Just Between Us [NOOK Book]

Overview

From international bestselling author Cathy Kelly, a heartwarming story of three sisters who are about to discover that -- even within a close-knit Irish family -- looks can be deceiving.

Look at them go!


In the Irish Country town of Kinvarra, the Miller girls are generally perceived to have it all. Single mother and brilliant attorney Stella looks like a Renaissance ...
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Just Between Us

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Overview

From international bestselling author Cathy Kelly, a heartwarming story of three sisters who are about to discover that -- even within a close-knit Irish family -- looks can be deceiving.

Look at them go!


In the Irish Country town of Kinvarra, the Miller girls are generally perceived to have it all. Single mother and brilliant attorney Stella looks like a Renaissance Madonna and is about to get a second chance at love. TV soap opera writer Tara has just married the love of her life -- the charming Finn -- after a whirlwind six-month romance. And shy, beautiful Holly is living an enviable bohemian life, with artistic friends and a beautiful apartment where her creative talents find an outlet. Have there ever lived three more fabulous sisters?

Now look more closely.

The Miller girls' mother, Rose -- calm, elegant, and unchanging -- is about to celebrate her fortieth wedding anniversary. But as plans for the party of the decade take shape, it's revealed that nothing in the lives of Rose and her daughters is as it seems. And as the secret heartaches the four women have kept hidden from each other begin to emerge, they're set to discover whether they're strong enough to handle the truth -- and whether greater happiness awaits them still.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Four lasses try to balance love and life in modern Ireland. Kelly (Best of Friends, Feb. 2005, etc.) posits the eternal question: Is it possible to have it all? The bright and beautiful Miller women-Rose, Holly, Tara and Stella-hope to answer this question affirmatively, but like most, they're a bit short on perfection. Rose Miller, the matriarch, is elegant and kind, and a loving wife. But be warned: Beneath her calm exterior, trouble is brewing. Rose has a stupendous meltdown during her elaborate 40th anniversary party, airing the dirty laundry of her marriage in front of family and friends and then high-tailing it out of town. Now, the daughters must sort out their man problems without her sage guidance. Holly, the youngest, is in love with her newly engaged neighbor and suffers from debilitating insecurity. She longs to summon the courage to share her feelings. Tara, the middle child, has a gorgeous husband with an equally stunning drinking problem. His alcoholism is shredding their marital bliss to bits. Stella, the eldest and a single mom, has sacrificed her love life in order to focus on raising her daughter-that is, until a charming new client shows up at her office door. There's a catch, though. This sexy prospect comes with plenty of baggage. He's fresh from divorce court and has two teenage daughters who like to stir up trouble. It's easy to see why Kelly is such a success across the pond; she has a gift for revealing the humor in life's most challenging moments. Sentimental and sweet. The Miller girls feel like old friends by the end of this well-rendered novel.
From the Publisher
"It's easy to see why Kelly is such a success.... She has a gift for revealing the humor in life's most challenging moments."

Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416516514
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 1/3/2005
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 245,976
  • File size: 664 KB

Meet the Author

Cathy Kelly is the Irish bestselling author of twelve other novels, many of which have been number one bestsellers in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. She lives in Ireland with her husband and twin sons. In 2005 she was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. Contact her on Twitter at @cathykellybooks or follow her on Facebook or at CathyKelly.com.
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Read an Excerpt


one

The previous December, two weeks before Christmas

Rose Miller hated committees. Which was a bit unfortunate, because she was on three of them. The Kinvarra Charity Committee was the most irritating for the simple reason that its internal wranglings took so much time, there wasn't a moment left to actually raise any money for charity. Discussions about the size of the type on the menus for the annual ladies' lunch, and whether to serve salmon or beef, had taken endless phone calls and two lengthy meetings. If Rose hadn't practically lost her temper, the committee would still be arguing over it.

"Does it really matter what the menus look like or what we eat?" she'd demanded fierily at the final, drawn-out meeting, rising to her feet and making all the other committee ladies clutch their copies of the minutes in shock. Mrs. Rose Miller with her dark eyes flashing in anger was not a common sight. A tireless worker for the local charities, she was known for her calm self-possession and for her organizational skills. Tall and strikingly elegant with her trademark upswept hairdo, she was almost regal in her anger. "We're here to raise money, not waste it. Is this our best effort for the underprivileged of this town? To sit in a cozy hotel bar and slurp our way through urns of coffee and entire boxes of custard creams while we discuss minutiae?"

"Good point," squeaked Mrs. Freidland, the current chairwoman, who'd been stubbornly holding out for flowing script type and seafood chowder followed by beef despite the fact that the majority wanted salmon for the main course and tiger prawns to start. "We've been wasting far too much time; let's stop arguing and vote."

Feeling rather shocked at her own outburst, Rose sat down and wondered, as she did every year, why she didn't just resign and take up something less stressful, like hang gliding or swimming with sharks. But every year she let her name be put forward because if she wasn't on the committee, no money would be raised at all. And she passionately wanted to help people. A life lived selfishly was a life half lived; that was her credo. The only difficulty was that for some of the other committee members, charity work was more a sign of social status than anything else.

The Church Hospitality Committee only met a couple of times a year and was the least trouble, as it only involved putting together a couple of suppers for interchurch gatherings and, occasionally, a party for a visiting missionary priest.

Rose's third committee, the Kinvarra Motorway Action Group, was halfway up the scale of annoyance. Set up to oppose the proposed new route through Kinvarra's nature park, an area of outstanding beauty around the midlands town, the KMAG committee included a highly efficient local solicitor, several prominent businesspeople, and three local politicians. Therefore things got done. But the public meetings were a total nightmare that usually ended up with the committee being instructed to work on at least four wildly differing approaches.

Rose needed a stiff gin and tonic after the KMAG public meetings, although Hugh grinned and told her that in his experience of public meetings, she'd be better off with a stiff drink beforehand.

As one of Kinvarra's leading legal brains, Hugh was a committee veteran. He'd even served his time as the town's mayor many years before, which he laughingly said had been a lesson to him Not To Get Involved. Rose had a photo of him in his mayoral robes on the mantelpiece: tall, stately, and handsome with his immaculately brushed silver hair setting off the high forehead and the benevolent gaze. The camera hadn't picked up the wicked glint in Hugh's eyes that day, a look that said he didn't mind the job but could have done without the mayoral necklace hanging like a cow chain around his neck.

"It's impossible to please even half the people a quarter of the time," was Hugh's sage advice on committees. "Everyone goes round in circles for weeks. As for your public meetings, unless someone takes the planners to court, you're wasting your time."

"We will if we have to," said Rose heatedly. "But we must show our solidarity as a community. We don't want to be walked on. Don't you care about the motorway?"

"It won't be anywhere near our house," Hugh pointed out.

Rose gave up. She found it hard to understand how Hugh could be so pragmatic about important matters. She herself became passionately involved in all her causes, whether they affected her directly or not, but Hugh didn't seem to feel these things as deeply as Rose.

The girls had all taken after their mother. Thirty-eight-year-old Stella, for all she appeared to be a sensible lawyer, working hard to bring up her daughter on her own, hid a romantic soul beneath her sober office suits. Tara, seven years younger, was the same: A debating queen at school and college, she threw herself wholeheartedly into anything she did. She'd fallen in love the same way, marrying computer sales executive Finn Jefferson six months to the day after they met, half-astonishing people who thought that Tara was destined for unconventionality and liable to run off with a rock star if the mood took her.

And as for Holly, the baby of the family at twenty-seven, Rose knew that beneath her youngest daughter's gentle exterior there was a vulnerable, fiercely passionate heart. But while Tara and Stella had the courage to fight for what they believed in, Holly didn't. The secret fear that Rose carried round with her was that Holly lacked self-confidence because of Rose and because of what she had or hadn't done. Somehow, Rose felt, she had failed her beloved youngest daughter. But the thought was too painful, and Rose Miller, known for facing all kinds of problems with calm resilience, blocked it out. She wouldn't, couldn't, think about it.

Today was the dreaded Kinvarra Charity Committee, and as Rose parked her car outside Minnie Wilson's sedate semidetached house, she had a sudden desire to take off on a mad shopping spree and forget all about the meeting. Instead, she did what was expected of a sensible Kinvarra matron: She checked her lipstick in the mirror, repinned a wayward strand of her graying dark hair back into its elegant knot, and carried a homemade lemon cake up the path.

"Rose, is that the time? I'm all at sixes and sevens, I'm not a bit organized!" wailed Minnie when she answered the door.

Rose gritted her teeth into a smile and walked in. Minnie had to be at least Rose's age, round the sixty mark, but had the manner of a dizzy young girl and got flustered at the slightest provocation. Minnie was one of the people who'd worried so much about the type size on the charity lunch menus. She'd moved to Kinvarra three years ago when her husband retired and she'd thrown herself so frenetically into local affairs, it felt as if she'd been part of the community for years.

"Don't worry, Minnie, I'll help," Rose said automatically. "What do you want me to do?"

"Well..." said Minnie anxiously. "The kettle's boiled but I haven't got the cups out. And look at my hair..."

Hang gliding, definitely. It had to be more fun than this, Rose reflected. "Why don't you go and fix your hair, Minnie," she said calmly, "while I sort out the tea."

Minnie fluttered off upstairs and Rose grimly thought that the group's chosen charities would be better served if its members all just sent a check every year to the charity of their choice. They'd save money spent on endless tea mornings where at least half the time was spent on the process of sorting everyone out with seats, cups, and plates of cake.

Rose briskly organized the tea, her mind elsewhere. She often wondered how she had ended up in this life. She'd never wanted to be a pillar of the community and a leading light of every local concern going. When she was eighteen, she'd wanted to work in a modern office in the city, where people addressed her respectfully as Miss Riordain and where a wage packet with the anticipated amount of money was put into her hand every week without fail. The respect and the unchanging wage packet were important. On her father's tiny farm, income fluctuated wildly, resulting in lean times and very lean times. Nobody felt the need to show particular respect to the beautiful and clever daughter of a small farmer, and Rose had grown up deeply aware of the nuances of how people treated the daughters of the local doctor and the big landowners. One of her ambitions was to receive such respect. A good, settled job and a pay packet that came every week would give her freedom. She'd got her foot on the ladder all right, with the junior secretarial job in a construction company. Efficient and eager to learn, she'd dedicated herself to self-improvement. She'd battled with an elderly typewriter until her nails broke and she'd watched the senior secretary for hints on how she should dress. And then she'd met Hugh, the dashing young lawyer friend of the owner's son. Hugh came from a world where people never needed to be told how to dress or which fork to use. But to two people in love, that didn't matter. They were soul mates. Love turned Rose's life plan upside down, and within two years she was married with a small daughter.

Occasionally, she wondered what would have happened if she'd said no to Hugh. Maybe she'd be a high-powered businesswoman, having an exciting but selfish life instead of living for others in Kinvarra, where her only day-to-day concerns were her charity work, getting the freezer fixed, and helping Hugh organize Christmas hampers for the firm's most important clients.

Tonight, his firm was involved in a Christmas fund-raiser for the local poverty action group, which, with the recent wave of layoffs among the area's big factories, was even more stretched for funds than usual. A black-tie gala dinner, it would mean top-table stuff and all the Kinvarra glitterati out in force. Rose enjoyed getting dressed up but there were times when she got bored with the inevitable polite conversation at such events. Hugh, on the other hand, never got bored with gala dinners.

She dragged her mind back to the task at hand.

There were seven committee members, so she whipped out seven cups and saucers, because Minnie always made such a big deal about china cups and not mugs. She laid out milk and sugar, cut her lemon cake into slices, and had everything ready by the time Minnie came downstairs.

"Oh, Rose, you're so good," trilled Minnie when she saw everything. "I don't know what we'd do without you."

Rose had been about to say something mundane about how it had been no problem, when she really looked at Minnie. For once, Minnie's girlish complexion ("Soap and water every morning!" she claimed) was gray and tired. Her eyes were a telltale watery red. It wasn't mere tiredness, Rose realized. It was something else.

"Are you all right, Minnie?" she asked gently. Minnie looked into the face of the woman she'd been half in awe of ever since she'd moved to Kinvarra. Rose was like some elegant television celebrity, gracious and ladylike, without a hair out of place. She had a look of that poor Jackie Kennedy, God rest her. Minnie had never met any aristocratic types, but she knew one when she saw one. Rose Miller came from classy people, Minnie was sure. And she was kind, as friendly to the girl in the pub who served them tea as she was to Celia Freidland, the committee chairwoman.

Minnie had tidied the house extra specially for the meeting mainly because Rose would be there. Rose's husband was a very important man, she had a beautiful house in the most expensive part of town, and she had three lovely girls. Minnie never met Rose without being overwhelmed with a desire to impress her.

"Minnie," said Rose again. "Are you sure you're all right? Is there anything wrong?"

Minnie shook her head. "Nothing," she said. "I'm just tired, that's all. Now, the committee will be here any minute." Her smile was camera-bright. "I suppose we're all ready?" she added.

"Yes," Rose said kindly. There was more to it than tiredness, clearly, but if Minnie didn't want to talk, that was her business.

The doorbell pealed and Minnie rushed to answer it, welcoming her guests as if she hadn't a care in the world.

For once, Rose didn't hurry the committee's ramblings. She was quieter than usual and the meeting meandered on until half past five when everyone began making astonished noises at how time had flown and how they had families to feed. Rose left after giving Minnie a meaningful handclasp on the doorstep.

"Please phone me if you need to talk," she whispered.

As she drove home, Rose couldn't get Minnie Wilson out of her mind. There was something wrong there and Rose longed to be able to do something to help. Poor Minnie. As she speculated on her hostess's misfortune, Rose couldn't help thinking again of her own life and how happily it had turned out.

Adele often said, grudgingly, that Rose was lucky. But Adele was right. She had been lucky.

Nobody could be prouder of their daughters than she was of Stella, Tara, and Holly. Even if she hadn't been their mother, she'd have thought they were special women. She had a granddaughter she adored, too. Amelia had a great way of staring up at her grandmother with those big, grave eyes and asking things like: "Granny, will you and Grandad have a baby so I can play with it?"

Stella had roared with laughter when Rose told her about it.

"What did you say?"

"I said we were thinking of getting a puppy and would that do?"

"Oh no," Stella howled. "She wants a dog more than she wants a baby sister; she won't let you forget that."

If only, Rose thought, Stella had someone in her life. Tara was blissful with Finn, happier than Rose would have imagined she could be. Seeing her middle daughter so settled made Rose long for the same happiness for Stella. She'd have given anything to see Stella content. Not that she would ever say that to Stella. But a mother could hope.

And as for Holly -- well, Holly never told anyone what she wanted. Rose did her best to be there for Holly in the background, but her youngest daughter had retreated from life in Kinvarra, and Rose, desperate to help, had to accept it. Perhaps Holly was happy after all. Because you never knew, did you? reflected Rose.

Hugh insisted that Rose should stop worrying about her brood.

"They're modern women, haven't they the lives of Reilly?" he'd say, proud as punch of his three bright daughters. When the girls came home to Kinvarra, Hugh was always keen to take them into town to lunch or dinner, to "show them off" as Rose teased him.

"I'm surprised you haven't set up the Daughters Sweepstakes Race," she joked, "where all the great and good of Kinvarra get their offspring in the race to see who's the best."

"There's a thought," he said gravely. "You're always telling me you're fed up with organizing charity dinner dances and cake sales. A sweepstakes would be a surefire winner."

Dear Hugh. He'd been blessed with a great sense of humor, for all that he drove Rose mad with his ability to spread chaos all over the house without ever bothering to tidy up. No matter how many times she scolded him, he still left the bathroom looking like someone had been washing the Crufts Best in Breed in it, with at least three soaked towels thrown around and the top off the shower gel so that a trail of sticky gel oozed into the shower tray. But, despite everything, she loved him and he was a wonderful father. There had been bad times, for sure. But Rose had weathered the storms, that was all in the past. She was lucky.

The Millers' rambling farmhouse was in darkness when Hugh Miller returned home. Once, Meadow Lodge had been the badly maintained home of a small farmer with several rackety hay barns, a silage pit positioned right beside the kitchen window, and sheep contentedly grazing in the garden, doing their best to fertilize the landscape. When Hugh and Rose had bought it forty years ago, they'd knocked down the crumbling farm buildings, turned the three-acre plot into a decent, sheep-free garden, and modernized the whole house. Nobody looking at Meadow Lodge now would ever think it had been anything but a gracefully proportioned building with fine big rooms, a huge comfortable family kitchen, and gas heating to cope with the winds that sometimes swept down through the midlands and Kinvarra. Rose had filled the house with comfortable couches, luxurious-looking soft furnishings, lots of pictures, lamps that cast a golden glow, and plenty of unusual ornaments.

With his arms laden with his usual consignment of papers and briefcase, Hugh unlocked the front door, shoved it open with his shoulder, and turned on the lights in the hall. He wondered where Rose was. It wasn't like her not to be there when he got home. Even if she had one of her meetings in the evening, she rarely left until he was home, and if they weren't going out, she always had something delicious cooking for him. It was strange, therefore, to find a dark, cold house, especially since it wasn't long before they had to go to the Poverty Action Night dinner.

Dumping his cargo, Hugh threw his big sheepskin coat on the hall chair, dropped his car keys on the hall table not thinking that they might scratch the wood, and went into the big yellow sitting room.

Switching on the overhead light, not bothering to shut the curtains or even switch on one of the Oriental table lamps that Rose liked, Hugh sank down into his armchair, stretched his long legs onto the coffee table because there was nobody there to object, and flicked on the television news.

He was still watching half an hour later when Rose arrived. She switched on the hall lamp and switched off the main light before putting Hugh's keys into the cream glazed pottery bowl where they lived.

Hugh was still glued to the news.

Rose swallowed her irritation when she went into the sitting room and found all the main lights blazing. If opened curtains were the extent of her problems, then she had little to worry about. Silently, she shut the heavy, primrose-yellow curtains and flicked on the lamps, all of which took mere moments. Why did men never do that sort of thing? Did being a hunter-gatherer absolve the whole species from domestic tasks?

"How are you?" asked Hugh absently, without taking his eyes from the box.

"Fine," said Rose. "We've got to be out of here in an hour. I'm going to make a cup of tea and then have a shower."

"Oh, I'd love some tea," said Hugh.

Why didn't you make some, then? Rose thought crossly. She stopped herself snapping just in time. She was grumpy tonight, for some reason. She'd better get a grip on herself. She, of all people, had no excuse for moaning. But as she went into the dark kitchen to boil the kettle, she thought that it was all very well deciding that you were lucky, but Hugh drove her insane sometimes.

She'd just made the tea when the phone rang.

"Hiya, Mum," said Tara breezily. "How are you?"

Rose beamed to hear her middle daughter's voice. Tara was one of life's the-glass-is-half-full people and it was impossible to be miserable in her presence. "Great, Tara love, how are you?"

"Wonderful. Finn and I are just racing out the door to a special film screening, but he just got a work phone call, so I thought I'd give you a quick buzz."

"Sounds like an interesting evening," Rose said, holding the portable phone in one hand and pouring tea into two pottery mugs with the other.

"I wish," sighed Tara. "It's a small-budget, black and white and boring thing written by one of National Hospital's ex-writers." National Hospital was the television soap which Tara wrote for. "We've all been press-ganged into going. I'm terrified Finn will doze off in the middle of it." Tara laughed merrily. "You know what he's like when he's made to watch anything without either soccer, car chases, or Cameron Diaz in it."

"Like your father, in other words," Rose said, smiling. She poured the correct amount of milk into Hugh's tea. "Why do women marry their father?"

"It saves time," Tara said. "What have you been up to?"

"The usual. Trip to the supermarket this morning, a charity meeting in the afternoon, and the poverty action gala tonight."

"I hope you're going to be wearing the Miller family emeralds," joked Tara.

"But of course," rallied her mother. The Miller family emeralds consisted of old-fashioned earrings and a tiny and very ugly pendant, all of which were in Aunt Adele's keeping. Adele was always dropping heavy hints about leaving them to one of her nieces when she died, but the girls were doing their best not to be remembered.

"Actually," said Rose, "I haven't worked out what I'm going to wear and we've got to leave soon."

"Shame on you," teased Tara. "The whole town will be talking if you don't turn up in your glad rags. Do you not have some swanky cut-down-to-the-boobs dress that'll make everyone so astonished they cough up even more money for charity?"

"I'm trying to wean myself off the wanton trollop look," Rose said gravely. "Besides which, I don't have the bosom for that type of thing anymore."

"Shame." Tara laughed. "I better go then, but can I say hello to Dad?"

With the radar that meant he always knew when his beloved daughters were on the phone, Hugh had already picked up the phone in the hall.

"Hiya, Tara love," said Hugh happily. "What mad sexy scenes have you been writing this week to shock us simple television viewers?"

Even Rose, on her way upstairs, could hear Tara's groan of "Da-ad!"

"She's in great form," Hugh remarked when he walked into their bedroom a few moments later, pulling off his tie.

"Yes, very happy," said Rose, who was standing in front of the wardrobe mirror attempting to zip up a cream beaded evening dress. "Will you do me up?" she asked Hugh.

He ambled across the room and threw his tie on the bed.

"Were you talking to Stella today?" he asked as he expertly pulled the zipper to the top.

"Not today," replied his wife. "She said she was going to have a busy day. And her neck's been bothering her all week. I might phone her now."

"Great." Hugh grinned. He stripped off his clothes quickly, while Rose sat on the edge of the bed and dialed Stella's number. She wedged the receiver in the crook of her neck and began to paint a coat of pearly pale pink on her nails.

"Hello, Amelia," she said delightedly when the phone was finally answered. "It's Granny. I thought you and Mummy were out when you didn't answer."

"Mummy is in the bath. She has a cricket in her neck," said Amelia gravely, "and Aunty Hazel gave her blue stuff to put in the bath to get rid of the cricket."

"Poor Mummy," said Rose. "Tell her not to get out of the bath, whatever happens."

"She's here," Amelia announced. "And she's dripping wet bits onto the floor."

"Sorry, darling," apologized Rose when Stella came on the line. "I told Amelia not to get you out of the bath."

"It was time I got out," Stella said. "I was in danger of falling asleep in there."

"How's your neck?"

"A bit better," Stella admitted. "It started off as a little twinge, or a cricket, as Amelia says, and today it just aches. I can't lift a thing and Amelia has been very good, haven't you, darling?"

In the background, Rose could hear her granddaughter say yes proudly.

"Have you got any of those anti-inflammatories left from the last time?" Rose said worriedly. "If you're out, remember, you left some here just in case. I'll drop them off tomorrow if you want." Kinvarra was an hour's drive from Stella's home in Dublin, but Rose never minded the trip.

"That would be lovely, Mum," Stella said. "I don't have any tablets left," she admitted. "But are you sure you want to drive up? The traffic's sure to be mad this close to Christmas."

Rose smiled. "What else are mothers for?" she said simply.

"Can I say hello?" said Hugh.

Rose held up a finger to indicate that she'd be another moment. "Tell me, what time do you want me there?" asked Rose. "If I come up for ten, you can go back to bed and I'll bring Amelia swimming."

"Oh, Mum, that would be wonderful." Stella sounded so grateful. "But I feel so guilty...."

"Rubbish. You need a break," her mother said firmly. "Here's your father."

Rose and Hugh changed places.

"I'll come too," Hugh told Stella. "Amelia loves swimming with her grandad."

As he talked to their oldest daughter, Rose hung Hugh's tie on the rack in the wardrobe, then picked up his shirt from the beige carpet and popped it into the laundry basket. The master bedroom was no trouble to tidy. Knowing Hugh's propensity for mess, Rose had furnished it so there was nowhere to put clutter. There was just a king-size bed with a quilted cinnamon-colored bedcover, a small boudoir chair in the same fabric, and pale wood bedside cabinets adorned with lamps and photos of the girls in wooden frames. Rose kept her scent and makeup in the big cupboard under the washbasin in the adjoining bathroom. The unfussy lines of the room were comforting, in her opinion. Relaxing. Apart from the family photos and the big watercolors of four different varieties of orchids on the walls, there was nothing to distract a person from going to sleep. Hugh had wanted a TV in the room but Rose had put her foot down. Bedrooms were for sleeping in.

Sleep sounded very alluring right now. Rose wished they weren't going out tonight. She'd prefer to get an early night and head off for Stella's early in the morning. Supper on a tray would be lovely.

Hugh said good-bye and hung up.

"Try phoning Holly," Rose said from the bathroom. She hadn't spoken to Holly for a week, not that this was unusual, but even so, Rose worried when there'd been no word from her youngest.

"Nobody there," said Hugh after a moment. "Her machine isn't on, either. I might buy her one for Christmas. That old thing she has is useless." He dialed another number. "Her mobile's off, too. Hi, Holly, it's Dad. Remember me? Father-type, silver hair, known you for, oh, twenty-seven years. Just phoning to say hello. Your mother says hello, too. I suppose you're out enjoying yourself as usual. Another wild party? Talk to you sometime over the weekend, darling, bye."

He hung up. "Holly's terrible at returning phone calls," he grumbled.

"She's enjoying her life," Rose said automatically. "She's entitled to be out having fun and forgetting about us. That's what girls her age do." Well, she hoped that's what Holly was doing.

"I suppose you're right," said Hugh.

In the bathroom, he and Rose stepped round each other in the expert dance of people used to forty years of sharing a bathroom. While Rose applied her lipstick in the mirror, Hugh ran water to shave.

In the harsh light of the bathroom, Rose noticed that there seemed to be more wrinkles than ever fanning around her eyes. If she'd religiously slathered on eye cream for years, would it have made a difference? Rose didn't care. She'd do. She left Hugh to his shaving and went back into the bedroom to sort out an evening handbag, and to mentally plan her trip the next day. Then she scooped the dirty clothes from the laundry basket and went downstairs to the kitchen to put in a wash. She felt happier from just talking to her beloved daughters.

Stella had sounded so grateful that Rose was going to drive up and visit, but the reality was that Rose adored seeing Stella and little Amelia and loved being able to help out her darling Stella in some small way. Not that she pushed herself into their lives, no. Letting your children go was the one part of motherhood there was no manual for. Rose did her best not to be a clingy mother. She let her daughters live their own lives, which was why it was doubly wonderful that they wanted her around.

The kitchen in Meadow Lodge was Rose's favorite room in the whole house. Probably because it hadn't changed much since Stella, Tara, and Holly used to sit at the scrubbed pine table moaning as they labored over math homework. The walls were still the same duck-egg blue, the floor was still terra-cotta tiled, with a frayed scarlet kilim beside the shabby two-seater couch, and the cupboards had only changed in that they'd had several more layers of cream paint applied over the years. The child's paintings stuck on the fridge were now Amelia's, while the wall of family photos was crammed with the ever-increasing Miller family gallery. This now included Tara looking sleekly radiant in Amanda Wakeley on her wedding day, the normally camera-shy Holly looking uncomfortable in her graduation dress, and a beautiful black-and-white portrait of Stella and Amelia, taken by her friend Hazel.

Rose set the washing machine to a warm wash and then looked around for something else to do. This evening wouldn't be too bad, she decided. Talking to the girls had invigorated her. Anyway, there were loads of people who'd love a glamorous night out at a dressy dinner. She was lucky to have such a good social life. She was lucky, full stop. People were always telling her so. But then, it was one thing to look as if your life was perfect; it was another thing for it to be so. Looks could be deceptive. Minnie Wilson was a prime example: bright on the outside, with some sort of hidden misery clearly lurking on the inside. Rose wondered if everybody's life was different behind the facade.

Copyright © 2002 by Cathy Kelly

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2006

    Awesome!

    This book is one of those that is just impossible to put down. In alternating chapters it tells the story of the Miller girls: Holly, Tara, Stella, and their mother, Rose. My personal favorite was the youngest, Holly, whose insecurities were easy to relate to but not annoying. This book may be a little predictable, but that fact makes it no less enjoyable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a tremendous family drama

    In Kinvarra, Ireland, Rose and Hugh Miller are about to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary. The parents are especially proud of each of their adult daughters who will join them for a gala to mark the event. Stella, a single mom, is a successful lawyer Tara has done well as a soap opera writer and recently married her youngest Holly seems happy with an artistic life. Everything seems perfect for the Miller brood as they prepare for the ruby wedding party.----- However the matriarch does not see her world through rose colored glasses. She has some doubts about spending her golden years with Hugh. Stella is brilliant at law and even as a mom, but feels lonely as the love of her life has never surfaced Tara is doing great at the job, but the love of her life appears to be a drunk Holly may be the envy of everyone due to her free lifestyle, but in reality is bored yet fears making any changes. These four females will bond even more so over the course of the festivities.----- This is a tremendous family drama as the four females through asides and discussions reveal that they reveal doubts about their so-called perfect worlds. Each feels they suffer from a major failure at something significant yet also knows that they share a sisterly bond (including one with the matriarch) that helps each cope with their personal crisis not solving them only surviving their troubles and misgivings. Readers will find this book a powerful and realistic character study.-------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2009

    Could Not Finish

    Cathy Kelly is obviously a fantastic writer. But her characterization was just not up to par. To me it seemed as if all of the characters were the same person. They talked the same, they thought the same. I kept getting the three sisters confused. There wasn't even enough of a differentiation between the men and women. They were very one dimentional. The dialogue was boring. Kelly tries to be clever and comical, but the dialogue is just flat. I found myself reading sections of dialogue and zoning out. I would have to go back to make sure I knew what the characters were talking about. I've read up on the rest of Cathy Kelly's novels to see if there were any I would maybe like better. But in reading about her other novels, I noticed that they seem to have the same plot lines. There is always a group of people who seem happy on the outside, but who have secret issues on the inside. I'm afraid that would get too boring after awhile. So even though I recognize that Cathy Kelly is a talented writer, I'm not sure I like her as a novelist. The story and the characters just weren't memorable enough for me. I feel like I've met the characters before in other novels by other authors only they were done much better.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2007

    Entertaining, Fast, Great Read

    I thought this book was great. Very entertaining, kept you involved in the story line and related to the characters. Highly recommended and a book I will some day read again! Pass this one on to your girlfriends when your done, they'll appreciate it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2011

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 7 Customer Reviews

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