Million Love Songs, p.1Carole Matthews
Hello lovely reader!
Just a note to say thanks for choosing to spend time with me and my book.
A story often begins with watching and listening to the people around you and I’m lucky enough to be friends with some ladies who are very dedicated fangirls. One of my dear friends is devoted to all things eighties, one is a complete Kylie nut, one loves a bit of George Michael and the other is a long-term follower of Take That. Between them, they gave me some really good ideas for the plot of this story. I’ve had great fun with the research including watching many hours of Take That videos. What’s not to love?
But really it’s a tale of a woman just trying to find her way in the world with all the trials and tribulations that involves. I hope you’ll love Ruby Brown and her take on things. Put a bit of Take That on the iPod and immerse yourself in Ruby’s world!
Love Carole xx
If you want to keep up with what’s happening, new releases, a bit of chat and some fab giveaways, you can find me on Facebook and on Twitter. I try to reply to all of my messages. You can subscribe to my newsletter at www.carolematthews.com. I don’t share your information with anyone else and you can subscribe whenever you like. I’m also on Instagram, but haven’t a clue why.
Also by Carole Matthews
Let’s Meet on Platform 8
A Whiff of Scandal
More to Life Than This
For Better, For Worse
A Minor Indiscretion
A Compromising Position
The Sweetest Taboo
With or Without You
You Drive Me Crazy
Welcome to the Real World
It’s a Kind of Magic
All You Need is Love
The Difference a Day Makes
That Loving Feeling
It’s Now or Never
The Only Way is Up
Wrapped Up in You
With Love at Christmas
A Cottage by the Sea
Calling Mrs Christmas
A Place to Call Home
The Christmas Party
The Cake Shop in the Garden
Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses
Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights
THE CHOCOLATE LOVERS NOVELS
The Chocolate Lovers’ Club
The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet
The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas
The Chocolate Lovers’ Wedding
Published by Sphere
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 Carole Matthews
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
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London EC4Y 0DZ
Also by Carole Matthews
About the Author
Chapter One Hundred
Chapter One Hundred and One
Chapter One Hundred and Two
Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of thirty novels, including the top ten bestsellers The Cake Shop in the Garden, A Cottage by the Sea, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas and Calling Mrs Christmas. In 2015, Carole was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world and she is published in more than thirty countries.
For all the latest news from Carole, visit www.carolematthews.com and sign up to her newsletter. You can also follow Carole on Twitter (@carolematthews) and Instagram (matthews.carole) or join the thou
To my dear friend, Hayley Butcher.
Shy person, black tooth, bag lady, mad flamingo fancier, a fan of the filthy crochet, extreme worrier, super crafter, sausage fondler, style guru and all-round nice person.
Happy Big Birthday. Again!
Thanks to my lovely Yvette Hughes for expert help and advice on all things relating to Gary Barlow and Take That. For being my designated carer on our outings. For always having your friends’ backs. Your kindness knows no bounds.
Hello, I’m Ruby Brown. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. What do you need to know? Let’s see. I’m thirty-two and I live at Princess Sparkle Palace, Great Holm, Costa del Keynes. It’s one of the nicer areas of the city and I live in an enormous four-bed detached home which overlooks a lake.
Well, I actually have a self-contained apartment over someone’s garage. Someone who is a lot richer than I am. OK, even that’s over-egging it. I essentially live in a rented granny annexe that you can’t swing a cat in. It’s not sparkly. It’s not a palace. It’s a granny annexe. But it’s my granny annexe, mine alone. And the lake is real. I try to convince myself that what my home lacks in size it makes up for by having a great view. Every morning I wake to the sound of quacking ducks. That has to count for something, no?
My birthday is 6 June. So I’m a Gemini. That makes me sociable, communicative and ready for fun. Frankly, a fat lot of good that’s done me. It doesn’t say ‘gullible’ anywhere on the list of Gemini Traits, but I am. Really, I am.
I’m actually trying really hard to be my most sociable, communicative and ready-for-fun self at the moment, as I’m recently divorced from my husband and am starting out on a New and Exciting Life as a footloose and fancy-free single woman once more. At least, that’s the plan. Though I have to confess that I’m currently feeling a little daunted by the whole thing. Simon and I had been together for five years and you kind of get out of the habit of being by yourself, don’t you? I feel as if I’ve lost one of my limbs. One that I’ll be able to manage without in time, obvs, but it’s still bloody tough getting used to it.
When Simon and I parted – more acrimoniously than was probably needed – I walked away from my job, my home, my friends, my everything. Madness, I know. But I was heartbroken – still am – and felt cut loose. I needed a fresh start where no one knew me, where my pain didn’t say hello before I did.
If you met me, you’d think that I was the most staid and responsible person on the planet. I’m not known for my irrational behaviour or my impulsiveness. I’m good old reliable Ruby. Look how far that got me! So I decided that I was going to become a new and different version of me. One that was open to adventure, spontaneity and fun. So I set about shaking it all up a bit.
My old job in finance at the council was the first major thing to go. I was comfortable in that job. It paid well and I’d accrued a ridiculous amount of holiday entitlement and an enviable, gold-plated pension pot. Though, in truth, I hated every minute I spent there. I hated the work, I hated my colleagues, I hated the beige carpet, I hated the group huddle we had every morning for fifteen minutes to discuss how we could ‘as a team’ improve our working practices. The whole thing made me want to claw my own eyeballs out. No one – except me – thought that stopping the stupid group huddles would be the best way forward. I did it because it was a ‘good’ job with virtually zero chance of being made redundant. And because I was a little bit frightened of change. That’s no reason to stay anywhere, is it?
As part of the New Year, New Me vibe I felt the world of local government finance would be better without my contribution. My boss would probably tell you that he felt much the same. There are better ways, I think, to spend your nine-to-five. I wanted to get out into the world, meet new people. New people who didn’t think that a suit from Asda was the height of fashion. I’m still young – relatively speaking – but I feel ancient and dull. I want to get out there and mix it up a bit before I am actually too decrepit to enjoy it. In the words of Freddie Mercury, I want to break free!
So I’ve entered the heady world of hospitality instead. I know you’re thinking Event Organiser or Wedding Planner, something exciting like that. What I’ve actually done is become a waitress at a posh gastropub on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. Which seems to mean nothing more than having a lot of pancetta and butternut squash on the menu and writing said menu on a chalkboard. The pay is terrible, the holidays even worse. Yet, strangely enough, I love it. I enjoy meeting new people every day. The customers are fun, mostly, and the team I work with is great. I know what you’re thinking. So ask me again if I still like it in a year’s time. However, this really is only a stopgap job until my confidence in myself is restored and I decide what I’m doing with my new and exciting life.
What else can I tell you? I love music, films and anything containing copious calories. I love Kylie Minogue, though I am probably twice her height and size. Unfortunately, the only thing I share with Kylie is that I have the same penchant as her for picking The Wrong Guy.
In my younger days, I did my share of dating truly dreadful men. Though, much like Kylie, I never actually managed to spot how dreadful they were until after the event. I even went as far as marrying one of them – the aforementioned Simon. More fool me. Though he wasn’t horrible when I married him.
He was lovely. We laughed a lot. He bought me roses. Only from the local One Stop Shop, but that’s more than a lot of men do. We were good together. I thought he was the love of my life. It was such a shock when it all went horribly wrong.
But all of life is a lesson. So now I’m done with relationships. I’ve given up on men, the lot of them. I’m concentrating on being Single and Fabulous. Though, at times, it feels like a steep learning curve. I’m opening myself to new opportunities. I’m going to be like that bloke who said yes to everything for a year. I’m going to see where life takes me.
I need to get a bit of a wiggle on with it, too. I feel as if time is running out for me to fulfil my dreams. And I have dreams, you know. I’d like my own home one day, a car that starts without me having to swear at it, more money coming into my bank account than goes out of it, a job that suits my skill set – whatever that might prove to be. They’re not big dreams in the scheme of things, I admit. They’re probably quite small. But they’re my dreams.
Though, one day, I do hope to own a unicorn.
Actually, back in reality, I’m thirty-eight and feeling so disillusioned that I’m not even sure that I believe in unicorns any more.
So. What are the first things you do when you find yourself unceremoniously divorced? I tell you what you do. Change your job. We’ve already covered that. Then you drastically change your hairstyle, lose some weight and take up some reckless and possibly life-threatening pursuit.
Ergo, my long brown hair is now a sharp-cut blonde bob. I might as well see if it’s true that blondes have more fun. If I’m honest, I think they just take more selfies. They also spend a lot more time dyeing their hair. On the weight front, I’ve dropped a stone simply due to the inability to eat while crying. I’m thinking of marketing it as the Next Big Thing diet plan. Weight Loss the Weeping Way! Believe me, the pounds drop off. Life-threatening pursuit? I’ve signed up for scuba-diving lessons. I know.
I’m not sure that the opportunity for scuba-diving is that widespread in Milton Keynes, but I tried Zumba and found my musical coordination abilities are seriously lacking. When everyone else was whooping and grapevining to the right, I was shimmying to the left all by myself. Plus they were all wearing tight, multi-coloured Lycra clothing that jingled when they moved. That’s never going to be a good look. To add insult to injury, the instructor was nineteen, size six and shouted a lot. When is that ever going to do anything for your self-esteem? Plus, doing Zumba isn’t exactly a lif
At this point, I’m thinking that rally driving might have been a better idea. Thought I do already have many points on my licence as another part of my End of Relationship Rehabilitation was to buy a sports car. Don’t get carried away and imagine a Porsche. This is an ancient and well-loved Mazda something or another that has more rust in evidence than polished chrome and smells vaguely of mould. The boot has a bag of those silica crystals in it to extract moisture – put there by the previous owner, I hasten to add. The moisture issue hasn’t just been since I took possession. It’s the sort of car that middle-aged, recently divorced women with no money drive. But it’s my Mazda, rather like my granny annexe. Even though there are dents on every body panel, it shows that it’s seen life and I love it just the same.
I should fill you in a bit more on my marriage, then you’ll understand where I’m at and why. I’d been with Simon for five years. A year of dating, a year of living together in a rented house in downtown Leighton Buzzard before we wed. So we hardly rushed into it. I met him in real life, at a work conference – unusual in these days of Tinder and e-dating, I think you’ll agree. He was in local government too. Traffic Management. It’s more interesting than it sounds. Well, not that much.
We met at a Social Responsibility weekend at a posh hotel. After all the boring presentations about initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social well-being, he bought me a drink in the bar afterwards. Three drinks, actually. Then we got a bit socially irresponsible together back in my room which was quite nice. My heart went pitter-patter and everything. All the things it’s supposed to do when it clocks true love. After that, we started seeing each other regularly and I fell in love. I thought he did too.
When we got married, it wasn’t a big do. We had a quickie register office ceremony with a few friends and family. Our wedding breakfast was a finger buffet at my parents’ house afterwards. Maybe that should have told me something. Simon wanted no fuss, the smallest wedding possible. Turns out he may have even preferred it if I hadn’t been there.
Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes