The Washington Post
The Wedding Girlby Madeleine Wickham
A delightful comedy that keeps you guessing up until the very last page from the author of the internationally bestselling Sophie Kinsella novels See more details below
A delightful comedy that keeps you guessing up until the very last page from the author of the internationally bestselling Sophie Kinsella novels
The Washington Post
What if a decision you made in your youth came back to haunt you on the eve of your wedding? Milly Havill was a free-spirited Oxford student when she consented to marry her American friend Allan so that he could stay in England with his boyfriend, Rupert. Soon after their staged wedding, Milly parted company with Allan and Rupert and then lost touch. Ten years later, Milly is engaged to marry Simon, son of a prominent English businessman, in a most elaborate affair. Suddenly, as details of her first marriage surface, conflicts arise between Milly and Simon, Simon and his estranged father, and Milly's parents. These conflicts feel real and poignant without ever tipping the scale toward melodrama. VERDICT Wickham (Sleeping Arrangements), the pen name of Sophie Kinsella ("Shopaholic" series), explores how each character views marriage and commitment to spouse and family in a way that is highly entertaining but never glosses over the real issues. This novel will please Kinsella fans but will also likely expand her audience to readers who enjoy thoughtful chick lit. [175,000-copy first printing; library marketing campaign.]Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, Cleveland P.L.
“Gutsy prose and an excellent ear for social comedy.” Independent
“A rare breed of beach read that's breezy but doesn't wriggle out of difficult adult choices.” Entertainment Weekly on Sleeping Arrangements
“Lightness of touch and witty observation make this a perfect holiday read.” Sunday Mirror on Sleeping Arrangements
“Wickham spins a delightful story… [She] does a bangup job of creating believable characters... Surprises abound as the plot unfolds.” Publishers Weekly on Sleeping Arrangements
“...sure to please her many fans and gain her new ones.” Booklist on Sleeping Arrangements
“Wickham has a shrewdly malicious touch with her characters.” The Atlantic Monthly on The Gatecrasher
“A savage and witty social satire.” Daily Mail (UK) on The Gatecrasher
“Wickham creates memorable characters who are as unpredictable and multifaceted as they are stylish. Jolly fun.” Publishers Weekly on The Gatecrasher
“A] witty and deeply biting novel of modern manners and morals.” Library Journal on The Gatecrasher
“[Wickham is] an observant and engaging storyteller.” Kirkus Reviews on The Gatecrasher
“Wickham knows her characters well and the story never drags... an enjoyable read.” Booklist on The Gatecrasher
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
A group of tourists had stopped to gawp at Milly as she stood
in her wedding dress on the registry office steps. They clogged up
the pavement opposite while Oxford shoppers, accustomed to the
yearly influx, stepped round them into the road, not even bothering
to complain. A few glanced up towards the steps of the registry
office to see what all the fuss was about, and tacitly acknowledged
that the young couple on the steps did make a very striking pair.
One or two of the tourists had even brought out cameras, and
Milly beamed joyously at them, revelling in their attention; trying
to imagine the picture she and Allan made together. Her spiky,
white- blond hair was growing hot in the afternoon sun; the hired
veil was scratchy against her neck, the nylon lace of her dress felt
uncomfortably damp wherever it touched her body. But still she
felt light- hearted and full of a euphoric energy. And whenever she
glanced up at Allan—at her husband—a new, hot thrill of excitement
coursed through her body, obliterating all other sensation.
She had only arrived in Oxford three weeks ago. School had
finished in July—and while all her friends had planned trips to
Ibiza and Spain and Amsterdam, Milly had been packed off to a
secretarial college in Oxford. ‘Much more useful than some silly
holiday,’ her mother had announced firmly. ‘And just think what
an advantage you’ll have over the others when it comes to jobhunting.’
But Milly didn’t want an advantage over the others. She
wanted a suntan and a boyfriend, and beyond that, she didn’t really
So on the second day of the typing course, she’d slipped off
after lunch. She’d found a cheap hairdresser and, with a surge
of exhilaration, told him to chop her hair short and bleach it.
Then, feeling light and happy, she’d wandered around the dry,
sun- drenched streets of Oxford, dipping into cool cloisters and
chapels, peering behind stone arches, wondering where she might
sunbathe. It was pure coincidence that she’d eventually chosen a
patch of lawn in Corpus Christi College; that Rupert’s rooms
should have been directly opposite; that he and Allan should have
decided to spend that afternoon doing nothing but lying on the
grass, drinking Pimm’s.
She’d watched, surreptitiously, as they sauntered onto the lawn,
clinked glasses and lit up cigarettes; gazed harder as one of them
took off his shirt to reveal a tanned torso. She’d listened to the
snatches of their conversation which wafted through the air towards
her and found herself longing to know these debonair, goodlooking
men. When, suddenly, the older one addressed her, she felt
her heart leap with excitement.
‘Have you got a light?’ His voice was dry, American, amused.
‘Yes,’ she stuttered, feeling in her pocket. ‘Yes, I have.’
‘We’re terribly lazy, I’m afraid.’ The younger man’s eyes met
hers: shyer; more diffident. ‘I’ve got a lighter; just inside that window.’
He pointed to a stone mullioned arch. ‘But it’s too hot to
‘We’ll repay you with a glass of Pimm’s,’ said the American.
He’d held out his hand. ‘Allan.’
She’d lolled on the grass with them for the rest of the afternoon,
soaking up the sun and alcohol; flirting and giggling; making
them both laugh with her descriptions of her fellow secretaries.
At the pit of her stomach was a feeling of anticipation which increased
as the afternoon wore on: a sexual frisson heightened by
the fact that there were two of them and they were both beautiful.
Rupert was lithe and golden like a young lion; his hair a shining
blond halo; his teeth gleaming white against his smooth brown
face. Allan’s face was crinkled and his hair was greying at the
temples, but his grey- green eyes made her heart jump when they
met hers, and his voice caressed her ears like silk.
When Rupert rolled over onto his back and said to the sky, ‘Shall
we go for something to eat to night?’ she’d thought he must be
asking her out. An immediate, unbelieving joy had coursed through
her; simultaneously she’d recognized that she would have preferred
it if it had been Allan.
But then Allan rolled over too, and said ‘Sure thing.’ And then
he leaned over and casually kissed Rupert on the mouth.
The strange thing was, after the initial, heart- stopping shock,
Milly hadn’t really minded. In fact, this way was almost better:
this way, she had the pair of them to herself. She’d gone to San
Antonio’s with them that night and basked in the jealous glances
of two fellow secretaries at another table. The next night they’d
played jazz on an old wind- up gramophone and drunk mint juleps
and taught her how to roll joints. Within a week, they’d become
a regular threesome.
And then Allan had asked her to marry him.
Immediately, without thinking, she’d said yes. He’d laughed,
assuming she was joking, and started on a lengthy explanation of
his plight. He’d spoken of visas, of Home Office officials, of outdated
systems and discrimination against gays. All the while, he’d
gazed at her entreatingly, as though she still needed to be won
over. But Milly was already won over, was already pulsing with
excitement at the thought of dressing up in a wedding dress, holding
a bouquet; doing something more exciting than she’d ever
done in her life. It was only when Allan said, half frowning, ‘I can’t
believe I’m actually asking someone to break the law for me!’ that
she realized quite what was going on. But the tiny qualms which
began to prick her mind were no match for the exhilaration pounding
through her as Allan put his arm around her and said quietly
into her ear, ‘You’re an angel.’ Milly had smiled breathlessly back,
and said, ‘It’s nothing,’ and truly meant it.
And now they were married. They’d hurtled through the vows:
Allan in a dry, surprisingly serious voice; Milly quavering on the
brink of giggles. Then they’d signed the register. Allan first, his
hand quick and deft, then Milly, attempting to produce a grownup
signature for the occasion. And then, almost to Milly’s surprise,
it was done, and they were husband and wife. Allan had given Milly
a tiny grin and kissed her again. Her mouth still tingled slightly
from the touch of him; her wedding finger still felt self- conscious
in its gold- plated ring.
‘That’s enough pictures,’ said Allan suddenly. ‘We don’t want
to be too conspicuous.’
‘Just a couple more,’ said Milly quickly. It had been almost impossible
to persuade Allan and Rupert that she should hire a wedding
dress for the occasion; now she was wearing it, she wanted to
prolong the moment for ever. She moved slightly closer to Allan,
clinging to his elbow, feeling the roughness of his suit against her
bare arm. A sharp summer breeze had begun to ripple through her
hair, tugging at her veil and cooling the back of her neck. An old
theatre programme was being blown along the dry empty gutter;
on the other side of the street the tourists were starting to melt
‘Rupert!’ called Allan. ‘That’s enough snapping!’
‘Wait!’ said Milly desperately. ‘What about the confetti!’
‘Well, OK,’ said Allan indulgently. ‘I guess we can’t forget
He reached into his pocket and tossed a multicoloured handful
into the air. At the same time, a gust of wind caught Milly’s veil
again, this time ripping it away from the tiny plastic tiara in her
hair and sending it spectacularly up into the air like a gauzy plume
of smoke. It landed on the pavement, at the feet of a dark- haired
boy of about sixteen, who bent and picked it up. He began to look
at it carefully, as though examining some strange artefact.
‘Hi!’ called Milly at once. ‘That’s mine!’ And she began running
down the steps towards him, leaving a trail of confetti as
she went. ‘That’s mine,’ she repeated clearly as she neared the boy,
thinking he might be a foreign student; that he might not understand
‘Yes,’ said the boy, in a dry, well- bred voice. ‘I gathered that.’
He held out the veil to her and Milly smiled self- consciously
at him, prepared to flirt a little. But the boy’s expression didn’t
change; behind the glint of his round spectacles, she detected a
slight teenage scorn. She felt suddenly aggrieved and a little foolish,
standing bare- headed, in her ill- fitting nylon wedding dress.
‘Thanks,’ she said, taking the veil from him. The boy shrugged.
He watched as she fixed the layers of netting back in place, her
hands self- conscious under his gaze. ‘Congratulations,’ he added.
‘What for?’ said Milly, without thinking. Then she looked up
and blushed. ‘Oh yes, of course. Thank you very much.’
‘Have a happy marriage,’ said the boy in deadpan tones. He
nodded at her and before Milly could say anything else, walked
‘Who was that?’ said Allan, appearing suddenly at her side.
‘I don’t know,’ said Milly. ‘He wished us a happy marriage.’
‘A happy divorce, more like,’ said Rupert, who was clutching
Allan’s hand. Milly looked at him. His face was glowing; he seemed
more beautiful than ever before.
‘Milly, I’m very grateful to you,’ said Allan. ‘We both are.’
‘There’s no need to be,’ said Milly. ‘Honestly, it was fun!’
‘Well, even so. We’ve bought you a little something.’ Allan
glanced at Rupert, then reached in his pocket and gave Milly a little
box. ‘Freshwater pearls,’ he explained as she opened it. ‘We
hope you like them.’
‘I love them!’ Milly looked from one to the other, eyes shining.
‘You shouldn’t have!’
‘We wanted to,’ said Allan seriously. ‘To say thank you for being
a great friend—and a perfect bride.’ He fastened the necklace
around Milly’s neck, and she flushed with plea sure. ‘You look
beautiful,’ he said softly. ‘The most beautiful wife a man could
‘And now,’ said Rupert, ‘how about some champagne?’
They spent the rest of that day punting down the Cherwell,
drinking vintage champagne and making extravagant toasts to each
other. In the following days, Milly spent every spare moment with
Rupert and Allan. At the weekends they drove out into the countryside,
laying sumptuous picnics out on checked rugs. They visited
Blenheim, and Milly insisted on signing the visitors’ book, Mr
and Mrs Allan Kepinski. When, three weeks later, her time at secretarial
college was up, Allan and Rupert reserved a farewell table
at the Randolph, made her order three courses and wouldn’t let
her see the prices.
The next day, Allan took her to the station, helped her stash
her luggage on a rack, and dried her tears with a silk handkerchief.
He kissed her goodbye, and promised to write and said they would
meet in London soon.
Milly never saw him again.
Ten Years Later
The room was large and airy and overlooked the biscuity
streets of Bath, coated in a January icing of snow. It had been refurbished
some years back in a traditional manner, with striped
wallpaper and a few good Georgian pieces. These, however, were
currently lost under the welter of bright clothes, CDs, magazines
and make- up piled high on every available surface. In the corner
a handsome mahogany wardrobe was almost entirely masked by
a huge white cotton dress carrier; on the bureau was a hat box;
on the floor by the bed was a suitcase half full of clothes for a
warm- weather honeymoon.
Milly, who had come up some time earlier to finish packing,
leaned back comfortably in her bedroom chair, glanced at the
clock, and took a bite of toffee apple. In her lap was a glossy magazine,
open at the problem pages. ‘Dear Anne,’ the first began. ‘I
have been keeping a secret from my husband.’ Milly rolled her
eyes. She didn’t even have to look at the advice. It was always the
same. Tell the truth. Be honest. Like some sort of secular catechism,
to be learned by rote and repeated without thought.
Her eyes flicked to the second problem. ‘Dear Anne. I earn
much more money than my boyfriend.’ Milly crunched disparagingly
on her toffee apple. Some problem. She turned over the page
to the homestyle section, and peered at an array of expensive
waste- paper baskets. She hadn’t put a waste- paper basket on her
wedding list. Maybe it wasn’t too late.
Downstairs, there was a ring at the doorbell, but she didn’t
move. It couldn’t be Simon, not yet; it would be one of the bed
and breakfast guests. Idly, Milly raised her eyes from her magazine
and looked around her bedroom. It had been hers for twenty- two
years, ever since the Havill family had first moved into 1 Bertram
Street and she had unsuccessfully petitioned, with a six- year- old’s
desperation, for it to be painted Barbie pink. Since then, she’d
gone away to school, gone away to college, even moved briefly to
London—and each time she’d come back again; back to this room.
But on Saturday she would be leaving and never coming back. She
would be setting up her own home. Starting afresh. As a grownup,
bona fide, married woman.
‘Milly?’ Her mother’s voice interrupted her thoughts, and
Milly’s head jerked up. ‘Simon’s here!’
‘What?’ Milly glanced in the mirror and winced at her dishevelled
appearance. ‘He can’t be.’
‘Shall I send him up?’ Her mother’s head appeared round the
door and surveyed the room. ‘Milly! You were supposed to be
clearing this lot up!’
‘Don’t let him come up,’ said Milly, looking at the toffee apple
in her hand. ‘Tell him I’m trying my dress on. Say I’ll be down in
Her mother disappeared, and Milly quickly threw her toffee
apple into the bin. She closed her magazine and put it on the floor,
then, on second thoughts, kicked it under the bed. Hurriedly she
peeled off the denim- blue leggings she’d been wearing and
opened her wardrobe. A pair of well- cut black trousers hung to
one side, along with a charcoal grey tailored skirt, a chocolate
trouser suit and an array of crisp white shirts. On the other side
of the wardrobe were all the clothes she wore when she wasn’t
going to be seeing Simon: tattered jeans, ancient jerseys, tight
bright mini skirts. All the clothes she would have to throw out before
She put on the black trousers and one of the white shirts, and
reached for the cashmere sweater Simon had given her as a Christmas
present. She looked at herself severely in the mirror, brushed
her hair—now buttery blond and shoulder- length—till it shone,
and stepped into a pair of expensive black loafers. She and Simon
had often agreed that buying cheap shoes was a false economy; as
far as Simon was aware, her entire collection of shoes consisted
of the black loafers, a pair of brown boots, and a pair of navy
Gucci snaffles which he’d bought for her himself.
Sighing, Milly closed her wardrobe door, stepped over a pile
of underwear on the floor, and picked up her bag. She sprayed
herself with scent, closed the bedroom door firmly behind her and
began to walk down the stairs.
‘Milly!’ As she passed her mother’s bedroom door, a hissed
voice drew her attention. ‘Come in here!’
Obediently, Milly went into her mother’s room. Olivia Havill
was standing by the chest of drawers, her jewellery box open.
‘Darling,’ she said brightly, ‘why don’t you borrow my pearls
for this afternoon?’ She held up a double pearl choker with a diamond
clasp. ‘They’d look lovely against that jumper!’
‘Mummy, we’re only meeting the vicar,’ said Milly. ‘It’s not
that important. I don’t need to wear pearls.’
‘Of course it’s important!’ retorted Olivia. ‘You must take this
seriously, Milly. You only make your marriage vows once!’ She
paused. ‘And besides, all upper- class brides wear pearls.’ She held
the necklace up to Milly’s throat. ‘Proper pearls. Not those silly
‘I like my freshwater pearls,’ said Milly defensively. ‘And I’m
not upper class.’
‘Darling, you’re about to become Mrs Simon Pinnacle.’
‘Simon isn’t upper class!’
‘Don’t be silly,’ said Olivia crisply. ‘Of course he is. His father’s
a multimillionaire.’ Milly rolled her eyes.
‘I’ve got to go,’ she said.
‘All right.’ Olivia put the pearls regretfully back into her jewellery
box. ‘Have it your own way. And, darling, do remember
to ask Canon Lytton about the rose petals.’
‘I will,’ said Milly. ‘See you later.’
She hurried down the stairs and into the hall, grabbing her
coat from the hall stand by the door.
‘Hi!’ she called into the drawing room, and as Simon came
out into the hall, glanced hastily at the front page of that day’s Daily
Telegraph, trying to commit as many headlines as possible to
‘Milly,’ said Simon, grinning at her. ‘You look gorgeous.’ Milly
looked up and smiled.
‘So do you.’ Simon was dressed for the office, in a dark suit
which sat impeccably on his firm, stocky frame, a blue shirt and a
purple silk tie. His dark hair sprang up energetically from his
wide forehead and he smelt discreetly of aftershave.
‘So,’ he said, opening the front door and ushering her out into
the crisp afternoon air. ‘Off we go to learn how to be married.’
‘I know,’ said Milly. ‘Isn’t it weird?’
‘Complete waste of time,’ said Simon. ‘What can a crumbling
old vicar tell us about being married? He isn’t even married himself.’
‘Oh well,’ said Milly vaguely. ‘I suppose it’s the rules.’
‘He’d better not start patronizing us. That will piss me off.’
Milly glanced at Simon. His neck was tense and his eyes fixed
determinedly ahead. He reminded her of a young bulldog ready
for a scrap.
‘I know what I want from marriage,’ he said, frowning. ‘We
both do. We don’t need interference from some stranger.’
‘We’ll just listen and nod,’ said Milly. ‘And then we’ll go.’ She
felt in her pocket for her gloves. ‘Anyway, I already know what
he’s going to say.’
‘Be kind to one another and don’t sleep around.’ Simon
thought for a moment.
‘I expect I could manage the first part.’
Milly gave him a thump and he laughed, drawing her near and
planting a kiss on her shiny hair. As they neared the corner he
reached in his pocket and bleeped his car open.
‘I could hardly find a parking space,’ he said, as he started the engine.
‘The streets are so bloody congested.’ He frowned. ‘Whether
this new bill will really achieve anything . . .’
‘The environment bill,’ said Milly at once.
‘That’s right,’ said Simon. ‘Did you read about it today?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Milly. She cast her mind quickly back to the Daily
Telegraph. ‘Do you think they’ve got the emphasis quite right?’
And as Simon began to talk, she looked out of the window
and nodded occasionally, and wondered idly whether she should
buy a third bikini for her honeymoon.
Canon Lytton’s drawing room was large, draughty and full of
books. Books lined the walls, books covered every surface, and
teetered in dusty piles on the floor. In addition, nearly everything
in the room that wasn’t a book, looked like a book. The teapot
was shaped like a book, the firescreen was decorated with books;
even the slabs of gingerbread sitting on the tea- tray resembled a
set of encyclopaedia volumes.
Canon Lytton himself resembled a sheet of old paper. His
thin, powdery skin seemed in danger of tearing at any moment;
whenever he laughed or frowned his face creased into a thousand
lines. At the moment—as he had been during most of the
session—he was frowning. His bushy white eyebrows were knitted
together, his eyes narrowed in concentration and his bony
hand, clutched around an undrunk cup of tea, was waving dangerously
about in the air.
‘The secret of a successful marriage,’ he was declaiming, ‘is
trust. Trust is the key. Trust is the rock.’
‘Absolutely,’ said Milly, as she had at intervals of three minutes
for the past hour. She glanced at Simon. He was leaning forward,
as though ready to interrupt. But Canon Lytton was not the
sort of speaker to brook interruptions. Each time Simon had taken
a breath to say something, the clergyman had raised the volume
of his voice and turned away, leaving Simon stranded in frustrated
but deferential silence. He would have liked to take issue
with much of what Canon Lytton was saying, she could tell. As
for herself, she hadn’t listened to a word.
Her gaze slid idly over to the glass- fronted bookcases to her
left. There she was, reflected in the glass. Smart and shiny; grownup
and groomed. She felt pleased with her appearance. Not that
Canon Lytton appreciated it. He probably thought it was sinful
to spend money on clothes. He would tell her she should have
given it to the poor instead.
She shifted her position slightly on the sofa, stifled a yawn,
and looked up. To her horror, Canon Lytton was watching her.
His eyes narrowed, and he broke off mid- sentence.
‘I’m sorry if I’m boring you, my dear,’ he said sarcastically.
‘Perhaps you are familiar with this quotation already.’
Milly felt her cheeks turn pink.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I’m not. I was just . . . um . . .’ She glanced
quickly at Simon, who grinned back and gave her a tiny wink.
‘I’m just a little tired,’ she ended feebly.
‘Poor Milly’s been frantic over the wedding arrangements,’ put
in Simon. ‘There’s a lot to or ga nize. The champagne, the cake . . .’
‘Indeed,’ said Canon Lytton severely. ‘But might I remind you
that the point of a wedding is not the champagne, nor the cake;
nor is it the presents you will no doubt receive.’ His eyes flicked
around the room, as though comparing his own dingy things with
the shiny, sumptuous gifts piled high for Milly and Simon, and his
frown deepened. ‘I am grieved,’ he continued, stalking over to the
window, ‘at the casual approach taken by many young couples to
the wedding ceremony. The sacrament of marriage should not be
viewed as a formality.’
‘Of course not,’ said Milly.
‘It is not simply the preamble to a good party.’
‘No,’ said Milly.
‘As the very words of the ser vice remind us, marriage must
not be undertaken carelessly, lightly, or selfishly, but—’
‘And it won’t be!’ Simon’s voice broke in impatiently; he leaned
forward in his seat. ‘Canon Lytton, I know you probably come
across people every day who are getting married for the wrong
reasons. But that’s not us, OK? We love each other and we want
to spend the rest of our lives together. And for us, that’s a serious
matter. The cake and the champagne have got nothing to do
He broke off and for a moment there was silence. Milly took
Simon’s hand and squeezed it.
‘I see,’ said Canon Lytton eventually. ‘Well, I’m glad to hear
it.’ He sat down, took a sip of cold tea and winced. ‘I don’t mean
to lecture you unduly,’ he said, putting down his cup. ‘But you’ve
no idea how many unsuitable couples I see coming before me to
get married. Thoughtless young people who’ve barely known each
other five minutes; silly girls who want an excuse to buy a nice
dress . . .’
‘I’m sure you do,’ said Simon. ‘But Milly and I are the real
thing. We’re going to take it seriously. We’re going to get it right.
We know each other and we love each other and we’re going to be
very happy.’ He leaned over and kissed Milly gently, then looked
up at Canon Lytton, as though daring him to reply.
‘Yes,’ said Canon Lytton. ‘Well. Perhaps I’ve said enough. You
do seem to be on the right track.’ He picked up his folder and began
to rifle through it. ‘There are just a couple of other matters . . .’
‘That was beautiful,’ whispered Milly to Simon.
‘It was true,’ he whispered back, and gently touched the corner
of her mouth.
‘Ah yes,’ said Canon Lytton, looking up. ‘I should have mentioned
this before. As you will be aware, Reverend Harries neglected
to read your banns last Sunday.’
‘Did he?’ said Simon.
‘Surely you noticed?’ said Canon Lytton looking beadily at Simon.
‘I take it you were at morning ser vice?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Simon after a pause. ‘Of course. Now you mention
it, I thought something was wrong.’
‘He was most apologetic—they always are.’ Canon Lytton gave
a tetchy sigh. ‘But the damage has been done. So you will have to be
married by special licence.’
‘Oh,’ said Milly. ‘What does that mean?’
‘It means, among other things,’ said Canon Lytton, ‘that I must
ask you to swear an oath.’
‘Zounds damnation,’ said Milly.
‘I’m sorry?’ He looked at her in puzzlement.
‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘Carry on.’
‘You must swear a solemn oath that all the information you’ve
given me is true,’ said Canon Lytton. He held out a Bible to Milly,
then passed her a piece of paper. ‘Just run your eyes down it, check
that it’s all correct, then read the oath aloud.’
Milly stared down at the paper for a few seconds, then looked
up with a bright smile.
‘Absolutely fine,’ she said.
‘Melissa Grace Havill,’ said Simon, reading over her shoulder.
‘Spinster.’ He pulled a face. ‘Spinster!’
‘OK!’ said Milly sharply. ‘Just let me read the oath.’
‘That’s right,’ said Canon Lytton. He beamed at her. ‘And then
everything will be, as they say, above board.’
By the time they emerged from the vicarage, the air was cold and
dusky. Snowflakes were falling again; the street lamps were already
on; a row of fairy lights from Christmas twinkled in a window
opposite. Milly took a deep breath, shook out her legs, stiff from
sitting still for so long, and looked at Simon. But before she could
speak, a triumphant voice came ringing from the other side of the
‘Aha! I just caught you!’
‘Mummy!’ exclaimed Milly.
‘Olivia,’ said Simon. ‘What a lovely surprise.’
Olivia crossed the street and beamed at them both. Snowflakes
were resting lightly on her smartly cut blond hair and on the
shoulders of her green cashmere coat. Nearly all of Olivia’s
clothes were in jewel colours—sapphire blue, ruby red, amethyst
purple—accented by shiny gold buckles, gleaming buttons and
gilt- trimmed shoes. She had once secretly toyed with the idea of
turquoise- tinted contact lenses but had been unable to reassure
herself that she wouldn’t become the subject of smirks behind
her back. And so instead she made the most of her natural blue
by pasting a bright gold on her eyelids and visiting a beautician
once a month to have her lashes dyed black.
Now her eyes were fixed affectionately on Milly.
‘I don’t suppose you asked Canon Lytton about the rose petals,
did you?’ she said.
‘Oh!’ said Milly. ‘No, I forgot.’
‘I knew you would!’ exclaimed Olivia. ‘So I thought I’d better
pop round myself.’ She smiled at Simon. ‘Isn’t my little girl a scatterhead?’
‘I wouldn’t say so,’ said Simon in a tight voice.
‘Of course you wouldn’t! You’re in love with her!’ Olivia
smiled gaily at him and ruffled his hair. In high heels she was very
slightly taller than Simon, and he’d noticed—though nobody else
had—that since he and Milly had become engaged, Olivia wore
high heels more and more frequently.
‘I’d better be going,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to get back to the office.
We’re frantic at the moment.’
‘Aren’t we all!’ exclaimed Olivia. ‘There are only four days
to go, you know! Four days until you walk down that aisle! And
I’ve a thousand things to do!’ She looked at Milly. ‘What about
you, darling? Are you rushing off?’
‘Not me,’ said Milly. ‘I took the afternoon off.’
‘Well then, how about walking back into town with me? Perhaps
we could have . . .’
‘Hot chocolate at Mario’s,’ finished Milly.
‘Exactly.’ Olivia smiled almost triumphantly at Simon. ‘I can
read Milly’s mind like an open book!’
‘Or an open letter,’ said Simon. There was a short, tense
‘Right, well,’ said Olivia eventually, in clipped tones. ‘I won’t
be long. See you this eve ning, Simon.’ She opened Canon Lytton’s
gate and began to walk quickly up the path, skidding slightly on
‘You shouldn’t have said that,’ said Milly to Simon, as soon as
she was out of earshot. ‘About the letter. She made me promise
not to tell you.’
‘Well, I’m sorry,’ said Simon. ‘But she deserves it. What makes
her think she’s got the right to read a private letter from me to
you?’ Milly shrugged.
‘She did say it was an accident.’
‘An accident?’ exclaimed Simon. ‘Milly, you must be joking. It
was addressed to you and it was in your bedroom!’
‘Oh well,’ said Milly good- naturedly. ‘It doesn’t really matter.’
She gave a sudden giggle. ‘It’s a good thing you didn’t write
anything rude about her.’
‘Next time I will,’ said Simon. He glanced at his watch. ‘Look,
I’ve really got to go.’
He took hold of her chilly fingers, kissed them gently one by
one, then pulled her towards him. His mouth was soft and warm
on hers; as he drew her gradually closer to him, Milly closed her
eyes. Then, suddenly he let go of her, and a blast of cold snowy
air hit her in the face.
‘I must run. See you later.’
‘Yes,’ said Milly. ‘See you then.’
She watched, smiling to herself, as he bleeped open the door
of his car, got in and, without pausing, zoomed off down the street.
Simon was always in a hurry. Always rushing off to do; to achieve.
Like a puppy, he had to be out every day, either doing something
constructive or determinedly enjoying himself. He couldn’t bear
wasting time; didn’t understand how Milly could spend a day
happily doing nothing, or approach a weekend with no plans
made. Sometimes he would join her in a day of drifting indolence,
repeating several times that it was nice to have a chance to relax.
Then, after a few hours, he would leap up and announce he was
going for a run.
The first time she’d ever seen him, in someone else’s kitchen,
he’d been simultaneously conducting a conversation on his mobile
phone, shovelling crisps into his mouth, and bleeping through
the news headlines on Teletext. As Milly had poured herself a
glass of wine, he’d held his glass out too and, in a gap in his conversation,
had grinned at her and said, ‘Thanks.’
‘The party’s happening in the other room,’ Milly had pointed
‘I know,’ Simon had said, his eyes back on the Teletext. ‘I’ll
be along in a minute.’ And Milly had rolled her eyes and left him
to it, not even bothering to ask his name. But later on that eve -
ning, when he’d rejoined the party, he’d come up to her, introduced
himself charmingly, and apologized for having been so
‘It was just a bit of business news I was particularly interested
in,’ he’d said.
‘Good news or bad news?’ Milly had enquired, taking a gulp
of wine and realizing that she was rather drunk.
‘That depends,’ said Simon, ‘on who you are.’
‘But doesn’t everything? Every piece of good news is someone
else’s bad news. Even . . .’ She’d waved her glass vaguely in
the air. ‘Even world peace. Bad news for arms manufacturers.’
‘Yes,’ Simon had said slowly. ‘I suppose so. I’d never thought
of it like that.’
‘Well, we can’t all be great thinkers,’ Milly had said, and had
suppressed a desire to giggle.
‘Can I get you a drink?’ he’d asked.
‘Not a drink,’ she’d replied. ‘But you can light me a cigarette
if you like.’
He’d leaned towards her, cradling the flame carefully, and she’d
registered that his skin was smooth and tanned, and his fingers
strong, and he was wearing an aftershave she liked. Then, as
she’d inhaled on the cigarette, his dark brown eyes had locked into
hers, and to her surprise a tingle had run down her back, and she’d
slowly smiled back at him.
Later on, when the party had turned from bright, stand- up
chatter into groups of people sitting on the floor and smoking
joints, the discussion had turned to vivisection. Milly, who had
happened to see a Blue Peter special on vivisection the week before
while at home with a cold, had produced more hard facts and informed
reasoning than anyone else, and Simon had gazed at her in
He’d asked her out to dinner a few days later and talked a lot
about business and politics. Milly, who knew nothing about either
subject, had smiled and nodded and agreed with him; at the end of
the eve ning, just before he kissed her for the first time, Simon had
told her she was extraordinarily perceptive and understanding.
When, a bit later on, she’d tried to tell him that she was woefully
ignorant on the subject of politics—indeed, on most subjects—
he’d chided her for being modest. ‘I saw you at that party,’ he’d
said, ‘destroying that guy’s puerile arguments. You knew exactly
what you were talking about. In fact,’ he’d added, with darkening
eyes, ‘it was quite a turn- on.’ And Milly, who’d been about to admit
to her source of information, had instead moved closer so that
he could kiss her again.
Simon’s initial impression of her had never been corrected.
He still told her she was too modest; he still thought she liked
the same highbrow art exhibitions he did; he still asked her opinion
on topics such as the American presidency campaign and
listened carefully to her answers. He thought she liked sushi; he
thought she had read Sartre. Without wanting to mislead him,
but without wanting to disappoint him either, she’d allowed
him to build up a picture of her which—if she were honest with
herself—wasn’t quite true.
Quite what was going to happen when they started living together,
she didn’t know. Sometimes she felt alarmed at the degree
to which she was being misrepresented; felt sure she would
be exposed as a fraud the first time he caught her crying over a
trashy novel. At other times, she told herself that his picture of
her wasn’t so inaccurate. Perhaps she wasn’t quite the sophisticated
woman he thought she was—but she could be. She would be. It was
simply a matter of discarding all her old clothes and wearing only the
new ones. Making the odd intelligent comment—and staying discreetly
quiet the rest of the time.
Once, in the early days of their relationship, as they lay together
in Simon’s huge double bed at Pinnacle Hall, Simon had
told her that he’d known she was someone special when she didn’t
start asking him questions about his father. ‘Most girls,’ he’d said
bitterly, ‘just want to know what it’s like, being the son of Harry
Pinnacle. Or they want me to get them a job interview or something.
But you . . . you’ve never even mentioned him.’
He’d gazed at her with incredulous eyes, and Milly had smiled
sweetly and murmured an indistinct, sleepy response. She could
hardly admit that the reason she’d never mentioned Harry Pinnacle
was that she’d never heard of him.
‘So—dinner with Harry Pinnacle to night! That should be fun.’ Her
mother’s voice interrupted Milly’s thoughts, and she looked up.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I suppose so.’
‘Has he still got that wonderful Austrian chef?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Milly. She had, she realized, begun to imitate
Simon’s discouraging tone when talking about Harry Pinnacle.
Simon never prolonged a conversation about his father if
he could help it; if people were too per sis tent he would change
the subject abruptly, or even walk away. He had walked away
from his future mother- in- law plenty of times as she pressed him
for details and anecdotes about the great man. So far she had never
seemed to notice.
‘The really lovely thing about Harry,’ mused Olivia, ‘is that
he’s so normal.’ She tucked Milly’s arm cosily under her own and
they began to walk down the snowy street together. ‘That’s what
I say to everybody. If you met him, you wouldn’t think, here’s a
multimillionaire tycoon. You wouldn’t think, here’s a found er of
a huge national chain. You’d think, what a charming man. And
Simon’s just the same.’
‘Simon isn’t a multimillionaire tycoon,’ said Milly. ‘He’s an
ordinary advertising salesman.’
‘Hardly ordinary, darling!’
‘Mummy . . .’
‘I know you don’t like me saying it. But the fact is that Simon’s
going to be very wealthy one day.’ Olivia’s arm tightened slightly
around Milly’s. ‘And so are you.’ Milly shrugged.
‘There’s no point pretending it’s not going to happen. And
when it does, your life will change.’
‘No it won’t.’
‘The rich live differently, you know.’
‘A minute ago,’ pointed out Milly, ‘you were saying how normal
Harry is. He doesn’t live differently, does he?’
‘It’s all relative, darling.’
They were nearing a little parade of expensive boutiques; as
they approached the first softly lit window, they both stopped. Inside
the window was a single mannequin, exquisite in heavy white
‘That’s nice,’ murmured Milly.
‘Not as nice as yours,’ said Olivia at once. ‘I haven’t seen a
single wedding dress as nice as yours.’
‘No,’ said Milly slowly. ‘Mine is nice, isn’t it?’
‘It’s perfect, darling.’
They lingered a little at the window, sucked in by the rosy glow
of the shop; the clouds of silk, satin and netting lining each wall;
the dried bouquets and tiny embroidered bridesmaids’ shoes. At
last Olivia sighed.
‘All this wedding preparation has been fun, hasn’t it? I’ll be
sorry when it’s all over.’
‘Mmm,’ said Milly. There was a little pause, then Olivia said,
as though changing the subject, ‘Has Isobel got a boyfriend at the
Milly’s head jerked up.
‘Mummy! You’re not trying to marry Isobel off, too.’
‘Of course not! I’m just curious. She never tells me anything.
I asked if she wanted to bring somebody to the reception . . .’
‘And what did she say?’
‘She said no,’ said Olivia regretfully.
‘But that doesn’t prove anything.’
‘Mummy,’ said Milly. ‘If you want to know if Isobel’s got a
boyfriend, why don’t you ask her?’
‘Maybe,’ said Olivia in a distant voice, as though she wasn’t
really interested any more. ‘Yes, maybe I will.’
An hour later they emerged from Mario’s Coffee House, and
headed for home. By the time they got back, the kitchen would
be filling up with bed and breakfast guests, footsore from sightseeing.
The Havills’ house in Bertram Street was one of the most
pop u lar bed and breakfast houses in Bath: tourists loved the beautifully
furnished Georgian town house; its proximity to the city
centre; Olivia’s charming, gossipy manner and ability to turn every
gathering into a party.
Tea was always the busiest meal in the house; Olivia adored
assembling her guests round the table for Earl Grey and Bath buns.
She would introduce them to one another, hear about their days,
recommend diversions for the eve ning and tell them the latest gossip
about people they had never met. If any guest expressed a desire
to retreat to his own room and his mini- kettle, he was given
a look of disapproval and cold toast in the morning. Olivia Havill
despised mini- kettles and tea- bags on trays; she only provided
them in order to qualify for four rosettes in the Heritage City Bed
and Breakfast Guide. Similarly she despised, but provided, cable tele
vi sion, vegetarian sausages and a rack of leaflets about local theme
parks and family attractions—which, she was glad to note, rarely
‘I forgot to say,’ said Olivia, as they turned into Bertram Street.
‘The photographer arrived while you were out. Quite a young
chap.’ She began to root around in her handbag for the doorkey.
‘I thought he was coming tomorrow.’
‘So did I!’ said Olivia. ‘Luckily those nice Australians have
had a death in the family, otherwise we wouldn’t have had room.
And speaking of Australians . . . look at this!’ She put her key in
the front door and swung it open.
‘Flowers!’ exclaimed Milly. On the hall stand was a huge bouquet
of creamy white flowers, tied with a dark green silk ribbon
bow. ‘For me? Who are they from?’
‘Read the card,’ said Olivia. Milly picked up the bouquet, and
reached inside the crackling plastic.
‘ “To dear little Milly,” ’ she read slowly. ‘ “We’re so proud of
you and only wish we could be there at your wedding. We’ll certainly
be thinking of you. With all our love from Beth, Scott and
Adrian.” ’ Milly looked at Olivia in amazement.
‘Isn’t that sweet of them! All the way from Sydney. People
are so kind.’
‘They’re excited for you, darling,’ said Olivia. ‘Everyone’s
excited. It’s going to be such a wonderful wedding!’
‘Why, aren’t those pretty,’ came a pleasant voice from above.
One of the bed and breakfast guests, a middle- aged woman in blue
slacks and sneakers, was coming down the stairs. ‘Flowers for the
‘Just the first,’ said Olivia, with a little laugh.
‘You’re a lucky girl,’ said the middle- aged woman to Milly.
‘I know I am,’ said Milly and a pleased grin spread over her
face. ‘I’ll just put them in some water.’
Still holding her flowers, Milly pushed open the door to the
kitchen, then stopped in surprise. Sitting at the table was a young
man wearing a shabby denim jacket. He had dark brown hair and
round metal spectacles and was reading the Guardian.
‘Hello,’ she said politely. ‘You must be the photographer.’
‘Hi there,’ said the young man, closing his paper. ‘Are you
He looked up, and as she saw his face, Milly felt a jolt of
recognition. Surely she’d met this guy before somewhere?
‘I’m Alexander Gilbert,’ he said in a dry voice, and held out
his hand. Milly advanced politely and shook it.
‘Nice flowers,’ he said, nodding to her bouquet.
‘Yes,’ replied Milly, staring curiously at him. Where on earth
had she seen him before? Why did his face feel etched into her
‘That’s not your wedding bouquet, though.’
‘No, it’s not,’ said Milly. She bent her head slightly and inhaled
the sweet scent of the flowers. ‘These were sent by some friends
in Australia. It’s really thoughtful of them, considering—’
Suddenly she broke off, and her heart began to beat faster.
‘Considering what?’ said Alexander.
‘Nothing,’ said Milly, backing away. ‘I mean—I’ll just go and
put them away.’
She moved towards the door, her palms sweaty against the
crackling plastic. She knew where she’d seen him before. She knew
exactly where she’d seen him before. At the thought of it, her heart
gave a terrified lurch and she gritted her teeth, forcing herself
to stay calm. Everything’s OK, she told herself as she reached for
the door handle. Everything’s OK. As long as he doesn’t recognize
me . . .
‘Wait.’ His voice cut across her thoughts as though he could
read her mind. Feeling suddenly sick, she turned round, to see him
staring at her with a slight frown. ‘Wait a minute,’ he said. ‘Don’t I
Meet the Author
Madeleine Wickham is the author of several acclaimed novels, including A Desirable Residence, Cocktails for Three, and Sleeping Arrangements. As Sophie Kinsella, she has written a number of bestsellers including the Shopaholic series, Twenties Girl, Remember Me?, The Undomestic Goddess, and Can You Keep a Secret? Confessions of a Shopaholic was made into a major motion picture starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy. Born in London, Wickham studied at New College, Oxford. She lives in London with her husband and family.
- London, England
- Date of Birth:
- December 12, 1969
- Place of Birth:
- London, England
- B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Oxford University, 1990; M.Mus., King's College, London, 1992
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
If you don't know, Madeleine Wickham is the real name for Sophie Kinsella (pen name). Yeap, the one who wrote the highly successful Shopaholic series. Under her real name of Madeleine Wickham, she wrote several books which have more substance than the frothy ones under Sophie Kinsella. That's why she used a pen name to keep her styles of writing apart. What if your wedding was just a few days away, and a secret from your past suddenly reappears? Just a little sin of omission, something you forgot to tell anyone? This is what happens to Milly, when her wedding photographer is the same person who took casual photos of her as a bride ten years ago, a wedding that she never told anyone about. This was a marriage of convenience with a virtual stranger, and when Milly lost contact with the groom, she decided she could push the entire event far enough out of her mind to make it never exist. The Wedding Girl is a delightful story with a good mix of happy and sad that will cause the reader to think and enjoy. I always enjoy books by Madeline Wickham aka Sophie Kinsella.
I've read most of Wickham's other novels and so was prepared for a rather un-conclusive and not exactly happy ending and so was very pleasantly surprised at the ending of this novel. She proves that she can pull of a novel that doesn't shy away from the hard parts of life, deals with really complex and hard to solve problems, and still leaves nearly everything tied up at the end. I particularly enjoyed the dealings between Richard and his wife and him dealing with his past and what he wants for in the future. A must read for Wickham fans who might enjoy a little more settled ending then she usually leaves us with.
I picked up this book because I really enjoy Sophie Kinsella's writing style. I had yet to read a book under hear real name of Madeline Wickham, but I couldn't really tell much difference between this book and the books under her pen name. She has a quick wit and does a great job at creating lighthearted page-turners. This book was no exception. Sure, "bride-to-be has a secret" may not be the most original plot, but Wickham does a great job at keeping it fun and fresh. There were several scenes that made me chuckle out loud. Parts of it can be a little predictable (especially if you're good at picking up clues), but overall, I had a great time reading this book. It's perfect if you're looking for something light and fun.
Not as good as her Sophie Kinsella books, but this was enjoyable. Very sweet book. I tried reading another title by this author and didn't find it that great, but this one was worth reading.
Sophie Kinsella (Madeline) is an amazing writer. She has the great ability to mix together both laughter and romance into ne book. Often I find myself laughing outloud to the predicaments her characters get into. I also start feeling like if I personally know each character, I really get into the world of all of her books. That being said, this book is a great read, especially if your on a vacation on a beach and you just want to realx and get everything off your mind. You really get into the plight of Sadie and her necklace. I really reccomend this book and I truly love it alot! I would also like to reccomend all of Ms. Kinsella's (Madeline wickham's) other books, such as the shopaholic series and remember me? Also The gatecrasher, written as Wickham is great too.
I purchased this book right after I finished Twenties Girl and thought that nothing could top that book, and again I was very surprised how much I enjoyed reading The Wedding Girl. I guess I'm a hopeless romantic and will always enjoy these book. Cant wait to see what come out next. GREAT JOB MADELEINE
This is a good beach. Nothing too deep but delightful. Typical Madeleine Wickham. Girl gets into a mess and has to figure out a way out of it, but still has some touching moments especially towards the end. The tension between the groom and his father could've been written with more zest, but the book not mainly about them, so not a big deal.
This novel is a fun time! The plot and characters take you on a quick ride of fiction! I read this book in a day and loved it. There are parts that I laughed out loud and just like her other books, there are a few twists. Enjoy this by the beach, in bed or to get away from the mundanes of real life.
I never got bored with this book! It was one of those that you think about for days afterwards! I think it is best compared to a soap opera! It's very dramatic and the unexpected happens. It's great! I would definitely advise anyone looking for a quick and fun read to read this!
I hoped it would a fun read, but it was pretty depressing. Not recommended. Read a Kinsella comedy instead.
The Wedding Girl ---- As usual I really enjoyed this book. Keep them coming - a fun, light and airy read!
I just generally like the books this author writes, but I felt there wasn't that spark in the story line that would make it amazing. However, if you are looking for a simple guilty pleasure book to read with ease, this not a horrible option as along as you don't expect too much out of the book.
totally loved this book!! didn't want it to end!
Very cute book and enjoyable weekend read.