Coworker, childhood friend, and worst enemy: the changing dynamics of friendship (and maybe...relationship?) are front and center in this charming debut novel with equal amounts of wit and heart.
Quinn is having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.
So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for allby getting him fired.
But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.
Wesley James Ruined My Life is an engaging romp through rivalry and restaurants from debut author Jennifer Honeybourn and chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.
Praise for Wesley James Ruined My Life:
"An easy, breezy, fun read." VOYA
“The book’s even pacing will entice teens from the start and keep them reading…this [is a] pitch-perfect quirky summer romance.” School Library Journal
“The writing is excellent, pacing spot-on, and main character’s voice is sweet and funny.” Lisa Buscemi Reiss, reader on SwoonReads.com
About the Author
Jennifer Honeybourn works in corporate communications in Vancouver, British Columbia. She's a fan of British accents, Broadway musicals, and epic, happily-ever-after love stories. If she could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, she'd have high tea with Walt Disney, JK Rowling, and her nana. She lives with her husband, daughter, and cat in a house filled with books. Wesley James Ruined My Life is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
King Henry VIII won't shut up.
Not the real King Henry VIII, obviously. That would be crazy, given the dude's been dead for five hundred years. This King Henry is really Alan Rickles, retired weatherman/local dinner theater actor.
He's been talking to me for the past five minutes, although it should be clear from the platters of food I'm holding that I'm on my way to a table. My arms ache from trying to keep the heavy silver trays balanced — each one is weighted down with a rapidly cooling turkey leg, tiny potatoes, and butter-glazed carrots, long green stems still attached. All of which our customers are invited to enjoy with their fingers instead of silverware, because knives and forks weren't used in the sixteenth century. At least not in King Henry's court.
"Anne. Everyone always blames me for what happened to Anne," Alan says, sighing. "That's all anyone remembers me for."
Of course that's what we remember him for. Henry had two of his wives beheaded. Not something people easily forget, even centuries later.
"What about all the good I did for England?" Alan strokes his thick brown beard. I'm convinced it's the reason he got the gig in the first place. That and the thirty extra pounds he gained for the role.
Yes. Alan gained thirty pounds to play King Henry VIII in a medieval theme restaurant in a strip mall outside of Seattle. Although I have to admit, in his fur-trimmed cape, heavily embroidered red tunic, and black velvet hat, he does look an awful lot like the portrait of Henry in my history textbook.
"I founded the Royal Navy, but do I get credit for that?" He shakes his head sadly. "No one remembers the good stuff."
My wrists start to shake. I adjust the platters so the food doesn't slide off, hoping Alan will finally get the hint and let me go. I can't walk away from him — we're supposed to stay in character while out on the restaurant floor, and servants don't walk away from kings. Not if they want to keep their heads, anyway.
And I don't want to make an enemy of Alan. He's really into using his royal position to send the junior staff to the stocks, this vaguely fencelike contraption used as a torture device in the Dark Ages. Now employed in our restaurant for entertainment purposes.
Basically, you stick your head and hands through these holes cut in the wooden boards and then the boards clap down, trapping you. There's no lock, for liability reasons, but God help you if you try to get out before Alan has granted you a pardon.
Looking around in increasing desperation — seriously, my wrists are going to snap off — I spot Joe, my boss, standing near the stage. He's talking to a guy dressed as a pirate. People sometimes come here dressed in their sixteenth-century finest, so at first I think it's just a customer channeling his inner Captain Jack Sparrow. But then I notice the pirate is carrying the staff orientation manual. The manual is filled with strict instructions on dress code, suggested old-timey hairstyles, and medieval words and phrases we're meant to pepper our conversations with, like I bid you, fare thee well, and, my personal favorite, fie — what passed for a swear word back in King Henry's time.
I'm too far away to tell what New Guy looks like — his face is partially obscured by an eye patch and the skull and crossbones hat — but I'm hoping he's cute. We are in desperate need of some cute around here.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I was grievously injured in a jousting accident?" Alan leans on his gold-tipped walking stick. It's the posture he adopts whenever he's settling in to tell a long, drawn-out tale.
I nod, but I can't help looking over his shoulder at New Guy. Joe jabs a stubby finger at the stage, no doubt telling him not to go anywhere near it. I remember getting the same speech when I first started three months ago. Unless we are needed for a skit, something that thankfully doesn't happen very often, no one but Alan and Julia, the woman who plays Catherine of Aragon, are allowed on the stage.
The set consists of a tall red velvet throne placed in front of silver swag curtains. Alan spends most of his time sitting on that throne, quietly surveying the audience. Except, of course, when he's on the restaurant floor, trying to convince whoever is in earshot that Henry VIII got a bum rap and was simply misunderstood.
I'm hoping Joe will notice Alan has me trapped, but he heads in the opposite direction, toward the kitchen. New Guy follows behind him, his gaze roaming over the suits of armor standing at attention, the blue and red shields hanging from the fake stone walls.
"It happened during a tournament. I was thrown from my horse, you see," Alan says, squinting hard, like he's actually remembering something that happened to him and not to, you know, someone else entirely. "'Tis the reason I am now forced to use this." He waves his cane in the air, just missing Julia as she tries to sneak behind him. Before she can get away, I drop into a full curtsey. A few of the little potatoes bounce off the platters and onto the stone floor. "Her Grace cometh," I say.
Julia scowls at me. Now that Alan knows she's there, she has no choice but to come over. Alan has even been known to send his queen to the stocks on occasion.
I give her an apologetic shrug before speed walking to table nine. Things have gone downhill since my last appearance ten minutes ago. The table is a mess, covered in broken crayons and the shredded pieces of a cardboard crown. The mother is mediating an argument between her two young sons over the remaining crown, while the father taps away on his phone.
"Here we go," I say, waiting for someone to clear a space on the table so I can set down their dinner. After it becomes apparent no one is going to help me, I give up and plop the platters on top of the mess.
The trays are barely out of my hands before the boys are grasping at the food like little savages. There are two turkey legs, one for each of them — their parents didn't order dinner; I guess greasy medieval food doesn't appeal to everyone — but the boys fight over the leg that is slightly bigger. Boy Number One manages to grab hold of it first, which results in Boy Number Two knocking him over the head with one of the foam swords sold in our gift shop. In the ensuing frenzy, a goblet — also sold in our gift shop — is sent flying. It's full of milk. Every drop of which lands on me.
The mother sighs — what can you do? — while the cold liquid seeps through the bodice of my velvet costume, right through to my skin.
"'Tis no problem," I say. Wasted breath, as no one seems to be worried that I'm now stuck in a wet costume for the rest of my shift.
I trudge back to the kitchen. Amy is scraping food scraps off a plate into a big green garbage bin by the dishwashing station. It's steamy and smelly back here, like old fried food.
"Table nine?" she asks, catching sight of me. She sets the plate on top of a towering stack of dirty dishes waiting to be loaded into the industrial dishwasher.
I nod, feeling miserable.
Amy passes me a rag. "Cheer up. Only three hours till closing."
I dab at the stain but it's no use. The velvet has soaked up the milk and rubbing at it only seems to make it worse. Also, the fluff from the white rag is now sticking to the dark material.
Most nights aren't this bad. Most nights I actually like working here. And not only because I need the money, although I do. I'm saving for the school band trip to London in the fall.
I've wanted to go to England since I was a kid and my gran would tell me stories about growing up in London after the war. She used to go back every year and she'd always bring the best stuff home for me — magnets shaped like Big Ben, a snow globe of Buckingham Palace. All kinds of British chocolate.
I can hardly believe I'll be there in a matter of months.
I'm still rubbing fruitlessly at the stain when Joe sidles up beside me. He's dressed in a green brocade long vest, black breeches, and shiny, knee-high black boots.
"Quinn. Excellent. I've been looking for you," he says, clapping a hand on my shoulder. "I'd like you to meet the newest addition to the Tudor Tymes team."
New Guy is beside him. He's a few inches taller than me, with wide shoulders that strain against his billowy pirate shirt. The eye not covered by the patch is a stormy gray. When he pushes the pirate hat back on his head and out of his face, I catch a glimpse of shaggy blond hair.
I smile at him, ready to welcome him to our strange little world, when he lifts the eye patch and I fully see his face.
"No need for introductions," New Guy says with a smirk. "Q and I go way back."
The smile freezes on my face. Because even though it's been five years and he's now taller than me and has a light scruff of facial hair, I recognize that smirk. Of course I do.
Oh fie.CHAPTER 2
"You two know each other?" Joe's eyebrows lift in surprise. "Huh. Small world."
Yes. Too small. Way, way too small.
I glance warily at Wesley. "I thought you moved to Portland."
He snaps the eye patch back over his eye. "And San Francisco. And Chicago. And Vegas," he says. "But my mom has always wanted to move back to Seattle, so ... here we are. Again."
Here you are again, indeed.
I stuff the rag into my apron and glance at Joe. "I have a table waiting. I should probably get back out there."
"Do me a favor and take Wesley with you," Joe says. "Show him the ropes."
Ugh, really? It's a struggle to keep the smile on my face, but I can't exactly refuse my boss. Not without explaining why. I don't want anyone to know my history with Wesley James, so I turn on my heel and lead him through the kitchen to the small bar tucked in the back. Bar may be a bit of a misnomer, since we don't actually serve alcohol. What we have is a soda fountain, an espresso machine, and a few gallons of milk tucked into a small glass-front refrigerator.
"So, Q. It's been, what? Four years?" Wesley watches as I grab a carton of milk and start to fill a plastic goblet stamped with the Tudor Tymes logo — a silver crest with a monogram of two interlocking Ts.
I can feel him assessing me, marking the changes since we last saw each other. My hair is longer, but still blond and curlier than I'd like it to be. I also have a lot more happening in the chestal area than I used to, which, judging from the way Wesley's staring, he's definitely noticed. It makes me wish I had a sweater or jacket or something to cover up with.
I may look physically different, but I still feel the same inside.
I still Hate. His. Guts.
"Five, actually," I say, sticking the milk carton back into the fridge. I set the goblet on a round silver tray along with a wicker basket lined with blue cloth.
"So fill me in. What have you been up to?" What have I been up to? Hm. How to boil it down? Well, my parents got a divorce and my dad has pretty much been living like a nomad, bouncing from job to job. Still struggling with his gambling addiction, thanks for asking. Oh, and my gran, well, we had to put her in a home a couple of months ago. She has Alzheimer's.
And all of this is your fault, Wesley James. Well, maybe not the part about Gran getting Alzheimer's; I guess I can't blame him for that. But he's definitely had a hand in everything else.
This isn't exactly the place to unload on him, though, so I just say, "Stuff."
"Stuff?" Wesley shakes his head. "Yeah, that really doesn't tell me anything."
Kind of the point.
I use a pair of tongs to pinch two rolls from underneath the heat lamp. There's a beat of silence while Wesley waits for me to hold up my end of the conversation. This is the part where I'm supposed to ask him what his life has been like, how he's spent the past five years. When I don't, he jumps back in, like I knew he would. Wesley never could stand silence.
"Well, I see one thing hasn't changed," he says. "You haven't outgrown your fascination with all things English." He catches the surprise on my face. "It's why you're working here, right?" I nod, dropping the rolls into the basket. "I can't believe you remember that."
"I remember a lot of things about you," he says.
I remember things about you, too. And none of them are good.
Wesley reaches past me, grabs the rolls out of the basket, and starts to juggle them. Which is not only weird but completely unhygienic. "How's your gran?" The mention of Gran makes my heart squeeze. I guess that must show on my face, too, because Wesley stops mid-juggle. "Wait ... she's not ...?" I shake my head. "Still alive." If you can call it that.
His face relaxes in relief. "Great. You know, I'd love to see her. Catch up."
Not going to happen. Wesley's already taken so much from me. I'm not letting him have Gran, too.
"You know, juggling with the food is generally frowned upon," I say.
"Whoops. Sorry. Force of habit," he says sheepishly, dropping the rolls back in the basket.
I toss the soiled buns in the garbage and grab some fresh ones. Lifting up the tray, I push through the kitchen door and make my way, once again, to table nine. Fortunately, it's a slow night and I only have the one table to worry about.
The kids seem to have settled down, probably because they're stuffed full of nutritious, deep-fried turkey. I set the milk down in front of Boy Number One and place the basket in the center of the table. They didn't ask for more bread, but sometimes more bread is the key to getting a better tip. Or any kind of tip.
"How now." I bob a curtsey. "Prithee, I'd like to introduce —"
"Captain Grimbeard," Wesley interjects, extending his hand to give each boy a hearty handshake. They stare at him, awestruck. Clearly, pirate trumps royal servant in the eyes of eight-year-old boys.
"Um, yeah. Anyway," I say. "Captain Grimbread —"
"Captain Grimbeard is assisting me tonight. Pray tell, can I get thee anything else?" It's like I haven't even spoken, these kids are so into Wesley and his stupid eye patch.
"You lads like magic?" Wesley reaches over and pulls a Tudor Tymes chocolate coin from behind Boy Number Two's ear, a totally lame trick that somehow manages to delight the entire table. They erupt in applause like he's David Copperfield or something.
A few minutes later, I'm pushed aside while Wesley makes balloon animals — which, hello, they totally did not have balloons in the Middle Ages. And even if they did, they were probably sheep bladders or something, and they almost certainly didn't use them to make balloon animals.
When the trumpet sounds to signal the start of the show, I shepherd Wesley to the back of the room, where the waitstaff are supposed to remain, hidden in the shadows. I guess this is to make sure that none of us distract the audience from the real show — i.e., Alan.
"So, you're, like, a pirate magician?" I whisper to Wesley as the lights dim.
He smiles. "Cool, huh?"
"That doesn't even make sense," I say. "Pirates don't do magic tricks. They rape and pillage."
"You're thinking of Vikings."
Clearly, I need to bone up on my pirate history.
"Okay, fine. But I know for a fact that they didn't have magicians in the Middle Ages."
"Well ... technically, the king had fools —"
I can't help but smile.
"— but you're right — they were more like clowns than magicians," he says. "But who doesn't love magic?"
Right now? I'm not so fond of it. Unless, of course, Wesley's able to make himself disappear. That I could definitely get behind.
"I can't believe you're still so into it," I say. Wesley used to carry a magic wand with him everywhere. But that was when we were eleven.
He shrugs. "Some things stick with you."
I can't argue with that. After all, as he pointed out earlier, I've been borderline obsessed with England for years. That probably seems just as weird to him.
"Explain the balloon animals, then," I say. "Not something magicians normally do."
"I worked the birthday party circuit in Vegas."
"Wow. That's ..."
"Geeky?" Wesley smiles. "Go on. You can say it. But I'll be laughing all the way to the bank." He holds up a five-dollar bill and nods toward table nine.
I narrow my eyes and make a grab for the bill, but he holds it out of my reach. "That's my tip, you ass! I earned it."
He folds the money into his pants pocket, where he knows I'm not about to go after it. "Maybe we can work out an arrangement. Magicians always need assistants."
Is he kidding? He started working here an hour ago. As if I'm going to help him with his stupid tricks!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wesley James Ruined My Life"
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Honeybourn.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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