Authors: Ali McNamara
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Ali McNamara attributes her over-active imagination to one thing – being an only child. Time spent dreaming up adventures
when she was young has left her with a head constantly bursting with stories waiting to be told. When stories she wrote for
fun on Ronan Keating’s website became so popular they were sold as a fundraising project for his cancer awareness charity,
Ali realised that not only was writing something she enjoyed doing, but something others enjoyed reading too. Ali lives in
Cambridgeshire with her husband and two children, and when she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching too much reality TV, eating
too much chocolate, and counteracting the results of the previous activities with plenty of exercise!
‘An endearing, romantic and fun read for chick-lit (and rom com!) fans’
From Notting Hill with Love … Actually
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 Ali McNamara
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
For those that believe. And those that one day will.
Thank you to all the wonderful team at Sphere and Little, Brown for all your help and support throughout the last year, and
to my fantastic agent, Hannah, who just ‘gets’ me and my writing
Thank you to the incredibly beautiful Great Blasket Island in Co. Kerry, Ireland for inspiring this story, and to my own family
for yet again putting up with all the ups and downs of living with a writer!
And special thanks must go to the fount of all Dermot’s tremendous technical knowledge in this story – my husband Jim. I simply
couldn’t have written this book without you. x
I’ve always liked funerals.
There’s a reassuring certainty to the whole thing.
Not like weddings. Lovely though they are, filled with all that hope and optimism for the future, I tend to have a slight
niggling doubt about whether the happy couple will still be together in a few years’ time. Or whether they might be filing
for divorce, and paying exorbitant solicitor’s fees to argue over one of the gorgeous but expensive wedding gifts still patiently
waiting to be unwrapped.
Christenings and baptisms are much the same for me, too. I often find myself wondering, Will this child really be able to
keep the faith when he or she is eighteen years old, and being tempted by the sins of the flesh? Especially when you notice
that one godparent at the font is updating his Twitter status, and the other’s checking her reflection in the holy water.
But then that’s me all over; I like to know what’s going to happen next. Be prepared – that’s what the Boy Scouts say. So
I always like to be. Although I’m not too sure your average Akela would advise taking six changes of outfit with me on a weekend
away, when – maybe – only three would be sufficient.
The funeral I’m at right now is my aunt Emmeline’s, or Aunt Molly as I used to call her when I was a child. Considering how
close we were when I was growing up, I’m extremely ashamed to admit that I haven’t actually seen my aunt Molly for more years
than I care to remember. I kept meaning to pop over here to visit again, but weeks kept turning into months, and then months
into years, and you know how quickly time seems to fly by these days.
that start to happen? Is it another of those EU regulations, like measuring everything in kilograms and litres? Was time
officially speeded up in Brussels one day, and I missed the big government announcement?
The ‘over here’ I mention is Ireland. Dublin, to be precise. At the moment I’m just outside of the fair city in the village
my aunt lived in for the last few years of her life. I don’t remember her in this small cottage the wake is now being held
in. The house I remember her living in was a huge, sprawling mansion by the sea in County Kerry. As a child, I used to travel
over from England to spend my holidays with her while my mother was working. I can remember happy days spent mostly outdoors
in the bright sunshine. Even in winter, when we were well wrapped up against the biting sea wind that would sweep across the
coast, the sun always seemed to be shining in my memories of Molly.
Why does the sun always seem to shine more in your childhood memories? Is that something to do with the EU, too?
As I ponder this thought, a lady with tight white curls
breaks into my thoughts. ‘Now, another cup of tea, dear?’ She’s wearing a flowery apron, and is standing next to me waving
a pot of tea in my direction.
‘Oh, no, thank you, I’ve already had two,’ I say, placing my hand over the top of the cup.
‘Cake, then?’ She gestures towards a table groaning under the sheer weight of food upon it.
‘No, really, I’m fine, thank you.’
‘Not from round here, are you?’ She peers closely at me through a pair of silver spectacles.
‘No, I’ve come over from London for the funeral.’
‘Sure now, how would you be knowing Emmeline?’ she asks suspiciously, eyeing me up and down.
‘I’m her niece, actually.’
The woman’s expression immediately changes to one of pleasant surprise. ‘Oh, you must be Darcy, so y’are! Why didn’t you say
so before, child?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’ I smile at her. ‘But how did you know?’
‘I’m Maeve. Molly was my next-door neighbour.’ Sadness fills her blue eyes as she remembers her friend. But they begin to
brighten again as she talks with fondness about her. ‘Molly was always talking about you, so she was. About when you used
to come and visit her as a child – when she had the big house across in Kerry. Shame you didn’t come lately, though … ’ She
gives me a reproachful look.
‘It’s just … I’ve been a bit busy with my job and everything.’ Once again I feel the wave of guilt that has been flowing back
and forth all day wash over me.
‘What is it you do again, now? A newspaper reporter, isn’t that what Molly said?’
‘Kind of … I’m a features editor on a women’s health and beauty magazine.’
‘Health and beauty, you say?’ Maeve considers this. ‘Ah, what’s there to write about that? A good scrub down with a bar of
carbolic soap and some cold water, that’s what’s kept me going for over eighty years.’
I look with surprise at Maeve. She certainly doesn’t look over eighty. I would have guessed somewhere in her mid-to late sixties
at a push, and her skin doesn’t look anywhere near that.
‘Yes, that surprised you, didn’t it?’ She smooths out the ruffles in her apron proudly. ‘None of your expensive potions and
creams for me! You don’t need them.’ She leans in towards me. ‘You take a piece of advice from me, child. Stop wearing all
that slap on your face. It’ll fair ruin your skin in the long run. Good clean air and clean living is all you need to keep
yourself looking young.’
My hand goes subconsciously to the incredibly small Mulberry bag I’m carrying. It’s crammed with lipsticks, powders, brushes
and compacts – my make-up bag alone would normally be bigger than this tiny effort. But today I’ve chosen to carry this one
because the colour perfectly matches my new pewter-grey Louboutin shoes. I wanted to look my best for my aunt Molly’s funeral,
even if she wouldn’t be there to see me.
‘So now,’ Maeve says cheerily, suddenly seeming to forget all about her grave warning. ‘That’s grand someone from Molly’s
English family has been able to make it over to see her off.’
‘Yes, there aren’t too many of us left now,’I begin, but
Maeve has been distracted by a large man deliberating over a plate of fruit cake.
‘Now, can I cut you a slice of that cake, dear?’ she asks him, glad to be of service to someone in the food department at
As Maeve deftly cuts the man a large wedge of cake, I look around at the motley gathering of people now squashed into the
kitchen of the small stone cottage that had belonged to my aunt. I guess by their ages they must be mainly Molly’s friends
and acquaintances. I’d thought something similar in the church, that it was odd how everyone was so much older than me. Normally
at funerals there’s a slight variation in the age of the mourners, but everyone at Molly’s funeral is around my aunt’s age.
I’m assuming they must be her friends and acquaintances because I know for sure she had no brothers or sisters other than
my mother, and since she passed away when I was twenty, some seven years ago now, I’m the only one left on that side of the
family. I try desperately to remember some of the stories Molly told me when I was younger, about her time as a child in Ireland,
but as hard as I try nothing is immediately forthcoming. I find it frustrating that memories I want to recall remain buried
with those I would rather forget.
Sighing impatiently, I drain the last of my milky tea from my cup. How can I have let this happen? Aunt Molly meant so much
to me when I was younger; how can I have just let her drift out of my life like this? I should have tried harder to keep in
touch … I should have made the effort to come over here and visit her. It wasn’t like we’d ever fallen out, or anything. We’d
just drifted apart. No, that wasn’t fair;
allowed us to drift apart.
I turn to see a slim, smartly dressed young man wearing a suit and tie standing by my side. ‘Am I addressing Miss McCall?’
‘Yes, you are.’
‘Miss Darcy McCall?’
He looks relieved. ‘Oh, good. Then allow me to introduce myself.’ He holds out his hand. ‘Niall Kearney at your service, Miss
‘Pleased to meet you, Mr Kearney.’ Hesitantly I return his handshake.
I smile, hoping it will prompt him into continuing.
‘I’m so sorry, of course you wouldn’t recognise the name, would you?’ He reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a business
card. ‘Here’s my card. My father, Patrick Kearney, was your aunt’s solicitor and friend for many years. He sends his deepest
regrets that he’s not here himself today, but unfortunately he’s not too well at the moment, so I represent the company on
his behalf.’ As he proudly informs me of this, he squares his narrow shoulders underneath his slightly oversized jacket.
‘I see.’ I glance down at the card for a moment. ‘But what do you want with me, Mr Kearney?’
The young man furtively glances to either side of him before leaning in towards me. ‘First of all, Miss McCall,’ he whispers,
‘I must insist you call me Niall. I may be a solicitor, but I much prefer the more
approach.’ He looks about him again in a clandestine manner. ‘And perhaps we could go somewhere a little bit more private
to continue our conversation?’