"Oh my gosh I loved this book. I think it would make a great movie… Tilly Tennant books always warm my heart and always give me a giggle too" ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐StefLoz Book Blog
What happens when Mr Right goes rogue?
Lara doesn’t have a back-up plan. So when her safe-bet boyfriend Lucien dumps her for her best friend, Lara’s world implodes. Life after the break up stretches bleakly ahead, lonely evenings on the sofa with only a bottle of wine and her grey cat Fluffy for company…
Down the road, Theo loves his job as a jazz musician, giving other people great nights out before coming home in the early hours and unwinding with his loyal cat Satchmo.
What they don’t know is that it’s the same cat.
And when they find out, standing in the streets in their pyjamas, both on the hunt for their lost pet, sparks of the wrong sort fly.
Lara can’t deny that Theo is one of the most gorgeous men she’s ever met, but she can see exactly why he’s still single. They do say opposites attract… but is she ready to move on? And when Lucien comes back into the picture, will she be tempted back to her life before the break up, or risk everything on the chance of something new?
A wonderfully warm will-they-won’t-they romantic read that will have you laughing one minute and crying the next. If you’re a fan of Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews, The Break Up is the love story you’ve been waiting for.
Release date: March 26, 2020
Print pages: 298
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
The Break Up
From the moment they’d met her, Lucien’s parents had decided that Lara wasn’t good enough for him. According to them, he was better educated, had a better job, was better looking and generally from better stock – whatever that meant. They’d never say that to her face, of course (it would be far too vulgar), but they made sure that their opinions found their way to Lara’s ears somehow, usually via Lucien himself. For her entire twenty-eight years on the planet, Lara had always assumed that in any relationship, the only opinion she’d have to worry about was that of the man she was dating. But in Lucien’s case, if his parents didn’t approve, then neither did he. In time, she’d look back on this chapter of her life and wonder why he’d bothered to stay with her for the year they’d been together.
It wasn’t until this precise moment, sitting across from him in the wanky jazz bar he loved so much, that Lara had seen fit to question why she put up with it. God, she hated jazz, almost as much as she hated Lucien’s stuck-up parents and his pretentious friends. But she was doing her best not to think about these things as she tried hard to concentrate on what he was explaining in an unreasonably loud voice while simultaneously resisting the urge to punch him in the face. The trumpet wasn’t helping. Still, she tried to listen to Lucien because it was important, though her brain wouldn’t compute the facts. It sounded like he was dumping her. But surely he wouldn’t do that, out of the blue like this…?
‘And don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time with you,’ he continued. ‘But it’s never really been going anywhere, has it?’
Lara shook her head in an attempt to clear it. As far as she’d been concerned it had been going somewhere, even if she couldn’t be certain exactly where. You didn’t put up with Lucien’s mother silently criticising your hair with a distasteful twist of her Botoxed lips unless you felt some serious commitment to the relationship.
If he says: ‘It’s not you, it’s me…’
‘The thing you’ve got to take from this is that no blame lies with you,’ he said. ‘It’s not you, it’s—’
Lara stood up, ignoring the look of surprise on Lucien’s face. She reached for the pint of ridiculously named ale currently sitting on the table in front of him and tipped it over his head. There was something massively satisfying about his gormless look of shock, and even more satisfying about the way the ale dripped onto his £200 jacket. She turned, outwardly calm, although her emotions were anything but, and headed for the door. Inside she was fuming, raging, hurt and humiliated, but she’d never give Lucien the satisfaction of seeing any of that. She left the bar, noise from a keyboard that was almost as dreadful as the strangled trumpet ringing in her ears.
Outside, the night was heavy and the air smelt of thunder. It had been like that all day, sultry and stormy, but so far the weather had held. Lara took a deep breath and pulled her shoulders back as she stepped out onto the pavement. She didn’t rush away and she didn’t cry because the last thing she wanted was for someone to see her and for it to get back to Lucien. Instead, she started to walk, with as much dignity and outward calm as she could muster. At least he wouldn’t be chasing after her right now; he’d be far too busy trying to salvage his perfect hair in the toilets and washing the beer from the designer jacket that she’d once joked he loved so much he ought to date it instead of her. Lara was probably the last thing on his mind right now and she was damned if she was going to cry over such a selfish bastard.
Instead, with shaking hands, she pulled her mobile phone from her handbag and dialled Siobhan’s number. Her friend answered on the second ring.
‘Wow, that was fast,’ Lara said. ‘Did you know I was going to call or something?’
‘Of course not,’ Siobhan said. ‘How are you?’
‘I’ve been better.’
‘Oh…’ Siobhan replied hesitantly. Lara frowned at the unexpectedly reticent tone from her friend. ‘What’s wrong?’
If Lara hadn’t known better, she might have said her friend sounded faintly uneasy. But there was no reason on earth why that should be, was there?
‘Is everything OK?’ Siobhan continued into the gap. ‘Weren’t you meant to be seeing Lucien tonight?’
‘I did, and he took the opportunity to dump me.’
‘I feel like such an idiot. Mainly because I’ve spent so long trying to please his bloody parents, trying to be the sort of girlfriend I thought he wanted me to be. And for what? I should never have compromised myself like that – I don’t even know why I did. I should have been myself and done what I wanted.’
Lara grimaced as she stumbled into a stale old puddle on the street, soaking her tights. ‘Perhaps he would have liked me better in the end if I’d just been myself; perhaps that was where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have been trying to please everyone else; I should have been pleasing myself.’
‘It’s not your fault – you can’t beat yourself up over it.’
‘I’m not – though I’d like to beat him up over it.’
‘So what did he say exactly?’
‘Some bullshit about incompatibility, different backgrounds, different prospects, fun while it lasted… the usual lame stuff.’
Lara paused. ‘I have to say, you don’t sound very shocked by any of this.’
‘Well, you’ve pointed out your differences so many times, it seemed…’ Siobhan’s sentence trailed off.
‘Inevitable?’ Lara finished bitterly.
‘Did he tell you anything else?’
‘I don’t know what else there is to tell. He wanted to end it – there’s not a lot I can do about it even if I did get more of a reason than that. Though I’m not buying any of it – I absolutely think there’s something he’s not telling me.’
‘I don’t know – like his precious mother put him up to it.’
‘Oh,’ Siobhan said. ‘I expect that’s it. You’ve always said she hated you.’
‘Well, she did, but I can’t help feeling that it’s funny she didn’t do anything about it before now. We’ve been together for a year after all, and she’s had plenty of time to stick the knife well and truly in before now. Apart from the constant snide criticisms, of course, but you can’t count those because she does that to everyone.’
‘Maybe she thought it would fizzle out by itself.’
‘I suppose that could be it.’
Lara was silent for a moment, her steps brisk as the traffic whizzed by her and a couple of drunks rolled out the doors of a nearby pub, shouting at each other as if they were conversing five miles apart, not five inches.
‘Either that or he’s seeing someone else and he hasn’t the guts to tell me,’ she added. ‘That would be about right.’
Lara paused again as the idea solidified. ‘I’ll bet that’s it. Bastard.’
There was a strange and charged silence on the line, and then Siobhan spoke and it was not what Lara had expected at all.
‘I can’t do this,’ she said miserably.
Lara frowned, her pace slowing as she puzzled at her friend’s change of tone. ‘What’s the matter? Has something happened your end? God, I’m so sorry, and here’s me blathering on about that twat—’
‘It’s not that,’ Siobhan said. ‘It’s… I wanted to tell you so many times before, and I said to Lucien that we ought to, but he wanted to do it when the time was right and now I know I should have done it—’
‘What are you talking about?’ Lara asked, feeling like iced water had suddenly been poured over her. ‘I don’t—’
‘Me and Lucien,’ Siobhan said. ‘I know it’s just a horrible thing to do but we couldn’t help it… I mean, you must understand, if it could have been any other way… And we fought it but… well… you can’t help who you fall in love with, can you?’
‘You?’ Lara spluttered. ‘And Lucien?’
‘I know,’ Siobhan said. ‘I’m so sorry, Lara. I do hope it doesn’t come between us—’
‘Doesn’t come between us? It’s hardly going to bring us closer, is it?’
‘Oh, see, I told Lucien to handle it carefully; I knew you’d take it badly.’
‘Take it badly?’ Lara squeaked again in a voice now almost as grating as the trumpet she’d just left playing in the club. ‘Take it badly? What did you expect?’
‘I don’t know. I feel just terrible.’
‘That’s a shame, because I feel just dandy about it all.’
‘Oh, Lara, if it could have been any other way…’
‘There are plenty of other ways it could have been,’ Lara said coldly. ‘All it would have taken was some self-restraint. Lucien… perhaps I can believe that self-restraint is hard to come by in that quarter, but you… I thought you were capable of better things than this. I thought our friendship meant something to you.’
‘If I wasn’t so absolutely broken right now I’d go back and kick him in the balls, and then I’d come to your house and smash all your windows. However…’ Lara drew a breath. ‘I don’t have the strength. I hope you’re very happy together and if you’re not then you’ve both got what you deserved.’
Lara ended the call and put her phone away. Don’t cry; don’t cry…
It was easier to tell herself not to cry than to do it. It had also been easier not to cry over Lucien than it was over Siobhan. She could feel indignant about Lucien, or she could tell herself that in the end he would see that the loss was all his, but Siobhan… The slice of his blade had come keen, but Siobhan’s follow-up had felt almost mortal. How could Siobhan, her best friend in the world, do this to her? She’d known how hard Lara had worked at this relationship, been privy to every twist and turn, witness to every up and down, been there making sympathetic noises as Lara complained and cried and tried (always failing, it seemed) to get it right. She’d been Lara’s confidante for many others too – fifteen years’ worth in fact. They’d shared hopes and dreams, laughter and tears and a lot of pain in that time.
But apparently fifteen years of friendship meant a lot more to Lara than it did to Siobhan. And all this time Lara had never even considered that Siobhan might be attracted to Lucien. More than attracted, as it turned out – interested enough to destroy everything they had as friends so she could be with him.
When Lara thought about all the things she’d done for Siobhan over the years, how she and her family had saved her, how they’d become more than friends and closer to sisters (or so Lara had thought), the knife twisted in just that little bit deeper. It just went to show that it didn’t matter how well you thought you knew your best friend, you never quite knew the whole of them.
Lara thought all this as her determined march home turned into a dejected limp. She didn’t know how she could possibly feel any more miserable and wretched than she already did, but then it seemed the weather wanted to get in on the act and challenge that. As if her night wasn’t bad enough, a perfectly timed rumble of thunder rolled across the heavens, swiftly followed by fat drops of rain, falling faster and faster by the second.
At least nobody would notice if she cried now, she thought dully.
She stuck out an arm for a passing taxi, but it didn’t stop. She hadn’t really expected it to – unoccupied taxis on a Friday night in Chester were as rare as Lucien’s bad-hair days. The only thing to do was walk. If she caught pneumonia and died, that would round off the evening nicely.
Twenty minutes later she was home, dripping wet, letting herself into her Victorian town house. Tossing her keys onto the kitchen worktop, she kicked her sodden shoes off at the back door, where they slammed against the wall before landing in a heap on the mat. They were quickly joined by her wet clothes. It could all stay there forever as far as she was concerned because she wasn’t in the mood to pick any of it up. Dressed in only her damp underwear, she marched through to the bedroom to find something dry to put on.
On the way, she caught sight of herself in the antique mirror hanging in the hallway. Lucien had been with her when she’d bought it from a flea market and he’d absolutely hated every minute of the hours Lara had begged him to walk round it with her. Had she been unreasonable? Perhaps she had that day, although at the time it hadn’t seemed like it. Had she been a bad girlfriend? Was that why he’d turned to Siobhan? They’d always seemed to get on well whenever they’d come into contact with each other but Lara had always assumed that they’d made an effort to get along for her sake. Had she really been that blind?
She stopped and stared at her bedraggled reflection. Perhaps, in the end, it hadn’t even been that complicated. Her hair was a sort of ash blonde, whereas Siobhan’s was far more golden. Longer too, with a natural wave that made it look impossibly glamorous, even when she didn’t try. And her eyes were the colour of the Aegean Sea. Lara’s were a sort of brownish green, and in some lights they looked like no colour anyone could name. Less Aegean Sea and more sewage outlet.
She let out a sigh as her gaze travelled to the rest of her. Slim enough, she supposed, but nothing about her athletic and rather nondescript figure screamed goddess. Not like Siobhan, who would wiggle her way into the local gym and have every guy in there slobbering over their weights.
Of course Lucien would have his head turned by someone like her, but what really hurt was that Siobhan had let it happen. She and Lara had been friends since high school, and you didn’t treat that sort of friendship lightly no matter what man tried to come between you. They’d both been there for the other’s darkest hours – there had been more than enough bad boyfriends between them but they’d always got each other through every single one of the break-ups. Lara never imagined that a boyfriend would be the thing to finally break them apart.
She sighed. The fact was, even though she wanted to blame Siobhan – might even want to hate her – she couldn’t. Lara and Lucien – it was never going to work in the long run, and even though Lara had let the relationship continue, had even enjoyed it, she had to admit that she could see the inevitable truth now. But though she might have expected it to fizzle out, she’d never expected it to end like this. Maybe they’d have got bored, his parents would finally have persuaded him to give her the elbow, found him a respectable replacement from the glut of well-connected friends’ daughters at the golf club… but Lucien and Siobhan?
Lara gave her reflection a sad shake of her head. She’d lost twice over tonight, because there was no way she could be friends with Siobhan again. She couldn’t decide if that might hurt more than what Lucien had done, but she thought that maybe it did. His departure had cost her a year of her life, but Siobhan’s meant almost all of Lara’s adult life was now tainted with memories that she could never look on fondly again.
With a final sigh, she went to the bedroom to get her towelling bathrobe.
Feeling at least a little warmer and dryer, if not more optimistic, Lara went to the kitchen and switched the kettle on. She needed a good strong coffee to clear the last of the alcohol from her system; maybe then she might be able to focus a little more clearly on the situation. She wasn’t about to fall apart over that prat, no matter how she might want to sit and cry. What she was going to do was exactly the opposite of what he and his stuck-up parents would expect.
She’d talked about starting her own business ever since she’d met him and he’d always just laughed, or told her ‘Good for you’ in a patronising tone. He’d been derogatory about her job at the call centre and his parents had almost spluttered out their Earl Grey when they’d found out what she did for a living, but still he had hardly been encouraging in any bid she might have made to change.
Lara suspected now that although he’d looked down on her job, he hadn’t been keen for her to better herself because then he would have had no reason to look down on her and he rather liked to – it was just another reason to feel superior. She wondered if that might even be why he’d gone out with her for so long. Maybe it was a power thing, a way to keep her in line. So, was that what was happening with Siobhan too? Her job as a secretary in a builders’ merchant’s was hardly more glamorous than Lara’s and she couldn’t imagine his parents looking any more kindly on it than they had on hers.
Whatever – none of it mattered now. Now he was out of the picture and Lara needed something to think about other than him and her best friend. What else was she supposed to do with her time? What better way to get over a rough break-up than to get her life back on track as soon as she could? Not only back on track but bigger, more spectacular and more successful than it had ever been. Why not show the world that there was more to Lara Nightingale than her boyfriend? If she got it right, Lucien dumping her for Siobhan might just turn out to be the biggest favour he could ever have done for her. As for Siobhan… well, Lara tried not to think about that. Boyfriends might not matter but best friends did, and they weren’t so easy to come by – at least in Lara’s experience.
As she stood and stared out at the darkness beyond her kitchen window waiting for the kettle to boil and planning her future, she heard a faint sound. Distant, sort of plaintive… coming from outside maybe? A cat?
She switched off the bubbling kettle to quieten it while she listened again. There it was once more, clearer now – definitely a cat.
Cupping her hands around her eyes, she peered out of the window to see if she could see anything but the garden was too dark. So she rushed to open the back door and it almost tumbled in. It must have been sitting on the step, and Lara couldn’t decide which of the two of them looked more surprised to be face to face – her or the cat.
One thing was certain: it was as bedraggled as she’d been when she’d returned from her walk in the rain. It was bold too, because if it had been startled by suddenly finding itself in her kitchen, it didn’t show any sign of wanting to run away. In fact, it simply looked up at her expectantly with huge green eyes. It looked very hungry to Lara.
‘I wonder where you’ve been,’ she said thoughtfully as she ran a hand down the cat’s bony spine. Its coat was sodden but that didn’t bother her. The cat began to purr and rub up against her leg, prompting her to tickle behind its ears. ‘I bet you wouldn’t say no to a nice bowl of tuna, would you?’
It took a moment to find the tin in the cupboard. As soon as the smell was released into the air, the cat started to weave in and out, round and round Lara’s ankles as she tipped it into a saucer.
‘There you go.’
The cat fell upon the meal, purring all the while.
‘You’d be a handsome devil with a bit of weight on you and a good groom,’ Lara continued as the cat ate. It was a grey tabby with hair a little longer and shaggier than the usual street cat but not quite as long as some of the posher breeds she’d come across.
Now that she looked closer she could see that it was more of a kitten really, barely into adulthood. She had to wonder if someone had lost it. As a girl, her family had owned a Russian Blue, a beautiful but temperamental little blighter, and Lara thought that perhaps there was a bit of Russian Blue in this one. It was far friendlier than her childhood pet, though, which she’d later learned was quite uncharacteristic of a usually affectionate breed. Trust her family to get the one diva amongst them.
It didn’t take long for the cat to clear the plate and look up at her again.
‘No more tuna, I’m afraid,’ Lara said, stroking it again. ‘I can do milk…’
Going to the fridge now, the cat following, she took the milk out and poured some into another shallow dish. This went almost as quickly as the tuna, and so Lara filled the bowl again, smiling as it went in for seconds.
‘Maybe all I need to make a new friend is a never-ending supply of milk.’
The cat looked up and then walked over, weaving around her legs again. She bent to fuss it. ‘Will you be my new friend?’ she asked. The cat’s purr seemed to get louder, echoing around the tiny kitchen.
She was hurting, of course, about the whole Lucien and Siobhan thing, more than she’d admit even to herself. But here was this lost little soul with far bigger problems than hers.
She scrubbed behind its ear, sending it into raptures of pleasure. Her own childhood cat, Bluey (imaginative name, she recalled dryly), had always loved that; in fact, it was the only sort of affection he would tolerate for more than a minute before getting bored and stalking off.
‘Well,’ she said, glancing up at the window as a flash of lightning lit up the sky, ‘you can’t go back out in this – you’ll drown. You’re more than welcome to stay and snuggle down with me until the rain stops. I suppose we’ll have to ask around in the morning too, see if you belong to anyone.’
The cat looked up now, almost as if it was taking in every word. And as she stood up and made her way into the living room, it followed, leaping onto her lap as she got comfortable on the sofa and curling up there to sleep.
Reaching over carefully so as not to disturb her new guest, Lara pulled a notebook from a little side table next to the sofa. She opened it up to a page covered in doodles and notes and looked them over. They were plans for nothing in particular, schemes she’d thought would probably never become real, dreamt up on countless idle Sundays. At the top of the page she’d drawn a heart surrounded by flowers and birds and she’d written the name of the business she’d always longed to start up: Songbird Wedding Services. What was that old saying: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?
In her lap, the little cat stretched long before curling to settle again. Lara smiled fondly and ran a hand down fur that she quickly decided she might have a go at cleaning up later – if the cat would let her, of course. She hoped so. She was beginning to hope that it wouldn’t want to leave after the rain had stopped and that she wouldn’t find a rightful owner. Love at first sight might not be something she’d ever experienced with a man, but Lara was beginning to think that cats might be a very different matter.
‘If she doesn’t like any of these venues then there’s no hope!’
Betsy frowned at her computer screen, and Lara looked up from some notes she was making at the opposite desk. A year had gone by since the night Lucien had dropped his bombshell, a year during which she’d been single, heartbroken and minus one best friend. But it hadn’t all been bad. It was also a year since a certain handsome blue tabby had come into her life and a year since she’d quit her call-centre job, cleared out her savings (such as they were) and sold practically anything of value she could find – old heirlooms, pieces of jewellery, collectible pottery that her mother had given to her – to raise funds to start the bus. . .
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...