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!
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.
Fern Kendal, London bartender and underappreciated lounge crooner, wants a break as a singer. But, she asks herself in Briton Matthews's latest (after With or Without You), how can she get her big break when she's working two jobs to help support her brother, Joe (he cares full-time for his severely asthmatic son), and to subsidize her gambling father, who takes up residence on Fern's lumpy couch. She lands a part-time job as personal assistant to Evan David, a handsome opera singer, and, not shockingly, sparks fly. She's hesitant to tell him when Carl, her high school boyfriend and current accompanist, talks her into trying out with him for the reality talent show Fame Game (her "attempts seem so feeble compared to [Evan's]"). The show's judges ask her to appear on the show-but without Carl's accompaniment. Fern is torn between her deep friendship with Carl, her developing relationship with Evan and her quickly building career, but the knockout punch comes when Lana, a fiery Maria Callas-like diva, appears to set her sexy hooks into Evan. Matthews has a knack for snappy dialogue, though the plot twists involving Evan and Lana feel contrived. An apropos tearjerker ending caps this likable heroine's journey from lager-slinger to pop singer. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Red Dress Ink
April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Welcome to the Real World by Carole Matthews
'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 pinstripe 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.