When the rundown Rocks Hotel comes up for auction in Mariscombe, Lisa and her boyfriend George make a successful bid to escape and live the dream. But their dream quickly becomes a nightmare. Their arch-rival, Bruno Thorne, owner of the Mariscombe Hotel, seems intent on sabotage.
Meanwhile, local chambermaid Molly is harbouring a secret that will blow the whole village apart. Then an unexpected visitor turns up on the doorstep. It seems everyone in Mariscombe is sailing a little too close to the rocks...
Lisa Jones was struggling desperately to minimize her cleavage. Breathing in only enhanced it; hunching her shoulders had a similar effect. No matter how hard she tried, sixty-five per cent of her bosom was on display. Which wasn’t surprising, as she was a 36dd and her jacket was a size ten.
She was convinced Milo had done it on purpose. The single-breasted red jacket with matching skirt was a departure from the usual skimpy outfits promotions girls wore at motor shows, but Lisa refused to conform to the stereotype. That wasn’t what she was about any more. If Milo wanted her on his stand, then he had to accept that she would dress like a businesswoman, not a glamour model. On her thirtieth birthday, six months before, she had decided she was too old to have everything on display. Those days were over. From now on she was to be fully clothed, on or off camera, and if her clients didn’t like it they could choose someone else to promote their wares.
Milo obviously disagreed with her decision and bringing her an outfit two sizes too small was his idea of forcing her into a compromise. Once she’d managed to squeeze herself into it, Lisa decided she looked more voluptuous and inviting than if she’d been wearing one of the gold bikinis sported by the girls on the next stand. The jacket acted like a corset, squeezing her waist in and her breasts out. Had Lisa had time she would have gone and bought a polo-neck jumper to go underneath, but thanks to the traffic on the motorway she only had fifteen minutes to get ready before the show opened.
She struggled with the skirt zip, tutting as she discovered that the skirt only just reached mid thigh. She was grateful that she had worn tights and not hold-ups, otherwise she would have spent all day tugging the hem down to cover the tops of her stockings. She surveyed her reflection in the mirror and narrowed her eyes at Milo, who nodded in approval.
‘You look gorgeous,’ he reassured her. Milo had a large showroom on the outskirts of Coventry, selling ‘previously enjoyed’ prestige motor cars. This show was the high point of his year, his chance to show off to the general public.
‘Don’t think I don’t realize you did it on purpose,’ Lisa retorted, tying her mass of brunette ringlets back into a ponytail in a vain attempt to look businesslike. Even wearing flat shoes wouldn’t help. Lisa sighed as she slipped on her black suede courts with the three-inch heels. She didn’t want the clients towering over her. There was nothing worse than having to look up at someone who was leering at your de´colle´te.
Lisa was used to men staring. She was only five foot two, with creamy, luminescent skin, wild dark curls, dancing brown eyes with incredibly long upturned lashes, and rosebud lips that were generally curved into a smile guarded by two of the deepest dimples. That she was ravishingly pretty was the icing on the cake, however, for her real attribute was her hourglass figure, the ultimate glamour girl proportions. It might not be fashionable to have such generous curves – she would never in a million years make the catwalk or the pages of a fashion magazine – but for promotion work, she was ideal: she attracted custom like a magnet. And of course the warmth of her personality, her infectious laugh, her irresistible charm combined with her total professionalism meant she was much in demand.
Despite her misgivings, ten minutes later she was on the stand, smile at the ready, leaflets in hand. The exhibition hall was boiling hot and airless, and she could barely breathe in her restrictive clothing. The bones of her bra were digging in; there was sweat trickling down her back. A burst of music from a neighbouring stand blared out as four dancers writhed around a low-slung black sports car to rapturous applause, drawing an instant audience of middle-aged men who weren’t sure which to lust after more, the motor or the girls. Sadly for the majority of them, both were out of reach. The show peddled wares attainable by only a few, but dreaming, as everyone knows, is free. Thus men strode around the exhibition hall looking knowledgeable; surveying the vehicles with arms crossed, nodding their heads sagely in agreement as they debated their various merits, pretending to themselves and those around them that they could actually afford what they were looking at; that it was just a question of weighing up the pros and cons before making their final choice. It was for the most part a charade. Ninety-five per cent of the people attending the show couldn’t come close to affording as much as a spare tyre. But that didn’t matter: it was the remaining five per cent the exhibitors needed. The five per cent who stood back and kept their counsel, not wishing to look too eager. Although there was always one who couldn’t resist showing off, doing a deal in full view of the other visitors, anxious to display their usually new-found wealth and revelling in the envy of passers-by.
By midday, Lisa was dealing with just one of those. In his late fifties, wearing a petrol-blue washed-silk shirt under a leather waistcoat and sporting a neatly clipped grey beard, he was hustling Lisa for a price on a mouthwatering navy-blue Maserati.
‘There’s no point in trying to negotiate with me. Mr Sweet will be back in a moment,’ she said politely, willing Milo to reappear. He always spent most of the show networking, bartering with other dealers. They swapped cars like little boys in a playground swapping Dinky toys, apparently oblivious to the sums of money involved.
‘Come on,’ he persisted. ‘If you can get me some discount, I’ll see you right.’
He leaned right in to Lisa, and she breathed in a noxious layer of aftershave.
‘I’m sorry. But I’m nothing to do with negotiations. I’m just here to hand out leaflets.’
‘Now don’t do yourself down. I’m sure you’ve got in- fluence. And I bet a bit of extra cash wouldn’t go amiss, would it?’ His eyes gleamed behind his tinted glasses as he gawped at her chest. ‘Get yourself something nice to wear.’
Lisa smiled a smile that anyone but a fool would see meant ‘back off’.
‘Mr Sweet will be back in a moment.’
The man pursed his too-red lips into a little moue of disapproval. Then he gave Lisa another appraising glance. He obviously liked what he saw, as his apparent sulk dissolved and he gave her what he thought was a charming smile.
‘Why don’t you come out for dinner with me after the show finishes?’
‘I don’t think so. But thank you.’
‘Come on. Admit it. That’s why you work here, isn’t it? So you can meet someone rich? You’d love to go out in one of these, wouldn’t you?’
He indicated the Maserati. Lisa tried hard to bite her tongue, but she’d had enough. Enough of being ogled and propositioned...
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'This page-turner is as thought-provoking as it is tear-jerking - and it will have you dreaming of sunnier places'
'[Love on the Rocks] fizzles with surprise in a plot which makes it unputdownable and a brilliant holiday read'
Telegraph and Argus
Woman & Home
'The perfect summer read, full of glamour and intrigue'