When Charlotte Briggs' husband Ed is sent down for fraud, she cannot find it in her heart to forgive him for what he has done. Ostracised from their social circle, she flees to the wilds of Exmoor to nurse her broken heart. But despite the slower pace of life, she soon finds that she is not the only person whose life is in turmoil.
There's Sebastian, enfant terrible of the British art scene, desperately trying to find his muse amongst the empty bottles.
Then Fitch, who married the high-spirited Hayley thinking he would find wedded bliss, but instead has found marital hell.
And finally Penny, local GP and recent divorcee, who is determined not to hurtle into middle age embittered and lonely.
Over the long winter months, the four of them share advice, copious bottles of wine, laughter ... and maybe more.
Sebastian Turner sprawled like a starfish in his favourite armchair, a bottle of Grey Goose swinging from the paint-smothered fingers of one hand, a roll-up in the other. He narrowed his eyes through the smoke, gazing around the walls at his companions. He’d spent the last six months with them, and it was nearly time to say goodbye. There was Madonna, slumped in front of EastEnders stuffing in a Big Mac; Katie Price in a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, engrossed in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment; Pete Doherty in the middle of a flower-bed, deadheading some roses.
It had seemed like such a great idea at the time, to do an entire exhibition based on the infamous painting that had got him all the publicity in the first place: a portrait of the Queen, slobbing out in her dressing gown and a pair of leopard-skin mules, smoking a fag and watching the Channel 4 racing. Sebastian wasn’t fooled by anyone’s public image. There was always an alter ego just below the surface. And he didn’t believe that Madonna was virtuous all the time, or Pete Doherty a villain. Just as he wasn’t always a temperamental, highly strung artist. He had days when he was perfectly down-to-earth and balanced.
Only today wasn’t one of them.
This latest exhibition was bound to be a success, not because it was controversial, but because here was art that people – the public – could actually understand. The paintings were visual puns, easy to grasp; not intellectual conundrums like pickled sharks or unmade beds that would have the Arts sections of the broadsheets locked in debate. And they were stunning. The subjects were instantly recognisable, almost photographic. Hyper-realism, if the man on the street did but know it. Which he probably wouldn’t.
Sebastian Turner loathed every last one of them. As he scrutinised his work, he could feel the bitter bile of self-loathing in his mouth. What a cop-out. What a waste of time. How could he have deluded himself that this was worth doing? It was a cynical, money-making exercise, a joke at other people’s expense. Admittedly, they were all people who could afford to have jokes made about them, and to be included in the exhibition would bring a certain kudos, affording them notoriety and guaranteed column inches. They would all be there at the preview – their publicists would make sure of that, because Sebastian Turner was, along with Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin, one of the few living artists that your average punter could actually name.
The son of boho-aristo parents, he had been expelled from three major public schools before finally settling down at a ‘progressive’ school in Devon which succeeded where everyone else had failed by tapping into his artistic talent and sending him on to art college, where he flourished. He first became known for his nudes. Exquisite and mouth-wateringly erotic, the skin of his subjects glowed with a shimmering luminosity that it didn’t seem possible to create with mere oil paint. In their eyes, he captured a look of unrequited lust or total satiation that earned his work the description of ‘posh porn’. Celebrities queued up to be painted by him. No one knew the identity of his client list, although Victoria Beckham was rumoured to have sat for him recently – a birthday present for David. But if he didn’t fall in love with his subject, he refused to let them sit for him. In his own words, his brush ‘couldn’t get it up for just anyone’.
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'A delightful journey that I was very sorry to see end'
Bookworm Ink Blog
'A great summer read - perfect for lazy afternoons'
'Veronica Henry is easy to read. Her sentences flow across the page and her technique is impressive. The book is first-class chick-lit and a great beach read'
'This compelling and romantic novel is a real winter warmer'