Author: Jill Mansell
Pub Date: January 3, 2017
It all starts at a party, as these things often do…
- A one-night stand with far-reaching consequences
- Momentarily enamored guests going home with all the wrong people
- An unfaithful wife struck by jealousy and getting a dose of her own medicine
- A shocking family secret revealed at the worst possible moment
One fling follows another, and now the whole community is embroiled in a great big web of deceit, the untangling of which will charm you, amuse you, make you laugh and make you cry.
Whatever’s going on in your life, Solo by Jill Mansell is the perfect distraction right about now…
Question to Jill
What draws you to write romance?
I love it! It means spending your days with fictional people you’d really enjoy knowing and spending time with in real life. I particularly love writing sparky, witty exchanges between two characters who find each other attractive. What could possibly be more fun than that?
Parties full of strangers bored the knickers off Tessa.
“Well, you’re damn well coming to this one,” declared Holly impatiently. “You haven’t been out for weeks and it’s going to be brilliant. Everyone’s going. And just think, play your cards right, show a bit of leg, a bit of cleavage, and you, too, could find a husband like mine!”
Tessa wiped her hands on her already paint-streaked sweatshirt and picked up the bottle of ridiculously expensive Chardonnay that Holly always insisted on buying because she liked the label, and which neither of them properly appreciated. Pouring herself half a mugful and wincing at its icy dryness she said, “I don’t have a cleavage.”
“What God didn’t give you, scotch tape will,” pronounced Holly. “They showed us how on Blue Peter.”
“And I haven’t been out for weeks”—Tessa mimicked Holly’s despairing tones—“because I have been working. Working pays the rent. It even occasionally allows me to eat. I simply can’t afford to mix in your kind of social circles.”
“You can’t afford not to,” countered Holly. “These are the people who commission poverty-stricken artists to paint absurdly flattering portraits of their revolting children.”
“Besides,” Tessa went on, surveying the almost-finished canvas before her and beginning to realize that Holly wasn’t going to let her wriggle out of this one, “you aren’t married.”
Holly grinned, refilling her own mug with a flourish. “Ah! I didn’t say I had a husband, I said I’d found him. All that remains now is to exert a little gentle pressure.”
“And I suppose he’ll be there tonight.”
“There is that small chance,” conceded Holly smugly. “After all, it is his party.”
From the living room window of Tessa’s tiny cottage, perched on the side of one of the rolling, north-facing hills overlooking the spectacular elegance of the city of Bath, she could see in the far distance the equally spectacular and elegant Charrington Grange Hotel.
Even if Holly hadn’t been working there for the past two months and regaling her with endless details about it, Tessa would have heard of it. Everyone knew of the Charrington Grange Hotel, owned and run by the Monahan brothers and built up from nothing—well, scarcely anything—over the last fifteen years into one of the foremost country hotels in England. Originally a gracious Georgian residence commanding breathtaking views across the city from its position at the very top of the south-facing hills above Bath, it had fallen into hideous disrepair during its forty-year occupation by an elderly and eccentric Monahan maiden aunt. By the time of her eventual death the roof was barely intact, the walls of the gracefully proportioned rooms were streaked with damp and the entire place was overrun by the dotty old woman’s grand passion—several hundred decidedly un-housetrained cats.
Pulling every conceivable string between them, the notorious Monahan brothers, Ross and Max, had somehow managed to raise the vast amount of capital necessary to transform the crumbling old house into an opulent hotel catering to the very wealthiest clientele.
The press had had a field day at the time. The very idea that Max Monahan, moody and unpredictable, and Ross, with his mile-long reputation for carousing, heart-breaking and generally misbehaving, could pull off such a stunt was so ridiculous it was laughable. Max, the elder brother by two years, having been sent down from Oxford following a particularly outrageous prank involving a prostitute dressed as a nun and a visiting trade union leader, had rapidly established himself as a star broker on the Stock Exchange. Six months later, the day after his twenty-first birthday, he had abandoned this glittering new career, disappearing to the Caribbean and returning eighteen months later with the completed manuscripts of not one but two fat novels. These thrillers, with their winning combination of sex, violence, tension and wit were wildly successful, yet at the time Max had doubted whether he would want to do it again. It had been fun finding out that he could, but it was scarcely what he termed a proper job.
In the end, however, the vast sums of money offered, the luxury of being virtually his own boss, the flexible hours and the ease with which he conjured up fresh plots, won the day. To Max Monahan, writing was a doddle and the rewards were too great to pass up. He rapidly became established as one of those few lucky writers whose books were read by everyone. Over the years he had grown more level headed and now, with his astute business brain and almost ruthless determination to pile success upon success, he was recognized as the more down to earth of the two brothers. The Charrington Grange Hotel was owned jointly between them and although Max didn’t work there full-time he was involved in all the major decision-making and both he and Ross still lived there. Blockbuster novels remained his major—and considerable—source of income, but the hotel acted as an antidote to the solitude which writing entailed, and because he didn’t need to sweat over a word processor for eight hours a day like some writers he’d heard of, there was still plenty of time left over in which to enjoy himself.
Ross Monahan, on the other hand, devoted his entire life to enjoyment. Tessa had never made a particular point of reading the gossip columns but even she was aware of his wicked reputation. Expelled from more schools than anyone cared to remember, his notorious passion for fun was equaled only by his stunning good looks and lethal charm. Incapable of remaining in one place for more than a few weeks, in his early twenties he was the archetypal playboy, his outrageous exploits hitting the papers almost weekly. Men despised and envied him; women—apart from those whose hearts he had broken—adored him.
If everyone had been amazed when he had appointed himself manager of The Charrington Grange, they had been well and truly astounded when they finally realized what an out-and-out success he was actually making of the job.
And fifteen years on, Ross Monahan was still doing it, running the hotel with such panache and enjoyment that he had made it seem scarcely like work at all. Having always moved in the most glittering and outrageous circles, he had turned The Grange into a kind of open house for those who played as hard as he did. It was quite simply the place to stay if you wanted to have a really good time—and could afford to pay for it.
And according to Holly, Ross Monahan was absolutely lethal with women.
“Gorgeous, gorgeous!” she had informed Tessa, shortly after going to work for him. “But definitely dangerous to know. When I first met him I made a solemn vow with myself not to get involved.”
“But you have,” guessed Tessa, observing the sheepish look in her friend’s eyes. Holly had shrugged and smiled. “Given half a chance I would have done,” she’d admitted. “But the bastard isn’t interested. For God’s sake, Tess, he treats me like a friend!”
And now Holly was planning on treating him like a brother-in-law. She was passionately in love with Max, only Max didn’t know it yet. Tessa, who adored Holly but sometimes despaired of her, suspected that it would all end in tears and that most of them would land on her own inadequately small shoulders.
Meanwhile, Holly was returning in less than two hours to pick her up and take her along to this horrible party. And she really didn’t have a single suitable thing to wear.
About the Author
With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.