From Anita Hughes, author of Monarch Beach, comes Market Street, a delicious story of a department store heiress, her messy marriage, and her passion for food
Cassie Blake seems to lead a charmed life as the heiress to Fenton's, San Francisco's most exclusive department store. But when she discovers her husband, Aidan, a handsome UC Berkeley professor, has had an affair with a student, she flees to the comfort of her best friend Alexis's Presidio Heights mansion, where she wonders if she should give their marriage one more chance.
Whether or not she can forgive Aidan is not the only choice Cassie has to make. Cassie's mother is eager to have her oversee the opening of Fenton's new Food Emporium, which Fenton's hopes will become San Francisco's hottest gourmet shopping destination. Cassie's true passion has always been food, not fashion, and Cassie suspects her mother might be trying to lure her into the Fenton's fold by entrusting her with such an exciting opportunity. And then there is James, the architect designing the Emporium, who is quietly falling in love with her…
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
ANITA HUGHES is also the author of Monarch Beach. She attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing Program, and has taught Creative Writing at The Branson School in Ross, California. Hughes lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel.
Read an Excerpt
Cassie tore the edge off her croissant and looked out the Fenton’s department store’s floor-to-ceiling windows at the street below. Christmas was over, the post-Christmas sales were limping to a close, and men and women walked with their coats wrapped around them. The giant tree in Union Square had been carted away. The dazzling window displays in Gucci and Chanel of Cinderella slippers studded with real diamonds to wear to holiday parties and little black dresses accessorized with stacks of multi-colored bracelets had been replaced with sensible January displays: rain boots, umbrellas, and floor-length winter coats. Even Burberry’s window looked bleak. The sweet reindeer wearing a plaid sweater and socks had been exchanged for a faceless mannequin wrapped in scarves like a mummy.
“People in San Francisco don’t know how to do winter,” Cassie said, dipping her croissant into a white Limoges coffee cup. “They think California in January should be blue skies and seventy degrees.”
“We could go to Mexico till March. Stay at Betsy’s condo and sip sangria through pink plastic straws.” Alexis picked a petit four from the silver tray on the table and bit into it tentatively. She blotted her lips on the white linen napkin and stirred cream into her demitasse.
“Some people have jobs,” Cassie replied, “or at least their husbands work. You don’t just jet off to Mexico because the Christmas ornaments are gone.”
“Carter would never miss me. He’s too busy trimming trees, or whatever he does from six in the morning till midnight. We haven’t eaten dinner together since Thanksgiving, and that was only because his mother insisted we join the family in Pacific Heights. You know old Betsy’s on her second husband since Carter and I got married. I don’t know how she keeps the place cards straight.” Alexis tapped her long French-manicured nails on the edge of the coffee cup.
“Your husband runs a hedge fund; he doesn’t trim trees.” Cassie collapsed in a fit of giggles. She dusted croissant flakes from her pants and glanced around to see if the society matrons sitting at the adjoining tables were listening.
“Trees, hedges, it’s all the same to Carter. Money is the only kind of paper he knows. He does compensate well. I got some lovely baubles for Christmas.” Alexis rolled her eyes.
“You don’t have to pretend with me. We’ve known each other since kindergarten and even then you made rings out of Cheerios. Be happy Carter buys you jewelry.”
“He does have great taste. He gave me the most beautiful sapphire necklace, with tiny diamonds like snowflakes. I just sometimes feel like a courtesan instead of a wife. Fling a necklace or a bracelet at me and bring me out to impress the midwestern clients who want to invest in pork futures,” Alexis replied, twisting her diamond wedding band around her finger.
“Carter loves you, it’s just his way of showing it. Most wives would be envious,” Cassie replied.
“I take it Aidan didn’t shower you with jewels?” Alexis raised her perfectly arched eyebrows.
“Fuzzy socks, a cashmere scarf, gardening gloves, and packets of exotic vegetable seeds: fennel, purple spinach, and okra.” Cassie counted presents on her fingers.
Alexis picked up another petit four, eyed the layered chocolate, and put it back on the plate. “I’ve exceeded my caloric limit for the day. Lettuce and soy sauce for dinner tonight.”
“You’re the only person I know who loses weight over the holidays. I gained three pounds smelling the pumpkin pie.” Cassie pushed the plate of mini desserts toward Alexis.
“Only because I swam forty laps before every holiday party and spent thirty minutes in the steam room each night,” Alexis said, adjusting her skirt. She wore an emerald green miniskirt and a white angora wool sweater. Her blond hair was scooped into a high ponytail and tied with a green velvet ribbon.
“Oh, to have your own indoor swimming pool and sauna.” Cassie finished her coffee and put her napkin on the table.
“You could have all that. As I recall you did have all that. You’re the one who married the Communist professor.”
“Aidan is not a Communist. He’s a professor of ethics, which means he doesn’t believe in excess. We live well, just not in a three-story mansion in Presidio Heights with an elevator.”
“If you’d gone to UCLA with me instead of Berkeley we would have found you a nice movie star to marry. I remember the day you packed your car and headed over the Bay Bridge. I thought, why is Cassandra Fenton, heiress to San Francisco’s oldest, most exclusive department store, going to school in Bezerkely? I was right, you know.” Alexis eyed her friend objectively. “Your Tod’s are as old as my college diploma and your Michael Kors jacket is vintage. Except it’s only had one owner: you.”
“I’ve never had your flair. You could shop at Target and come out dressed for dinner at Chez Panisse. I’ve always been happier wearing gardening gloves than opera gloves. I am happy, Alexis, and so are you.” Cassie played with the cuff of her shirt, twisting off a few stray threads.
“What would we talk about if we didn’t complain about our husbands?” Alexis shrugged, sifting through her purse for a tube of lip gloss.
“The homeless on Market Street, the lack of fresh water in Africa?” Cassie suggested.
“We could always talk about shoes.” Alexis stood up and pulled her skirt over her thighs. “Let’s stop downstairs and see if there are any Jimmy Choos left on the sale rack.”
Cassie followed Alexis to the escalator and surveyed the elegant floor displays as they descended to the third floor. The fourth level had always been her favorite; her mother used to treat her to high tea in the café on weekdays after school. Cassie thought every third-grader practiced their cursive on a linen tablecloth while sipping hot chocolate served by uniformed waitresses. Her mother would leave her in the café while she prowled the other departments, making sure cashmere sweaters were stacked in neat piles and salesgirls holding bottles of Chanel No. 5 were positioned in the aisles.
“Cassie, how nice to see you.” A tall man wearing a navy suit took Cassie’s hand as the escalator deposited them on the third floor. “You just missed your mother. She had to rush off to a restaurant opening. Emerald on Post Street. The Chronicle says it’s going to be the next dining destination in the city.”
“My mother’s always rushing around.” Cassie smiled. “I saw her on the way up. Do you remember my friend Alexis?”
The man put on rimless glasses and looked closely at the two women. “Of course. The last time I saw you, you were being trailed by half a dozen bridesmaids collecting cosmetics samples.”
“I’m an old married woman now”—Alexis grinned—“with spending power.”
“In that case, let me direct you to our newest jewelry line. I’m told all the thirtysomethings are wearing it.” The man extended his arm and navigated Alexis through the aisles full of shoppers to a large glass case at the front of the store.
Cassie and Alexis gazed in the glass like small children admiring Halloween candy. Rows of pendants, bracelets, and rings were displayed on a bed of crushed orange velvet. Cassie ignored the bracelets—they would be covered with potting soil within a day—but the pendants caught her attention: bright-colored stones on short filigree chains. She put her hand to her neck as if imagining she was wearing one.
“These are right up your alley.” Alexis tapped her nail on the glass. “That one would go so well with your eyes, Cassie. Try it on.”
“Okay, just for fun.” Cassie nodded. “Derek, could I see that one?”
Derek unlocked the case with an oversized gold key and placed the pendant in Cassie’s hand. “Your mother found these on a buying trip to Buenos Aires. They are the accessory on the polo fields this season.”
Alexis watched Cassie click the pendant around her neck. The stone was a turquoise amethyst and made Cassie’s eyes look like a powder blue sky.
“Take it home,” Alexis insisted. “Tell Aidan you did your own post-Christmas shopping so he wouldn’t feel guilty for getting you fuzzy socks.”
“He didn’t only get me fuzzy socks. But it is really pretty.” Cassie leaned closer to the mirror.
“He can’t complain about excess since it’s not a diamond or a ruby. And you’d be supporting the Latin American economy. He’ll be pleased.” Alexis took a few bracelets out of the case and slipped them on her wrist.
“I don’t need it,” Cassie said uncertainly. She wasn’t very interested in clothes and usually pulled whatever was clean and pressed out of her closet, but she loved colorful jewelry. When she was a teenager her mother brought home bags of necklaces, earrings, and broaches, and Cassie was allowed to pick what she wanted. She still kept them in heart-shaped jewelry boxes and would snap in a hair clip or put on dangly earrings when she drove into the city for lunch.
“Would you two girls mind watching the display for a moment? I just saw Mrs. Benson go up the escalator. She’s one of our best customers but she’s almost deaf and she tends to scare the salespeople.” Derek put the gold key on the glass.
“We’ll do anything if you call us girls.” Alexis smiled, putting the bracelets back in the case and scooping up a selection of colored rings.
“I can’t believe you’re flirting with Derek. He’s almost a hundred. He used to hold my hand when my mother sent me to sit on Santa Claus’s lap. I thought Santa had spiders under his beard and I’m terrified of spiders.” Cassie unsnapped the pendant and laid it on the crushed velvet.
“Excuse me, I need to make a return.” A girl approached the counter clutching a plain brown shopping bag. She had short blond hair cut in feathery layers around her face and big brown eyes like the dolls Cassie collected when she was a child. She wore a T-shirt emblazoned with Chinese letters and an army green bomber jacket.
“We don’t work here.” Alexis shook her head, stepping back from the counter.
“The store manager just went upstairs. I can try to find another salesperson for you; they’re all busy taking returns. Post-Christmas hazard.” Cassie smiled, seeing the girl’s face fall. She clutched her shopping bag tighter. Her nails were painted neon pink and she wore a macramé bracelet.
“Crap. My roommate gave me a ride. She’s double-parked outside, probably going to get a ticket. The meter maids were circling like vultures around a carcass. I don’t know when I’ll make it down here again. I never shop in Union Square, let alone Fenton’s.” The girl drawled the name of the department store as if it was a foreign language.
“We don’t work here, but Cassie owns the place. I bet she can process a return for you.” Alexis nodded at Cassie.
“My mother owns it.” Cassie blushed. She felt like people had been saying that since she was seven years old, when her mother would dress her up in a Chanel suit and black patent-leather Mary Janes and guide her through the departments introducing her to her best customers.
“Please, my roommate will kill me if she gets a ticket. It’s her mother’s car and she doesn’t even know we borrowed it.” The girl opened the bag and took out a red satin box imprinted with the trademark Fenton signature.
“Oh, one of these lovely pendants.” Alexis picked up the box. “Why would you want to return it? These are going to be a must-have.”
“To be honest I could use the money. It was a present and I figured anything in a Fenton’s box must be pricey. No offense.” The girl looked at Cassie and clapped her hand over her mouth. “It’s really nice but I’m a student. I could use a bit of cash.”
“Do you have a receipt?” Cassie asked awkwardly. She pulled her long bangs over her ears the way she did when she was nervous. She had tried manning different counters in the afternoons during high school—cosmetics, handbags, Godiva chocolates—but she had never felt comfortable taking other people’s money. “You’re giving them a bit of their dreams,” her mother would coach her, but Cassie always felt the dreams came with a high price tag. She wondered how women could justify paying so much for elaborate gold boxes containing four pieces of chocolate.
“It was a present,” the girl repeated, “but maybe you have the credit card on file. The name was Blake, Aidan Blake.” The girl kept glancing around, as if one of the uniformed meter maids was going to appear and arrest her for double parking.
“Excuse me,” Cassie said.
“Aidan Blake, Professor Aidan Blake actually, but I doubt it says that on the credit card. I guess physicians put ‘Doctor’ in front of their names but it would seem a bit silly for a professor to, wouldn’t it?” The girl looked from Cassie to Alexis as if she was very interested in their opinion.
“Where did you get this?” Cassie held the box at arm’s length as if it was a stick of dynamite.
“I told you it was a present. Do you think I stole it or something?” The girl stepped back from the counter. “I may not look like a Fenton’s customer but I’m not a thief. It was a Christmas present, from a friend,” she finished, her round cheeks turning a light shade of pink.
“How do you know this friend?” Alexis demanded, glancing at Cassie, whose face had turned white.
“We don’t give cash refunds, only store credit,” Cassie said automatically. She gripped the side of the display case, pressing her knuckles against the glass. Every nerve in her body tingled, as if someone set off a fire alarm only she could hear.
“You two treat customers pretty funny.” The girl frowned. “I thought Fenton’s was all about customer service. I’ve seen the ads online: ‘Don’t just walk the red carpet; take it home with you. At Fenton’s every customer is a star.’ Hardly.” The girl pushed the box into the shopping bag. “Store credit isn’t going to do much. What am I going to buy? A two-hundred-dollar pair of seamless stockings? A Marc Jacobs hairbrush? I’ll probably never come to Union Square again; I’m obviously not welcome.”
“Wait.” Cassie exhaled, feeling as though something heavy was sitting on her chest. “I’ll give you cash. Here, give me the box.”
“Okay.” The girl stopped, eyeing Cassie suspiciously. “I want a full refund. I bet it was expensive.”
Cassie opened the cash register and extracted three fifty-dollar bills. “Take these.” She slid them over the counter.
The girl’s eyes opened wide. She picked up the bills and crinkled the edges with her fingers. “I don’t think it was that much. I mean, shouldn’t you look up the credit card or look at the price tags on the other necklaces?”
“Take the money and leave.” Alexis walked to the front of the case. She was almost six feet in her four-inch Prada heels and her body was muscled and lean from hours in the pool and on her bicycle. She stood so close to the girl she could see the brown roots at the top of her head.
“I’m leaving.” The girl stuffed the money in her jeans pocket and moved away from Alexis. “You’re lucky I don’t go on Yelp or something. But thanks for the refund, I hope it doesn’t all go to the meter maid.”
Alexis walked back to Cassie and put her hand on her shoulder. “Breathe,” she said quietly.
“I can’t.” Cassie’s voice was like a robot. “I need some fresh air.”
“You’re not following her.” Alexis grabbed Cassie’s sleeve. “We need to sit down in private. Let’s go to your mother’s office.”
Cassie followed Alexis to the private elevator in the back of the store, clutching the red Fenton’s box that held the pendant. She felt as though her knees would buckle at any moment and she’d crumple to the floor like an anorexic Victoria’s Secret model. She closed her eyes as the elevator doors shut, wishing everything would stay black and the elevator would just keep going up and up and up.
“Cassie”—Alexis poked her with one long fingernail—“get a grip. It can’t be that bad. You’ve been married for almost ten years. There has to be an explanation.”
“Maybe Aidan gave each student jewelry, instead of grades. Maybe he gave his whole lecture class gifts: polo shirts for the boys and necklaces and earrings for the girls. That would be so like him, don’t you think? That sounds just like my husband who believes material things have no relationship to one’s happiness, and makes me do his birthday shopping. If it wasn’t for me, he’d still buy Isabel a My Little Ponies every year, even though she’s sixteen and lives with us half the time.” Cassie was almost shouting.
“Cassie, stop.” Alexis pushed the elevator button so the doors stayed open. “We need to think this through calmly, and we need a drink. I hope your mother still has that bottle of Scotch under her desk.”
Cassie nodded, biting her lip and pulling her bangs until they reached her chin. She looked at herself in the smoky elevator mirror. Her mother always said she had the face of an angel: almond-shaped blue eyes, long dark lashes, a small nose dusted with freckles, and God’s imprint, a dimple on the side of her mouth. The reflection staring back at her looked more like Snow White just after she realized she’d eaten the poisoned apple.
Cassie opened the door to her mother’s office, smelling a mix of Lemon Pledge and Chanel No. 5. The walls were papered in beige linen, and the wood floor was covered with a thick Oriental rug. Vases holding bunches of lilies graced the coffee table, the end tables, and the fireplace mantel. There was a cherry desk, a Louis XIV chair, and a cream-colored sofa with throw pillows shaped like seashells.
“Your mother has the best taste, even where no one can see it.” Alexis admired the silk pillows.
“I’m not in the mood to discuss interior design.” Cassie lay facedown on the sofa.
“Maybe she’s Aidan’s TA and he bought her the pendant to thank her for grading papers.” Alexis opened the drawer under the desk and extracted a crystal decanter and two shot glasses.
“That would be such an ethical thing for a professor of ethics to do,” Cassie moaned into the cushions.
“Cassie, sit up.” Alexis dropped onto the sofa, holding a shot glass in each hand. She kicked off her heels and tucked her stockinged feet under her legs. “Drink this, quickly.” She put the glass under Cassie’s nose.
Cassie drank the Scotch in one gulp. She felt the alcohol burn the back of her throat and her eyes stung. She blinked and held her glass out for another shot, promising herself she would not cry.
“That’s the girl who wrote love notes to Father Chatham senior year and signed Sister Agnes’s name.” Alexis nodded approvingly, refilling Cassie’s glass.
“Sister Agnes was in love with him.” Cassie threw back the second shot. “The whole school knew. Every song in chapel was a love song.”
“I think those were called hymns, to God.” Alexis grinned. “Honestly, Cassie, I know Aidan looks like a lion, king of the jungle, and all those sophomoric undergrads hang on his every word, but has he ever given you a reason to doubt him?”
“No”—Cassie shook her head, choking back a hiccup—“but he’s never given anyone a Fenton’s red box. The only things he buys for me from Fenton’s are scarves because my skin is so sensitive I break out if it’s not true cashmere.”
“Fenton’s does carry the best scarves, and I should get more. Maybe on the way down we can check and see if they have any new colors.” Alexis rubbed her finger along the edge of her glass.
“You can have the ones Aidan bought me for Christmas, if I don’t use them to strangle him.”
“I know you’ve been married much longer than me”—Alexis poured herself another shot—“but it could be completely harmless. A silly misunderstanding.”
“This isn’t one of those old black-and-white movies where the hero gives the heroine a gift and it’s intercepted by the wicked stepsister.” Cassie leaned back on the pillows.
“A few weeks ago I found a cigar in Carter’s blazer pocket. Not that I snoop of course, I’m not that sort of wife”—Alexis put her glass on the rug—“but I felt this long, hard thing in his pocket, like a small penis.”
“How is this relevant?” Cassie interrupted.
“I was really angry because I hate the smell of cigars. It stays in the sheets forever.” Alexis plumped the pillow with one hand. “He said he didn’t know how it got there and I didn’t believe him. I withheld sex”—she sucked in her breath—“until he told the truth.”
“Carter without his nightly pillaging? He must have climbed the walls.” Cassie tried to smile.
“It turned out one of the guys at work put a cigar in everyone’s blazer. Invitation to a bachelor party.”
“I hope you gave Carter some sex before he went to the bachelor party. Who knows what might have happened?”
“I’m serious, Cassie. All you have is circumstantial evidence. Don’t you watch Law & Order or The Good Wife? Circumstantial evidence is never going to carry a conviction.”
Cassie opened the red Fenton’s box and stared at the offending pendant. The stone was light brown on a thin gold chain. She turned it over to see if there was a card or a note enclosed.
“How many times have you told me Aidan gets a dozen friend requests a day from students and deletes them all, unread?” Alexis pressed on. “And what about the fresh pizza that showed up at your front door with a note written in haiku? Aidan threw it away even though it was from Gino’s.”
“You’re turning things around. Aidan gave this to that girl.” Cassie waved the box in the air like a red flag.
“It might have ended up in her hands a number of ways.”
“Like how?” Cassie sat up straight. The shots had made her brain sharper, instead of numbing the pain.
“That’s my point. You have to find out how, and you can’t jump to conclusions until you do.”
“Do you want me to hire a detective, like that guy on CSI: Miami?”
“David Caruso? I don’t know what all the fuss is about. How can anyone with red hair be sexy? Do you believe in your marriage?” Alexis asked.
“Yes.” Cassie nodded, blinking to stop the tears from spilling down her cheeks.
“Then take the box and show it to Aidan, let him explain it.”
“What if he can’t?” Cassie stared at the box as if a genie would pop out and give her the answer.
“Do you remember our last semester at the Convent when you found me crying in the boiler room eating peanut butter sandwiches?” Alexis asked.
Cassie closed her eyes. She saw Alexis in her plaid school uniform, her skirt grazing her thighs, her white socks pushed down to her ankles, making her legs look as if they belonged on a racehorse. She wore her blond hair in a thick braid to her waist, and had a henna tattoo of a rose on the inside of her wrist.
Cassie in high school had been the poster Catholic schoolgirl: chestnut hair brushed into a wavy ponytail, white collared shirt pressed and buttoned to the top button. But Alexis managed to look like a Maxim cover without breaking any major rules: her skirt a fraction too short, her lips smeared with lip gloss with just a hint of color, her blazer pulled a little too tight over her breasts. Half the boys at private schools in the city attended Sacred Heart volleyball games just to see Alexis spike the ball.
“Why are you crying? You smell like peanut butter, you’re going to get detention.” Cassie had squeezed between the hot water furnaces and crouched down next to Alexis.
“Why is this school a peanut-free zone?” Alexis brushed breadcrumbs from her uniform. “It’s bad enough they don’t let you smoke, but peanut butter always makes me feel better. It’s comfort food.”
“Come home after school and I’ll make you a double-decker peanut butter sandwich.” Cassie had tried to pull Alexis to her feet.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Alexis had shook her head, her eyes welling with new tears.
“What happened?” Cassie had slid down on the ground beside her.
“Carter is going to Stanford. I thought we were going to UCLA together. I had it all mapped out: a year in the dorms, a couple of years living in frat and sorority houses, and then our final year living in a condo near Wilshire Boulevard. But now he’s decided to go to the Farm. He probably heard all those New England prep school girls come to California to get laid.”
“Or maybe because Stanford is in the thick of where he wants to be: venture capitalists, hedge funds, dot-coms. There isn’t an inch of Sand Hill Road where guys fresh out of Stanford aren’t making billions.” Cassie had nibbled a peanut butter crust.
“He’s going to forget me.” Alexis’s mascara had run down her cheeks. “He’s going to go to the Stanford-Berkeley football game and fall in love with some cheerleader. UCLA doesn’t even play Stanford, we play USC.”
“No cheerleader could hold a candle to you.” Cassie had stroked Alexis’s hair the way she used to at their preteen sleepovers.
“I just know he’s The One.” Alexis had squeezed the last peanut butter sandwich between her fingers.
“Last semester Brian Peterson was the one, and before that Pierce Stone, even though he went to boarding school in Vermont and you guys spent a total of four long weekends together.”
“Cassie, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to lose him.”
“Then tell him,” Cassie had said with the wisdom of countless hours in the school library reading Seventeen and Teen Vogue. “Go over to Carter’s house and tell him four years and five hundred miles is not going to come between you. Whatever happens in college, you’re going to be waiting for him after graduation.”
“Whatever happens in college?” Alexis had repeated, tearing the sandwich into small pieces.
“You’re going to UCLA,” Cassie had replied. “Land of surfers and bronze movie stars. But if you believe in your relationship, it’ll be there.”
Alexis had stood up. She had a spot of jelly on her white shirt and a trace of peanut butter on her blazer. “Do you think he’ll listen?”
“Carter worships you. Wear that teddy you picked up in the Fillmore last weekend. With heels. He won’t say no.”
* * *
“I only had to wait for Carter to get his degree, his MBA, and his partnership for him to marry me, but what you said was true. I needed to believe in us for the relationship to work.” Alexis slipped on her Pradas and put her glass on the desk. “Don’t doubt Aidan, ask him.”
“Since when did you become a relationship guru?” Cassie snapped the jewelry box shut.
“You don’t just get married and think you’ll still be spooning on your golden anniversary. You have to work at it. I take massage classes, Cordon Bleu cooking classes, makeup classes, and we do couples yoga.”
“Not couples yoga!” Cassie leaned forward, laughing.
“Carter and I had a bit of a rough patch a couple of months ago so I’ve ramped it up a bit. And it’s working. I set my alarm for eleven-fifty at night so I’m awake when he comes home, and we have sex like porn stars.”
“I don’t think I have the energy for yoga or a midnight rendezvous.” Cassie smiled. “But I get it. Like Sister Agnes used to say, ‘face your enemy head on, and you have nothing to fear. God will be at your side.’”
“Aidan isn’t your enemy. He’s been your twin for a decade. I can never peel you away to go shopping because you’re glued to his side. You guys even go to the grocery store together. It’s nauseating.”
“Not the grocery store.” Cassie felt a little better. “The Berkeley Co-op. It’s more a gathering place, and they have the most amazing vegetables, better than anything I grow in my garden. Last week I picked up a purple eggplant from Japan. I served it on a bed of long-grain organic rice, and it was delicious.”
“Enough.” Alexis held up her hand. “I don’t want to hear about purple eggplant, let alone eat it. That’s why you and your professor live in Berkeley, and I live in Presidio Heights. You’re made for each other. Don’t let some bottle blond coed come between you. Go home, pour a glass of Kenwood Chardonnay, show Aidan the box, and ask him where it came from.”
Cassie stood up, testing her legs to see if they were still wobbly. For a moment she relaxed. She had had a delicious tea in the city, saw her best friend for the first time in weeks, and was going home to sit by the fire and nibble on snow peas with her husband. But then her eyes settled on the red Fenton’s box and she sucked in her breath as if she’d been slapped.
“Cassie, go on.” Alexis followed her eyes. “You can do this.”
“You should have your own afternoon talk show.” Cassie picked up the box. “Let’s go before I lose my nerve.”
They took the elevator down to the parking garage. Cassie had parked in a reserved space, next to her mother’s smoky blue Jaguar XL.
“Your mother knows how to treat herself.” Alexis peeked through the window at the spotted maple dashboard and the cream leather upholstery. There were three purses on the floor of the passenger seat: Louis Vuitton, Prada, and a Fendi clutch, and a couple of pairs of boots on the backseat.
“Are those Chanel ostrich-skin boots?” Alexis pressed her face harder against the glass. “I’ve only seen them in Vogue.”
“Stop drooling, you’ll fog up the glass.” Cassie opened the door of her Prius. “Wish me luck.”
Alexis kissed Cassie’s cheek. “Maybe I’ll ask Carter for a Jaguar for my birthday.”
“Thanks for your support.” Cassie put the keys in the ignition.
“You have all my love and support. Trust me, it was some silly mistake. You’ll drink Chardonnay and eat Japanese eggplant and have the best sex of the holidays.” Alexis grinned. “You’re Aidan’s angel. You’re irreplaceable.”
Copyright © 2013 by Anita Hughes
Reading Group Guide
1. After Aidan tells Cassie that Molly seduced him, Cassie decides to give their marriage another chance. Do you agree with her decision? Is a one-night stand different from an affair, or would you react the same in both situations?
2. Alexis defends her love of sex and shopping by saying that girls need to have fun. Do you agree with her, or do you think she is compensating for things missing in her marriage?
3. Alexis seems to have it allmoney, a beautiful house, a successful husbandbut she is still searching for something that fulfills her. Should she be happy with her life as it is, or do you understand her need to work outside of the home?
4. Cassie is hesitant to manage the food emporium at Fenton's because she doesn't think Aidan would approve. Do you think she puts too much value on Aidan's feelings, or is compromise an important aspect of a marriage?
5. While Cassie is staying with Alexis, Aidan comes to visit and Cassie realizes she can't trust him. Is that attitude self-defeating? If she is going to give the marriage another chance, should she trust him or is she correct to have reservations?
6. Do you think Alexis and Carter's marriage is kept fresh and exciting because he is constantly traveling, or do you think it creates a distance between them? Would you consider marrying a man who travels all the time?
7. Do you think Cassie is too dependent on praise from her mother? Do you think it stems from being neglected as a child, or is it just a healthy respect for a woman who has had much success creating a fabulous department store?
8. Do you think Cassie and James belong together? How would you characterize their relationship?
9. Describe the friendship between Alexis and Cassie. Does one support the other more, or are they equal?
10. Do you have any sympathy for Aidan, who is getting older and working in a field where he is surrounded by bright young people? Or is what he's done completely reprehensible?
11. How big a part does San Francisco play in the novel? Can you imagine the novel being set in any other city?
12. Alexis believes it is all right to tell little white lies in her marriage. Do you agree or disagree?
13. How do you feel about James' refusal to start another long-distance relationship? Does it make sense given his experience with Emily, or should he love Cassie enough to endure anything to be together?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cassie Blake was the Heiress to Fenton's, an upscale exclusive department store in San Francisco. She traded in her heiress crown for a pair of gardening gloves after she married her former Ethics professor, Aidan Blake. For ten years Cassie believed her life and marriage were perfect, but that all changed when she meets one of Aidan's students. After finding out Aidan had an affair, Cassie takes off to stay with her best friend, Alexis. While trying to figure out what to do about her marriage, her mother offers her a dream job. She wants Cassie to run a new Food Emporium, food/gardening is near and dear to Cassie. Seems like the perfect way to be a part of Fenton's. Cassie's life has completely changed and she is no longer sure what to do and things are about to get even more complicated. This is one of those great books when you put it down you can't believe how much you've read! Anita Hughes does an amazing job with describing the foods, clothing--everything. I also really enjoyed getting to know all the different characters in Market Street. I really just loved Cassie and Alexis, they were such great friends and really looked out for each other. I loved seeing them come into their own. The only person I really didn't care for was Aidan. It wasn't just because he cheated--he seemed to treat Cassie like he loved her, but not really an equal (I would venture to guess that was how he was suppose to come across!). I would have to call this a fun, delicious novel with a side sexy (it does get a little hot!) I am recommending Market Street!
First read by this author. Enjoyed the book.
Market Street is the second novel by Anita Hughes. I enjoyed her debut novel Monarch Beach tremendously and was anxious to see if her 2nd novel would be as good as her first. I was so pleased to see that it was even better! Hughes has a way of using description to feed the imagination and put you right there with the characters. The way she describes Fenton’s Department Store, I could not only picture everything, but that it brought back memories from my childhood , and back to school shopping with my mom at the downtown Indianapolis LS Ayres store, which sadly no longer exists. Hughes does an exceptional job of keeping her characters believable and likeable. Even though Cassie, the main character, has family money, she strives to live a very simple life with her professor husband. When her world starts to fall apart she moves in with her best friend, Alexis, who seems to have the best of everything money can buy, but you can sense her unhappiness immediately. Market Street takes you on a journey with the characters as they learn about themselves and what does make them happy and that they can overcome disappointments and challenges in their life. I enjoyed this book and Anita Hughes is now on my auto-buy author list. Can’t wait for her next book Lake Como, it will be out very soon!
This is the second book by Anita Hughes I have read and I loved it. Her writing style is easy and smooth. I loved the concept for the book and some others have commented on the fashion in the book but I have to say I have learned alot about clothes and didn't mind at all. One of the things I loved about Ms. Hughes' two books is the women have amazing best friends that are there for them. So hard to find in today's world. It is refreshing. I am looking forward to the next book by Ms.Hughes, Lake Como and will buy it the day it comes out.
Anita Hughes has a delicious treat in her next novel Market Street. She weaves a tale of true desires and betrayal. Synopsis: Cassie is the heiress of the famous department store in San Francisco Fentons. Her husband Aidan is a professor at UC-Berkley in the Economics department. One day while in Fenton’s she makes a discovery about her husband. An event that sends her to her best friend Alexis’s home to recover. There Cassie is asked to confront her future with her husband? Career? And life? How will her experiences help her choose her path? My Thoughts: The second novel is even better than the first. Ms. Hughes novel reminds me of the author Judith Krantz and her style of writing. The plot is a journey for the main character Cassie. I loved the question that was asked by different characters in the novel. “What is your passion?” What do you like to do? Is this not a question that we all ask and wonder what the answer is for us? The main character has a wealthy background. Does it make the story more interesting? For me it gives me a place and a character that is a little out of my norm. Also a way to dream of what might be one day. Only thing I didn’t love is this is the second novel where divorce has become part of theme of the story. It was not the main focus. I definitely look forward to future novels by this author.
Page turning escapism! MARKET STREET has it all: likable characters, steamy sex, and a glimpse into high society life in San Francisco. Add in mouthwatering descriptions of gourmet food and more designer fashion than a girl could dream of…and why would you put this novel down to return to real life? I am not a foodie, and yet halfway through, I was craving organic, heirloom tomatoes and homemade soup. The themes of self-discovery in the midst of betrayal and the importance of female friendships drew me in immediately, and I loved the single working mother / daughter dynamic. The writing is warm and cozy, and the female characters are wonderful. My favorite part was the friendship between Cassie and her BFF, Alexis. I loved that Alexis opened up her home to Cassie without once dishing out harsh marriage advice. Can't wait for novel three!
Cassie Blake thought she had it all. Perfect life, perfect husband, volunteering at Edible Schoolyard and being the heir to San Francisco's upscale department store, Fenton's. Her world suddenly comes crashing down around her when she finds out her husband, Aiden, had an affair. How does she pick up the pieces? She moves in with her best friend Alexis while she sorts out her life and plans for the future. Is her love for Aiden strong enough to forgive him for what he has done? Can she ever trust him again? She dives into the project at Fenton's new food emporium when she meets James, the architect. They spend a lot of time working together and getting to know each other. He has a fiance, but everything isn't as perfect in his world either. This is the second book by Anita Hughes and I loved it as much as her first, Monarch Beach. It is very well written and gives lots of visuals of the story to where you feel you are part of it. I can't wait to read her next book Lake Como.