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Publishedby Arrow Books in 2006

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Copyright ©Katie Fforde 2005

KatieFforde has asserted her right under the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of thiswork

This novelis a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of

the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, livingor

dead, is entirelycoincidental

This bookis sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or

otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated withoutthe

publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other thanthat in

which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition

being imposed on thesubsequent purchaser

Firstpublished in the United Kingdom in 2005 by Century

Arrow Books

The Random House Group Limited

20 Vauxhall BridgeRoad, London, SW1V 2SA

RandomHouse Australia (Pty) Limited

20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point, Sydney,

New South Wales2061, Australia

RandomHouse New Zealand Limited

18 Poland Road, Glenfield,

Auckland 10, NewZealand

Random House(Pty) Limited

Isle of Houghton, Corner of Boundary Road & Carse O'Gowrie,

Houghton 2198, SouthAfrica

Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009


A CIPcatalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Papers usedby Random House

are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in

sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to

the environmentalregulations of the country of origin

ISBN 978 009 947236 0 (from Jan 2007)

ISBN 0 09 947236 8

Typeset inPalatino by Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Polmont, Stirlingshire

Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by

Bookmarque Ltd,Croydon, Surrey


ToThe Thameshead Singers,

especially the subversive second sopranos.

Thankyou for letting me be a member.



Acknowledgments *

None of this would have been possible without the following people. You know what you've done and I thank you.


Chris and Jean Arnison, Lindsey Braune, Elizabeth Poole, Paul Wakeman, Catriona Aspray, and all thestaff at The CotswoldAuction Company. Elizabeth Lindsay and Cheryl Gibson for carboot sale help.


From Random House, in no particular order, KateElton, Georgina Hawtrey-Woore, CharlotteBush, Justine Taylor, the wonderful salesteam, Mike Morgan and everyone elsewho makes being published by Random House so much fun.


To Richenda Todd, as always a meticulous andsensitive copy editor and worth her weight inrubies.


To Sarah Molloy, Sara Fisher and the rest of the A.M. Heath team, who are kind, supportive and moneygrubbing in a good way!


And lastly, my family, who inspire me, support meand keep me on the straight and narrow(sometimes).


 A yowl from the plastic box at her feet made Floralook down anxiously.Was Imelda actually having kittens, or was she still just complaining aboutbeing shut up in a pet carrier on a hot summer day?

‘Not now, sweetie, please!' Floraimplored through gritted teeth. 'Justhang on until I've got this meeting over.Then I'll find you a nice bed and breakfast where they like cats.’

Aware that her pleadings were really a displacementactivity, Flora picked up theyowling Imelda, hooked herhandbag over her shoulder, hitched her overnight bag over her arm and went up the steps. She wasslightly regretting hernew shoes. They were divinely pretty witha heavenly fake peony between the toes, but not worn in and therefore killingly uncomfortable. Notone to sacrificeprettiness for comfort, Flora ignored the incipient blisters and pressed the bell. Seeing herown surname on thebrass plate above it gave her a strange thrill. The family firm, and she was joining it.

The door was opened by a tall woman wearing a lot of navy blue. She was a little older than Flora,and had a no-nonsenselook about her which inevitably made Florathink of Girl Guides. My shoes may be not quite suitable, thought Flora, togive herself confidence, but nor is that colour in this heat.In other circumstances, Flora realised, she would yearn to do a Trinny and Susannahon her.

‘Hello,' said thewoman, smiling professionally, 'you mustbe Flora. Do come in. We're so looking forward to meeting you.Especially Charles.’

Flora smiled too. 'I hope you won't mind, but I've got my cat with me. I can't leave her in the car inthis heat. Apartfrom anything else, she's very pregnant.’

A little frown appeared between the woman's eyebrows as she looked down at the box. 'Oh, well, no, I'm sure it will be fine for a short time. AlthoughI'm terribly allergic, I'm afraid.'

‘Oh dear. I suppose I could leave heroutside the door . . .' Flora bither lip to indicate that in fact she couldn't leave Imelda anywhere except at her feet. 'But she might have herkittens at any moment.'

‘You'd better come in,' said thewoman, her professional manner beginning to fray. 'We're in here.' She opened the door of a room which was mostly filledwith a table, around which were several empty chairs.

The room's sole occupant, a tall, conventionallyhandsome manwearing a dark suit and a very conservative tie, got up. Obviously Charles, her cousin fifteenmillion times removed.

Not promising. Flora depended on her charm to ease her way through life and had learnt to spot the fewwith whom thiswouldn't work. He was a classic example, she could tell; he didn't like girls with prettyshoes, strappy dressesand amusing jewellery. He liked sensible girls who wore driving shoes, or plain leathercourts with mediumheels. His idea of good taste was a single row of real pearls with matching earrings, andpossibly a bangle on special occasions.

When the woman who had brought her in (displaying all these signs of proper dress sense) touched hisarm and said,'Darling, this is Flora,' Flora wasn't at all surprised to see the sapphire and diamondengagement ring on her lefthand. They made the perfect County couple.

‘Flora,' said Charles, holding out hishand. 'How nice to meet you afterall these years.' He didn't sound all that pleased.

‘Mm.' Flora shook the hand, smiled andnodded; she wasn't that pleased,either. She had totally reorganised herlife to take a part in the family business with, she realised now, desperately inadequate research.Charles and his worthy,conventionally dressed fiancée didn't wanther, wouldn't make her welcome, and her spell in the country could turn out to be horribly dull. Still, she'dmade her bed, and she'd have to lie in it - at least until the sub-let on her London flat expired. 'It's very nice

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