“Put a big smile on my face... and I absolutely love the message of the book... to live each and every day to its absolute fullest never to settle for second-best.... the perfect summer getaway.”Audio Killed the Bookmark
Until a few weeks ago, Leanne was a thirty-something who lived with her mother. And yes, she still slept under her Barbie bedspread.
Until recently, best friend Maddy was married to a man whose golf club got more action than she did.
But not anymore.
Leanne convinced Maddy enough was enough. They packed their bags, and their miniature poodle, and bid goodbye to their dreary lives for the summer.
Drinking wine under the stars and splashing around in the sparkling turquoise waters of Italy and the Dalmatian Islands should be every girl’s dream. Except… it’s not all plain sailing. Leanne soon sets her eyes on Carlo, a swoon-worthy Italian whose dark hair, green eyes and golden skin get her pulse racing. But does he have a secret? Maddy has her own opinions... as does Leanne on the new man in Maddy’s life.
Just when Leanne was starting to think she might have found something special, she has to ask: will this just be a holiday to remember, or even one she’d rather forget?
A joyful, laugh-out-loud and feel-good story that will make you want to pack your bags, set off on an adventure and live life to the max. Fans of Sophie Kinsella, Kristin Higgins and Carole Matthews will be totally hooked by this heart-warming read. Readers are totally and utterly loving A Holiday to Remember!
“Hilarious... had me laughing out loud... brilliant!” The Writing Garnet
“I did not want the story to end... lots of love and friendship and an emotional end. I hope there is more to come. I am so not ready to say goodbye.” B for Book Review, 5 stars
“Wonderful... didn't want it to end simply brilliant.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
“The perfect addition to your suitcase as you pack for your own holidays this summer... a fantastic summer read. Anyone who has a really super close best friend will immediately love the relationship between Maddy and Leanne... I found myself giggling from the first page.” Laura Morningstar
“This is a perfect holiday read for lazy sunny days... There’s plenty of fun and laughs but this well told, feel-good story also carries an important massage.” Reviews and Recommended Reads
“Heartwarming, romantic, uplifting, fun, witty, new friends, romantic flings, plenty of drama, sticky situations, happiness, beautiful scenery and guaranteed to put a great big smile on your face. Fabulous.” Goodreads reviewer
“I really wish I was still reading this book... I suppose I had to run out of pages at some point, at the rate I was devouring them… All the locations in Italy and Croatia were exquisitely described… perfect for these hot summer days or when you want to relive a holiday of your own. A pure joy... I would recommend it to everyone.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
Release date: August 15, 2018
Print pages: 296
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A Holiday to Remember
Portofino lay sparkling below them in the late afternoon sun. With its pastel houses clinging to the steep slopes all the way to the pretty harbour crammed with boats, it was an enchanting place. Leanne forgot all the stress of the long drive on the winding coast road from Nice. She looked at the breath-taking view of the town, the azure sea and cerulean skies and relaxed, leaning her sweaty back against the leather seat of the red Mercedes convertible.
‘Stunning,’ she sighed and pulled out her phone from the glove compartment. ‘Perfect shot for the next blog post.’
She took a few photos and then paused, staring at the glorious view, trying to take in that they were here, at the start of the next leg of their journey. What a roller coaster ride it had been. Winning all that cash in the lottery and then taking off in a red convertible for a mad road trip was still like a fantasy to Leanne. The drive from Ireland, through Wales and England and on to Amsterdam, Paris and finally the French Riviera had taken a new, exciting twist with the travel blog they were writing for Women Now magazine. All those women who followed it, cheering them on, being inspired by their great adventure. She smiled and put her phone back.
‘This is probably the most beautiful view of the whole trip,’ she said. ‘Don’t you think?’
Maddy didn’t move or speak. ‘It’s like a dream,’ she finally mumbled. ‘This town, this view… incredible.’
‘A mirage,’ Leanne said dreamily. ‘A fairy tale. Or something from one of those 1960s movies with Marcello Mastroianni. I can imagine Sophia Loren sashaying down the street singing “That’s Amore”.’
‘That was Dean Martin. And Sophia sashayed down the slums of Naples, not Portofino.’
‘I know.’ Leanne took a few more shots and put away her phone. ‘Do you always have to be the teacher? Can’t we take a break from our jobs for a while? It’s such a treat not to have a whole class of teenage girls glaring at us, don’t you think?’
‘Yes, but I like to stick to facts.’
‘Feck your facts. I like to dream a little. I’m sure Sophia sang “That’s Amore” too while making her famous spaghetti sauce. Then she fed it to Marcello and he licked her fingers before they jumped into bed. Those two. So sexy. I used to watch those movies on rainy Sundays when I was a teenager.’
Maddy sighed. ‘Oh yeah. Me too. There’s been nobody like them ever since.’
Maddy turned to Leanne. ‘I’m glad we left France. Sorry if I rushed you. But it all seemed to happen so fast. All of it. You finding your dad after all these years, my marriage finally ending and me suddenly – single. And then your dad being so… attractive, his fantastic house in the hills above Nice and then…’ She stopped.
‘And then Dad and you falling for each other?’ Leanne said softly. ‘Yeah that was a bit of a surprise, I must say. Not that he’s not very handsome and you such a hot chick, even at your age.’ She glanced at Maddy, hoping to cheer her up with her teasing.
Maddy smiled. ‘Thanks. I know anyone over forty is ancient to a thirty-two-year-old, but it seems the old libido is still alive and kicking.’
Leanne winked. ‘I could tell.’
Maddy blushed. ‘It’s a very romantic place, up there above Nice.’
‘It’s fabulous. But a little too glitzy and glamorous maybe, not like the real world. Like one of those old TV series. Dynasty meets Dallas on a James Bond set.’
Maddy laughed. ‘Yes, exactly. Overwhelming, I have to say. Sorry about being the teacher, bossy all the time. It’s kind of hardwired into me after all these years.’
‘I know.’ Leanne touched Maddy’s shoulder. ‘That’s okay. I didn’t mean to snap. Must be the heat. Makes me a little bitchy. And you didn’t rush me at all. I wanted to go too.’ She gripped the steering wheel and looked at Maddy. ‘We both needed to get away. From him. Dad, I mean. I know I could have spent more time to get to know him after all the years we’ve been apart, but I need some space now after all the drama. And so do you, right?’
Maddy sighed. ‘Yes. It was getting a little too – hot.’ She blushed. ‘Sorry. Don’t mean to embarrass you.’
‘You’re not.’ Leanne took a bottle of water from the side pocket of the driver’s seat. ‘I could feel the vibes between you two.’
‘It was more than vibes,’ Maddy confessed. ‘I think… Maybe… Given time, we could get together and build something. I felt very much in tune with him on so many levels. But it was too soon. We had this strong attraction to each other nearly from the first time we met. But it was only a little over a week ago! Too soon to start a relationship, even though the sparks between us were incredible. I never felt anything like it.’ Maddy glanced at Leanne. ‘I hope that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable.’
‘Not really. I didn’t want to be there when it was going on, that’s all. But that’s not why I wanted to leave. He was trying to get me to come and work with him and make me his top assistant. I had a feeling he wanted me to run the company so he could escape to somewhere and do his own thing.’
Maddy let out a laugh. ‘Yes, that’s about right. He’s bought an old farm in Haute Provence that he wants to restore. And he’s planning to breed goats and grow olives. Move there and live off the land.’
Leanne giggled, rolling her eyes. ‘Yeah, right. The clichéd fantasy of the aging hippie. Middle-aged men, huh? Always trying to live the dream and clinging to the impossible idea of never-ending youth.’
‘Who wants to grow old?’
Leanne shrugged. ‘Nobody, I suppose. But my dad…’ She paused. ‘He’s very determined to get what he wants and he always succeeds in the end. Me turning up on his doorstep after all those years was like a sudden windfall to him. There I was, all grown up, educated and perfectly capable to take over his empire. I even have “the nose”, for feck’s sake!’
Maddy laughed. ‘That nose thing is a bit of a hoot. You both having this amazing sense of smell and him building a perfume business because of it.’
‘Oh yes, I know. And he was delighted to find I had inherited this weird talent. And the icing on the cake was you – a woman to share his romantic getaway with. I bet he could imagine you in one of those floaty Provençal dresses, bare feet and a big Scarlett O’Hara straw hat feeding the goats. How perfect was that?’
Maddy smiled wistfully. ‘You’re probably right. Except for the goats.’ She sighed and stretched. ‘I needed some space too. I’m looking forward to the sailing trip.’
‘Me too.’ Leanne turned to look at their dog, asleep on the back seat. ‘I’m sure Bridget’s feeling the heat. Do you want me to put the top on and turn on the aircon? It’s getting too hot to bask in the sun.’
‘Yes, please.’ Maddy turned to pat the little poodle. ‘She’s panting, poor thing. Maybe we should take her out to let her have drink?’
‘We’ll be at the hotel in a few minutes. Then we can let her walk in the shade.’ Leanne pressed the switch and the roof came up behind them and settled with a soft click. She turned on the air-conditioning full blast and closed her eyes as the stream of cool air touched her face. It had been a tiring drive along the winding coast road from Nice on the first leg of the journey to the Adriatic coast of Italy where they would take the ferry to one of the Dalmatian islands. The road had been spectacular with hair-raising bends on the very edge of the cliffs, through long tunnels where enormous trucks thundered beside them, blaring their horns at cars that were in their way. And, as they emerged from the dark tunnels, the glimmering blue Mediterranean sea below them, sparkling under the hot sun, was sometimes too close for comfort. Leanne longed for the drive to end and the boat trip to begin.
The sailing trip had been just an idea at first. During a party at her father’s villa she had met Carlo, a cute Italian marketing manager who worked for her dad. She had thought his talk about a cruise in Dalmatia was just idle chatter but the following day Carlo had called her and asked if she and Maddy would like to get in on hiring a sailing boat, joining the trip he had mentioned. At the same time, Leanne had spotted the growing attraction between Maddy and her father, noticing that Maddy had seemed both confused and tense about it. Not surprising, Leanne thought. Maddy had only just broken up with her husband, she didn’t need to jump straight into a relationship, especially with someone like her dad. He was too impatient and driven. Maddy needed someone more gentle and relaxed, Leanne felt, not someone who expected everyone to march to his tune.
Having only just been reunited with him after twenty years, Leanne was as confused as Maddy. She had grown up with the conviction that her dad had abandoned her – that was the story her mum had told her – always feeling bitter and hurt about it. But when they met in France, she found that his side of the story was completely different. Instead of a selfish, irresponsible man, she discovered her father’s kind heart and deep sadness of having lost his daughter through no fault of his own, which moved her deeply. She had felt incredibly sorry for him when he told her how her mother had refused to marry him and share his dream of running a perfume business in France. Discovering her father’s considerable wealth and thriving perfume company had also been mind-blowing to her. She was still trying to get used to the idea of their reunion and future father-daughter relationship. He had talked about making her his heir and asked her to take over the business, and it frightened her. This wasn’t the freedom she had craved when she left Ireland and her needy mother, who had, she discovered, blocked her father’s every effort to keep in touch. It was beginning to dawn on her that her parents were oddly alike. Both strong and stubborn with a will of iron, unable to compromise and get on with each other. Domineering, controlling and – insecure. Maybe that was the source of the problem between them? Well, she wasn’t going to get caught in the middle, or get stuck running her dad’s business while he played farmers in the wilds of Haute Provence.
Leanne looked down the steep slope towards Portofino, where the road wound its way through olive groves and clumps of lemon trees and the fronds of palms swayed in the light breeze. She started the engine. ‘Are you ready?’ she asked Maddy.
Maddy’s eyes sparkled. ‘You bet!’
The car rolled down the hill. The next part of their adventure was about to begin.
Dear friends, here we are in beautiful Portofino, which is just as romantic and picturesque as the photo I just took. We had gruelling drive along the coast from Nice, where the traffic was BRUTAL! But oh, what views we were treated to as we whizzed around the hairpin bends, while all around us mad Italian drivers did their best to kill us, or at least squash us to jelly. I felt like I was on the last leg of the Monte Carlo Rally. The only thing missing was Cary Grant in the passenger seat, like in ‘To Catch a Thief’. (I’m into old movies, as you know by now.)
Anyhow, we’re now relaxing in this gorgeous hotel overlooking the harbour where sailing boats and yachts lie side by side with colourful fishing boats and everyone is having drinks before dinner at the cute little restaurants. I’m getting peckish myself, so I’ll say cheerio before jumping into the little black dress (with the emphasis on ‘little’) I bought in Nice on the way here. Maddy is wearing a white linen top with blue Capri pants, in case you were wondering. AND… we have a date with a hot Italian, the very man who invited us to sail around the Dalmatian Islands. We’ll be discussing boats and clothes and food and wine – ya know, the usual stuff for cruises. Gotta go as the prosecco beckons (and the cute Italian!). More later. Ciao bambini!
There. Done. Leanne closed the laptop and got up from the window seat in her hotel room where she had been sitting rather uncomfortably for the past half hour. Their blog on the Women Now website had become incredibly popular, growing from a couple of thousand followers to over a hundred thousand in the past few weeks. ‘The Great Euroscape’ blog was the go-to read for women all over Ireland and the UK, following Maddy and Leanne’s adventure ever since they left Ireland after their Lotto win in the syndicate with the other teachers. It seemed like a hundred years since the day they had got into the red sports car and set off from Maddy’s house, her grumpy (now ex-)husband waving them goodbye. Then there was a mad escapade in the Cotswolds, and the road trip winding through Europe all the way to Nice.
Leanne laughed and shook her head. You couldn’t make it up. Gosh, it was exciting, especially finding Erik, her dad, who had left home when Leanne was only twelve, not heard of again until she discovered he had adopted a whole new identity and started a business in Nice that had taken off big time and earned him millions. Meeting him again after two decades had been laced with pain and sorrow, swiftly replaced by anger at her mother.
The bitterness she had felt all her adult life towards her father had disappeared as the story unfolded. After he left, Erik had desperately tried to contact Leanne only to be stopped by her mother, who had practically declared him dead, simply because she didn’t want anyone to know he had just upped and left – she couldn’t bear the shame. Their reunion had been emotional and tearful. But it wasn’t all hugs and smiles. A good start, but that was all, Leanne reflected. It would take a long time before they had a solid relationship. He was still a stranger to her, someone she would have to learn about and get used to. And she was, no doubt, not the sweet little girl he had left behind, but a grown woman of thirty-two with a strong will and a need to be loved and accepted by her father.
Enough soul-searching. Leanne put the laptop into her suitcase and pulled the black dress out of the bag with the fancy logo from the boutique in Nice. Time to get dolled up for the dinner with Carlo. He was a ‘hottie’ as she had said in the blog post, and seemingly, much to Leanne’s excitement, just friends with the delectable Italian beauty Lucilla, who she had met back in Nice. Or was he? Leanne had a feeling they were somehow connected, but then Carlo had made her forget her suspicions when they danced under the stars and a big full moon on the terrace of a little local restaurant in Vence. He had held her close and sung along to the songs in her ear and called her bella and cara… After that magical moment he had reassured her when she asked if he and Lucilla were together, saying ‘no, no, we’re friends and business partners, nothing more.' And then they danced, cheek to cheek all night, only pausing to drink champagne and look at the stunning view. Leanne smiled as she remembered his breath on her neck, his deep voice and the way he had looked at her. What a night it had been, even though he hadn’t as much as kissed her when he drove her home, just stroked her cheek and said how much he had enjoyed dancing with her. That was class! Lucilla had left early and then been perfectly friendly the next day, so there was nothing to worry about, Leanne told herself. And Lucilla had driven on to Florence to spend a few days with her family, so Carlo would be on his own tonight. She couldn’t wait.
She looked at the dress again. Was it a little too much? Very sexy, yes, but was it sending the wrong signals? Would it be better to be more subtle? She pulled out a pair of white jeans. Maybe team this with that little strappy top…
Maddy opened the door and peered in. ‘Hi. Are you ready?’
‘Not quite,’ Leanne mumbled, eyeing the pile of clothes of the bed.
Maddy walked in and looked around. ‘Holy mother, what happened here? A break-in?’
‘No.’ Leanne sighed and sank down on the bed. ‘Just me trying to get the right look for the dinner tonight. Subtly sexy, I thought. Sedate with a hint of sultry, ya know?’
‘No I don’t.’ Maddy let out a laugh. ‘Jesus, woman, it’s only going to be me and Carlo in a tiny restaurant. Why worry?’ She stopped. ‘Oooh. Okaayyy. I see. It’s not me you want to be sultry and subtle for. Or was it subtle and sexy?’
‘Stop laughing.’ Leanne pouted. ‘This is important to me.’
Maddy shook her head. ‘Don’t be so dramatic. Why do you need a “look” at all? Can’t you just be yourself? Isn’t that trouble enough for any man?’
‘No… Yes…’ Leanne sighed and buried her head in her hands. ‘I feel so confused when I am with him. I can’t be myself. I’m always worried he won’t like it, so then I try to guess what kind of woman turns him on.’
Maddy sat down beside Leanne. ‘Let’s go through this stuff then and I’ll pretend to be him.’
Leanne got up, laughing. ‘Yeah, right, you’re going to turn into a sexy Italian now?’
‘Anything for you, darlin’. Go on, what are the options?’
Leanne went through the items one by one, while Maddy shook her head at nearly everything until Leanne held up her first choice; the black dress. ‘Aha! That’s perfect. I know, quite obviously sexy but it’s gorgeous. Very chic. To me it says “confident woman who knows her assets but don’t touch until I let you”.’
‘Really? Not like some jumped-up Dub, then?’
‘A Dublin woman but proud of it.’
Leanne looked thoughtful. ‘In that case, I’ll wear it. With no jewellery or even earrings. It’ll be just me and the dress.’
‘Perfect.’ Maddy got up. ‘I’ll go and get ready myself.’
‘Okay. See you in the lobby in ten minutes.’
Hmmm, Leanne thought as she did a twirl in front of the mirror when Maddy had left. Not bad for a Dub. The dress skimmed her slim body and ended mid-thigh, showing off her bronzed legs. With her light-blonde hair and brown eyes, black was the perfect colour for a summer evening. The dress had a demure neckline but plunged sexily to her waist at the back. Cheeky, like me, Leanne thought and winked at herself. But it didn’t calm her down. Butterflies twirled in her stomach as she closed the door to her room and ran down the stairs to meet Maddy in the lobby. She couldn’t wait to see what the night would hold.
They found the restaurant on the harbour, after a short stroll from the hotel down a lane lined with old crumbling houses where washing hung from the windows and rapid Italian could be heard from open doors.
Carlo, wearing a navy polo shirt and white chino trousers, waited for them outside and flashed a brilliant smile their way as they approached. ‘Buona sera, belle signore,’ he said and kissed their hands, sending sparks flying for Leanne.
Maddy laughed. ‘You’re a tonic, Carlo. But you can turn off the charm now. We’re hungry and thirsty, and we’re dying to eat, not indulge in flirting, you know.’
‘Speak for yourself,’ Leanne protested. ‘I’m always up for a bit of flirting.’
Carlo laughed. ‘You will forgive me if I show my appreciation. You both look lovely. I’m a very lucky man tonight, no?’
‘And so are we,’ Leanne retorted. ‘You’re the best arm candy two girls could wish for.’ She looked around the terrace next to the small harbour, where colourful fishing boats rocked gently on the waves. The sun had just set and the sky was turning a deep shade of blue, with stars sparkling above them. The tables were crammed together, close to the edge of the water that lapped against the rocks. The restaurant was packed with people eating and chatting and there was a smell of fresh grilled fish, garlic and herbs in the air.
Most of the tables were occupied, but Leanne spotted one at the far side, near the wall. ‘Is that our table?’
Carlo made a chivalrous gesture. ‘After you, madame.’
‘Thank you.’ Leanne shot a look at him over her shoulder as she led the way. God, he was gorgeous. With his black hair, green eyes and golden skin, he would turn the head of any woman with a pulse. And the voice; slightly gravelly with that sensual Italian accent. She couldn’t deny how attracted she was to him. She was so pleased that the sexy goddess Lucilla wasn’t in the picture any more, which would have made her back off. But his smile and his warm hand on her back told her he was as smitten as she was.
‘So, what’s your story, Carlo?’ Maddy asked as they dug into the antipasto, a colourful array of sweet prosciutto, spicy salami, big, juicy green olives, deep red tomatoes and tiny balls of creamy mozzarella.
Carlo swallowed his mouthful of prosciutto. ‘My story?’
‘Yeah, I mean how did you come to work for Jan Hovden, Erik’s company?’ Maddy asked.
‘Oh.’ Carlo nodded and passed a plate of olives to Leanne. ‘Well, it’s a long story. A lucky break for me. I met him when I was doing some modelling for a perfume advertisement and then there was a party for people in the business after the – how do you say – shot?’
‘Shoot,’ Leanne cut in and eyed his toned torso. ‘Modelling, huh?’ That explains a thing or two, she thought. ‘So . . .
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