Lovers and Liars

A Novel

Hardcover

May 14, 2024 | ISBN 9780593500293

Ebook

May 14, 2024 | ISBN 9780593500309

About the Book

Three wildly different sisters reunite for a destination wedding at an English castle in this heartfelt and rollicking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Jetsetters.

“The sort of novel that simultaneously tempts you to devour it in one greedy gulp and begs you to slow down and savor each page.”—Jenny Jackson, author of Pineapple Street

Once upon a time, the Peacock sisters were little girls who combed each other’s tangled hair. But decades of secrets have led them to separate lives—and to telling lies, to themselves and to one another.

Sylvie is getting married. Again. A librarian and widow who soothes her grief by escaping into books (and shelving them perfectly), Sylvie has caught the attention of an unlikely match: Simon Rampling, a mysterious, wealthy man from Northern England. Sylvie allows herself to imagine a life beside him—one filled with the written word, kindness, and companionship. She’s ready to love again . . . or is she?

Cleo is the golden child. A successful criminal defense lawyer with the perfect boyfriend, she is immediately suspicious of Simon. Is he really who he says he is? Cleo heads to Mumberton Castle with a case of investigative files, telling herself she will expose Simon and save her sister from more heartbreak . . . but who is she really trying to save?

Emma is living a lie. She can’t afford this fancy trip—and she definitely can’t tell her husband and sons why. She once dreamed of a line of her own perfumes. Fragrances allowed her to speak in silence. Now, that tendency for silence only worsens her situation. Will she emerge with her dignity and family intact?

When their toxic mother shows up, the sisters assume the roles they fell into to survive their childhood . . . but they just might find the courage to make new choices.

Set over a spectacularly dramatic weekend, in the grand halls of a sprawling castle estate—amid floor-to-ceiling libraries, falconry lessons, and medieval meals—Lovers and Liars is the unforgettable story of a family’s ability to forgive and to find joy in one another once again.
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Praise for Lovers and Liars

Praise for Lovers and Liars

Lovers and Liars is the sort of novel that simultaneously tempts you to devour it in one greedy gulp and begs you to slow down and savor each page. Come for the fabulous English estate and the rollicking plot, but stay for the genuine warmth and humanity infused in every page.”—Jenny Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Pineapple Street

“I love sibling stories for their shared histories, secrets, and loving, messy, honest, funny portrayals of a unique and unbreakable bond. The Peacock sisters share all of that and more. Add a destination wedding (in an English castle, no less) and you will RSVP YES to Lovers and Liars.”—Steven Rowley, New York Times bestselling author of The Celebrants
 
“Delicious, delightful, like crashing a royal wedding and ending up in the moat with a prince. Not a single page that isn’t scrumptiously satisfying. Oh, enjoy!”—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Less Is Lost
 
“Amanda Eyre Ward’s knack for unpacking messy family baggage with humor and heart is at its finest in Lovers and Liars. At once a propulsive unraveling of secrets and a sensitive examination of how old scars can shape futures, it hooked me from the start. The delightfully dysfunctional Peacock sisters are an unforgettable trio.”—Shelby Van Pelt, New York Times bestselling author of Remarkably Bright Creatures

 


Praise for the novels of Amanda Eyre Ward

“I was delighted anew in every port. . . . Funny, sexy, and engrossing.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand

“Witty, insightful, and full of heart.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Christina Baker Kline

“Let Amanda Eyre Ward’s wit, poignancy, and insight take you away.”—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning and New York Times bestselling author of Less Is Lost

“Heartwarming, funny, and poignant.”—Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of The Leftover Woman

“Surprising and transporting.”The New York Times Book Review

“Full of wicked humor and delicious destination details.”People

“If you’re in the market for an escape, look no further.”Esquire
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Excerpt

Lovers and Liars

1

Sylvie


Sylvie was in love.

She knew that everyone would think—­her mothers and sisters would surely think—­that she was marrying Simon for his money. And, OK, Sylvie knew she would not mind being rich. And who didn’t dream of a wedding in a fairy-­tale castle?

Sylvie’s sisters never answered when she called, no matter the time of day. Sometimes she would text, Hey, anyone free to chat this weekend? Mostly they would not reply. At all! It was hard to convince herself they were just distracted. It seemed as if something was very wrong between the three of them. Sylvie worried there was a secret her two older sisters were keeping from her. What could it possibly be?

Sylvie dialed Emma’s landline. Emma, the only one of the three Peacock sisters who had stayed in their childhood town in Montana, had a wall phone with a rotary dial, a curly cord, and a satisfyingly heavy earpiece. Sylvie decided the news of her whirlwind engagement should come through the wall phone. She bit her lip as it began to ring. One, two, three, four . . . after ring number five, Sylvie gave up.

Next was Cleo, who lived in Brooklyn. Cleo was always too busy to talk and prefaced even her calls to Sylvie with “I don’t have time to talk but . . .” Cleo never answered and didn’t answer now. When her assertive, somewhat bossy message came on—­Leave a message for Cleo Peacock after the tone—­Sylvie cut the line.

Should she call her mother, Donna? Sylvie paused. Whenever she called Donna, Sylvie hung up the phone miserable. Her mother had named her after Sylvia Plath. No, she would not call her mother just yet.

Sylvie decided to send a text. “I deserve this,” she told herself as she composed a note with her thumbs on her tiny iPhone keypad. Her heart hammered in her chest.

What about Alexander? said the voice in her mind.

“Alexander is dead,” she responded. She added, to her sisters, to her father in Heaven, to her mother in the Margaritaville ­Retirement Community, to herself, “I am not a gold digger. I am a librarian.”

Her finger hovered over the “Send” button.


2

Cleo


Sylvie’s insane text arrived while Cleo was in therapy with Dr. Benjamin. Cleo’s longtime therapist had retired, and she was trying out someone new. When Cleo’s phone dinged, she glanced into her open-­mouthed Gucci tote bag. Cleo was a criminal defense attorney—­she could turn her phone over on a table and she could jam it into her bag, but she could never—­ever—­turn it off.

“Cleo,” said Dr. Benjamin schoolmarmishly, “I prefer my patients to silence their cellphones as soon as they enter—­”

“Look,” managed Cleo, grabbing her phone. “Dr. Benjamin, look!”

Dr. Benjamin took the cell and examined Sylvie’s words with narrowed eyes. “This is a text message?”

“It’s from my baby sister, Sylvie,” said Cleo. “Sylvie’s first husband died ten years ago, when she was twenty-­five. Sylvie never moved on. She’s been in the same house, in the same librarian job, just living the same life without Alexander for a decade. I’ve been worried about her for ten years. And then, a few months ago, she meets some guy online. A rich guy named Simon. An alleged rich guy. And look, now she says she’s getting married.” Cleo stopped and took a deep breath.

She opened her mouth to say more but couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Dr. Benjamin’s brow furrowed. He looked eighteen years old, Cleo thought. His fresh Ph.D. was framed on the wall behind him.

“And you mentioned that you and your sisters are estranged?”

“I wouldn’t say estranged.”

“What word would you use?”

Cleo tilted her head thoughtfully. She had large green eyes and freckles; as a kid she’d been nicknamed “Pippi Longstocking” until she’d cut her own hair with her mother’s pinking shears at age nine. She’d worn it short ever since. Cleo was a size four with long, lean muscles from private Pilates sessions.

“I’d use the word busy,” said Cleo. In truth, when Alexander had died, they had all been engulfed in shock and grief. Tragedy brought some families closer, Cleo guessed, but in their case, the opposite had been true.

At Alexander’s funeral, Sylvie had asked her big sister, “Why do you think he went for a drive that night, Cleo? Did I do something to make him go for a drive that night? What could I have done to make him go? What did he mean by needing some air?”

Cleo had held her tongue between her teeth. She should have told her sister the truth right then and there, let the chips fall, allow Sylvie to understand who Alexander had truly been. But Cleo couldn’t do it—­she couldn’t add to Sylvie’s pain. Her entire life, Cleo had devoted herself to protecting her sisters.

So she’d said, “Sylvie, I have no idea.”

Since then a feeling of doom came over Cleo whenever Sylvie called: Every conversation, no matter how anodyne, was now heavy with betrayal. And in terms of Emma, Cleo had lent her a great deal of money for her fledgling business, writing two giant checks to Sweet Nothings, Inc., which (let’s be honest) was surely a pyramid marketing scam preying on disenfranchised stay-­at-home mothers. After the second payment, Cleo had said, gently, that she couldn’t send any more. Emma had seemed to be avoiding Cleo after that.

“I’m not implying there’s anything wrong with being estranged,” said Dr. Benjamin. “At times, it can be healthy to have space from your family of origin.”

Sometimes, Cleo was caught off guard by flashes of memory. Brooklyn children on bikes would remind her of the way the Peacock sisters had careened around their childhood streets in a row, unstoppable. A photo of a snowy mountain could conjure the feeling of Sylvie’s hand in Cleo’s on the chairlift after a day of learning with their skis in “pizza pie” stance. A fancy pot de crème made Cleo think of the way she and her sisters had always counted the dehydrated mini marshmallows in their hot chocolate packets to make sure they were fairly distributed. They had shared everything: snow pants, toothbrushes, turtlenecks, knee socks, shampoo, hair bands, barrettes. In fact, Cleo’s favorite barrette belonged to Sylvie. It was made of braided ribbon that fell from the clip into her hair, deep blue and pink.

Benjamin’s office was brightly lit—­the opposite of her old therapist’s office, which had been filled with yolk-­yellow light from a ceramic lamp. As her mother had taught her, Cleo crossed her legs at the ankle, knees pressed together. The pose was a remnant of Donna’s drama-­school training. Cleo’s right hip twanged and she vowed that she’d allow her daughter to sit however the hell she wanted.

If she ever had a daughter.

Was she going to have a child? Cleo was thirty-­nine: Her dwindling fertility was one of the issues that had brought her to Dr. Benjamin in the first place. At this point, she probably couldn’t have a child. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this.

Also: Cleo was pretty sure she was in love with her best friend, Isaac, and not her long-­time, live-­in boyfriend, Danny. This was another dilemma she hoped to hash out with Dr. Benjamin.

“How does your sister’s engagement make you feel?” queried Dr. Benjamin.

Cleo closed her eyes.

“Can you name your feelings right now?” said Dr. Benjamin. “For example, fear . . . concern . . . curiosity?”

Cleo looked at him steadily. “I feel,” she said, “an overwhelming sense of futile anger and the sense that I am wasting four hundred dollars.”

Dr. Benjamin remained calm. Cleo imagined he was thinking transference, and maybe he was right. Because who was she angry at, really? Her mother, who had decided to name her after a suicidal Egyptian queen? Her father, beloved Police Chief Peacock, who had been so kind and selfless that it had set them all up for failure as they searched endlessly for a man like him? Sylvie, for jumping into love so suddenly it left Cleo questioning her choices? New York, and how it was making her into a brittle veneer of the lush girl she’d been when she arrived from college? Her other sister, Emma, for seeming so settled and at peace, her entire life an affront to Cleo’s meticulously planned escape from Montana? Herself, and if so, why? 

“You’re angry,” said Dr. Benjamin.

“Yes,” said Cleo.

About the Author

Amanda Eyre Ward
Amanda Eyre Ward is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels including The Jetsetters, a Reese’s Book Club pick. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family. More by Amanda Eyre Ward
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