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About the Author
Samantha lives in Cheshire, England, with her lovely family and two cats who think they are dogs. A love of reading developed as a child, when she was known for reading Enid Blyton books in the bath. Having first followed other careers, such as as a fun stint working at Disneyland Paris, Samantha began writing and has sold around 100 short stories to women's magazines. Formally trained as a linguist, she has a passion for writing romantic comedy novels.
Read an Excerpt
The New Beginnings Coffee Club
By Samantha Tonge
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2017 Samantha Tonge
All rights reserved.
Celebrity glossy hair. Cerise-pink painted nails. A beige dress with matching nude sandals. I tore my gaze away from April and felt a lump in my throat – she looked so grown-up. It was hard to believe my daughter was only ten.
My friend Chanelle, who owned this nail salon, had just thrown a party for her little girl, Skye. I say little girl, but as I gazed at the posse of mothers and daughters, preening in front of large mirrors, apart from their height they all looked the same. I'm talking designer handbags, straightened hair, and the most on-trend clothes, as if it was just a different uniform to wear, outside of the girls' posh private school. But it made me feel comfortable, contented, to belong to some sort of clan.
A border full of plants in bud promising a colourful summer caught my attention. It reminded me of my own childhood building treehouses and getting close to nature in the field behind our two-up, two-down. Once I'd caught a frog to see if it really would turn into a prince. My gentle kiss on its head left me disappointed, and with a slimy lip-gloss effect that made Mum laugh hard.
How I'd loved baking with her and making feeders for birds. It had taken me a while to get used to the highflying life of my husband. I rarely cooked now. Nor spent much time in the garden. A heavy sensation briefly tickled my chest. I'm not sure why, because times changed, right, and no one wanted to be left behind?
'April has been so excited about today,' I said to Chanelle, who bobbed forwards and air-kissed my cheeks. My face broke into a smile as I scanned her tight dress, which hugged every unnatural inch. The boobs had been a thirtieth birthday present and the bum implants marked an anniversary. The generous curves suited my generous friend.
I glanced again at April and reflected, as I often did, that life was good. More than good, in fact, with my heartbreakingly handsome husband and luxurious family home. It was the perfect scenario to safely raise a child, thank goodness, because no one warns you that from the moment you give birth, the world suddenly looks like a dangerous place.
I squeezed Chanelle's shoulder and tickled behind the ears of Prada, the pug in her arms. The horizontally striped dress also hugged every good-hearted bone in her body. Since April had joined Skye's playground clique a year ago, after her best mate moved to Dubai, clothes horse Chanelle had vigorously welcomed us both into her life. How thrilled she'd been to know me, the wife of Zachary Masters, the head of her favourite fashion house Elite Eleganz.
Chanelle gave me a wide grin with her Julia Roberts mouth – although today there were no twinkly eyes to match.
I gazed around. 'So ... how's business going? Still on the up since you found that investor?'
Her cheeks pinked up. 'Not bad at all. Thank God. It was risky of me to plough all of my divorce money into expanding the place but I can't complain now. Finally we're enjoying a decent turnover.' She cleared her throat and gave another super bright smile. Something didn't seem right. 'It's been sheer torture not being able to enjoy my yearly cruise.' She said it like it was a joke, but with Chanelle you could never be sure.
Travel was as important to Chanelle as her credit card and facials. I took her cheery cue to change the subject. You see, our conversation never went much deeper than the Clarins concealer on her face. Chanelle always veered away from really personal chat. Instead we shared countless shopping trips and dissected celebrity gossip. It was a far cry from my student days, when I used to drink cheap lager, wear homemade tie-dye tops, and analyse the meaning of life with friends.
'Thanks again for having April over.' I studied her tired face, wondering how perky it actually looked like beneath the thick make-up. 'Let me help tidy up. You must be shattered.'
'No, it's fine, thanks. It won't take long. And anyway, as if Skye would have a party without her bezzie! April's a real credit to you, Jenny. Such good taste. Always picks the classiest shade of nail varnish. Plus she understands exactly why any self-respecting female should love glamorous reality shows ...' She was rambling now.
My mind drifted as I gave Prada another stroke. A credit to me for those qualities? Unusual, perhaps, considering her young age. But then celebrity is a modern religion and it's difficult not to get sucked in. An image of my own mum popped into my head, with her straggly hair and hands always covered in flour, soil, or soap. She'd taught me the different colours of garden birds, plus the importance of cooking and reading. Jeez. I gave a wry smile. My childhood sounded like a chapter from an Enid Blyton book.
'Did you have fun?' I bent down to give April a hug. She wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed me tight. My chest glowed. If I could bottle that happy feeling, I'd become an addict overnight. We left the salon. It was a lovely May day. The sun shone. Laventon and the surrounding area was iconically English in appearance, with yellow rapeseed fields and low-ceilinged cottages. Yet it was only forty minutes from London, near enough not to miss out on that diverse city's offerings.
April peered up at me from under her brunette fringe and gave me a lipsticked smile. 'Fab-u-licious,' she said in her singsong voice. I grinned at her new favourite word. 'We watched two episodes of the Kardashians whilst Chanelle and Skye's auntie did our make-up.'
I thought back to a few weeks previously, in the month of my daughter's name. I'd asked her what sort of trip out she would prefer for her birthday – at her age I'd gone ice-skating, pottery painting, or the cinema maybe. She'd rolled her eyes at all three, preferring a disco limo or makeover party.
'She's only ten!' I'd mused with Zak that night, as he got in late from work again. He'd loosened his tie, revealing a patch of that toned, tanned chest, and poured a whisky. My husband epitomised sexual attraction with his dark looks and undressing-you eyes. At parties, women flocked to him as if he were a sweet treat and they were flies.
'Kids grow up faster these days. April's probably imitating you, what with your weekly manicures and designer clothes.' He'd smiled. 'Where has young Jennifer Jarvis gone – the fashion student with her geometric hairstyle and outlandish dress sense?' Hmm. Good question. But nothing stayed the same – I'd become a wife, a mum. I'd grown up. Still, over the last couple of months, I'd spent an increasing amount of time thinking about my old sketches from college. Now that April was older, a yearning had struck me to restart my studies. The very thought made my stomach flutter. I'd never finished my degree. It would have taken a woman of strong mettle make that metal – to resist Zak sweeping her off her feet at a zillion miles per hour.
I drove my yellow Mini back through Laventon, a chocolate-box village with its cobbled pavements and window boxes. We trundled past The Coffee Club, a new café that had opened last year. Before that, the little village had only had quaint teashops, whereas this one specialised in all things caffeine, like powerful espressos and artistically decorated lattes.
'Shall we pick up a latte for Daddy?' said April, as if reading my thoughts. 'He doesn't believe the ones at The Coffee Club could be better than Starbucks.'
I smiled. The shop's owner, Noah, might have taken umbrage at that. He lovingly nursed each cup, creating appealing designs on top. I didn't know him well, but could tell he was passionate about coffee. He'd get this boyish grin on his face when a customer told him they'd thoroughly enjoyed their cuppa.
In fact, in keeping with his shop's name, he ran a monthly club for regulars to taste new flavours for free. Chanelle and I had attended several of these sessions and I'd sat in awe as Noah talked about roasting methods and the quality of different beans. He ordered them in from every corner of the globe.
'You know Daddy – he likes to stick to well-known brands.'
'Skye's gran goes in for one every day. The heart pattern is her favourite.'
I grinned. Once Noah had let slip that it had taken him weeks to learn latte art. Yet now he could magic leaves, footballs, teddy-bear faces, and all sorts out of steamed milk. And whilst a pure, simple black Americano was his personal favourite, he apparently spent hours researching the latest flavoured syrups that younger customers loved.
'So, how was the party food?' I said, as we continued to drive past.
'We ate cans of peas,' she said proudly.
I couldn't help smiling. 'Canapés? Very grown-up. What sort?'
'Um, this pink fish and ... and I'm not sure. Cheesy bits and coloured pastes.' She grimaced. 'And tiny black eggs that tasted of the sea.'
'What about fairy cakes?'
A tut wafted my way. 'No one calls them that any more, Mummy. We had skinny muffins – with soya ice cream. They were yum.'
'Well, I'm glad you had a nice time. And to make it an even more fab-u-licious weekend.' April giggled '... how about you and me go to the pool tomorrow morning?' I said. 'You never go outside of your swimming lessons. Laventon leisure centre is holding a big inflatable session. Daddy is playing golf but we can all meet up for a nice Sunday roast. You know how he thinks the earth will stop spinning if we don't keep up that Sunday tradition. Dot said she'd even make your favourite Yorkshire puddings and her lovely apple and bramble crumble. Skye could come if you want.'
I smiled to myself. No point asking Chanelle, who wouldn't dip a single one of her perfectly pedicured toes in a public bath.
April slotted a CD into the music player and within seconds Beyoncé's confident tones rang out.
'Nooo. We've just had our hair done. Swimming will mess it up for school next week. Skye says we should try and keep it nice until then. Everyone will be well impressed. And she wouldn't want Yorkshire puddings tomorrow – or dessert. Just chicken and vegetables. Me too.' Her voice sounded kind of sad.
'You love desserts!' You used to, I thought, her subdued tones pinching my stomach.
'Chanelle says it's never too early to start being careful about satchel-ated fat.'
'Do you know what that is?' I said, as we turned into our drive. I shot a look at the passenger seat before pulling up in front of our triple garage. My stomach pinched tighter. Was her dress baggier than usual? Since she'd been hanging around with Skye's clique I was worried April had developed a concern about her size.
'Remember that chef she once had,' April continued. 'He used to work for Victoria Beckham.'
My lips upturned. I knew. Chanelle had rung me after hiring him, fizzing with excitement, like an opened can of shaken lemonade. This was before her divorce and financial straits. I pressed the remote control so that the garage door lifted.
'Why can't we have a chef who makes sushi and healthy stuff like that?' she asked as I parked up inside.
I unfastened my seat belt and through the dim light, turned to face April. Her lips pursed together and she suddenly looked her age, innocence radiating from eyes that knew little of life's dangers. Or was Zak right, that my biggest problem was worrying too much? Was I looking for flaws that didn't exist in the diamond that was our life?
'Well, we could – but wouldn't you miss Dot?' I asked, softly. 'She's been cooking for you – for us all – since you were knee-high.'
April cocked her head and nodded. 'And ...' she lowered her voice '... I didn't say anything to Skye, but sushi is yuk. This seaweed roll made me gag.'
'So, the pool, Yorkshire puddings, and crumble tomorrow?' I said. 'You can borrow my swimming cap. And we mustn't forget your asthma inhaler.'
April pulled a face. 'But I hardly ever need it in the summer.'
'Sometimes your chest doesn't like chlorine.'
'Okay. Yes. Just you and me, then.' She leaned over for a cuddle. I almost choked on the strong floral whiff but suffered it for the sake of holding her tight. I gave a big sniff.
'It's Chanelle's new perfume. She saves it for special occasions. Epic, isn't it?'
'Yes,' I managed, but couldn't stop myself from sneezing.
'Let's go inside, so I can show you and Daddy my goody bag! Skye says it's filled with amazing stuff, just like the gifts at those parties movie stars go to.'
We headed into our house, called The Willows. Okay, scrub house. Think mansion. It boasted eight bedrooms, six en suites, two living rooms, a giant kitchen, and a massive nursery, which we'd now converted into a cinema room. Dot helped me run the household, along with her husband who could mend shelves or prune anything in the garden. It hadn't felt like home for a long time, after I'd first moved in. Too much space and not enough clutter, I used to think.
April grabbed my hand and pulled me into the smaller living room, the one we used most when we didn't have guests – the one in which I felt truly comfortable, with furniture that didn't quite match and ramshackle bookshelves. I sat down on a floral sofa, whilst April ran over to Zak and gave him the biggest hug, almost knocking his laptop onto the floor. My chest swelled as I observed the little family I'd nurtured and helped to grow. She collapsed onto a fringed rug. He shook his head from his favourite brown leather armchair.
'Whoa, my little princess, talk about a whirlwind.' He gave me a tired smile, not one of his killer ones that made my insides melt. After all these years, I still admired the breadth of his shoulders under his crisp white shirt and the solid legs shown off by denim jeans. He ran a hand through chestnut hair that always looked as if he'd just showered and styled it. Slicked back, it showed off his face – the strong chin, dark eyes, and generous lips that promised – and delivered every sort of pleasure a woman could want.
My cheeks flushed at the thought. The sizzling chemistry between us had always surmounted any problem, though recently it had lost a little of its fizz, like champagne that had been uncorked too long. Zak worked hard – too hard, of late.
'How did it go?' he asked and stared once again at his laptop.
'April wants to show you her goody bag,' I said pointedly. He caught my eye. I winked and jerked my head towards our daughter. Zak was a busy man, so sometimes I prodded to let him know that little bits of attention meant so much to her.
He pushed his laptop to one side and raised both eyebrows. April grinned, crossed her legs, and dipped into the silver bag, to pull out item after glossy item.
I should have been used to the excess, after ten years of being married to a millionaire. What a difference from the party bags my mum and I used to put together for my birthday bashes. They usually contained homemade fudge, crayoning books, and pretty pens.
That's another thing. When you have kids, you can't help but compare their childhood to your own. And you try to remedy all the things that, over the years, you felt your parents did wrong. Yet the biggest shock is to realise that most of the time, they had it right. I used to hate Mum's strictness over bedtimes but now saw how ratty April got if she had even one late night.
'This make-up is ace!' she said and cooed over a palette of metallic colours. 'I must go and show Dot. She's always saying she never knows what colour eye shadow to wear. Then I'll take a photo of it with all the other stuff.' She pouted. 'I wish you'd let me join Instagram, Mum.'
Whilst Zak was right – kids did grow up quickly nowadays – when it came to social media, I'd always been firm. 'You know the rules – if you have to lie about your age to join, it's a no-no.'
'But it has amazing filters that make you look better and all my friends –'
I folded my arms.
'Fine,' she mumbled and scooped up all the items. She headed out of the room and pulled the door behind her.
I stood up and stared at the door. 'You don't think she's getting a bit ... thin, do you?' I asked.
Zak looked up. 'This again? Stop stressing, baby. She's just aware of healthy eating. They teach it nowadays at school.'
His eyes crinkled deeply at the corners, hardly surprising with all the hours he was putting in. I'd keep my concerns to myself for the moment. He clearly had enough to worry about. I didn't want to burden him. I dealt with our domestic life. He ran the business. Team work at its best, I'd always thought. Despite the age gap, we seemed remarkably well suited.
Business must have really been booming. Mind you, even if Zak had more time to think about anything but profit margins and chasing the edgiest designs, it would take a lot for him to admit April had a problem. Despite his modern appearance, my husband had some hardened, old-fashioned views – and not taking mental health issues seriously was one of them.
Excerpted from The New Beginnings Coffee Club by Samantha Tonge. Copyright © 2017 Samantha Tonge. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jenny Masters didn’t grow up with a privileged lifestyle, she married into it. But after years of being married to a millionaire, not needing to do anything for herself, and never having to go without, Jenny is kicked to the kerb by her cheating husband, Zachary. Needing to leave their marital home, she and her daughter April are thrown a lifeline by coffee shop owners, Noah and Elle, who give them somewhere to live, and Jenny a job. When you’re at your lowest point, with no one to turn to, fate sometimes has other plans for you. For Jenny fate may of caused her heartache, but what she brings to the people she meets in the cafe, and to her daughter and bosses is something that money could never buy. The New Beginnings Coffee Club may look, and sound like a chick-lit book, but this book goes much deeper and has you far more emotionally involved than a chick-lit book does. The characters are all realistic and each has their own story to tell. Jenny is one resilient young woman. Her world may of come crashing down on her, but she gathered the strength to pick herself up, face her fears, and move on. Imagine after being married to a millionaire, attending fancy parties, having a cook and a cleaner, and being part of an exclusive club, having to go back to basics and work in a coffee shop! It’s not just about Jenny though, it’s also about April, her daughter, Noah, Elle, and the coffee shop customers, who all have their own stories to share. The cafe is a place where people who have been through a tough time can come in, grab a brew, and feel the love. At times the emotions ran high, and I felt myself getting pulled into a story of friendship and kindness, and how being there for one another really helps people cope with problems in their lives. A feel good book, set in an idyllic little village, that gives you pure escapism. It’s a wonderful, beautiful read with a few surprises along the way to keep you on your toes. The perfect summer read, that won’t let you down.