We're delighted to present an extract from The Summer Job, the new novel by by Lizzy Dent, published by Penguin Random House.
Have you ever imagined running away from your life? Well Birdy Finch didn't just imagine it. She did it. Which might've been an error. And the life she's run into? Her best friend, Heather's. The only problem is, she hasn't told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems... Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)? And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she's ever actually liked (but who thinks she's someone else)?
'Do you want a little time to familiarize yourself ? I can give you thirty minutes, and then we have to get the draft ready for Chef.' He offers me the menu.
I study James’s face for a moment. I can’t tell if he is desperately begging for my help or angry that I’m not helping already. One thing is for sure: he is waiting for me to take control, and up until this point I’ve been trying to delay the inevitable. Time to bite the bullet.
‘Where do you keep the wine list? And the wine? I’ll need to see the cellar and maybe do some sampling,’ I say, reaching for the food menu. Christ, it’s complicated! This place is fancy as fuck. What the hell is smoked sea bacon? ‘What did you say I need to match again?’
‘The guinea fowl, the crab, the beetroot and fermented barley and the blade steak,’ replies James, the raised vein on the side of his neck dissipating somewhat. ‘The new wine list is here,’ he says, dumping a large black leather folder into my arms. ‘And the cellar is out back, the way you came in, and down the stone stairs by the deep freeze. I can show you?’
‘No need. I’ll be half an hour,’ I say, nodding in determination, deciding the quiet of the wine cellar will be the safest place to panic. New wine list?
‘One sec. Anis?’ he calls to the baby-lobster boiler, who frowns at the disruption. She is carefully pouring deep-green oil into a blender with all the steady seriousness of an open-heart surgeon. ‘Once you’ve finished the dill emulsion, make a tasting plate for Heather,’ James commands.
‘Yes, Chef,’ she scowls and heads to the refrigerator.
And with that, James nods and almost smiles, before going back through to the kitchen. I breathe out for a moment, before remember- ing the clock is ticking and I have very little time to spare.
I walk quickly back through the preparation area and make my way down the gloriously romantic stone stairs to the cellar. I fish around for a light switch just as another bloody sensor-light flicks on, but this time it’s a warm, dull yellow glow. My eyes adjust and, for a moment, I marvel at the space before me.
The cellar stretches out into the darkness, but it isn’t only wine down here. Large rounds of cheese are stacked on modern steel shelving, and huge legs of cured hams and bacons hang from stainless-steel hooks in the ceiling. And beyond that, more cheese. God, I love cheese. But there’s no time to dither. I pull out my phone and lay the enormous wine list and the menu out on the shelf in front of me. Shit! This was certainly not the wine list I’d printed out from the website. The one I had stuffed in my bag back at the cottage had a dozen or so reds and whites, in varying degrees of cheap and less cheap.
The plan up until now – if you could call it a plan – was a crash course with my brand-new copy of Wine for Newbies, and Sir Google, as my tutors later this evening. Surface knowledge. A bluffable amount. Enough to blag my way through the summer at a crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere. Only the crusty, ramshackle, shithole Scottish hotel has not materialized, and instead I find myself in a fine-dining, luxury boutique property. This place is in need of a world-class sommelier to decipher the brand-new twenty-page wine list. Which I am definitely not.
It’s time to call for help.
It’s time to call the real Heather.
The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent (published by Penguin Random House) is out now.