The Real Liddy James: The perfect summer holiday read

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9781848548343: The Real Liddy James: The perfect summer holiday read

"Smart and funny . . . Liddy will resonate for readers who love strong, mature women with a bit of Irish fire, as with fans of Cecelia Ahern and Marian Keyes and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette." --Booklist

A witty and captivating novel about a modern-day superwoman who leans in so far she falls over
 
Forty-four, fit, and fabulous, Liddy James is one of New York’s top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two. Armed with a ruthless reputation and a capsule wardrobe, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. What’s her secret? Liddy will tell you: “I don’t do guilt!”
 
This is the last thing literature professor Peter James wants to hear. Devastated by his divorce from Liddy six years earlier, the two have a tangled history his new partner, Rose, is only just sorting out. But Rose is a patient woman with faith in a well-timed miracle and she’s determined to be sympathetic to Peter’s plight. Together, Liddy, Peter, and Rose have formed a modern family to raise Liddy and Peter’s truculent teen and Liddy’s darling, if fatherless, six-year-old.
 
But when Rose announces she’s pregnant, Liddy’s nanny takes flight, the bill for a roof repair looms, and a high-profile divorce case becomes too personal, Liddy realizes her days as a guilt-free woman might be over. Following a catastrophic prime-time TV interview, she carts her sons back to Ireland to retrace their family’s history. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things are still far from simple, and Liddy will have to come to terms with much more than a stormy neighbor and an unorthodox wedding if she ever hopes to rediscover the real Liddy James.

Fun, fearless, and full of heart, The Real Liddy James takes a fresh look at the balancing act every family performs. With the deft characterization and sharp wit that made her first novel an international bestseller, Anne-Marie Casey invites us into the ambitions, passions, and misadventures of this extraordinary heroine. 
"Witty, clever, elegantly-written, fascinating and wise. I ADORED." --Marian Keyes, internationally bestselling author

"Whip-smart and crackling with energy . . . had me stopping nearly every page to read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen. A true delight!" --Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author

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About the Author:

Anne-Marie Casey is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. Her film and TV scripts have been produced in the UK and Ireland and her theatrical adaptations of Little Women and Wuthering Heights enjoyed sell-out runs at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. No One Could Have Guessed the Weather, her first book, was an international bestseller. She is married to the novelist Joseph O'Connor. They live in Dublin, Ireland, with their two sons.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2016 Anne-Marie Casey

 

 

Liddy knew Mrs Vandervorst had been crying because she emerged from the corridor bathroom with her sunglasses on. There had been some confusion over timing, a not unusual occurrence during the holiday season, and Mrs Vandervorst had arrived alone, so Liddy solicitously accompanied her to the conference room and settled her into a velvet upholstered armchair with a cup of camomile tea, which she had made in a white china tea pot with loose buds, not a bag. The buds bloomed into pretty white flowers floating on the surface of the pale yellow liquid and the sight of this seemed to calm Mrs Vandervorst, who sank back into the cushions a little and sipped slowly. Liddy hoped the woman would gather herself before the meeting began. She did not want any scenes this afternoon—accusations, counter accusations, sordid marital mudslinging. Drama inevitably delays everything. She had a twice-postponed interview with the Times at four that afternoon.

‘What colour is this?’ said Mrs Vandervorst, looking at the walls.

“It’s one of those fancy country house colours. Mist on the heather, it’s called, or something like that.”

Mrs Vandervorst took off her sunglasses. Underneath, her eyes were stubbornly ringed white with ill-matched concealer, but the tell-tale bloodshot around her pupils remained.

“I like it,” she said, “it’s very soothing.”

Liddy smiled. It was not the first such comment and she found it gratifying. Before she agreed to join Oates and Associates, in addition to the usual stock allocation, health cover for her extended family, and use of a driver on weekends, she had insisted upon a supervisory role in redecorating the offices and had been delighted that her arrival as a senior partner coincided with the expiration of the lease on the macho, marbled space on Fifth. She had found this townhouse on East 61st through a client, another forced sale after the demise of a third marriage of unseemly haste, and set about refurbishing it in the manner of a boutique hotel or luxury gite, probably one in the south of France but with American owners so the taps didn’t screech like injured animals when turned on. The other partners scoffed at the discussion of a “color palate,” but Curtis Oates, Founding Partner and pioneer in the new world of extreme pre-nuptial agreements (compulsory facelifts, monthly threesomes, or custody of children along gender lines no problem), had dropped into her office one evening brandishing a line drawing from the Hirst studio as a thank you.

“Very clever, Liddy,” he had said in the raspy Humphrey Bogart voice he had affected as a teenager because Leonora Mott, the object of his affection in 1971, had told him it was sexy. “You got a lotta class, kid.” Liddy knew this; she had worked hard to acquire it. “Make ’em relax before we screw ’em.”

Liddy turned to Mrs Vandervorst and hoped she was relaxing, for she was certain tobe screwed.

“Are you alright?” she asked, and meant it.

Mrs Vandervorst looked straight at her. She had the sorrow under control now and so, left with disbelief, she kept digging the nails on her left hand into her palm hard as if she could wake herself up.

“How do I get rid of his name?” she said, “I can’t take it off like the rings.”

Liddy glanced at the enormous pink diamond on the other woman’s finger and,mentally scanning through her list of Mr Vandervorst’s demands, thought he wants the ring,my dear, the name he doesn’t care about, because it didn’t cost him anything.

“You go back to your maiden name,” she said.

Mrs Vandervorst thought about this for a moment.“I don’t remember who Gloria Jane Thompson was.”

Liddy looked away to see if anyone had appeared in the corridor (Mudlark Blue onthe walls, an arrangement of vivid poinsettas on a side table).

“How can you do this to me?”

“Sorry . . . ?” Liddy was not sure if she had heard something or not. Mrs Vandervorsthad whispered, as she was woman frightened of her anger and she did not want to cry again.

“Are you a mother, Ms James?”

Liddy assumed her default, low-register professional voice, designed to convey understanding as well as authority. “Yes, I have two sons.”

“Then don’t take my children away. They need me.”

“Mrs Vandervorst. They need their parents. A shared custody arrangement is not taking your children away.”

Liddy glanced up at the corner of the room where a concealed camera, ostensibly for security purposes, videotaped all exchanges in case of later dispute. Perhaps conversation had been a mistake, she thought.

“I’m going to find out where your attorney is,” she said, moving to leave.

Mrs Vandervorst stood up too quickly, and the camomile flowers in the bottom of her cup spilled onto the cream hand-knotted silk rug.

“It’s Christmas, Ms James, it’s my religious holiday. I want the children. My youngest, Karl. He’s only four. He barely knows his father. My husband travels for weeks on end and Karl cries when I’m not there. Liddy, you must work all hours. You know what it feels like to hear your child begging you to stay-”

Liddy turned. She was not frightened of her anger. Her eyes went beady and cold and her nostrils flared imperceptibly.

“Having reviewed your domestic arrangements . . . Gloria . . . I fear that a woman who left a lucrative job to bring up her children, but who has availed of maternity nurses, day and night nannies, weekend housekeeping and homework assistants for the past fifteen years can hardly claim to have devoted her entire existence to them.”

“I didn’t want it to be like that.”

“Then who did? You say your husband is never there.”

“I suffered from exhaustion after the twins.”

“Yes. I understand you took a two month recuperative break to a spa in St Barts, where you improved both your health and your double handed backhand.”

“How the hell do you know that?”

The change in tone was so abrupt that Liddy almost cheered. Clearly Mrs Vandervorst had suddenly remembered who Gloria Jane Thompson was; the brightest girl in her high school, a woman who spoke four languages including Russian, and had an MBA.

Gloria Jane realized that somewhere on Liddy’s computer might be a j-peg file containing photos of her in white shorts with Carlos, the tennis coach, copies of her bi-weekly therapy bills, and, perhaps most worryingly, recordings of a series of ill-advised messages she had left on her husband’s phone late at night which, if judiciously edited, might make “unstable” sound like an understatement.

“That’s why your husband hired me,” said Liddy, and headed for the door where she paused. “I understand how you feel, Mrs Vandervorst. You want to savage him and I probably would too, but believe me, the price of going to court is too high—and I don’t mean the eight hundred dollars an hour you’re paying Gillespie, Stackallan and Ross.”

She gestured towards the table. “If you want to use the phone, you press extension one.”

Liddy glanced at her watch as she marched up the corridor. 3.25. “Where the hell is everybody?” she yelled into the reception area, where an enormous fir tree decorated entirely in white lights and silver bells twinkled splendidly. There was no reply save an extraordinary honking laugh that Liddy realized was emanating from her new Paralegal, Sydney Grace, a young woman who had given no previous indication that she had any sense of humour at all. Now Sydney was doubled over in hysterics: her right hand clutching the sleeve of a long coat of dark colour worn by the extremely tall man beside her, her left brushing a few stray snowflakes from his shoulders.

Liddy turned to the window in surprise. Outside the first proper snow of winter was falling, and Liddy remembered there were seasons, and that she had not been aware of them for about six years, since her life had changed, since she began moving between office and home by luxury car, since weather became something she looked out of a window at.

“Did I miss something?” she said. Sydney looked up and opened her mouth to speak, but Liddy spoke first. “Hello Sebastian.”

The tall man in the snow-flecked dark coat turned to look at her. “Hello Liddy. I’m here to divorce the Vandervorsts,” he said with a wink at Sydney, who scurried back to her desk collapsing into giggles once again. “I know you were expecting Mr Gillespie, but he’s got food poisoning—a dodgy oyster over the weekend- so I drew the short straw.”

At this moment, Curtis appeared in the doorway of his office, grinning in anticipation. “Top o’ the morning, Mr Stackallan. How are you?”

“I’d rather be negotiating a ransom with pirates in the Malacca Straits,” Sebastian replied.

“Thank you,” said Curtis, genuinely gratified, before ducking back inside again.

From somewhere a tinny version of Danny Boy started playing. Sebastian began first patting the pockets of the coat, then his Donegal tweed suit (authentically matted with what could have been wolfhound hairs), until he located the iphone tucked into a red sock beneath the bicycle clips on his right leg, above his brogues. He pulled it to his ear, his attention caught by the row of legal certificates lining the wall, in particular the one for a certain Lydia Mary Murphy.

He glanced at Liddy.

“Excuse me, Lydia Mary,” he said. “No one’s allowed to call me that, apart from my parents. It’s Liddy. . . ..or Ms James,”

Liddy replied with a half laugh that was not really a laugh at all. Sebastian Stackallan simply grinned, said,”Hello, Gillespie?” and turned away to take the call.

Liddy took the moment to consider how annoying she always found him. And not in an adorable annoying way, not in a way fizzling with sexual attraction like the set up of a Preston Sturges movie or Much Ado About Nothing. She looked at his green tie, patterned with tiny shamrocks, knotted roughly beneath the face of a celtic poet, with an aquiline nose and sensitive mouth. She saw the one graying forelock of his jet-black hair that he flicked absentmindedly away from his blue-gray eyes, his complexion so palely handsome that he seemed permanently to be in black and white.

No, she disliked everything about him because she was a woman who lived in the vivid colour of a constantly re-invented present, and she distrusted those who clung to an idea of a caste or the past. Sebastian was a foreigner’s caricature of a sensitive, sexy Irishman and Liddy had learned in 7th grade writing class that cliché always diminishes what it describes.

“Yes, I understand . . . Holy Jaysuz man, see a doctor!” he was saying as he held the telephone away from his mouth. Liddy and Sydney heard violent retching before he hung up.

“It seems our client wants to agree to your client’s proposal,” he said, fixing Liddy with his blue-gray eyes, his stare no longer pale, but icy.

“Shall I take you to her?” she replied, returning his gaze with wide-eyed innocence, unleashing her killer wide-toothed smile. She gestured for him to follow her down the corridor, where he might perhaps appreciate her perfectly proportioned figure in her plum colored dress, the pencil skirt fitted to just above the knee, all the better to show off the long, slender legs that had walked unscathed through forty-four years, a solitary childhood, one divorce, and two pregnancies. But Sebastian was distracted and, as usual, appeared utterly indifferent to Liddy’s considerable charms.

“Par for the course,” he said, more to himself that her. “Nobbling our client at the status conference and terrifying her out of litigation. Straight out of the Curtis Oates playbook.”

Liddy could not bring herself to defend her boss; Curtis Oates was, after all, a man so loathsome that even his adult children would not tell him where they lived.

“I’ve saved Mrs Vandervorst a lot of money,” she said.

“Fair enough,” he replied, and Liddy was conscious that this had some sort of double meaning.

They were outside the closed conference room door now and for a moment Liddy was struck by how perfectly Sebastian fitted in with mist on the heather.

“We would have got what we wanted, just so you know,” he said, “If we’d gone to court.”

“There are no winners and losers in the field of marital warfare, Sebastian,” she said, mostly because she knew it would annoy him.

He turned to her, the icy stare returning.

“Okay, maybe,” she conceded, “You’re always good at the big emotional appeal out of nowhere. The lilting Irish accent helps.” This was true. She had often seen Sebastian command the attention of a noisy courtroom simply by adjusting the timbre of his voice. “That soliloquy you did for Judge Harris last month about the little boy with his backpack and his teddy on the plane. Genius. You can make the most absurd statement sound moving. Shame you never let fact or precedent get in the way.”

He nodded. “You know what you’re good at?” He did not wait for her to answer. “Making a complicated situation look simple.”

There was something in his tone that went beyond collegial banter and into contempt.

“Someone once said to me that this business makes nice people do nasty things,” she said, stung.

Sebastian laughed rather hollowly and moved his hand to grab the brass door knob. “And for getting what she wants in the long run commend me to a nasty woman,” he muttered, the beauty of his voice sharpening the force of the words.

Liddy flinched, shocked by the force of her reaction.

“Edith Wharton. The House of Mirth,” she said, looking at him, but remembering another voice entirely, in another place, at another time.

“Precisely,” he said, but he was disconcerted. The laconic, erudite aside was something of a trademark of his; normally people responded with a knowing smile or a roll of the eyes. Liddy’s eyes, however, had filled with unexpected tears and she spun away, raising her hand to her mouth. There was no point in claiming she wasn’t upset because she never cried in an understated, glamorous way, and was now red and snotty like a toddler. But before she could wipe her face with her silk jersey sleeves, Sebastian pulled a tatty, but clean, monogrammed handkerchief from his cuff.

“Liddy . . . ?”

“I’m fine,” she said, seizing the handkerchief and bolting towards the corridor bathroom, her sudden grief stuck like bile in her throat. He followed.

“I’m sorry. I was rude.” His tone was gentler now.

“People have been much ruder to me than that,” she said quickly. (She had no intention of qualifying the statement, although she could have said that she was sure there were small wax effigies of her regularly burned throughout the Five Boroughs. And only the previous weekend she had been shunned at a spinning class by a couple of furious first wives.)

“I can imagine.”

She turned and looked at him, askance. He continued. “I mean, it’s what you said about this business. How many more times can I watch wedding videos where the happy couple vow to always smile in the sunshine or, worse, pick up guitars for their customised renditi...

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Book Description Hodder Stoughton General Division, United Kingdom, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Smart, funny and thought-provoking. Sunday Mirror Everyone who meets her thinks they know Liddy James. A single mother of two, she is one of New York City s top lawyers (with the ruthless reputation and capsule wardrobe to match) and seems to juggle her complicated life with ease. Her work is all-consuming, her divorce was devastating, her sons are playing up and she s forgotten what more than five hours sleep a night feels like, but still - here she is - on top of the high wire. Until she isn t. When a series of unexpected events culminate in a catastrophic incident on prime time TV, Liddy realises the act is over. She decides to take some time off with the boys and retrace her family s history in Ireland. But being marooned in the Celtic countryside is by no means an instant fix, and it is not until Liddy has encountered a stormy neighbour, an unorthodox wedding and a very surprising guest, that she remembers how to be The Real Liddy James. Bookseller Inventory # AA69781848548343

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Book Description Hodder Stoughton General Division, United Kingdom, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Smart, funny and thought-provoking. Sunday Mirror Everyone who meets her thinks they know Liddy James. A single mother of two, she is one of New York City s top lawyers (with the ruthless reputation and capsule wardrobe to match) and seems to juggle her complicated life with ease. Her work is all-consuming, her divorce was devastating, her sons are playing up and she s forgotten what more than five hours sleep a night feels like, but still - here she is - on top of the high wire. Until she isn t. When a series of unexpected events culminate in a catastrophic incident on prime time TV, Liddy realises the act is over. She decides to take some time off with the boys and retrace her family s history in Ireland. But being marooned in the Celtic countryside is by no means an instant fix, and it is not until Liddy has encountered a stormy neighbour, an unorthodox wedding and a very surprising guest, that she remembers how to be The Real Liddy James. Bookseller Inventory # AA69781848548343

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