United Kingdom release
Fielding begins Secrets We Keep with Reunited: Marriage in a Million a
moving yet frequently amusing tale. Highlighted by truly great
characterizations, it's one of the author's best." Romantic
Times 4˝ stars
“When you pick up any Liz Fielding novel,
you’re guaranteed a well-written, altogether moving experience and Reunited:
Marriage in a Million is no exception...”
Romance Reviewed 5
kicks off the new Secrets We Keep trilogy with Reunited: Marriage in a
Million, a powerful romance written straight from the heart that is brimming
with emotional intensity and compelling drama."
"Liz Fielding begins Secrets We Keep with Reunited: Marriage in a Million a moving yet frequently amusing tale. Highlighted by truly great characterizations, it's one of the author's best."
Times 4˝ stars
“When you pick up any Liz Fielding novel, you’re guaranteed a well-written, altogether moving experience and Reunited: Marriage in a Million is no exception...”
McCreativity, Romance Reviewed 5 roses.
"Liz Fielding kicks off the new Secrets We Keep trilogy with Reunited: Marriage in a Million, a powerful romance written straight from the heart that is brimming with emotional intensity and compelling drama."
Julie Bonello, Cataromance 5 stars
"Just when I think Liz Fielding can’t possibly move my heart any more than it is already moved, she does it again"
Merrimon Book Reviews
"...a unique and very memorable read." wewriteromance.com
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MEET THE HERO
MEET THE HEROINE
MEET THE HEROINE
In the breathtaking peaks of the Himalayas three women, on the most challenging journey of their lives, share the secrets of their hearts and make a pact that will change everything. Follow each of them home to London, Sydney, Chicago as they embark on an emotional journey into the past to confront mistakes they have made, and build a brand new future.
Meet the men who will share their secrets and bring love and warmth into the lives of these extraordinary women...
North American release
“... So that’s it for Day 9 of the Great Cycling Adventure. Tomorrow I’m told it’s going to be “a gentle, undulating rise”...’ Belle Davenport wiped away a trickle of sweat on her sleeve and smiled into the camera. ‘These guys really have a sense of humour. If seeing me sweating and in pain in a good cause is making you feel good, feel bad, feel anything, please remember any donation you make, no matter how small, will make a real difference...”
Belle Davenport wrapped up for the camera, hit send and as soon as she’d got a reply confirming it had been safely received, unplugged her satellite phone. It was only then that she realised that what she had thought was sweat was, in fact, blood.
‘YOU do know that he brought you down quite deliberately,’ Claire Mayfield, an American sharing her tent, as well as her pain, was outraged.
‘He helped me up again,’ Belle pointed out.
‘Only after he’d taken pictures. You should make a complaint to the organizers. You could have been seriously hurt.’
‘No whining allowed,’ she said, then winced as Simone Gray – the third member of their group -- having cleaned up the graze on her forehead, started to work on her grazed thigh.
‘Sorry... nearly done.’ Then, tossing the wipe away and applying a dressing, said, ‘In this world, Claire, it isn’t enough for the media that you’re putting yourself through seven kinds of torture to raise money for street kids. They want you down in the dirt, too.’ Simone was managing editor of an Australian women’s magazine. She knew what she was talking about.
‘Glamour, excitement, sleazebags with cameras waiting to catch you with your face in the mud,’ Belle confirmed, with a wry smile.
‘In London, okay,’ Claire persisted. Then, ‘Actually, not okay, but I suppose in your business you learn to live with the intrusion. But half way up the Himalayas?’
‘Are we only half way up? It feels higher.’ Then, shaking her head, she said,
‘Simone’s right, Claire. It’s all part of the game. No complaints. I’ve been at the top of my particular tree for a long time. I guess it’s my turn to be set up as an Aunt Sally and knocked off.’
‘Put in a position where not to do it would have made me look mean-spirited, all mouth and no trousers, so to speak. The kind of television personality who encourages others to do the hard work while she sits back on the breakfast telly sofa, flashing her teeth and as much cleavage as the network can get away with at that time in the morning.’
‘You’re not like that.’
Belle had gone for “arch”, but found herself profoundly touched by Claire’s belief in her.
‘Well, maybe not this time,’ she admitted, smiling to herself as she remembered just how easy it had been to manipulate the people who thought they were pulling the strings. ‘It’s amazing how far acting dumb will get you.’
‘So ... what? You really wanted to come?’
‘Sssh!’ She lifted a finger to her lips. ‘The walls of tents have ears.’ She grinned.
‘All it took was, “If we sent someone for this charity cycle ride it would make a great feature. Lots of opportunities to address a real problem. Get the public to join in with sponsorship.” An idle, “Who could we send?”, accompanied by just the tiniest shiver of horror at the thought, for director to get ideas about how much the media would enjoy seeing me getting sweaty and dirty on a bike. The publicity it would generate. Got to think of those ratings...’
For her the pain was well worth the extra publicity it would generate for a cause dear to her heart, enabling her to support it publicly without raising any questions about why she cared so much.
Knowing that she was the one pulling the strings didn’t take the sting out of her thigh, though. And out here, in the rarefied air of the mountains, spending her time with people who’d financed themselves, who were doing it without any of the publicity circus that inevitably surrounded a breakfast show queen putting herself at the sharp end of fund raising, she was beginning to feel like a fraud. The kind of celebrity who’d do anything to stay in the spotlight, the kind of woman who’d put up with anything to stay in a hollow marriage, because without them she’d be nothing.
She pushed away the thought, said, ‘If you think this is about the children, rather than ratings, Claire, you are seriously over-estimating the moral probity of breakfast television.’
It was the ratings grabbing report-to-camera straight from the day’s ride – the never-less-than-immaculate Belle Davenport reduced to a dishevelled, sweaty puddle -- that the company wanted and the media were undoubtedly relishing. Why else would they have sponsored one of their own to come along and take pictures? But after a week it seemed that honest sweat had got old; now they wanted blood and tears, too.
Today they’d got the blood and no doubt that was the image that would be plastered over tomorrow’s front page and, when she got home, she’d shame them into a very large donation to her cause for that.
No way in hell were they going to get her tears.
She did not cry.
‘That’s...’ Claire grinned. ‘That’s actually pretty smart.’
‘It takes more than blonde hair and a well-developed chest to stay at the top in television,’ Simone pointed out, then, regarding her thoughtfully, ‘So the street kids get the money, the spotlight on their plight, the television company get the ratings. What are you getting out of it, Belle?’
‘You could have stayed at home, squeezing your viewers heartstrings, but you wanted to come yourself. You must have had a reason.’
‘Apart from getting myself all over the newspapers looking like this?’
‘You don’t need publicity.’
‘Everyone needs publicity,’ she said, but her laughter had a hollow ring and neither of her two companions joined in. ‘No, well, maybe I just wanted to feel good about myself. Isn’t that why everyone does this kind of stunt?’
‘If that’s the plan,’ Claire said, lying back on her bedroll with a groan, ‘it isn’t working. All I feel is sore,’
‘Maybe the feeling good part kicks in later,’ Belle replied, sympathetically.
She knew she hadn’t been the only one who’d gone through a three-ring circus to get here. No matter how much she hated it, she understood that even when the redtops had people digging in your dustbin for dirt they could use, it wasn’t personal.
For Claire, though, a pampered “princess” with a token job working in her father’s empire, the sniggering criticism had been just that. Deeply personal.
What the hell, they’d shown them and, with a determined attempt at brightness, ‘In the meantime I’ve lost weight, improved my muscle tone, gained some blisters...’
She gave up on the distraction of her well-defined calf muscles and caught something, a bleakness to Simone’s expression that was new.
‘What have you got out of this?’ she demanded. ‘Seriously.’
‘Seriously?’ She looked from Simone to Claire and realised they were both regarding her with an sudden intensity, that the atmosphere in the tent had shifted. Darkened.
‘Seriously.’ Belle took a deep breath. “Seriously” meant confronting the truth.
“Seriously” meant having to do something about it. But, forget the publicity, forget the cameras, that was what this trip had been all about. Stepping out of her comfort zone. Putting herself out there. Doing something real. Except she wasn’t, not really.
She was still hiding. From the world. From her husband. Most of all from herself.
‘You can see so far up here,’ she began, uncertainly. Not quite sure what she was going to say. Where this was going. ‘When we stopped for that drinks break this afternoon, I looked back and you could see the road we’d travelled winding all the way back down to the valley.’
She faced the rangy Australian, the petite American who shared her tent. They’d tended each other’s grazes, rubbed liniment into each other’s aching muscles, they’d eaten together, battling with chopsticks while vowing never to travel again without a fork in their rucksack. They’d laughed, ridden alongside each other since they found themselves sharing a cab from the airport to the hotel when they first arrived, each of them scared, in a what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here way, yet excited by the challenge they were facing. Outwardly, they were women who had everything and yet they’d seemed to recognise something in each other, some hidden need.
Instant soul mates, they had become true friends.
It was a new experience for her. She’d never had girl-friends. Not as a kid, struggling to survive, not in the care home, certainly not in the stab-in-the-back atmosphere of day-time television.
The media bosses, the tabloid hacks, the gossip mags all used her to lift circulation in a way that made her sister-in-law curl her lips in disdain. And her husband, money-machine tycoon, Ivo Grenville, whose eyes burned with lust – the only thing he was unable to control – despised himself for wanting her so much that, when nothing else would get him what he wanted, he’d committed the ultimate sacrifice and married her.
None of them bothered to look deeper than the “blonde bombshell” image that she’d fallen into by accident. To find out who she really was. Not that she blamed them. She wore her image like a sugar-coated veneer; only she knew how thin it was.
These two women, total strangers when they’d met a couple of weeks earlier, knew her better than most, had seen her at her most vulnerable, shared their lives with her.
All of them, on the surface, had everything; Claire was the daughter of one of the world’s wealthiest men and Simone had risen to the top in a very tough business. But outward appearances could be deceptive. She’d been trusted with glimpses into their lives that few people had seen, which was why she knew that Claire and Simone would understand what she’d felt when she looked back down the road.
It was steep, hard going and all the twists and turns were laid out before her; a metaphor for her life. Then, before the threatening crack became unstoppable, she let it go, said, ‘How many more days is this torture going to last?’
‘Three,’ Simone said, quickly, apparently as anxious as she was to step back from a yawning chasm that had opened up in front of them.
‘Three? Can I survive three more days without a decent bed, clean sheets?’ Claire asked.
‘Without a hot bath.’
‘Without a manicure.’ Belle added, apparently intent on examining her nails, was more interested in Simone’s obvious relief that the moment of introspection that she herself had provoked had been safely navigated. Then, because actually her nails did look terrible, ‘I’m going to have to have extensions,’ she sighed.
Normally, long, painted, perfect, she’d trimmed them short for the ride, but after two weeks they were cracked, dry, ingrained with dirt that no amount of cold water would shift. As she looked at them dark memories stirred and she curled her fingers into her palm, out of sight.
‘What’s the first thing you’ll do when we hit that hotel in Hong Kong?’ she asked.
‘After I’ve run a hot bath?’ Claire grinned. ‘Call room service and order smoked salmon, half a ton of water cress served with dark rye bread cut wafer thin and spread with fresh butter.’ Then, as an after thought, ‘And chocolate fudge cake.’
‘I’ll go along with that and raise you ice cold champagne,’ Belle added, grinning.
‘The champagne sounds good,’ Simone said, ‘but I vote we pass on the healthy stuff and go straight for the chocolate fudge cake.’
‘White chocolate fudge cake,’ Belle said. ‘And a hot tub to sit in while we eat it.’
‘Er... that’s a great idea,’ Claire said, ‘but won’t your husband have ideas of his own in the hot tub department?’
‘Ivo?’ Belle found herself struggling to keep the smile going.
‘He is coming to meet you?’
For a moment she allowed herself that fantasy; that she’d reach the end of the journey and he’d be there, scooping her up into his arms. Carrying her off to a luxury suite to make hot sweet love to her.
With the slightest shake of her head, she said, ‘No.’ About to make some excuse for him – pressure of business was always a safe one -- she found she couldn’t do it. ‘To tell you the truth,’ she said, ‘I’m in the marital doghouse.’ With the smallest gesture she took in their cramped surroundings. ‘He didn’t want me to do this.’
‘You’re kidding?’ Claire frowned. ‘I thought he was so supportive. I’ve seen pictures of you guys in those lifestyle magazines. The way he looks at you. The way it reads, you have the perfect marriage.’
‘You mean captions like... “Breakfast television’s bombshell, Belle Davenport, ravishing in Valentino, arriving at a royal gala last night with her millionaire businessman husband, Ivo Grenville.”?’
They always printed one of her “arriving”; that moment when she leaned forward as Ivo helped her from the car. The one that never failed to catch the look of a man who couldn’t wait to get her home again, feeding the fantasy that had grown around them after their “couldn’t wait” runaway marriage on a tropical island.
At least the looks were real enough. His desire was the one thing she’d never doubted. As for the rest...
‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m the original one hundred per cent genuine trophy wife.’ The bitter words spilled out of her before she could stop them. The only difference was that he hadn’t dumped a long serving first wife for her; on the contrary, she was the one who’d be dumped when he wanted a proper wife. The kind you had kids and grew old with. ‘He was throwing a shooting party last weekend on his estate in Norfolk. A business thing. He wanted me on show. The hostess with the mostest.’ She pulled a face. ‘I don’t have to explain what I’ve got the most of, do I?’ she said as, hand behind her head, she leaned forward, giving the girls a mock cupcake cleavage pose.
‘You’ve got a lot more than that,’ Simone chipped in. ‘Holding down a job in television takes a lot more than a perfect pair of D cups. And the kind of party you’re talking about takes a serious amount of organising.’
‘Not by me.’
Her sister-in-law, Ivo’s live-in social secretary and a woman with more breeding than a pedigree chum, handled all that. But then she had been born to it. Benendon, finishing school in Switzerland, the statutory Cordon Bleu, Constance Spry courses for the girls-in-pearls debutantes. Another world...
‘I’m just there for display purposes to show his business competitors that there isn’t a thing they can do that he can’t do better.’
‘Oh, Belle...’ Claire seemed lost for words.
Simone was more direct. ‘If that’s all there is to your marriage, Belle, why do you stay with him?’
‘Honestly?’ They were high in the Himalayas, the air was stingingly cold, clear, cleaner than anything she’d ever known. Anything but the truth would pollute it.
‘For the security. The safety. The knowledge that married to him, I’ll never be hungry or cold or frightened ever again...’
The truth, but not the whole truth. Passion, security she would admit to. Falling in love with him had been the mistake...
‘But you’re bright, successful in your own right --’
‘Am I?’ She shrugged. ‘From the outside I suppose it looks like that, but every day of my life I expect someone to find me out, expose me as a fraud...’ Simone made a tiny sound, almost of distress, but shook her head quickly as Belle frowned. ‘Let’s face it, there’s no one as unemployable as a past-her-sell-by-date breakfast television host.’ Even as she said it, she knew that she was just making excuses. She was not extravagant and with Ivo’s skilful investment of her money, the only thing she truly needed from him was the one commodity he was unable to give. Himself.
There was an emotional vacuum at the heart of her life that had started long before she met him. He was not the only one incapable of making a whole-hearted commitment to their partnership. She was equally to blame and now it was time to call it a day. Make the break. Let him go.
She’d known it for a long time, just hadn’t had the courage admit it, face up to what that would mean.
‘If you want the unadorned truth,’ she said, ‘I hate my career, I hate my marriage --’
Not that she blamed Ivo for that. He was trapped by his hormones in exactly the same way that she was trapped by her own pitiful fears. They were, it occurred to her, very bad for each other.
‘-- in fact, when it comes right down to it, I hate my life.’ She thought about it. ‘No, scrub that. I guess I just hate myself --’
As they reached out to offer some kind of comfort, she shook her head, not wanting it. Not deserving it from these special women. ‘I’ve got a sister somewhere, back there. Lost on the road.’ She didn’t have to explain. She knew they’d understand that she wasn’t talking about the road they travelling together, but the one leading back to the past. ‘I haven’t seen her since she was four years old.’
From the book REUNITED:
MARRIAGE IN A MILLION by Liz Fielding
sparkling, emotional, feel-good romance