Jumping to Conclusions
Jemima Carlisle’s father lost their home, their money, and even her mother through his gambling addiction, so it’s hardly surprising that his daughter hates everything to do with horseracing with a passion.
Opening a bookshop in Milton St John, a village right in the middle of all the biggest race training yards in the country, isn’t the brightest thing she’s ever done. The bookshop suddenly becoming the focus for village intrigue doesn’t exactly help matters, but when Jemima falls for jump jockey and lady-killer Charlie Somerset, she quickly learns that jumping to conclusions is bound to end in disaster …
Jemima flicked the Beetle’s indicator to leave the A34, and was almost immediately plunged into a maze of high-banked Berkshire roads. The faded three-legged signpost, lurching drunkenly amidst a tangle of burgeoning honeysuckle, suggested that Milton St John, Upton Poges, and – yes, Tiptoe, for heaven’s sake, were now within her reach. Not for the first time as Floss chugged sluggishly through the heat haze, Jemima questioned her sanity.
Still beggars couldn’t be choosers, and if she didn’t make this move, she’d definitely be the former. Nearly homeless, completely jobless, and practically penniless, the choice was definitely Hobson’s.
She’d had to leave Oxford after the hoo-ha over the party thing. No question. No one could hang around after something like that. Even if her landlord hadn’t slapped on an eviction notice, she’d have had to leave. And as she’d intended living in Milton St John from July anyway, the knock-on effect had just precipitated events.
It’d be OK, she told herself, edging Floss in the direction of the village. It would all be just fine. This would tide her over until the shop opened. Give her a breathing space. She’d found somewhere else to live – almost. And she had a new job – practically. And if the two things could just marry nicely together then there wouldn’t be a problem, would there?
Immediately after the party debacle, Jemima had donned dark glasses, convinced that everyone in Oxford knew, and bagged a table in the BHS cafeteria which was the last place Petra would go – so she knew she’d be safe. Buying a coffee with what remained of her small change, she’d scoured The Newbury Weekly News, confident of finding short-term work and accommodation before the summer opening of her bookshop in Milton St John. She’d felt, having hit rock bottom, there was only one way to go. Ten minutes later she wasn’t convinced. She had never wanted to read the words Norland Nanny again. Neither was she particularly keen on Cosy Companion, or Housekeeper Handyman. Hotels all seemed to want honours degrees, and was she really cut out for a Genteel Gentleman Seeking Similar Soulmate?
Jemima had pushed the newspaper away across the mock woodgrain Formica and tried to avoid the eye of the table-clearer by draining her empty coffee cup for the umpteenth time. Maybe she’d opt out completely and become a New Age Traveller for three months; Floss wouldn’t look out of place in a convoy of ancient and dilapidated vehicles. Or perhaps she’d get a job swabbing decks on a cruise liner. Or maybe she could be a chalet maid at Butlins for the summer season … She had sighed heavily. It was pretty galling to discover at almost thirty that you weren’t actually qualified to do anything except sell books.
The table-clearer had been hovering menacingly with a clutched J-cloth by this time, and Jemima had grabbed at the paper again in self-defence. Then she’d seen it. Tucked away at the foot of the column and rendered almost illegible by coffee dribbles.
Self-contained one bed furnished flat in vicarage. Suitable professional person. Non smoker. Downland views. Charming Berkshire village. Apply St Saviours, Milton St John …