Today I have the pleasure of sharing an extract from Alice Burnett’s Ideal Love, as well as offering you the chance to win a hardcopy for yourself. 🙂
Publisher: Legend Press (14th August 2017)
After an argument with her husband
Gilles, Venus Rees is left devastated by his sudden death. But when she discovers that he
died of a treatable genetic condition she knew nothing about, she is haunted by
the thought that he didn’t love her enough to save himself. As time passes,
Venus looks set to be trapped between grief and distrust forever. Until she meets
the shy, good-looking and seemingly ideal Alex.
Intertwining Venus’s compelling attraction to Alex in the present with
Gilles’ enraptured pursuit of her in the past, Ideal Love is an intimate and
life-affirming novel about love, from its incandescent beginnings to its final
breath and back again.
‘Cheek To Cheek’
by Irving Berlin
It was 25 September 1997, I was twenty-six and I had no
idea the evening ahead of me would change my life.
‘Gilles – ’ Tim Woodward was whispering at my office
‘Ah thank God, let’s go.’
We exchanged nods with my principal and I steered
Wood out of the building.
He was slightly less miserable than when I’d first
suggested tonight’s party. We had a laugh about a keen
fellow trainee on our way to the tube and I got a glimpse
of the Wood of old. But whatever else happened that
night, one mission had been accomplished – Wood was
neither at his desk nor at home listening to Mozart’s
He’d been single for a year, I’d only had six days of it,
but I was the one who couldn’t sit still.
We went down the escalators and squeezed on to a
carriage. He’d gone too far into the darkness.
I hadn’t expected my girlfriend to call it off either, I’d
been upset. But the two of us were like travellers who’d
teamed up only to realise we’d arrived, nothing was keeping
us together. She’d just bothered to understand that and take action. And with enough notice for me to hear about this
party, get Tim invited and coax him into showing up.
We stepped out of Covent Garden tube and I told him to
prepare himself. It was going to be a beautiful night.
‘So it’s all over with Anna then?’ he asked bleakly.
‘Yup,’ I said, walking on.
‘Sorry to hear that.’
‘No, she did us both a favour.’
‘She seemed genuine to me.’
‘Yeh, she was, the spark just went out.’
Tim sighed. ‘Gilles, I hate to break this to you, but at
some point you’ve got to stop thinking with your dick and
A group of girls paraded past, like an erotic pat on the
back. I could sense them with my eyes closed.
‘Tim,’ I said as they walked away, ‘twenty quid says I
leave with a woman and you don’t.’
Tim raised his eyes and went quiet. I didn’t speak.
‘All right, all right,’ he said as if I hadn’t stopped talking.
We walked into the club entrance and down the stairs, pulled
under by the waves of sound and body heat, until we reached
a kind of massive volcanic cave which my friend’s sister’s
twenty-first had filled beyond imagining. The DJ was
charging it up with seventies funk – there must have been
over a hundred women on the dance floor alone – not only
that, the men were all at the bar, dutifully perpetuating that
great English ritual of refusing to dance with the women.
What was this if not the promised land?
It didn’t take long before I was mesmerised. I pointed out
the blond woman with the incredible figure to Tim. Tim said
she looked aloof, but that on the plus side, this would help
her shake off lust-crazed French bastards like me. I brought
his attention to a sweet-looking, dark-haired girl I thought he
might like, but he wasn’t convinced. I finally got Tim to concede that the blond one was ‘superficially attractive yes,
but nice, no’, and went over and bought her a drink.
Her face wasn’t quite so pretty close up, but then again I
clearly hadn’t made her day. She wasn’t interested in
conversation and when I asked her to dance she looked at me
like I’d told her a bad joke.
Did I still smell of rejection? Surely not, it had been
nearly a week.
Then I got lucky. She liked lawyers, especially city
lawyers. She made a remark about my hair, and I said it was
straight before I saw her. She laughed, and looked at me and
carried on laughing, beyond the time allotted.
I went from trainee solicitor to cash-laden hotshot in five
minutes. She became a stream of gazes, a sweetshop of
breasts, waist and thighs, drinking with me, dancing with
me, not objecting to the feel of my hands.
At least an hour must have gone by. One of her friends
interrupted to complain about a girl they both knew. I went
to get drinks and came back into focus.
I couldn’t see Tim anywhere and wondered if he’d left.
He didn’t get it. You just had to throw yourself and see where
But waiting in the crush at the bar, I glanced over at the
one I’d been with as she dished it out, her expression as cold
and dismissive as when I’d first asked her to dance.
Nice no, I thought.
Back together, we found a quiet spot on the other side of
the dance floor, and she was all hospitality, the sweetshop
door open, the jars within reach.
We left the club. Cooling off on the pavement, I found
myself asking her to dinner the following Thursday. Did
people do that? But within a minute, she’d accepted, I’d
hailed her a cab, kissed her goodnight and lost myself twenty
I went back in to look for Tim. He couldn’t have needed me less. He was deep in conversation with a girl. Not the
dark-haired one, another.
A guy I knew from law school blared into my ear like a
trumpet. ‘Gilles you old tosser! I knew you’d be here!’
We had a drink and discussed rugby for ten minutes,
which was educational but not what I’d come for.
I scanned the dance floor one last time. It had gone down
a gear, mainly smooching couples and people too out of it to
know what else to do.
I thanked my friend’s sister – I was going to Paris the
next day – and went to the cloakroom to get my jacket. It
was soundproofed and organised. I put my jacket back on,
not half as pleased with myself as when I’d taken it off.
‘Hi Gilles.’ Tim was following me up the stairs, arm in
arm with the girl he’d been talking to. She was pretty and
sensitive-looking and I could see the pride in his face.
We chatted on the street. Her name was Elaine.
‘He’s a great guy,’ I said to Elaine, ‘I’ve known him for
years, you couldn’t meet a nicer person, really fantastic guy – ’
‘Thanks Gilles.’ He was smiling like a light. ‘Elaine and
I were actually at university together.’
‘Right,’ I realised I was slightly drunk and neither of them
were at all. ‘Well then you already know,’ I smiled back.
Self-consciously, they wished me goodnight.
Wood had turned it around.
Give it a year or two, I thought, and me and the Trumpet
would be handing out the orders of service at their wedding.
I started walking towards Soho Square. I didn’t know what I
wanted, but I wanted it, whatever it was. Police sirens came
and went, beer cans and cocaine packets flowered in the
bushes – the place was like a dark mouth, salivating over
every human urge. I thought about another me being
reincarnated as a prostitute. She’d be good at it. And then
I-me could meet this charming woman-me who’d know
exactly what I wanted.
It was eleven thirty. The plane left at nine the next
morning. Get up when, six?
I had to accept that I hadn’t got into the cab with the
blond woman, and that this was for the best given I was
going away the next day. I headed to Leicester Square tube.
Women weren’t ice cream, I told myself, they could wait
and melt later. Sometimes it was better to get some distance
I strolled down the escalator and caught up with a couple
standing side by side. They stayed put until the last moment,
let themselves be delivered by the bottom stair and walked
I followed signs to the Piccadilly Line, passing an
angled mirror in a blind corner of the passageway – a relic,
surely, from the days when Victorian lawyers roller-skated
through the station. God was I slick. Billowing cape for
attracting attention, untouched Victorian women gasping,
sweating at my exceptional roller-skating skill. Careful,
shy eyes. Beating breasts. And though my feet are strangely
shod, my mode of expression oddly modern, they can see
that I am strong and tall, passionate yet practical, wild yet
A train rattled off into the dark.
In its wake I heard someone singing. Someone who knew
what they were doing. A woman, mellow-voiced, light.
It went away.
I needed a cab for 6.30. I had to take a second shirt for the
evening. Two ties. Business cards. Pick up some cash at the
I heard the voice again. Faint but not weak.
… I could take the red tie. Or no… dark red, less showy.
You didn’t often hear a voice like that on the tube. Or a
woman on her own, which took courage. I locked my ears
onto it as it faded.
I walked along the passageway, listening out for the
voice, wondering if I was getting warmer or colder, until it stopped being a game and listening was all I was doing. Had
I heard it? I thought I had, I was almost certain of it – I was
taking off, separating from myself, listening with every cell.
And although I realised I hadn’t, I felt that time had slowed
down, that it was only me listening that made the link from
one moment to the next.
Then the voice came in from nowhere and I was set back
on the ground, the music so tender with sadness that at first I
could hardly bear to listen. I hadn’t known how much I’d
needed to hear it. I’d had no idea.
As I stood there, the sense grew in me that I’d been an
invalid, on the way out – for months, years – that I’d been
given the right medicine in the nick of time, a shot of
emotion calibrated precisely for the way I was feeling,
combining inside me, making me cry in my head, making
the night fall away like nothing.
The song was an aria, I wasn’t sure which, and normally
I couldn’t stand opera, but there was nothing operatic in it,
her feelings were real. A voice as light as sun on the water,
barely caught in the physical, and yet this close, this full of
It was ending, but there was another.
I laughed in delight. ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’. Oh
perfect choice. I had its pattern in my head, I couldn’t have
heard it better.
I felt my ears drink in the sound. How wonderful that I
was here, that I hadn’t got into the taxi, for one moment of
this – a woman’s voice, simple, smooth, entirely on the note,
no tricks, no catches, relaxed, effortless, but with the greatest
depth of emotion.
And while I listened, I let something happen to me
without me realising it. Something I couldn’t explain and for
a long time kept to myself, because this feeling didn’t usually
happen to me, I made it happen. The person singing was
you, the passion, the honesty in your voice were yours, and I
was falling for you, distantly as if I’d separated from myself again, and the me that was there listening was too ecstatic to
‘Heaven,’ you sang, ‘I’m in heaven.’
I rounded the bend and caught sight of you, standing
where the passageway met the stairs. The beauty of your
face, the ease of your expression, the grace in your bearing
– I took it all in, but it made sense and didn’t surprise me. It
was dream-like. I could feel and see and hear, but not act.
And you were still singing, and I was still listening.
I noticed I wasn’t the only one. Other people, women and
men, young and old, they stopped. Like me, they walked on
eventually, shy of how they felt. Perhaps like me they
listened for a while on the platform. ‘Fly Me To The Moon’
– Piccadilly to Uxbridge. ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ – Heathrow
Airport. ‘Sophisticated Lady’ – Rayners Lane. Then, like
me, their feet took them on to a train.
Sitting in the carriage, it occurred to me that I could have
spoken to you. I could get out at the next stop, go back, find
you. Of course, I thought, I must, why not?
But I told myself it would be awkward, an interruption to
you, an embarrassment to me. Later that night, alone in my
room, having gone over my failure to act as if I could have
worn it away, I swore I’d never litter my life with excuses
like that again. I’d make up for it.
I’d search everywhere, somehow find you. And once I’d
found you, I thought as I lay awake, anything was possible.
We’d fall in love. For myself, I knew it. For you, I’d do all I
could to convince you.
It wasn’t that I was totally deluded. I knew I wasn’t
much. But time seemed suddenly shortened, with an end as
well as a beginning, and highs and lows that might never
come again. That night in the tube station, I’d been to
heaven. I wanted to go back. And if nothing short of insane
optimism would get me there, what was the point in being
realistic? This was love. And love was all there was, I knew
it for sure. And pity the old me – pity anyone who didn’t.
Fancy winning a hardcopy for yourself?
(UK only I’m afraid, due to postage costs)
Just leave a comment at the bottom of this post and you’ll be entered in to the draw! (I’ll leave it open for a week)
Thanks in advance for joining in & Good Luck!
Many thanks to Imogen Harris, at Legend Press, for providing this wonderful extact and for offering a hardcopy for me to giveway!
If you’re not lucky enough to win, buy your copy here…..