Bachelor Boys: A Novel

Bachelor Boys: A Novel

by Kate Saunders

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Overview

All the warmth and love in Cassie's childhood came from the Darling family. Escaping from her own remote, chilly parents, Cassie reveled in the exuberant chaos she found at the home of the Darlings—two boys, a cheerful father, and a glorious mother, Phoebe, who always welcomed the lonely little girl next door.

Cassie is grown up now, living a suitable life with a suitable boyfriend, until her beloved Phoebe falls ill and comes to Cassie with one last request: Will Cassie help her sons, a pair of incorrigible bachelors, find wives to look after them? It's true they are gorgeously handsome, but they are also unemployed and still living in their mother's basement. Cassie can scarcely say ‘No' to Phoebe—but how will she ever find decent girlfriends, let alone wives, for these wildly sexy, and wildly impractical, bachelor boys?

Kate Saunders's Bachelor Boys is a story about love and loss that's moving, wise, and wickedly funny

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312339418
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/27/2006
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 8.06(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

Kate Saunders, the author of The Marrying Game, has also written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Express, Daily Telegraph, and Cosmopolitan. She lives in London with her son.

Read an Excerpt

Bachelor Boys


By Kate Saunders

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2004 Kate Saunders
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0857-3


CHAPTER 1

I was in the middle of cutting down a dotty and rambling piece about the Golden Age of Crime Fiction when Phoebe rang.

"Cassie, darling. I know how busy you are, so I won't keep you."

Her voice was soft and fresh, with a faint Edinburgh accent like the scent of heather. It was the voice of gentleness and safety and I unconsciously curled up in it, ripping off my glasses and stretching out in my office chair.

"That's okay, we're not particularly busy."

"The thing is," Phoebe said, "I've been thinking about something. And I really need your advice."

"Mine?"

"It's in your area of expertise."

"You mean books." I was the editor of The Cavendish Quarterly, London's most respectable literary magazine, and Phoebe often asked me to recommend books for various friends (in vain did I hint that this was not, in fact, a normal part of my job description).

"Not this time," Phoebe said. "I can't tell you over the phone, because you'll laugh."

I said, "You've had one of your ideas."

This was not a question. Phoebe was famous for having ideas.

"Well, yes," she said, with that familiar air of being awed by her own brilliance. "It's a wonderful idea, but I don't see how it can be done without you."

"As long as it doesn't involve dressing up as a squirrel," I said.

At the other end of the phone, Phoebe giggled. Ten years before, in my student days, she had persuaded me to hand out leaflets dressed as a red squirrel. This ghastly experience had left deep scars on my psyche, and I never let her forget it.

"Nothing like that," she assured me. "This is a totally different sort of ideal. I can't wait to tell you — could you possibly come tonight?"

I made a quick calculation. It would mean putting off Matthew, which he wouldn't like. But he would understand. He knew that any summons from Phoebe was sacred. She was the nearest thing I had to a mother.

"Of course," I said. "I'd love to."

"I'll make some supper. I've got some lovely fresh tagliatelli."

"Can I bring anything?"

"No, my darling, just yourself," Phoebe said tenderly. "It'll only be the two of us. This isn't something I can talk about in front of the boys."

I might have guessed it would be about the boys. For as long as I had known her, Phoebe had been cockeyed about those boys of hers. In every other department she was perfectly rational, but where the boys were concerned, she could talk herself into anything. I loved her all the more for this large blind spot.

"You're being very mysterious," I said. "What's going on?"

"Wait and see." Her voice was light and teasing, which I took as a good sign. "And Cassie, if you happen to run into Fritz or Ben, you mustn't say a word about any of this. I mean, you can say you're coming to supper, but that's all."

"Okay, my lips are sealed. See you tonight."

The call ended with me holding up the receiver so that Betsy could shout greetings from the other side of the office. Betsy Salmon was my deputy editor, but I had been at school with her four daughters, and she had known Phoebe since the boys were babies — she had once smacked Fritz at a birthday party, for persecuting the conjuror.

As soon as the phone was down, Betsy asked, "Well? How do you think she is?"

"Fine. Tired, obviously." I was sharp. I hated talking about Phoebe's health.

"And how are the boys?"

"She didn't say, so I assume they're fine." I knew it was mean to be sharp with Betsy, when she was so unfailingly kind. I stretched and rolled my chair back. "I heard Shay and Puffin sloping off to the pub just now," I said. "So let's declare an official lunch break."

"Oh, good idea," Betsy said. "Just what we need to turn morning into afternoon." She bent down to the tartan shopping bag she used as a briefcase and pulled out a Tupperware box, a Thermos flask and some rainbow-colored knitting. Her oldest daughter had baby triplets, and Betsy snatched her knitting whenever her hands came free.

I dug in my briefcase for the cheese baguette I had bought on the way in, now squashed under Volume Three of a biography of Lord Beaconsfield. While I ate, I watched Betsy lapping at her vegetable soup between stitches, and thought what a comfortable presence she was to have nearby. She had long gray hair, which she bolted into a bun with a hideous leather slide, and she was usually dressed in a washed-out needlecord sack. She had been holding the Quarterly together since the Repeal of the Corn Laws, and I knew that I'd have been lost without her. It was odd how quickly I'd got used to working a few feet away from my classmate Sally Salmon's mum.

"You know," I said, "we really ought to stop calling them 'boys.' They're grown men now, even if poor Phoebe can't see it."

"Of course. Fritz must be thirty-one — the same age as you and Sally," Betsy said thoughtfully. "And I know Ben's the same age as Jonah, because Phoebe and I used to meet at the baby clinic." Jonah was (and is) Betsy's only son, then living in the attic of his parents' home. Sally called him "Mrs. Rochester." "It's so hard to remember sometimes how grown-up you all are these days."

Betsy and Phoebe had matching blind spots. I frankly wondered sometimes why women bothered with sons. The boys I had grown up with, in our segment of middle-class London, were a disappointing crew. Betsy's Jonah was only too typical. He had two degrees (one more and he could have sung as a group), but he had never had a proper job. Betsy's daughters said he spent his entire life eating, smoking and running up phone bills. And there were so many like him — hearty young men who had never broken an honest bead of sweat in their lives, and who cheerfully assumed the world owed them a living.

My female friends and I were always trying to solve the mystery of what had gone wrong with the middle-class boys of our generation. We were all educated up to the nines, but the paths of the two sexes seemed to have divided somewhere in the late teens. Us girls were high achievers — ravenously ambitious, and obsessed with success. We set our sights as high as possible, and went for our goals like starving tigresses fighting over meat.

Take me. At the age of thirty-one, I was turning round a threadbare old warhorse of a literary magazine. True, my only qualifications for the job had been a spell in publishing, a longer spell with a national newspaper and ridiculous amounts of chutzpah. But I was slowly inching up the circulation. I was often to be heard on radio book programs, and seen on television. I had helped to judge several literary prizes. I don't like boasting, but I was proud of the things I had achieved because I had to work so hard for them. And I applied this relentless work ethic to all areas of my life. My natural state, I often think, is chaos. Left to myself, I create mess and clutter — far more than a normal, tidy person. A normal person can brush her hair and wash her face and look passable. I knew that more effort was required of me. I put incredible amounts of work into being as perfect as I could. The point is not that I'm clever or talented. The key word here is "work."

My achievements were only average when set against those of my (female) friends and acquaintances. All Betsy's daughters were hugely successful — one was in banking, Sally was a barrister, one produced award-winning documentaries and the one with triplets was (appropriately) an obstetrician. Still in the same neighborhood, my old form prefect had been short-listed for the Turner Prize and the girl who shared my flute lessons had made a fortune from mail-order fashion. I could go on.

Where, meanwhile, were the boys who had grown up beside us? My female friends and I often sighed over the dreadful shortage of proper men. We had to cast our nets far and wide, because there was nothing worth catching at home. In the bee community, all those useless drones would have been stung to death years ago. In the human community they toiled not, neither did they spin, and they clung to their family homes like ornamental plasterwork. Their aging parents were resigned to buying economy sizes and paying drug fines until the crack of doom. I only hoped those without daughters were saving for their funerals — if they left it to their sons, they'd be buried in wheelie-bins.

Not that the mothers would admit to any of this. Betsy, Phoebe and the whole regiment of genteel mums with useless sons all delighted in finding ingenious excuses for their boys' chronic idleness. Jonah, for example, claimed to be writing poetry. Not one jot or tittle of poetry ever issued from his attic, and his sisters regarded him as a waste of food, but his doting old mum maintained that he was "sensitive." This was a popular, almost standard excuse among the doting mums.

"Sensitive — phooey," my friend Hazel (youngest-ever editor of a glossy magazine) would say. "Lazy, more like. Why can't gorgeous, successful women like us find decent male counterparts?"

"Just solvent and self-supporting, that's all I ask," my best friend Annabel (merchant banking) would sigh wistfully. "Why can't I ever fall in love with a guy who has a job?"

"Or even a guy who does housework sometimes," my friend Claudette would add. Claudette was a doctor. We didn't think she had much right to complain, since she was safely married to another doctor, and her brother had regular work, albeit as a nightclub bouncer. But Claudette said her brother was only employed as a bouncer because he was six foot four and black, and they would fire him as soon as they found out how lazy he was.

Hazel would sometimes murmur, "Still, he's awfully good-looking."

And Claudette would firmly say, "Don't even think about it. You didn't do all that grafting to support a man who was chucked out of Cambridge for sleeping all day."

"Yes, but when he's got himself together —"

"All day, Haze. Never forget that. Dearly as I love him, I wouldn't wish him on my worst enemy."

I was aware that I was one of the lucky ones. I was madly in love with Matthew, who was pursuing a glittering career in corporate law with the single-minded intensity of a woman. This was because he had been brought up far, far away from middle-class, woolly-liberal north London, and was therefore able to think about more than recreational drugs and the club scene.

Matthew Jeremy Peale had been brought up in Cheadle by wealthy Tory parents with no books. He had attended a respectable but unglamorous public school, from which he was never once suspended. He had a serious character, and serious tastes. I had always dreamed of a boyfriend who could sit through heavy culture without flinching, and Matthew had delighted me by booking us a holiday in Salzburg, for the festival. Yes, my girlfriends teased me horribly about this (Hazel kept e-mailing me with sarky suggestions about bikinis), but I felt there was something heroic about a man who could take that much pure Mozart and class it as leisure. If that was his definition of leisure, how tough did that make him at work?

Besides, when my friends protested that Matthew was "dull," I felt they were missing the whole point of our relationship. Matthew was the first man I'd ever been out with who liked "dull" culture as much as I did. Yes, I have peculiar tastes. I'm a highbrow — out and proud. And Matthew's brow was even higher. The hardest plays, the most fatiguing operas, the obscurest chamber concerts were nothing to him. Sometimes, he even made me feel shallow. I found this a mighty turn-on.

I had met Matthew about two years before, at a dinner party given by an old publishing colleague. He had come straight from his office. He wore a crisp gray suit and striped (not remotely gaudy) silk tie. He was fair-haired, with blunt, strong features and what I can only describe as an air of clean certainty. There was a calmness to his confidence, an earnestness to his interest, which I found incredibly attractive. I had dreamed of a man like this for years, and Matthew slotted neatly into the space I had made for him.

I didn't see much of him for the first year or so. His firm moved him to New York, and we kept up a rather glamorous and very expensive transatlantic affair. At the time I am writing of, he had been back in London for about six months. We planned to move in together, when the time was right. We were still working through the practicalities. But his prolonged absence had definitely made my heart fonder, and I freely admit that I adored him. Yes, he had his flaws. Knowing about them made me love him more.

I swallowed the last of my mangled baguette, and punched Matthew'sdirect line into the phone. I knew I would get him. He only went out to lunch if there was money involved.

"Cassie!" He sounded pleased. "Hi, darling. How's it going?"

"Darling," I plunged straight in, "I'm really sorry, but I'll have to put you off for tonight. Phoebe wants to see me."

Matthew's voice was immediately full of concern. "Is she all right?"

"Oh yes, she just wants to talk to me about something — lord knows what."

"Well, of course you must go."

"Oh, Matthew, you are nice. I hate standing you up. Can you come round tomorrow instead?"

"I've got a better offer for tomorrow," Matthew said cheerfully. "You're going to love this. I've managed to blag a box at the Coliseum — that new production of The Flying Dutchman."

"Oh, how amazing!"

He chuckled down the phone. "I knew you'd be thrilled. The tickets are like gold dust."

"God, yes!"

"I'll meet you in the foyer at six forty-five tomorrow, and we'll have a bottle of champagne. As it's a box, we can take it in with us."

"Heavenly!"

You will have noticed, as Matthew did not, the slightly forced quality of my interjections. Yes, I was interested in the hot new production of The Flying Dutchman at the English National Opera. But my overwhelming reaction was disappointment. Matthew and I hadn't had an evening at home together for nearly three weeks. He preferred going out to staying in. He was forever getting tickets to operas and concerts, saying his job made him hungry for the higher culture. I was tough enough to take any amount of culture on the chin, but I did absolutely love it when Matthew just came round to my place for dinner. On these occasions, I would cook one of the elegant little dishes taught to me by Phoebe. Matthew would arrive with his briefcase, a bottle of wine and a clean shirt for the next day. This last item was an unofficial guarantee that we would have sex and sleep together afterward.

I thought of the four lamb chops sitting in my fridge. I had bought them for Matthew. Now that I was seeing Phoebe, he would not come round to dinner and there would be no sex. And now that we were going to the opera I wouldn't get any sex tomorrow, either. After the opera, Matthew preferred to go home alone, because he always seemed to have meetings at the crack of dawn. I was a little hurt that he had not thought of this while congratulating himself over the tickets. When would we have sex again? Never, at this rate.

"He's got tickets for The Flying Dutchman tomorrow," I told Betsy, testing the sound of it.

"Hmmm. That's nice." Betsy guessed how I felt, but was too kind to challenge me.

"It's had stunning reviews — Annabel's been, and she said it was mind-blowing."

"Wonderful," Betsy said, exuding benevolent skepticism.

I was talking myself into the right frame of mind. "I'm so lucky to have a man who actually likes going out and seeing something worthwhile. I can't stand too many evenings in."

"All the same," Betsy said, "it wouldn't do young Matthew any harm to slow down a bit. Is this his idea of fun, or is he trying to prove something?"

"Some people actually enjoy opera, Betsy, strange as it may seem."

"But how do you know he's enjoying himself? I mean, a night at the opera isn't exactly letting your hair down."

"He says it relaxes him," I said.

"Funny notion of relaxation. He'll never unwind properly until he stops thinking about work all the time."

It was never any use trying to make Betsy understand the inner workings of the ambitious male. "He can't stop thinking about work till he's a partner."

Betsy drained the last of her soup and began a new row of knitting. "Has he said any more about getting engaged?"

No. He had not. I was not going to admit this to Betsy, when I could hardly admit it to myself. "We talk about it from time to time," I said. "The time's not right at the moment. We both have too much to do first."

She looked at me solemnly over her glasses. "You know, by the time I was your age, I'd been married for six years and I had three children."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Bachelor Boys by Kate Saunders. Copyright © 2004 Kate Saunders. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Bachelor Boys 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I couldn't put it down. I loved the story and the characters. If you're looking for great chick lit that is intelligent, hiliarious and tender, this is for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a dying mothers wish to she her 2 boys married off before she passes away so she ropes in Cassie, who was the girl next door while growing up and because of a couple bad parents she could be considered a sister to the boys. It is Cassie's job to find eligable women for the boys and to clean up their lifestyle. Cassie finds the job a little harder then expected when she ends up match making for everyone else execpt her and the boys, especially because all along she has been trying to hide her love for the eldest brother, Fritz. Finally, love falls in the lap of the youngest brother, Ben, but Cassie and Fritz aren't so lucky... Or are they? This was a fantastic novel, one of my favorites. I am going out right this second to find more books by Kate Saunders. If you love chick lit, especially british chick lit then you will love this book. It has 'movie' written all over it!!!