Book Cover Image
Logline or Premise
There are first loves and there are last loves. But what happens when they overlap? Love is bitter-sweet for Tom and he doesn't know what to do for the best.
He needs Olivia and Grace to be happy, but will he ever be able to make a choice between the two women he loves?
First 10 Pages


I’ll always remember the first day I saw her; the woman who made me, at least temporarily, forget that I had been married to the woman I loved for ten wonderful years. She was reading a book and I think that’s what caught my attention to be honest. Such a large book in the hands of so slight a person. The solemn looking tome looked out of place in such a vibrant setting, out of context with both its surroundings and its owner.

She lifted her head and blinked, as dazed by the sun as I was by her. Our eyes met and a brief half smile flashed across her face in acknowledgement of the contact; for that moment I was lost. Lost to myself, lost to every sense of moral propriety I had ever held dear; lost to my wife; lost to everything save HER.

Part One



At the age of eighteen, I had been deemed mature enough to begin making my own life choices. Fulfilling every cliché going, I cast off the guiding hand of my parents, declared myself an independent, free spirit and selected a university that was far enough from home to allow me to demonstrate this.

I was going to be a new person. Until now, I’d been quite insular in my outlook on life – in some ways I was fairly streetwise, but in others I’d been told I was hopelessly naïve. Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t leave behind me a string of abandoned girlfriends. My parents were quite old-fashioned and I guess some of their views rubbed off on me. I wasn’t interested in one night stands – if I’m being perfectly honest, I was more interested in women in a theoretical way. Frankly, the reality of them scared me. I’d been brought up to be respectful of them – love was something to be cherished, not a fleeting physical act. The girls I’d known however, viewed themselves differently – they didn’t necessarily want to be looked after and my female classmates had set about re-educating me to some extent.

I knew I was a work in progress, but I was optimistic about this chance for a fresh start. I would consider the well-meant advice they’d given me and attempt to put it into practice. No one in Exeter knew the old me and I was determined that my new personality would be a success.

It wasn’t that I disliked my home city (or my family) so much that I had to move away, or even that I particularly wanted to prove I could be a different person. It was simply a logical and calculated choice to study at the best university for my course. Exeter had an outstanding reputation. Its distance from home and the subsequent feeling of independence, were nothing more than an added bonus.

Consequently, I found myself standing outside a crumbling manor house, its cream paint peeling and flaking away to reveal the brickwork beneath. It seemed a fitting and slightly depressing reminder of the house’s faded stature: from grand home of the at least rich, if not famous, to an accommodation block for a hotchpotch of students, some of whom would have been more likely to be found in the servants’ quarters in the house’s heyday.

Not that it wasn’t attractive in its own way; it certainly had character and the grounds were beautiful – a rolling landscape of wide paths and lush gardens. At the bottom of the garden sat thickly foliaged plants that would – as we later discovered - give you a nasty looking rash if you so much as breathed too heavily near them.

Unfortunately, none of this mattered to me, not only because I knew nothing of plants and had little to no appreciation of the beauty that surrounded the house, but also because, as I was soon informed, I was not to be housed in it. The property had been gifted to the university on the proviso that no male students were to be allowed to reside in the main house. Modern equality laws being what they were, the university had, in its wisdom, decided that this stipulation was not really practical and got around the clause by housing male students in what had at one time been the stables and the Lodge House. Thus, the hall could still be mixed accommodation. It was to the latter building – now referred to as ‘Westgarth’, or more colloquially, ‘the Garth’ – that I was assigned. With a handful of other, equally disgruntled looking young men, I made my way there, dragging almost all my worldly possessions behind me along the uneven gravelled path. My battered old case bounced madly behind me, its wheels – damaged on a recent family holiday to France – squeaking maniacally as though the very notion of turning was torturous to them.

Having been shown to my room by the Deputy Hall Warden (a tall, miserable-looking PhD student, who informed us in a surly voice, that his name was Reece and he sincerely hoped we would not cause him any trouble this year) I paused for a moment, my hand on the door handle. I was suddenly unwilling to open it and meet the person who would be my room-mate for the next year. Having been part of the same group of friends from my early teens, the idea of now having to make new ones was a little alarming. I’m not normally given to these moments of introspection so it came as a nasty shock to find I was actually quite nervous.

Mentally giving myself a shake, I took a deep breath, in part just to assure myself I could, then pushed the handle down and the door open. The cold metal froze the ready smile to my face as I determined to make the best of whatever was on the other side. I was glad I’d taken those moments to steady myself because my first impressions were not positive ones. My room-mate was an anxious looking boy with a thin, pinched face. He barely lifted his eyes from his book when I entered the room, rheumy blue eyes behind thick lenses completing the unprepossessing features. I forced myself to speak.

‘Hi, I’m Tom.’

‘Hello,’ he muttered. ‘Peter.’

I appeared to be of little interest to him, so I crossed the room and dumped my case on the bed. Then, under the guise of arranging my own possessions, I surreptitiously observed him as he sat hunched over the desk.

The light from the functional white desk lamp spilled over its surface, illuminating the gathering gloom of the late September afternoon and casting a hunchbacked shadow onto the wall behind it. Spidery handwriting already filled several of the pages that were strewn across the desk and the text in the book was highlighted with scribbled notes crammed into both margins. I was reminded of an illustration I’d seen of Doctor Frankenstein at work creating his monster and smiled at how fanciful I was becoming. I imagined that somehow, the mere fact of having arrived in this hall of learning meant I was suddenly filled to the brim with new and exciting knowledge. I had a new and improved understanding of the world around me. I was now truly, indeed, a student: full of the same feelings of hope and optimism that had swept the country a few months earlier. The General Election had seen the first change of government for eighteen years. The new Prime Minister had swept to power on a tidal wave of support from people disillusioned with years of grey, uninspiring leadership. With his appointment, the Houses of Parliament seemed to be infused with sudden, spectacular colour. ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ reflected my parents’ sense of buoyancy after years of floating rudderless, along a narrow blue river on which the wealthy sailed. The same wealthy who ignored those who fell off the ship and drowned under negative equity, unemployment and a whirlpool of debt. My parents were excited at the thought of change. I’d seen the new wave of women MPs greeted with joy by female friends who felt they were finally being given a voice in the halls of power. Only now did I fully understand that thrill, that sense of something have arrived, of being at the start of a brave new world. My daydream ground to a halt with this cliché and my smile became wry as I realised that perhaps there was still some work to be done on my burgeoning intellect.

I abandoned the pretence of unpacking properly and simply threw everything higgledy-piggledy into drawers, almost revelling in the gratuitous abandonment I’d not been allowed to indulge in at home. I took another look at Peter and braced myself to make another overture of friendship.

‘You look like you’re working hard already.’

It wasn’t the most original thing I could have said and it was more in the way of being a statement than a question, but he obviously felt it couldn’t be ignored so it served its purpose.

‘I wanted to get a head start. I need to work my socks off if I want to get a good degree.’

His voice was thin and reedy and suited the rest of him. He could have sounded pompous, or as though he had a chip on his shoulder – and I did feel a faint flicker of guilt for being one of those people who could get away with doing little work and still walk away with good results – but he didn’t. It had been said as a simple statement of fact and that made me warm to him, just a bit.

‘I’m going to head over to the main house,’ I said, ‘Go and mingle a bit.’

Again, I felt the inadequacy of my own conversation, but he took the implied offer and to my surprise, turned the lamp off and followed me back through the grounds to the building at their centre.

The walk, although brief, provided me with an opportunity to take more notice of my surroundings, as I was no longer preoccupied by a suitcase hovering on the brink of imminent collapse. To my untutored eye, there wasn’t much in the gardens to inspire deeper thought and I felt a sudden yearning for home. Devon was pretty enough, I suppose, but it had little to appeal to an adolescent who was a city boy to his core. The rolling landscape held no great attraction to one whose ideal view was the city of London from Tower Bridge: a sprawling cityscape where you were jostled impatiently should you ever have the temerity to attempt a moment to stop and appreciate the sights around you. It was a city impregnated with history but obsessively focused on the immediate; intimately aware of its heritage but insistent on living in the now. London, with its safety net of anonymity, where you could be whoever you wanted, do whatever you liked and no-one would even give you the satisfaction of a second glance. After all, who were you to warrant one? We’ve seen it all before, their indifference shouted at you. You were no-one special, just another living dot on a landscape so diverse, it believed itself to be un-shockable. It was totally at odds with this area of the country and I felt the difference in my heart with a sudden longing for the hard pavements and grimy air of the capital. The fresh air here was suffocating. The gruff tones and lost letters that belied the caring heart within my home city had been replaced by the softer sounds of the West Country. Its gently modulated tones were accompanied by kind-eyed looks that spoke of a genuine desire to know you better. Gone was the frenetic pace of life that screamed in your ear, telling you that like a child late for a school trip, you’d get left behind if you paused to take a breath and savour the moment. A much calmer, quieter voice took its place, reminding you to look around. It didn’t want you to miss the red-orange smoulder of the sunset that illuminated fields full of grazing sheep, the glow of the dying day setting the white wool afire.

It should have made me feel more relaxed, but it didn’t. I still felt like that child: I hadn’t quite given up hope that something, or someone, would come along and rescue me, but was experiencing the dawning misery that I was the proverbial fish out of water here. This was not my home territory and I would have to fight to keep my standing. I wanted to have my intellect recognised, to prove I deserved to be here. I needed reassurance that being rejected from Cambridge did not signify the end of my dreams – this was the beginning of a new and different, but equally exciting future. My Cambridge failure had left me feeling as though my life had ended before it had even begun. I’d been so focused on the path I’d set out for myself that I failed to anticipate that just occasionally, life cannot be planned. The world doesn’t read the script you’ve written for yourself and its author sometimes decides your character must travel a different path.

In this latter area at least, I knew I would not be alone. During my brief wait in the hall prior to being assigned to my room, I had overheard part of a whispered conversation.

‘Of course you can do this, sweetheart. Oxford just wasn’t meant to be; you’re more than clever enough to be here.’

‘I am good enough,’ I told myself.

Maybe if I told myself often enough, I would begin to believe it.

These musings occupied me until I became aware that the sharp crunching underfoot had changed to the silence of the tarmac, melted into submission beneath the many feet that had trodden its well-worn surface. This change signalled we had almost reached the back of the house and it drew me out of my funk and focused me back in the present. I turned to Peter with a rueful grin as I pushed the door open and prayed he’d not said anything important while my thoughts had been wandering. As my mum would have no doubt reminded me, had she not already been on her way back eastwards; he may not have been destined to become my best friend, but he’d done nothing to deserve my rudeness, however inadvertent it may have been.

That started me thinking about home once again and I slammed the gate on that particular avenue of thought, not wanting to lose myself for a second time in memories of home. It was tempting to meander down that road, but however comforting those contemplations might have been, I needed to be here, now. The two hundred and fifty miles that separated me from everything I knew could have been a whole world away for all the good that thinking about it would do me. Home was safe and this was scary, but scary was good. Scary got the adrenaline going and kept me on my toes. Scary meant I was pushing the boundaries and making myself a better person. This was a challenge I was ready for, one I fully intended to face head on and overcome. I would seek out the people who I’d spend the next year living with, I would make friends and I would be a success. This was the mantra I repeated to myself through the library and the laundry room, along the corridor and out into the main entrance hall. Earlier, it had been full of freshers, dragging bags and saying their goodbyes to parents, some of whom were embarrassingly tearful. Now it was eerily quiet and gave the impression it was mourning its lost occupants. I spared little thought for its faded grandeur; gave even less thought to how many scenes of grieved departing it had been witness to and considered only how its emptiness reflected the way I felt. I hesitated, immobilised by a nauseating wave of anxiety and it wasn’t until Peter stumbled over the raised edge of the rug and knocked into me, that I summoned up the courage to face the door to the Common Room.

I took a deep breath and pushed against the heavy oak fire door, unconsciously rubbing my fingers over the rough surface of the gnarled and knotted wood for good luck, in much the same way I realised, as my mum would have done. The resistance from the door seemed to sympathise with my reluctance to enter the room. It was as though it sensed, in its aged wisdom, my need for those extra few seconds to prepare myself for this initial encounter. Then, suddenly, I was in the middle of the madness.

Names and faces flew at me from every direction, verbal assaults that engulfed me until I barely remembered my own name. I introduced Peter along with myself, knowing instinctively that left to his own devices, he would fade into nothingness. He obviously didn’t understand the importance of first meetings and he would be written off before he’d even begun if I didn’t help him out. My sense of responsibility towards him was however, at war with the equally pressing desire to not be associated with him, as though his oddness would somehow be transferred to me and we would forever be known as ‘the weirdos from Room Three’.

Eventually, the tumult ceased and I found myself ensconced in the middle of a small group of boys, chatting about our respective tastes in music. Peter had drifted somewhere to the periphery of the room and was being shepherded by some of the Year Two and Three students who had chosen to stay in halls for a second year.