I am very pleased to be able to share this exclusive extract with you from To Touch the Stars by Jessica Ruston. It's actually my favourite part from the book! If you come back tomorrow then I will be posting my review plus you will have the chance to enter a competition to win one of the five copies of this book plus one lucky competition entrant will win a bottle of Champagne! If you like your books to have a bit of glamour and scandal then you are going to love this one:
Cavalley’s is renowned for style, glamour and sophistication, providing the ultimate fashion indulgences for film stars and fashionistas. Violet Cavalley has poured her heart and soul into building her multimillion pound business and raising her three children. But Violet is not the woman she appears to be. And her adored children conceal secrets of their own. Behind the Cavalley family’s gilded façade lies a streak of darkness. Darkness that now threatens to destroy them all…
Cavalley’s House, Kings Road opened on Monday morning, 12th January 1969. There was no sign above the shop; there had been no publicity. Violet hadn’t had time, relying on word of mouth to get out, and it had. The door knocker was going every few minutes - it was already driving poor Betty mad opening it every time. She didn’t understand why they couldn’t just ‘leave the blimming door open like every other normal shop. You do want to sell things, don’t you, Miss Violet?’ But this wasn’t like every other normal shop. The place was kitted out like a house. The door knocker was all part of it. You knocked, and waited to be let in. When you entered, you found yourself in a hallway (Dave had erected a makeshift wall and covered it in wallpaper left over from doing his Mum’s house up) complete with hallway rug, a small side table, and an oversized hat stand made from four normal ones nailed together and covered with Stax, Violet’s designs. On the wall, a cross-stitched sampler proclaimed that ‘Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’. Turning left, you found yourself in a large room decked out like a typical front room but on acid. An oversized settee made out of a double bed and the arms and back from an old settee found in a skip nailed on to the base, was covered in throws and embroidered shawls and silk scarves and tasselled pillows; it already had three girls lounging on it, one asleep beneath a crocheted shawl. Betty was pouring tea from a Portmeiron set and handing it round. In the corner, the television was playing Coronation Street, and on the wall, a large framed print of the Mad Hatter watched over proceedings.
Bookshelves held rows of paperbacks gathered from charity shops, and in another corner a man flipped through a stack of records while a gramophone played the Beatles’ White Album. Towards the back of the building, a small kitchen had been fitted and the cupboards filled with bars of chocolate, boxes of cereal, bags of crisps, tins of spaghetti hoops. A drinks cabinet held bottles of Advocaat and gin and sherry, and someone was sitting at the small Formica table reading Private Eye.
The theme continued throughout the house - in the bedrooms wardrobes lined the walls and became huge dressing up boxes for grown-ups, hats in old-fashioned hat boxes were stacked in piles, on shelves; balanced in teetering towers on hat stands and hung from ribbons in the window. Girls were stripping off and trying on Kalisto’s clothes and shoes and Stax in front of full-length mirrors that were leaning against the walls, and on the landings. A small box room that had once been used as a storeroom had been cleaned out and painted bright pink - the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and turned into a dressing room, with stools and dressing tables and more mirrors, and bowls full of make-up. Jewellery boxes overflowed with long strands of beads, huge plastic coloured earrings, gobstopper rings. There were wigs on stands, hairpieces, false eyelashes, lipsticks, eyeliner pencils, scent, even a hairdresser’s blowdryer - the room contained everything a girl could need to transform herself was there, to either buy and take away or to pay to use there. You could easily walk into Cavalley’s House dressed in your nightie and leave ready for a night on the town - and indeed, after a few weeks, someone did just that. The bathroom was the same - a version of a typical bathroom but skewed, bigger, brighter. The tub was filled with bottles of bubble bath, packs of hair colour, body creams. A second small room on the top floor had been transformed into a psychedelic nursery. Mini Stax that Violet had ordered a small run of were flying out of the rainbow painted door as hip young parents kitted their kids out in hats to match their own, and mini velvet jackets and shift dresses in lollipop colours completed the look. The walls were painted with a bright, trippy mural - pink clouds and blue grass and swirling multi-coloured patterns created an entrancing scene. A huge toybox overflowed with toys and games - toy cars and pretend hairdressing salon sets and rockets. In here the bookshelves held Flintstones and Jetsons annuals and a line of daleks worked their unseeing way along the mantelpiece. ‘Thunderbirds are… GO…’ the theme tune blasted from a television set and the curtains were Magic Roundabout print.
At ten o’clock on Monday night, after everyone had gone home and the place had been tidied up after the onslaught of feet that had trampled through it that day, Violet and Kalisto sat at the little table in the kitchen, a bottle of cherry brandy between them. It was all that was left in the drinks cupboard. The day had been a roaring success.
‘Fifty-nine, sixty… we’ve taken more than a hundred pounds,’ Violet announced. ‘Not bad for a day’s work, eh?’
‘Not bad? Sweetpea, it’s fucking marvellous!’ Kalisto threw back his head and laughed. ‘You know, when you first came to me I didn’t one hundred per cent believe it would work.’
He raised an eyebrow. ‘A shop that looks like a house? No till, people buying tins of baked beans and face powder and records with their hats and Kauffman originals? Where the pictures on the walls and the furniture is for sale?’
‘OK, I know. It’s unusual.’
‘It’s more than unusual, it’s insane.’
‘But it’s worked.’
Violet jangled the bag of money she was holding at him. Madame Fournier’s words rang in her ears once more. ‘Listen to your heart. Trust your self.’ Well, she had, and it was working. Against all odds, despite the fact that she never quite believed it would - it was. The bag of money in her hand told the truth.
TO TOUCH THE STARS by Jessica Ruston, published by Headline Review in February 2011, £6.99