Anita Hughes' Monarch Beach is an absorbing debut novel about one woman's journey back to happiness after an affair splinters her perfect marriage and life--what it means to be loved, betrayed and to love again.
When Amanda Blick, a young mother and kindhearted San Francisco heiress, finds her gorgeous French chef husband wrapped around his sous-chef, she knows she must flee her life in order to rebuild it. The opportunity falls into her lap when her (very lovable) mother suggests Amanda and her young son, Max, spend the summer with her at the St. Regis Resort in Laguna Beach. With the waves right outside her windows and nothing more to worry about than finding the next relaxing thing to do, Amanda should be having the time of her life--and escaping the drama. But instead, she finds herself faced with a kind, older divorcee who showers her with attention... and she discovers that the road to healing is never simple. This is the sometimes funny, sometimes bitter, but always moving story about the mistakes and discoveries a woman makes when her perfect world is turned upside down.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
St. Martin's Griffin
June 19, 2012
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes
The day my life changed forever started like any other Tuesday. I liked Tuesdays. My appointment book stayed blank on Tuesdays. Sometimes I wondered how the other days filled up so quickly. You'd be surprised how ladies' auxiliary lunches, PTA committee meetings, and library fund-raising can occupy your time. Not to mention the karate lessons, piano, and chess club Max had after school. Like many stay-at-home moms I was a full-time chauffeur for my son and fund-raiser for his school. Tuesdays were mine. I started the day with a yoga class, usually followed by a fresh strawberry muffin at the Lemon Caf�. But this Tuesday, the Lemon Caf� was out of strawberry muffins, so I did something different. I made an unexpected visit to my husband's restaurant and found him in the back room with his pants down and his legs wrapped around Ursula, his new chef. He tried pulling his pants up before I swung open the door, but it was a glass door. I had seen what I had seen: my tall, dark French husband sticking it to his blond Scandinavian chef. I thought, how cute, they had matching ponytails: Ursula's was a long blond plait down her back, Andre's was a short black ponytail I had always found very sexy. Apparently, Ursula did, too. I slammed the glass door so hard I heard it shatter behind me. I jumped in my car and tore away. Black Tuesday changed everything.
I didn't drive far. My hands were shaking, I was afraid I would lose control of the wheel. While I wanted to kill Andre, and possibly Ursula, I didn't have a personal death wish. I pulled into the parking lot at the post office, threw my purse under the seat, and started walking. I was still in my yoga clothes, so I looked like any other mother going for a morning hike. I left the parking lot and took long strides till I reached the lake, a walk that usually took me half an hour. That Tuesday I made it in sixteen minutes. I sat on a bench watching the ducks and took deep breaths. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was warm, the sky a pale blue, and beds of purple and white daisies surrounded the lake. I often brought Max here on Saturdays while Andre worked. We tossed stale bread to the ducks. Max threw stones in the water and we would both be quiet so we could hear the "plop" sound when they landed.
That Tuesday the only sound I heard was my own sobs. I sounded like a stuck pig. And I felt like a complete idiot. What a clich� I was. Married for ten years, mother to a fantastic eight-year-old son, never suspecting that when Andre went to the restaurant on Tuesdays to "do the books" he was also doing the chef.
I tried blaming myself. I should have protested when Andre wanted to hire a female chef. Ursula was a former sous chef at the Palace Hotel Dining Room in Montreux and she specialized in fondue. Andre's restaurant specialized in fondue: cheese fondue, salmon fondue, chocolate fondue. But if he hadn't hired Ursula I may have found him in the supply closet with Yvette the hostess, or Marie the cocktail waitress. I couldn't even blame Ursula. Andre was thirty-five. He had olive skin and green eyes. He looked like a European film star, and he was her boss. Ursula had only been in California for six months. Maybe she thought it was part of the job description. The only person I could blame was Andre.
I closed my eyes and remembered just a few nights ago, breezing into the restaurant on Andre's arm on our date night. We had been to the movies and seen The Proposal. I loved romantic comedies where the couple overcame all sorts of obstacles on their path to happiness. We sat in the back of the theater and Andre slung one arm over my shoulder, and played with the hem of my skirt with his free hand. I slapped his hand away, pretending to focus on Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, but I loved Andre's attention. I loved knowing that after ten years together, he still wanted to put his hand up my skirt.
I remember seeing Ursula fleetingly while I waited for Andre to give directions to his staff. Now I thought maybe the direction he gave was "kiss me harder," while I politely discussed the savory flavor of fondue with one of the couples dining in the restaurant.
* * *
My sobs became hiccups and I recalled the last time my life changed in a single day. I was eighteen, and I had arrived home from school to find four envelopes addressed to me on the marble table in my parents' foyer.
"Good afternoon, Miss Amanda." Our housekeeper swept up my backpack. "Your parents had to go out. I prepared a snack for you in the kitchen."
"Thanks, Rosemary. I'm not hungry. Please let me know when Mom and Dad come home." I grabbed the envelopes and climbed the staircase to my bedroom. I sat on my bed looking at the view from the bay window. My bedroom was on the third floor of my parents' house. My friends rolled their eyes when they came over and called it "the palace" under their breath. It had a full-sized ballroom where my parents held parties with seven-piece orchestras. In the basement there was a separate kitchen and living room for the staff: housekeeper, cook, laundress, gardener. I had the third floor to myself. My bedroom took up half the floor. It had a four-poster bed and a huge desk where I did my drawings. And it had the most amazing view of the San Francisco Bay. On clear days I watched hundreds of boats zip under the Golden Gate Bridge. My father had made his money himself. He wasn't ashamed to spend it, and I refused to be ungrateful for the luxury that surrounded me.
I held the envelopes printed with their college insignias and tried to decide which to open first. I hesitated. Should I wait for my parents to come home and open them together? I was their only child, and they were as excited as I was to know where I would spend the next four years. But I didn't know where they'd gone, or when they'd be back. I opened the envelope from Stanford first. I read the letter carefully. I had been placed on their wait list. I took a deep breath and opened the envelope from Rhode Island School of Design. It was a long letter on dark gray stationery saying I had been accepted.
I hugged it to my chest. My dream was to be a fashion designer: not a very popular goal at my college prep school. I had to beg my advisor to let me apply to RISD. I breathed a sigh of relief and opened the envelope from UC Berkeley. I had been accepted there as well. Not surprising, since the campus was dotted with benches and playing fields donated by my father.
The last envelope was from Parsons in New York. I held it and closed my eyes. For the last two years I had dreamed of attending Parsons and interning for a fashion designer, being in the center of the fashion universe. I slit the envelope and opened my eyes slowly. I was in. I had been accepted at Parsons. I fell back on the bed and looked at my beautiful hand-painted ceiling. I felt my life was lining up perfectly like the gold stars painted on a night sky above me. There was a knock on the door and Rosemary poked her head in. "Excuse me, Miss Amanda. Your mother phoned. Your parents are almost home and they would like you to meet them in the library."
I gathered my college letters and ran down the two flights of stairs to the library. I sat in one of my father's leather wingback chairs and debated how to tell my parents the news. They would hate to see me go across the country, but they would be thrilled. I had inherited my love of fashion from my mother. I spent countless afternoons and weekends as a child sitting in my mother's closet and sketching her evening gowns. As I grew older, I would take the sketches back to my room and make small changes; erasing a shoulder strap here, adding an ivory bow there, until I created my own fantasy dresses.
"Amanda showed me a design today that rivals Coco Chanel," my mother said one evening to the ladies who arrived for a Junior League meeting.
"Mom, nothing rivals Chanel," I replied, secretly glowing.
"Coco Chanel was once a young girl, too." My mother poured my hot chocolate while the ladies drank tea in fragile porcelain cups.
After I made polite conversation, and my mother dismissed me with a discreet nod of her head, I ran up to my room and looked at the sketch, wondering if it really did resemble Chanel. I vowed I would sketch and sew, and read and learn everything I could about fashion. One day my label would be found in Neiman's and Bloomingdale's and in chic boutiques on Fifth Avenue.
* * *
I clutched my acceptance letters, thinking that day was coming closer, but my parents walked in looking like they had seen the grim reaper. My mother entered the room first. She wore one of my favorite outfits: a pale pink St. John suit with gold cuffs. I looked at her face, usually so artfully made up that she glowed from across a room. Her cheeks were white and her eyes were swollen from crying.
My father staggered in behind her. He was over six feet tall. He had white hair and his forehead was lined, but he usually moved with the confidence of someone who had come from nothing and created his own empire. That day he looked like an oversized schoolboy: scared and weak and wanting to hide behind his mother's skirt.
"I have the best news!" The words popped out of my mouth.
"Your mother has some news," my father said softly.
"It's not my news." My mother shot an imploring look at my father. My parents had been married for twenty years. They met late in life: My father was busy building his empire and "forgot" to get married. My mother was a self-described "debutante left on the shelf." They found each other at a symphony gala and married six weeks later. I could not remember them ever looking crossly at each other. I never heard them raise their voices in anger or hurt. My mother glided from room to room of our house like a fairy godmother, sprinkling good taste and serenity on everything she touched. My father worked long hours but returned at night to scoop her up and take her to dinner and dancing. I would sit at my window, watching them roar away in my father's latest sports car, content to be left alone, happy to have parents who idolized each other.
My mother looked at me seriously. "We've been to see Dr. Galen. Your father has liver cancer. Dr. Galen said..." She paused. I had never seen my mother without a perfect French manicure. I had never known her to smell of anything but Chanel No. 5. And I had never heard her unable to finish a sentence. My friends called her the "Queen of Polish." She was a legend in San Francisco for her witty fund-raising speeches. Invitations to her Sunday evening "salons" were hugely coveted.
"Dr. Galen said"--my father took her hand--"I have nine months to live. A year if I be a good boy and stop drinking and smoking." His broad face broke into a smile. "But have I ever listened to what anyone said? I can't die. I have to see you graduate from high school and college."
I crumpled my college letters into tight balls. My eyes filled with tears. We just stood there like three department store dummies. My parents and I, who had ridden camels in Egypt, who had stared down lions in Africa, we could beat this together.
"Simon," my mother said quietly. "Dr. Galen is our second opinion."
I looked at my father, hoping he would tell my mother she was wrong. When he looked at me, his eyes were wet. "The only person who has ever made any sense in my life is your mother. I guess she's right then."
I remember turning away and studying the wall of books as if they held the answer. It wasn't surprising my father had liver cancer. He was of the Rat Pack generation. Like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, he worked hard, played hard, and felt immortal. Every night for as long as I could remember, he and my mother would start their evening with a cocktail. Dinners in our long formal dining room included a bottle of fine wine; a tall brandy followed dessert. The nights they went out with friends, or to social events, I knew he drank for hours. But I had never seen him drunk. My father was a gentleman and I adored him.
"What's your news, honey?" my mother asked.
"I, ah, I got my college letters," I said. I dropped the crumpled letters on the floor and watched my future roll away. I could not miss the last year of my father's life. New York would have to wait.
"Don't keep us in suspense." My father smiled.
"I got in to Berkeley," I said. I could go to Berkeley, and spend weekends at home. I would be close when anything happened.
"That's fantastic." My father beamed. He loved his alma mater. We used to prowl Telegraph Avenue together on Sundays. Sometimes we would hike up to the Lawrence Laboratory and look at San Francisco from across the bay.
"I thought you wanted to study fashion, honey. In New York." My mother looked at me sharply.
"Well, sure, later. But UC Berkeley is a great university. And I love the campus," I faltered.
"Amanda, did you get into Parsons?" she asked.
"Yes, but I don't want to go," I replied stubbornly.
"Amanda, you've been talking about Parsons for two years. You can't put your life on hold for us. I'll be here with your father."
"Your mother is right," my father said, nodding.
"I'm not going to Parsons. I want to stay right here. " I fled upstairs. My parents may be pillars of strength, but I was an eighteen-year-old girl about to lose the only man I ever loved. I locked my bedroom door and cried until it was dark.