Authors: Alison Sherlock
From riches to rags… Charley needs a survival plan fast.
Charley Summers doesn’t have a care in the world. She lives in the lap of luxury, supported by her rich husband and surrounded by a loyal group of friends.
Until the business goes bust and her world collapses. Before long the bailiffs have taken everything, and as if things weren’t bad enough, she catches her husband
with another woman. Suddenly, Charley needs a job, any job, so she can start repaying some of the money her husband squandered.
But with nowhere to live and no recognisable skills, how on earth is she to do that?
Alison Sherlock enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age. However, she assumed that being an author didn’t count as a proper job so when Alison grew up, she worked as a secretary, training administrator and answered an IT Hotline. Once older and a bit wiser, she realised that she really had to write her novel. So she gave up office life to sit at home and panic at
what she had done. To fund her dream, Alison became a cleaner, the experience of which she has used for this novel. A chance meeting with a literary agent at Winchester Writers’ Conference set her on the road to publication with her first book,
The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club
Alison lives in Surrey with her husband Dave and Harry, their daft golden retriever.
You can follow her on Facebook and
The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club
For Dave – husband, best friend and
chief ice-cream tester.
With love always.
A huge thank you to my editor Rosie de Courcy who gave so much time and so many excellent ideas to the dreaded second book! Her advice and passion about the story have made all the difference and I am forever in her debt.
Thank you to the whole team at Preface, Arrow and Random House for their hard work and enthusiasm on my behalf.
Special thanks to my lovely agent Judith Murdoch
whose continued support and sympathetic ear are much appreciated.
This story is about friends supporting each other through the ups and downs of life. I’ve been very lucky with mine over the years, including Jackie Hamilton, Anita Timmings, Elaine Nutley and Sharon Warry. As well as
all the new friends I have made through the Romantic Novelists Association.
Special thanks also to Jo Botelle
– for the Garfield books, grill story and everything else since.
This story is also about how important a family can be to each other in the worst of times. So a huge thank you to all of mine, especially my dad, Ray Sherlock, sister Gill, Simon and Louise Collins for their continued love and support.
Special thanks also to Ross, Lee and Cara Maidens for bringing so much love and laughter into
my life. And to all the other Maidens, young and old, both in England and Australia.
WHEN CHARLEY SUMMERS
was eight years old, a girl called Wanda at school made fun of her wild, curly hair. ‘You have clown’s hair,’ Wanda told her.
That afternoon, whilst her mother was making tea, Charley took out the iron from under the stairs and tried to flatten her hair straight. The resulting smoke brought her mother running in to throw a bowl of water over her daughter’s head.
The next day Charley’s hair snapped off, leaving a two inch crew cut in its place.
Thankfully, there are easier ways to fight nature these days if one has the funding.
Charley glanced at her reflection in the salon window. The curly tangle of dark hair that she had been blessed with now hung in a smooth sheet around her face.
With a satisfied sigh, she turned her attention back to the receptionist
who was processing the payment. Her husband often moaned about the twice-weekly £30 cost but Charley brooked no arguments on the subject. Professional blow drys were an absolute necessity.
‘I’m sorry, madam,’ said the receptionist. ‘There appears to be a problem with your credit card.’
She placed the gold plastic card on to the counter between them. Charley stared down at it, nonplussed. Had
she picked up someone else’s by mistake in the clothes shop earlier? No, the name was correct. It was definitely hers.
‘Perhaps there’s a problem with the network,’ she said, trying to remain cool and serene.
‘It rejected the card on two attempts.’ The receptionist switched on a sympathetic smile.
‘I see.’ Charley snatched the card from the counter and shoved it deep into her handbag. Aware
that another customer nearby was eavesdropping, she felt her cheeks begin to grow pink with embarrassment. She found her purse and finally handed over the cash.
‘Sorry about the card,’ said Charley, trying to recover her composure.
‘Not at all, madam,’ cooed the receptionist.
‘Well, thank you. And sorry again.’
Charley left a massive tip on the counter and scurried out of the hair salon. Once
she was a few yards away, she stopped and drew a deep breath to calm her racing pulse. How utterly mortifying, she thought. Something had obviously gone wrong at the bank.
She whipped out her iPhone and rang Steve. But, as usual, it went straight to voicemail. The new shop was taking up all of her husband’s time, so she knew he wouldn’t have a chance to call her back. But she would definitely
ask him to get the problem sorted out. They had obviously missed their monthly payment.
Deciding she wouldn’t let the small matter of the credit-card refusal ruin her afternoon, she flicked a smooth lock of hair behind her shoulder and began to walk down the high street. The February sun shone down from a deep blue sky. It was one of those wonderful late winter days where the air was crisp and
sharp, holding the promise of a cold, starry night to follow.
Charley strolled down the street which ran through the centre of Grove Village. She walked past the numerous coffee shops, the florist, greengrocer and chemist. All the basics required for country living, plus a few trinket shops where you could pick up a funky cushion or witty tea-towel.
She stopped in front of the designer lingerie
and swimwear shop at the end of the parade. The Valentine’s Day display of red silk underwear had been replaced with a beautiful purple bikini. Instead of ties, it had large silver buckles on each thigh. The price tag read £85.
Charley knew she should really purchase any beachwear from one of Steve’s clothes shops. However, although the fashions there were up-to-the-minute, the overall look was
cheap. Not quite in keeping with the St Kitts crowd they would be mixing with on holiday in a few weeks’ time.
She was tempted to try on the bikini but a quick glance at her reflection stopped her from entering the shop. She knew she wasn’t fat but she had gone up a whole dress size in the past year. She really would have to do something about it.
There was a new weight-loss club in the village,
run by a lady called Violet. Charley had seen the advertisement in the local newspaper and had heard good things about it from acquaintances.
However, she didn’t have time to lose weight slowly and sensibly. Drastic action was required. Perhaps she would hire a personal trainer instead. Maybe a few meetings with a nutritionist would be helpful as well.
As she walked on, she spotted a few schoolchildren
at the other end of the high street. Glancing at her watch, Charley realised time was getting on. Her best friends were coming over that evening for dinner and she wanted everything to be perfect before their arrival.
She turned the corner up the small alleyway to Gino’s delicatessen. It was her favourite shop in the whole universe and that included Selfridges. Where else could she buy truffle
salt for her steaks? Authentic balsamic jelly to be served with her cheese board? Pistachio cream to be swirled into her ice-cream?
The aroma which filled the shop was Charley’s drug of choice. It was a heady concoction of oils, spices and herbs, mixed with fresh coffee.
She chose her purchases carefully, deciding on handmade grissini to start and picking up some black olive pâté to use as a
dip. She had already bought a beautiful piece of salmon from the fishmonger’s, but it needed the green pesto alla Genovese to give it extra flavour. She added two bottles of Chablis to her basket before heading to the till.
She opened her purse and remembered, just in time, not to use the gold credit card. Instead, she handed over her bank card with a smile.
The wizened old Italian woman behind
the counter placed the items into a carrier bag before glancing at the card machine. She muttered to herself in Italian, then fixed Charley with a hard stare. She shook her head and held out the bank card. Charley’s stomach dropped. The bank card didn’t work either?