Jillian Hunter treasures her independence. She’s raised two sons by herself, launched a small business, and restored a tumbledown beach cottage in Connecticut. Finally, at fifty-two, she's ready for another shot at love, but soon discovers most single men her age prefer women in their twenties. Then a trip to London reunites her with Colin – an old flame she hasn’t seen in thirty-five years – and Jill falls for him all over again.
Love makes Jill reckless. This could be her chance for a new beginning, one she never expected, and certainly not at her age. But Colin isn’t quite the boy Jill remembers and she ends up risking everything she’s worked for – her business, her home, and her two closest friends – to make a life with him. And when faced with the risk of losing Colin as well, Jill is forced to take an uncomfortably close look at the woman she’s allowed herself to become and figure out a way to win herself back.
Available August 1, 2012 at ...
A few scenes from Painting Naked ...
The flagstones I laid last summer scorch my bare feet. Why the hell didn’t I think to wear sandals? I race across my patio and head for the path between the dunes that separate my back yard from the beach. The tide’s coming in. I jump a line of seaweed and shells and plunge into the waves. The cold takes my breath away. Ducking under, I swim a few strokes, then tread water and watch windsurfers bounce like butterflies across the metallic blue chop. In the distance, a freighter ploughs its way toward New York, and just beyond the lighthouse a small fishing boat chugs into the harbor.
I’ve lived on the beach for sixteen years and this view still gives me goosebumps. It validates my life. It keeps me from knuckling under when cranky clients, clogged sinks, and leaky roofs gang up on me at the same time.
Claudia’s back garden is an Impressionist painting—a tumble of textures and hues with bright points of light that focus the eye. Snapdragons and nasturtiums, all the colors in a box of crayons, spill across the path, alongside clumps of Michaelmas daisies that dissolve into clouds of white gypsophila and bright blue plumbago. I smell lavender and thyme. A hint of rosemary. Beside the back door, two stone rabbits crouch beneath a garden bench. A wooden squirrel perches atop a pile of clay pots. My shoes are muddy, so I scrape them on a hedgehog boot brush with beady eyes and an upturned snout. I pat its little head before going inside.
It’s a day filled with windswept beaches and tranquil bays; of solitary stone farmhouses and stunted trees that grow sideways out of the soil. We drive through sunwashed villages with streets barely wide enough for a car, and past tiny beaches where old wooden boats lie in the sand waiting for the next tide to release them.
We pack a picnic and follow a path I hadn’t seen before, down the cliffs to that crescent-shaped beach. I kick off my sneakers and pad down the slope carved by years of violent tides. Waves fling themselves onto jagged rocks. Surf sizzles like soapy foam around my feet and the wind fingers my hair. I breathe in the familiar smell of damp seaweed; dig my bare toes in wet sand.
Colin pulls me down beside him and picks up a stone.
“This is me before we met,” he says, drawing a large, uneven circle. “This one is you.” He makes another, overlapping the first. “And both are you and me—joined forever.”
I catch my breath.
“Before we’re born,” Colin says, pulling me close, “our soul splits apart and half of it is given to someone else. So, all of our lives we’re looking for the person with that other half.”
Me, I’m your other half.
“And if we’re lucky enough,” Colin goes on, “to ever find that person, our soul can say, ‘At last, I can rest. I have found my missing half.’” He takes off his glasses, wipes them on the cuff of his pink shirt. “When I saw you last year, coming down those stairs, I knew the love of my life was the girl I met thirty-five years ago.”
Leaning forward, I trace the outline of Colin’s circles. His hand closes over mine. I shut my eyes, but this crescent-shaped beach—this sliver of sand with its towering cliffs and vibrant ocean—is still there. It’s branded itself onto my brain and I can’t shake the feeling that in some strange, unfathomable way that has nothing to do with Colin, I’ve come home.
From the author ...
I hope you’ve enjoyed these snippets from Painting Naked. This novel was first published as Beachcombing by Macmillan New Writing (London, UK) in 2009. Momentum (Pan Macmillan, Australia) has now breathed new life into it with this ebook version ... along with a new title and a brilliant new cover designed by author/illustrator Carrie Kabak. My profound thanks go to Kristina Riggle for the perfect description that heads this page. She said it better than I ever could.