Wendy Holden


Marrying Up cover

Marrying Up

Alexa is a class-hopping cruise missile aimed at the very top of the gold-digging tree. Only a title, mansion and family tiara will do. Befriending feckless aristo Florrie means the prince of her dreams is in sight. But has Florrie’s mother, the formidable Lady Annabel, rumbled what Alexa is up to?

Beautiful student Polly is in love. But is Max, the handsome young vet she’s found in a country lane, quite as ordinary as he seems?

Passionate love, eye-widening snobbery and more than naked ambition abound in this contemporary Cinderella tale.

Tapping into the nation’s joyous embrace of April’s royal wedding, the witty, wonderful Wendy Holden has assembled a dazzling cast of bronze-legged socialities, highly cheek-boned princes and Cinderella lookalikes to entertain her army of fans this summer.' DAILY MAIL

★★★★ No 1 Entry 'a brilliant juicy Cinderella tale' HEAT

★★★★★ 'This fabulously witty story of love, social-climbing and downright snobbery is a riot of a read.' CLOSER

'Pin-sharp social-climbing comedy' GRAZIA

'Social snobbery and barefaced ambition... a modern fairytale that chimes perfectly with our post-Wills-and-Kate world' GLAMOUR

★★★★ 'Love moves in mysterious ways…' STAR MAGAZINE

'Light as a feather royal romp' BELLA

"Witty, raunchy" GRAZIA

"Wendy Holden on form is a thing to behold" DAILY MIRROR

"The perfect choice" GLAMOUR

"Holden’s trademark satire here acquires an extra bite" GUARDIAN

"Up there with the best of Jilly Cooper" THE TIMES

Buy online : play.com : Amazon : Waterstones : WH Smith : iBooks

Excerpt from my new novel

Marrying Up title graphic

out in NOW!

The gleaming bridal carriage with its plumes and ducal coat of arms drew up outside the Abbey's Great West Door. Alexa, helped out by liveried footmen, glided into the cool gloom of the ancient cathedral.

The Bach cantata coming from the great organ could barely be heard above the murmur of the crowd. The place was packed. Royalty was present, as well as nobles and notables from several counties around. Adding a particularly decorative touch were the friends of the bride and groom, the cream of the young London set of whom Alexa and her fiancé were the leaders. These occupied several pews in the middle of the nave, seats spilling over with long brown legs in short pale dresses and tumbling hair gleaming from the attentions of monogrammed silver hairbrushes and the best colourists in Chelsea.

Alexa wafted gracefully past in her long white satin dress. It was cut close to her slender figure and its neckline was demure, the better to show off the anything-but-demure gems above it. The diamond necklace had stones the size of apricots, and a pair of matching enormous peardrops sparkled at her ears. Brought back by an ancestor who had been Viceroy of India, the celebrated parure contained some of the biggest gems outside the Crown Jewels. As Alexa passed beneath one of the medieval stained-glass windows, a rainbow shaft of light set the necklace and earrings ablaze with an almost painful brilliance.

Shutting her eyes against the dazzle, Alexa could see the facets imprinted on her retinas.

She glanced ahead, to the altar. There stood the man of her dreams, the man she had all her life longed to marry. He was no oil painting, but his family owned a lot of them. They had Holbeins, Rembrandts and a Raphael, all of which he would one day inherit, along with an enormous and very ornate Victorian ancestral home bristling with towers, turrets and heraldic beasts. The ancestral home, however, was only the beginning of it. He stood to inherit two additional piles, plus an estate in Scotland, a house on Mustique and a villa on Cap Ferrat. And money. Vast and unbelievable amounts of it. Alexa had estimated that he would, even after death duties, be worth £80 million when he gained the dukedom. And that was in cash – quite separate from the property...

The boom from Coronation Street coming up through the purple shagpile jerked Alexa out of her favourite daydream. The copy of Socialite magazine she had been perusing slid off the bedspread and hit the floor.

Coronation Street – how ironic was that? Anything further from a genuine coronation was impossible to imagine. Alexa grabbed Socialite off the carpet and tried to lose herself in the social pages again.

The sleepy Scottish village of Stovie didn't know what had hit it when 400 close friends of Highland beauty Tara Gussett private-jetted in for her wedding to mobile-phone heir Orlando Smellie. The bride arrived at Boggie Cathedral wearing the Gussett family tiara, which had been brought by her mother the Duchess of Skegness by sleeper from Monte Carlo. Then it was back to Gussett Castle for dinner courtesy of party planners Orgasm and dancing by Lord Caractacus Smallpiece's Doo- Wop-A-Doggy-Doo-Doo Band.

One of the bridesmaids, Alexa noticed, was a particularly beautiful, particularly lissom, particularly carefree-looking blonde whose name, according to the caption, was Lady Florence Trevorigus-Whyske-Cleethorpe.

She turned to the next page of Socialite; photographs of a society party covered the whole of the subsequent spread. Le tout jeune Belgravia turned out in force when titled twin Teutons Princesses Dodo and Fifi von Sauerkraut-Bogenfratzel held their joint twenty-first in the London Dungeon... Alexa looked gloomily at the pairs of bronzed aristocratic legs in couture miniskirts cavorting among the racks and executioner's blocks. She noticed that the longest, bronzest and most aristocratic of all belonged to a certain Lady Florence Trevorigus-Whyske- Cleethorpe. Her again.

Behind Lady Florence, evidently in hot pursuit, was a face Alexa recognised. It belonged to the son of a duke with whom she had been at university but upon whom she had singularly failed to make any impression. Lady Florence's face, however, betrayed no interest in who might be behind her; it was an absolute, beautiful blank. Alexa felt sick with envy.

In the small sitting room below – or the lounge, as they insisted on calling it – her parents sat transfixed by the latest events in working-class Manchester. There was the occasional boom of her father's laugh in response to some particularly salty televisual rejoinder. 'You tell 'er, Ken!' chimed in her mother. What was the point? Alexa stared miserably up at the paper ball shade that had been yellowish ten years ago and hadn't improved much with age. Far from it; it now looked more like a wasps' nest than ever. That shade had looked down on, had lit, so much of her youth.

Not just the dreaming she had done over magazines like Socialite, and her subsequent ambition to have one of the glossy lives contained within them, but the very real work she had put in to make it happen.

As the best universities obviously attracted the best people, Alexa had slaved over her A levels. And while she had missed Oxbridge, she had managed St Andrews, which had seemed more than fit for purpose. As a magnet for the upper classes, the place had form, and even if the biggest royal bag of all had been and gone, there were plenty of minor dukes and lords still littering the place.

Taking as her maxim that of the Boy Scouts – her interest in them otherwise being absolutely zero – Alexa went prepared. Money carefully hoarded from Christmas and birthday presents was equally carefully invested in elocution lessons. Answering an ad in a local newspaper entitled 'Lose Your Ey Up Accent' proved the gateway to a paradise of long 'a's and the reassurance of knowing that never again could she be tripped up by hidden assassins such as 'butcher' and 'bush'. While the lessons were kept a secret from her parents, the results could not be; her mother was mystified and her father openly annoyed. But it was not him, of course, that she was trying to impress.

As well as Socialite, her bible, Alexa devoured every etiquette manual she could lay her hands on for pointers about gracious living, absorbing like blotting paper the rules concerning not holding your knife like a pen, how to avoid taking someone else's bread roll by mistake and the rights and wrongs of powdering one's nose at the table. The final piece of the jigsaw was clothes; there was no point speaking and acting the part if you didn't look it, too. As designer shops were, especially after the elocution lessons, out of the question, Alexa devoted her energies to scouring eBay and built up a respectable collection of secondhand designer wear.

'I hardly recognise you,' Dad said disapprovingly, humping the luggage after her as she prepared to board the train to St Andrew's. And soon, she planned, he wouldn't recognise himself either; at university, when asked, Alexa would upgrade her father's job in a supermarket warehouse to 'commodities dealer'. Mum's part-time post in the chemist's shop, meanwhile, was repackaged as 'consultant to a cosmetics house'.

Things had gone well at first. As it was relatively straightforward during Freshers' Week to join the shooting, beagling and hunting groups and the most right-wing political societies, Alexa was soon running after small yappy dogs through muddy woods and pondering the finer points of Conservative policy. She soon realised, however, that politics did not interest her and shooting was not only harder than it looked, but even less enjoyable. Fortunately, this hardly mattered; Alexa had managed acceptance in a set who spent weekends in each other's country houses. Her calling card was her sexual availability; the warm and reliable welcome she gave to any titled corridor-creeper who happened to be passing her room, irrespective of whether he was attached, or even married. As many of them were, however, the women affected took action and eventually even the thickskinned Alexa realised that the nickname 'Sit Up And Beg', stuck above her pigeonhole, posted on her Facebook page and pinged through in anonymous text messages, might refer to a reputation as the university bike.

But again, it didn't matter, as by then her efforts had paid off in the unprepossessing but nonetheless titled shape of a stammering Border baronet called Sir Lancelot Ffogge. His own prospects were unspectacular – he was the penniless heir to a ruin – but he had the connections Alexa needed. The somewhat ironically named Sir Lancelot, so physically unlike his dashing namesake, was her 'starter' aristo; the boyfriend-cum-platform from which she would jump higher up the social tree.

'The bugger!' now boomed her father from downstairs, evidently in response to the TV again. In the room above, Alexa felt misery clench her concave stomach. Her mother had been concerned at her thinness on her return from university, but Alexa, used to picking at expensive morsels, was unable to eat the vast piles of mashed potatoes and sausages as thick as forearms, swimming in thick, viscous gravy, that were regularly plonked in front of her. 'You need feeding up,' her mother would chide in mid-chew from the other side of the sauce bottle.

It was a remark that filled Alexa with horror. There was nothing 'up' about feeding. The grand were rarely fat, the women, never.

Alexa had stuck with Sir Lancelot for the first year, but the second had brought promotion to the etiolated and freakishly tall Lord Atticus Pump. From him, Alexa planned a raid on a duke's son – until fate unhelpfully intervened. The relationship – and Pump's life – met a sudden end when, as high on crack as he was up the building, he fell out of a topfloor window at a party. Alexa's counter in the game of social snakes and ladders now slid down a python almost as long and thin as Lord Atticus himself.

This inconvenient setback had been reversed only when, out of sheer desperation, Alexa had at the start of the next term barged up to the richest fresher, a banking heir called Reinhardt Silverman, and introduced herself as his second-year mentor. His actual mentor was a bombastic member of the female rowing team called Caroline Squareside, but by the time Reinhardt, who was not very bright, and the even-less-so Caroline found out, Alexa had been mentoring him for some time in her own very special way. Her hopes of an engagement were high. Then the shocking news broke that Reinhardt's father had absconded with the contents of his financial management portfolio and was wanted by Interpol.

As Reinhardt fled and markets plunged all about her, Alexa was left only with her own wrecked dreams of riches. Worse still, as Reinhardt's conceit and appalling manners had alienated everyone whose acquaintance she had previously nurtured so carefully, she had become persona non grata. After three years of frantic social climbing, she was left right at the bottom with precisely nothing and no one.

Not even a degree; as studying had seemed irrelevant if she was going to marry Reinhardt, whose sexual demands had anyway precluded time in libraries, Alexa had failed her end-of-year exams. Back home she had come, her purse empty and her suitcase stuffed with tweed shooting suits and designer party outfits. She had had no money even for a cab home. Waiting at the railway station for her parents' battered Micra to come and collect her, she had restrained herself with difficulty from throwing herself under a passing express.

'Is anything wrong, Allison?' her mother kept turning to ask as they drove home. Alexa, in the dark safety of the back, shrank against the seat so the overhead street lights could not illumine the expression of utter misery that for once even she could not disguise.

Once home, she was tortured by the possibility of redemption, of email invitations, of friendly messages on Facebook. The upper classes had short memories – most of those she had known had no idea what day it was; perhaps, in her absence, she had been forgiven. Rehabilitated. But as her parents had no computer, she had to walk miles to the local library, where invariably the computers were out of order. Or else monopolised by tramps or tense men in baseball caps jiggling their legs agitatedly as they pounded the keys. If she managed to log on, there would be only spam in her inbox, while on the Facebook pages of those few who hadn't yet managed to unfriend her, she saw her former acquaintances falling out of exclusive nightclubs, hanging with the band at hip music festivals or playing drunken hide and seek at weekend house parties. None of which she was invited to, and obviously never would be again.

She would clench her fists with helpless envy at this glittering life she had once been so close to, but which now seemed further away than the moon.

Her social life these days consisted of sitting at the pine kitchen table opposite Dad with his mug of tea beside his brown-saucesmeared plate as he made sausage sandwiches with Mother's Pride. But at least he rarely spoke, being more involved in squinting at the distant – and always on – television. Mum, on the other hand, liked to pore over the local freesheet, and in particular the large adverts for coach trips it contained. But at least if she was weighing up the opposing merits of 'Lakeland Loveliness' and 'Dutch Bulb Field Spectacular', she wasn't asking about Reinhardt, who Alexa had mentioned briefly in a rare unguarded moment and whose fate she could not bring herself to speak of, any more than she could bring herself to acquaint her parents with her failure in the exams.

Death seemed the only option; having briefly, histrionically, considered suicide, Alexa realised that a demise was in fact necessary. Allison Donald must be killed off. Only then would the social disaster of university be eradicated. She would change her name, regroup, rebrand. Allison Donald would die and Alexa MacDonald rise from her ashes like a phoenix, smart-sounding in an untraceable, vague, castle-in-Scotland sort of way. She was pristine, full of potential and had never been called Sit Up And Beg. She was the future.

But where, otherwise, was this future? Alexa had no idea. Certainly it was not at home. Home was so small! Horribly, vilely small. There was barely a stride between the entrance to her room and the side of her bed with its hideous frilly bedspread. Oh, the bedrooms she had stayed in at weekend country house parties! Bedrooms where you walked for minutes on end from the wide, high entrance before encountering any inanimate object, often human, male and awaiting her services.

'You should get out,' Mum had advised at tea earlier this week. 'You should meet up with someone your own age,' she had added, looking up from perusing the delights of 'Torbay and the English Riviera'. 'An old friend from school, maybe. Do you good.'

School! Alexa had been too shocked to speak. After life in the social fast lane, the thought of her late, despised schoolfellows made her almost want to retch.

'I saw Mary Stevenson today,' Mum added. 'She says Polly's home.'

'Boz Eyes, you mean,' Alexa snarled, her lip remaining firmly curled.

Her mother's eyes widened behind her glasses. 'I didn't realise she'd changed her name as well. It's quite the fashion, isn't it? But – Boz Eyes...?' Mum looked puzzled.

'We used to call her that at school,' Alexa snapped. 'She squinted. Probably still does.'

As Mum chuntered on, Alexa tuned out, then suddenly tuned back in again.

'What did you say?' she demanded.

'I was just saying that Polly's at Oxford,' Mum repeated obligingly, frowning over 'Cream, Crabs and Coastline: A Cornish Cornucopia'.

Alexa stared, her mind's eye filling with pictures of dreamy spires, of carefree, well-heeled young men in white tie drinking champagne. Oxford! Old Boz Eyes had gone there? It was too bloody irritating to contemplate, except that, of course, it might be useful. A sly smile began to curve Alexa's thin lips. Mum, most unexpectedly and possibly unprecedentedly, was right. It might be worth seeing Polly. One never knew who she knew.

Lots of people she had cultivated had relatives at Oxford; there could be a way back in.

Wendy Holden's book Gallery Girl

Gallery Girl

Alice wants her own art gallery but at the moment she's running her nightmare boss Angelica's, full of gold-sprayed wheelchairs, hairy pebbles and heads made of frozen wee. Her love life's just hit a major Blue Period as well. Worse, she has to cope with Zeb, an egomaniac bad-boy contemporary artist whose works go for bazillions. But along comes Dan, a handsome, brilliant young portrait artist for whom life is far from easel. He's single, skint and scraping a living holding village hall life-drawing classes. Adding colour is a pop star who will do anything to regain his former fame, plus a sex-crazed billionairess who expects a lot more than mere paintings from the artists she patronises!

"'Wendy Holden is a brilliant writer...Great fun, filled with sparkling dialogue, witty asides and a fast-paced narrative. A real treat." DAILY MAIL

"Wendy Holden on form is a thing to behold" DAILY MIRROR

Holden's trademark satire here acquires an extra bite" GUARDIAN

"Holden gives the package of sex and snobbery a delightful contemporary spin" SAGA

"A fun, sexy romp" HEAT

"The perfect choice" GLAMOUR

"A big sexy romp of a read" DAILY MAIL

"A fabulously frothy tale of a woman drawn into the glamorous, sex-fuelled world of contemporary art" GOOD HOUSEKEEPING


People might not know much about art – or think they don't – but the one thing they've all got a view on is the contemporary variety. Views that don't beat about the bush, in most cases. Unmade beds, pickled sharks, great rivers of wax seeping out of buildings, projections of bums on the Houses of Parliament, they all provoke passionate comment. It was this that persuaded me that Gallery Girl, my latest novel and a comedy about the lust, loot and lunacy of the world of knickers nailed to chopping boards, would strike a chord with everyone.

Art is, after all, never out of the news. At the moment, scientists are trying to establish whether Stendhal Syndrome – being overcome with ecstatic feelings when standing in front of a great work of art – really exists. I'm certain it does because I experienced its exact opposite – nausea and despair – in front of some black rubber flags, a stuffed cat on top of an unfinished IKEA cabinet, a corpse face-down in a swimming pool and other appalling examples of contemporary art at the Venice Biennale earlier this year. This antithesis of Stendhal Syndrome I call Sewell Syndrome, in honour of the great critic Brian, whose tolerance threshold for bad new work is impressively low. Sewell Syndrome is, nonetheless, the force behind my own new work.

Gallery Girl's a sort of Devil Wears Prada about the art world; Alice, a nice girl who likes proper paintings, ends up as assistant in the OneSquared Gallery, a showcase of contemporary art craziness featuring heads made of frozen wee, gold-sprayed wheelchairs and hairy pebbles. It was a great opportunity for me to give full expression to the fantastic comic potential of this sort of art, which in my view is made all the funnier by the extraordinarily po-faced stance of most of its perpetrators and defenders.

The possible characters seemed endless – the nude model, the showman auctioneer, the publicity-milking, super-rich contemporary artist versus the talented but skint traditional portrait artist, to name but a few. I could see immediately the potential for the perfect glamorous comedy.

But more than that. Much, much more. It was an opportunity to turn contemporary artist myself. We all have to have another string to our bow these days and as countless celebrities, from Ronnie Wood to Pierce Brosnan, have decided they are artists as well, it seemed the obvious choice. I had the background; I have always been interested in art, I used to work on an art magazine and I even had a flourishing career as a cartoonist once, drawing for Vogue and the Independent. So the more I researched and wrote the novel, the more I itched to make a spoof contemporary art exhibition myself. It was a small step from this to adopting the persona of Zeb Spaw, the bigheaded bad-boy artist who is the villain of Gallery Girl, and creating an entire exhibition, angry_with_britain.

angry_with_britain pulls together a number of contemporary artworks in Zeb's own inimitable style. 'Fifteen Metres Of Fame' is Spaw's homage to Warhol; a fifteen-metre rope hung with pictures of celebrities mounted on cardboard (mostly from All Bran boxes). 'Tripetych' is three panels featuring blown-up images of offal. Sculptures include 'Flash In The Pan' – a gold-sprayed loo – 'The Death of Rock and Roll' and the harrowing 'Iraq'.

Making an entire exhibition along with writing novels and minding children obviously burrowed into my time a bit, and so I roped in my long-suffering husband to be co-creator. He turned out to be even more fired up than me, and came up with many of the best ideas, including 'Hunter Gatherer' – shopping lists found abandoned in baskets in the local supermarket and framed in rows of four. 'Stigmata' – a questioning piece featuring gold-sprayed gardening gloves – was his, as was 'Pants', the inexpressible loneliness of the human condition as shown through a pair of large white Y-fronts.

We got many materials from the stationer's in Matlock, Wilkinson cut-price store in Sheffield and Chesterfield B&Q. My daughter's doll's house also provided some objects (you'll have to guesss which ones) The 'art' was 'made' in two secret locations in North Derbyshire; I worked in 'Writer's Block' – the hut where I work in the garden of my house – while my husband commandeered the garden shed (now plentifully festooned with gold spray paint). We worked over several months, whenever we had the time or a new idea. Like all proper comedy, it had to be treated with a certain amount of seriousness – the art was obviously rubbish, but the location for the launch party where the work was premiered to a thunderstruck world had to be Cork Street, glamorous epicentre of the London contemporary art scene. We also hired a proper curator and had professional labels for each item. The art was ceremonially conveyed from Derbyshire down the M1 in our LandRover Defender, which proved ideally suited to the transportation of angry new works of art.

All in all, it was certainly the most fun I've ever had writing a book, which I hope comes out in the novel! Gallery Girl's available from every good bookshop and you can catch angry_with_britain indefinitely on my website.

Gallery Girl title graphic


Below the glitter of chandeliers in the ornate room, starved cheekbone hit surgeried temple as fake air kiss met fake air kiss. Celebrities and socialites had fought capped tooth and tipped nail – and that was just the men - to be in the very front, on the row of gilded and red-velvet cushioned seats that would provide the closest view.

But the front-row seats had gone to the most powerful people in the business; the market-makers, the movers and shakers. This row of billionaires, collectors and connoisseurs; men in the main but with a sprinkling of women, were noticeably less animated than those behind them. They exchanged a few nods, a few measured words, but their eyes were suspicious, their jaws were set. They clenched their catalogues and paddles with whitened knuckles. For them alone, this was a competition, and only one of them would win.

At the front, shining brilliantly, was their prize. Mounted in the centre of the platform, before a specially contrived mirror background designed to deepen its dazzle, the about-to-be-auctioned artwork flashed tantalisingly, turning slightly in the eddies of warm air.

Prostheseus Bound consisted of five prosthetic limbs, bandaged, sprayed gold and hung along a gold-sprayed plastic washing line.

The artist behind this creation was nowhere to be seen. Rumours as to his whereabouts swept the crowd from time to time, like the wind sending ripples across the surface of the sea. He was the guest of royalty. He was driving across the Kalahari. He was on location. He was staying away deliberately; a modest man, he was shunning publicity. This last rumour was the only one that no-one believed.

The event was ticketed, strictly for registered bidders, but soon so oversubscribed that a satellite room had to be set up across the hallway. Here, women with beige hair and high cheekbones milled around with slim, smart men smelling of expensive aftershave.

Now the master of ceremonies appeared and a hush fell on the room. You could have heard a Van Cleef tie-pin drop, or a Tiffany diamond cocktail ring bury itself in the red plush of the carpet.

Every eye was on the distinguished figure taking up his position behind the pulpit-like wooden rostrum bearing the auction house logo. He was a man whose very presence signalled, resoundingly clearly, that this was an art event of supreme importance.

Master auctioneer Jeremy Silk did not, after all, bring his gavel down on just anything. He presided only over sales which achieved into the millions. With his trademark tall figure, saturnine looks and laid-back cool, he was almost as much of a pull as the pieces he was selling.

Jeremy was a master of rostrum theatricals. When things really got going, he danced round his pulpit like Carlos Acosta and the way he crinkled his eyes regularly got excited female collectors bidding way beyond their better judgement. His smile, it was said, could melt credit cards.

Today, as usual, he was impeccably pin-striped, side-parted and signet-ringed. His hand-made leather shoes shone like mirrors. Every aspect of his appearance had been carefully choreographed, even the inside of his suit. Especially the inside of his suit. The inside of his suit was Jeremy's sartorial tour de force - as the bidding hit the first million, he liked to mark the event with a flash of bright satin lining. It never failed to send the crowds wild.

Turning his sharp, elegant profile to the side, Jeremy now cast an eye over the brigade of assistants surrounding him on the platform. It was a look that the maestro of an orchestra might sweep over his musicians before raising his baton.

Outwardly calm, each assistant betrayed tics of tension. The suave young men with laptops, in charge of fielding internet bidders, blinked and licked their lips. The peach-skinned girls handling the phone bids, slender in black mini-skirts and high heels, nervously tucked thick strands of glossy black hair behind shell-like ears.

Jeremy's dark brows drew together in a slight frown. He twisted his long, sensual lips. Were there as many girls as there should be? Wasn't one missing? Augusta? He remembered her earlier, struggling to connect to a client in the British Virgin Islands. It turned out that she hadn't switched on her mobile.

These girls were so dim. Pretty, but dim. An advance bid for a million had come through on Ariadne's phone but she had confused the noughts and told him it was ten thousand. However, punters expected to see glamorous babes in high heels manning telephones, and so, Jeremy knew, he was stuck with them.

The giant screen behind Jeremy, which would flash up the bids as they came in in five separate currencies, lit up. USD, CHF, GBP, euro, rouble.

Where the hell was Augusta? Behind his calm mask, Jeremy was infuriated. Besides the small matter of her handling the Moscow bids, he liked his assistants ranged symmetrically on both sides, like the backing band they effectively were. Hugo, Milo and Romeo were ranged to his left with their laptops but, on the right, there was now only Ariadne and Anastasia.

Jerking suddenly backwards in a manner that would have had his Harley Street osteopath rolling his eyes, Jeremy beckoned Hugo. "Tell someone to bloody well find Augusta," he snarled.

Jeremy allowed a few minutes for the search, during which he smiled and nodded at the front row, the regular bidders. They smiled and nodded back, aware of the value of such acknowledgement in such circumstances. The art world rumour was that Jeremy Silk's levels of greeting were calibrated to what you had spent last time round. A million got you a nod, two million a nod and a smile. Five million and over got the full Silk monty; a nod and a smile plus a lean over the rostrum and a murmured word.

Working his way along the front row, Jeremy reached a well-preserved blonde in the front row, with Ivana Trump hair and a white Chanel suit.

Jeremy smiled, nodded and bent forward. "Mrs Klumpp. Delighted to see you here," he murmured.

The blonde's face remained expressionless, although she inclined her head and revealed, somewhat stiffly, a set of very white and very level teeth. Jeremy was experienced enough in the art of high society facial deciphering to recognise that on anyone less Botoxed this would be the broadest of smiles.

Mrs Herman T Klumpp III to use her full title, regularly spent millions of her husband's billions pursuing her interest in seeming interested in contemporary art. Along with a handful of others at the same exalted financial level, Fuchsia helped keep the art galleries and auction houses of London standing, not to mention those in Geneva and New York.

All good news for Jeremy, who had a serious vintage wine habit and a third home in Tuscany after the first and second in Chelsea and St Mawes. Currently, the Tuscany place needed reroofing and there was an Aston Martin he currently had his eye on.

Jeremy wondered if the rumours were true about Fuchsia Klumpp unfastening articles of clothing in lieu of waving her bidding paddle. Surely not. No-one he knew personally had ever seen it; Fuchsia, despite being a legend in London auction rooms; at auction rooms throughout the world in fact, rarely appeared in them. Collectors at her level rarely materialized bodily, preferring to send a functionary to do the hard work of sitting and bidding.

The fact Fuchsia was here today seemed, Jeremy felt, to confirm the art world's favourite long-standing rumour. That Fuchsia was conducting a passionate, highly-secret affair with the artist whose false legs now dangled tantalizingly before them all.

Behind him, Hugo murmured something. The search for Augusta, Jeremy gathered, had proved fruitless. Before him, the crowd was getting restive. The big gold clock at the back of the hall had passed eleven. In the front row, one hand patting her immaculate blonde up-do, Fuchsia Klumpp's spiked red heels were tapping with silent impatience on the carpeted floor.

The show, Jeremy recognised, had to go on. Well, Ariadne would just have to manage Moscow as well. There was no chance of Anastasia managing it; she thought KFC was a unit of international currency.

He muttered the new instruction, then, maestro-like, raised his long, well-kept hands. The crowd, who had begun to murmur amongst themselves, instantly quietened down.

"My lords, ladies and gentleman, welcome," Jeremy began in his trademark tones – drawling, patrician, and with a suggestion of amusement. "Without further ado, Lot One."

He raised manicured eyebrows roguishly at the front row. "We start the bidding at one million. I have a telephone bid for one million."

Gasps and cheers from the crowd. The screen behind rippled with figures. Seeing the expectant eyes upon him, Jeremy lost no time obliging with his party trick. Deftly unbuttoning the front of his suit with one practised hand, he jerked out an equally practised hip. Out swirled the side of his jacket, revealing a flash of tangerine silk lining. There was a roar of applause.

Jeremy raised his hands again. Immediately the applause died down to be replaced by respectful silence. "One million I'm bid. One million, two hundred and fifty thousand I'm asking…." He looked confidently round, revelling in the familiar feeling of being utterly in control, of having the crowd eating out of his hand.

His control wavered as he saw, below him, Fuchia Klumpp casually unfasten the topmost of the many large gold buttons on her jacket and then fix him with her eye. Jesus H. It was true!

Jeremy forced himself to concentrate. "Thank you, Mrs Klumpp, for that bid." He was always scrupulously polite. It added, he felt, the all-important personal touch. "Three million two hundred and fifty thousand I'm bid. Three million five hundred thousand I'm asking.."

* * * *

"Come on! Come on! Get your fucking wallets out!"

The impassioned growl came from some thirty feet above the Silk rostrum. Up here, unbeknown to the crowd below, the star of the show had concealed himself in a cubby-hole set behind the mouldings of the classical frieze running round the top of the main room.

From the tiny room's grille window, cunningly hidden among the Greek plaster crests, he had a grandstand view. He looked down on the excited crowd, on Prostheseus Bound, on the screens of the laptops, on Fuchsia Klumpp and on Jeremy Silk who, from this angle, could be clearly seen to have a bald spot.

The artist shook back his long, straight, Apache-black hair and curled his lip, amused. He had no love for Silk. He loathed the auctioneer's ludicrous showboating, but not so much as he loathed the cut Silk's auction house took from sales. Given the publicity they got for an event like this, the artist thought, he should be bloody charging them.

As for Fuchsia, his patron/ mistress, he'd like to see her put her money where her mouth was, or had recently been. Surprising, he thought, how groomed she looked now compared to the gasping, grinding, greedy cat she had been only an hour ago. It helped to have a personal hairdresser and stylist on tap at all times, of course.

"Ohhhhh. Mmmmmm." Something warm and naked moved beneath him.

The artist blinked. In contemplation of the scene below he had almost forgotten what he was engaged in up here, but then, he had always been able to compartmentalise. The particular compartment to which he now returned his attention was an attractive dark-haired young woman rubbing her naked body suggestively up against his own.

The extent of his own undressing had been to pull open the fly of his skintight black jeans; now, rubbing her dark nipples with the heels of his hands, he thrust powerfully between the slender white thighs wrapped around his black denimed buttocks.

"Oh! Ooohhhhhh!" Her head was flung back, her short black dress, ripped summarily off – he couldn't remember if by her or by him - flung on the dusty floor a few feet away.

"I shouldn't be doing this," she gasped. "I'm supposed to be down there. Working." She tossed her shining hair in the direction of the scene below and gave a snorting, rather horsey laugh.

"You're doing a great job up here," the artist grunted. Probably better than what she would have done down there. He'd found her in a back room before the auction had begun, trying cluelessly to set up some telephone link. The sight of her bottom, tightly-clad in a Lycra mini-dress, had provided the answer to what to do with the excess of testosterone which coursed through him immediately before a sale. It had been the work of a moment to persuade this girl upstairs.

She was laughing horsily again. He tried to remember what her name was. Anastasia? Augusta? Aurora? A roarer was about the size of it. He was famously hot stuff in bed, but he had never heard anyone make this much noise.

"You're fantastic," groaned the girl, her eyes closed in ecstasy as he thrust into her again.

No, it wasn't Aurora. It was something else. Augusta? What did it matter; these auction house girls were all the same. All girls everywhere were the same. Available. When you were the bad boy of Britart with the looks, money and success to go with it, no-one ever said no.

Silk's assured voice drawled its way upwards. "Four million I'm bid. Four million, two hundred and fifty thousand I'm asking.."

"Mmmmmmm," gasped Aurora/Augusta/Whatever/Who Cared. "Amazing. No-one's ever done this before."

He wondered briefly what amazed her. His technique or the money being offered for his art? They were both pretty mind-blowing, it had to be said.

"Five million I'm bid.."

"Uhhh. Ooohhhh!" Her fingers dug into his back. Her heels were excitedly bashing the sides of his calves. What did she think he was, a bloody horse?

The tension in the hall below matched the acceleration of pace in the store-room. Jeremy was whirling his orange lining like a toreador as the bidding started to exceed even his wildest expectations. One by one, the front row had dropped out, as had, to Jeremy's fastidious relief, the spoddish man in the creased raincoat in the third row who had repeatedly stuck up his paddle as if asking the teacher if he could go to the toilet.

People were jostling excitedly, although, in the main, being careful not to wave their numbered paddles too animatedly. That could be an expensive business.

In fact, the only paddle moving was in the front row, attached to another well-known billionaire art collector, a large, dishevelled man in a loose white shirt. He was battling it out with Fuchsia Klumpp's Chanel buttons and a third party on the other end of Ariadne's phone whose identity was strictly secret.

"Eight million I'm bid, eight million two hundred and fifty I'm asking.." exclaimed Jeremy in disbelief, his famous cool rapidly evaporating. He had expected three million, tops for Prostheseus Bound.

"Yes, no, yes no?" he pressed. "Mrs Klumpp, are you out?"

Fuchsia Klumpp was not out, although she was certainly half out of her jacket. And while she wasn't, strictly speaking, Jeremy's type, there was no doubt her method was distracting.

Upstairs, the artist thrust again into the melting loins of his conquest. The white thighs clasped tighter about him. "You've got a good grip," he muttered into her hot, sticky neck.

"Pony Club," she gasped, grasping the front of his black mesh vest like reins. For a moment he staggered to keep upright in his high-sided, thick-soled, unlaced black trainers.

"Nine million I'm bid.."

There was a roar of applause as, downstairs, Jeremy Silk removed his jacket altogether. Another cheer greeted the loosening of his tie. "Come on Jeremy! Get "em off!" shouted an overexcited large lady in orange who evidently cherished the hope he would strip completely. For his part, seeing Fuchsia now extend a stick-like leg and shake off one very high, spiked red heel, Jeremy hoped very much that she wouldn't.

"Ten million…"

The boys at the laptops were practically bouncing in their seats. The girls' lips moved fast against the telephones.

The crowd's cheers gathered strength as the numbers drove upwards. As the eleven million mark was passed, they gave a visceral roar. The room was febrile, volatile. One felt that it would explode at the application of a lighted match.

"Twelve million I'm bid," gasped Jeremy. It was his finest professional hour but he was beginning to wonder if he would personally survive it. He must, though. He could not go down in history as expiring at the sale of five gold false legs, however much of an auction record they had set.

In the room upstairs, the girl was lashing her head from side to side, whipping the artist's face with her hair.

"Thirteen million…" The man in the white shirt had dropped out. It was now Fuchsia Klumpp's buttons versus Ariadne's man of mystery.

"Oh! Oh!" Upstairs, she was bucking and thrashing beneath him. Pony Club was right. He was the rider. She was the horse. He was riding this whole damn thing, this whole auction room.

"Fourteen million…."

The artist ground into the girl. She was bouncing against him and making a neighing noise.

"Fifteen million..thank you, Mrs Klumpp." With a teasing circle of the button with her red-tipped fingernail, Fuchsia pulled the jacket open. Jeremy's eyes skated over a bony ribcage and a very small red lace bra.

In the cubby-hole, the girl shrieked. Downstairs, the crowd roared; clapping, stamping, wanting more.

"Sixteen million from the telephone," gasped Jeremy, as Ariadne nodded her glossy head. He, who never perspired, who smelt always of Trumper's West Indian Limes, was now breaking into a muck sweat. He yanked at the buttons of his shirt.

"That's the stuff!" shouted the woman in orange.

Upstairs, he drove into her. Deeply, powerfully, savagely. She rose in ecstasy. Downstairs, the crowd yelled. Mrs Klumpp extended the other leg and shook off the other shoe.

"Seventeen million from Mrs Klumpp… do I hear eighteen million?" Jeremy groaned. He was certain of the Aston Martin now. But would he live to drive it?

Upstairs, the artist's bottom was a leather-clad blur. Sweat poured from him. Downstairs, Mrs Klumpp pushed her skirt up a thin thigh to reveal cream suspenders.

"Eighteen million from the telephone." Jeremy Silk was mopping his streaming brow. "Do I hear…" He could hardly think of the figure.

Pony Club was shrieking; her cries mingled with the crowd below.

"Nineteen million from Mrs Klumpp…" As the thin, red-tipped fingers rolled the other stocking off, Jeremy feared he was going to burst. His heart drummed. He could feel the veins pulsing on his forehead. Surely it could not go on much longer? Fuchsia Klumpp was practically undressed…

Oh, but damn it, it could. Ariadne was nodding. "Nineteen million five hundred thousand from our telephone bidder…"

Upstairs, the artist gathered his flagging strength for one last push.

"Twenty million," he yelped. "All done at twenty million. A record for this artist at auction."

"Oh Christ…" Upstairs, with the smack of Jeremy's gavel against the desk, the artist released himself in a long, sweet, hot, triumphant rush.

Jeremy raised his shaking hands. Immediately the noise subsided.

"My lords, ladies and gentlemen," the auctioneer gasped. "May I offer my humblest congratulations. Not only to Mrs Klumpp, who placed the winning bid, but to every one of you. Here, today, you have seen history in the making. You witness a landmark moment for contemporary art. A record sum for this artist, indeed for this auction house, has been achieved. Prostheseus Bound by Zeb Spaw. Sold for twenty million pounds!"

Published August 19 2010 by Headline Review

Wendy Holden's book Beautiful People

Beautiful People

Fame, love and happiness. Can anyone have it all?

Darcy's a struggling English-rose actress when The Call comes from LA. An Oscar-tastic director. A movie to make her famous. The hunkiest co-star in Hollywood. So why doesn't she want to go?

Belle's a size-zero film star but she's in big, fat trouble. Hotter than the earth's core a year ago, she's now Tinseltown toast after her last film bombed. Can she get back to the big time?

When the two women lock horns over men, movies and megadiets, there's more drama than even Hollywood can handle. And after a celebrity nanny, reluctant supermodel and passionate star chef enter the mix, things get seriously hot and spicy.

Beautiful People – extract

Belle's entire body surged with excitement as Niall's large, long, strong, jeaned thigh brushed hers. She swallowed and forcibly resisted the urge to run her long, manicured fingernails along it.

Her nostrils filled with an unfamiliar scent. It was, she realised, the unadulterated essence of man. Christian and most of her lovers before him had doused themselves with so much cologne you could smell them coming as their car turned the corner of the street. They had had more facial products in the bathroom than she had. But this – this was natural allure. Musky, sweaty, salty, darkly intimate. She was almost shuddering with desire now. This was what she had been waiting for. One hundred per cent solid, muscled, masculine, red-headed, mouth-watering, nipple-stiffening, gasp-making, rootin' tootin' prime beefcake.

Meanwhile, with a paparazzi flash of memory, Niall had recognised her. This was Belle Murphy the American film star. The ultimate Hollywood bimbette.

"Thank God for Wendy Holden. Beautiful People is exactly what a girl needs" DAILY MAIL

Wendy Holden's book Filthy Rich

Filthy Rich

Shire Bliss?

When romantic Mary meets Monty, handsome heir to a stately pile, happiness seems assured. But as the mansion crumbles, passion wanes.

Banker's wife Beth swaps Notting Hill for weekends at a bijou cottage. They only offered a smidgeon over the asking price. So why don't the locals like them?

Eco-harridan Morag is the terror of the village. She hates incomers, four-wheel drives, slug pellets and anyone between her and absolute power.

Uber-WAG Alexandra needs a footballer's mansion – fast. There must be a Hello!-tastic palace with pool, gym, champagne bar and helipad somewhere?

When these four face each other in a struggle over sex, power and money – not to mention allotments – village life is never the same again.

Filthy Rich – extract

Alexandra had earmarked a million at least for the wedding. She was definitely going to be a princess. What should she wear? Dior or de la Renta? Choo or Blahnik? Should a Swarovski crystal tiara secure a cathedral-length veil, or pink rosebuds riot romantically round her hair extensions?

There would be huge candles everywhere and a green and white theme for the flowers. Simple and understated was the idea. Giant lilies and thousands of huge white roses. Although a dark pink and opal theme in huge trumpet vases was a possibility as well.

For canapés, she'd narrowed it down to three; fillet of beef with fondant potato and bŽarnaise sauce, tomato tarts with glazed goat's cheese and sweet potato hash browns with beef, chili and avocado salsa. On the other hand, sashimi of tuna wrapped in mooli with a wasabi dip sounded good, or what about white truffle and parmagiana soufflŽ?

The choices were haunting her dreams. John had woken up several times to hear her murmuring in her sleep.

"What did I say?" she asked, panic-stricken.

"Something about fresh crab with caviar and sour cream and cornfed chicken and feta salad with mint in a watermelon box with aged balsamic vinegar."

Cakewise, the current front runner was a ten-tier white chocolate tower rioting with chocolate roses painted with edible pearl and with a matching pearlised stepladder to climb to cut the top layer. Photographerwise, she spent sleepless nights trying to decide between Annie Liebovitz and Mario Testino. But the party would be the real test of her ingenuity, Alexandra knew, not to mention John's bank balance. For months now she had eagerly been seeking inspiration, but the right thing had not yet sprung to mind. Things rarely sprang in the region of Alexandra's mind unless her hairclips worked loose.

'Fun and irrepressible, Holden claims Jilly Cooper's crown" GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

Wendy Holden's book The School for Husbands

The School for Husbands

Sophie's not happy with her husband. Mark works late, never phones and leaves all the housework and childcare to her. She's also sure he's up to something with his sexy publishing colleague. Things come to a head and she moves back to her parents. Her mother never liked Mark anyway.

Desperate to save his family, Mark enrols at the "School for Husbands', a residential college which transforms pathetic partners into husbands from heaven. Classes include love skills, sparkling conversation and the finer points of chocolate. But will this be enough to reunite him with Sophie? Especially now a rich old flame is after her...

The School For Husbands - extract

"I love you," said Dr Martha, passionately.

Rupert did not look as if this intelligence was welcome.

"I love you," Dr Martha repeated. "That's what you need to say. The three simplest, most wonderful words in the language."

"I love you," Rupert said woodenly to the centre of the opposite wall.

Dr Martha clutched her ears in despair. "No, no, no. Sound as if you really mean it. Imagine I'm your wife. I'm Annabel. You're desperate not to lose me."

"I love you," repeated Rupert with no perceptible increase in warmth.

"Now tell everyone," the therapist commanded.

There were a few moments of laden silence. "I love you," Rupert said to Mark, who nodded briefly before looking, embarrassed, at the floor.

"I love you," Rupert told Charlie, who leant forward, clapped him on the arm and croaked "I love you too, mate'.

Rupert rolled his eyes. "I love you," he sighed at Andy, who looked doubtful.

"Where are your response skills, Andy?" Dr Martha chided.

Andy looked defensive. "I'm quite good in goal, actually."

"Look," said Dr Martha. "Rupert's freely giving you an emotional present which you've got to freely accept. A big part of loving is believing you can be loved. So – receive!"

Andy tried to look as worthy of Rupert's affections as he could manage.

"That's better!" Dr Martha exclaimed. "And you're a natural, Rupert. You're full of love, you see. It just needed unlocking."

Rupert looked horrified.

"Giggles galore in this lively romp. A perfect bathtime read" OK!

Wendy Holden's book The Wives of Bath

The Wives of Bath

A tale of yummy mummies with flat brown tummies...

Four parents-to-be seem ante-natally sorted. Flash Hugo and Amanda have booked a chic private clinic and royal maternity nurse. Right-on Jake and Alice want an all-natural home birth with whale music and tree-hugging nappies.

But nothing goes quite to plan. Amanda finds motherhood less glam than the stars make it look and disappears back to her career. Which leaves Hugo with the child and without a clue what to do.

Alice has problems too. Bringing up baby to Jake's eco-fascist standards means home-made organic everything and a recycled cardboard cot.

Will nappiness bring happiness to anybody? Not before bedhopping spouses, beastly bosses and bitchy nursery mothers have all done their dreadful worst...

The Wives of Bath - extract

Everyone gathered beside the recycled cardboard Christmas tree for the present-opening. Alice watched tensely as her mother began to pick apart the toilet paper covering her gift. "I suppose," Mrs Duffield remarked brightly, "we should be grateful that this hasn't been used before as well!"

As her father guffawed, Alice did not dare look at Jake. "It's made from an old computer keyboard,' she told her mother, who was releasing from its confines a drinks-can ring-pull on which two chunky initials had been clumsily attached. "It's a ring," she added, rather desperately.

"How lovely," said Mrs Duffield in strained tones. She slipped it on beside her Garrard diamonds and stretched out her hand to admire the effect.

Alice's father, meanwhile, who detested gardening, was staring nonplussed at his garden-kneeler made from strips of old wallpaper.

They had bought Jake some Umberto Eco novels. "Joke, you see," Alice's mother urged him. "Eco, get it? You being such a committed environmentalist.

But Jake was not smiling. His brow clenched as he examined the volumes; he was, Alice knew, calculating the exact amount of tree involved. He was further offended over the flashing, talking Minnie Mouse Alice's parents had bought their granddaughter and which Rosa, now up after her lunchtime sleep, adored on sight. Jake stormed into the kitchen muttering furiously about cultural imperialism and grandparental gifts that compromised parental values. Alice followed him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Sweetheart, it's Christmas. Relax a bit, can't you?"

"Irresistible rom-com meets devilish satire…[a] hilarious portrait of modern parenthood" INSTYLE

Wendy Holden's book Azur Like It

Azur Like It

Love in a hot climate. A comic romance in the south of France.

Kate, a journalist in a small northern town, is fed up with covering black-pudding championships for the Slackmucklethwaite Mercury and living with Mum, Dad and Gran in a semi called Wits End. When evil tycoon Peter Hardstone takes over the paper, slashes budgets and sacks staff, Kate's career hits an all-time low.

Gloom turns to glamour once Hardstone's sexy son arrives to work on the Mercury. And when Kate's sent with him to cover the glittering Cannes Film Festival, she can't believe her luck. But it's not all fun and games in the playground of the rich. Behind the glitz and sunshine lies a dark mystery that becomes Kate's most challenging newspaper assignment yet.

Azur Like It – extract

Just then, a gust of sea air buffeted through the open car window and blew the burning end of ash straight on to her dress. Before Kate could brush it away it had scorched a gaping, black-edged hole the size of a euro into the pink silk expanse. She cried out in horror. The dress was ruined. Worse, the hole could hardly be more noticeable, being just above her nipple. What were the impossibly glamorous guests at this impossibly glamorous party going to think? Not to mention Nat.

Celia twisted round. "Oh dear'.

"Never mind," grinned Lance, eyes slitty with amusement in the rearview mirror. "No-one's going to be looking at you anyway."

"Ms Holden always heads straight to the No. 1 spot with tongue firmly in cheek" GLAMOUR

Wendy Holden's book Fame Fatale

Fame Fatale

Unbridled lust. Unlimited excess. Unbelievable egos…

Ruthless hack Belinda wants a rich and famous man. Her problem is that interviewing Z-list celebs for a tabloid's Tea Break slot means zero opportunity for megastar-bagging. /p>

Unassuming Grace just wants a quiet life. Her problems include an egomaniac boyfriend, a matchmaking mother and a publishing job with the authors from hell.

Scheming Belinda finally finds fame, while Grace has it thrust upon her in the shape of a handsome film star. But life among the A-list is anything but easy. Amid unbridled lust, unlimited excess and unbelievable egos the girls' lives spectacularly collide. And then the real problems begin.

Fame Fatale - extract

The penthouse suite's double doors were slightly ajar. Automatic opening, Grace assumed; she must have been spotted and authorized by some hi-tech surveillance system. She pushed one door open further. A soft cream sea of carpet rolled smoothly away towards tassel-trimmed damask sofas the size of cross-Channel ferries. A huge wide-screen television looked almost inconsequential in the far distance. Grace padded forward and put her head into the first room she came to. A bathroom, but not just any bathroom. Easily the size of her entire flat, it was covered in black and white marble from gleaming floor to shining ceiling. A pair of giant handbasins flanked a vast round Jacuzzi bathtub, the chrome heated towel rails cascaded with fluffy whiteness and the shower was the size of a lift. A big lift.

"Mr Campion?' Grace called softly. Was he really not there? Not so much as a sushi chef seemed in evidence, let alone a personal trainer, food-taster, feng shui consultant, PR adviser, stylist or any other of the army of personal assistants that stars of Red Campion's megawattage were reportedly unable to leave home without.

She hesitated before another half-open door. Peering in, she saw it was a bedroom...

"A hilarious, touching romp through stardom, sex and addiction to celebrity" COSMOPOLITAN

Wendy Holden's book Pastures Nouveaux

Pastures Nouveaux

From SW7 to rural heaven…

Cash-strapped Rosie and her boyfriend Mark are city folk longing for a country cottage. Rampantly nouveaux-riches Samantha and Guy are also searching for rustic bliss – a mansion complete with mile-long drive and hot and cold running gardeners.

The village of Eight Mile Bottom seems quiet enough, despite a nosy postman, a reclusive rock star, a glamorous Bond Girl and a ghost with a knife in its back. But there are unexpected thrills in the hills. The local siren seduces Guy while a farmer fatale rocks Rosie's relationship. Then a mysterious millionaire makes an offer she can't refuse. But should she?

Pastures Nouveaux - extract

It was obvious to Rosie that, given what the estate agents referred to as their "restrictive financial situation', her vision of a romantic country cottage ranked somewhere above asking for the moon. As the day went on, the yawning chasm between agents' descriptions and the bricks-and-mortar reality became increasingly evident. Property details, they realised, contained a whole code of euphemisms – "lots of potential' translated as "lots of work' while "garden in transitional state' usually referred to an area entirely paved over with concrete through whose unsightly cracks grass and weeds were steadily gaining ground. Details such as "door, Suffolk latch, painted white' were often a ruse to distract attention from the bigger picture, such as the house not being wired for electricity.

"I'll tell you what we need," Mark said as they scrambled back into the battered Peugeot after viewing a former abbatoir ("Conversion Opportunity').

Rosie sighed. "A seventeenth century cottage with beams, large fireplaces, a garden and a sound roof at about a third of the price the agents are asking?"

"Delicious mayhem... Holden has pulled it off again" THE TIMES

Wendy Holden's book Bad Heir Day

Bad Heir Day

She thought she'd met Lord Right. But then it all went wrong.

Anna's boyfriend Seb is impossibly handsome, impossibly rich and generally just impossible. When eventually he dumps her, she vows to give up men and throw herself into her career. Which is how she ends up personal assistant to bestselling author Cassandra. The social climber from hell, Cassandra has a huge house in Kensington, a philandering rock star husband and the spawn of Satan for a son. So when desperate-to-escape Anna meets dashing Jamie, charming heir to a castle in Scotland, she can't believe her luck. And she probably shouldn't...

Bad Heir Day - extract

"But surely you heard the pipes?" Jamie looked at Anna with surprise.

"Oh yes." Come to think of it, she had heard some rushes and rattles and gurgles from the direction of the bathroom, counterpointed by the occasional distant explosion. Still, the castle was an old place and noisy plumbing was preferable to no plumbing at all. "Oh, and I heard the most horrible yowling noise an hour or so ago," she told him. "Like a cat being tortured to death."

Jamie looked annoyed. "That's what I mean. The bagpipes. When the laird, i.e. me, is in residence MacLoggie plays under the windows every morning."

"But does he have to do it so early?"

"Early!" Jamie sounded indignant. "He usually does it at six. This morning he did it at eight as a special favour. You were very honoured."

Anna plastered what she hoped was a suitably awestruck expression across her face. This became apprehensive as she now sensed something massive and frightening in the doorway behind her.

"Ah, Nanny," Jamie said. "This is Anna. My fiancŽe."

"A romp of a novel. Holden writes with delicious verve and energy. Lie back and enjoy it" MAIL ON SUNDAY

Wendy Holden's book Simply Divine

Simply Divine

Champagne D'Vyne is a celebrity socialite with a charmed life – and a mania for men, money and fame. Jane is a journalist with an ordinary life – love stress, work stress and a spare tyre that won't go away. As their contrasting worlds become bizarrely intertwined, Jane realises that the blonde, busty and blatantly ambitious Champagne will let nothing come between her and what she wants. Least of all Jane.

Simply Divine - extract

"Champagne D'Vyne had never looked more beautiful. Her white-blonde hair streamed over her fragile shoulders. Her knuckleduster cheekbones glowed with the merest hint of blusher, and through the clinging folds of her thin dress, her nipples protruded like screwed-out lipsticks. Her brilliant green eyes raked Jane up and down like searchlights as she stretched out a hand heavy with rings. "I don't believe we've met."

"We have, actually," Jane said boldly. "I'm Jane from Fabulous magazine."

Champagne's six-seater lips parted with astonishment. "Well, you scrub up well, I must say," she blurted. She looked pointedly at Jane's dress. "I tried that one on," she added sweetly. "But it looked cheap and nasty on me." She paused. "Suits you, though."

"It is rare that comic novels live up to their title, but Simply Divine is just that" THE SUNDAY TIMES