Friday, 22 February 2013

Launch Day Party - The Love Programme - Read The Book - Chapter Three

Launch Day Party
Today I will be posting several chapters of my novel The Love Programme on my blog so you can have a little read if you so wish!
First, here's a little bit about the book:
My novel, published by Astraea Press, is called The Love Programme, here’s the details:
Thanks to an embarrassing incident involving a wedding and her ex-boyfriend Marcus, Lucy has to leave her home town in a hurry and needs a place to escape to for a while.
Best friend Fiona is convinced now would be a good time for Lucy to get herself a new life with some potential for romance thrown in. Fate seems to agree when Lucy is given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to star in a TV show and be a contestant on The Love Programme - two weeks of luxury living on a grand Highland estate coupled with, she hopes, fun and romance in wildest Scotland.
When Lucy meets Paul - the young, handsome owner of the Highland estate - she thinks she may have found the love of her life but who is the mysterious Hannah and what part does she play in his life? When she discovers that Marcus is planning to follow her to Scotland to win her back Lucy has some serious soul searching to do. Does she have a future with Paul, with Marcus or is she yet to find the man of her dreams?

There’s a sneak peak at chapters one and two on my earlier blog posts and the book can be downloaded now on Amazon
Here's chapter three:

Chapter Three

“So, we’ll start with the personality quiz.” Zelda pushed her bright red glasses down onto the bridge of her nose and peered across at Lucy. “Nothing to worry about. I devised the quiz so I can discover a bit more about you and your attitude to life and relationships.”
Lucy glanced across at the cameraman in the corner of the large room. Was there no privacy around here? Even her session with the psychologist was to be recorded for posterity.
Zelda handed her a pen, the questionnaire in an envelope and some paper. “Take your time answering the questions. I’ll leave you to it and be back to see how you’re getting on in about an hour.”
“Okay, thanks.” Lucy set the paper and pen on the large mahogany desk in the study of Arknavie House and began to open the envelope. It was like being back at school taking dreaded exams. Lucy unfolded the sheets of the question paper and began to read.
Question one. Describe yourself in five words. Lucy chewed on the end of the pen. Five words. Right. Think. Kind, friendly, loyal, enthusiastic, caring. No, she’d sound like a Labrador dog. This is great, Lucy thought, the first of thirty questions and she was stuck already. After further deliberation she finally wrote down, friendly, fun, optimistic, ambitious, loving. Okay, so maybe it was a combination of what she actually was and what she’d like to be, but it would be okay, wouldn’t it?
Friendly was true. Hopefully those who knew her would describe her as fun to be with. She was still managing, somehow, to cling to her optimism about being in a loving relationship one day — preferably without Marcus keeping a beady eye on her and making her feel guilty all the time. Guilty. She’d never realised before just how guilty she felt about the whole Marcus thing, about not being in love with him.
Lucy paused, staring out of the window and trying hard not to look at the camera pointing at her. The sun was still out, but the trees in the garden were bending and weaving as though they were dancing in a stiff breeze.
Lucy stared at the words she’d written down for question number one. Ambitious. Strange, she hadn’t thought of herself as ambitious before. Not in the usual sense anyway. She wasn’t aware she harboured any burning ambitions to oust Mel and be the manager of Price Right Travel, not just yet anyway.
Okay, there had been respectable grades on her reports at school and top marks at college where she’d studied travel and tourism with business administration, but she’d never pictured a future for herself as a high-flying businesswoman.
Yet, she did have ambitions of a different kind — to travel. Not just to the usual Mediterranean hot spots she had visited via the various short familiarisation trips the tour operators laid on for travel agency staff.
No, she didn’t mean organised package travel. She wanted to experience adventurous travel. The sort where you didn’t know where you were going to sleep each night, where you travelled with just a backpack and didn’t care about what you were wearing or when you last washed your hair. Her travel ambition was about experiencing a sense of freedom. Something she’d never had. There had always been something to control her life — school, college, nine-to-five work. And Marcus.
Lucy glanced at question number two. Describe your ideal man in five words. Resting her elbows on the table, Lucy propped her chin in her hands and sighed. The questions weren’t getting any easier.
Lucy tried to remember the kind of men she’d had crushes on over the years, famous personalities, pop stars, sportsmen, as well as the men she’d known in real life. Trying to think what it was about them she’d found attractive, not just physically but mentally and in terms of their personality too.
What had first attracted her to Marcus all those years ago?  He’s been fairly good-looking. Intelligent. Good fun. Mature for his age. When the other boys in high school had been at the pinging-your-bra-strapsstage he’d sat out on the playing fields at break time with her and helped her to pick loads of flowers to make daisy chains from. Then he’d put the finished chains around her neck and say he’d always love her.
Lucy pushed away the memories. Back then she’d thought she was the luckiest girl alive. Now, here she was desperately wishing Marcus wasn’t still in love with her. Had never loved her, in fact.
The words Fiona had jokingly said about her ideal man flashed in her mind. Hastily Lucy wrote the words down on the piece of paper. Wealthy, gorgeous, kind and loving, attentive and thoughtful, intelligent and successful. Lucy stared at the words and then scribbled them out more fiercely than was necessary, managing to make a hole in the piece of paper in the process. It had been more than the allowed five words of description, and anyway hadn’t Marcus been most of those things — good-looking, thoughtful, intelligent? He was even successful. He had his own business programming computers. Okay, he wasn’t fabulously wealthy, but he was pretty well off. So, why hadn’t she fallen head over heels in love with him? Why hadn’t she been totally swept off her feet by his romantic gestures? She supposed it was just a lack of chemistry. Somehow she’d grown up and grown away from him over the years.
A glance at the clock on the mantelpiece told her she was rapidly running out of time. Almost half an hour had passed and she was only on question number two. This was harder than she’d ever imagined. She sighed. Zelda would be back soon and she definitely couldn’t spend all day debating over the questions like this.
Against question two she scrawled, Don’t Know, and started to read question three. By the time she’d had a go at about half of the questions, managing to feel confident about her answers to just a handful of them, Zelda appeared in the doorway.
“All finished?” she asked, coming into the room and peering over Lucy’s shoulder at the messy, frequently crossed out papers on the desk.
“No. Any chance I could have another hour?” asked Lucy hopefully.
Reaching for the papers Zelda shook her head. “Nope. Tell you what, why don’t we work through some of the answers together?”
Gratefully Lucy nodded. “Thanks, I think I could use the help.”
“You know, nobody is here to judge you. The Love Programme was set up to help people to learn how to have fun and relax in a relationship.”
Zelda walked back and forth across the room, pausing every few seconds to glance at Lucy. “So many people have entirely the wrong expectations about relationships and romance. Tell me, what would you consider to be romantic?”
“Er.” Lucy chewed on her bottom lip. “Flowers, posh meals out, gifts?” she replied, fearing this wasn’t quite the right answer.
“Romance can be many things. For one person it’s all those things you said, but for another it might be a partner ringing in the middle of a workday just because they want to talk to you about nothing in particular. It might be a relaxing foot massage whilst you’re both slumped in front of the TV after a tiring day.”
Lucy nodded, recalling her earlier memories of Marcus, helping her thread daisy chains on the school playing field.
“We want you to discover what you consider to be romantic, learn more about what you want from your relationship, from your partner.” Sitting down Zelda said, “Don’t forget a relationship works both ways. Whilst women often look for romantic gestures from their man — do they plan to do the same? Men like to be romanced too. Just in a different way.”
“How do you mean?” quizzed Lucy, wondering if she should be writing all this down.
“A woman likes to feel loved and cherished, to feel special. Men do too. They often like to know you find them strong and capable. What many women don’t realise is men can also crave a little romance in their lives, and yet sadly they can feel being romantic might make them look emasculated.”
“So some men fear being romantic because they think we’ll think they’re less of a man?” Lucy shook her head, taking all this in. And they say women are complicated.
“Some men, yes. Others don’t worry about it. They don’t see being romantic is a sign of weakness. You know, in places like Italy the men consider being romantic a vital part of their relationships. Their whole philosophy is about pleasing their woman.”
“You don’t have any Italian men on the Love Programme do you?” Lucy asked hopefully.
Laughing Zelda replied, “Regretfully, no!”
Quickly scanning the first sheet Zelda frowned slightly. “You don’t know how to describe your ideal man.”
Feeling shamefaced and as though she was back in school being ridiculed by her old maths teacher Lucy shook her head. “No.”
Perching her glasses on her nose Zelda peered at Lucy, her pen poised over the answer sheet. “And why do you find it a problem to describe him, do you think?”
“I’m not sure. I was in a relationship for years. We were at school together and he was a great guy. Still is.”
“But?” asked Zelda, her professional interest clearly piqued.
“I didn’t love him. Well, I loved him but I wasn’t in love with him, not properly. And because he was always in the background, even after we’d broken up, I never had chance to date much.”
“I see.” Zelda nodded, scribbling on her notebook. “Well, these next few weeks should be an excellent opportunity for you to discover what you want from men and from dating. Now, let’s have a go at question number fifteen, shall we? What would be your ideal date and why?”
Lucy groaned. “I’m not sure.” She didn’t know the answers to these questions, her head was beginning to pound, and the camera trained upon her wasn’t helping matters any. Right now part of her was starting to wish Zelda would just buzz off and she could go back to Friadon, being hated by the locals and desperately trying to make sense of her life whilst attempting to keep a low profile.
“Right, well…” Zelda shuffled through the pages of answers. “I think this should be okay for now. It’s probably best if we come back to some of these questions after you’ve started going on the dates with Isaac.” Nodding towards the cameraman Zelda said, “Thanks Graham, we’re all done here for now.”
“So, everything’s sorted then?” asked Lucy. Now that the time to start the Love Programme was fast approaching she was having real doubts. Could she actually go on dates set up for her by Zelda, with Isaac as some kind of gigolo and the added complication of a TV cameraman hovering in the background? Too late now. She couldn’t back out or Craig and Zelda would freak and Mel would probably fire her.
“I’ll have a chat with Isaac and we’ll decide on where and what your first date together will be.” Zelda stood up. “Don’t look so worried. This is supposed to be fun, remember?”
“When will I know about the date?”
“This afternoon. Look, why don’t you go and do something relaxing for a few hours? Then after lunch Andrea will come find you and take you to the dressing room. As soon as I’ve sorted out what your date will be I’ll let her know, and then she can help you choose a suitable outfit.”
“You mean I don’t wear my own clothes for the dates?” Lucy felt her spirits rise a bit at this piece of news.
Zelda flapped her hands. “No, of course not. We’ve got a room full of all sorts of outfits and you can pick what you’d like to wear with the help of the programme’s stylist Debbie.”
“Great, I didn’t realise.”
“No expense spared on this show. Well, kind of. You’ll also get your hair and make-up done by Debbie. She’s brill, you’ll love her.”
“You’ve plenty of time till lunch, so if you want to go for a swim or use the spa or gym then feel free.” Zelda waved across at Lucy as she left the room, the papers of the part-completed questionnaire tucked under her arm. “I don’t want you to miss out on the chance for romance, Lucy, because you’re too busy worrying about your ex and feel overwhelmed with guilt. Now, go — go have some fun!


As she couldn’t swim, and wasn’t in the mood to languish in the Jacuzzi, Lucy headed out to wander around the gardens instead.
Despite its reputation for being cold and wet, Scotland seemed at the moment to be enjoying a spell of hot and dry weather. The sky was a clear blue, the colour it never quite reached back home in Friadon, even on the sunniest of days.
“It’s the pollution.”
Lucy jumped, she hadn’t known anyone else was out here. Paul was sitting at a table and chairs on one of the many terraces surrounding the house. He waved her over and then, in a gentlemanly gesture, pulled one of the chairs out for her to sit down.
Lucy walked over uncertainly. “Sorry, what about the pollution?”
Paul indicated she should take a seat. He was wearing dark jeans and a white shirt, the sleeves rolled up to just below the elbow, his arms lightly tanned, suggesting he did manage to spend some time outdoors, away from his office. “You were wondering why the sky is a much stronger blue up here than where you live. It’s because there’s no pollution up here.”
Lucy allowed herself to sink into the deeply luxurious soft cushions of the chair. “How did you know it’s what I was thinking?”
He shrugged and leant back in his chair. “I just did.”
She glanced around her. The terrace was on a side of the house she hadn’t yet visited and the view from here was stunning. At the end of the terrace some steps led down to an extensive lawned area and beyond to the shores of a small lake.
“Do you fish in the lake?” asked Lucy, wondering if she should stay and chat. There was paperwork scattered all over the table. It was clear the laird was trying to work and here she was interrupting him. Then again, he had invited her over, hadn’t he?
“Not much in this one, it’s too small to fish, just a lochan.” He stood, gathering together some of the papers and piling them up on one corner of the wrought iron table out of the way.
“Lochan?” asked Lucy, a puzzled expression on her face.
“Yep.” He glanced across at her, a smile on his lips. “It’s just the Scottish word for a small bit of water. A lake is called a loch, a large pond is called a lochan.”
“I didn’t realise.” He had a lovely smile, friendly and slightly flirtatious.
“Don’t worry about it. There’s loads of different Scottish words. It takes a while to get used to some of them.” He leaned forward, fixing eyes the colour of the sky upon her. “I remember when I first came up here, the locals weren’t too pleased about having an English laird. They took the mickey for months. Some of the locals even speak Gaelic and they’d have conversations in front of me, and I hadn’t a clue what they were saying.”
“What did you do about it?” Lucy leaned back in her chair; the intensity of his gaze was making her feel a bit strange.
“I went out and bought myself a Scottish-English dictionary and then booked a place on a crash course in the Gaelic language,” he laughed.
Lucy raised her eyebrows questioningly. “You’re winding me up. Aren’t you?”
He shook his head, smiling.
“There’s such a thing as a Scottish-English dictionary?” She watched him closely, still trying to judge if he was messing about.
He made the gesture of a sideways cross on his chest with his right hand. “Cross my heart, such a thing exists. I can show you if you like. I’ve still got a copy in the library here.” He stood up and gestured for her to follow.
Holding her hands up in protest she said, “It’s okay, I believe you.” Her gaze fell to the papers stacked on the table. “Anyway, I should probably go, I’m keeping you from your work.”
He sat back down. “It’s okay. I’ve had enough of looking at financial spreadsheets and economic forecasting for now. So, what do you think of Arknavie?”
“It’s incredible. I didn’t realise Scotland was so beautiful.”
“Ahh, your first time, eh?” he said, raising an eyebrow enquiringly.
Lucy nodded, blushing slightly. “Yes, it’s amazing. I’m a travel agent and people ask me to recommend a place to go on holiday all the time. I usually hand them brochures on all these stunning places overseas, but,” she paused, “I never would have thought of recommending Scotland to them.”
“But you will now? Are we to stand by for an invasion of Sassenach tourists then? Should I warn the locals?”
“I doubt they’ll be an invasion somehow. I think it’s probably lacking one vital ingredient for most people.”
He propped an elbow on the table, and resting his chin in his hand, fixed his gaze upon her again. She wished he wouldn’t. She was finding it more than a little unsettling. “Don’t tell me, they’re all looking for sun-drenched beaches of golden sand.”
“Got it in one!” Lucy laughed, forcing herself to look away from him and out across the lochan.
“We’ve got stunning beaches too.” He picked up a pen and started tapping it against the metal of the table. “There are plenty of stunning stretches up here, mile upon mile of golden or white sand depending on where you go. The only problem is, from a tourist point of view, they aren’t always sun-drenched.”
“I was told it’s always wet and miserable up here, but the sun hasn’t stopped shining since I arrived,” Lucy said, watching a large bird circle over the water of the lochan.
“Well, what you were told is partly true. We do get some pretty miserable weather around these parts too. The locals call it dreich.”
Lucy nodded thoughtfully. “What a great choice of word. Dreich. It even sounds miserable.”
“Can I get you a drink?” He glanced across the table to where a coffee pot and mug stood on a tray. “The one I had earlier has probably gone cold by now, but I can get us some more.”
Standing up Lucy shook her head. “No, thanks anyway, but I’ve taken up too much of your time already. I should let you get on with your work.”
“There’s no rush, honestly.” He stood too, reaching for the tray. “So tell me, Lucy, how did you come to be on the Love Programme?”
“It’s a long story and I should probably be going.”
He set the tray back on the table and she thought he looked disappointed, or was it her imagination getting carried away?
 “Okay, if you’re sure. I’ll see you later though at dinner? Perhaps we can talk a bit more then?”
Lucy nodded, quickly making her way across the terrace towards the steps.
“If you’d like to discover more Scottish words, you know where to find me.”
She nodded. Her head was saying she’d be better keep her distance, but unfortunately her heart was beginning to get other ideas. “Thanks. By the way, what did the locals do when you first spoke Gaelic with them?”
“They laughed. They were pulling the usual trick, claiming to have an estate issue I needed to deal with and then telling me the problem in Gaelic. When I gave them the answer to their problem in Gaelic they burst out laughing. I think I finally gained a bit of respect from them at last.”
“It must have been hard to do, learn Gaelic so quickly,” Lucy said, a part of her strangely reluctant to leave Paul’s company.
He shrugged. “It’s what I’ve been doing all my life. Keep setting myself challenges, trying to prove myself, earn people’s respect.”
Part of her was about to ask why he felt the constant need to keep proving himself to others, but sensing she probably shouldn’t pursue the matter, Lucy simply headed off down the steps with a backward wave. She needed to put some distance between herself and the Laird Paul. He was having a decidedly disconcerting effect on her.

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