Revenge of the Wedding Planner
Praise for Sharon Owens
‘Sharon Owens is an original, insightful new voice in Irish literature’ Sheila O’Flanagan
‘It made me refuse nights out in favour of curling up on the couch… dreaming of the mouth-watering delights the book so vividly describes’ Cecilia Aherne
‘Joanna Trollope meets Maeve Binchy… gives you a warm glow like a nice cup of tea’
‘(A) heartwarming romantic novel in the spirit of Maeve Binchy’
‘A cosy, funny and heart-warming tale… a top read for snuggling up with on a chilly Sunday afternoon’
‘A delightfully warm read you’ll devour in one sitting’
‘A life-enhancing tale’
Woman & Home
‘The Irish version of
Chocolat’ New Woman
‘By the time I finished this book, I felt rather disappointed that I couldn’t step into the Tea House on Mulberry Street with its engaging, human characters and mouth-watering recipes. Sharon Owens has a talent for drawing the reader into her world. A world as warm and comforting as a really good afternoon tea’ Jojo Moyes
‘By entwining romance with food, Owens does for cake and coffee what Joanne Harris did for chocolate’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon Owens was born in Omagh in 1968. She moved to Belfast in 1988, to study illustration at the Art College. She married her husband, Dermot, in 1992 and they have one daughter, Alice.
Her bestselling novels
The Tea House on Mulberry Street, The Ballroom on Magnolia Street
The Tavern on Maple Street
are published in Penguin Books and by Poolbeg Press.
Revenge of the
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road,
Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
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Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in Penguin Books 2007
Copyright © Sharon Owens, 2007
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author has been asserted
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
With many thanks and best wishes to everyone at Poolbeg and Penguin, especially Paula Campbell, Gaye Shortland and Clare Ledingham. A huge thank you to all the terrific people in the media who have supported me along the way, and to my wonderful agents, Ros Edwards and Helenka Fuglewicz. And to all the readers who’ve sent such lovely letters and cards, a major thank you. Once again, this book would not have been written without the love and support of my husband, Dermot, and daughter, Alice. I love you both.
1. Dream Weddings
Oh, wait a minute.
Just had another text in from Julie.
Fifth one today from Julie, that is.
She needn’t worry – I can manage on my own for a few days.
Yes, I did warn the violinists they’ll have to wear full-length brown fur coats to the Patterson wedding. And yes, I have hired brown fur coats for all seven of them, in the correct sizes, yes, to be delivered from London in good time for the occasion. And yes, I have checked the coats will be security-tagged and fully insured for their little trip to Carrickfergus.
God love those poor guys, they don’t know what they’ve let themselves in for. They’ll be sweltered playing Tchaikovsky up to their eyeballs in mink but Narnia is
at the moment, theme-wise. Huge as anything, I just can’t tell you. At least they won’t have to turn up in beaver costumes or appear as wicked elves with long pointy boots on their feet. Both of those ideas were mooted by the bride’s mother but Julie put her foot down. She likes a laugh, does Julie, but we always have the reputation of Dream Weddings to think of.
The bride is dressing as the Snow Queen in palest blue fur. With a two-foot-tall delicate silver crown attached to the top of her head with extra-strong elastic. And the groom is going to surprise her with a sleigh on wheels when they come out of the church after the ceremony. Obviously, if it actually snows real snow on the day, we’re laughing. And it might just do that ’cos the wedding’s on Christmas Eve. But if Mother Nature lets us down, we’re going to fill the car park with three tons of rice-paper flakes. No expense is being spared – the bride’s family owns an international haulage company. Well, I have to admit Miss Patterson does look exquisite in that blue fur and, you know what they say, you can’t take it with you. (And the Pattersons do give a lot of money to charity, so that’s okay.) We’re even going to make it ‘snow’ inside the ballroom at the end of the night. Nothing in this business surprises me any more.
Wait a minute, now Julie’s texting me about the rice paper. Yes, I have obtained permission from the hotelier to shake bags of paper flakes from the rafters in the ballroom. We’ve lined up three game teenagers who’re going to be dressed as snow-clouds.
Julie’s in New York this week, would you believe? I say this week but really it’s only for four days and then she’s flying on to Los Angeles with Henri. Henri’s a financial whizz and big-time deal-fixer and also Julie’s new boyfriend. He’s cultured and polite and extremely good-looking. Eyes so dark you’d think they were made of black glass. And muscles! Well, forget about it. Even his muscles have muscles. When I first met Henri I thought
he was gay, his clothes were that perfect. But Julie assured me he definitely didn’t play for the other side.
‘He’s only French,’ she said.
I’m sure he has a flaw of some kind but we’re still waiting to see what it is. Henri’s in New York to set up some meetings with an elite group of art-house film directors and an even more elite group of serious actors (darling), and Julie’s there to attend one of the biggest bridal fairs in the developed world.
Oh! There’s the phone again.
‘Hello. Dream Weddings, can I help you? Our brochure? Of course, if you just give me your address? I’ll pop one in the post. Yes, we are very busy at the moment. Fully booked for the next two years, to tell you the truth. Yes, really we are! Yes, you can book now for November 2008 if you forward our little holding fee – it’s all there in the brochure. Okay? Lovely. Thank you so much. Cheerio.’
I told Julie not to come back to Belfast with a load of frilly white dresses and traditional veils and posies because we are
getting into the fantasy-wedding market these days, it’s not funny. Ever since that rock-star wedding we did a few months ago, Dream Weddings has been absolutely inundated with calls. I mean hundreds and hundreds of phone calls and email inquiries from prospective brides and grooms. And even married couples wanting to renew their vows and have another party because they feel they missed the boat, style-wise, first time round. Honestly! The women all wanting Gothic gowns and fairy-tale capes, and kitsch pink limousines and pink champagne, and Victorian black bouquets and I don’t know what else. And the guys are binning the top hat and tails and going
for snazzy tailoring. And super-short ceremonies are the order of the day now, with no embarrassing speeches or the endless reading out of dreary telegrams at the reception afterwards. Most of the men we’ve met would rather die than attempt public speaking so we have a professional speech-maker on our books and he’s getting gigs right, left and centre. I’m telling you, it’s definitely the end of the white wedding as we know it. Goodbye to the blushing bride and all that.
Today’s woman knows what she’s getting on the honeymoon. And a good thing too. As Julie always says to me (and only to me, mind you), ‘What’s the big deal about white weddings anyway? I mean, no woman would dream of buying a car without taking it for a test-drive first.’ Julie’s words, not mine. ‘So why on earth would she throw in her lot with
guy before she’s made certain-sure he can treat her tenderly when the lights go out?’
And Julie should know. When it comes to men and weddings, Julie Sultana wrote the book. And that’s why Julie will never get married herself. Ever. I mean, she says she won’t; but I hope she will, one day. For now, though, Julie says she’s still looking for Mr Right and she’s having a lot of fun doing it, and you can’t blame her for that.
Oh, my name is Margaret Grimsdale.
Mags, for short.
I’m Julie’s PA at Dream Weddings.
2. Bill and Mags Forever
They say you never forget your first love. I certainly won’t. I’m still married to mine. God knows what I ever did to deserve such a scrumptious husband but there you go. Life isn’t fair, I suppose. Though growing up in a rain-drenched Belfast in the 1970s must have counted for something. We’re from wildly different backgrounds but we compromise on the big issues and we discuss things calmly and we muddle through.
My husband, Bill, was a Punk, you see, when I first met him in 1984 in the Limelight Club. Leaping across the dance floor with some lengths of industrial chain (from the hardware store) round his neck. And I was a Goth in plum lippy and a vintage bridesmaid’s dress I’d bought in Oxfam and dyed black in a basin in the yard.
Bill’s favourite band back then was the Blades (a Dublin-based outfit) and they’re still in his personal top five. According to my other half, the Blades’ debut (and as it turned out, their only) album,
The Last Man in Europe
, was the best piece of recorded music ever produced in the Western world. Cover’s nice too. Black-and-white moody shot of the band with some derelict gasworks in the background. Very urban decay. Bill had the original album cover framed and it’s been hanging in our bedroom for ever. Funny to think that cover is actually older than our children.
Bill was a little bit more sensitive than your average Punk and I was a lot more outspoken than your average Goth and so we managed to bridge the cultural divide. It’s not always been easy. Bill has a huge collection of nearly ten thousand vinyl records, twelve bass guitars and four massive amps. And I’m a tidy-freak. But with some built-in shelving in the sitting room and the guitars wall-mounted above the stairs, we’ve managed to steer a relatively peaceful path through two decades of marriage. It’s very hard to dust behind the strings on a guitar and I can’t abide dust so Bill switched the light bulbs in the hall to a dimmer grade some years ago, and I have to say I don’t notice the dust half as much as I used to.