In this utterly sweet and moving women's fiction novel, a celebrity comes to town and sweeps a young woman - who is used to being overlooked - off her feet.
Sophie May is content with her life in her small English village, working in the local coffee shop and living with her mom. But when famous actor Billy comes to town to play Mr. Darcy in a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Sophie's quiet life is quickly turned on its head. Billy is adored by women around the world, but he only wants Sophie on his arm. But being with Billy comes at a price, and Sophie is thrown in the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy?
Brimming with humor, wit, and genuine warmth, Billy and Me is a book about taking a chance on life and on love.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|File size:||839 KB|
About the Author
GIOVANNA FLETCHER is an actress, freelance journalist, and TV presenter who blogs for Hello! online. She is married to Tom Fletcher from McFly. She grew up in Essex and now lives outside of London.
Read an Excerpt
Billy and Me
By Giovanna Fletcher
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Giovanna Fletcher
All rights reserved.
It's now the beginning of April and after a dreary winter the village has started to come back to life with wild daffodils, tulips, and other bright flowers coming into bloom. Different colors burst from the ground, bringing with them a sense of hope and optimism. Rabbits gaily hop across the path in the distance, happy to have the sun shining on their backs once again, and the birds in the trees seem to be chirping louder than usual.
I pull my red woolen coat in around me to keep out the crisp spring air that threatens to chill my bones. My cold button nose is buried deep inside a battered copy of Wuthering Heights as I make my way down the tree-lined alleyway that leads to the quiet High Street. Yes, I admit — I'm one of those annoying people who walk through life oblivious to my surroundings, while spying any impending dangers in my peripheral vision, thanks to my literary obsession! I still manage to keep up the obligatory nod of the head or polite "Good morning" to the people I pass, while continuing to stay in the world of Cathy and Heathcliff. Having said that, at this time of the morning on a Wednesday, there are only a few other people milling around, mostly preoccupied shop owners, so I can allow myself to sink deeper into their tragic love story.
Taking strong strides as I make my way up the hill, I spot Molly in the shop, on the phone with her nose pressed up against the window. She gives me a slight wink and a wave, and then continues with whatever she's up to.
"Are you sure she's heading this way?" she quizzes the person on the phone as I come in the front door, putting my book in my bag. "I can't see her yet ..." Molly squints her eyes to the point where they're almost shut and then widens them in surprise. "Oooh, June," she coos, excitement making her voice go squeaky. "There she is now! Gosh, what on earth is she wearing that for? She looks like she's in a banana suit!"
I follow Molly's gaze and find that she's looking at Mrs. Taylor, who has decided to venture outside today wearing a tight, bright yellow two-piece. Oh, the scandal! I roll my eyes and walk over to the oven to start baking. I can still hear Molly wittering away on the phone while I tie on my red-and-pink spotted apron.
"You know what it is, don't you? It's her birthday next week — her son phoned up and ordered a cake. I suspect she's having a meltdown over that ... Sixty-five! Hmmmm ... Yes ... Well yes, June — she never got over Robert leaving her like that. What an awful thing to happen to her ... Ooh, June, I'd better go — she's heading this way ... Yes, yes! Call you later."
Molly hops away from the window, pops the phone back on the countertop, and manages to look preoccupied with rearranging the counter display before Mrs. Taylor enters the shop. I find myself rolling my eyes once again as Molly turns to welcome her with a beaming smile.
"Hello, Mrs. Taylor! Ooh, I must say, you're looking rather colorful today ... yellow really suits you!" Ahh, the friendly two- facedness of village life, I think to myself. I block out the conversation and concentrate on the Victoria sponge I'm whisking up.
A short while later, once Mrs. Taylor leaves, Molly joins me by the oven.
"Come on," she quips.
"Out with it!"
"You've been banging around for the last fifteen minutes. Why?"
This is news to me as I thought I was hiding my frustration quite well, so I can't help but look a tad sheepish (old habits and all that).
"I'm sorry, it's just ..." I'm at a loss for words.
I've been "that talked-about someone," and there's nothing worse than seeing those curtains twitch as you walk past someone's house or hearing conversations stop as you walk into a room. I could tell her that it annoys me the way everyone in this village thinks they have a right to gossip about everyone else's business. I could tell her I dislike it when she's mean about others. And I could tell her that there's got to be more to life than her constant gassing over the downfall of the locals. But I don't. Because I know that, in truth, Molly doesn't have a bad bone in her body. Surely she's allowed to vent every now and then? Especially if it's only over something as insignificant as the color of someone's outfit?
"I'm sorry," I say, letting out a sigh as I rub my head. "I didn't sleep a wink last night. I've got a bit of a headache."
"Oh, deary," she coos, feeling my forehead to check my temperature. "Do you want to go home? Try and catch up on that sleep? I'll be fine here on my own."
See? She might have a loose tongue occasionally, but that will never overshadow her kind heart.
"No, don't be silly. I'm probably just dehydrated," I say, as I pour a glass of water and down the lot in front of her. "I'll be feeling better in no time."
She looks at me like I've lost my marbles, but eventually my beaming smile wins her over and we both start icing the cupcakes she baked earlier, which have been left to cool.
* * *
At the end of my shift I drop in on Mum at the village library, which is several doors down from the shop, toward the bottom of the hill. Being council-funded, and only small, it's not the most luxurious library you've ever seen. It has ten rows of battered books, two old computers (which both take about five minutes to get online), a working area with wooden tables and chairs, and a chill-out area with multicolored beanbags scattered around. It could be a little on the depressing side, but Mum takes great pride in the place and makes sure the rows of books gleam to perfection, that her wall displays are always fun and inviting, and that she is quick to order in anything requested that they don't have in stock.
I find her on her knees restacking magazines, which I've never seen in here before.
"Hello, you!" Mum says as she gives me a tired smile and lets the magazine she's holding rest on her lap. It's clearly been a long day. Her hazel eyes have dark circles beneath them and they look as though they're struggling to stay open. Her hands go up to her chestnut-colored hair, which is pulled back into a tight, high bun. She slides her palms along it to check that it's still neat — she hates it when wispy bits fly into her face or get into her eyes.
"Hello, Mum," I say, bending down and giving her a kiss on the cheek. "What's this?" I say, gesturing at the magazines in front of her.
"Oh, we thought it might encourage more youngsters to come in here."
"By providing them with gossip about their favorite celebs?"
"Why not?" she asks, frowning at me. "I've already spotted some very interesting articles while I've been unpacking them."
I pick up one of the glossy titles from the shelf and flick through it, scanning the images of flawless men and women on red carpets being compared to their more natural-looking bodies while semi-naked on holiday. "Do you really think you're going to encourage people to read books by showing them pictures of celebrities looking fat or thin on beaches?"
"Keep your voice down," she whispers, glancing over her shoulder. "Reading is reading — no matter what the material. It's all about getting them in here — they might pick up a book or two while they're at it."
I can't help but think she's being too optimistic as I put the magazine back on the shelf but, looking at Mum's hopeful face, I instantly feel guilty for slamming her idea.
"We've also had some new books delivered," she continues, as she picks herself up from the floor, brushes dust off her knee-length black skirt, and removes bits of fluff from her black shirt. "Including a brand new copy of Jane Eyre," she continues. "So you no longer have to battle with those loose or missing pages!"
"Brilliant! Although to be honest it's probably my fault they've fallen out — I must've read that book about a hundred times."
"Well, yes. That and the schoolgirls who leave it in their bags to be bashed around ..."
"I also heard a little bit of news today."
"Mum, I don't want to hear any gossip!"
"Oh, Soph, it's not gossip! Anyway, you'll like this. Mrs. Woodman from Cavalier Hall came in this afternoon. She's been visited by a location scout or something from a film company. They want to use the hall as the setting for one of their films." She grins at me, knowing that I'll want to hear more despite my protesting.
"What film?" I quiz.
"This is the bit I think you'll like ..." She pushes her glasses up her nose with one finger and pauses for dramatic effect. "Pride and Prejudice!"
"Another one?" I cry in disgust. Mum looks at me bewildered.
"I thought you'd be pleased. You love that book."
"Yeah, I love the book — it doesn't mean I enjoy it when film companies come along and butcher it."
"Oh, I'm sure they won't do that," she says dismissively. "According to Mrs. Woodman the film's got a huge budget and cast. They wouldn't tell her who was involved, but —"
I interrupt her with a huge gasp. "I wonder who'll be playing Darcy!" My mind ponders all sorts of possibilities, but only one man stands out to me as the one I'd love to have here in Rosefont Hill — Jude Law.
* * *
Unsurprisingly, Mum isn't the only person Mrs. Woodman has decided to share her exciting news with. The next day when I get to work Molly is again on the phone to June, this time speculating about how much Mr. and Mrs. Woodman would've been paid for the use of their home. The news doesn't stop spreading there. In fact, it seems to be the hot topic with everybody in the village as I overhear snippets of different conversations throughout the day.
The shop has slowly become the "cool" place to hang out, attracting grannies and mums in the daytime and then schoolgirls from four o'clock onward. There are a few different groups of girls that come in on a regular basis, but this afternoon we are joined by Janet, Ella, and Charlotte — three fifteen-year-olds who simply love talking boys, makeup, and gossip while sipping their pot of peppermint tea and picking at their skinny blueberry muffins.
As I sort through the cake orders for the next day, I can't help but listen in on their chatter as they mull over the rumors of who might be attached to the film.
Janet, a feisty brunette who's clearly the leader of the group with her bossy ways, is the first to divulge.
"I saw on getcluedup.com that Bobby Green is going to be playing that Mr. Darcy guy."
"Who's that?" asks Ella with a confused expression on her pretty face, her wild curly blonde hair sticking out all over the place uncontrollably.
"You know," sighs Janet. "That dude from this year's Big Brother."
"The one who peed in the pool?" Ella squeals. "And had a threesome in the garden?"
I chuckle quietly to myself at hearing the young girls talk so candidly about sex — a topic I'd never have been able to talk so openly about at their age.
"That's the one!" nods Janet.
Ella lets out a huge groan at the confirmation.
"But he's not even an actor! That would be crap!"
I vaguely remember hearing the girls talk of this Bobby Green character over the summer. To say I'd be disappointed if this "lad" were to turn up instead of a serious actor would be an understatement. In fact, it would turn something that could be incredibly exciting into something decidedly naff!
"That's what I read, though," sulks Janet, looking deflated that her findings hadn't impressed her friends more.
"Yeah well you can't believe anything you read ..."
Charlotte, the quiet redhead who seems to quiver in the very existence of these two girls she calls her BFFs, pauses for a moment before deciding to speak. "Actually, I heard that Billy Buskin might be doing it."
I watch as Janet and Ella whip their heads around in disbelief and just stare at their friend.
"OMG!" squeals Janet. "I would, like, love that! Where did you read that?"
Charlotte instantly becomes introverted, the attention of her friends making her look uncomfortable, a feeling I can easily relate to. She slowly continues to share her knowledge in a quiet voice that I struggle to hear.
"I didn't read it. I was told it," she mutters.
"By who?" says Ella, who already seems skeptical.
"Lauren Davenport." Before the other two can query the source she continues swiftly. "Her mum is going to be giving horse-riding lessons to the cast, you know — the ones who have to ride. She said his name was on a list she was given. Although Lauren told me not to tell anyone —"
"You're so gullible, Char! I can't believe you fell for that," says Ella interrupting her in a belittling tone, chilling my insides. "As if Billy Buskin would bother doing a film about some old book. He has just done a load of blockbusters. Why would he bother?"
"But he has just done that war film," argues Charlotte.
I've no idea who they're talking about and so zone out and think about Jude. Imagine walking through the village and bumping into him every day! That would be absolute heaven! Of course, he'd obviously bring lots to the role too ... charm and charisma. I don't just want him here to ogle at — honest!
I'm not entirely sure where my Jude obsession has come from, but I think it started when Mum brought home a copy of The Holiday for us to watch one night a couple of years ago. One look at his playful smile, smoldering eyes and dashing good looks and I'd fallen under his spell. Embarrassingly, I actually feel myself smile back at him onscreen sometimes, as though his romantic words are meant for my ears only. Yes, sad I know, but he just sucks me in. I'm not a big film buff, not by any means, but quiz me on a film that Jude's been in and I'll be able to give you the right answer!CHAPTER 2
Rosefont Hill is a tiny little village, one where everybody knows everything there is to know about everyone who lives here. Nothing newsworthy usually happens, therefore you can imagine what an impact a film crew rolling into town has on it.
Four weeks have passed since the news of their visit broke and the village has continued to be a buzz of excitement. Each shop has had a spruce up, hoping that they'll gain some new trade. The local WI, of which Molly is the head, has examined every potted plant on the High Street and made sure they're watered, pruned, and spruced to perfection. Each of the street lamps lining the main road now has a basket of colorful spring flowers dangling from its side. Even the local primary school children have been allowed to contribute by making a huge welcome banner. The large sign, made up of the children's tiny painted handprints, has been proudly strung up at the start of the High Street, ensuring it's the first thing our visitors are greeted with. It seems like every member of the community has done something to get the village prepared for its newcomers, and their hard work has paid off as it looks nothing less than idyllic!
I have to admit that despite my momentary skepticism early on, I've joined them in their excitement and now find myself looking forward to it all — especially now that trucks full of equipment have roared their way through the village, as well as a few dozen members of the crew. Slowly, strangers have started milling around the village, although most of them seem busy setting up Cavalier Hall for the start of filming, which is apparently due to kick off any day now.
It seems like quite a lot of the village folk have been tarting themselves up somewhat for the event (with the possibility of A-listers and VIPs coming into town they want to look their best). I'm not entirely sure what they're hoping will come of their freshly dyed hair or their new cardis from Marks and Sparks, but looking good certainly seems to be important to them. For instance, I notice now, while looking at her from across the counter, that even Mrs. Sleep from Pemberton Way has decided to apply a bit of lippy, which she certainly wasn't wearing before the film crew arrived. I, however, am the same as usual — wrapped in a red apron, wearing chunky black boots, skinny jeans, and a plain white vest top. My frizzy brown hair is whipped up and pinned underneath a massive red polka-dot hankie with a big roll of hair sticking out of the front (I'm still in keeping with the fifties look that Molly loves, I'm just slightly more low-key with it). The finishing touch to my look is a nice dusting of flour from the morning's baking session. Yes, forever glamorous. The white powder sticks to my clothes and my already pale skin and refuses to budge no matter how much I wipe myself down. It's a look I've grown accustomed to over the years, even if I do appear quite ghostly. My relaxed state is not because I don't care about the starlet arrivals — it's just that looking after my appearance is a bit tricky when I'm baking and stood in front of a hot oven for most of the day. If I were to bother applying makeup in the morning before heading into work, it would simply melt away from my brown eyes within the first few minutes. It would be a waste of time!
"Oh, Sophie," says Mrs. Sleep, while squinting her eyes and sieving through the loose change in her hand. "How much did you say that was?"
"Three pounds fifty, please, Mrs. Sleep."
Excerpted from Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher. Copyright © 2013 Giovanna Fletcher. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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