Katie Fforde Practically Perfect

ISBN 13: 9780099472377

Practically Perfect

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9780099472377: Practically Perfect

Anna, a newly qualified interior designer, decides to risk everything on buying a tiny but adorable cottage so she can renovate it, sell it, and prove to her family that she can earn her own living. But the cottage interior isn’t the only obstacle she has to face; the other one is the arrival of Rob Hunter who puts up more obstacles than the Grand National.

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About the Author:

Katie Fforde’s six previous novels include Life Skills and most recently, the bestselling Thyme Out.
From the Paperback edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

The candle at her side flickered, and Anna shifted her position on the pair of steps where she was perched. She was beginning to regret having the telephone connected so promptly. There was very little mobile reception and without a conventional phone she’d have been almost unreachable. As it was, her ear was getting hot and her hand was getting cold, but her sister was still interrogating her. Anna didn’t bother to cut her short – it would only involve another telephone call later – she tucked her free hand into her sleeve and listened politely. The bib-andbraces dungarees she was wearing were fairly warm when she was moving around, but now she was getting chilly. ‘So why was it you moved there again?’ asked Laura for what felt like the hundredth time. ‘You know, property’s much cheaper up here in Yorkshire. We could have done the project together. Much more fun.’ Anna embarked on her explanation again – rather patiently, she thought. ‘I didn’t want to be so far from London, and Amberford is a much more desirable area. Commutable from London, just. We’ve been through this.’ Laura sighed. ‘I just don’t like you doing it all on your own, so far from us. And I really wish you hadn’t rushed into buying it, without me having a chance to see it first.’ In fact Anna did feel a bit guilty about this. ‘I’m sorry, but I had to decide very quickly. There were lots of other people after it. It was such a bargain.’ ‘You were a cash buyer,’ Laura pointed out rather snappily. Anna sighed. ‘I know, and that’s partly thanks to you. But so was the other guy. It would have gone to him if I hadn’t been in a position to write a cheque for a deposit on the spot.’ She paused. ‘I’m eternally grateful, Lo. Without that loan I couldn’t have done it.’ ‘You know I was happy to lend you the money, and you’re paying me more interest than I’d have got from anywhere else, I just don’t trust you to buy—’ ‘I know you don’t,’ said Anna, quite gently considering her frustration. ‘But it’s time you did. I know you’re my older sister, but I am an adult, you know.’ ‘Twenty-seven is not—’ ‘Yes it is.’ ‘I don’t mean that, of course you’re an adult, but this is all your capital and a bit of mine. It’s your inheritance.’ ‘I know the money didn’t come from the tooth fairy.’ Anna wished she’d supplied herself with pencil and paper and a space to sketch – she could have got on with some drawings while all this was going on. Not that it would have been possible in this light. She just hated wasting time. ‘What I’m saying is,’ Laura continued, ‘you won’t get that money from Granny again. And you could lose everything, you know.’ Anna shifted uncomfortably on the step. ‘I watch all the same television programmes you do. I’m just as aware that the property market goes down as well as up, all that stuff. I haven’t lived the last five years with my head in a sack.’ Laura sighed again. ‘I expect I’m just jealous. It was such fun doing up the flat in Spitalfields together.’ ‘It was fun,’ Anna agreed, ‘but I’m a big girl now. I’m a qualified interior designer. It’s time for me to go it alone.’ There was a silence. Laura was obviously still not convinced. ‘So how much money have you got left to live on?’ she asked, setting off on a new tack. ‘You won’t be able to do everything yourself, however handy you are with your Black and Decker and your Workmate – and I admit you are quite handy. And you still need to pay the mortgage.’ ‘I took out a slightly larger mortgage so I can use some of it to pay it—’ ‘That doesn’t sound sensible—’ ‘But I thought I might get a part-time job anyway,’ Anna said soothingly before Laura could get any further, ‘just to get to know people.’ ‘Ah! So you’re already worried about being lonely and you haven’t even spent a night in the house! Sell it quickly, and do the same thing up here, where I can keep an eye on you. You might still make a bit of a profit. You could get in touch with the other man who was interested—’ ‘No, Laura! I love this house! I’m not going to sell it.’ Laura pounced like a cat on a daydreaming mouse. ‘Ah! I knew it! You’ve fallen in love with an investment project. Fatal mistake.’ Anna cursed herself for letting slip this sign of weakness. ‘I didn’t say “in love”,’ she said, knowing she sounded pathetic. “‘In love” is quite different from loving it.’ She bit her lip while she waited to see if her sister bought this rather specious argument. ‘OK.’ Laura seemed resigned at last. ‘Just promise me you’ll sell it when it’s done. Falling in love is always a mistake.’ ‘I know.’ ‘With men or with property,’ she continued menacingly. ‘Come on, Laura! You and Will are ecstatically happy. You and the boys could rent yourself to cornflakes ads as the perfect family!’ Laura laughed, trapped by her own argument. ‘I know, but—’ ‘You’ve all got good teeth and shiny hair. You eat the right food—’ ‘This conversation is not about Will and the boys,’ said Laura firmly. ‘I know,’ Anna admitted, ‘but I was hoping I could steer it in that direction. How is Edward’s spelling coming on?’ ‘Anna!’ ‘OK, but I really want to know if Jacob has got off that vile reading book.’ ‘Oh yes.’ Her sister was momentarily diverted from sorting out Anna. ‘At last. But getting back to you, and falling in love—’ Anna accepted the inevitable. ‘You don’t trust me to fall in love as sensibly as you did?’ Will was the perfect husband: not only loving, good-looking and a good provider, he also did DIY. Laura was silent for a moment, possibly realising that falling in love with the right person was about luck as much as anything else. Anna enjoyed the respite. ‘You make me sound terribly bossy.’ At the other end of the phone, Anna nodded agreement. ‘But I’m just looking out for you,’ persisted Laura. ‘Mum’s a bit taken up with Peter these days and doesn’t pay attention to what you’re getting up to.’ ‘Mum’s entitled to be obsessed with her new husband. I am an adult.’ Although Anna was beginning to wonder if this was true, her sister seemed so unable to accept it. ‘And of course you’re just as capable of falling in love with the right man as I am. As long as I’ve checked him over first.’ But at least there was a smile in her voice now. ‘Fine. I promise I won’t marry anyone without consulting you. Oh, I can hear the boys. You’re needed, Laura.’ Never had her nephews’ shrieks sounded so endearing. ‘Oh yes, better go. Speak soon!’ ‘Right.’ Anna uncrossed her fingers, and then replaced the receiver on the handset and tucked it back into the little niche in the wall. It was only a white lie, she told herself as she stepped down to the floor. And you have to fall in love with a project a little bit, to really throw your heart into it. As for falling in love with the right man, that ship had sailed, too. She’d fallen in love with the wrong one years ago, and even knowing he was the wrong one didn’t affect her feelings. One of the reasons she had come to look at the house in the first place was because she remembered Max saying that his mother lived near here. It had seemed like a good omen. Anna blew out the candle and then reversed carefully down the ladder that was currently her staircase. Sometimes she let herself fantasise about meeting his mother, or running into Max while he was visiting her. She always chuckled at this dream in spite of herself. If he did run into her, she’d more than likely be wearing dungarees and builder’s boots, and while she had always been a jeans and sweater girl, her clothes were even more utilitarian now than they had been when she was a student. Still, she’d carried the torch for a very long time and it still burned as brightly as when Max had been the guest lecturer at college. He’d been the hot young architect, coming in to talk to them, and she’d just been one of the students, taking notes. She was willing to bet she wasn’t the only one who’d fallen in love with him, either. He’d been so dynamic and vital. Not really handsome, but with such a massive personality that his looks didn’t matter. But she’d never talked about him to anyone else and, thank God, this included her sister. She hadn’t wanted to find out that he’d slept his way through half the class but passed over her. Then, at their Graduation Ball, he had picked her out and danced with her. It was right at the end, and Anna had had to leave because there was a whole group of them sharing a minicab home. There’d just been time for Max to write his number on a bit of cigarette packet. ‘Call me,’ he’d said, his voice a husky whisper. Anna had fully intended to call him, even though the thought was more scary than finals had been, but some hideous bug had laid her low for days. The first day she felt well enough to go out she had been on her way to the chemist when she saw him – with a woman. She had rushed home and torn up the bit of cigarette packet and then burnt the pieces. It was only a couple of days later, when the last remnants of the bug had left her and she felt less wobbly, that she realised she’d been incredibly stupid. The woman could have been just a friend: his sister, a colleague, anyone. She’d regretted her folly ever since. Anna went to the place where the electric kettle and the toaster were plugged into the only part of the house where they could be. There was also a small wash-hand basin there, so it counted as a kitchen. To satisfy the demands of the building-society-turned-bank, she had left the slightly rusty cooker and cracked sink in place until after she’d been given a mortgage. Luckily for her, the address, and the relatively small amount she needed to borrow, meant the valuer didn’t actually need to go into the property. She had secured her money on a ‘walk by’ – which normally would have been a drive by, had it been possible to drive past the cottages – and it was hers. Of course the mortgage didn’t seem small to her, it seemed enormous, but from the building society’s point of view, it was fairly insignificant. While she made herself a cup of tea, using the last of the milk, she forced herself to stop thinking about the man she hadn’t seen for three years and calculated how long it would be before Laura could stay away no longer and would descend, handyman husband in tow, to ‘sort her out’. Anna loved her sister dearly, and when they’d lived together they’d got on fine. But since Laura was no longer able to supervise her dates, steer her wardrobe in the right direction, and generally mother her, the word ‘bossy’ was becoming more and more appropriate. If she’d known where Anna intended to spend her first night in her very own home – investment project, she corrected herself hurriedly – she’d have had a blue fit. She would not consider a sleeping bag and a camping mat a suitable resting place, even if Anna did have a couple of blankets she could pull over herself. But without Laura adding her capital to hers, her mortgage would have been much larger. And surely Laura wouldn’t blame Anna for falling in love with the cottage, at least a little bit. It was heavenly! Or it would be when it had floors, a staircase, a proper kitchen and a bathroom. The previous owners had ripped all these things out and then either run out of money or interest. The estate agent was rather cagey about it. Anna had tossed and turned her way through a week of sleepless nights while she waited for the surveyor’s report. She was certain he’d discover some major problem: the reason why the previous owners had abandoned something with ‘such terrific letting potential’ as the estate agent put it. When no such reasons were revealed, Anna felt it was probably because there was so little left in which to discover death-watch beetle, dry rot or perished timbers. The ground floor had been stripped of almost everything, including most of the floorboards. There was no staircase, so the only way to the first floor was via a ladder. Here there was at least a floor to walk about on, but there was no bathroom. And the very top floor, the attic, which in Anna’s mind’s eye was already the most wonderful bedroom-bathroom-dressing-room suite, was very much as it had been hundreds of years ago. Anna planned to sleep up there when everything was straighter downstairs, but at the moment she felt she needed to be nearer things. Up in the attic, the rest of the house could burst into flames and she would be unaware of it until it was too late. She’d bought and installed a smoke alarm, even without her sister’s prompting. Its lack of amenities had made the house very cheap, considering its position, both in the country as a whole and in Amberford in particular. It was part of a row of cottages at right angles to the road. A path led between the houses and the gardens which overlooked the village. When the houses were built, the gardens would all have produced vegetables and not been used for leisure purposes. Even now, there was no space wasted in high hedges or fences. It gave the area an open-plan, allotment-like feel, that Anna loved. Laura would say that having the garden open plan would detract from the value. But there was a smaller, enclosed garden at the back, and if your children needed lots of playing space (and Laura’s two boys definitely did) there was an attractive bit of common land not far away. A church, a school and a pub, and an easy journey to a mainline station, made it a very desirable spot. There was even a shop and a post office and, not too far away, a Chinese takeaway. Of course it only had two bedrooms, and Laura would say that cut Anna’s target market down considerably. Anna had already prepared her speech saying it made it an ideal second home, although she didn’t like the idea of second homes making once-thriving villages barren and empty during the week. She had yet to meet her neighbours, and because it was beginning to get dark and people would be putting their lights on, a walk along the row would tell her which cottages were occupied permanently, and which were not. She needed a few things from the shop anyway; now would be a good time to investigate discreetly. It seemed strange walking so close to people’s windows and although she couldn’t quite resist looking inside, she made her glances oblique and fleeting. She was grateful that she was the end cottage (she would tell her sister that ‘end of terrace’ was better than’mid’) so no one could look in at the building site she currently called home. Her immediate neighbour was definitely a permanent resident. Anna could hear children and there were lights on everywhere. A sideways glance through the kitchen window as she passed showed a reassuring amount of mess. Anna’s sister was terribly organised and it was what they argued about more than anything else. Anna didn’t want to find herself living next door to another neatnik. The next house was either a holiday home or belonged to someone not yet home from work: a commuter, possibly. The curtains were open but no light showed. Anna could see hints of a very stylish, modern kitchen, full of expensive appliances. The house next to that was clearly occupied by an elderly lady. Her windowsill was covered with china ornaments, visible in front of the curtain that was already drawn. A cat sat on the porch, evidently dismissing Anna as a blow-in, and refusing her offers of friendship. The first cottage in the row, and the last one Anna passed before she reached the main road, was definitely a holiday cottage. The Christmas decorations were still up, even though it was mid-March. Going by the quality of the decorations, which were of the tasteful corn-dolly and red-ribbon type, she judged the house was not owned by disorganised people who just didn’t get round to taking them down. More likely they were spending the winter somewhere warm. Out of the five cottages, three – possibly four – including h...

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Book Description Cornerstone, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 11th ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Home is where the heart is. This is a wonderfully romantic novel from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of Recipe for Love, A French Affair and The Perfect Match. Anna, a newly qualified interior designer, has decided it s time to put her money and her expertise where her mouth is. She s risked everything on buying a tiny but adorable cottage so she can renovate it, sell it on, and prove to her family that she can earn her own living. Outside, the chocolate-box cottage is perfect, but inside all is chaos: with a ladder for a staircase, no downstairs flooring, candles the only form of lighting and a sleeping bag and camping mat for a bed, Anna s soon wondering whether she s bitten off more than she can chew. Her neighbour Chloe comes to the rescue, providing tea, wine and sympathy - and a recently rescued greyhound, Caroline. But just as Anna s starting to believe she s found the perfect idyll, the good-looking yet impossible Rob Hunter arrives on the scene, putting up more obstacles than the Grand National. Can Anna get over all of life s hurdles?. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099472377

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Book Description Cornerstone, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 11th ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Home is where the heart is. This is a wonderfully romantic novel from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of Recipe for Love, A French Affair and The Perfect Match. Anna, a newly qualified interior designer, has decided it s time to put her money and her expertise where her mouth is. She s risked everything on buying a tiny but adorable cottage so she can renovate it, sell it on, and prove to her family that she can earn her own living. Outside, the chocolate-box cottage is perfect, but inside all is chaos: with a ladder for a staircase, no downstairs flooring, candles the only form of lighting and a sleeping bag and camping mat for a bed, Anna s soon wondering whether she s bitten off more than she can chew. Her neighbour Chloe comes to the rescue, providing tea, wine and sympathy - and a recently rescued greyhound, Caroline. But just as Anna s starting to believe she s found the perfect idyll, the good-looking yet impossible Rob Hunter arrives on the scene, putting up more obstacles than the Grand National. Can Anna get over all of life s hurdles?. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099472377

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Book Description Cornerstone. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Practically Perfect, Katie Fforde, Home is where the heart is. This is a wonderfully romantic novel from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of Recipe for Love, A French Affair and The Perfect Match. Anna, a newly qualified interior designer, has decided it's time to put her money and her expertise where her mouth is. She's risked everything on buying a tiny but adorable cottage so she can renovate it, sell it on, and prove to her family that she can earn her own living. Outside, the chocolate-box cottage is perfect, but inside all is chaos: with a ladder for a staircase, no downstairs flooring, candles the only form of lighting and a sleeping bag and camping mat for a bed, Anna's soon wondering whether she's bitten off more than she can chew. Her neighbour Chloe comes to the rescue, providing tea, wine and sympathy - and a recently rescued greyhound, Caroline. But just as Anna's starting to believe she's found the perfect idyll, the good-looking yet impossible Rob Hunter arrives on the scene, putting up more obstacles than the Grand National. Can Anna get over all of life's hurdles?. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099472377

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