I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the True Love At The Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling, which is published TODAY! How gorgeous is this book? If that cover hasn’t got you rushing to grab a copy, then here’s an extract to tempt you…Enjoy, and look out for my review coming soon!
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good job, four bossy sisters and a needy cat must also have want of her one true love. Or is it?
Another delightful novel from the author of The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts. Perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Jenny Colgan
Verity Love – Jane Austen fangirl, manager of London’s first romance-only bookshop Happy Ever, and an introvert in a world of extroverts – is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and quite happy hiding in the office and lying to her friends about her fictional boyfriend Peter, whose presence is very useful for getting her out of social events.
But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.
Because ‘Peter’ is actually Johnny, and he too could use a fictional girlfriend. So against her better judgement and because she can’t stand sitting on the sad singles table, Verity and Johnny decide to partner up for a summer season of weddings, big number birthdays and garden parties, culminating in her sister’s Big Fat Wedding.
And by the end of the summer, there’s a bad case of heartache that even Verity’s beloved Pride And Prejudice might not be able to cure…
Published 10th August 2010 by HarperCollins (UK)
It had rained while she’d sat in the pub. Verity could smell the heavenly scent of petrichor rising up from the damp, hot summer pavements as she walked along the slick cobblestones of Rochester Street, past the shops she knew so well: the Swedish deli, the old-fashioned sweet shop, the boutiques. Verity did think briefly of going home but the flat above Happy Ever After, which Posy had offered to Verity and Nina rent-free, didn’t feel like home yet. Besides, it was Friday evening, the start of the weekend, and Verity had Friday evening rituals and routines that were set in stone.
Verity rounded the corner into Theobald’s Road, hurrying past shops and offices and the estate agent with the brightly coloured Eames chairs, then turned left onto Southampton Row, which was bustling and brightly lit, full of people hurrying to meet friends or standing outside pubs in happy, chattery clumps. Verity ducked down a tiny road on her right, past a pub even more charming and olde worlde than The Midnight Bell, and stopped when she came to a small Italian restaurant. Its paintwork was red, its windows were steamed with condensation and when Verity pulled open the door she was greeted by the sound of people laughing and talking, glasses clinking, and a nose-twitching aroma of garlic and herbs.
Verity had discovered Il Fornello one Friday night several
years ago when she’d been walking the streets (not like that – she was a vicar’s daughter) to delay going back home. Home had been a double room she shared with her sister Merry in a house in Islington owned by the daughter of one of her father’s parishioners. The family had five children, a Spanish au pair, two bichon frises, one rabbit, a couple of guinea pigs and a goldfish. The noise and the smell were often overpowering. And to compound matters, Verity was also newly single after three years with Adam, her ex-boyfriend. It hadn’t been a good break-up, far from it, and it was very hard to brood in a noisy, smelly house where she didn’t even have her own room.
So, that long-ago evening, footsore and heartsore, and even though the thought of dining on her own in a restaurant made Verity break out in a cold sweat, she’d been lured into Il Fornello by Luigi, the owner, who then, like now, was coming forward to greet her.
‘Ah! Miss Very! You’re late tonight. We’d almost given up on you. Your usual table?’
‘Had to make a quick stop on the way.’ As she made her way to her usual table (tucked away in the corner so she wouldn’t be bothered by any lone wolves hoping to strike up a conversation) Verity looked back to check that she’d closed the door only to see Posy and Nina peering in at the window.
Oh, they hadn’t!
They bloody well had!
Their curiosity about Peter Hardy, oceanographer, had triumphed over common sense and they’d followed her.
Now they were sure to burst in once they spotted Verity rooted to the spot amid the rustic tables and benches. Her heart quickened even as time seemed to slow down until it came to a grinding halt, much like Verity had. She let out a shaky breath. It would be all right. She could handle this; brazen it out. Except brazen was never a word that could be applied to Verity Love.
She had only two options. Fight or flight, and Verity chose flight every time. She could race up the stairs to the ladies, lock herself in and refuse to come out.
Except, that wasn’t a plan. It was ridiculous. She was a fully functioning adult and would simply have to stand her ground and come up with an excuse. Say that Peter Hardy, oceanographer, had stood her up and actually, she had tried to tell them that he’d been rather distant of late, oceans between them, etc. This could be the perfect opportunity to kill him off . . . but Verity was well aware of her own limitations and winging it was one of them.
Think! Think! For the love of God, think!
Verity looked wildly around the room, dimly aware of Luigi still at her side. ‘You’ve gone bright red, Miss Very. Are you all right? It’s very humid tonight, isn’t it? I hope you’re not going down with something.’
Down with this ship, Verity thought helplessly and then she saw him.
He was sitting at a table for two at the back of the room, an empty chair just waiting for her to skid over to it and sit down, which she did, hoping against hope that his date wasn’t in the loo.
The man frowned and looked up from his phone. He was young enough. Thirties anyway. No noticeable neck tattoos, wasn’t wearing anything horrible, just a plain white shirt under a jumper that almost matched the colour of his startled blue-green eyes. He’ll do, Verity decided. At a pinch, he’ll do.
‘Hello?’ He said it coldly, like a question. Like, who the hell are you and why are you sitting down at my table?
Verity risked a glance back at the room to see that her worst fears had been realised. Nina and Posy had come in and were looking round for her. Then Posy caught sight of Verity and nudged Nina who waved at her. Verity turned back to the solo diner. Oh God, he didn’t look very happy.
‘I’m so sorry about this. Are you on your own?’
He looked down at his phone and frowned again. Though really he hadn’t stopped frowning, it was more that his frown had deepened. ‘Apparently so.’ The frown evened out and he smiled at her tightly, perfunctorily. ‘I know the restaurant’s busy but I’d rather eat on my own, if you don’t m—’
‘Very! Don’t pretend that you can’t see us!’
Verity closed her eyes and wished that not being able to see Nina and Posy would mean that they couldn’t see her either. Sadly, life was never that kind. ‘Please,’ she whimpered. ‘I beg of you. Just go along with this. Please.’
‘Go along with what?’ he asked, but it was too late. Verity felt hands land heavily on her shoulders and smelt the heavy rose fragrance that Nina favoured.
‘Very! Aren’t you going to introduce us?’