Almost thirty years ago, Kate’s dream came true. After years of struggling, she was finally pregnant following pioneering IVF. But the dream came at a cost. Neither Kate nor her husband Dan could have known the price they would have to pay to fulfil their cherished wish of having their own family. Now, years later, their daughter Natalie is getting married and is fulfilling her own dream of marrying her childhood sweetheart. Natalie knows she won’t be like most brides as she travels down the aisle in her wheelchair, but it’s the fact her father won’t be there to walk beside her that breaks her heart. Her siblings, Ollie, Beth and Jenny, gather around Natalie, but it isn’t just their father who is missing from their lives… as the secrets that have fractured the family rise to the surface, can they learn to forgive each other before it’s too late?
Title: Five Unforgivable Things
Author: Vivien Brown
Published by: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 26 July 2018
Guest Post and Novel Extract by Vivien Brown
Life and love in a wheelchair: Introducing a disabled character
This is a book about a marriage and the quest for a child, and some of the bad decisions and unforgivable mistakes a couple make along the way. In Kate and Dan I wanted to create realistic characters, and hopefully likeable characters, who love each other but can’t always cope with what life throws at them, especially when it’s their own actions that are so often to blame. But two people, no matter how many problems they might have, can never fill a 100,000 word novel. I needed a cast of supporting characters too, and so, running alongside the story of the marriage, set over a forty year period, I have written alternate chapters in the present day, based around the lives of their now adult children.
I am not sure how the idea first came to me to put one of them in a wheelchair, but I have certainly noticed how few disabilities feature in mainstream romantic and women’s fiction. Why shouldn’t a leading character be disabled? She doesn’t have to be able to walk to be strong, or happy, or to achieve her dreams. And yet, I didn’t want to make my story about disability. Natalie is not there to be pitied or as some kind of champion for the disabled. She is just there! She is a character in her own right, with just the same feelings, friendships and family ties as everyone else.
In fact, of all the siblings, it is Natalie who is in many ways the happiest and the most settled. She is the one about to get married, to the childhood sweetheart who used to push her home from school. Whatever practical difficulties she encounters can be overcome, and always have been, with those who love her by her side. But she still has all the same worries and doubts any soon-to-be-bride has when planning her wedding – about the guest list, the bridesmaids, the honeymoon, sex, and of course the dress...
In this extract, Natalie is entering a posh bridal shop. She wants to look fabulous on her big day, but can she really get away with wearing a long flowing traditional wedding dress? Won’t it drag along the floor, get caught in her wheels, make her the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons? The reaction from the shop owner says it all - Natalie is different from her usual clientele. But Natalie is a determined young woman and, whatever dress she chooses, her wedding is going to be done her way, and it will be perfect… if only her father would agree to be there.
But why is Natalie in a wheelchair, and why has Dan told her he can’t give her away? Why not read the book and find out!
Natalie wasn’t used to doing things alone. In fact, these last few days had probably – no, definitely – been the first she had ever spent entirely by herself. Phil was away at a work conference so boring she didn’t even want to hear about it when he called, let alone be there with him, and Mum was off on one of her regular retreats, her mobile deliberately switched off. Jenny and Beth were visiting some seaside spa place together on a cheap mid-week deal for two. Natalie hadn’t been able to get the time off work to join them, even if squeezing an extra bed into their room had been a possibility, but the truth was she hadn’t been asked. Despite their distance, the bridesmaid question still hung in the air between them, unspoken but so obviously there, and she knew that by the time they came back, it needed to be answered.
Natalie shook her thoughts away, tentatively leaned into the glass door of the shop and eased it open. Although the best of the summer was over and the days were already starting to get noticeably shorter again, the sun was bright today and she could feel her spirits lift along with it. The path through the park was bordered by bouncing rows of tiny-headed purple pansies, newly planted in neat rows, and, after a week of relentless drizzle, her raincoat and boots were at last stuffed back in the hall cupboard in favour of a lighter jacket and her favourite sandals. There was something about the change in the weather that seemed to promise better things to come, making her feel suddenly bold. It was her wedding, after all. Not theirs. And she would do things the way she wanted to, whatever any of them said.
The shop’s interior was an oasis of beauty and calm. There was a deep cream carpet and floor to ceiling mirrors without so much as a smudge on their shiny gilt-edged glass. The sweet scent of jasmine drifted in the air but, in the absence of any real flowers, it seemed to be coming from a huge fat candle that floated in the centre of a bowl of water on a shelf, well out of harm’s way, behind a small desk in the corner. Little red velvet-covered chairs were dotted about around the edges of the room, between tall slim glass cases with the most wonderful satin shoes, beaded bags and glittering tiaras displayed on their shelves. One wall, the longest one, off to her right, was swamped by an unbroken row of big billowing floor-length dresses that brought the phrase ‘as far as the eye can see’ instantly to her mind. There was nobody else about and, for a moment, she just came to a standstill right in the centre of it all, feeling completely overwhelmed.
“Can I help you?” A small bird-like woman, with a slight foreign accent Natalie couldn’t quite place, and a tape measure looped loosely around her neck, emerged from behind a curtain at the back of the shop, revealing a brief glimpse of a hidden workroom beyond, with a sewing machine and scraps of satin and lace strewn across a cluttered table in the centre, and yet more dresses, draped on hangers from an over-full coat stand and all encased in see-through plastic bags.
Natalie saw the look of surprise that flickered across the woman’s heavily made-up face before it was swallowed up in what was clearly a well-practised customer-friendly smile. It was a look she was used to, one that told her she was not quite who, or what, had been expected to come rolling in.
“Sorry… about the carpet.” Natalie turned her head to indicate the small trail of dirt and soggy leaves her wheels had brought in with them.
“That’s all right. Can’t be helped.” The woman’s face flushed as she came forward, fiddling nervously with the tape around her neck.
“I’d like to look at a dress please,” Natalie said. “The ivory one in the window. And, I’m sorry, but I might need a bit of help to try it on.”
Thank you so much for joining us today Viv, the book sounds really interesting and I can't wait to read it.
Book Angel x
About The Author
Vivien Brown lives in west London with her husband and two cats. She worked for many years in banking and accountancy, and then, after the birth of twin daughters, made a career switch and started working with young children, originally as a childminder but later in libraries and children’s centres, promoting the joys of reading and sharing books through story-times and book-based activities and training sessions. As Vivien Hampshire, she has written many short stories for the women’s magazine market and a range of professional articles and book reviews for the nursery and childcare press, in addition to a ‘how to’ book based on her love of solving cryptic crosswords. Now a full time writer, working from home, Vivien is combining novel-writing and her continuing career in magazine short stories with her latest and most rewarding role as doting grandmother.