I’m really thrilled to be bringing you an extract from this book today. It’s so current and full of stuff we can all relate to, I think. Enjoy!
About the book
This heart-warming and funny novel is the perfect balm for the Insta-weary mind – get ready to shatter the illusion that is #LivingMyBestLife.
Bell never thought she’d be facing her 40th birthday single. Recently dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, she’s struggling to move on with her life – and surrender the fleecy pyjamas she’s been living in since January. Sick of being bombarded by #blessed on social media and feeling like her life doesn’t live up to everyone else’s, she decides it’s time for a change; time to find out who she really is, not who she thinks she should be.
Millie is a successful online influencer posting under the handle @mi_bestlife, but as a single mum trying to make ends meet and stay ahead of the younger generation snapping at her heels, her Instagram feed is far more #BestLie than #BestLife. With internet trolls attempting to bring her down and an ex who cares more about playing football than seeing their son, Millie begins to wish her life was more like her filters.
It isn’t until Millie and Bell’s paths cross that the two women begin to realise what they’re missing. Will Bell finally learn to live life for herself? And will Millie see that she needs to start living for the moment and not for the likes?
Millie had periodically flirted with Tinder, more often than not finding it the most depressing place to be of an evening. She’d then moved on to other apps, which while not exactly full of positivity and fun, were slightly less hideous. And it was on one of these apps that she’d come across Tom. They’d matched with each other and then the ball had been in her court as to whether she messaged him or not. She’d swiped right mainly because he had the kindest-looking face of anyone she’d seen on her various dating app forays, so one lonely night when five-year-old Wolf was in bed and there was nothing on the TV, she decided she might as well contact him. Their messages had remained very much on the side of pleasant rather than passionate, but when Tom suggested they meet for a drink, she hadn’t immediately said no. Wolf’s dad Louis would be coming to pick him up on Friday night for his once-every-four-weeks weekend with his son, so Millie had two days of emptiness stretching ahead of her. With nothing better to do, she asked Tom if he was free on Saturday night. His reply came back alarmingly fast.
Sounds great! What about 8 o’clock at the Duke of York, and then we can go for a bite to eat later if we fancy it? Looking forward to it! T x
Millie knew she should probably tell someone where and when she was going on a date, in case he turned out to be a serial killer, but she didn’t really have any friends locally she wanted to tell, or in fact any friends locally at all. She certainly wasn’t going to tell Louis this nugget of information as he was bound to try to use it against her at some point; though how he thought he’d get away with it, when he spent half his life parading twenty-year-old after twenty-year-old on his arm, was anyone’s guess. She supposed she’d better let her dad know what she was doing, so she sent a quick, breezy text and promised to call him soon.
By the time Louis rang the doorbell at 5.15pm on Friday night, Wolf had worked himself up into a state of huge excitement.
‘Daddy!’ he yelled, dropping his Spider-Man figurine, running to the door and impatiently waiting for Millie to open it.
‘Wolf Cub!’ Louis grinned, scooping him up and holding the little boy aloft like he was baby Simba in The Lion King. ‘How are you, mate? Good to see ya!’
As Wolfie went into a big spiel about all the superhero toys he’d packed in his little wheeled case to show him, Millie peered round the door.
‘Millie,’ he nodded. ‘Right, little man, say goodbye to Mummy and we’ll get you in the car and then the fun can really start!’
‘Bye, Mummy. You will look after Snuffles for me and give him a goodnight kiss, won’t you?’
‘Of course, Wolfie. I promised, didn’t I? Now you be good and I’ll see you back here on Sunday afternoon, okay?’
She’d barely removed her arms from round his small body before Wolf was out the door and skipping towards Louis’ huge Range Rover. She watched them leave, waving even after the car had turned out of the road and driven off into the distance.
However nice it was to have a break from being essentially a single parent, it never got easier watching her son disappear up the motorway to Birmingham with his dad. After all, her whole life had revolved around the little boy for the last five years. She willed herself not to cry and began dropping armfuls of toys into the basket drawers by the fireplace, only pausing to pick up Snuffles, the soft toy guinea pig, and give him a quick kiss on his fluffy head.
As her date approached the following evening, Millie began to wish she’d never bothered sending Tom a message in the first place. She’d spent a pleasant day tidying the house, prepping a few Instagram posts and firing off emails to various copywriting agencies asking if they had any work for her. After luxuriating in a bath filled with the posh bubbles Louis had bought for Wolf to give her for Christmas (whatever his faults, Louis had great taste when it came to the finer things in life), she felt happy and calm. That had all dissolved when she’d started thinking about her date that evening.
Since she and Louis had broken up just under two-and- a-half years ago, there hadn’t been much space in Millie’s life for men. And it hadn’t really bothered her that she didn’t have a significant other to turn to as, frankly, she had enough on her plate making sure Wolfie was fed, clothed and as unaffected as possible by his parents’ separation. Not to mention trying to carve out some kind of career in the fashion/blogging/social media world. But now that Wolf was at school, she’d felt like she should at least try to get herself out there. The trouble was, things had changed so much in the seven or so years since she’d been that feisty girl who had been a match (in every way) for cocky footballer Louis in a Birmingham nightspot. Not only was she older, wearier and far less sure of herself, but the dating arena was a foreign country now. At thirty she felt both ancient and that she was competing with all the younger, prettier, more confident people looking to find the love of their lives – or at least someone they could shag that evening. So when she’d matched with Tom and he’d seemed happy to chat as friends, she’d gradually stopped using the other apps and contented herself with exchanging nice, no-pressure, getting-to-know- you messages every so often. But meeting him in the flesh was something else entirely.
‘I don’t even know if I want a relationship,’ Millie sighed out loud as she smoothed product through her hair and uncovered the hairdryer that had been gathering dust in the corner of her bedroom. But the voice inside her head wasn’t going to let her off that easily.
You don’t have to have a relationship, you just need some fun.
‘Fun!’ she grunted over the whirr of the hairdryer. ‘Think I’d rather stay in with a glass of cheap wine in front of the telly.’
But that’s what you did last night. And the night before, and the one before that, the voice replied.
‘Christ, now I’m talking to myself. I really am going mad!’ She heard her phone ping as she put the hairdryer down and hoped it was Tom also having second thoughts. It wasn’t,
it was her dad.
Have an amazing time this evening, Millie, you deserve it! Me and Jean want to hear all about it tomorrow! Dad xx
She smiled and turned back to the sparse offerings in her wardrobe. Then she remembered her eBay triumph. Like at least half of the country, she’d lusted after the latest high street collaboration with this year’s hot young designer, but also knew she didn’t have a hope in hell of queueing at the crack of dawn outside her local store on the morning of its launch to get her hands on any of the pieces. So, when she’d spied an eBay seller flogging her favourite dress from the collection for just a few quid more than it had cost originally, she was both excited and wary. Ridiculously, it had all seemed to check out, and a few days after she’d clicked the Buy It Now button a package arrived in the post containing the coveted dress and a short note:
I hope you enjoy the dress more than my granddaughter, who complained I’d got her the wrong one and in the wrong size but still wanted me to give it to her so she could sell it at a vast profit and buy some festival tickets instead. I only wish I could get into it myself as it’s a lovely dress, but I’m sure it will look better on you! Audrey x
And the dress did actually look great on her, Millie was able to admit as she swished the A-line skirt in front of the mirror, before spending an inordinate amount of time taking the obligatory selfie and saving it so she could add filters later.
How great does that extract sound!?! Living My Best Life is available to purchase here.