What's a girl to do with...An offer you can't refuse?
A new bestseller from one of the UK's biggest authors!
Nothing could tear Lola and Dougie apart, except his mother...Seventeen-year-old Lola has no intention of accepting when her boyfriend's snobbish mother offers her a huge bribe to break up with him. Then Lola discovers a secret that makes her think again, and the only way she can help one of the people she loves most in the world is to take the money and break Dougie's heart.
Ten years later, when Lola meets Dougie again, her feelings for him are as strong as ever. She'll do almost anything to get him back, but she can never tell him the truth. Can she overcome his bitterness and win his heart? She's attractive, persuasive, and endlessly optimistic, but even Lola's got her work cut out for her this time.
PRAISE FOR AN OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE
"Pick this up at your peril: you won't get a thing done till it's finished!"
"You won't be disappointed in this gem."- Hot Stars Magazine
"Pick this up at your peril: you won't get a thing done till it's finished."- Heat magazine
"Witty and charming, this easygoing tale is full of twists that make it hard to put down."- Woman
"Classy chick-lit that appeals to women of all ages. She [Jill Mansell] has a fantastic ability to keep a number of storylines running at the same time without losing the reader in a labyrinth."-Daily Express
"Warm and funny."-Heat magazine
"A romantic romp full of larger-than-life characters."-Express
"Fast, furious and fabulous fun. To read it is to devour it."-Company
"A light-hearted and likeable tale."-Prima
"A jaunty summer read."-Daily Mail
"A great, comical read."-Birmingham Post
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About the Author
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol and writes full time. Actually, that's not true; she watches TV, eats gum drops, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the Internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she's completely run out of ways to procrastinate does she write.
With over 9 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella. She worked for many years at the Burden Neurological Hospital, Bristol, and now writes full time. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.
Read an Excerpt
An Offer You Can't Refuse
By Jill Mansell
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2008 Jill Mansell
All rights reserved.
Ten Years Ago
There are some places where you might expect to bump into your boyfriend's ultra-posh mother. At a Buckingham Palace garden party perhaps, or Glyndebourne, or turning her nose up at Ferrero Rochers at some foreign ambassador's cocktail party. And then there are other places you wouldn't expect to bump into her at all.
Like, for example, the Cod Almighty at the dodgier end of Tooting High Street.
'Blimey, it's Dougie's mum.' Instinctively wiping her hands on her green nylon apron and curbing the urge to curtsey — because Dougie's mum was that posh — Lola said brightly, 'Hello, Mrs Tennant, how lovely to see you!'
And how typical that she should turn up two minutes before closing, when all they had left to offer her was a tired-looking sausage and a couple of overlooked fishcakes. Maybe Alf could be persuaded to quickly chuck a couple of fresh pieces of haddock into the fryer and —
'Hello, Lola. I wondered if we could have a chat.' Even for a visit to a fish and chip shop, Dougie's mother's make-up was immaculate, her hair swept into a Princess Michael of Kent chignon.
'Oh, right. Absolutely. I'm just finishing here.' Lola glanced across at Alf, who made good-humored off-you-go gestures. 'We close at half past two. So you don't want anything to take away?'
Was that a shudder? Mrs Tennant shook her head and said with a flicker of amusement, 'I don't think so, do you?'
Having retrieved her shoulder bag from the back room and shrugged off her nylon apron — youch, static — Lola ducked under the swing-top counter and took the king-sized portion of chips Alf had wrapped up for her, seeing as they had so many left.
'Bye, Alf. See you tomorrow.'
'I can drop you home if you like,' said Dougie's mother. 'The car's just outside.'
Lola beamed; free chips and a lift home in a brand new Jaguar. This was definitely her lucky day.
Outside on the pavement it was stiflingly hot and muggy. Inside the Jaguar the cool air smelled deliciously of expensive leather and Chanel No. 19.
'This is such a great car,' sighed Lola, stroking the upholstery as Dougie's mother started the engine.
'Thank you. I like it.'
'How could anyone not like it?' Lola balanced the steaming parcel of chips in her lap, careful to keep it away from her bare legs. Her stomach was rumbling but she heroically resisted the temptation to open them. 'So why did you want to see me? Is this about Dougie's birthday?'
'No. Actually it's about you and Dougie. I want you to stop seeing him.'
Bam, just like that.
Lola blinked. 'Excuse me?'
'I'd like you to end your relationship with my son.'
This couldn't be happening. Her shoulders stiffening in disbelief, Lola watched as Dougie's mother drove along, as calm and unconcerned as if they were discussing nothing more taxing than the weather.
'He's eighteen years old.'
'He's eighteen now,' Mrs Tennant repeated firmly, 'and on his way to university. He is going to university.'
'I know.' Bewildered, Lola said, 'I'm not stopping him. We're going to see each other whenever we can, take it in turns to do the journey. I'll catch the coach up to Edinburgh every other weekend, and Dougie's going to drive down here when it's his turn, then —'
'No, no, no, I'm sorry but he won't. This isn't the kind of relationship Doug needs right now. He told me last night that he was having second thoughts about going to university. He wants to stay here. And that's all down to you, my girl. But I won't stand by and let you ruin his life.'
The hot chips were burning Lola's legs now. 'Honestly, I'm not ruining his life. I want the best for Dougie, just like you do. We love each other! I've already told him, if we miss each other too much I'll move up to Edinburgh and we'll live together!'
'Oh yes, he mentioned that too. And the next thing we know, you'd be feeling left out because he'd have all his university friends while you're stuck working behind the counter of some backstreet fish and chip shop.' Mrs Tennant's lip curled with disdain. 'So to regain his attention you'd accidentally get yourself pregnant. No, I'm sorry, I simply can't allow this to happen. Far better for you to make the break now.'
Who did this woman think she was?
'But I don't want to.' Lola's breathing was fast and shallow. 'And you can't force me to do it.'
'No, dear, of course I can't force you. But I can do my best to persuade you.'
'I won't be persuaded. I love Dougie. With all my heart,' Lola blurted out, determined to make his mother understand that this was no silly teenage fling.
'Ten thousand pounds, take it or leave it.'
'That's what I'm offering. Think it over. How much do you earn in that fish and chip shop?' Dougie's mother raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. 'No more than five pounds an hour, I'm sure.'
Four pounds actually. But it was still a mean dig; working at the Cod Almighty was only a temporary thing while she applied for jobs that would make more use of her qualifications.
'And if I took your money, what kind of a person would that make me?'
'Oh, I don't know. The sensible kind, perhaps?'
Lola was so angry she could barely speak; her fingernails sank through the steamed, soggy chip paper, filling the air-conditioned interior of the car with the rank, sharp smell of vinegar. Something else was bothering her too; up until today, Dougie's mother had always been perfectly charming whenever they'd met.
'I thought you liked me.'
'Of course you did.' Mrs Tennant sounded entertained. 'That was the whole idea. I know what young people are like, you see. If a parent announces that they don't approve of their children's choice of partner, it's only going to make them that much more determined to stay together. Fueling the flame and all that. Goodness no, far better to pretend everything's rosy and you think their choice is wonderful, then let the relationship fizzle out of its own accord.'
'But ours isn't going to fizzle out,' said Lola.
'So you keep telling me. That's why I'm giving it a helping hand. Goodness, this traffic is a nightmare today. Is it left down here at the traffic lights or straight on?'
'Left. And how's Dougie going to feel when he hears what you've said to me today?'
'Well, I should imagine he'd be very annoyed with me. If you told him.' Mrs Tennant paused for effect. 'But do yourself a favor, Lola. Don't say anything just yet. Give yourself time to really think this through, because you do have a brain. And ten thousand pounds is an awful lot of money. All you have to do as soon as you've made up your mind is give me a ring when you know Dougie isn't at home, and I'll write out the check.'
'You can stop the car. I'll walk the rest of the way.' No longer willing to remain in her boyfriend's mother's plush Jag, Lola jabbed a finger to indicate that she should pull in at the bus stop ahead.
'Sure? OK then.'
Lola paused with her hand on the passenger door handle and looked at Dougie's mother in her crisp white linen shirt and royal chignon. 'Can I ask you something?'
'Why don't you approve of me?'
'You risk ruining my son's future.' Mrs Tennant didn't hesitate.
'We love each other. We could be happy together for the rest of our lives.'
'No you couldn't, Lola. Do you really not understand what I'm trying to explain here? You're too brash and noisy, you have no class, you're not good enough for Dougie. And,' the older woman paused, her gaze lingering significantly over Lola's low-cut red tank top and short denim skirt complete with grease stain, 'you dress like a cheap tart.'
'Can I ask you something else?' said Lola. 'How are you going to feel when Dougie refuses to ever speak to you again?'
And, heroically resisting the urge to tear open the parcel of chips and fling them in Dougie's mother's face, she climbed out of the car.
* * *
Back at home in Streatham — a far more modest house than Dougie's, which his mother would surely sneer at — Lola paced the small blue and white living room like a caged animal and went over everything that had happened. OK, now what was she supposed to do? Dougie was currently up in Edinburgh for a few days, sorting out where he was going to be living come October and acquainting himself with the city that was due to be his home for the next three years. Doubtless Mrs Tennant had planned it this way with her usual meticulous attention to detail. Her own mother and stepfather were both out at work. The ticking of the clock in the kitchen was driving her demented. Bloody, bloody woman — how dare she do this to her? What a witch.
By four o'clock she could no longer bear to be confined. Deliberately not changing out of her low-cut top and far-too-short denim skirt, Lola left the house. What she was wearing was practically standard issue for teenagers on a hot summer's day, for heaven's sake — not tarty at all. And if she didn't talk to someone about the situation, she would burst.
* * *
'Ten thousand pounds,' said Jeannie.
'I mean, ten thousand pounds.'
'So?' Lola banged down her Coke. 'It doesn't matter how much it is. She can't go around doing stuff like that. It's just sick.'
They were in McDonald's. Jeannie noisily slurped her own Coke through two straws. 'Can I say something?'
'Can I stop you?'
'OK, you say it's a sick thing to do. And you're going to say no. But what if Dougie comes back from Edinburgh on Friday and tells you he's met someone else? What if he sits you down and says, "Look, sorry and all that, but I bumped into this really fit girl in a bar, we ended up in bed and she's just fantastic"?' Pausing to suck up the last dregs of her Coke, Jeannie pointed the straw at Lola. 'What if he tells you you're dumped?'
Oh, for heaven's sake.
'Dougie wouldn't do that.'
'But he might,' said Jeannie. 'OK, maybe not this week, or even this month. But sooner or later the chances are that you two will break up. You're seventeen years old. How many seventeen-year-olds spend the rest of their lives with their first love? Let's face it, that's why it's called first love, because you go on to have loads more. You're too young to stay with the same person, Lola. And so's Dougie. I know you're crazy about each other now, but that's not going to last. And if Dougie is the one who finishes it, you can't go running to his mother crying that you've changed your mind and can you have the money now please? Because it'll be too late by then. You'll have lost out big time. Think about it, you'll be all on your own.' Mock sorrowfully, Jeannie clutched her chest. 'Heartbroken. No more Dougie Tennant and no ten thousand pounds.'
* * *
So that was the advice from a so-called friend. Well, what else should she have expected from someone like Jeannie, whose parents had fought an epic divorce battle and left her with a jaundiced view of relationships? Jeannie now despised her mother's new husband and was escaping all the hassle at home by moving to Majorca. The plan was to work in a bar, dance on the beach, and generally have the time of her life. Sleep with lots of men but very definitely not get emotionally involved with any of them. Any kind of romantic relationship was out.
The memory of Dougie's mother continued to haunt Lola all the way home, that pale patrician face and disparaging voice letting her know in no uncertain terms why she was nowhere near good enough for her precious son.
Lola pictured the smirk on that face if Jeannie's cheery prediction were to come true. Then again, imagine how she'd react if she and Dougie defied her and got married! Ha, wouldn't that be fabulous?
Except ... except ...
I'm seventeen, I don't want to get married just to spite someone. I'm too young.
Back home again, Lola was overcome by an overwhelming urge to speak to Dougie. No plan in her head, but she'd play it by ear. When she heard his voice she would decide what to do, whether or not to tell him that his mother was the world's biggest witch. God, how would he feel when he found out?
Dougie was staying in a bed and breakfast in Edinburgh. The number was on the pad next to the phone in the narrow hallway. Dialing it, Lola checked her watch; it was five o'clock. He should be there now, back from his visit to the university campus ...
'No, dear, I'm afraid you've missed him.' The landlady of the B&B had a kindly, Edinburgh-accented voice. 'They came back an hour ago, Dougie changed and showered and then they were off. Said they were going to check out the pubs on Rose Street!'
'Oh.' Lola's heart sank; she'd so wanted to hear his voice. 'Who was he with?'
'I didn't catch their names, pet. Another boy and two girls ... isn't it lovely to see him making new friends already? The boy's from Manchester and the pretty blonde one's from Abergavenny! I must say, they do seem absolutely charming. I'll tell him you rang, shall I? Although goodness knows what time he'll be back ... '
Hanging up, Lola heard Jeannie's words again. It wasn't that she was overwhelmed with jealousy that Dougie had gone out for the evening with a group of new friends, two of whom happened to be female. It was just the realization that this was the first of many hundreds of nights when she would be apart from him and —
Lola started as a floorboard creaked overhead; she'd thought the house was empty.
She called out, 'Hello?'
'Mum?' Lola frowned. 'Dad?'
Still nothing. Had the floorboard just creaked on its own or was someone up there? But the house seemed secure and a burglar would have his work cut out, climbing in through a bedroom window. Taking an umbrella as a precaution, Lola made her way upstairs.
What she saw when she pushed open the white painted door of her parents' bedroom shocked her to the core.CHAPTER 2
'Dad?' Lola's stomach clenched in fear. Something was horribly, horribly wrong. Her stepfather — the only father she'd ever known, the man she loved with all her heart — was packing a case, his face almost unrecognizable.
'Go downstairs.' He turned his back on her, barely able to speak.
Lola was shaking. 'Dad, what is it?'
'Please, just leave me alone.'
'No! I won't! Tell me what's wrong.' Dropping the umbrella, she cried, 'Why are you packing? Are you ill? Are you going to hospital? Is it cancer?'
Grief-stricken, he shook his head. 'I'm not ill, not in that way. Lola, this is nothing to do with you ... I didn't want you to see me like this ...'
It was such an unimaginable situation that Lola didn't know what to think. When she approached him he made a feeble attempt to fend her off with one arm.
'Daddy, tell me,' Lola whispered in desperation and tears sprang into his eyes.
Covering his face, he sank onto the bed. 'Oh Lola, I'm sorry.'
She had never been so frightened in her life. 'I'm going to phone Mum.'
'No, you mustn't.'
'Are you having an affair? Is that why you're packing? Don't you want to live with us any more?'
Another shake of the head. 'It's nothing like that.'
'So tell me what it is then.' Lola's voice wavered; they were both crying now. 'You have to, because I'm scared!'
Twenty minutes later she knew everything. Unbelievable though it seemed, Alex had been gambling and they'd never even suspected it. Through his twice-weekly visits to a pool club he had been introduced to a crowd of card players and gradually, without even realizing it, he'd found himself being sucked in. They had all met regularly at a house in Bermondsey to play poker and at first Alex had done pretty well. Now, he suspected that this had been the plan all along. Then the tide had turned, he had begun to lose and the genial group had made light of his run of bad luck. When the losses had mounted up to a worrying degree, Alex had confided in them that he needed time to pay back what he owed them. It was at this point that the genial group had stopped being genial and begun to threaten him. Terrified by the change in them, realizing he was in way over his head, Alex had done the only thing possible and concentrated all his energies on winning back all the money he'd lost. Since his bank manager wouldn't have appreciated this as a sensible business plan, he'd borrowed the money from the friend who'd introduced him to the poker group in the first place.
A week later he'd lost it all.
He borrowed an emergency sum from a moneylender, tried again.
Lost that too.
Meanwhile his family was oblivious. When Lola's mum asked him if he was all right, he explained that he was just tired and she told him he shouldn't be working so hard. The following night, as he was leaving the garage where he worked as a mechanic, he was stopped by two heavies in a van who explained in graphic detail what they would do to him if he didn't repay every penny he owed by this time next week.
Excerpted from An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell. Copyright © 2008 Jill Mansell. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I admit it - I LOVE chick lit - and I think British chick lit is some of the best! I am so excited that Sourcebooks is bringing Jill Mansell's titles to North America! An Offer You Can't Refuse is being released today. Seventeen year old Lola Malone is madly in love with Dougie Tennant. But Dougie's mother Adele is less than enamoured with Lola - she wants her out of Dougie's life. She offers Lola a large sum of money to do just that. Lola is horrified, but when a family situation necessitates a large cash influx, she is reluctantly forced to accept Adele's offer. Fast forward ten years - Lola is back in Britain and the manager of a bookstore. I loved Mansell's choice of occupation for Lola. "She craved a proper bookshop like an addict craves a fix. There wasn't much that could beat that gorgeous new-book smell, touching the covers and turning the pages of a book whose pages had, just possibly, never been turned before." Or the customer who wants a book about insects that might have a pig in it. (Keep guessing - I'll tell you the title at the end of this post) When Lola suddenly meets up with Dougie again and finds she is still madly attracted to him, she hopes that maybe, just maybe....it will work this time around. But when Dougie hears about the payoff, he wants nothing to do with her. She promised to never reveal the reason she needed the money, but how is she going to win Dougie back when he thinks she is nothing but money hungry? Lola is an absolutely endearing character - someone you wish you had as a friend. The supporting characters are just as captivating, as are their story lines. Gabe is the male neat freak best friend, who through circumstances ends up living with Dougie's sloppy sister Sally. Lola's mom Blythe is a free spirit in love with a rumpled bear of a man who adores Monopoly. What will happen when Lola's real dad shows up again after twenty something years? Will any of them find true love? An Offer You Can't Refuse is a fresh, funny, charming read that will have you rooting for Lola, her friends and family and love until you turn the last page. The writing is warm and witty. Mansell's About the Author end note gives you some idea... " Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually, that's not true; she watches TV, eat gum drops, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she's completely run out of ways to procrastinate does she write." An Offer You Can't Refuse was #4 on the London Sunday Times bestseller list in the summer of 2008. I'm sure it will be a hit here as well. I'm looking forward to reading Mansell's next title, Miranda's Big Mistake , when it releases in June of this year. Love the Shopaholic series? You'll love Mansell too! Oh - that book title - Lord of the Flies!
The concept of this book is not particularly unique - mom paying off the destitute girlfriend who needs to save her family to leave the rich boy she loves behind. But still, I enjoyed it none the less. Most of Mansell's characterizations (on an individual level) were wonderfully entertaining. Lola was funny and somewhat outlandish; she wasn't afraid to be who she was despite leaving the man she loved behind to better the lives of her family. Gabe, her BFF, was a great counterpart with his dry-wit and sarcasm. He brought truth to Lola when she didn't want to see it and helped her without fail when she set out to improve her situation. Sally, the former boyfriend's sister was eccentric and quirky; delightfully clueless and quite careless with the feelings and preferences of those around her. But done so in the most endearing way. Dougie, the jilted boyfriend, on the other hand was a bit flat and boring. I think he was supposed to be stuffy and pompous as a result of having been left behind but that element of the story wasn't particularly clear. In the end it just made him blah overall. His mother was also pretty cliched. A helicopter mom that had the ability to hover with the best of them she was the type of rich woman offering money that we always see in movies and television shows. There wasn't anything innovative of different in her portrayal here. I didn't particularly see any chemistry between Lola and Dougie after she left and came back. As a result I couldn't quite get into their story and found myself wondering why she was so desperate to have him back. I frankly thought she was more fun with her BFF Gabe. Even more honestly, it's the story about he and Sally that completely steal the show here. There was definitely a level of predictability in the story but it didn't lack in fun and entertainment value. If I'm being honest I think I would have much preferred the novel switch primary and secondary stories. It would have been better for me if it centered on Gabe and Sally as compared to Lola and Dougie. So in the end it wasn't the best chick-lit novel I've read but it wasn't the worst by a long shot. It's definitely worth your time if you're looking for a read that doesn't require a lot of heavy lifting but packs some good laughs.
This was my first to read from this author. I love it! My favorite one so far. I love the jabs and jokes that the characters play at each other. Reminds my of my friends and me. Was nervous at first to read it cause she is a British writer I wasn't sure if I would get the jokes. But I did and it was great. A fast read.
While I liked this book, I think other ones by Mansell are much more interesting character wise. The characters in this book were great but sometimes I felt like it was the same thing... same attitudes, just a different setting. It will not stop me from reading more by this author but this was not my favorite. If you're still looking for a good read, check it out :-)
I have been a fan of this talented author since her first release and was never disappointed. Great Book! LOVED IT. will buy more
I have read several books in the last year, but this was one of my favorites. Maybe it's because many of the previous books all started to sound the same, but this was a refreshing break from the norm. I initally picked it up because I liked the cover. The synopsis on the back cinched the deal and made me buy it. I was surprised to find that the story advance quickly and the back cover description hardly explains what really happens throughout the tale. I thought each character was well defined and their personalities were strong and different. Unlike many books and TV shows, this progressed quickly. There seemed to be multiple climax's that made me want to keep progressing to find out what happened next. It was quickly solved (which I lack patient so this was great) but then instead of being over, there was another dilemma to overcome. It kept me turning pages all the way to the end. I just couldn't put it down. I would highly recommend this to anyone!
This was a fun, easy read. I've read a few books by this author and have liked them all. Her books are all very similar, but you know you are going to get a funny, romance type book, which is what I was looking for. One small negative was that it ended kind of abruptly, but all in all i really liked it.
I have yet to read a Jill Mansell book I didn't enjoy. I wish more of her books were available to us.
Love all her stuff!
Cute fast read
I enjoy reading Jill Mansell, sure you usually know what will happen from the start, but there are always a few surprises. Quick read and enjoyable!
A nice lite read
Let me start by saying I really like this author and I recommend her books to anyone who enjoys a cute story with realistic, likeable characters. That being said, this wasn't my favorite of hers. I never really became fully engaged in the storyline of the two main characters and I felt like the ending was kind of flat. Cute story, but not her best work.
I've only read a couple of Mansell's books. The characters in this story are a bit more developed in that there is more plot development before the climax, which I appreciated. Fun read and quick.
This is my 2nd Jill Mansell book and I have to say that this one was a bit of a disappointment mainly because the main character is irritating and too ditzy. I'll try another Mansell book and hope the main character is better.
I read a few reviews where it stated that this book is predictable, but I could not understand what the problem was supposed to be with predictability. It is the journey you have to follow towards that end which makes it wonderful. I loved the journey this book took me on, and even though I knew the outcome, I could not help wishing throughout that it will indeed happen. I laughed myself silly a few times. I really liked this story.