30 Sep 2014

How To Un-Marry a Millionaire by Billie Morton

RICKY HART wants to the get the hell out of small-town Arizona to escape the fate of generations of women in her family – a boring, nothing future.
Inspired by Basia Johnson, a penniless cook who married into the Johnson and Johnson fortune, Ricky sets in motion a plan to get inside a rich old man’s house. Once there, she will do the rest. She is twenty-two years old, blonde and unashamedly brazen.
And she is ready to make a deal with the Devil.
What she hasn’t counted on is seventy-year-old SANDFORD KEANE, the Arizona Copper King, a notorious sonofabitch with an agenda of his own, and a family with a long history of other ambitious wives.
One of them is SUZANNE NELSON-DRUMMOYNE-GRAFF-CARMEL, a serial marrier who has finally found love. Unfortunately it is not with her latest husband. At war with her mother-in-law, PHILIPPA, a legendary old viper and trophy wife of another era, Suzanne is thirty-seven and terrified that she is about to hit her “use-by” date.
Barnes & Noble

From the richest enclaves of Connecticut and Manhattan to the wilds of the Arizona desert and New Mexico, the novel brings these women together on a raunchy, life-changing encounter that will make them question the roles they have chosen for
themselves, and the high price they have all paid to live the pampered life of a rich man’s wife.
Ricky had a new word. Luxe.

It was her first French word, but you wouldn’t find it posted on the wall next to her bed because she wasn’t in that bed any more. And she didn’t need any reminding what it meant. Every morning when she opened her eyes she had all the reminders she needed right there in the big circular bed, in the big circular room, in the biggest circular house in the western United States. And if she woke up, as she was training herself to do, facing east, she could lie there and stretch against the one thousand-count Egyptian cotton sheets and think about how she was going to maximize her day because the fact was she had a whole lot to work with. But if she had been tossing and turning in her sleep and woke up facing the other way, then chances were she was going to get what her momma would call “a rude awakening.” And if it wasn’t wearing boxer shorts, chances were it was going to be one hell of a rude awakening! He might be seventy years old, but Sandford Keane the Copper King from Cottonwood, Arizona, had one like an elephant’s trunk, and it wouldn’t have surprised Ricky to see it snake clear across the bed, pluck her up and hurl her out the window straight into the infinity pool just for the hell of it. Ricky and Sandy had been married for six months, and she was nearly worn out from that damn thing.
In fact, she’d given it a name.
Doctor Evil.
But let’s face it, she reminded herself, if it weren’t for that gnarly old piece a gristle I wouldn’t be here in the first place watching the pink light creep over the mountains to kick-start a new day at Stillwater Ranch. So quit whining.
Trying to make sure she didn’t stir the beast, Ricky eased her legs gently over the edge of the bed and tiptoed across the terracotta tiles into the bathroom. Her own bathroom. She shucked off the white cotton camisole Sandy liked her to wear to bed, stepped into the ginormous shower, and let the ten jets of water knock her into shape to face the day. It was going be a big one. Today she was having her first flying lesson.
“Flying lesson!” Pearl nearly busted her eardrum when she called home to tell them her new scheme. “You? You can’t even tell right from left. How you ever expect to navigate a frickin' plane?”
“Well,” Ricky huffed, scooting across a little on the massage table so the masseuse could get at her better, “I managed to navigate myself here to the goddamn Stillwater Ranch, didn’t I?” And even Pearl couldn’t argue with that.
It had taken five years and a whole lot of visits with Saint Theresa, but she was exactly where she’d said she would be, and no one could take that away. Not if they valued their life anyhow. Everyone said that Sandy was a whole nicer person since Ricky came along, although Sandy himself said it was the new heart beating inside his chest that came from a nicer person. All Ricky could think was she was glad she never knew the sonofabitch before he became nice, because she might just be looking at twenty-to-life for shooting his wrinkled old bad-tempered butt.
“It’s the steroids. They give everybody really bad mood swings,” her agency, Haven Home, had warned in advance, terrified that like all the nurses before her she was going to quit before the week was out.
“It ain’t nothing I can’t handle,” she told them. She knew a bully when she met one, and Sandford Keane was known to be mean as a rattlesnake. But she knew too, that like all bullies, he’d crumble if anyone ever had the balls to stand up to him. She was itching for a chance to put her theory to the test.
It came the first day she arrived at the two thousand acre ranch near Wickenburg, Arizona.
Sandy Keane had been a very sick man waiting for a replacement heart for a long time. When it finally arrived, courtesy of a stranger from Phoenix and the motorbike he was riding when it collided with a big rig from Albuquerque, he was whipped into the hospital and split open like a carcass in a slaughterhouse. Eight hours later, his over-sized old worn-out pump was gone, and in its place was a young, strong heart pumping away inside his chest. Eight days after that, feeling like Superman, he was well enough to wander the hospital, and a few days later was allowed to go home on condition he had a round-the-clock nurse.
Like the agency said, Mr. Keane had a pretty horrible history with nurses. Before he went into the hospital and was surviving on twenty- four-seven oxygen, hardly able to walk across the room, he’d needed constant care. The first nurse had fled the ranch trembling when he tossed a bronze horse at her head. The second was so nervous in “The House from Hell” where everyone tiptoed around on egg shells, never knowing what mood the old prick was going to be in from one minute to the next, she started vomiting violently all over the tiles and was taken away in an ambulance. Now freshly home from the hospital, his new nurse was all set to be a girl called Mandy – that is until Ricky had the foresight and compassion to step in and save the poor thing from a nervous collapse, or worse.
Ricky knew Mandy from nursing school. They had shared a cheap little apartment, pasta dinners, and had studied hard. When they both ended up with matching diplomas the girls got themselves signed straight-up with the fanciest high-end home healthcare agency in Tucson. Soon Ricky was looking after a spoiled-rotten rich bitch in Sedona whose face-lift looked like it had been done in Tijuana. Mandy was happily in charge of a kid recovering from a bad accident in some posh new townhouse at the other end of town.
Mandy was a cute little thing with a butt shaped kind of like a bedpan, and big thighs that she was always rubbing anti-cellulite cream into. But they hadn’t stopped her snaring herself a doctor from the intensive care unit at Tucson General, and that’s when Ricky started taking a special interest in the ICU.
“Who’s he got in there today?” She pumped Mandy for information about her boyfriend’s patients, and what they were hooked up to. Mostly it was nothing to get too excited about, but one day she hit pay dirt.
“Guess who Kev’s got in Intensive Care? Sandford Keane. He just had a heart transplant.”
The name didn’t mean anything to Ricky, but she didn’t want to look ignorant. “Oh, yeah.” She yawned. “That’s nice.”
“Nice!? He’s only the richest man in the whole state! Owns all those copper mines that went out on strike last year.”
And while Ricky was digesting this, and trying to keep breathing normally, Mandy dropped a big one.
“And guess what else? Cause I’ve got the inside info, I got a jump start. I already contacted the agency and got the job nursing him when he’s discharged outta there in eight days!”
“But what about that little kid you’re nursing?” Ricky asked, all concerned.
“Oh, that’s the kicker! His family is moving to Phoenix to be nearer the father’s new headquarters. They’re leaving the day before Mr. Keane goes home. How perfect is that?”
“Have thermometer will travel.” Ricky winked at her, her mind spinning.
“I heard Keane’s a bastard, but I also heard he’s real generous to his staff if he likes them. Gives them humungous bonuses,” Mandy said, trying unsuccessfully to encircle her thick ankle with her hand.
“How old is he?”
“Seventy, but he’s still a real vital man. Kev says his mistress comes up to visit all the time, and she’s only in her thirties or something!”
“What about the wife?”
“A wife? I didn’t think to ask him about any wife. Maybe there isn’t one.”
“Yeah, who cares?” Ricky moved her chair to get a good view of Mandy’s legs. “Hey, is it my imagination or you been putting some weight on your thighs?”
“What! Do they look fat?”
“Not really. It’s probably just fluid,” Ricky reassured her quickly. “But I’ll tell you what, I’ve started doing this kick-ass hike over in Big Oak, and lemme tell you, I’ve noticed a big change in my own legs since I been doin’ it.” She pulled up her skirt to show Mandy her slim, tanned thighs.
“Could I start coming with you?” Mandy pleaded.
“Sure,” Ricky smiled, real magnanimous. “I’ll give you a holler next time I’m going.”
And she did.
Three days before Sandford Keane was due to leave the hospital.
They’d hiked about five miles through the beautiful pink canyon before Ricky suggested stopping for a rest under a big oak. She’d packed some snacks in her backpack and had added a baggie of honey, for extra energy. They were sitting on a lichen-covered boulder munching on their health bars when Ricky’s baggie slipped clear out of her hand, and landed all over their laps.
“Lord, I am soooo sorry!” she yelled. As Mandy tried to wipe off the sticky ooze Ricky dived into her backpack. “I always carry a change of clothes when I’m out hiking, cause you just never know.” She thrust a clean pair of shorts at her friend. “Here, they just been laundered.”
“But what about you?”
“I’m fine,” Ricky said. “Honestly. It was my fault, and I’d feel so bad if you had to hike home dripping honey all down your legs.”
But not nearly as bad as Mandy was about to feel. The shorts had just been laundered, like she said, but then Ricky had added a little botanical boost to the water they’d been rinsed in, and it wasn’t lavender. More like poison ivy.
Three days later, when Mandy was supposed to be reporting for duty at Sandford Keane’s ranch, she was scratching and jumping around so hard she must have lost at least a pound off each thigh. Ricky felt so bad she rushed to the rescue and offered to help her out by going to the old man’s bedside herself, and filling in till she was all better. It was the least she could do.
If things worked out she would send Mandy a bonus big enough to get a thigh transplant. In the meantime she would go visit Saint Theresa and pray for forgiveness. She would light some candles and say extra Hail Marys.
On her first morning Ricky caught the bus to Wickenburg, a little western town sunbathing between the Vulture Mountains and the Hieroglyphic Mountains in North West Arizona. At the terminal she hired a taxi to take her out to her new place of employment. “Nurse Hart” sat up front with the taxi driver and offered him half of her Subway. He was the chatty type, and she was in the mood for chat. Local taxi drivers always knew everyone’s dirt, and this one was happy to fill her in on the happenings at Stillwater Ranch. Some of it she already knew because in the last few days she’d been busy Googling the Copper King’s ass.
Sandy Keane might have a made his fortune out of copper but at heart he was an old cowboy, and after a lifetime making money, had semi-retired to one of the most beautiful ranches in the west to raise grass-fed, hormone-free cattle. Stillwater Ranch was twenty thousand acres and home to Sandy, his two grown up kids, a mistress called Trudy, and a thousand head of Black Angus cattle.
Well, Ricky thought as the taxi bumped its way along the forever-long dirt road and finally drove through huge stone pillars bracing a big sign that told them they were entering Stillwater Ranch, I can rope a steer and handle a couple a spoiled kids, and I ain’t never met a bully I couldn’t deal with. But it’s the first time I’ve ever had to come to grips with a mistress.
MISTRESS - A woman filling the place but without the rights of a wife.
“So where’s Mrs. Keane?” she asked the driver.
“Isn’t that something we’d all like to know, because she was a real nice lady. But she’s gone. Divorced. Disappeared after thirty something years, and the new one’s moved in. Miss Texas.” He made an ugly noise at the back of his throat like he didn’t think too much of Texas or its beauty queen.
“What’s she like?” Ricky asked, sounding bored.
“A bitch.”
They bumped over a hill and in the distance, perched on a bluff, looking down over a drop-dead valley, sat one of the wonders of the world.
Red Canyon House.
It was three stories high, made of stone and glass and completely round.
“Welcome home,” Ricky whispered to herself as she paid the driver and freshened up her lip gloss.
“Here, take this.” He handed her a battered old card. “Be sure to call me if you gotta get outta here fast.”
“I’ll do that,” she said with a smile. “But it won’t be all that fast.” She took off her coat and placed it demurely over her arm. Her white nurse’s uniform had been bleached and starched to within an inch of its life. She smoothed it down to just below her knees and checked to make sure her boobs were working for their keep right around where the last button was open. The driver handed out her bag and looked her up and down.
“How do I look?”
“Like that bitch’s worst nightmare,” he said, grinning, and drove off back down the road.

Billie Morton is a British screenplay writer and film maker who originally set out to make documentaries about tribal life. Along the way she took a detour to California where she spent many years filming the natives and their social customs.
How To Un-Marry a Millionaire is her first novel. It was inspired by meeting young – and not so young – women across the globe all busily performing a colourful array of mating dances. Some were dancing as fast as they could. Others were looking to take a little time and add love to the dream. And some were grabbing the microphone at the nearest karaoke bar to belt out Tina Turner’s classic – What’s Love Got To Do With It?
These were the ones she chose to write about from her new home in the rainforest of northern Australia.

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  1. Happy to help, Samantha! Especially when it's such a gorgeous cover!! xx

  2. I admit to be prejudiced because Billie - the author of HOW TO UN-MARRY A MILLIONAIRE - is my bestie, but as an author myself I know good writing and what makes for characters you really care about, and this book is fantastic!

  3. I'm adding it to my TBR list, Robin :D


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