In a gorgeous quay-side hotel in Cornwall, the long weekend is just beginning... Claire Marlowe owns 'The Townhouse by the Sea' with Luca, the hotel's charismatic chef. She ensures everything runs smoothly - until an unexpected arrival checks in and turns her whole world upside down.
And the rest of the guests arrive with their own baggage. There's a couple looking for distraction from a family tragedy; a man trying to make amends for an affair he bitterly regrets... and the young woman who thinks the Cornish village might hold the key to her past.
Here are affairs of the heart, secrets, lies and scandal - all wrapped up in one long, hot weekend.
Bloody seagulls. And bloody Jeff. Why couldn’t he put the rubbish in the bin properly? They’d told him time and again that the gulls would rip the bag to shreds if he just dumped it on the top of the bin, but he never listened. And sure enough, the bag had been eviscerated and its contents strewn over the five square foot of grass that passed as a front garden. The grass that no one ever mowed, so it had grown as high as it could then drooped with the effort.
Angelica banged on the bathroom window, but the five gulls took no notice, lighting with glee on the remains of a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket that someone must have brought back from a night out, though heaven knows where – Angelica was pretty sure there wasn’t a KFC for fifty miles. That was the price you paid for living in Pennfleet. Pretty views, yes, but none of the things that were the lifeblood of your average twenty-one year old, like Topshop or Maccie D’s or even a bloody cinema.
Mention Pennfleet to most people and they thought of a picturesque harbour filled with merrily bobbing boats and quaint narrow streets lined with even quainter cottages painted in ice-cream pastels. It was the subject of a thousand cliche´d paintings, many of which hung for sale in its bars and cafe´s, hefty price tags swinging from their distressed wooden frames. The shops sold self-consciously stylish leisure wear – ditsy dresses, sloppy sweatshirts in dusty pinks and blues and patterned Wellingtons – bijou mugs with clever-clever slogans and hand-made jewellery, all at overinflated prices. Families thundered through the streets in an orgy of excitement, revelling in the playground that was theirs for the summer, with little regard for the custodians, the locals who held it together over the long winter months and served them their cream teas and gin and tonics. Boden-on-Sea, they called it, and in the summer you couldn’t move for men in khaki shorts and deck shoes, and fragrant yummy mummies in capri pants and Chanel sunglasses.
What most visitors to Pennfleet didn’t know was that if they followed the road up past the museum and forked left, past the tiny fire station and then over the hill and right into Acland Avenue, they would find a grimy grid of uncared-for terraced houses totally out of keeping with the maritime idyll it overlooked. Here was the underbelly, the residents of Pennfleet who weren’t blessed with a view of the verdant mouth of the river and the sea beyond and whose only hope of gainful employment was a season of backbreaking sheetchanging or toilet-cleaning, unless they were lucky enough to have a job at the pie factory on the nearby industrial estate on the way to St Austell.
And even the chance to change sheets and clean toilets was diminishing. The hotel and cafe´ and restaurant owners were doing a lot of their own dirty work to keep costs down, and many of the B&Bs had been converted into selfcatering apartments. Times were hard, and although the word on the street was that people would be holidaying at home this summer thanks to the recession, bookings so far were down. Except at the high end, it seemed, which remained buoyant, with bookings ahead for the whole summer. And for that Angelica was grateful. She had started out as a chambermaid at The Townhouse by the Sea five years ago, at weekends and during the holidays. When she left school they offered her a full-time job as receptionist, and she’d grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Then, three weeks ago, they’d promoted her to assistant manager.
She picked up her suit from where she’d left it on the floor the evening before. The black linen skirt was crumpled; the jacket not so bad. She tried to smooth out the fabric but the creases were deeply engrained. She’d have to iron it. Claire would go ballistic if she was less than bandbox-fresh. The Townhouse by the Sea was all about style over practicality. Everything was high-maintenance, from the Egyptian cotton sheets to the glittering glass and chrome surfaces in the bathrooms that needed polishing with a soft cloth. No corners were cut.
At least as assistant manager she wouldn’t have to do the backbreaking donkey work any more, unless they were really short-staffed. Angelica had been thrilled with her promotion, although the gloss had been taken off that thrill by the fact that her pay packet wasn’t going to show much increase.
‘Our margins are so tight at the moment,’ Claire had explained, her eyes wide. ‘But if the summer is a success, we can give you a bonus.’
And if it wasn’t? Angelica knew only too well, having lived in Pennfleet all her life, that a dull, rainy summer could be the kiss of death to any seaside business. And she wasn’t convinced that the Townhouse was going to get away for much longer with the rates they were charging.
Luxury was all very well, but over two hundred quid a night? Unless it was a real scorcher, they’d be lucky if they weren’t bankrupt by the end of the summer.
Which would be devastating. Not least for her. For Angelica realised that she had landed on her feet. She loved every minute she spent in the hotel, and she was hungry to learn everything she could. Every job she’d had before had just been a means to an end, a way to get cash into her hand, but this was different. If she was going to be stuck round here for the rest of her life – and at the moment it looked that way – then the Townhouse was the place to be stuck.
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'So many things happen over the couple of days and Henry has woven the events around each other in a fascinating, highly believable and highly enjoyable way'
'This story is fun and fast-paced and you are bound to find yourself rooting for the main character Claire as well as wishing you could spend your weekend at the beautiful Townhouse on Sea'
No 1 magazine
'Beautifully written and dreamily descriptive, this delightful read will make you laugh, sob ... and pack up the car for a trip to the Cornish Coast'
'Fast-paced and full of guilty secrets The Long Weekend is a great summer read. Veronica Henry's creation of a clever web of characters, each with their own story to tell, makes this a real page-turner'
'A host of different personalities fill this fun summer read - the talented Veronica Henry's tenth book'