"The perfect beach read!" Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author of Beach House Reunion.
"Tender and triumphant...California Summer made my heart sing." Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of Between Me and You
Anita Hughes's California Summer is a charming and beautiful love story about a former Hollywood producer who trades her cast list in for cookbooks in the hopes of following her dreams and finding new love.
Ben and Rosie are Hollywood’s newest director/producer dream team. After hitting it big at Sundance, it seems that their ten years of love and hard work are finally paying off. Rosie is happy making independent films, but Ben wants the A-List celebrity package: a house in Beverly Hills, fancy cars in the driveway, and his name on the biggest blockbusters. He’s willing to do anything, even sleep with the most famous producer in town, to get them.
Rosie is devastated by Ben’s affair, and she decides to take a break from show business. She accepts her best friend's invitation to spend the summer at her parents' estate in Montecito. It's far away from L.A., the perfect place to start over.
In Montecito, Rosie meets a colorful cast of characters including Rachel, who owns a chocolate shop, and Josh, a handsome local who splits his time between surfing and classic cars. Suddenly Rosie has new friends and a new purpose. She starts a business in the village, and her luck seems to be turning around. But Rosie knows all too well that success comes with a price, and the price might be losing love...again.
California Summer is a touching and romantic story about following your dreams but not letting them get in the way of love.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
ANITA HUGHES is the author of Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, Rome in Love, Island in the Sea, Santorini Sunsets, Christmas in Paris, White Sand, Blue Sea, Emerald Coast, and Christmas in London. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel.
Read an Excerpt
Rosie carried her overnight bag up the stairs and was greeted by the familiar mess of their kitchen. Ben had left the blender on the counter, next to a half-empty box of strawberries and a can of protein powder. Rosie imagined him wearing his Lakers t-shirt, his gray sweats with the barely legible Kenyon logo, sprinting out the door like a bullet.
When they arrived in Los Angeles eight years ago they rolled their eyes at people eating takeout from brown cardboard containers, at the Priuses gliding silently down Santa Monica Boulevard, at the young women walking dogs that were large as horses or small as silver quarters.
"Nobody has a normal dog: a golden retriever or a Labrador," Rosie observed.
"That's because we're in Los Angeles. The city is full of artists, musicians, writers." Ben held her hand tightly, maneuvering through the crowds on Venice Beach Boardwalk.
"And models, waiters, and pizza delivery boys with college degrees and unpaid student loans," Rosie replied nervously. She thought about their own newly minted degrees, the loan statements being forwarded to their studio apartment in Venice, the meetings where they had shown their student film and been politely told they had something, but it was rough. "Shine it up and let us take another look."
Now, two apartments, one surprising success on the indie film circuit later, they owned matching Honda hybrids, belonged to the Save the Ocean Foundation, and shopped exclusively at Whole Foods.
"We're living the dream." Ben smiled when Rosie reported updates from their Kenyon classmates. Some worked in big corporations, others collected postgraduate degrees or took over family businesses in Ohio.
The ocean was just yards from their front door and she loved the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand. And she adored the secondhand bookstore that stocked a whole section of Ibsen and Pinter. But the studio executives in their three-piece pin-striped suits made her nervous. They treated you to a three-course lunch and then cut your budget so ruthlessly; Rosie wanted to run home and bury her head in a pillow.
Rosie wiped the kitchen counter and sorted through the mail Ben left on the table. Her mother still sent letters on creamy white stationery, though Rosie usually dashed off an email reply. There were two invitations to movie premieres and a note from Ben: please pick up my tux at the dry cleaner.
What should she wear to the premieres? Now that she held the title of "associate producer" on a studio picture her mildly bohemian wardrobe seemed wrong. She either had to buy vintage Galliano and Audrey Hepburn little black dresses, or brave the saleswomen at Prada and Pucci.
Rosie hauled her overnight bag to the washing machine. The title of "associate producer" puzzled her. She accompanied the location scout on trips to find the perfect settings. She visited factories with the costume designer to choose the right fabrics. She sat in meetings with the studio accountants and publicity team. She didn't seem to do anything by herself, but no one could do anything without her.
"Relax." Ben rubbed her temples as they lay in bed at night. He turned Rosie on her stomach and pressed his thumb on the small of her back. Ben knew her body as well as she did. In college, people had said they were mirror images of each other. They wore their wavy brown hair in the same off-the-shoulder style. They both had hazel eyes and freckles on their cheeks. They dressed in unisex t-shirts, often trading clothes. Rosie strolled campus wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt and had to admit she never listened to his music when a Marley buff tried to engage her in conversation.
Now Ben kept his hair in a crew cut and Rosie straightened hers and wore it halfway down her back. Ben dressed in sports shirts and slacks, and Rosie stuffed her side of the closet with cotton dresses. But when they ran on the beach, they shared a similar gait. They ordered the same smoothies from Jamba Juice. They both opened the Sunday New York Times at the same page and read the book reviews from back to front.
"Your job is to organize people and you're brilliant." Ben pushed his thumb harder into her spine. Rosie could feel her body melting and goose bumps popped up on her skin.
Ben's job was easily defined. He was the director. His name was stenciled on the back of his chair, it was ironed onto a t-shirt the cast gave him on the first day of shooting, it was printed on his parking space at the studio lot: BEN FORD, DIRECTOR.
Ben wore the t-shirt for a week straight. He marveled at it over breakfast. "Not assistant director, not second director: director," he said, chewing a mouthful of eggs. He wore it when he Skyped his best friend in Atlanta. He wore it under his dress shirt when they had dinner at CUT with Erin Braun, their lead actress, and her race car driver boyfriend.
Their hands were poised on the first rung of success; they just had to climb the ladder. Sometimes it was the best feeling in the world and sometimes it scared her to death.
Rosie separated the whites from the darks and added laundry detergent and fabric softener. Her feet hurt from two days of trekking around horse farms. Her arms were sunburned because Ben hadn't been there to remind her to reapply suntan lotion. She wanted to stand under the jets of their high-tech shower and climb under cool cotton sheets.
The bedroom was messier than the kitchen. Two days' worth of t-shirts, running shorts, polos, and slacks lay in a heap on the floor. Ben joked that when they bought a house it would have his and hers walk-in closets. His would be accessed by a special code so Rosie couldn't pick up his sweatshirts and socks. He liked that she kept the bed perfectly made, heaped with pillows, but he missed the masculine squalor of his dorm room.
Buying a house in the Santa Monica hills was on the wish list they tacked to a bulletin board in the bedroom. After the movie wrapped they had three goals: get married, go to Africa, and buy a house. Sometimes they changed the order.
"We shouldn't wait for our honeymoon to go to Africa," Ben pondered aloud, eating waffles in bed on a Sunday morning. "We could get married in Africa, on a wild animal reserve."
"We could buy a house first," Rosie offered, sipping fresh-squeezed orange juice. "And get married in our garden, overlooking the Pacific."
Recently they had a small argument over their wish list. Ben scratched out "house in Santa Monica hills" and replaced it with "house in Beverly Hills."
"Why would we want to live in Beverly Hills?" Rosie frowned when she saw the new entry.
"Movie people live in Beverly Hills or the Hollywood Hills." Ben shrugged, taking off his running socks.
"That's why we like Santa Monica," Rosie replied. "It has writers and artists and regular families with two kids and SUVs."
"If we want to get a bigger deal next time, we need to move in the right circles." Ben sat on the bed and put his arms around her. "Would a house above the Hollywood sign be so bad? With an infinity pool and our own orange grove?"
"I'd settle for an orange tree." Rosie grinned, closing her eyes and imagining a low modern house with floor-to-ceiling windows.
"I want to give you an orange grove and a rose garden and a fountain filled with goldfish." Ben pulled her down on the bed.
"I'm not very good with goldfish," Rosie giggled, feeling his mouth on her breast.
"Then we'll hire someone to take care of them," Ben mumbled, his fingers caressing her thighs.
* * *
Ben's clothes were scattered on the floor and Rosie threw them on the bed. She began separating dry cleaning from laundry, but suddenly she froze. The bed was unmade, the sheets twisted and hanging on the floor. Ben never made the bed. Sometimes Rosie made it while he was still in it. She folded her side and plumped the pillows against the headboard. She hated to come home to an unmade bed; it made her feel as if she hadn't showered.
She stepped back and studied the sheets closely. Ben's t-shirt against her cheek smelled of his deodorant. A pit formed in her stomach, opening wider like a chasm.
Ben's habits were as familiar to her as the inside of her underwear drawer. He screwed on the toothpaste cap so tight she had to run it under hot water to unscrew it. He tore off the cover of magazines and folded the corner of every page. He pulled the sheets around them at night as if he was protecting them in a cocoon. But when they had sex, when he covered Rosie's chest with his own smooth, compact body, when he opened her legs and plunged into her, he pushed the sheets fiercely off the bed. After, when they were both sweaty and spent and tasting of each other, he wrapped his body around hers and they slept uncovered, all night.
Rosie sat at the edge of the bed, trying to think. Had they had sex before she left? Could she have left Ben in bed, the sheets crumpled on the floor, and slipped off in the morning on her trip?
Her heart hammered in her chest and she blinked to keep the fear from forming into tears. Ben had an early call Tuesday morning. She remembered because it was such a glorious feeling to lie in bed, alone. She felt like she was back in college with a late-morning class, stealing an hour to read Donna Tartt's The Secret History.
She had made the bed and packed her overnight bag. Ben's drawer was full of fresh socks and she counted that he had enough clean t-shirts. The towels were stacked neatly in the laundry and the bathroom was filled with fresh, fluffy linens. She even rescued her favorite stuffed animal, Taffy the Penguin, and propped him on Ben's pillow: to keep him company while she was gone.
Rosie surveyed the bed and a hollow feeling formed in her stomach. The pillows were scrunched and there was an open Rolling Stone on the bedside table. The sheets formed a knotted column like a snake. She pictured a girl with bouncing breasts and tousled hair, arching under Ben's compact form.
Over the years they had very few fights. Ben was like a sleeping giant. He never raised his voice. He hardly ever disagreed with her. Sometimes he would wrinkle his brow, make her repeat what she said, and then calmly refute her argument.
Ben wanted to drive straight out to Los Angeles after graduation. Rosie thought they should get real jobs and save money before they embarked on their dream. Rosie wanted to call their company "Benny and Rosie Films." Ben thought they needed something slicker: "Benjamin Rose Productions."
Once or twice a year, something would set Ben off. Rosie didn't like a scene, after Ben spent days and nights in the editing suite. Ben favored the Beverly Hills Hotel for their anniversary dinner and Rosie preferred a quiet meal at home. His face would close up and he would throw on his running shoes and burn off his frustration on the pavement.
Even when he darted out the door, saying she didn't understand how hard he worked, Rosie knew he'd come back. They were best friends, lovers, and partners. They spent all day together on the set, sending telepathic signals. When they were apart, they called each other ten times a day, hugging their phones to their cheeks.
* * *
"Are you sure you want to set the fourth scene on a horse farm?" Rosie had asked the day before, standing in the middle of a paddock. "They're full of flies and manure. I don't think Erin is going to find it romantic. Maybe you should have her meet her lover at a lake or on a tennis court?"
"I want a stampede of horses," Ben said into the phone. Rosie imagined him with one eye squinting into the camera. "I want dirt, open fields, a majestic mountain in the distance."
"I guess that means you won't settle for a 7-Eleven on the other side of the stables?" Rosie laughed, walking through caked mud back to her car. "I'll call you when we get to Long Meadows."
Even when they couldn't talk to each other — when Ben holed up with writers and came home late wired on coffee and donuts, when Rosie flew to San Francisco or Dallas to meet investors — she felt like Ben was by her side. She saved up stories of obese oilmen wanting a stake in the movie, of San Francisco socialites demanding their daughter Chloe or Prudence have a small part in exchange for financial backing. When they lay in bed, toes touching, fingers massaging each other's backs, Rosie knew no one would ever come between them.
But the sheet lay in a heap of beige cotton. It spoke louder than a vague Facebook reference, louder than a magazine gossip column. Ben had had another woman in their bed. He had pushed aside the pillows. He had pulled the woman into the center of the bed. He had made love to her.
Rosie heard the screen door bang shut and the ice maker making a spitting sound. She noticed Ben standing in the hall and watched him strip off his t-shirt and throw it in the direction of the washing machine. He strode towards the bedroom, a glass of orange juice in one hand, and a smile spreading across his face.
"You should have texted me you were home." Ben put the glass down and planted an orange-juice kiss on her mouth.
"We beat the traffic," Rosie said grimly. "Made it in record time."
"You smell like hay and horses." Ben nuzzled the side of her neck. "Let's go out for sushi. I want to hear about every horse farm from here to Bakersfield."
"I was about to jump in the shower." Rosie pulled her eyes from the crumpled sheet. She looked at Ben: his long nose with a slight bump in the middle, his hazel eyes flecked with yellow, the dimple at the corner of his mouth. She tried to squelch her rising panic, to imagine this was an ordinary evening: shower, dinner, and bed.
"I'll join you." Ben casually stripped off his sweats. "I had the executive producer crawling around the set with a calculator. He was tallying how many Starbucks the crew drank during each take. Christ, next he'll be adding up toilet rolls."
"The sheets," Rosie said numbly, pointing to the floor.
"I'm a hopeless case." Ben grinned. "I meant to make the bed, but I just didn't have time. I'll turn over a new leaf when the movie wraps. I'll serve you breakfast in bed for a month."
"Ben!" she yelled as he headed for the bathroom.
"What's up?" He turned around, crossing his arms over his naked chest.
"You had a woman in our bed," Rosie said. Her teeth were chattering, a chill ran up her spine.
"What are you talking about?" Ben replied guardedly. He flicked an imaginary hair from his forehead.
"The sheets were at the edge of the bed. You had sex with a woman in our bed."
"Rosie, you're crazy." Ben stood beside her. There were beads of sweat on his shoulders.
"When we have sex you kick the sheets off the bed," Rosie said in a strangled voice, her eyes brimming with tears.
"I had a nightmare." Ben shrugged, a smile playing on his lips. "Something to do with Erin getting a cold sore as big as a pizza. I must have kicked them off during the night. I'll help you make the bed." He reached down and grabbed a side of the sheet.
"Ben!" Rosie screeched. "We've slept together for ten years. We've shared a single bed, a bunk bed, that king bed at the hotel in Sundance. You never kick the sheets unless we have sex. Tell me who she is or I'm leaving."
"Let's go to Johnny Rockets and share a burger and a shake. I'll explain everything if you just give me a chance."
"I want to know her name."
Ben dropped his hands to his sides. He sat on the bed, drumming his fingers on the mattress. He looked up at Rosie, his eyes bright and clear.
"Mary Beth Chase."
"Mary Beth Chase the producer? Mary Beth Chase the Hollywood vixen who wears La Perla in public and has her own bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Mary Beth Chase who is at least ten years older than you and has had more boy toys than other women have handbags?"
"She's none of those things." Ben kept his eyes on the floor. "She went to Wesleyan. She's whip smart and she's had five blockbusters in a row. People don't like women with balls, they just want to cut them down."
"And you want to screw them!" Rosie stormed. She paced the bedroom like a wounded lion. She couldn't look at Ben. She couldn't look at their matching chests of drawers, at the framed poster of their movie, at the picture of them taken at Sundance, arms around Robert Redford.
"She's been plying me with dinner and drinks for weeks. I didn't want to tell you till things were finalized, but the studio wanted to bring her in as executive producer. She knows how to steamroll a movie. Her productions bring in bigger numbers than anyone's besides Jerry Bruckheimer's."
"You went to bed to close a deal!" Rosie exploded. "Is this the Playboy Mansion? Are you Hugh Hefner?"
"You don't know how sorry I am. It just sort of happened. She wanted to see a clip of our indie. I brought her home to get the DVD. You were away. We sort of moved from the sofa to the bedroom."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "California Summer"
Copyright © 2018 Anita Hughes.
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.
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