Thanks to Chloe and Leah of Chick lit reviews for their nice early mention of Luxury on their great blog. ‘Perfect for fans of Louise and Tilly Bagshawe’, they think, and as I am a big fan of Louise Bagshawe myself, I’m happy with that!
Every month I post a selection of little luxuries for your delectation. Books, food, clothes, beauty products – anything that I’ve come across that will make your life that bit more luxurious. Here’s what I’m enjoying this month.
- Paul Smith Rose – heavenly, slightly spicy, but fresh rose fragrance which I stocked up on in duty free on my way to Naples/Capri and which I am smothering myself in. So perfect for summer.
- I go to the BP exhibition at the National Portrait gallery every year – I like going around and choosing who I would have picked to win and comparing my choices with the judges. There’s always lots of exciting new artists to check out, and I love seeing what new things people are doing in portraiture.
- Wedges – they’re the best shoes for summer, as you don’t sink into the grass/sand! I have some great black ones that I just got from Accessorize and some much loved red polka dot ones which are a few years old. But am always on the look out for more…
- Funky shades – these are fab, and would let you see the world through violet tinted glasses – I think they’d go rather well on L’Isle de Violette, don’t you?
- Amazing funky nail varnishes from Models Own – am particularly loving the Pink Fizz and In the Navy.
- St Germain elderflower liqueur with lemon and soda water. I can’t decide whether this or Prosecco is the perfect summer drink. So I’ll have one of each, please.
- Speaking of all things Italian, I’ve just come back from a few days in Capri, where, as well as doing plenty of lying around by the pool relaxing, I planned the opening of my next novel, which I am working on at the moment. The story opens on this beguiling island off the Amalfi coast. I stayed at the fabulous Caesar Augustus hotel, and memories of the view are providing me with plenty of inspiration.
I ate fantastically well – this plate of black tagliolini with sea urchins and crab was probably my favourite thing.
- And of course I read masses – one of the best luxuries of being on holiday is being able to read whole books all at once, gobbling them all up at once. I adored The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon does atmospheric gothic like no one else; I read Michael Connelly’s The Scarecrow in one sitting by the pool – he is such a good thriller writer, and this book has one of the most chilling and shocking lines ever that made me almost leap out of my sun lounger; I also greatly enjoyed A Man in Full by Thomas Wolfe – this is a real blockbuster of a book – it’s fat, huge in scope, with big characters and just so much to say.
That’s it for this month, will be back with more Little Luxuries in July.
As a little taster, here’s the prologue of Luxury. I hope you enjoy it!
From somewhere behind the hazy, green-blue blur of the horizon, a solidity began to form; a thicker line that gradually began to draw itself into the shape of a shore, a gently curving bay, a steeply peaked hill. As the wooden longboat drew closer, tacking round to approach from the West, it was as if an unseen hand was sketching in the details of the island – the deeper blue patches in the water indicating a reef off one side; then a spike of pale sand stretching out from one side of the beach appeared – a sandbank snaking its way into the sea; then a fuzz of flickering green – palm trees sprinkled down the slopes of the hill.
Logan exhaled. “Oh man. It’s just like she said. Look – the jetty’s still there. Take it round to that side.”
Logan pointed to the narrow structure of greying wood, its spindly legs rising up from the water, and motioned to his friends at the helm to head for it. The three young men were all tanned and relaxed from their summer in the sun – their last summer of freedom, as they had named it. They wore nothing but shorts and had let their hair grow long, in the knowledge that come the fall they would be in suits and short back and sides as they went off to begin their lives as adults, as Harvard graduates. This summer was a stolen slip of time between their student years and things ‘getting serious’, as they put it. As Johnny leant forward to bring the boat round the muscles in his shoulders undulated under his skin.
“Looks pretty rickety,” said Johnny.
“How long is it since anyone was here?” Nicolo called from the far side of the deck.
“Not a clue. Twenty years? More?”
They edged closer to the jetty.
“Stop alongside, I want to see if it’s sound.” They slowly manoeuvred the boat so that it bobbed alongside the jetty. Logan hooked a leg over the handrail that ran around the boat’s deck, and held onto it with one hand as he stretched forward and pressed down on the jetty, trying to shake it to test its strength.
“Seems OK. I guess the worst that can happen is I get to go for a swim sooner rather than later.”
And he swung his other leg over the side and hopped up onto the landing stage. There was a rustle of a breeze through the leaves of the trees that lined the beach, and the faint swishing of the sea all around them. Otherwise, it was silent.
Johnny and Nicolo watched from the boat. The wood creaked as it absorbed Logan’s weight, but it stood firm, and he spun round to face his friends, arms aloft and a wide grin on his face.
“Come ashore, my friends, my brothers. Welcome to L’Isle de Violette!”
Nicolo put his thumb and forefinger between his lips and let out a long, high-pitched whistle, and Johnny whooped with excitement, as the two young men leapt off the boat and on to the island. The noise they made as they ran down the jetty and onto the hot sand startled the birds in the palms trees, who rose into the sky like a cloud of smoke, clacking and squawking.
They raced into the undergrowth, not caring that their legs were getting scratched, just filled with excitement. The air was cool and dry on their skin; it felt refreshing after hours spent on the boat.
“It’s like a secret world,” shouted Nicolo.
“Treasure Island,” called Johnny.
“Lord of the Flies?” responded Nicolo.
“Ha. Turning on each other? Not us, my friend, not us.”
Logan stopped running and bent over to catch his breath. Johnny and Nicolo caught up with him.
“I feel like Robinson Crusoe. With two Man Fridays!” He was panting, his face laughing, challenging his friends. Nicolo and Johnny looked at each other. Shook their heads.
“Asking for it, don’t you think?”
“Begging, I’d say, man.” Logan laughed, and before they could catch him took off, weaving through the trees. Johnny and Nicolo took chase, whooping like savages until the three of them burst out of the glade of trees onto a rocky promontory that stopped them in their tracks.
They stopped and stared, the three of them standing in a line, gazing out over the island. Without realizing it, they had made their way to the highest point of the island, and from here they could see the shape of the whole mass. It was picture perfect. Blue skies, turquoise sea, leafy trees and sandy beaches. And as the three men stood staring down at it, all of them felt a secret, powerful tug in their chests. All of them wanted it to be theirs.
“What’s over there?” Johnny said suddenly, breaking the silence, pointing to a building. They could see that it was tumbledown, decrepit, even from a distance.
“Don’t know,” said Logan, “why don’t we find out?”
Later, the three of them lay on the sandy floor of the ruined building, a bonfire burning nearby, and the empty bottles of beer that they’d fetched from the boat discarded on the ground next to their sleeping bags. They gazed up at the sky. Tomorrow they would return to the mainland, give the boat back to its owner and catch their flight home. Back to real life, where Johnny would go to law school, Logan would begin his MBA, as one of the youngest students ever to get a place on the prestigious course, and Nicolo would begin work at a construction company in New York, learning the real nuts and bolts of the business. They’d got First, their fledgling hotel company, up and running, and it was doing well. They were raring to go. Their lives were beginning…
“So what do you think, Father Flores? Does she live up to your expectations?”
Nicolo leant over and flicked the side of Logan’s head with his thumb and forefinger.
“Don’t call me that. And yes, she certainly does.”
“Why ‘she’?” asked Johnny.
“Fuck’s sake J. This place is a woman. A beautiful, unchartered, wild woman, just waiting to be tamed…”
“Ha. By you?”
“Yes. By me. No. By us.” Logan’s voice was confident. He didn’t doubt his words, and neither did his friends.
“We’ll come back here, yes?” Johnny words were stretched out, long with tiredness and alcohol.
“Not only that. This is it. This is our future, guys. One day, we’ll be back here, not as kids, but as men. As the men who own this place. And everyone will see that we made it.”
Logan raised his fist into the air.
“One man with a dream, at pleasure, shall go forth and conquer a crown…”
Johnny followed suit.
“And three with a new song’s measure…”
…And finally Nicolo.
“Can trample an empire down.”
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