Delighted to be kicking off Alice Burnett’s blog tour today with an extract from ‘Ideal Love’, which was published on 1st August in e-book by Legend Press. Happy paperback publication day to Alice Burnett, however, as ‘Ideal Love’ is available to buy in paperback from today! I will be reviewing the book at a later date also; cannot wait to get stuck in!
After an argument with her husband Gilles, Venus Rees is left devastated by his sudden death. But when she discovers that he
died of a treatable genetic condition she knew nothing about, she is haunted by
the thought that he didn’t love her enough to save himself. As time passes,
Venus looks set to be trapped between grief and distrust forever. Until she meets
the shy, good-looking and seemingly ideal Alex.
Intertwining Venus’s compelling attraction to Alex in the present with
Gilles’ enraptured pursuit of her in the past, Ideal Love is an intimate and
life-affirming novel about love, from its incandescent beginnings to its final
breath and back again.
Extract of ‘Ideal Love’ by Alice Burnett.
‘Cheek To Cheek’ by Irving Berlin
It was 25 September 1997, I was twenty-six and I had no idea the evening ahead of me would change my life.
‘Gilles – ’ Tim Woodward was whispering at my office door.
‘Ah thank God, let’s go.’
We exchanged nods with my principal and I steered Wood out of the building.
He was slightly less miserable than when I’d first suggested tonight’s party. We had a laugh about a keen fellow trainee on our way to the tube and I got a glimpse of the Wood of old. But whatever else happened that night, one mission had been accomplished – Wood was neither at his desk nor at home listening to Mozart’s Requiem.
He’d been single for a year, I’d only had six days of it, but I was the one who couldn’t sit still. We went down the escalators and squeezed on to a carriage. He’d gone too far into the darkness. I hadn’t expected my girlfriend to call it off either, I’d been upset. But the two of us were like travellers who’d teamed up only to realise we’d arrived, nothing was keeping us together. She’d just bothered to understand that and take action. And with enough notice for me to hear about this party, get Tim invited and coax him into showing up.
We stepped out of Covent Garden tube and I told him to prepare himself. It was going to be a beautiful night.
‘So it’s all over with Anna then?’ he asked bleakly. ‘Yup,’ I said, walking on.
‘Sorry to hear that.’
‘No, she did us both a favour.’
‘She seemed genuine to me.’
‘Yeh, she was, the spark just went out.’
Tim sighed. ‘Gilles, I hate to break this to you, but at some point you’ve got to stop thinking with your dick and grow up.’
A group of girls paraded past, like an erotic pat on the back. I could sense them with my eyes closed.
‘Tim,’ I said as they walked away, ‘twenty quid says I leave with a woman and you don’t.’
Tim raised his eyes and went quiet. I didn’t speak.
‘All right, all right,’ he said as if I hadn’t stopped talking. ‘Done.’
We walked into the club entrance and down the stairs, pulled under by the waves of sound and body heat, until we reached a kind of massive volcanic cave which my friend’s sister’s twenty-first had filled beyond imagining. The DJ was charging it up with seventies funk – there must have been over a hundred women on the dance oor alone – not only that, the men were all at the bar, dutifully perpetuating that great English ritual of refusing to dance with the women. What was this if not the promised land?
It didn’t take long before I was mesmerised. I pointed out the blond woman with the incredible figure to Tim. Tim said she looked aloof, but that on the plus side, this would help her shake off lust-crazed French bastards like me. I brought his attention to a sweet-looking, dark-haired girl I thought he might like, but he wasn’t convinced. I finally got Tim to concede that the blond one was ‘superficially attractive yes, but nice, no’, and went over and bought her a drink.
Her face wasn’t quite so pretty close up, but then again I clearly hadn’t made her day. She wasn’t interested in conversation and when I asked her to dance she looked at me like I’d told her a bad joke. Did I still smell of rejection? Surely not, it had been nearly a week.
Then I got lucky. She liked lawyers, especially city lawyers. She made a remark about my hair, and I said it was straight before I saw her. She laughed, and looked at me and carried on laughing, beyond the time allotted.
I went from trainee solicitor to cash-laden hotshot in ve minutes. She became a stream of gazes, a sweetshop of breasts, waist and thighs, drinking with me, dancing with me, not objecting to the feel of my hands. At least an hour must have gone by. One of her friends interrupted to complain about a girl they both knew. I went to get drinks and came back into focus. I couldn’t see Tim anywhere and wondered if he’d left. He didn’t get it. You just had to throw yourself and see where you landed.
But waiting in the crush at the bar, I glanced over at the one I’d been with as she dished it out, her expression as cold and dismissive as when I’d rst asked her to dance.
Nice no, I thought.
Back together, we found a quiet spot on the other side of the dance oor, and she was all hospitality, the sweetshop door open, the jars within reach.
We left the club. Cooling off on the pavement, I found myself asking her to dinner the following Thursday. Did people do that? But within a minute, she’d accepted, I’d hailed her a cab, kissed her goodnight and lost myself twenty quid.
I went back in to look for Tim.