The Wedding Girl

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Overview

At the age of eighteen, in that first golden Oxford summer, Milly was up for anything. Rupert and his American lover, Allan, were an important part of her new, exciting life, so when Rupert suggested to her that she and Allan should get married to keep Allan in the country, Milly didn’t hesitate.

Ten years later, Milly is a very different person and engaged to Simon—who is wealthy, serious, and believes her to be perfect. Milly’s secret history is locked away so securely she has...

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The Wedding Girl

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Overview

At the age of eighteen, in that first golden Oxford summer, Milly was up for anything. Rupert and his American lover, Allan, were an important part of her new, exciting life, so when Rupert suggested to her that she and Allan should get married to keep Allan in the country, Milly didn’t hesitate.

Ten years later, Milly is a very different person and engaged to Simon—who is wealthy, serious, and believes her to be perfect. Milly’s secret history is locked away so securely she has almost persuaded herself that it doesn’t exist—until, only four days before her elaborate wedding. To have and to hold takes on a whole new meaning when one bride’s past catches up with her and bring the present crashing down.

With her trademark style of keen insight, and razor sharp wit, Madeleine Wickham introduces her fanatical fan-base, plus a host of new readers to a fresh and irresistible heroine in The Wedding Girl.

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Editorial Reviews

Kristi Lanier
Milly's dilemma is really only scaffolding for a three-ring circus of subplots…With so many story lines, a less agile writer would have ended up in a tangled heap, but Wickham gets out with just a few bruises. This is a romantic comedy packed with goofy details, winsome characters and titillating twists.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
As Milly Havill prepares for her elaborate wedding to the precisely perfect man, she doesn't give a thought to her frivolous past—not until the photographer mentions seeing her on her previous wedding day 10 years before. Panic-stricken, Milly seeks out the foreign (and gay) husband she never divorced and brings all manner of intimate secrets and emotional reckonings to light. Brimming with humor, quirky characters and heartfelt compassion, the story is further enhanced by the talents of Katherine Kellgren, who hurdles a range of voices, male and female, London shop girl, Oxford academic and upper-crust English solicitor. A St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 23). (July)
Library Journal

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.


—Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz
Kirkus Reviews
A young British woman's storybook wedding to a rich man's son is jeopardized by a long-buried secret. Milly Havill has much to be joyful for as she prepares to wed devoted beau Simon Pinnacle, and she's doing her best to suppress unease about her failure to mention the tiny fact that she's already married. As a freewheeling teen, Milly spent a summer in Oxford, where she befriended two beautiful boys, Rupert and his American lover Allan, and readily agreed to "marry" Allan so that he might remain in England. She lost touch with them soon after the all-too-legal nuptials, but figured no one would ever find out. Enter Alexander, a smarmy photographer hired by Milly's social-climbing mother Olivia to document the big day. As a scornful teenage boy, Alexander picked up Milly's wedding veil when it blew off outside the registry office, and unfortunately for her he never forgets a face. Furthermore, he has a photo of Milly with Husband No. 1 and seems inclined to show it around. His taunts spur Milly to track down Rupert and Allan; what she finds is not what she expected. Meanwhile, the rest of her family has their own problems to deal with. Milly's sensible, unmarried sister Isobel is pregnant and won't name the baby's father, while put-upon dad James contemplates leaving his wife after the ceremony. Simon resents his wealthy father Harry for trying to buy his love after abandoning him and his mother. Simon's unhappy childhood and issues with trust add further complications to Milly's lie, as the two eventually have to face facts about who they really are, and what they really want. Wickham (Sleeping Arrangements, 2008, etc.) shines again. First printing of 175,000
From the Publisher
Praise for Wedding Girl:

"Gutsy prose and an excellent ear for social comedy."

—Independent

 

Praise for Sleeping Arrangements:

"A rare breed of beach read that's breezy but doesn't wriggle out of difficult adult choices."

—Entertainment Weekly

"Lightness of touch and witty observation make this a perfect holiday read."

—Sunday Mirror“Wickham spins a delightful story… [She] does a bangup job of creating believable characters... Surprises abound as the plot unfolds."

—Publishers Weekly

"...sure to please her many fans and gain her new ones."

Booklist

 

Praise for The Gatecrasher:

"Wickham has a shrewdly malicious touch with her characters."

—The Atlantic Monthly

"A savage and witty social satire."

—Daily Mail (UK)

"Wickham creates memorable characters who are as unpredictable and multifaceted as they are stylish. Jolly fun."

Publishers Weekly

"[A] witty and deeply biting novel of modern manners and morals."

—Library Journal

"[Wickham is] an observant and engaging storyteller."

Kirkus Reviews

"Wickham knows her characters well and the story never drags... an enjoyable read."

Booklist

The Barnes & Noble Review

From Eloisa James's "READING ROMANCE" column on The Barnes & Noble Review


A flurry of rice and orange blossoms seems the presumptive end of every romance novel. Yet, in fact, very few marriages appear in my eighteen romances, and I'd venture to say that my reluctance on that score is shared by other romance authors. The problem is that marriage at a book's conclusion is a cop-out, at least in this particular genre. A writer who resorts to frothy veils in her last pages, turning her characters into a visual from Bride Magazine, is phoning it in. If marriage does appear in a romance, it needs to be there for a reason bigger than public vows and white dresses. In the four novels I am writing about this month, nuptials appear for different reasons, but in each the event is crucial to the plot rather than the relationship.

Teresa Medeiros's The Devil Wears Plaid starts out in a church. Emmaline Marlowe is on the brink of marrying a much older man, the laird of the Hepburn clan, in order to gain the money her father needs to avoid debtor's prison. As she is about to pledge herself to honor and obey her toothless fiancé, the door bursts open, and a man on a towering black horse rides straight into the church. Jamie Sinclair snatches Emma from the altar, and gallops off into the Scottish wilderness. While a reader might think that the next marriage scene will surely unite Jamie and Emma, the end of the book finds Emma back in that church, pledged once again to the same elderly laird, though this time Jamie interrupts sans horse. For Medeiros, wedding ceremonies are opportunities for inventiveness, and the first two nuptials are disastrous, if hilarious. When Emma stands before the altar for the third time, the vows are far more romantic due to the contrast with what came before.

Madeleine Wickham's The Wedding Girl also depicts an interrupted nuptial. Melissa Grace Havill is about to become Mrs. Simon Pinnacle in a dreamy, lavish wedding ceremony. Simon is the perfect groom: handsome, rich, and kind. But Milly has forgotten one little thing, a tiny detail -- her husband. That would be Allan, the man she married years ago so that he could apply for a visa. Her romantic wedding crashes around her ears when Simon leaves her in disgust, appalled by her false vows and her lies to him. Along with a divorce, Milly learns that lavish "society" weddings are as shallow as champagne. To most people, she decides, "the word 'wedding' meant happiness and celebration." But for her? The celebration is less important than the man to whom she actually speaks the vows. And when Milly finally marries, the church is echoing and empty, the flowers are nowhere to be seen, but the vows are spoken from the heart.

Lynn Michaels's Mother of the Bride begins with the same flurry of social anxiety about wedding details. Three women are about to marry, none of whom is the heroine, Cydney Parrish. Cydney's niece Bebe (whom she raised) has declared her intention to wed the rather moronic, if cheerful, Aldo. Cydney's sister Gwen is marrying a Russian prince in her fifth such ceremony, and Cydney's mother is to be married in a candlelight ceremony at Christmas time. Cydney, meanwhile, has never even been asked to go steady -- which might be because the man of her dreams is a famous author, Angus Munroe, whom she's never met. That changes once Angus -- Aldo's uncle -- shows up, determined to derail the marriage. As Cydney desperately tries to arrange decorations worthy of Vogue (for which Gwen will photograph the marriage), and a wedding cake worthy of Bebe, the happy couples proceed to wangle and fall apart, while Cydney and Gus engage in a hot, secret affair. The marriage that ends this book stands in counterpoint to the betrothals that brought so much heartache. Cydney's wedding is about the heart, rather than glamorous pictures, and it is more joyous for being happily out of Vogue.

The marriage in Virginia Kantra's Immortal Sea occurs at the end of a romance that doesn't include a single disrupted engagement, nor a wrathful kidnapping. In fact, Kantra starts the novel in the farthest possible spot from a wedding: in a hot and wild one-night stand. Elizabeth Rodriguez is on a trip to Copenhagen before starting medical school when she finds "adventure personified in moonlight and black leather." In fact, Morgan is a member of the finfolk, a warden of the northern deep charged with protecting the sea, though Liz has no idea he's anything other than a leather-clad bad boy. The best sex of her life leads to the best gift: her son. But it isn't until Morgan happens on that boy, Zach, that he has any idea their one-night stand had consequences. The marriage that ends this book plays a role that all marriages do, from those that end Shakespeare plays, to those listed in the New York Times: it pulls together the community, bringing into view a new society crystallized around the hero and heroine. In Immortal Sea, Liz and Morgan's wedding depicts a society that binds together humans and merfolk. When Morgan silently vows to love Liz "until the seas run dry," marriage vows are reshaped to suit the new society Kantra has created.

In each of these novels, the marriage ceremony (or ceremonies) is no mere punctuation point to a happy union. The characters -- and thus the readers -- rethink the very idea of "'til death do us part."  In each, white veils and bubbling champagne are far less important than the vows that will bind together warring clans -- whether the celebrants are the Scottish, merfolk, or high society.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312383435
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sophie Kinsella

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.

Biography

When we first meet Becky Bloomwood in Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic, she's a financial journalist in London who's quickly realizing that though she may be a writer for Successful Saving magazine, she could use help practicing what she preaches. She's helplessly driving herself into debt buying things she can't afford, at one point rationalizing that buying something 30 percent off is actually saving money. Becky was a hit with readers and spawned a franchise for Kinsella. In subsequent books, readers have followed her through a temptingly whirlwind series of adventures, with her best friend, Suze, and Luke, the love of her life, often along for the ride.

The Shopaholic books are little tours of fabulousness, where objects are introduced not as incidental to the story but as key players. Becky may not attend to certain life details such as bills or space to store all of her purchases, but she knows how to pay proper homage to the details in a dress or a vintage cocktail table. When she packs for a trip, we get the list of what she's bringing. What's more, she rationalizes and justifies purchases before you can say, "Credit or cash?" (The answer for Becky, by the way, is usually credit.)

Those who value integrity or depth in their fictional characters would be well advised to steer clear of Becky; but Shopaholic fans identify with her weaknesses, finding her more sympathetic than sinister. She can be maddening in her lack of discipline or self-reflectiveness, but Kinsella has taken a cue from Jane Austen's Emma by infusing her character with enough optimism, heart, and generous spirit to overcome her faults. Becky always reassuringly lands right-side-up, making these books a fun flight of fancy.

The author has interspersed her popular series with a handful of stand-alone confections featuring protagonists as charming and deliciously funny as the Shopaholic. Fortunately for her many fans, Sophie Kinsella has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of affection for her characters. May it fuel many books to come!

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Kinsella:

"I am a serial house mover: I have moved house five times in the last eight years! But I'm hoping I might stay put in this latest one for a while."

"I've never written a children's book, but when people meet me for the first time and I say I write books, they invariably reply, 'Children's books?' Maybe it's something about my face. Or maybe they think I'm J. K. Rowling!"

"If my writing comes to a halt, I head to the shops: I find them very inspirational. And if I get into real trouble with my plot, I go out for a pizza with my husband. We order a pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea and start talking -- and basically keep drinking and talking till we've figured the glitch out. Never fails!"

"Favorite leisure pursuits: a nice hot bath, watching The Simpsons, playing table tennis after dinner, shopping, playing the piano, sitting on the floor with my two small boys, and playing building blocks and Legos."

"Least favorite leisure pursuit: tidying away the building blocks and Legos."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Madeleine Wickham (real name)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 12, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Oxford University, 1990; M.Mus., King's College, London, 1992
    2. Website:

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

care.

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

move.’

‘We’ll repay you with a glass of Pimm’s,’ said the American.

He’d held out his hand. ‘Allan.’

‘Rupert.’

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

away.

‘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

Milly’s confetti.’

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

English.

‘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.

‘Any time.’

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

off.

‘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

hope for.’

‘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

a minute.’

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

Saturday.

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

little things.’

‘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

memory.

‘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.’

‘What?’

‘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

with it.’

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

street.

‘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

pause.

‘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

the snow.

‘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

out.

‘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

distracted.

‘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

admiration.

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.

‘Maybe.’

‘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

velvet.

‘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

moment?’

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.

‘Well then.’

‘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

needed replenishing.

‘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

bride?’

‘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

Milly?’

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

memory?

‘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

know you?’

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 141 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(42)

4 Star

(51)

3 Star

(30)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 142 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Wedding Girl

    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.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Cute read

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fun, Light Read

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 8, 2010

    Sweet book

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 11, 2010

    A Great Read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    Love, Love Madeleine and Sophie she is the best at girl/romantic books

    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

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2009

    HILARIOUS!!!!

    The Wedding Girl is a fantastic read if you like Sophie Kinsella and read her other books. This book will have you laughing and may be even crying. You will want to read it again!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Good Summer Reading

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2009

    Entertaining

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Very very very interesting!!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

    GREAT BOOK - Couldn't put it down

    I just loved this book... Milly was a fun character.. You will love this book from start to finish.. (the end was a little - iffy) but all and all great book... Madeleine Wickham - Sophie Kinsella is amazing.. =)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Wedding Girl ---- As usual I really enjoyed this book. Keep

    The Wedding Girl ---- As usual I really enjoyed this book. Keep them coming - a fun, light and airy read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Just OK

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2012

    awesome read

    totally loved this book!! didn't want it to end!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2012

    Cute book

    Very cute book and enjoyable weekend read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2012

    Nothing special

    I usually like this author and find her writing entertaining but this story was lackluster for me. The end was abrupt and the characters changed a little too quickly for me to believe it. I wouldn't recommend this particular book but still remain an overall fan of the author.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Loved it

    I couldn't put this down. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen in the end!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2011

    LOVED IT !

    Charming and delightful with endearing characters, this book was better than i expected.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 5, 2011

    Dreadful

    I love this author but this book was completely dreadful. I couldnt wait for it ti be finished.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2011

    Love It!

    I absolutely loved The Wedding Girl. I have been a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella (aka Madeleine Wickham) for years. I couldn't put it down. It has a Cinderella feel to it. I would highly recommend this book to my friends and family.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 142 Customer Reviews

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