Finding your boyfriend in the shower with another woman isn't high on Deborah Kemerton's "best birthday presents ever" list. Her life in London shattered, she retreats to her sleepy hometown to heal her broken heart. There, she's quickly swept up in planning a pageant to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the village church. Tasked with casting the perfect Samson, Deborah may have found her man in Josh Lancaster--onstage and off...
Fellow committee member Anne Lindsay is convinced a 12th-century crusader is buried under St. John's. As the story goes, Hugo left for the Holy Land after his true love Maude was given in marriage to his brother. Professor Toby Duggan is equally convinced Anne is wrong, and is determined to prove it. Neither of them counts on their mutual passion for history turning into a passion for each other...
When romantic entanglements and small-town dramatics come to a head, local legend proves to be more than just a story...
"What we need," Miss Babbacombe said, "is a male stripper."
A blush softened her stern features when she found the Reverend Bodicote's startled gaze upon her. This was, after all, a meeting of the Moreton-by-Fleetwater Pageant Committee, and no one would expect to hear such words from one of its most senior members, and an unmarried one at that.
She added gruffly, "What I mean is, someone with a good body. These young men are coming to the Westhaven Country Club next month. Four Front, they're called. Naturally I cannot condone that sort of thing, but they look to be such well-built young men...any one of them could be our Samson."
"Oh, Clara, you dark horse!" Godfrey Mullett's grey eyes twinkled at her across the table, and Miss Babbacombe's cheeks grew pinker still, but this time with indignation.
"I have not seen them perform, nor do I wish to. I saw their poster when I went to the Westhaven to discuss a donation for our raffle. You must admit it would not do to cast someone too thin or...scrawny for the role."
"No, of course not." Godfrey reached into the paper bag beside his notebook and extracted a humbug, pleased with the result of his gentle teasing. He and Clara Babbacombe had a lot in common: both were nearly seventy, unmarried and had more time on their hands than they knew what to do with. Which was why they both took a keen interest in the affairs of the village they'd lived in all their lives. "However, it is always possible that our original choice for Samson will be back from Africa very soon."
There was a murmur of agreement from the rest of the committee members.
"I very much hope so," said Miss Babbacombe, "but not having heard anything from him is rather worrying."
Godfrey gave her a reassuring smile.
"I don't think we need be too anxious yet. I propose we discuss it at the next meeting, in two weeks' time."
Clara Babbacombe did not look convinced. "That gives us just five weeks until the pageant. Will that be time enough, do you think?"
"Goodness me, of course it will." Godfrey smiled, reaching for another humbug. "We've organised everything now except Samson, and even there I don't think we need worry. Something will turn up."
Deborah Kemerton arrived at The Cutting Room Beauty Centre off Edgeware Road and paused momentarily at the door. The spring sunshine had a bleaching effect on the neon colours of the window display but it still gave the appearance of a bright, buzzing salon. The place to be. Deborah summoned up her courage. She knew no one here, but Bernard had booked her a half-day session. "The works, babe," he'd told her, "So you'll look your best when I take you out for a birthday meal tonight."
Dear Bernard, he was so good to her. She'd been working for Appletons Accountants for less than a month when he first began to take notice of her, stopping by her desk for a quick chat, taking her out for a drink after work. Naturally shy and retiring, Deborah was dazzled by the attentions of the suave, sophisticated junior partner. She felt less homesick when she was with him. And when she confided her worries about leaving home when her mother had not fully recovered from her heart attack, he took pains to reassure her.
"Your parents wouldn't expect you to give up your career chances for them," he told her. "They would never have let you come to London if they needed you. And anyway, I need you now, babe."