From the million-copy bestseller Amanda Prowse, the queen of heartbreak fiction.
Amanda Prowse is the author of The Coordinates Of Loss and the no.1 bestsellers Perfect Daughter, My Husband's Wife and What Have I Done?
Everybody needs a little love in their lives...
Pru Plum is the celebrated owner of a famous Mayfair bakery. She wears Chanel and her hair is expensively cut. Few would believe that this elegant woman turned sixty-six last year.
But Pru is not the confident, successful businesswoman she appears. She has done shameful things to get to where she is today. And she will do anything to protect the secrets of her past – especially when, for the first time in her life, she has finally fallen in love...
From bestselling author Amanda Prowse, this is a story about love, loss and lies – and finding happiness before it's too late.
Reviews for Amanda Prowse:
'Prowse handles her explosive subject with delicate skill ... Deeply moving and inspiring' DAILY MAIL.
'Powerful and emotional family drama that packs a real punch' HEAT.
'A gut wrenching and absolutely brilliant read' IRISH SUN.
'Captivating, heartbreaking, superbly written' CLOSER.
'Very uplifting and positive, but you may still need a box (or two) of tissues' HELLO.
'An emotional, unputdownable read' RED.
'Prowse writes gritty, contemporary stories but always with an uplifting message of hope' SUNDAY INDEPENDENT.
About the Author
Amanda Prowse is the author of several novels including the number 1 bestsellers What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter and My Husband's Wife. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide, and she is published in dozens of languages.
Described by reviewers as 'the queen of family drama', Amanda's characters and stories are often inspired by real life issues. The research for her books has led to partnerships with ITV and Femail among others.
Amanda lives in Bristol with her husband and two sons. As her many twitter followers know, she almost never switches off. But when she does, she can be found drinking tea in her favourite armchair, scribbling ideas for her next book.
Amanda Prowse is the author of several novels including the number 1 bestsellers What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter and My Husband's Wife. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide, and she is published in dozens of languages. Described by reviewers as 'the queen of family drama', Amanda's characters and stories are often inspired by real life issues. The research for her books has led to partnerships with ITV and Femail among others. Amanda lives in Bristol with her husband and two sons. As her many twitter followers know, she almost never switches off. But when she does, she can be found drinking tea in her favourite armchair, scribbling ideas for her next book.
Read an Excerpt
A Little Love
By Amanda Prowse
Head of Zeus LtdCopyright © 2013 Amanda Prowse
All rights reserved.
Pru donned her dressing gown over her pyjamas, stretched thick socks over her feet and crept out of the flat door, closing it quietly so as not to disturb her cousin Milly, who was sleeping soundly in her bedroom further down the hall. She slipped down to the basement. This she did on occasion when the bakery was closed, usually in the dead of night when sleep proved elusive, and always with the snap of excitement at her heels as she did so, covertly.
Her alarm would not pip-pip for another three hours, yet instead of resting her head on her plump feather pillow, here she was, wandering along corridors and punching alarm codes into locked doors, looking over her shoulder and tiptoeing like a thief.
Using only minimal lighting, eschewing both the elaborate machinery around her and the complicated recipes that she and Milly had honed over the years, she did what she always did on these night-time jaunts. She set about running up a batch of fairy cakes with nothing but a wooden spoon and a ceramic bowl, just as she had been taught.
Pru fastened the apron around her waist, then laid out her ingredients and tools in a row on the counter top. She got the familiar jolt of happiness, knowing she had everything she needed to execute her plan. It felt exactly the same now as it had all those years ago. She cast her eye over the white flour, the bowl of sugar and the greasy lump of margarine splayed on the saucer next to the shiny clean bowl, awaiting her attention.
She hummed to herself as she tipped the margarine and sugar together and began creaming them into a thick paste. She savoured the gritty crunch on the back of the spoon as it smashed the crystals against the crackle-glazed side of the china bowl, pushing and churning until the mixture billowed with tiny bubbles of air and her fingers ached. Next came the spoonfuls of plain flour, a drop of essence, baking powder, the egg and gradually more flour. Pru couldn't fully describe the lift to her spirits or the bounce to her step as she watched the dry ingredients transform themselves into a pale golden batter. There was no great science to knowing when the mixture was ready; instead she used the tried and tested dropping method, lifting the spoon and watching to see how the cake mix fell. Too quickly meant it was too thin, calling for more flour and more mixing. Whereas a blob that refused to shift from the back of the spoon required more liquid and a light mix. When the batter acquired the perfect consistency, it dropped into the bowl with jaw-clenching slowness.
As the fairy cakes baked, the anticipation filled her stomach with butterflies. While they cooled, she made a strong cup of coffee to go with them. Then she decorated them, exactly as her nan had instructed: sparsely, sprinkling hundreds and thousands on to a tiny misshapen pond of white icing. Both of which had been a luxury in her nan's house. Finally, she popped the soft, vanilla-scented sponges into her mouth, allowing the sugar to spread its warm, satisfying sweetness across her tongue and the icing to stick to the roof of her mouth. She gobbled them greedily and quickly, all of them.
'I know you are shaking your head and tutting at me, but don't judge me, Alfie! I could have far worse habits.' This she uttered into the ether with her eyes raised skywards and a smile about her mouth as she licked a stray blob of icing and a couple of sprinkles from her lip.
As proprietor of the world-renowned Plum Patisserie, Pru had access to any number of delicate iced fancies and exquisite sugar-dusted morsels each and every day. Yet none of them gave her anything like the pleasure she got from eating a warm fairy cake made to her nan's exacting recipe and wolfed down illicitly in the wee small hours. The parcels of moist cake not only made her mouth water, but if she closed her eyes, she was back in their grotty kitchen in Bow, a little girl again, working diligently at their wobbly enamel-topped table. Back to a time before she knew anything of the world beyond their front door, before drive and aspiration had yoked her to a winding uphill path. Her nan, standing at the shallow china sink dressed in a pink wrap-around overall that had worn thin at the seams; and her three brothers, with pinched cheeks and rings of grime against the backs of their necks, hovering around the large china mixing bowl, their dirty fingers scooping at the fine lines of cake mixture residue, which they deposited into their eager mouths. The smell of the fluffy little ingots baking would almost drive them to tears. Clustering around the stove, unusually silent, they waited.
Her nan would then turn the cakes out of the bun tin on to a wire rack on the sideboard. The scented steam that they gave off hypnotised them. And it would feel like an eternity before she would allow them to take one each. When they finally got one of those little cakes in their mitts, round-eyed and with a mouthful of sweet crumbs, it was a moment of bliss in an otherwise bliss-free life and it was wonderful. For Pru, nothing symbolised her success as much as her ability to eat a whole batch made in the kitchen of Plum Patisserie. She never told anyone about her trips down to the big kitchen; it was another little secret for her to keep.
Pru laughed to herself as she perched on the edge of her bed a couple of hours later and applied the Crème de la Mer moisturiser to her face and throat. It was 6 a.m. but she had the alertness of someone who had been up for many hours. Fancy! She touched her fingers to her temples, where her once lustrous locks had now thinned. It was one of several habits she had acquired now that she was sixty-six, along with pushing up her eyebrows with her finger so that she could, for a second or two, re-create the wide eyes of her youth, before gravity had done its job and given them a hooded appearance.
'I was lovely once, wasn't I? Not that I really thought so at the time, despite what Trudy said. I never had her confidence – blimey, who did? She was something else, wasn't she? So very long ago. I don't know why I'm thinking about that, Alfie; our little flat in Kenway Road, my life in Earls Court. We had some fun: tough times, but happy times. A lifetime ago. You're the only one I tell everything to, but I know you're a secret-keeper, aren't you, my love?'
This she addressed to one of several silver-framed photographs on her bedside table. This particular snap was of a man astride a moped. He was looking over his shoulder, a roll-up hanging from his bottom lip. It was a black and white shot, and even though it had been taken decades later, it could have come straight out of the sixties. He had the air of James Dean about him, or maybe that was just how she preferred to think of him: an anti-hero rather than a hopeless, drug-addicted drop-out.
He smiled back at her with eyes that crinkled into laughter, peeping from behind black-framed Ray-Bans that, with his head tilted towards the camera, had slipped down to the end of his nose. Pru loved this photo. There weren't that many of her family – owning a camera had never been a priority – but his grin and the setting, on what looked like a bright, sunny day, meant that she knew he'd had this one good day. Or, more specifically, this one good moment on this one day. She hoped that when things had got bad for him, the memory of that moment might have sustained him. As usual, he didn't reply.
Pru padded around the flat in her soft grey jersey pyjamas and dressing gown, with a cup of hot black coffee balanced on her palm. She hummed as she walked from room to room, finding it calming to see that everything was just as she had left it the night before, harvesting reassurance from the order in which she lived and gaining confidence from knowing she was the owner of so many lovely things. The pictures were straight, cushions plumped and objets d'art positioned just so. Though she had to admit that, barring a messy burglary or natural disaster, the likelihood of this not being the case was extremely slim.
She sat on the chair at the little walnut desk in the corner of her bedroom and let the bank statement flutter in her hand. She no longer paid heed to the black figures and their commas, lined up in neat rows; it was more of an inquisitive glance to see that payments had gone through and a reminder of where she was in the month. Gone were the days of shuffling balances and debts around to keep suppliers happy, juggling dates and orders to ensure there was enough money in the accounts to pay the wages. The business had reached the point a couple of decades ago where takings began to exceed expenditure and once the scales had tipped in their favour, they had never looked back. She unscrewed the lid of her Montblanc fountain pen and placed a tiny cross by the payment that was referenced CM; one thousand pounds had gone through on the fourteenth, just as it did every month and had done for the last ten years. If she did the maths, it caused a ball to knot in her stomach and a tide of panic to rise in her throat, so it was better that she didn't. Pru folded the paper sheets and clipped them into the leather file that she stowed back in the drawer.
After showering and blow-drying her auburn hair into its blunt bob, Pru sat down at her dressing table and applied the merest hint of taupe lip stain and a single wand-slick of mascara. She rubbed her fingers over her temples. She had never thought she would become this sort of older lady. In her youth she'd only ever imagined herself in her mid twenties, old enough to know best but still young enough to enjoy herself. Yet here she was, hardly recognising the face in the mirror. And it had happened in a heartbeat! She sighed and pulled her lower teeth over her top lip, making her neck and chin taut, the way they used to look. A liberal spritz of Chanel No. 5 and she was set for the day. She accessorised her navy trousers with a white silk blouse and two rows of pearls that hung in differing lengths against her small, high chest. She slipped her feet into navy penny loafers, her footwear of choice on days like this.
Pru held her breath and tugged the blind. She watched a white transit van pull up on to the kerb with its hazard lights flashing, delivering to Guy all that they needed for a day of baking and trading. On the opposite side of the street, two young men in dinner jackets, with ties loose about their necks and a wobble to their saunter, walked arm in arm. No doubt homeward bound at this early hour. She smiled; there it was, Curzon Street, just as she had left it.
She worried that one day she might pull the blind and see instead the traffic of Kenway Road, a few miles across town in Earls Court; as if she had dreamed her success, her home in Mayfair, her Italian marble flooring, espresso machine and walk-in closet and was still there, living that life. Back then, although her surroundings had been drab, she had been full of life: a young girl with a defiant stare and a gut full of determination.
The day that she and Milly had arrived at the six-storey terrace on Kenway Road, they had thought they were invincible, immune to the regrets and recriminations that came with old age. It was the last in a long list of rentals that she and Milly had painstakingly ringed in the small ads, and from the moment they arrived they knew it was the place for them. A statuesque, elegant woman opened the door wearing a silk kimono and smoking a thin cigar in an ivory cigarette holder. She introduced herself as Trudy; she lived in a flat on the top floor. Pru walked to one of two deep-set sash windows on the landing and gazed at the most incredible view of the London skyline, all the way out to Fulham and beyond. She let her eyes skim the horizon and red-brick chimney pots. This would be the start of their journey, here among the west London rooftops, living with this assured, worldly woman. Pru followed Trudy down a narrow hallway, noting the way she swept along on her high heels, which made her look refined and sophisticated, sexy. She was going to practise that walk and when she had enough money, buy herself a pair of high-heeled red patent leather shoes, just like Trudy's.
'Who's David Parkes?' Milly asked. She had stopped at a framed certificate that hung on the wall and pointed to it.
'David was ... err ... my brother.' Trudy arched a carefully plucked eyebrow. 'He died a couple of years ago.'
'I'm sorry,' Pru offered. She rolled her eyes at Milly, who was always jumping in feet first.
Pru and Milly told Trudy how they wanted to open their own bakery with a shop and a café, where they would make the most delicious cakes and bread that London had ever tasted.
Trudy didn't laugh or mock, as others had when they'd shared this. Instead, she nodded and blew large Os of cigar smoke. Then she pressed her full, carmine-painted lips together and said, 'I think people without dreams are living only half a life and that's a life I wouldn't want to live.'
Pru had been impressed, Trudy sounded like a poet.
'But it's no good dreaming unless you are prepared to work really hard. You have to dream it and set yourself a path to make it happen. A dream won't put food on the table or money in your purse.'
Pru had subconsciously patted the purse in her pocket, which contained their first week's rent, bus fare and a lucky coin with a hole drilled through it. It was the sum total of their combined wealth. She nodded, wondering what they would need to do to clear their path – the one that led straight to the shiny glass window of Plum Patisserie.
'What's your dream then?' Milly asked Trudy over Pru's shoulder.
Trudy gave the younger girl her full attention, and drew on her cigar. 'To have a little love in my life,' she said as she turned her back and walked forward. 'I think that's everyone's dream, really.'
Dear, dear Trudy.
Pru closed her bedroom door and popped her head into the kitchen, where she spied Milly, clad in a tiger onesie.
'What are you wearing?' Pru shook her head.
'It's new and quite possibly the cosiest thing I have ever owned. I might never take it off.'
'That'll be nice front of house.'
Milly dipped a large croissant into her coffee before lowering the soggy mess into her mouth.
'Gross,' Pru commented.
'It's what they do in France!' Milly spoke with her mouth full.
'Maybe, but you're not French, Mills.'
'What? You are kidding me! Mon Dieu! I had no idea. I thought I'd imagined growing up in Bow and I was actually from a fashionable little suburb of Paris!' She winked at her cousin.
Pru grinned as she left the flat and trotted down the stairs. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door of the café. She and Milly took it in turns to do the early check on the bakery and it was her turn this week. In truth, after two decades in these premises, and with the celebrated Guy Baudin at the helm of a trusted team, it was more a cursory nod to everyone that she was around, a reminder of who was boss and the chance to monitor quality rather than get stuck in.
The cleaners in their blue nylon tabards and with their hair scraped up into untidy knots were hard at it, buffing the brass fixtures with yellow dusters and mopping the pale, waxed wooden floor. The sun had started its creep through the large window that displayed the Plum Patisserie logo, working its way up like the revelation of a dancer's fan until the whole room was bathed in light. Tiny white rosebuds had been placed in slender, finger-sized vases on every table. The glass display unit they had re-created to mimic those found in nineteenth-century Parisian coffee houses gleamed. The tiered glass cake stands and fancy china plates whose hand-painted flowers and swirls delicately kissed their fluted edges sat shining. Soon they would be arranged with scones full of jam and cream, soft iced buns and frosted sponges; flaky-pastry masterpieces stuffed with marzipan and dotted with an almond would tempt the sweet-toothed, perfect with a cup of hand-roasted French coffee.
Pru particularly loved this time of the morning, before the customers arrived, before the problems arose, before tiredness crept over her aging joints.
Excerpted from A Little Love by Amanda Prowse. Copyright © 2013 Amanda Prowse. Excerpted by permission of Head of Zeus Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Amanda Prowse has a wonderful way of taking you away from everything, travel to London meet some new people and experience so many different emotions. You will fall in love with Pru and her cousin Milly. With them, especially Pru, you will laugh and cry, feel love and joy, experience pain and loss. But in the end you will find hope. I thoroughly enjoyed Pru's story and life that I found myself taking my time through the chapters. I would finish a chapter and set the book down and just think about what happened, I didnt want to read the book too fast and have it end. I was very much enjoying my time with the Plum ladies and London. If you like to read a book and be completely memorized, this is the book for you. I will guarantee that you will be swept away. The good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the hope, determination and the fight for happiness are ALL there. So start reading A Little Love and experience a lot of love with Pru, Milly, Bobby, Guy, Megan, William, Christopher and Isabel.