Saving Grace: A Novel

Saving Grace: A Novel

by Jane Green

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Overview

What does a marriage really look like behind closed doors? What secrets lie beneath the surface? How far will each spouse go to keep love alive? Saving Grace is a riveting, true-to-life novel about one woman’s journey to save her family—and herself—from New York Times bestselling author Jane Green

 

Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees are Ted’s rages, his mood swings, and the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, his world begins to crumble, and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until Ted’s new assistant, Beth, comes to the rescue. Young and competent, Beth possesses the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all—one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, her sanity…and her own life.

“Green spins a dark romance, recalling All About Eve, where intimacy masks betrayal.”

Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250047397
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 768,741
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

JANE GREEN is the author of more than a dozen bestselling novels, including Family Pictures and Another Piece of My Heart. Originally from London, she now lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband, children, and a menagerie of animals.

Hometown:

Westport, Connecticut

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

Saving Grace


By Jane Green

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Jane Green
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-4773-6



CHAPTER 1

There are only so many hours Grace can stay away from home.

Her husband's car is still in the driveway when she pulls in, her heart sinking at the sight. As if she should be surprised. Where did she think he'd be going at six o'clock in the evening? It was the triumph of hope over experience, she thought to herself.

Luck is not on her side today. It wasn't on her side this morning when she woke up to hear a door slamming downstairs and her husband bellowing her name, and it isn't on her side now.

Although perhaps it is, she thinks, gingerly pulling up alongside his car and steeling herself for whatever might meet her inside. Perhaps his mood will have changed. Perhaps he will be the loving attentive husband the rest of the world sees, as long as they don't get too close.

After almost twenty-five years of marriage the only thing that Grace is ever able to predict is the unpredictability of her husband's moods. He can throw his keys at the wall in a rage, then reappear twenty minutes later with a sunny smile, as if nothing had happened, as if Grace hadn't spent the prior twenty minutes quaking with nerves.

He can throw his keys at the wall, followed by a vase, followed by rageful venting that this, whatever this might be, is all Grace's fault. That Grace has somehow screwed up.

This morning Grace heard the doors slamming downstairs before she had even opened her eyes. She was woken up by the noise, sat bolt upright, heart pounding, realizing that Ted was in one of his moods. Terror flooded her body for a second. Sometimes, when this happens at night, she locks herself in the bathroom and runs a bubble bath, flooding out his anger with the water from the faucet. She has learned that if she removes herself, he will frequently take his rage elsewhere, distance allowing it to simmer before disappearing. But if Grace is there, if he sees her, she becomes an unwilling victim of a predator who will not leave her alone until he is sure she is completely destroyed.

He doesn't mean it, she thinks, when he is back to being kind, loving, appreciative. He has terrible mood swings, which is part of what makes him a creative genius. I should be grateful, she tells herself. If Ted weren't allowed to be this kind of person, he wouldn't be able to write the books he does, wouldn't be the success he is.

I mustn't take it personally, she tells herself all the time, even as she feels her ears ringing with stress.

Her ears were ringing this morning, in bed, as she heard him downstairs. They always ring when she is frightened. She read somewhere this is a symptom of anxiety, and one she has had as far back as she can remember. She has a theory that it helps drown out the noise of whoever is raging at her—her mother, her husband—but isn't sure that's why it happens.

This morning, moving quickly, she pulled on yesterday's jeans, a clean T-shirt and vest, and slipped down the back stairs, carrying her clogs in her hand so as not to make a sound before softly walking out the back door.

Ted heard her car start, as she knew he would, and she wound her window down as he came tearing out of the house.

"Sorry!" she called as she reversed, pretending she hadn't noticed his face contorted with rage. "Early start. I'm hugely late. See you later!" She waved a cheery hand out the window and zipped up the driveway, her body flooding with relief.

Her cell phone buzzed. She turned her head, the ringing in her ears starting back up, an automatic response to her husband's name flashing on her screen. She wouldn't answer, never answered when he was in this kind of mood, but nor would she divert, for then he would know she was diverting him, which would infuriate him still further.

She pressed the top button to turn off the volume, waited until the call went to voicemail, then turned the entire phone off, knowing she wouldn't turn it back on until Ted was back to normal.

Please let things be back to normal now, she thinks, hoisting the grocery bags into the house and onto the kitchen table. She has been out all day. First to work, then filling the rest of her afternoon with errands to keep her out of the eye of the storm.

The house is quiet. Ted must still be in the barn, which is a good thing, as it means he is writing. Work helps him to focus his mind elsewhere, and hopefully, please God, enable him to gather his equilibrium.

Grace puts the tomatoes in a bowl on the counter, the milk in the fridge, sliding the kettle onto the range to make tea. She once loved this house so much, this rambling antique on the banks of the Hudson River. That very first time they saw it, she knew she had found a place to call home.

Sprawling, peaceful, filled with nooks, crannies, and charm, the house has low ceilings and French doors that open onto lawns that lead gracefully down to the water.

She loved this house, before Ted's moods had the ability to discombobulate her in the way they now do. Back in the early days, Grace would laugh at him, would wander off, letting his insults roll off her back, happy to play with their daughter and wait for things to pass.

But the years have taken their toll, his rages lasting longer, gradually grinding her into the woman she is now—the same Grace she has always been, with a ringing in her ears, a quickening of her heart, an overwhelming urge to run far, far away.

She used to fight back. She doesn't anymore. She withdraws into a well of pain and resentment, removing herself as she did today, or hiding in her bathroom, the one room that feels safe.

Now, so often, the rest of the house she loved feels like a prison.

She jumps as she sees the barn door open, Ted emerging, his glasses in his hand as he runs his fingers through his hair. She squints through the window, reading his face, his mood, bracing herself not for fight or flight, for neither is an option right now, but for the third option: freeze.

Ted sees her through the window, his expression changing, as Grace holds her breath, to a smile. Relief floods her body as he waves a jaunty hand, slowly making his way up the path. She is close to tears as she raises a tentative hand back at him.

Thank God! she thinks. Thank you, God! She goes to the fridge to pour him a glass of wine, the ringing fading in her ears, wondering how on earth life ever got so hard.

CHAPTER 2

In the beginning, when she first met Ted, it felt as if she had fallen into the kind of life that only happened to other people, and usually only in movies. It was a life she determined to enjoy while it lasted, convinced it wouldn't last long, for Ted could have had his pick. There were always women more exciting, more glamorous, more beautiful than she.

Ted Chapman. One of the rising stars of the literary scene, the thinking man's Grisham; a writer of clever political thrillers that straddled both the literary and the commercial. When Grace met him, he had only published three books, three books that had been huge, and the publishers were doing everything they could to keep him happy, knowing they hadn't paid him enough, aware that every other publisher was circling now that he had come to the end of his book deal, concerned they could no longer afford to pay him what he would doubtlessly demand of his next contract.

He was speaking at the annual sales conference, joining the publishing team's table for dinner. Grace, only twenty-two and an assistant cookbook editor, was stunned she had been asked to join the table, more so when she discovered she was seated to the right of Ted Chapman.

Assistant cookbook editor was not nearly as glamorous a job as it sounded, and it was unusual for a lowly assistant to go to the sales conference, but her boss had demanded, and when her boss made demands, she had no choice. Perhaps he understood these were the perks that made the job worthwhile: going to publishing dinners, meeting famous chefs—Jacques Pépin and Julia Child! She met them! And they talked to her as if she were an equal!—the perks made it all worthwhile.

Ted Chapman was not often seen in the office, and when he was, he seemed frightening. Dark and brooding, he had the kind of aura that made you want to stare, made you want to please him.

Grace had arrived early to the dinner, had allayed her fears during the cocktail hour with two glasses of cheap white wine, and by the time they took their seats in the banquet hall next door, her fear of Ted Chapman was tinged with intrigue. She sat, shaking, at the table, wondering why she had been given such an onerous and terrifying seat.

"Gracie will charm him." Grace looked up to see Bill Knight, the publisher, toasting her across the table with a wink. "Right, Gracie?"

Of course, thought Grace. "How could he even think of leaving when we have such talented and delightful people working for us."

Grace forced a smile, feeling sick. She was here as bait. And there was no way to leave. She would have to do her job, charm Ted Chapman, and then perhaps, certainly, look for another job.

Ted was the only empty chair at the table. He was too nervous before public speaking to sit at a table with other people, explained his editor. He needed quiet, but would join afterwards.

Oh God, thought Grace, her heart sinking. How pretentious. The excitement of meeting him was beginning to pall, the whole evening starting to feel like a huge mistake. How ironic, she thought, that this morning she flew around her apartment, trying on dresses, tipping her makeup into her purse so she could get ready for this event, exhilarated at meeting someone whose work she adored. Now she would have given anything to get out of there.

Grace had no appetite, unusual for her. She was a cookbook editor because she loved food. Coming to New York, she was amazed at how few girls her age knew how to cook. She learned to cook at university, going home to her roommate Catherine's house where her roommate's mother, Lydia, was so thrilled to have an eager student, she sat her at the kitchen table for hours and taught her everything she knew.

She loved creating, loved cooking, and loved writing. What better place to put all those skills together than working for a publisher in the cookbooks division, and where more glamorous than New York.

She hosted impromptu dinner parties all the time. Two folding card tables—one she had, one she found on a street corner one afternoon—served as the dining table, with long wooden benches that had been made out of planks of oak by a handy ex-boyfriend.

Grace would throw burlap over the tables, fill mason jars with flowers and line them down the center. The food was inexpensive, and back then, in those early days in New York, frequently had an English bent.

Her coworkers delightedly cooed over toad in the hole and treacle tart, as Grace dreamed of one day writing a cookbook of her own.

At the event dinner, the waiters started to hand out the plated food. Wilted salad followed by dry chicken breast in a mushroom sauce. Grace took a few bites before pushing the food aside, bored with the empty seat to her left, the man on her right—another author—too busy talking to other people at the table to pay any attention to her.

A tinkling of spoon on glass, and the CEO of their company stood up to introduce their keynote speaker. To a whirl of applause, Ted Chapman appeared through a side door, tall, much taller than Grace had imagined, as he strode up to the podium, notes in hand, shaking the CEO's hand and murmuring "thanks," before turning to face the audience, clearing his throat, and pausing to take a sip of water.

He looked at his notes, then shook his head and grinned. "Sorry," he said. "I'm much better off without the damned notes." And then he spoke.

Grace didn't hear the beginning. She was so stunned by his smile, by the transformation of his face, she couldn't concentrate on anything other than how she could have possibly missed, in all those photographs, all those book jackets, how attractive he was.

When she tuned back in to his speech, her disorientation grew. She had heard that he was difficult, moody, high-maintenance. The editorial assistants at work had developed a Pavlovian response of fear to the phone ringing, scared it would be a furious Ted Chapman, in a rage because he'd just flown to Cincinnati for an event and—shocker!—there wasn't a single book of his in the airport bookstore. Or he might have been complaining about the marketing department, or that he'd just been sent the large-print version, and what the hell were they thinking, putting this godawful cover on it?

This man standing up on the podium, telling witty, dry stories, punctuated with sardonic eye rolls that made everyone laugh, had everyone in the room in the palm of his hand. This was not the man she had heard about, this couldn't possibly be the same man of the terrible reputation.

Had she imagined it, or had he somehow transformed?

By the time he finished his speech and came to sit next to her, she was no longer nervous, but intrigued. Who was this humble, humorous, brilliant man, and if it was true that he could be difficult, impatient, short-tempered, which one was the real Ted Chapman? Which was the personality he tapped into in order to write?

She never had a chance to ask him, not that night, for Ted, smitten as soon as he laid eyes on Grace, did not stop peppering her with questions. He sat down at the table, allowed the perfunctory introductions to be made, and turned to shake hands with Grace, pausing for a second to take in her prettiness.

"Well, this is a lovely surprise," he said. "You're not the usual publishing type."

"There's a type?" Grace said, deciding to be flattered.

"You're English too? Goodness. This gets better and better. What brings you to these shores, Grace?"

The questions continued all night. Where did she grow up; what were the things she needed in life to be happy; what were the things she missed the most about England; what books had most influenced her life and how?

Grace had never been asked questions with such intensity, had never been fixed with such a forceful gaze, had never had so much fun, nor felt so ... special. There was a chemistry between them that was obvious to everyone sitting at the table, and yet, at the end of the night, Ted merely bowed his head as he kissed her hand, and told her what a delight she had been.

The next day, at her desk, a bouquet of russet and flaming orange roses arrived with a note. "These made me think of my delightful companion of last night. Drinks tonight? I will pick you up at work at 5. TC."

There was no question of Grace saying no, or having made other plans. She had, in fact, made other plans, but only a movie with a girlfriend, which she swiftly postponed, berating herself for not having made more of an effort with her outfit at work today, wishing she were wearing something more glamorous.

At lunchtime she ran to Bloomingdale's and got a free makeover at the beauty counter, excitement and anticipation giving her a radiant glow.

Drinks at the Carlyle led to dinner, led to Ted insisting he bring her to a party the next night, led to Grace moving in with him three weeks later. His apartment was so much bigger, he said; she could save money living with him, he said; why would they ever want to be apart when being together made both of them so happy, he said.

Those days were a whirlwind of romance, passion, excitement. Grace swiftly became a fixture in his life, adoring the glamor and thrill of mixing with the great and good, for Ted was in great demand, and Grace the perfect partner.

When Ted signed a second three-book contract with the same publisher, Grace was promoted to cookbook editor, their way of saying thank you to the woman who now went everywhere with Ted Chapman, who was surely instrumental in ensuring he stayed true to his roots.

It is presumed by many that Grace learned to cook at her mother's knee, but her mother could barely boil an egg. Grace was entirely self-taught until the age of eighteen. She had to learn to cook in order for her family to eat, her mother far too unreliable in her mood swings to ever be relied upon to serve them dinner, not, at least, with any consistency.

Grace's rudimentary skills were honed and crafted as her roommate's mother, Lydia, gave her cookbooks that Grace read like novels and taught Grace everything she knew.

Back when she first moved to New York it all seemed so sophisticated. Grace brought Delia Smith's cookbooks with her to New York, and wowed her colleagues by staying loyal to her English roots: buttery kedgeree and cottage pie topped with mashed potato, sliced leeks, and melted gruyere.

Years later, when Clemmie entered middle school, Grace decided to indulge her passion further by doing a cooking course. Not just any cooking course, she wanted to do the Cordon Bleu, but there wasn't anything in her area, which left the Culinary Institute of America, the Institute of Culinary Education, or the French Culinary Institute.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Saving Grace by Jane Green. Copyright © 2014 Jane Green. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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