Alice has a fantasy. It starts with being rescued by a hunky fireman, involves the kiss of life and ends in him not needing his uniform. At the New Forest Show, Alice is offered an innocent version of her dream. Reluctantly she turns down fireman Hamish’s invitation.
Despite Alice’s blameless behaviour, boyfriend Tony’s obsessive jealousy kicks in. Hamish wants to take Tony’s place, but a hoaxer ensures Alice already sees far too much of Hampshire Fire Service. The threat of an explosive sprout surprise, her mum’s baking, sister Kate’s mind boggling pep talks and the peculiar behaviour of Alice’s boss Miles provide distractions.
Is Alice really in danger? What is Kate up to? Can Hamish possibly be as perfect as he seems? It takes Alice masses of wonderful food, disgusting wine, smelly mud, red footed crows and steamy Welsh passion, but she finds the answers. And rethinks her fantasy.
An excellently constructed story. Characterisation is, likewise, well-defined.
An escapist read.
This is a well written, escapist read by Patsy Collins with great characters.
It is escapism pure and simple. A bit like a guilty pleasure, I really enjoyed it.
A fantasy, simmering relationship that sparks and ignites into red hot passion.
Here are the opening few pages –
Alice ran her fingers through her hair in case pulling the slinky dress over her head had caused static. Today her sister would have even less cause than usual to suggest she was turning into a frump. Alice couldn’t think why she hadn’t worn this dress before. The bright pink was a fab colour for her, just as Kate had said when she’d bought it.
‘You look hot, Sis. Almost a fire hazard!’
An assistant had joined them then. ‘It’s perfect for you.’
Alice repeated her, ‘You think?’ but in a far milder tone.
‘Yep. Of course as long as you show those legs you could probably get away with anything, but this style really works with curves and the colour is stunning against your olive skin and all that glossy hair.’
‘That’s what I was saying,’ Kate said.
‘No you didn’t, you said I looked dangerous.’
‘Fire hazard is what I said, cloth ears. Want me to dial 999 and get a fireman to talk you out of it in the interests of public safety?’
‘No I don’t and anyway, I’m totally over firemen.’ She’d rushed back into the changing room before Kate could make a sarcastic comment.
The dress had hung in her wardrobe ever since, halfway between the size twelves she couldn’t do up if she wanted to breathe and the size sixteens which gave her room to move, but no particular desire to strut her stuff. Tony had pointed out, quite correctly, that the snug fitting, scorchingly hot pink dress wasn’t suitable for the office. It didn’t seem suitable for any of the places he took her to either. Cool, understated elegance was the look he apparently preferred. All buttoned up, hemmed down crisp linen. Still, today she was going to the New Forest Show with her sister, not a wine bar with him. When he got an eyeful of her in this, he might want to rethink his conservative attitude. In fact she was positive this dress was just the thing to persuade him to loosen up a bit.
‘Well, what do you think?’ she asked as she half danced into her living room. She did a little twirl, then realised he hadn’t so much as glanced up from his laptop.
‘Tony, I’m going now.’
‘Right.’ He looked up. ‘Oh, Alice, I thought we agreed that dress wasn’t an appropriate item for you to wear.’
His tone was so cold he might as well have thrown a bucket of iced water over her. She’d suggested he do that for real when the charity craze had gone round, but he’d said it was childish and had simply made a donation. Alice and Kate, wearing bikinis, had soaked each other and the pictures when posted on the Internet had got quite a reaction.
Despite what Kate had said about the dress, there seemed to be no chance of Alice causing a fire around Tony, but he hadn’t quite put out her spark.
‘For work, or an evening out, maybe it isn’t the best choice, but it’s perfect for a hot summer day.’
‘A day you’ll be spending without me.’
‘I asked if you’d like to come,’ Alice said as calmly as she could.
‘I can’t just take a day off work.’
‘Not now, but you could have when I first suggested it.’ Trying not to show her anger, Alice headed for the door. He was the one who’d decided the project he and his colleague Rachel were working on was more important, so he’d be spending the day with his buttoned up, hemmed down, linen-clad colleague. A colleague who was slimmer, cleverer and classier than Alice. Really it was quite understandable that one of them had jealousy issues. What was less obvious to Alice was why it was Tony who was so distrustful.
‘Wait a minute, Alice,’ he called as she was about to slam the door to her flat.
Now what? Would he make himself late for work by walking her to the bus stop and ensuring it really was her sister she met?
‘Take this.’ He handed her a couple of twenty pound notes. ‘Get yourself and Kate some lunch to keep your strength up for all that shopping and looking at animals or whatever it is you’ll be doing.’
‘Oh. Thanks.’ She was heading for the door again when it occurred to her that wasn’t a very gracious response to a rather sweet gesture. She went back and kissed his cheek. ‘Say hi to Rachel for me and don’t work too hard.’
‘Right,’ he said but his attention was already back on the screen of his laptop.
Getting the bus to the New Forest Show was part of the tradition. Alice and Kate had done it with their parents ever since the year it rained so heavily that cars had to be towed off the grass car parks with tractors at the end of the day. When their parents no longer wanted to arrive first thing and spend all day, they’d agreed Kate was old and sensible enough to take her little sister on the bus. They still went together.
On the journey the sisters studied the programme, taking note of entertainments they wanted to see. Kate penned a big tick against Hampshire Fire Service’s demonstration.
‘You didn’t ask me,’ Alice said.
‘No need. You were moving so I could tell you weren’t dead yet.’
‘I told you already that I don’t have a thing about firemen anymore.’
‘Remember when you were six and ate all my Easter eggs and said it was the dog?’
Alice tried to look innocent, but knew she was no more successful than she had been twenty years previously. ‘I should have said the goldfish did it, at least we had one of them.’
‘My point exactly.’
‘You’re not demonstrating any, which is why I don’t believe you.’
They pulled faces at each other, then returned to their study of the programme.
Alice’s mobile buzzed to say she had an incoming text.
‘Tony checking up on you already, is he?’ Kate asked.
Ignoring her, Alice looked at her phone. The message was from Tony, saying he hoped she had fun and reminding her to photograph the eggs on plates.
‘Why does he want to see them?’ Kate asked, when Alice handed over her phone.
‘He didn’t believe it was a real thing.’
‘Even I can’t blame him for that, it is pretty mad.’
By the time they arrived at the, thankfully dry, show ground they had their day pretty well planned out. Just as they had since childhood they entered free competitions and charity raffles. They stroked Highland cattle, aaahed over spotted piglets and watched falconry, heavy horses and daring motor cycle displays.
Kate took plenty of photographs, including some of the rows and rows of paper plates, each with an egg cracked onto it.
‘Honestly, how can anyone judge them?’ Kate asked. ‘They all just look like eggs.’
‘Not at all, young lady,’ said a man wearing red trousers and a moustache which looked like it should be on a lead. He explained, at length and in detail, what the differences were and how the egg laid by his own hen showed superiority not only in the colour of the yolk, but in the clarity and texture of the white.
‘Thank you, that was most interesting, but we must go now,’ Kate said the moment she could get a word in.
The sisters speed walked out, just managing to suppress their giggles until outside the poultry marquee.
‘Right, where next?’ Kate asked.
‘Nowhere until you promise not to ask any more technical questions.’
‘Oh, I promise. Double quadruple promise and hope to die.’
‘OK then. Let’s see if we can grab some freebies.’
They no longer collected every free pen, bag and silly cardboard hat they could get their hands on, but they did try a few samples of food and drink. Years of practice meant they managed to be in just the right position when the man demonstrating the toastie maker, or non-stick pans had food ready to distribute. They didn’t compete to see who could pile the most mustard or jam onto a crumb of cracker as they once had, instead they tasted the various wines and spirits on offer. That was another reason for travelling by bus.
‘No, not that one,’ Alice said, pulling Kate away from a stand offering malt whisky.
‘They do liqueurs. I fancy the one with raspberries and cream.’
‘Me too, but later.’ Alice urged her sister away. ‘Miles is in there. I don’t want to deal with him on my day off.’
‘Which one is he?’ Kate peered over Alice’s shoulder.
‘In the turquoise shirt.’
‘He looks quite cute.’
‘Kittens, baby bunnies and hunky, scantily clad firemen are cute. Nothing as slimy as Miles Molde could possibly be described that way.’
‘Kittens, bunnies and what?’
‘Er, yes… well even though I’m not especially keen on firemen, I do admit they’re more appealing than my creep of a boss.’