This is a wonderfully warm and witty novel about starting again, from the author of The Memory Book. Six months ago, city girl Sophie Mills gave up everything to move to Cornwall. All to be with the man she thinks she loves, and his two daughters who she knows she loves. But adjusting to life as a semi-permanent mother in the countryside isn't quite as easy as Sophie imagined it would be. Designer shoes aren't nearly so readily available - not that she ever has any occasion to wear them - and her best pair of vintage Manolo's have already found their way into the girls' dressing-up box. Sometimes Sophie doesn't recognise herself; which most of the time makes her happy but every now and then scares her to death. The hardest thing of all is making that final commitment to actually move in with Louis and the girls - she's been the longest paying guest of the Avalon B&B, St Ives in the history of the establishment. And as she tries to adapt to country life, her newly adopted family and discovering more about Louis' past, she begins to wonder if she's got what it takes to make it all work...
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Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake. Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Runaway Wife, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity. Rowan does not have time for ironing. To find out more about Rowan Coleman, visit her website at: www.rowancoleman.co.uk, Facebook or Twitter: @rowancoleman.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Six months later
Scones and clotted cream are the devil's work," Sophie said out loud as she inspected herself in her latest pair of jeans. Technically she was still a size ten, but if she was honest, the almost daily trips to Carmen Velasquez's Ye Olde Tea Shoppe had pushed her hips to the size's upper limit, something she'd have to sort out eventually, particularly if she really was going to wear quite so much denim.
Once, before Bella, Izzy, and their father had come into her life, Sophie had owned only one pair of jeans, which she hardly ever wore. She had been an occasion dresser, with a fondness for silk blouses on workdays and a rule that a heel should never dwindle below three inches. But since she'd come to stay in St. Ives, not only had she not bought a single pair of high heels, she'd collected four pairs of jeans, two denim skirts, an assortment of casual tops, and an anorak. Sophie loved her double-zipped weatherproof red and navy blue anorak, but it was a love that dare not speak its name, at least not when she was on the phone talking to her erstwhile secretary and good friend Cal about her outlandish new life in Cornwall.
"Have you got any wellies yet?" Cal would ask her without fail during their weekly chats.
"Me, wellies, are you joking? I have some standards," Sophie would tell him breezily. And then, hoping to change the subject, she'd try to engage him in some work talk. "Tell me what's new, do you have new accounts -- are things as bad in the city as they say they are?"
Cal, who was never that fond of bad news, would ignore her. "Wellies mean you aren't coming back," Cal took pleasure in telling her. "Wellies are a sign of commitment to your new way of life. Wellington boots are the nearest that you, Sophie Mills, will ever get to an engagement ring."
"Thanks, Cal, thanks very much for boiling my entire romantic happiness down to rubber boots," Sophie would reply. "Besides, what would you, the king of commitment phobia, know anyway? I might get married one day -- anyway, I was thinking that if the big corporations are cutting back on parties to show how sorry they are, why don't you target smaller firms? I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that if the big guys haven't got any money, then the little guys certainly don't, but -- bear with me -- smaller events at discounted rates mean less work and less outlay -- more accounts and only marginally reduced revenue. You should run that by Eve -- you can tell her it's your idea if you like."
"Sophie, have you forgotten that you traded in the life of a corporate junkie to breathe in sea air and be fulfilled? I don't need your ideas, I have ideas. I'm going after the pink pound. I'm much more interested in the idea of you getting married -- you!"
Trying not to feel hurt that Cal had rejected her idea so entirely, Sophie gazed out her bedroom window at the gray and stormy sea beyond the harbor below. Before she'd left London to come here, she had never once daydreamed about getting married or being a bride. But during the last six months she'd spent with Louis, she felt like a different person, no, a different version of herself, the self she might be if she were living in a novel or a film. The happy-ending self. And if you were the sort of person who believed in happy endings, then you knew they always came about with a wedding.
"To Louis?" Cal persisted.
"Potentially." Sophie's mouth curled into a smile meant only for herself. "One day, you know...when the time is right."
"Wellies first." Cal was adamant. "Once you've bought the wellies, then he'll finally know you're committed and he'll ask you. That's what he's waiting for."
But as of yet there were no Wellington boots in the wardrobe in Sophie's room at the Avalon B & B, and at six months she was the second-longest-staying guest, second only to Mrs. Tregowan, who had been there for nearly a year since her husband died and she had decided she couldn't bear to go back to her bungalow without him.
Sophie had arrived in the Cornish town of St. Ives in the spring. Fully experiencing the burgeoning season and embracing the renewal of life, she'dfelt herself awaken to the unknown possibilities that the future might hold. On weekend mornings she and Louis had waded in the freezing waters of the harbor with the girls until her soft city toes turned blue, collecting interesting shells and bits of pottery. Sophie had let the cool, crisp sea breeze ruddy her cheeks and whip her fine blond hair into a tangle. As they climbed over the rocks and stones to the harbor wall, Louis would hold her hand in his, reviving her numb fingers with his body heat until she felt the blood tingle and throb in the tips.
She had stayed for the whole fickle summer, which had been a stretch of warm, rainy days occasionally studded with jewel-like ones bathed in sunshine. During the summer holidays, when Louis was working on building up his fledgling photography business, the girls gave her their own personal tour of the town they'd grown up in. Picnicking among the clover and daisies in the meadow above the whitewashed town that seemed to be perched so haphazardly on the rocky cliffs that tumbled to the sea, dodging the tourists for the roller disco that took place at midday in the guildhall, which Sophie found both exhilarating and humiliating in turn. They took her to the Tate Gallery and showed her the paintings that had been their mother's favorites, Bella lecturing her confidently about light and perspective. They led her in and out of the maze of tiny cobbled streets, showing her their favorite houses, their window boxes laden with geraniums. And in the evenings before bed, after Louis had got home from that day's assignment, they'd walk along the harbor wall until they found the family of seals that was always there, lounging on the rocks just out to sea as if they rather enjoyed their celebrity. Izzy would give the seals a new name every day and Bella would tell Izzy stories about them.
For most of that time, Sophie hadn't thought about the career she'd left behind. It was as if she had finally put her foot on the brake of her life, which had been careering recklessly toward a final goal that she had never been sure of, and taken a moment to look around and feel what it meant to be alive in the world. And then in the last couple of months she'd started to feel restless and irritable. For a while she'd worried that she wasn't madly in love with Louis after all, and that the whole escapade had been a terrible mistake. But then one evening as they'd strolled along the seafront, the girls bounding along ahead of them, Louis had turned to her and said, "You're not happy, Soph, and I know why."
"I am so happy," Sophie had replied, panicking. "Look at me. I'm delirious!"
"You're bored," Louis said, smiling while squeezing her fingers.
"Bored? How could I be bored with this, with you and those two?" She nodded at the girls, who were screaming in delight as the seagulls dive-bombed them, trying to steal their chips.
"Look, it's okay, you know. I mean I know that I am endlessly fascinating and deeply sexually satisfying and that holding a conversation with either of my daughters is just as intellectually rewarding as reading Shakespeare -- but if you need something more in your life, that's cool. Something just for you. It doesn't mean you don't love us or want to be here. It just means you want to be you, and as it's you I love, I'm all for it."
"Something just for me," Sophie mused. "You mean something apart from cakes."
"Sophie, you're a doer -- a woman with ideas who makes things happen. And I don't think that includes making beans on toast for the girls' tea. Look, there's no high-finance or six-figure jobs around here -- but you should look for something to get your teeth into, like Carmen did with the tea shop. Think about it. I guarantee there is something in this town that needs Sophie Mills's magic touch. And I'm not just talking about my -- "
"You're right!" Sophie had exclaimed in relief. "That's what's missing. I need a thing. A thing to do, that's it! Oh, but what?"
"I can't answer that, but I'm sure you'll figure something out," Louis told her.
"You really know me, don't you?" Sophie turned to him, tugging at his fingers to bring him a little closer. "I think you might be the first person ever to really get me."
Louis had smiled at her and kissed the tip of her nose.
"Well, someone's got to," he'd said.
Now it was late September and things had stayed more or less the same since the week she'd arrived, a charming mixture of novelty and routine combined with the kind of happiness she had never felt before and the sense that this wasn't really her life she was living after all. It couldn't be. She felt as if she were walking through the pages of a romance novel or had suddenly been given the lead role in a movie, because real life was never this easy.
She saw Louis and the girls every day. Since the new term had started, she'd been taking the children to school now that Izzy had turned four and joined the kindergarten at Bella's school. And every other afternoon she would pick Izzy up at 1:00 p.m. and they would go to Carmen Velasquez's Ye Olde Tea Shoppe for a snack before returning to school to fetch Bella at 3:15. Then they'd go for a walk on the beach, making sand castles and chasing each other with lumps of slimy seaweed if it was sunny enough, or hang out making things from dried pasta at Louis's house if it was rainy. And just occasionally they'd partake of a second snack at Ye Olde Tea Shoppe, as it didn't seem fair that Bella had missed out.
In the evenings, after the girls were in bed, Sophie and Louis would sit in front of the electric fire he kept swearing he was going to replace with a period fireplace to match the house's Victorian exterior and laugh and talk and share news and hold hands and do a great deal of kissing. And most nights the kissing would lead to touching and the touching would lead to the most wonderful and dazzling sex Sophie Mills had ever known. Louis's sofa had seen a lot of...
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