‘Effing marvellous’ JILLY COOPER.
‘So, so funny and smart’ INDIA KNIGHT.
First in a laugh-out-loud new series that fans of The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones and Sophie Kinsella will love!
‘She’ll need a triple-barrelled name for the castle one. She’ll need a gallon of glitter for the woodland one. She’ll need a lobster-shaped hat for the Shoreditch one.
Laura Lake longs to be a journalist. Instead she’s an unpaid intern at a glossy magazine – sleeping in the fashion cupboard and living on canapés. But she’s just got her first big break: infiltrate three society weddings and write a juicy exposé.
Security will be tighter than a bodycon dress, but how hard can it be? Cue disappearing brides, demanding socialites – and a jealous office enemy who will do anything to bring her down…’
Hey Guys, Today on the blog I have a chapter of Wendy Holden’s latest book, Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings, just for you to read! And once you have finished reading, check out a message from Wendy at the end of this post and find out YOU can WIN a SIGNED BOOK!!!
Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings
Afterwards, as Amy Bender’s parents conveyed their daughter and her guests to a lavish after party at their expensive hotel, Laura and Caspar were left standing on the rue Morgue pavement. ‘Drink?’ suggested Caspar. ‘Okay, but not round here,’ Laura said. ‘I’m sick of bars with start-up entrepreneurs playing Scrabble and men in tweed waistcoats taking forty-five minutes to make coffee with blowtorches.’ ‘But I like all that,’ Caspar objected as a barefoot waiter in dungarees and a man-bun shoved past with a tray of Guinness. ‘It’s so Parisian.’ Laura rolled her eyes. ‘I’ll show you what a real Parisian bar looks like.’ Caspar was excited. ‘You mean the one where your granny drinks champagne for breakfast and reads the papers?’ laura lake and the hipster weddings 37 ‘The very same. But don’t get the wrong idea, it’s pretty basic.’ As they left the rue Morgue they discussed the amazing success of the private view and the equally amazing speed of it all. ‘It’s a social media sensation,’ Caspar marvelled. This was no less than the truth. It was the exposure on Chu Ginsberg’s blog that had transformed Amy Bender’s fortunes. She had gone viral, was trending and had a phenomenal hit rate. They were now walking through the place du Tertre, Montmartre’s cobbled village square and home of La Mère Catherine, supposedly the world’s first bistro. A tour guide had halted his legion of yellow-baseballcapped Chinese troops. ‘It’s called a bistro because some Russian soldiers banged the tables and yelled “Bistro!”’ he was explaining. ‘It means “hurry up” in Russian.’ Laura had never believed this story. Parisian waiters did not like being shouted at to hurry up. Least of all by foreigners. An unending stream of people pushed through the square, drawn by the brightly lit tat shops and the thuggish cartoonists touting supposedly humorous pencil drawings of largely unrecognisable celebrities. ‘Fucking hell,’ she heard Caspar exclaim from behind. She turned. He was staring at a caricature of a young man with floppy blonde hair and enormous teeth spread in a persuasive smile. ‘Who’s that?’ she asked, as the thickset creator of the masterpiece approached, grinning with threatening expectancy, huge thumbs stuck into his money belt. ‘Nice picture, yes? Great actor. Very big star. I give you good price, yes?’ 38 wendy holden Caspar was raking a hand despairingly through his hair. ‘It’s just so bloody crap. Just so…’ He searched for the epithet. ‘… shit.’ The heavy brow of the hovering artist darkened angrily. ‘You say my work is crap?’ he shouted, lifting a large fist. ‘Sheet?’ ‘I wasn’t saying his cartoon was crap,’ Caspar lamented as they hurried away past staring tourists. ‘But it was,’ Laura pointed out. ‘Yes, but that’s not what I meant.’ Caspar stopped. ‘It was Chease!’ he wailed. ‘He’s now so famous, people are doing rubbish cartoons of him in Montmartre!’ Not this again. Groaning inwardly, Laura hastened to reassure him. ‘You’re famous too, don’t forget. You’re part of a celebrated art installation. One that’s trending and gone viral.’ ‘So I am,’ Caspar agreed, looking gratified. ‘Now all that needs to happen is for a Hollywood casting agent to see it.’ A message pinged into his phone. He seized it hopefully, but then his face fell. ‘What’s the matter?’ His puzzled eyes met hers. ‘Amy’s closing the show.’ ‘But it’s a success!’ Laura exclaimed. ‘Yes, so she’s making hay while the sun shines. Going on tour. First stop Kazakhstan, apparently.’ ‘But I can’t go to Kazakhstan.’ Caspar was scrolling down. ‘You don’t have to, we’re not wanted on voyage. La Bender’s going to audition a new couple in every city. She says it’s all about local relevance and resonance, but it’s obviously about not having to pay our travel and hotel bills. You know how bloody stingy she is.’ laura lake and the hipster weddings 39 Laura shook her head at the rank ingratitude. ‘Honestly. When it’s us that made it a success.’ ‘You, actually. You’re the one who laughed.’ ‘But you’re the one who needed the loo.’ ‘Started a whole new movement, you could say.’ ‘Ha ha.’ They walked on. The place du Tertre was behind them now and the street they headed down was quiet and dark. ‘I’ll have to go back to Blighty now,’ Caspar said mournfully. ‘Back to the smoking ruins of my career.’ ‘It won’t be that bad.’ ‘No, it’ll be worse. A crowdfunded tour of Puppetry of the Penis if I’m lucky. While bloody Orlando Chease gets to play Bond.’ Laura wished he would shut up about Orlando Chease. But Caspar was clearly a man obsessed. ‘He’s really made it. His masterstroke was to do all that BBC Shakespeare stuff. So now he’s respected as well as famous and rich. Talk about King Learjet.’ Laura giggled. Caspar glared at her. ‘It’s not funny! Orlando always had better contacts than me. His father runs about a million West End theatres and his mother does the Walberswold panto.’ Laura had never heard of the Walberswold panto but now learnt that it was a production in a small Sussex seaside town where the greatest acting, writing and producing talent on the entire planet met, networked and cross-fertilised to the exclusion of everything and everyone else over the course of a few weeks in the summer. ‘When will I get a break?’ Caspar fretted. They had picked up speed as he had become more agitated. ‘When will I get my Honeywomen?’ 40 wendy holden ‘Your what?’ ‘My fans. Benedict Cumberbatch has his Cumberbitches and Eddie Redmayne has his Redmayniacs. Tom Hiddleston has his Hiddlestoners. And I’m Caspar Honeyman, so mine would be Honeywomen.’ ‘I’m a Honeywoman,’ Laura said loyally. Caspar, soliloquising his frustration, took no notice. ‘I could always change my surname to Dench. I might get auditions then, at least. Or I might go to a refugee camp.’ ‘Oh, Caspar! Things aren’t that desperate.’ ‘Not to live there. I mean for the opportunities. Those places are the new RSC. A-list luvvies everywhere you look. Plus hot teenage girls recruited on Facebook to hand out toothpaste and underpants.’ Laura shook her head. ‘You’re appalling. Anyway,’ she added, as a familiar doorway loomed, ‘here’s the bar.’ Chez Ginette’s decor hadn’t changed for forty years and maybe not even before that. Football pennants so faded one could no longer see what the teams were hung from a ceiling brown with nicotine and age. Its propriétaire sported a teatowel on her shoulder, a pair of clacking white mules and a plain blue dress accessorised with glasses which swung on a chain of orange plastic links. She greeted Laura effusively, kissing her hard on both cheeks, but ignored Caspar, to his chagrin. ‘I’m guessing you have to know Ginette for twenty years before she smiles at you?’ ‘Something like that.’ Laura pulled out two battered wooden chairs. The bar owner brought the Kirs. Laura smiled at her. ‘Merci, Ginette.’ ‘Merci, Ginette,’ echoed Caspar, crinkling his eyes laura lake and the hipster weddings 41 charmingly. Ginette scowled at him and stomped off in her mules, flicking her teatowel over her shoulder. ‘She’s definitely warming to me,’ said Caspar. Laura sipped her wine. As usual, Ginette had been a bit overgenerous with the crème de cassis. It was like alcoholic Ribena but none the worse for that. Caspar was looking more cheerful, certainly. He was even able to think of someone other than himself. ‘What will you do now, anyway?’ he asked her. ‘Back to your escort agency?’ Laura had been too busy comforting Caspar to think about what the show closing might mean for her. Now she did, she found the prospect of not being in Call This Art? depressing. She had not enjoyed working for Amy Bender, but she had enjoyed being with Caspar. Learning ventriloquism had been fun. He had been fun. She might be unable to go with him to London, but that didn’t mean she was ready to part ways. She would miss his flirtatiousness. The way he made her laugh. His appalling flattery. The fact that he so obviously fancied her. Perhaps she fancied him a little bit too. Perhaps more than a little bit. Laura stared at the Kir and swallowed hard. She wasn’t normally like this, all sad and needy. She tried to pull herself together. ‘Something’s up,’ Caspar said, crinkling his eyes persuasively. ‘You can tell me. It’ll go no further, I promise.’ Laura shook her head. ‘It’s nothing.’ ‘Aw, come on, Laur. Don’t be so buttoned up. Do you good to unburden yourself. Come on, darling. I’m your friend. I love you,’ Caspar added, easily. The buttoned-up bit stung as much as the love bit soothed. Laura felt herself melting under the heat lamp of his attention. Soon she was telling him about Carinthia and the offer she 42 wendy holden had been unable to accept. She found she was close to tears by the end. It was so frustrating to be so close to her dream and yet still so far away. ‘You’ve got to do it!’ Caspar exclaimed. He reached for her hand over the table. ‘Like I said, you could live with me.’ He put his lips to her fingers, sending warm waves of pleasure through her. ‘Ma petite Laure!’ someone now called from the door. Someone with dyed blonde hair, a moth-eaten fur coat, bright pink blusher and outsized high heels. Caspar snorted. ‘It’s Grayson Perry.’ ‘Actually,’ said Laura, smiling, ‘it’s Ernest.’ ‘And who’s Earnest?’ ‘Our friendly neighbourhood transvestite prostitute.’ Laura hurried to embrace the new arrival. ‘And how is your grandmother, chérie?’ Ernest’s voice was part falsetto, part growl. He pulled up a chair and sat down, legs spread wide, huge hands clamped on enormous knees in tan tights. ‘Fine, thanks.’ Ernest shook his frizzy yellow head. ‘Well, I’m exhausted.’ ‘Tell me about it,’ chipped in Caspar. Ernest looked at Caspar as if seeing him for the first time. Laura waited. Ernest was a shrewd judge of character. In his line of work, you had to be. ‘No, literally, tell me about it,’ Caspar urged him brightly. ‘I’m considering a film role as a transvestite prostitute.’ Ernest’s much-mascaraed eyes lit up. Five minutes later he and Caspar were deep in discussion. ‘I love it when he calls me his little chou-fleur,’ Ernest was saying of one of his regulars, ‘but when he calls me sugar-face, it really gets on my nerves.’ When Ernest tottered off to the loo, Laura rounded on laura lake and the hipster weddings 43 Caspar. ‘Are you really considering a film role as a transvestite prostitute?’ ‘No, but I would if someone offered me one. It worked for Eddie Redmayne. But I can’t complain.’ Caspar waved his phone. ‘I’ve just been asked to do The King and I opposite Elizabeth Hurley.’ Laura gasped. ‘Fantastic!’ ‘But it’s not happening.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘She won’t shave her head.’ Laura shoved him, hard, as Ernest came back to the table. ‘What are you talking about? Mon film?’ ‘No,’ said Caspar, quick as a whip. ‘I’m trying to persuade Laura to come to London. She’s been offered a job there on a glossy magazine.’ Laura looked at him in amazed fury. How dare he? It was none of his business. ‘Mais c’est formidable!’ Ernest was almost erupting with excitement. ‘Ginette, Ginette!’ He waved at the bar owner. ‘Come over here! La petite Laure, she has been offered a job in London. On a magazine!’ As Ginette hurried over, and other people in the bar screeched their wooden chairs round to smile encouragingly, Laura had the sense that events were running away with her. Ginette stood there excitedly waving her Ricard bottle. Her eyebrows, perfect semicircles in orange pencil, rose into her firmly dyed black hairline. ‘Mais c’est parfait, Laure! Just what you always wanted!’ ‘A glossy magazine in London!’ Ernest exclaimed. ‘You can go there with your savoir-vivre à la Parisienne. Tell them all you know about Paris style! Your grandmother has taught you well.’ 44 wendy holden ‘All those Parisienne rules of elegance!’ Ginette egged him on. ‘Remind me, what are they again?’ ‘Let me think.’ Ernest accepted a refill of pastis. ‘Never waste good money on expensive face cream. A week-old Camembert, massaged in last thing at night, will do just as well.’ Caspar’s brow was furrowed as he pondered the results of this. Ginette cackled. ‘And don’t forget that cigarette ash makes the best mascara. Simply add water to the ashtray, dip in the brush, et voilà!’ Caspar was looking amazed. Laura’s shoulders began to shake. Ernest and Ginette were a formidable double-act when in the mood. ‘The canny Parisienne,’ Ernest went on, his face still perfectly straight, ‘never wastes money on expensive teethwhitening. She gets the guy painting her apartment to run over them with his brush.’ Ginette slapped the table. ‘If you snore and you’re worried your lover might leave you, two cornichons shoved in the nostrils work wonders.’ ‘Washing your hair in bouillabaisse gives it a marvellous shine. The trick is to not rinse it off.’ ‘Always rub garlic under your armpits to increase your… allure.’ Laura held up her hand. ‘Stop it, Ernest! Arrêtes!’ Ginette put an arm round Laura. ‘Ma petite, we are only teasing. Your new job sounds wonderful.’ ‘But I can’t do it,’ Laura said, part annoyed, part defiant, part desperate. There was a silence. Then Ernest cleared his throat, a sound like a motorbike blasting into life. ‘We know you are worried about Mimi, Laure. About leaving her.’ laura lake and the hipster weddings 45 ‘But you can leave her with us.’ Ginette gently shook Laura’s shoulders. ‘We will look after her. You can trust us.’ ‘We will check on her all the time,’ Ernest added, taking Laura’s hand in his enormous fist and squeezing it so her eyes watered. They were watering anyway. Laura’s annoyance and defiance now gave way to a great rush of affection. She had known Ginette and Ernest all her life and loved them dearly. She knew that she could trust them and that they meant what they said. She took a deep breath. So why not go to London? She could feel her previously immoveable position begin to move. She had a job. And if Caspar was really inviting her to live with him, she had a place to stay too. ‘We can take it in turns to have dinner with her, so she is not alone,’ Ernest was saying. Laura smiled at him. ‘That would be really kind.’ ‘Kind?’ Ernest interrupted with a snort. ‘Enlightened self-interest, ma petite. Mimi is the best cook in Paris, bar none.’ Ginette glanced at the zinc-topped bar. ‘Oop!’ she exclaimed. ‘Customers waiting.’ ‘Me too.’ Ernest grunted and rose to his feet. ‘No, don’t get up.’ He planted a kiss on Laura’s cheek and ceremoniously shook Caspar’s hand. ‘What amazing people,’ Caspar said wonderingly, as they moved off. ‘They’re the best,’ Laura said simply. ‘You’ve known them a long time?’ ‘I practically grew up in this bar. I used to play under the tables and build houses out of ashtrays.’ ‘Ah. That’s how you learnt how to use ashes as mascara,’ 46 wendy holden Caspar said sagely. He had clearly swallowed the performance whole. His phone pinged. As he read the text message, his soppy expression disappeared. ‘Oh fuck. Dave’s thrown me out.’ ‘Dave?’ ‘Guy whose floor I was sleeping on. Turns out it wasn’t his floor after all.’ Caspar reached for her hand. ‘Darling Laura. You couldn’t put me up for the night?’ ‘You’ll have to sleep in the kitchen,’ Laura warned as she let him in to the silent flat. There was no way he was sharing the fold-down sitting-room bed with her. ‘How about the bath, like “Norwegian Wood”?’ Laura shook her dark hair. No chance. Mimi’s door was shut and she was presumably sleeping. But if she needed the bathroom in the night, the shock would kill her. Caspar was at the window. ‘Wow, what a ridiculously Parisian view.’ ‘Quite good, isn’t it?’ Laura concurred, proudly. ‘Yes, she’s taking her bra off now.’ His eyes were fixed firmly on the third-floor window of the next block down. Laura was at the stove, lifting the lid off a pan. Tonight’s dish was soupe au pistou, another of her favourites. The sweet basil scent of freshly made pesto rose from the hearty mixture of beans, vegetables, pasta and home-made chicken stock. ‘Hungry?’ ‘Completely Hank,’ Caspar replied. ‘What?’ ‘Hank Marvin, starving. Cockney rhyming slang. You’d better get used to it, we speak it in London all the time.’ ‘Really?’ Laura eyed him uncertainly. laura lake and the hipster weddings 47 ‘I’ll give you a crash course. Nice daisy roots on your plates of meat,’ Caspar began in a cockney accent. ‘Nice what?’ ‘Daisy roots, boots. Plates of meat, feet. Here’s another. I was Brahms and Liszt in me whistle and flute.’ ‘I don’t understand.’ But Laura was laughing. ‘Brahms and Liszt, pissed. As in drunk. Whistle and flute is suit. Er, why’s everything pink?’ Caspar was staring at the light fittings. Laura explained about Mimi’s lightbulbs, and Caspar nodded. ‘Oh yeah. Those beauty tips. Camembert on your face.’ ‘Ernest was joking. Mimi never said any of those things.’ ‘Well, they all work. You’re very beautiful.’ ‘I’m not beautiful.’ ‘Well, you’re not perfect, it’s true.’ Caspar gazed at her appraisingly. ‘You’re too kind.’ ‘There’s that scar on your face – how did you get it, by the way?’ ‘An accident when I was little.’ ‘And you’ve got what they call a strong nose.’ ‘Thanks.’ ‘But you’ve got something else, too. Depth, I guess. Style. Mystery.’ ‘Oh please. Do me a—’ ‘No, hear me out.’ He pulled her to him with a suddenness that made her gasp. ‘I know you think I’m a bit trivial…’ ‘A bit?’ She could see, in the window’s reflection, Caspar standing over her, his cheek against her head. They looked surprisingly good together. The expression on his handsome face was 48 wendy holden one of transforming tenderness. Then again, he was looking at himself. ‘… but I think I love you.’ He kissed her hair and she felt a bolt go straight down through her body and out through the soles of her feet. She made herself wriggle free, deliberately breaking the spell. ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ ‘I’m not. Won’t you sleep with me?’ She folded her arms. ‘So that’s what this is about. No.’ He looked at her beseechingly. ‘Really no? Oh well. Don’t ask, don’t get. But you’ll still come to London with me, if I promise to keep my hands off you?’ ‘If you promise to keep your hands off me.’ Laura kept her voice low to prevent Mimi overhearing. She would break the news to her grandmother in the morning, choosing her time carefully. Caspar sighed theatrically. ‘I promise. The future of British magazine journalism hangs in the balance, after all.’ Laura ladled out the soup, grinning. ‘Shall we eat?’ Later, while Caspar brushed his ‘Hampsteads’ (Hampstead Heath – teeth), she heaped a pile of coats on the kitchen floor and made sure he was comfortable before closing the door dividing the kitchen from the sitting room and folding down her sofa bed. Sleep proved evasive, however. Was she really going to London? Would she really be okay without Mimi, without the little flat and her favourite view? And – the biggest question of all – what was she going to say to her grandmother? The windows were open, but the air seemed still and hot. Laura was burning and restless. She thought of Caspar sleeping next door – Caspar with his ridiculously long eyelashes, his melting gaze, his wide, full mouth capable of laura lake and the hipster weddings 49 saying so many filthy things without moving at all. And, no doubt, capable of much else besides. She took off her pyjamas and threw off the duvet. Then she pulled it back on again. She had lain awake for what seemed like hours, when the kitchen door creaked and pushed open. A male figure stood silhouetted in the doorway, the light from the bathroom licking the muscles of his chest. Caspar said nothing, and neither did she when he lifted the duvet and slid in beside her. He pressed against her, warm and firm, and put his mouth to hers. She didn’t resist.
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