Home > An Island Wedding (Concern # 5)

An Island Wedding (Concern # 5)
Author: Jenny Colgan




And welcome to the island of Mure. It is, I will tell you, writing this, a blustery spring day, and the sun keeps popping its head in and out of the clouds and then changing its mind. I wanted to write a few quick words if you’re new, or actually even if you’ve read other Mure books: we’re all so busy and have a lot going on.

So! Here is a quick reprise just so you are up to date. (I find it particularly tricky reading on an e-book if I have to check who somebody is, and it’s hard just to flick back a few pages.) Also, I am not crazy about books that do it all in exposition—you know the kind of thing I mean:

“Hey, Peter! How’s your sister Jane?”

“Jane, my younger sister of age twenty-eight, you mean? Who just lost both legs in a terrible traffic accident in Minsk?”

“Yes, that’s the one. The one whose wedding we—by which I mean you and me plus your brother John, thirty—are all here to celebrate.”

So I am going to get you up to speed, whether you’ve just joined us (welcome!) or whether you have just finished reading all the others.

Okay, Flora MacKenzie moved back to the tiny island of Mure, off the northeastern coast of Scotland, where she grew up, after her mother died. Her father and three brothers still run the family farm there. She opened the Seaside Kitchen, a small café, and has now taken over the fancy Rock hotel following the death of its proprietor, Colton.

She is also engaged to be married to Joel, her complicated American boss from London, who was raised in a series of foster homes and has found settling down something of a challenge. They have a baby called Douglas, who is now almost one.

Lorna MacLeod is the primary school headmistress, who is having a secret relationship with Saif Hassan, the local GP, who is a refugee from Syria. They are nuts about each other. His two sons are on the island (and attend Lorna’s school). His wife was lost in the war in Syria; Saif has recently seen a photograph in which she appears to be not only remarried, but pregnant.

Of Flora’s brothers, the widowed Fintan is very relieved he doesn’t have to run the Rock any more; Innes is giving his marriage another shot while trying to raise his daughter, Agot; and Hamish is just being Hamish. He doesn’t change very much.

And okay, I think we are all caught up!

Normally I like writing books, but if I had the chance to make films, now you would definitely see one of those little breezes, just a little one, that comes out of nowhere, and it would flap the pages a tiny bit . . . and there would be a salty tang to the air, and suddenly I would have one of those soaring camera shots—you know the ones I mean, that go really fast over the sea, faster and faster, zooming toward a tiny dot in the distance, that becomes bigger and bigger on the horizon, a cool breeze blowing even under sunny morning skies, a great long stretch of golden sand appearing that reveals itself to be the Endless Beach, followed by a lighthouse and then the Rock, right at the top, and on the other south side of the beach, you can make out a jumble of little friendly buildings in different colors—red, yellow, pink—and the slightly faded black and white of the old Harbor’s Rest hotel. And now you are slowing, just gently dipping over the top of the fishermen’s clattering masts with their jolly flags, and now you are being deposited gently on the gray cobbled wharf, just in front of where the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry is puttering up on its first run of the day, with papers and parcels ready to be unloaded from the mainland, with the captain looking out on the wharf, maneuvering carefully. Bramble the dog is padding past with the paper in his mouth, heading back to Eck, Flora’s dad, at MacKenzie Farm, and the door of the pink building—the Seaside Kitchen—is already open, and you can already hear BBC nan Gàidheal playing some fiddle music inside, and smell good coffee and fresh cheese scones, so you may as well come in and sit down for a while, next to the Fair Isle knitting group, take a little break for yourself, and watch the comings and goings at the harbor—welcome back to Mure.






Chapter One

IT WAS THE tail-end of March, and the Rock hotel on Mure was booked absolutely solid. The visitors had got lucky too: the end of the Atlantic storms had brought snow and ice well into the third month of the year, but for the last week the sun had shone bright every day.

As long as you had a decent coat and some stout shoes (the hotel would of course lend you some wellingtons), the island looked glorious: the sand on the Endless Beach was so pale it was practically white, the water lapping turquoise and clear, the sky huge and blue as a child’s painting. The little brightly painted houses lopsidedly leaning against each other in the harbor were jolly and gay, and the fishing boats were freshly painted and eager to take to the waves.

“It is absolutely. Sodding. Freezing,” said Flora, stepping out into the bright sunshine, going round to check the gardens around the back of the house, where the daffodils were in full bloom.

Her fiancé, Joel, on the other end of the phone, let out a barking laugh.

“It’s because you heat that hotel so much you’ve got soft.”

Flora sighed. This was almost certainly true. In the MacKenzie farmhouse, where she’d grown up, the windows were single-paned and drafty and you had to hurtle to the damped-down peat kitchen fire every morning, your feet freezing on the icy stone, to stir it up again, then heat your chilled fingers around a warm, strong cup of tea.

The Rock, on the other hand, a huge old gray stone building, had been converted into a hotel by a rich Texan who couldn’t bear discomfort of any kind. The traditional-style windows were triple-glazed; a heat pump had been installed, giving out vast amounts of cheap energy; and every bathroom had underfloor heating. There were thick rugs and cozy blankets everywhere, as well as deep carpets in the library and sitting rooms. Colton, Flora’s brother Fintan’s late husband, had basically compared living at the very northern tip of the British Isles to living in a ski resort, and built accordingly. Except, as a newcomer to Scotland, he had gone for what he thought would be a design to blend in with the locals, and as a result there was tartan carpet of deep greens and blues and stags’ heads everywhere. At first, Flora had thought it was cheesy and ridiculous. Now, she rather loved it. It reminded her of Colton every time she strolled the long corridors or opened the door to the restaurant (then quickly shut it again, if Gaspard the temperamental chef was shouting at someone in the kitchen).

She found her way round to the side of the hotel that faced the water; there was a little dock there, and many people arrived by boat. The gardens by the wall hosted a sunny spot the wind could not reach, and they had benches for people to sit and watch the big boats go by in the distance, on their long journeys up and over to the fjords. In the direct sun, it was incredibly pleasant. She sat down for two seconds’ break from the endless demands of running a hotel and a café—nobody could see her from here, but it wasn’t hiding exactly—and she continued her conversation with Joel.

“How’s it going?”

Joel sighed in a way that indicated he didn’t think he’d be back soon. He administered Colton’s trust fund, which had contributed to the development of a global vaccination program. It had made him busier than they had ever thought possible, particularly after he’d moved to Mure for a quiet life.

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