The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House, Jemima J, and Summer Secrets presents a novel about the pleasure and meaning of finding a home—and family—where you least expect them...
When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted, either.
On the move again, Emma settles in the picturesque waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut, a world apart from both England and Manhattan. It is here that she begins to confront what it is she really wants from her life. With no job, and knowing only one person in town, she channels her passion for creating beautiful spaces into remaking the dilapidated cottage she rents from Dominic, a local handyman who lives next door with his six-year-old son.
Unlike any man Emma has ever known, Dominic is confident, grounded, and committed to being present for his son, whose mother fled shortly after he was born. They become friends, and slowly much more, as Emma finds herself feeling at home in a way she never has before.
But just as they start to imagine a life together as a family, fate intervenes in the most shocking of ways. For the first time, Emma has to stay and fight for what she loves, for the truth she has discovered about herself, or risk losing it all.
In a novel of changing seasons, shifting lives, and selfless love, a story unfolds—of one woman’s far-reaching journey to discover who she is truly meant to be...
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
A former journalist in the U.K. and a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, Jane Green has written many novels (including Jemima J, The Beach House, and, most recently, Falling), most of which have been New York Times bestsellers, and one cookbook, Good Taste. Her novels are published in more than twenty-five languages, and she has over ten million books in print worldwide. She lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband and a small army of children and animals.
Date of Birth:May 31, 1968
Place of Birth:London, England
Education:"Managed to drop out of Fine Art Degree at University."
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2016 Jane Green
It’s lovely,” she lies, in her most gracious of voices, looking around at the tired wood paneling lining the walls of the living room, floor to ceiling. As she looks down, her gaze lands on well‑worn salmon‑pink shag carpeting and quickly conceals her horror.
Emma wonders if this house might not even be beyond her capabil‑ ities to transform. Perhaps the landlord would let her paint it? Surely he would let her paint it—who wouldn’t want to lighten up this room, so dark it feels more like a cave? She would paint it for free, and pull up that carpet. Maybe she would be lucky and find a hardwood floor underneath; even if it was merely concrete, surely it wouldn’t cost any‑ thing to stick down some inexpensive sisal.
This room could be transformed, she determined. Lipstick on a pig was her specialty.
Her landlord, or potential landlord, smiles. “Hey, I know it’s not everyone’s taste today,” he says. “Why do people want everything to be gray and modern?”
Emma is surprised by his comment, surprised frankly by his interest in making small talk. “I hate that look,” Emma offers. It happens that she does agree, quite passionately, in fact. “None of those decorated houses feel like real homes.”
“Exactly!” he says in delight. “This is a home.”
Struck by his words, by the obvious sincerity with which they are spoken, she turns to look at her potential landlord for the first time. She can’t help but feel struck by the sight of him. He is not tall, only a couple
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of inches taller than her, with skin tanned by the sun and an easy smile that seems to put her at ease. It isn’t so much that she finds him attractive, but that there is something familiar about him, a recognition, a sense of having somehow met him before.
Perhaps because she has remained silent, he goes on to add, “At least, it was a home. My grandparents lived here for forty years.”
Yes, thinks Emma, it looks like it. It smells like it, too. The air is fusty. Of course old people had lived here. That explains the wood paneling and the floral wallpaper in the family room; it also explains the salmon‑ pink carpet and avocado‑green bathroom suite with matching tile.
“How would you feel about me putting . . .” Emma pauses, wonder‑ ing how to say this diplomatically. She doesn’t want to jump in and tell him she’d like to tear everything out and start again. He probably doesn’t want to change anything; his voice had softened when he men‑ tioned his grandparents. She has an odd reluctance to offend him, and she senses she’ll need to take this slowly if she wants this house. “. . . a woman’s touch on the house?”
“A woman’s touch!” The landlord smiles and nods approvingly. “That’s exactly what I’ve been saying this house needs for years. A wom‑ an’s touch.”
She follows him into the kitchen at the back of the house and her heart sinks slightly. It hasn’t been touched since the fifties, rough wood cabinets bumpy with layers of white paint, although pretty black iron hardware. Formica countertops with large cracks, and linoleum floors. A stove that is so ancient as to be fashionable again, and, surprisingly, a large modern stainless‑steel fridge.
Emma looks at the fridge and raises an eyebrow as she looks over at the landlord.
Damn, she thinks. What was his name again? Donald? Derek? Something like that.
“The old fridge gave up last year,” he explains. “The tenants picked out this one. And I paid for it,” he adds quickly, as if to reassure her that he is a good landlord, on top of everything, ready to jump in and deal
“Great,” says Emma, wandering over to the back door and peering out through the glass onto a fenced‑in garden, or what could be a garden if the weeds were cleared. “Can I go outside?” she asks, already out the door.
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He follows her out, apologizing for the weeds. They both stand there as Emma looks around, her imagination already firing. There are two filthy peeling rattan chairs stacked off to the side, surrounded by boxes and baskets: in other words, trash.
The landlord turns to look and immediately apologizes. “I haven’t been out here,” he explains. “Obviously all of that will be gone. I can replace those chairs with new ones.”
Emma is again struck by him. His eagerness to please doesn’t seem solely mercenary. He wants her to know that he cares about the house and yard. “Do I get to choose what kinds of chairs the new ones are? Like the fridge?” Emma says.
“As long as they’re not too expensive.”
“I am the expert at renovating on a shoestring.” She smiles.
“You’re my kind of woman.” He laughs, as Emma flushes slightly and turns away. A flirtatious landlord is the last thing she wants right now. “Sorry.” He apologizes immediately, realizing his mistake. “I was kidding. But I’m happy for you to choose things as long as they’re within the budget.”
Emma looks up at the sky, noting the sun, looking at the shadows to try and figure out which way the garden faces. “Southwest,” she guesses, and he turns to her with a smile.
“You’re a sun worshipper?”
“With this pale English skin?” She laughs and shakes her head. “I turn into one giant freckle in the sun. But I am a gardener. At least, a frustrated one. For years and years, I lived in flats in London dreaming of having a garden of my own. Then for the last five years I’ve been on the top of a high‑rise in Battery Park.” Good lord. Why is she suddenly giving him her life story?
“Ah, so you’re a city girl.” “Not by choice.”
“You’re ready to be out here?”
“Ready to be steps from the beach, in a gorgeous town where the pace of life is relaxed and the pressure is off? No. Definitely not.”
He laughs. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and wouldn’t move any‑
where else. How did you find Westport?”
“I have a friend who lives here, who I used to work with. She moved out three years ago after she had a baby, and she loves it. I’ve been out
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to visit her quite a few times, and something about this place feels right. I never thought I’d be able to move out here permanently, but . . . I needed to make some big changes in my life. Moving somewhere like this, with a quieter pace of life, seemed like a good first step.”
“I saw on your application you’re a banker. That’s quite a commute.” “Actually,” Emma says. “I took a package. I’m now officially unem‑ ployed, albeit with a very nice severance. I hope that won’t be a
“As long as you pay your rent, nothing’s a problem. What are you going to do here in town?”
Emma is struck again by the sincerity of his interest. He is not just making small talk, she is sure of it. He’s looking at her, making her feel like he cares about what she’ll say next. She shakes her head. “Thank‑ fully, I have enough to have a little bit of breathing space. I don’t really know. I’ve always had a dream about doing something with the home. Interior design, gardening, that sort of thing. I’ve been doing an online course to get the official qualification. Now all I need are clients.”
“And a house to do up.”
“And a garden to transform. Preferably one that faces southwest.” She grins as she looks around the garden.
He grins, too. “Then you’ve found it. It seems that you and this house were meant to be. Although, you couldn’t do anything major to it without consulting with me.”
“Of course.” Emma laughs politely. She couldn’t move in unless she did something major with the house. As it is, it’s completely awful, but stepping back to take it in, even with all its flaws, she thinks she could turn this into a charming beach cottage.
The landlord seems like a nice guy. He may be resistant to her changes at first, but she surmised that she could ask forgiveness rather than permission for most things. If he walked into this room and found the wood painted a lovely chalky white, the floors covered with sisal, the single lightbulb replaced with a pretty glass pendant light, surely he would be thrilled. Who wouldn’t be thrilled at someone transforming
their house for nothing? He would undoubtedly get more money for it next time he decides to rent it out.
The truth is that Emma Montague isn’t looking for somewhere perma‑
nent just yet. She’s just looking for a place to call home for the next year
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or so. A year to try to recover from the last five years of working in finance in New York. A year to try to figure out what kind of life she wants to live. For five years she has lived a life that wasn’t hers. Five years of utter exhaus‑ tion; five years of keeping her head down and working like the devil, putting away enough money to be able to afford to do what she is doing now, leaving the rat race and pursuing her dream. Her goal is to figure out what her dream is. Right now she only knows that the beginning step is to find a world and a life that feels likes her own; a life in which she finally feels she belongs.
It starts with a house. She is itching to buy, but it is more sensible to rent, making sure this is where she wants to live. Still, the rentals down by the beach, here in Westport, Connecticut, are mostly prohibitive for a single girl with a budget, even an ex‑banker. The last thing she wants to do is blow all her savings on rent.
This house, this dated, fusty house, is entirely within her budget, precisely because it is so dated and fusty. It is the perfect size—two bedrooms with a living room, kitchen, and family room that would make a perfect office.
And best of all there is a garden, or rather more than enough space for one. She can finally plant vegetables. She can put a gravel path down the middle, can grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, plant roses and clematis over the fence at the back. She imagines a long, rustic table, a small group of friends sitting around, bottles of rosé and candles inter‑ spersed with galvanized steel pots of lavender running down the center. Laughter. Happy faces. Everyone lit by the glow of summer and love.
Emma shakes her head to bring herself back to earth. She knows only one person—her friend Sophie Munster—here in Westport. She has no other local friends she can invite to sit around the table, and since she’s something of an introvert, it may take a little while to find them. But she will find them.
Although a bit of a loner, she is loyal, and fun, when she finds people with whom she is comfortable. She is thinking of taking up yoga, and maybe knitting. There are evening classes at the local yarn store, Sophie
says. They should both go. Sophie grew up here, although she went away to boarding school. She has friends from grade school, though, seems to know almost everyone in town. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Emma’s fantasy of summer evenings comes true.
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For as long as she can remember, Emma Montague has had a fascina‑ tion with America. Growing up in her upper‑crust family in Somerset, England, sent off to boarding school, then moving to London after university to enter the world of banking, she had the persistent belief that this was not supposed to be her life.
As a little girl, she had never quite felt she fitted in. She was loved and treasured, but her boisterous, overbearing mother and loving but somewhat beleaguered and introverted father didn’t quite know how to connect with their quiet, studious child. The place she felt happiest, the place she found her solace and joy, was in the pages of books.
She read all the time. It was so much easier than dealing with the chaos of her playmates during recess. She was close to one or two of her classmates, but she only liked seeing them one at a time. Otherwise, she was happier with her books. She was the child with the flashlight under the duvet late into every night. She would breeze through a book in a day and a half, then read it six more times.
She fell in love with America through the pages of these books. Her dull, patrician life in Gloucestershire felt very staid compared to the lives of Jo and her sisters in Little Women, and Katy in the What Katy Did series. She devoured the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and dreamed of having a farm out in the middle of nowhere, growing all her own vegetables, raising her own animals.
Life then got in the way, sweeping her up into the cutthroat world of London finance, not because she had a passion for finance, but because it was what all the girls were doing at that time. First London, then New York. Finally, now that she has extricated herself, it looks like she has a shot at the kind of life she might actually want to live.
Westport, Connecticut, may not be Walton’s Mountain, but there are enough trees for her to pretend, and the beauty of the beach on the doorstep is something she now realizes she has always wanted.
When she was living in Manhattan she would go running along the river every morning before work. The sunlight glinting off the water
brought a calm and peace to every morning. She hadn’t known how much she wanted to be by the water until Sophie drove her to Compo Beach for a walk one weekend. That was the moment she knew this was where she wanted to be.
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There had been a tremendous expectation for the life Emma was supposed to have led, at least from her parents. And she had tried to fit into the life they had designed for her. Namely, to work at a pretend job for a few years to enable her to meet the right kind of husband, before quickly getting pregnant, giving up work, and going on to raise three or four beautiful children in a lovely stone manse in Gloucestershire. Preferably near her parents. Have a couple of dogs, Gordon setters or pointers, possibly golden retrievers; have lots of local women friends who come for coffee. Get involved in the village fair and perhaps, given her love of books, institute a reading mentoring program in the less well‑off town twenty minutes away.
Emma knew the path well, as it was the path so many of her child‑ hood friends had taken. At thirty‑seven, she is the only one still unmar‑ ried, apart from Imogen Cutliffe, who is one of the leading lights of British screen and stage and about to star as the lead in a film starring Bradley Cooper. Emma is the only one who continued to work and rise up the corporate ladder, putting all her focus on making money. It wasn’t that she cared about money for the sake of money, but that it was the only path out: making enough money to retire from banking in her thirties, and the freedom to pursue her dream. If she could figure out what her dream was.
She hadn’t known her life was going to turn out like this. For a long time she imagined she would indeed follow the path her parents expected of her. She dated Rufus Fairfax for years throughout her twenties, not because she loved him, but because her parents loved him and he seemed to check all the right boxes. He was a banker in the firm where she worked, he was handsome (although he had not an ounce of sex appeal, as far as she was concerned), and he was of the right stock. Clever, but not very funny; in fact, he was achingly dull. But they looked so good together! They seemed to fit so perfectly together that everyone assumed they would get married from the moment they started going out. And Emma had presumed everyone was right, that everyone knew some‑ thing she did not, and she was the one who must have been wrong.
She determined to make it work. She and Rufus spent their week‑ days in London, both of them burning the candle at both ends, and their weekends in the country, usually staying with friends in crum‑ bling old piles that were impossibly drafty, with terrible food and lots
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of drink to distract from the fact that everyone was freezing cold and permanently starving.
Rufus had a huge group of friends from boarding school that Emma always found rather awful. They were shockingly loud, and arrogant, fueled by absurdly expensive bottles of wine that they ordered in res‑ taurants to prove they could afford them. They shouted inside jokes from when they were all thirteen, their wives and girlfriends sitting with smiles plastered on their faces, pretending to be amused.
Emma started leaving these evenings early, claiming headaches and making her way up to bed during those country weekends, earplugs tucked into her overnight bag to help her sleep through the inevitable banging and shouting in the early hours of the morning when the party eventually broke up.
None of this fazed Rufus, who proposed to her four times. The first time he did so after a romantic dinner at Hakkasan, gazing at her over the course of the evening with a hopeful kind of love that Emma found slightly discomfiting. Each time, Emma said she just wasn’t quite ready. Eventually, five years ago, Rufus issued an ultimatum: If she wouldn’t marry him, he would find someone else who would, and with a great dramatic flounce, he packed up his things and left their Kensington flat. Emma knew he thought she would beg him to come back within a week or so, but from the minute he was gone, she felt nothing other than tremendous relief.
She had been playing the part of adoring girlfriend, probably— hopefully—soon‑to‑be‑wife, for so long that she had forgotten how liberating it was to simply be herself. She saw girlfriends from university she hadn’t seen for ages because Rufus disapproved of their drinking (“Darling, there’s nothing quite so ghastly as a woman publicly drunk”). She got into bed at seven thirty p.m. with hummus and chips for dinner, and spent hours watching terrible reality television that Rufus would never have condoned.
She was happy, and happier still when she was called in to her supe‑
rior’s office and asked if she would consider taking up a position with the bank in New York. They were starting a new private wealth man‑ agement operation, specifically for English expatriates living on the East Coast of the United States, and they needed someone to head client relations.
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They would put together a package, they said. All moving expenses would be paid. She would be set up in an apartment, and there would be a healthy relocation allowance. They offered all of this as if to sweeten the deal, as if Emma weren’t using everything she had, sitting in her office in her oh‑so‑staid black Givenchy skirt and Manolo Blahnik d’Orsay heels (the perfect combination of elegant and sexy), not to break out in a scream of joy and twirl around the room, punching the air and whooping in a mad happy dance.
It was the fresh start she had been longing for, and better yet, in New York! The place she had always imagined living! Well, perhaps not quite New York City. She preferred to see herself in rural Vermont, or Maine, but at least it was across the pond, and she would get a green card, and at some point surely, surely, she’d make it out of the city and into the farmhouse of her dreams.
This is not the farmhouse of her dreams. This isn’t even the beach cot‑ tage of her dreams. But it could be. With just a little bit of work, if her oddly welcoming landlord acquiesced, she could transform this into something, if not quite magnificent, at least beachy, and airy, and filled with charm.
They walk back through the house, Emma trying to see through the wallpaper, the linoleum, the salmon‑pink flat shag‑pile carpet, as the landlord shows her out.
“It was great to meet you, Emma,” he says, meeting her gaze with a friendly smile and shaking her hand with a grip so firm she crumples slightly before flexing her fingers.
“Ouch!” she says, laughing.
“I’m so sorry!” he says, clearly mortified.
“It’s fine.” She smiles. What an unexpectedly friendly man he is. “I
wasn’t expecting that, is all.”
“I’m Italian,” he says, by way of explanation, which makes no sense to
Emma whatsoever. “My family is known for its handshakes.” “Really?” She peers at him.
“No. I’ll work on it. Do you want to think about the house and let me know when you’ve made a decision?”
“That sounds great,” she says, wishing she could remember his name.
“Dominic,” he says, as if reading her mind.
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“Dominic,” she says confidently, as if she had remembered all the time. “Thank you so much. I’ll be in touch.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t invite me!” Sophie walks back into the kitchen, having put her soon‑to‑be‑two‑year‑old down for a nap. “I would have loved to see it. Which house is it again?”
“The gray one with the overgrown garden?” says Emma, scooping up a handful of Goldfish crackers from the bowl Sophie’s son, Jackson, hadn’t touched. “On Compo. About four in. Maybe six. I don’t know. Close to the end of the road.”
“But it was awful?”
“It wasn’t awful. It’s just that it wasn’t great. But I’ve looked at every‑ thing online, and if I want something great it’s going to cost me at least twice as much. It seems ridiculous to pay so much money on rent, especially since I don’t know what I’m going to be doing or where I’m going to land. I’d much rather be frugal, or at least moderately frugal, and rent something I can turn into my own.” She sighs. “If he doesn’t let me change the inside I’ll just do it and say I’m sorry afterward. At least we’ve established that he’s definitely fine with me putting a garden in. And I could put a gorgeous garden in.”
“That won’t help you much in winter.”
“No, but it will give me something to look forward to. And can we not talk about winter yet? It’s June, for heaven’s sake. The last thing I want to think about is snow.”
Sophie shakes her head. “I can’t believe you’re actually going to be moving out here!” She grins suddenly. “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“Apart from marrying Rob and having Jackson, you mean?”
“Well, yes. Apart from that. But it will be just like old times when we worked together. We can hang out every day. Imagine if we could get Hilary Trader to come and live here, too. God, we’d have fun. We’re going to have fun anyway, even if it’s just you and me. Do you need a second opinion about the house? Because I’m really happy to go see it if you need me to.”
“Oh, you’re sweet,” says Emma, blanching in horror at the thought
of her friend, in her immaculate, brand‑new, pseudo‑modern‑
farmhouse, every wall horizontally planked with perfect high‑gloss
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white wood, her kitchen a panorama of white marble and gray cabinets, every chandelier hanging from the ten‑foot ceilings a perfect cluster of crystal globes hanging from polished nickel fixtures, walking into the grimy little cottage by the beach.
“You would hate it,” Emma says. “You would think it the most dis‑
gusting house you have ever seen.”
Sophie looks offended. “Why would you say that? Just because I live in a new house doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate older homes.”
“Darling, this house isn’t just old, it’s dead. I have huge plans for it if I decide to take it, and I’m not even sure about that. But I honestly don’t think, even you, with your glorious taste, would be able to see through the brown flowery wallpaper and threadbare salmon carpet.”
Sophie wrinkles her pretty little nose. “That sounds gross.”
Emma laughs. “It is. But all that can be changed. I’m going to see a couple more rentals later this afternoon and hopefully, by the end of the day, I will have made a decision.”
Her phone rings just as Emma has put the last box down in the living room of her new home. She sighs looking at the screen, ready to divert it to voice mail. But she can’t actually divert it, for her mother knows that if she gets voice mail after less than about seven rings, it is because Emma is choosing not to answer the phone. She silences the ringer instead.
The last person Emma wants to talk to is her mother. The last person Emma ever wants to talk to is her mother. But it’s been a while, and better to get it out of the way, do her good deed for the day.
She thinks about Sophie, whose mother, Teddy (short for Theodora), lives in Westport and is as close to Sophie as a sister. Sophie always says she doesn’t need a lot of friends, although she does in fact have tons of friends, most of whom she has known her entire life. She says this because her mother is her best friend, and Emma always smiles and says how lucky she is, not understanding how such a thing is possible.
The thought of her mother, Georgina Montague (born Georgia but changed to Georgina shortly after realizing her newly embarked rela‑ tionship with Simon Montague was serious), being her best friend is nothing short of hilarious.
Emma has never felt particularly comfortable around her mother. In fact, she finds herself shrinking into corners to allow her mother to take center stage. She has always been aware that with her quieter personality and her occasional need for solitude, she is a source of both bewilderment and irritation to her mother. Her mother wants to be closer, too, she
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knows, wishing for the kind of daughter who goes shopping with her, accompanies her to fund‑raisers, and provides her with the grandchildren she so desperately wants.
In many ways, moving across the Atlantic was the best thing for Emma and her mother. They don’t have much in common, and their different personalities often result in Georgina unwittingly belittling Emma. Her barbs seem to be couched in tremendous good humor, or so it appears, unless you are paying the closest of attention.
Their relationship was better while Emma was with Rufus. Emma’s parents adored Rufus, naturally, and still haven’t quite gotten over the fact that Emma broke up the relationship. Rufus married the next little blond thing to come along, eight months after he and Emma broke up. Emma was stunned when her parents were invited to the wedding.
She presumed they wouldn’t go, but they did, declaring it a high old time, with excellent grub and a darling bride who couldn’t wait to start making babies with good old Rufus, who seemed over the moon.
Emma did what she always did when her parents unknowingly offended or upset her. She said good‑bye as if nothing was wrong, then took a break from them. In the past, those breaks had sometimes lasted for six months or more. But they didn’t notice. Her mother left numer‑ ous messages, not seeming to realize that anything was wrong, or per‑ haps hoping that if she pretended nothing was wrong it might entice her daughter back.
The hurt would heal—it always did—and Emma would eventually get back in touch, and there would be no mention of her going AWOL for six months, or however long it took to nurse her wounded feelings. Her mother cheerfully blundered through life, never noticing the bombs she threw around her (for Emma was not the only one to find her overbearing and insensitive), cheerfully carrying on as if life was peachy.
“Hello, darling!” booms her mother’s voice over the phone. “Just checking in with you. Isn’t the big moving day coming up? Daddy and I were wondering if you needed help. It’s a bit busy over here with all the summer festivals coming up, and you know how Daddy likes to enter his vegetables in the village fete, but we could absolutely jump on a plane if you need us. It’s very hard moving on your own, though I
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know you’ve done it before, darling. But you were in your twenties then, and I don’t want you to put your back out. Plus I’m terribly good at organizing, as you know, and I’m worried that you have no one to help you.”
In the room filled with nothing but empty boxes, Emma shakes her head. Her mother will take any opportunity to point out her single status. It used to upset her, but she has learned to let the comments wash over her head.
“It’s fine, Mum,” says Emma, knowing how much her mother hates being called Mum, infinitely preferring what she sees as the far more palatable Mummy.
“I changed the date of the move, so I’m already in my new place, actually,” she says, looking around the room defeatedly at the number of boxes. It’s not as if she were downsizing. She had lived relatively anonymously in her apartment in Battery Park, a small one‑bedroom that she had always thought of as pleasantly minimalist.
She’d had no idea that her books would take up so many boxes. Nor her artwork, now stacked in three piles against the wall. Where did all this stuff come from?
Dominic had had the dreadful salmon carpet professionally cleaned, and had regrouted the bathroom. The new bright‑white grouting did little to help the avocado‑green tile, but at least Emma thought she could bear to step into the shower.
After looking at other far more lovely, but far pricier options in neighboring towns, her only choice if she wanted to stay both solvent and by the beach was this one. She had phoned Dominic the next day to confirm. He sounded delighted, that unusual sincerity in his voice again—but on the other hand who wouldn’t be delighted with one quiet tenant with lots of books and no dogs. Two weeks later, she was preparing to head out, having given up her sparkling New York City apartment for . . . this.
“Darling! You should have said! How is the new place? Is it gor‑
geous? Do you love it?”
Emma suppresses a snort. “Not exactly. I think the best way to describe it is that it has a tremendous amount of potential.”
“That sounds like a perfect project for you,” says Georgina. “What
can we send you for a housewarming present? What about a lovely
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teapot? Or a set of bowls? Actually, I have those lovely green bowls from Grandmere”—when had Grandma become Grandmere, Emma thinks wryly—“which would be perfect for a young, well . . . youngish girl on her own. Why don’t I send those?”
Emma instantly pictures the bowls, a faded green milk glass, pos‑
sibly pretty once, now scratched and stained after years of use.
“It’s okay, Mum,” she says. “I don’t need a housewarming present. At least, not yet. Let me get settled, then I’ll let you know what I need.”
Reading Group Guide
Falling Readers Guide
Questions for Discussion
1) Emma and Dominic come from very different backgrounds, yet their attraction to each other goes beyond the physical and is evident from nearly the moment they meet. It’s clear to almost all of their friends that they are soul mates. What do you think draws them together despite their more obvious differences?
2) Dominic’s young son, Jesse, is initially wary of Emma but warms up to her in short order, only to seesaw back and forth with his affections. Why do you think his feelings for her are so erratic? How do you feel about her efforts to win him over?
3) Emma worries that Dominic may not be an appropriate match for her because he’s from a working-class Italian-American family and makes his living as a bartender and carpenter, whereas she was raised in affluence in England and has spent much of her adult life as a highly paid banker. Why is Emma so concerned about his “suitability”? Do her concerns stem from fears about other people judging her or from her own misgivings? Why do you think she’s so afraid to let herself fall for him?
4) Emma’s description of herself as an introvert surprises Dominic. “It’s funny,” he tells her. “You seem really outgoing. You’re not shy at all.” “That’s not really what introversion is about,” says Emma. “Although everyone seems to think otherwise. Being an introvert really means you recharge your batteries by being alone.” How do you think being an introvert or extrovert affects a marriage or partnership? Is it better for both people in a relationship to be the same or different? Why?
5) Emma’s father tries to explain to her that her mother’s fears about Dominic are not entirely unfounded. “But you and Dominic do come from very different worlds,” he tells Emma. “It seems you’re compatible now, but in the long run that can be very difficult. It isn’t as easy as you think.” Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
6) When Emma witnesses Dominic’s reaction to the sight of his ex, Stacy, in front of the restaurant, she immediately assumes that he must still be in love with her. Emma is so sure he still has feelings for Stacy that she doesn’t even think to ask him directly. Why do you think she draws this conclusion? Does it have anything to do with the fact that Stacy is Jesse’s biological mother? Would you react similarly if you were in Emma’s situation?
7) It’s clear to Dominic when he meets Emma’s parents that she takes after her father more than she does her mother. And yet, undeniably, she shares some personality traits with her mother. Do you think the sparks fly between mother and daughter because of their similarities (such as their stubbornness) or their differences? Why?
8) Jane Green has drawn the inspiration for Falling from her own life. Her real-life husband was once her landlord. How do you feel about art imitating life in this case? Does it add to the poignancy of the story? Why do you think she made this decision when writing the novel?
9) Emma’s best friend’s mother, Teddy, helps Emma to understand that she can give herself permission to love Dominic, even though “on paper” he’s not the right candidate to be her lover or husband. Do you think the author made a deliberate decision to bring Teddy into the story as a counterpoint to Emma’s own mother? Are the two women’s values really so different?
10) Emma is powerfully attracted to Dominic because he’s so comfortable and at ease in his own skin. Despite her more affluent, sophisticated background, she’s far less confident and secure than he is. Why do you think this is so?
11) Although Emma has spent much of her life in banking, her true passion lies in the domestic arts—furnishing and designing living spaces. The cottage she rents from Dominic is shabby, but with a good eye, a few bargains, and her own labor, she’s able to transform it into a comfortable, beautiful home. Does Dominic represent a different kind of “fixer-upper” to Emma?
12) Emma’s social-climbing mother, Georgina, was clearly disappointed when Emma broke up her relationship with Rufus, whom Georgina considered a suitable match. And when she first meets Dominic, she treats him like a servant, much to Emma’s disgust. However, when Georgina learns of Dominic’s accident, she boards a plane and rushes immediately to Emma’s side. Do you think she redeems herself as a mother because of her actions? Is Emma able to forgive her for her earlier behavior?
13) After Dominic dies, Emma must relinquish Jesse to the care of his biological mother, Stacy, despite her deep emotional attachment to him. Yet Stacy ultimately decides that Jesse belongs with Emma. Do you think Stacy made the right decision? Is Jesse better off with Emma, even though she’s not his biological parent? What makes a woman a “real” mother?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Storyline predictable and characters flat. There was next to no conflict to drive the plotline...I kept waiting for the climax and when it finally appeared, it was absurd. Maybe this story works for a magazine in between recipes for quick-weekday meals and DIY ideas for the powder bath, but it certainly was a disappointment for a beach read.
I expected a little more from this author after reading her other books. Flimsy storyline abd characters didnt have much depth it could have been just a mediocre summer read but the ending even ruined that. Will not recomnend thi to my friends.
Another great read! Devoured it.... and was so not expecting that ending!
The book was poignant and well written, but the characters were not as well developed as I've come to expect from Green.
Loved it was sorry when it ended
Give it a read
Love is a great many words. We are enraptured by it; especially when we can live vicariously through the Lifetime channel, wrapped in our own cocoon of avoidance to the outside world. With a flip of a coin, roll of the dice, (insert your own euphemism) love can change; it can be mean, envious, devastating. Love requires our full trust with another human being, essentially ripping our heart out, placing it in their hands, and hoping they don’t have butter fingers. Emma Montague is looking for a change. She has been focused and driven at her job, but is lacking in happiness. Being in the banking business allows for multitudinous opportunities, and cocktail parties, but also surrounds employees with a drive of competitiveness and a “Keeping up with the Joneses” complex. As if that’s not enough, Emma’s parent’s expectations of falling in love, getting married, and having children is enough to drive this London girl across the Atlantic to New York City. Putting her job as a priority has now left Emma in her mid thirties, quitting her job after moving to the States, and seeking solitude and inspiration near coastal property in Connecticut. A quiet respite to figure out what to do with her life. Emma found her temporary home from a Craigslist ad, a simple cottage. What she was not expecting was how much of a modern update it needed, and how close her landlord, Dominic, would be; right next door. As she is unpacking her belongings, Dominic notices all her boxes filled with books, and equally notices the lack of space to put them. He kindly offers to build her bookshelves, regarding himself as a carpenter. Once finished, Emma notices they are more like a Monet painting. From far away they look great! Once you’re up close to them, the shelving is crooked, and has other minor flaws. Not wanting to insult her new landlord, Emma decides to make tiny upgrades to the shelves to improve their quality; just some paint, and trim. The tiny upgrades continue through to the office area- completely ripping up the carpet, changing the whole look of the cottage, something out of a magazine. Emma has found her calling, now to work on a portfolio and finding clients. Thankfully Emma has a friend that lives in town that is able to show her around. Dominic also invites her to a cookout, surrounded by his closest friends. Dominic tells his friends how she’s upgraded the cottage prompting everyone to walk over and admire her work. Ultimately this is the spark that allows Emma to really follow through and start up her independent interior design business. Throughout this entire move, packing up and moving countries, quitting a job and moving towards the coast, the last thing Emma was looking for was love. And love just so happened to be a doorstep away. Dominic finds ways to be around Emma, which at first seem like an annoyance. Annoyance blossoms into warmer feelings as the two are around each other more often. First with home improvements, as well as contracted home improvements, followed by a Farm Dinner date. It has never been so easy to fall in love. Everything with Dominic feels effortless, easy, and safe. It feels like home- something Emma has never felt before. Can a Londoner with a posh background fit in with a down to earth Italian from the states? Naturally there are speed bumps along the way, but how Emma navigates them will be the telltale sign of how hard she’ll fall.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and read it in just a few days., letting the story transport me from daily life to the world of the main character Emma. I loved it and thought it was delightful--a classic Jane Green novel!
I expected more from this author. I was disappointed. The narration drove me crazy. Plus the story did not hold my attention. Save your money! This is not her best work.
Falling is a beautifully written poignant love story. Can two people really fall and stay in love, if they are from two completely different worlds? Emma left England to take a fast-paced, high-paying job in America. After five years though of living and working in NYC, Emma was ready to slow down. She decided to move to Westport Connecticut. Although the cottage Emma rented was drastically outdated and needed renovating, she wasn’t worried. Emma loved interior decorating and couldn’t wait to get started beautifying her new home. Emma and her landlord, Dominic, were from completely different worlds and at first she wasn’t attracted to him. Sure, he was handsome and charming, but blue-collar workers were not her type. And Emma definitely didn’t need the complication of him being her landlord. Emma was used to being wined and dined by wealthy men, not bartenders, and carpenters. But, Dominic’s integrity and kindness won Emma over. She also fell in love with Jesse, his son. Struggles arose though when Emma’s upper-crust British parents met Dominic. And then again when Emma met Dominic’s loud and abusive parents. But, when Jesse’s mom showed up on the scene after deserting Jesse as an infant, Emma’s insecurities rose to a whole new level. Emma hated choosing between her parents, and the man whom they felt was beneath her. Her father liked Dominic but didn’t feel as if he would ever measure up to the family’s standards, and Emma’s mother treated Dominic as the help. Emma had some hard decisions to make, but in the end, she discovered what was truly important to her. Life was filled with hurts and hardships, and Emma learned that acceptance and choosing happiness every day were the best possible avenues that she could take. This a superbly written, emotionally charged love story. I loved it.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings I have not read all of Jane Green's books, but of the books I have read, this one has vaulted to the top spot. Emma has quit her New York job and moved out to to the country to Connecticut to live a different kind of life. Dominic has lived his entire life in this town in Connecticut and when he rents out his grandparents cottage to Emma he has no idea how this tenant will change his life. I loved the concept of this book that at any age you can make a drastic change in your life and send your life down a different path. It was almost a coming of age, but coming into a new age!
Can love overcome differences? Two very different people want to build a relationship, but will their different characters, circumstances and life histories prevent long term happiness? 30 something year old Emma needs a change, so she gives up her high powered bankers job, and rents a house by the sea, near her great friend Sophie. Her goal is to have some relaxing quality time and discover what sort of future she wants for herself. Her new home in Westport, Connecticut is a world away from her “upper crust” upbringing in Somerset, England. Any idea of a relationship with her landlord, Dominic, who surprisingly lives next door, is also out of the question, despite everyone else thinking it would be a good idea. But Emma is used to failing to meet the expectations of others, though this time things don’t go quite according to her plans. Emma, landlord Dominic and his son Jesse are engaging and fun characters. So living next door to each other relationships naturally begin to form. They have so much in common with each other – or so it seems at first. However after the wonderful beginnings of new love, massive questions arise including whether Dominic can move on from his past and can Emma stay friends with Jesse or would she eventually become a wicked step-mother. These questions are thoughtfully explored, with useful tips given! Other themes covered are the question of whether we all eventually turn into our parents – not a pleasant thought given the parents in this book! It seems that sometimes a big leap is required to achieve the things you want in life. But how do you know if the jump will result in a better life, or you’ll just fall down a big crevasse? Is it worth the risk? This is the first book I have read by Jane Green and I enjoyed it enormously, despite the seemingly often references to products and companies, which I found jarring. There is plenty of humour about British idiosyncrasies, and I had no inkling of the twist that the author was building up to, until it arrived. Wow. For the armchair traveller there is little information about Westport, but plenty in this fun, light hearted and mostly upbeat read to keep you firmly sat in your chair.
Trite, predictable, if you're a thirteen year old girl you'll love it. Just awful.
Emma Montague has flown the hectic, successful, stylish life of the New York finance world to live in the countryside of Westport, Connecticut. She’s actually British and comes from a family where “class” means everything and “Mum” just doesn’t get her present abandonment of a rising career for country living. Emma herself isn’t quite sure about her future but little by little every day begins to feel oh so right! Her first independent streak is deciding after renting a worn-down old house to do some redecorating. It turns out Emma’s got quite a bit of latent talent and her landlord, after getting over the change of his grandparents’ look, admits her style is very, very good. When not doing odd jobs at home and building shelves for his new renter Emma, Dominic is a bartender at a local bar and raising his son, 6 year-old Jessie. The rapport between the three quickly grows, in between some very funny scenes as Emma is introduced to the night life of the area and some very varied women. Some would have fit in Emma’s New York scene and others are more relaxed, friendly and down-to-earth women who warmly make Emma fit in as if she’s always lived there, even though they make her blush with their comments about Dominic as Emma’s “neighborly” closeness. The remainder of the novel is quite lovely as Dominic, Emma and Jesse begin to bond as a caring family. Then comes the totally unexplained and unexpected jolt and the future dramatically changes forever. Wonderful, light (somewhat contrived) fiction that this reviewer highly recommends as a very pleasant read! Thanks to the publisher, Penguin, who provided this novel in return for an honest review!
Disappointing. Was expecting a nice, beach read. But none of the characters ever seemed real or made sense. The plot line went somewhere vastly different from where it started. The main character was not a good example of a strong/smart contemporary woman -- things just sort of happened to her. And then she spent an inordinate amount of time brooding and moping about perceived slights until somebody else talked her out of it. The cover has fantastic artwork and I was drawn in by the renovating/remodeling aspect. And clearly this author has a way with dialog and moving the story along. But too much didn't make sense, wasn't uplifting, and eventually was very disappointing.
Emma has never felt at home in her native country of England. When she is offered a job in New York City, she jumps at the chance. Keeping her nose to the grindstone, she works hard to save some money so she can one day leave her banking job behind to pursue her dreams. She’s not exactly sure what it is she wants to do, but she knows she needs something more fulfilling. The day finally arrives, and Emma leaves the big city and moves to Westport, Connecticut where her good friend Sophie lives. Emma’s a bit of an introvert, and at thirty-seven has kind of resigned herself to a life without a man in it. When I first began reading, Falling, by Jane Green, I thought it was just another run of the mill romance story. Boy, was I wrong. It’s a wonderful story about families and relationships, but most of all it’s a passionate tale of love. It’s very much a character driven story and I felt Emma was an endearing protagonist with all her insecurities, and her big heart. I thought the detailed descriptions of outfits and interior decor were a little much, but other than that I think it’s a very good book. There aren’t many books I read that make me cry. This one literally brought on the tears.
Falling is the first Jane Green book for me, leaving me to wonder if I have been living under a rock. This book is wonderful. Jane Green’s writing style is wonderful. I was pulled right into the storyline with the amazing setting and the charismatic characters. The love story was sweet but not easy, the relationships were true and hard, and the friendships were real. The cutest character was Jesse. A young boy who’s mother left him to be raised by his handsome, handy, and wonderful father, Dominic. Jane Green did a perfect job with him. He acted as a child should. Sometimes he rebelled, most of the time he was loving, and always he acted like a child should. His life was not perfect but it was normal. Emma and Dominic both had interesting parents. I liked that their life was not perfect. There were mistakes, both by themselves and their families. The doubts came into their relationships but they stuck it out and made their relationship the priority. While they struggled at times, there was never any doubt that Emma and Dominic were meant to be. I cannot end my review without mentioning the ending. I won’t spoil it for you but Oh My Gosh! I never saw it coming, I still can’t believe that twist, and am not sure what to think of it. I was left with my mouth hanging open not able to believe what I was reading. This is my first Jane Green book but not my last I recommend picking up your own copy.
This book was an absolute surprise and a rollercoaster of emotions!! Falling follows the story of Emma, a retired NYC banker that moves to the suburbs to rest and also follow her dreams, there she meets Dominic, her landlord and the father or an adorable 6 year old named Jesse. Now the sparks don’t fly right away for Emma, she likes Dominic but she isn’t sure that they are a very good match, some people tell her they are great together and other people tell her to get away before is too late, but in the end love wins and she decides to give their relationship a try. The book progresses rather quickly and is full of fun and heartfelt moments, the writing is beautiful, this is my first Jane Green book and I absolutely enjoyed it, I might have to go get more of her book now
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