Authors: Kathy Lette
About the Book
When Jane decides to move to the Australian outback in search of a husband, her sister Anthea thinks she’s mad. But the sisters have never seen eye-to-eye. Anthea is slim, beautiful and has a perfect life and fiancé. Jane has always felt like the ugly duckling in comparison.
But when Anthea tries to save Jane from this latest crazy plan, she ends up taking a walk on the wild side herself…
A sexy, funny and heartwarming adventure – curl up and enjoy this fabulous Quick Read from Kathy Lette.
Love Is Blind
but marriage is a real eye opener
For my dear mother, Val, who introduced me to the joy of reading
Thanks to my sister Jenny and brother-in-law Niall O’Carroll for top bush survival tips. Thanks also to my editors, Cat Cobain and Sophie Wilson for talking me off a literary ledge occasionally. And to Larry Finlay and Gail Rebuck for introducing me to the wonderful world of Quick Reads. And finally, hello to all new readers. I’m so glad you’re slipping between my covers.
Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
‘THE OUTBACK? WHAT
you’re moving to the Australian Outback?’ Anthea’s startled words were lost on her sister as Jane barrelled down the stone steps to stash another suitcase into the boot of her car. ‘
‘The man shortage,’ Jane grunted glumly. ‘All the men in London are married or gay. Or married
gay.’ She pushed back up the stairs past her perfectly groomed elder sister to fetch more belongings from her flat.
Anthea tottered in sky-scraper high heels towards her sister’s car which was parked half up on the kerb. The uneven pavement of inner-city Soho made her feel like a toddler taking to the ice. ‘Weren’t you even going to tell me?’ she asked.
‘Why bother? I knew you’d just try to talk me out of it,’ Jane replied, as she strapped her cello case into the back seat. Anthea thought crossly that it was just so typical of her sister to take up the cello as a child, when a clarinet or flute would have been so much less fuss.
‘Oh, well, that’s just lovely, isn’t it? Thank God I happened to drop by on the way home from court then … Otherwise I wouldn’t even have known that my sister had fled the country. My legal case was settled by the way. Thanks for asking,’ she added, sarcastically.
‘I thought of writing to you, Anthea, but what could I say? “
So glad your life’s perfect … engaged to a legal eagle. Great job. Mortgage as small as your waist. Designer genes inherited from Mum and Dad … But I’m buggering off because I’m thirty-two and my eggs are rotting in my ovaries
.” But there just didn’t seem to be a greetings card to cover that,’ Jane said, sharply.
Though separated in age by only thirteen months, Anthea and Jane were not the type of sisters to sit around exchanging polite remarks. Instead they’d spent their youth using each other as dartboards. Basically the two siblings got on as well as a gun-toting hunter and an
Rights supporter. Anthea felt duty-bound to express a desire that her less successful younger sister should make a go of things out in the Colonies … But found she secretly wanted to load Jane down with heavy weights and drop her in piranha-infested waters.
Jane, on the other hand, felt sure that if her oh, so perfect, control-freak elder sister ever ended up in a lifeboat, the other passengers would eat her by the end of the first day. Even if they had plenty of food and water and land was in sight. Just because she was so damned annoying.
Anthea stepped gingerly over the dog turds which dotted the pavement. She couldn’t understand why Jane insisted on dwelling in this seedy, inner-city area. She could have bought a nice house in the outer suburbs for half the price, using the money their parents had left. It was typical of her little sister’s lack of common sense.
After the tragic death of their beloved mother and father, in a boating accident in the Red Sea two years before, Anthea had tried to encourage her sister to act like an adult. But there were times when she was secretly tempted to put Jane
for adoption. ‘Where exactly are you moving to on the other side of the world, if it’s not too much to ask?’ Anthea enquired crossly.
‘Broken Ridge. Mining town. West Australia.’ Jane leant on the car bonnet to catch her breath. The suitcases had been heavy. Hands on stout, denim-clad hips, she faced her slender sister. ‘As you know, I’ve been on so many blind dates, I should be given a free guide dog. But I’ve been looking in the wrong places!’
Her face came alive with excitement then. ‘In the Australian Outback,’ she chirped, ‘men outnumber women ten to one.’ Jane retrieved a scrunched-up newspaper article from her pocket and thrust it at her sister.
Anthea perched her sunglasses on top of her highlighted blonde locks. She smoothed out the blurred print with her manicured claws. Then she read aloud very slowly, as though conversing with someone who was hard of hearing.
‘A mayor in the Australian Outback has called on ladies who are plain looking to move to his town. A shortage of women means the men there aren’t too picky. He says, “
Quite often you will see a lass here who is maybe not so attractive … yet she has a wide smile
her face. Perhaps she’s thinking about a recent meeting with an eager man, or else is keen for the next one! If you’re an ugly duckling, why not move here? Let the attention you’ll receive turn you into a beautiful swan
Anthea glanced up at her younger sister. Jane’s face shone with hope. Anthea’s face, however, was rigid with anger. ‘This is absolutely outrageous. It’s awful! How dare this Aussie mayor judge women only by the way they look! What about character? And brains? Who cares about looks? You’re so clever and funny, Jane.’
‘So bloody what?’ she replied tightly, her smile gone. ‘Any bloke who ever liked my sense of humour ended up by falling in love with
instead.’ She looked at her elder sister with slant-eyed hostility.
A passerby would not have picked them out as sisters. Whereas Anthea glided, Jane stomped. Anthea was trim, with a swimmer’s body. The loose hammocks of flesh under Jane’s mottled upper arms wobbled when she moved. Anthea was fine-featured like their mother had been. (Jane secretly thought her elder sister’s nose a
hawk-like which made her look predatory.) Jane knew that her own soft button of a nose was lost in her big-boned face, as though it had been stuck on with Blu-Tack.
The one thing they did share was a talent for making cutting remarks. Their tongues were sharp enough to shave your legs with.
‘Women are as close to being valued for their characters as Lady Gaga is to joining a convent,’ Jane declared bitterly.
‘But you’re very attractive, Jane – in your own way.’
Jane’s eyes flashed before narrowing in a look of contempt. ‘Oh, please don’t treat me like a child. Do you think Mum knew all along I was going to be plain? She named you Anthea, which means flower, and then took one look at me in the crib and decided “plain Jane”.’
Uncomfortable with the familiar turn their talk was taking, Anthea changed tack. ‘I can’t believe that Outback mayor says the town welcomes women who are “plain looking”. That must make the ones who are in the town already feel just dreadful.’
Jane shrugged. ‘I don’t know. I think he’s just being practical.’
‘We all know about racism. Well, this man has face-ism,’ Anthea said crisply, as if addressing an invisible jury. ‘He’s facially prejudiced.’
Jane’s eyes glittered with spite. ‘Oh, and you’re not? You judge
looks. You once said to me, “no pecs, no sex”’. And anyway, Rupert, your live-in Ken doll,
by your looks. Do you think he’d be living with you if you looked like
Anthea thought for a moment of her handsome, clever fiancé, Rupert. He was a successful lawyer with a big firm in the City of London. They’d been engaged for four years, which did seem rather a long time. But they’d both been too busy to organise the wedding. Let alone take time off to go on honeymoon … Well, it was mostly Rupert who was too busy.
Anthea was desperate to ‘tie the knot’, as her mother used to call it. As soon as her fiancé was made a partner in his law firm, he had promised that she would become Mrs Rupert Cavendish. It was a title she craved.
Anthea took a deep breath and then employed the reasonable tone she used to calm traffic wardens and hostile witnesses in court.
know you’ve taken against Rupert, but you’re wrong. He’s a …’
‘… shallow snob who is just using you. If there were a competition for Mr Caring and Sharing, Rupert would be knocked out first, along with Dracula and Voldemort. He’s nothing more than a corporate cowboy.’
Anthea’s anger boiled over like milk. ‘That’s just not true! You have no idea how much he does for human rights!’
‘Hey, showing up once at a charity ball for Amnesty International doesn’t make him a human rights lawyer.’
‘You’re talking about the man I love!’
‘Well, you clearly have a lot in common because
in love with himself too,’ Jane added, stubbornly.
It was now Anthea’s turn to look at her little sister with thin-lipped disapproval. ‘You’re just jealous, Jane. Ever since we were teenagers, you’ve had enough chips on your shoulder to open a casino. Can’t you be happy for me?’
‘Gee, I don’t know, sis. It’s just that seeing two such perfect people rapt in mutual adoration makes me feel something very powerful … the
to vomit! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a husband to hunt.’
Anthea placed one hand on her sister’s arm to soothe her. ‘Jane, you can’t just move to the other side of the world, on a whim. What about your music students? Your friends? What about your teaching job?’ she asked, amazed.
‘Yeah … my life’s so busy, what with the sale at Primark and the dishwasher filter needing changing,’ she answered mockingly. ‘Lying in bed alone every night, I constantly remind myself that I am only one husband short of a very happy marriage!’
‘But, Jane, seriously. You can’t just hunt down a husband. It’s not like shopping for a pair of shoes! Even Cinderella had to wait for the right glass slipper to come along.’
‘You know, taking lessons in love from you is like taking ballroom dancing tips from a dinosaur. I’m going to Australia and that’s all there is to it,’ Jane declared in the tone of a stubborn toddler. ‘And my flight is in …’ she checked her watch ‘… five hours. I’m selling my car on the way. There’s a used car lot near Heathrow.’
‘Oh my God. You really are serious about this!’
seized her sister’s other arm and held it tight. ‘You can’t go. The truth about finding a man in the Outback is that, yes, the odds may be good – but the goods will be odd. Can’t you imagine how rough and tough those miners are?’
‘How the hell would you know, Anthea? It’s not as though you’ve ever been out there!’ Jane yanked her arm free. ‘You’re just judging the place on appearances, as usual. At least there are blokes out there – and any bloke is better than no bloke,’ she sighed. ‘That little bit of plastic between the legs of a Barbie doll? That will be me. It will heal over.’
‘Do you have any idea what kind of men live in the Outback? Criminals and misfits.’ Anthea barred her sister’s way to the driver’s door by standing in front of it. ‘People go missing out there, you know? Backpackers are murdered. In fact, I’m going to contact Extreme Sports Enthusiasts. They really should include “husband hunting in the Outback” as the ultimate risk-taking thrill.’
‘You’re not listening to me, Anthea! I’m sick of standing by the dips at parties, playing “Spot the Heterosexual”.’ Jane frowned deeply.
a single, hetero male does wander into our midst, he’s immediately stripped down and sold off for parts. My girlfriends and I squabble over any man who still has his own teeth!’ Her voice buzzed with rage, like a wasp in a jar. ‘I’ve done everything but wear beer-flavoured lipgloss. And still nothing! For years now not one man has tried to kiss me!’ She pushed past her sister and reached for the car door. ‘And it’s not like I’m asking for much. Just a man who can find my G-spot without a map and compass.’
‘Well, when your Outback psychopath
kill you, just make sure you leave your brain to medical science. It’s obviously never been used.’