Carole Mathews Welcome to the Real World

ISBN 13: 9780753177952

Welcome to the Real World

 
9780753177952: Welcome to the Real World

International bestselling author Carole Matthews brings her unparalleled wit, warmth and wisdom to a fresh venue -- the highly competitive world of professional music -- in a new, un-put-downable romantic comedy set in London and Los Angeles.

Scraping by for years on pub gigs and odd jobs, Fern Kendal has always suspected she might actually have a decent voice. But caring for her feuding parents and sickly nephew took all her energy -- until now. During one crazy week, she lands a spot on the reality television talent show Fame Game and a glam new job as personal assistant to world-famous singer Evan David.

Fern's handsome new boss lives in the spotlight, but memories of a childhood tragedy keep Evan from truly enjoying all he's achieved. Though flanked by a hovering entourage and adoring fans, he feels isolated and set apart. That is, until free-spirited Fern is added to the mix. Though she can't seem to master her assistant duties, Fern brings a rare smile to Evan's face and makes him long to rejoin the real world.

Through a twist of fate, Evan becomes the newest judge on Fame Game, a sour note for Fern, who has reasons for keeping her ambitions under wraps. She goes on the run, but Evan can't forget her, and thus begins the adventure of a lifetime -- both onstage and off!

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About the Author:

Carole Matthews is the internationally bestselling author of ten novels. Her unique sense of humor has won her legions of fans and acclaim all over the world. Her first novel in the United States, For Better, For Worse was a "Reading with [Kelly] Ripa" book club pick, sending it straight onto the USA Today bestseller list.

When she's not writing novels and film scripts, Carole manages to find time to trek in the Himalayas, in-line skate in Central Park, take tea in China and snooze in her garden shed. Carole lives near London, England, with her Mr. Right.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"I need more money." Tilting the glass in my hand, I pull yet another pint of beer.

"Don't we all, man." My dear friend Carl looks at me through the fog of his cigarette smoke, eyes barely slits. He's propping up the bar opposite me and I smile across at him, mainly because the hubbub of noise in the pub makes it difficult to be heard and I want to save my voice.

Carl is a man out of his time--I'm sure he would have been much happier as a 1970s rock god. His battered denim jacket, shoulder-length hair and tendency to say, "Yeah, man," don't sit comfortably with current ideas of personal styling. But Carl and I go back a long way. A long, long way.

"No. I really need money," I say. "This time it's bad." 'It always is," Carl remarks. "Joe's swimming in a sea of unpaid bills. I have to do something." Joe is my older brother, but somehow I've become responsible for him. I don't mind at all. He needs all the help he can get.

"You work two jobs already, Fern." 'Tell me something I don't know." The till does its digital equivalent of ker-ching again and, grinning insanely at the next punter, I reach for another glass.

"How much more can you do?"

Win the lottery? Put on my shortest skirt, strike a pose outside King's Cross station and hope for a bit of business? Get a third job that requires minimum effort, yet doles out maximum pay? I'll fill you in quickly on what I like to call my 'situation'.

Bro' Joe lives on benefits and is constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul. Now Peter has been robbed so much he has nothing left. My brother isn't, however, the media version of a person living on the dole--work-shy, feckless or lazy. Joe can't work because he has a sick son, Nathan. My beloved nephew is a five-year-old blond-haired heartbreaker and has severe asthma--and when I say severe, I mean severe. He needs constant attention. Constant attention that his mother--the beautiful and brittle Carolyn--wasn't prepared to give him as she left my lovely brother and their only child when Nathan was barely a year old. And, call me a bitter old bat, but I don't think that could be considered as giving it a fair crack of the whip.

If anyone thinks it's easy to manage on measly government handouts, then think again. If anyone thinks it's easy being the single parent of a sickly child, then ditto. Joe had a promising career in a bank--okay, he wasn't setting the world alight. My brother was never destined to appear on Newsnight in a pin-stripe suit giving his opinion on the world money market, but he was getting great appraisals, regular promotions, small pay rises--and a pension to die for. He gave it all up the moment Carolyn departed to stay at home and care for Nathan. And, for that alone, he deserves all the support I can give him.

"You're on in a minute," Ken the Landlord shouts over at me, giving a pointed glance at the clock.

As well as pulling pints behind the beer-stained bar of the King's Head public house, I am also 'the turn'. I do two half-hour sets every evening Monday through Saturday--Sunday is quiz night--singing middle-of-the-road pop songs for a terminally disinterested crowd. I finish serving the round of drinks and then nod my head towards Carl. "Ready?"

Carl is my pianist. Again, I think he'd be happier as lead guitarist--which he also plays brilliantly--for Deep Purple or someone of that ilk, leaping around the stage, doing ten-minute solos, head-banging to his heart's content. But Carl has bills to pay, too. He jumps down off his bar stool and we head for the small, raised platform that is our stage. A once-spangly curtain is attached by a row of drawing pins to the wall behind us. Despite Carl's rebel, dropout appearance he is the most reliable person I've ever met. He's very low-key rock 'n' roll, really. Okay, he smokes the occasional joint and puts 'Jedi Knight' as his religion on Electoral Roll forms, but I don't think he's ever been moved to bite the head off a live chicken on stage or any such thing. And he's never smashed up a guitar as a display of artistic expression, because he's far too aware of how much they cost. He is also patience personified, spending every evening on that bar stool waiting for our two brief periods of respite when we can do what we truly love doing.

"We could do a couple of extra hours busking in the Tube," my friend suggests as we make our way to the stage. "That usually pulls in a few quid."

I grab Carl's hand and squeeze it.

He looks at me in surprise. "What's that for?" 'I love you," I say. "Cupboard love," he replies. "Would you still love me if I wasn't the world's best ivory tinkler?"

"Yes."

This is a confession now. Carl and I used to be an 'item'. We never did the horizontal tango together--something for which I'm truly grateful. But we used to spend hours necking and I used to let him feel my top parts--occasionally even under my jumper. In my defence, however, this was when I was fifteen and we were at school together. And it was a much more innocent era.

Now that I'm thirty-two, I have no boyfriend and no time for one. Not even Carl, who I think still holds a torch for me. Well, not just a torch, a bloody great f lashlight, a beacon, whatever type of light it is they have on lighthouses. I feel sorry that I don't love Carl in the way that he loves me, but I got him out of my system years ago and, basically, he's still sporting the same jacket and hairdo that he wore then. Need I say more?

We take our places on the stage, Carl behind his keyboard, me at the temperamental microphone. I wish I had more presence, more va-va-voom, but I always feel so insignificant on stage--partly because I'm only fractionally taller than the microphone stand. There's a slight hiatus in the hullabaloo of conversation and a smattering of disjointed clapping. Without preamble--no 'one, two, one, two' as I test the mike, no shout of 'Good evening, London!'--we launch into our performance. As this is a predominantly Irish pub, U2 hits feature heavily in our repertoire, as do those of The Corrs and Sinead O'Connor. We usually also knock out a few 1960s favourites and some classic ballads at the end to keep the maudlin drunks happy.

I spill my heart and soul, sliding f lawlessly from one song to another, and at the end I take my bow and, in return, receive some muted applause. Is this what I do it for? For a few meagre crumbs of appreciation and an equally few extra quid in my pay packet at the end of the week?

When I'm back at the bar and serving pints again, one of the customers leans towards me and says with beery breath, "You've got a great voice, darlin'. It's bloody wasted here."

"Thanks." 'You want to get on that Fame Game programme. You'd beat the pants off most of them."

This isn't the first time I've been told that. Usually by men with beery breath and no knowledge whatsoever of the music industry.

"That's a great idea!" I don't point out to him that to take part in any of these talent-spotting fiascos, you need to be under the age of twenty-two and possess a belly f latter than your average pancake--neither of which applies to me.

My admirer lurches away clutching his drink.

I give Carl another pint of lager. "That went well," he says. "I thought "With or Without You" was really heavy, man."

"Yes." 'I'll come round tomorrow and we can go through the running order. Maybe try out a few new songs."

"Sure." We analyse all our performances as if we've just come off the stage at Wembley Arena and, sometimes, it makes my heart break.

Once I was asked for my autograph at the end of the night by a young guy, but I'm not sure if he was taking the piss. All his friends laughed when he showed them the beer mat with my name scrawled on it in marker pen. It still made me walk on air for a week afterwards. I stif le a sigh. Don't think I don't have ambitions beyond being a badly paid barmaid-cum-pub singer. I, too, would like to be Joss Stone, Jamelia and Janet Jackson rolled into one. But, tell me, how on earth do I get my big break when all my days and nights are spent just trying to earn a crust?

When you roll into bed at about one o'clock every morning, the next day comes around very quickly, I f ind. I force my eyes to open. Eventually the blurry mist settles and I think about getting up. Slipping my feet into my cow-patterned slippers, I try to pretend that my f lat is not the skankiest place imaginable. Even Shrek would turn up his nose at living here--and that guy's at home in a swamp. My rising damp hit the ceiling years ago and, as is hugely beneficial for someone partly reliant on their voice for their earnings, I have developed a slight asthmatic cough due to the number of spores that live here with me. But it's cheap. I bet you couldn't guess that.

Shuff ling into the bathroom, I stand in the bath while the warmish trickle of water from what I laughingly call my shower does its darnedest to revive me. My poor throat. Every morning, I feel as if I've swallowed a dozen razor blades. I put it down to the effects of passive smoking in the pub and spend the day drinking gallons of water to try to counteract it. I rub the scrag end of a bar of soap over my weary body.

My sense of smell is the next thing to wake up. The f lat is situated above an Indian restaurant--The Spice Emporium. Their advertising says, As Featured On BBC Television, but what it fails to mention is that the only time it hit the TV screens was when it made the local news programme because of a salmonella outbreak when thirty of its diners went down with food poisoning. The owner, Ali, obviously hopes that his customers have very short memories. My main problem with The Spice Emporium is that the chef there has the frying pan on the go at about six in the morning. Everything I do during my waking hours at home is accompanied by the smell of cooking spices. My tummy constantly growls from the minute I'm awake, as it's convinced that onion bhajis are the thing to have for breakfa...

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