Authors: Ali McNamara
‘Perfectly plotted, gorgeously romantic, has some great gags and leaves you with that lovely gooey feeling you get at the end of a good Hollywood rom com’ Lucy-Anne Holmes, author of
The (Im)Perfect Girlfriend
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 family and two Labradors. When she isn’t writing, she likes to travel, read and people-watch, more often than not accompanied by a good cup of coffee. Her dogs and a love of exercise keep her sane!
To find out more about Ali visit her website at
or follow her on Twitter: @AliMcNamara
From Notting Hill with Love
Breakfast at Darcy’s
From Notting Hill to New York… Actually
Step Back in Time
From Notting Hill with Four Weddings
Published by Sphere
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 © Ali McNamara 2015
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.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
50 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DZ
Table of Contents
For Jake, my Basil.
This book has been one of the hardest to write, but in a strange way one of the most satisfying now it’s fully in bloom!
Watching this book grow has been a long process, but during that time I had much support and necessary watering from my wonderful family – Jim, Rosie and Tom, and the constant calming breeze of my fantastic agent, Hannah Ferguson.
I would like to thank everyone at my publisher, Little, Brown, who helps me grow my books, especially my editors: Rebecca Saunders who planted the initial seed of this one, and Maddie West who helped harvest the final buds!
And finally, my fabulous dogs Jake and Oscar, who never fail to make me smile when life doesn’t, and who cast the essential sunshine into my life to allow me to grow my stories for you, my lovely readers, to enjoy.
My brother and I run through the town, weaving our way through the holidaymakers as they bustle along Harbour Street. It’s a Saturday, and the town is packed with people; some eating ice creams and pasties, some choosing souvenirs from the many busy little shops, and some simply enjoying the fantastic sunny weather.
But Will and I don’t stop to browse in the shops or eat ice cream, though I do look longingly at a lady carrying a large, white, whippy ice cream with a chocolate flake. It’s a really hot day and I’d love an ice cream, even though we’ve just had our lunch. My grandmother says my tummy is an empty pit that she can never fill up, but I can’t help it, I’m always hungry, especially when we’re here at the seaside.
Today we don’t have time to stop for ice creams, however tasty they look. Because Will and I are on our way to see one of our favourite people.
As we run along together Will clutches a paper bag and I’m holding a posy of flowers my grandmother pressed into my hand moments before we left her flower shop and headed for the bakery.
‘Say hello to Stan for me,’ she’d said in the same way she always did. ‘Send him my love, won’t you.’
‘We will!’ we’d called before rushing out of the shop and up the street.
At last we escape the hustle and bustle of Harbour Street and run to the harbour, where people are crammed on benches soaking up the sun, trying to prevent the hovering seagulls from snatching their fish and chips, or their delicious cakes bought from the lovely bakers a few doors up from my grandmother’s shop.
Mmm, I think again as I see the cakes, I could just go a custard tart.
Finally we leave the holidaymakers and their tempting food smells behind, and begin climbing the narrow path up Pengarthen Hill.
‘Here you are, my lovely young friends,’ our old mate Stan says as we find him sitting high up on the hill, looking out over a glorious view of the town and harbour. ‘And you come bearing gifts – what might they be, I wonder?’
‘A pasty, of course!’ Will says happily, handing him the bag.
‘And flowers from my grandma,’ I say, handing him the posy.
‘Ah, they always brighten up my little home so well,’ Stan says, smelling the flowers. ‘So what would you like to do today? A story, perhaps? Or straight up to the castle?’
‘Story!’ I cry, at the same time as Will says, ‘Castle.’
Stan smiles. ‘How about we do both? I’ll tell you a story as we walk up the hill to Trecarlan.’
Will and I grin with anticipation as we walk side by side with Stan, and he begins to tell us one of his strange and glamorous tales about his wonderful home.
It was so exciting back then. We had a friend who lived in a castle! I thought I was a fairy princess.
As I recall us all walking happily up the hill together, I wish I’d known then that those precious summers we spent in St Felix would be the happiest time of my life.
I stand in front of my grandmother’s old flower shop and gaze up at the sign.
The Daisy Chain
it states in curly yellow writing. But the paint is beginning to peel away from the edges, so in reality the sign reads
he Daisy Chai
, which makes it sound more like an oriental tearoom.
I look around me at the cobbled street where as a child I’d run up and down to fetch delicious cakes and pasties from the bakery, my grandmother’s daily paper from the newsagent, and where at the start of our holidays we’d spend ages choosing a shiny new bucket and spade from the beach supply shop at the end of the road.
Yes, this is definitely it; I can see the bakery a few doors up, but now it’s called The Blue Canary, not Mr Bumbles like it used to be back then. The newsagent is further up the hill that this street winds its way up, and there’s still a shop that looks like it might sell buckets and spades in the summer, but today, a wet Monday afternoon at the beginning of April, its doors are closed, and the lights are turned off.
I can’t blame them for shutting up shop early; it isn’t the best of days to be by the coast. A dank sea mist hovers over the town, making everything feel damp and lacklustre, and in the short time since I arrived in St Felix I haven’t seen many holidaymakers. Or come to think of it, many people, full stop.
It’s a strange phenomenon – the seaside wet weather effect. A resort can be packed with people out enjoying themselves in the sunshine one moment, then the next, as a changing tide brings dark showery clouds in with it, they will all suddenly disappear, back to whatever hotel, holiday cottage or caravan they are calling home that week.
When I used to stay here with my grandmother in the peak holiday seasons, I would sometimes pray for rain, just so I could wander the beaches and clifftops in total peace, away from any holidaymakers.
My eyes follow the cobbles up the winding street. Beyond the bakery, newsagent and beach shop, I can see a small supermarket, a charity shop, a chemist, and what looks like an art gallery – it’s right at the top of the street so it’s difficult to make out from here. But that’s it: a few small businesses in amongst an awful lot of empty shops with white paint covering their windows. Where have all the gift shops gone? They were always so popular when I used to come here. St Felix prided itself on the quality and variety of its souvenirs; none of that tacky seaside stuff like Kiss-Me-Quick hats, or T-shirts with rude slogans. St Felix had always been a haven for local artists and their work. What has happened?