Summer at Shell Cottage

By: Lucy Diamond


This book might have my name on the cover but it wouldn’t be in your hands today if it wasn’t for the help I received from so many fantastic people.

Step forward super-agent Lizzy Kremer for all the advice, support and laughs. You are completely brilliant – please never stop being my agent. High fives to the other stars at David Higham: Harriet, Laura, Alice and Emma. Thank you all for your sterling work on my behalf, it’s much appreciated.

The team at Pan Macmillan have done it again, and I feel tremendously lucky to be working with so many clever, creative and talented people. Thanks to Victoria, Natasha, Jez, Anna, Wayne, Stuart, Becky, Jodie, Sam, Jo, Emma, Eloise, Amy, and of course a special thank you to Caroline, who said yes to this book in the first place.

Thanks to Gemma DeLucchi and Clare Mackintosh, who answered my police-related questions with such patience and good humour.

Bottoms up to the fabulous Glassboat posse – Rosie, Cally, Jill and Emma – for ace lunches, book-swaps and gossip. Here’s to many more!

Three cheers for my parents for so many lovely holidays in Devon back in the day. I thought a lot about Cymorth and Saunton Sands while I was writing this book, and all my happy memories from those times. Love to Phil, Ellie and Fiona too, for the fun we had at Granny and Grandpa Mongredien’s house. (No tweetle-beetles were harmed during the writing of this book.)

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to email or tweet or message me to say they enjoyed the last book. It honestly makes it all worthwhile, especially when I’m stuck or wondering if I should have chosen a more sensible career. Heartfelt thanks to all the book bloggers too, who have been so supportive. It’s been great to meet some of you over the last year.

I’ve saved the best for last . . . Much love and thanks to Martin, Hannah, Tom and Holly. Every author should have a family so excellent. Thank you.

Chapter One

The first time Olivia and Alec Tarrant saw Shell Cottage, back in July 1975, they had been married precisely eight hours and twenty-two minutes, and their honeymoon getaway car had broken down in the wilds of Devon. It had been a long, hot day, beginning with the hectic rush of preparations first thing in the morning: the hairdresser arriving to tong and spray Olivia’s hair into blonde ringlets, the careful stepping into her long satin dress (‘Mind your feet, Olivia!’) with her mum and sisters yanking the bodice ribbons so tight she could hardly breathe. Then had come the hushed, nerve-racking journey in the Bentley, borrowed from a friend of Mr Johnson next door, the sweet summer scent of white roses in the church, and all those familiar smiling faces turning towards her as she walked in with her dad. Vows and kisses, photographs in the churchyard, and then lunch, speeches and dancing in the Regent Hotel. Mrs Tarrant, she kept thinking dazedly, as Alec whirled her across the dance floor, his strong hands light on her back. No longer Olivia Marchant, barely more than a girl with her long hair and upturned nose. Now she was a wife. A woman. Mrs Tarrant.

By rights they should have been speeding on their way to Cornwall and their honeymoon cottage at this moment, the wind in their hair, the promise of their wedding night lying excitingly (and somewhat terrifyingly) ahead. Instead they were stranded in the middle of nowhere, after the car had made a strange choking sound and juddered to an abrupt halt. As she stood by the dusty roadside in her brocade wedding shoes, the long train of her gleaming white dress draped heavily across one arm in an attempt to protect it from dirt, Olivia felt a lump in her throat and thought for a horrible moment she might actually cry. On her wedding day!

Alec was rolling up his shirtsleeves in order to tinker with the engine’s innards but came to hook an arm around his new wife’s waist when he noticed her anxious expression. ‘Hey don’t worry,’ he said, giving her a comforting squeeze. He smelled of wine and aftershave and sweat: a husband’s smell, she thought distractedly. ‘We’ll get there. Think of this as an adventure, not a problem.’

Olivia sniffed and tried to smile. An adventure, not a problem: that was Alec all over. Confidence ran through the very marrow of him, leaving no room for doubt or anxiety. Olivia, by contrast, tended to have a list of worries and what-ifs as long as her bridal train.