Walk in the Park

Walk in the Park

by Jill Mansell


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No one could have planned for this...

Lara Carson left her family and boyfriend Flynn eighteen years ago without a word to anyone. Why has no one heard from her since? Does it mean anything that she's suddenly reappeared in Bath just in time for her ex–best friend Evie's wedding? And what about Flynn? Even the most eagle–eyed observer can't tell whether he's happy to see her, or just stunned.

While secrets pile up on secrets, and the gossip mill wings into high gear, the brand–new life Lara's searching for becomes ever more elusive. There's a lot of catching up for everyone to do, and Lara's return is going to be anything but a walk in the park.

Praise for To the Moon and Back:

"A tremendous look at friendship, hope, romance, and second chances."—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars

"A romantic and lighthearted story...fans will eat this story up."—Publishers Weekly

"Mansell crafts a lovely story with multiple plotlines, characters, and love interests."—USA Today

"Absolutely, positively and outstanding story."—Night Owl Reviews Reviewer Top Pick, 5 stars

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402269943
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 11/06/2012
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 732,670
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 7.84(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"OK, we can see it from here." Lara Carson pulled up at the side of the road, buzzed down the window, and pointed into the valley below. "See the L-shaped house with the white gates and the green car outside? That's the one."

Home sweet home. Or maybe not. Eighteen years had passed since she'd last set foot over the threshold. Who knew what it was like inside now?

Gigi was leaning across from the passenger seat, breathing minty chewing-gum fumes over her as she peered down at the house. "Does it feel funny, seeing it again?"

"No." That wasn't true. "A bit." Lara gave her daughter's hand a squeeze.

"Are you going to cry?"

"What am I, some sort of girl? I'm definitely not going to cry."

They sat in silence for a few seconds, looking at the old house with its ivy-strewn walls, blue-painted window frames, and neatly tended garden. "OK, come on then," Gigi said at last. "It's nearly time. You don't want to be late for your own father's funeral."


Lara was one of the last into the church. It felt like being in a film. Her high heels click-clacked across the gray flagstones and people swiveled round to see who was making all the racket. Of the seventy or eighty mourners, most were strangers and didn't recognize her, which suited Lara just fine. But there were a few who clearly did. Eyebrows were raised and elbows nudged. She made a point of steadily meeting their gaze before looking away and slipping into an empty pew at the back.

What a weird situation to be in. People were spreading the word about her now; she could practically feel the mini wave of whispers rolling forward. Finally it reached Janice in the front pew, flanked by her sisters and wearing an extraordinary feathered black hat. Together the three of them stiffened then turned their frosty glares upon her. With the feathers waving around her head, Janice resembled an angry crow with an acute case of bed hair.

Was it very wrong to think ill of the grieving widow during her husband's funeral? Obviously it was, but where Janice was concerned, it wasn't easy to think of anything nice.

The organ music started, everyone rose to their feet, and the coffin was brought in.

Lara watched it being carried past her pew. The weirdness intensified. Charles Carson, her actual father, was inside that coffin.

He was dead.

And she genuinely didn't feel a thing.


Outside the church, Evie waited for the service to end. It was a long shot, but she hadn't been able to help herself. The moment she'd seen the notice in the local paper announcing the death of Charles Carson and the date of his funeral, she'd booked the time off work. The chances of Lara turning up at the funeral might be slim, but it could just happen. And if it did, Evie wasn't going to miss her.

They'd been best friends once. There were so many unanswered questions. Coming here today was an opportunity she simply couldn't pass up.

Not long now before the service was over. From this distance Evie heard the organ cranking up again, launching ponderously into "Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer." It was hot out here; the sun was blazing down and her hair was sticking to the back of her neck. Pushing open the car door for extra ventilation, she swiveled sideways and swung her legs out, then tipped her left hand from side to side to admire the way the emeralds and diamonds flashed in the sunlight. Was Lara inside the church? Would she be seeing her again for the first time in eighteen years?

Oh well, soon find out.


The funeral ended. The genial vicar made the announcement that refreshments were available at Charles and Janice's home, and that everyone would be welcome back there, but Lara guessed she probably wasn't included in the invitation.

Luckily she didn't want to go anyway.

From her pew at the back, she watched Janice and her sisters lead the exit from the church. As they came down the aisle, the looks they gave her pretty much confirmed her suspicions. The black feathers shuddered with outrage and three sets of pale eyes ringed with black makeup bored through her. Since now wasn't the time for a confrontation, Lara averted her gaze and waited for the malevolent trio to pass.

The church emptied. She sat and waited a few minutes longer for the mourners to disperse. Soon came the sound of cars being started up and driven off. Finally, when all was quiet again, Lara rose and headed outside into the welcome heat and sunlight of a glorious summer's day.

Everyone had left, apart from a lone figure at the bottom of the driveway. Someone was sitting on the wall next to the open gates, someone with red hair, wearing a cobalt blue shirt and a white skirt. Which in turn meant she was likely to have moss and lichen stains on the back of it.

Lara attempted to focus but the distance was too great and her superpowers weren't that strong. She hadn't thought to bring her binoculars with her.

But... there was something familiar about the figure that was causing prickles of recognition down her spine. It couldn't be, could it...?

Her pace quickened and the distance between them was reduced. The redhead slid down from the dry stone wall and began to move toward her. Moments later they both stretched their arms wide and broke into a run. It was like one of those slow motion Hollywood sequences that more traditionally featured two members of the opposite sex.

"It is you," shouted Lara.

"I know." Evie beamed as they collided and hugged each other until they were both panting for breath. "Oh my God, I can't believe it, you're really here." She pulled back to study Lara's face. "Your dad... I'm sorry... are you upset?"

"No, no." Vigorously Lara shook her head. "Don't worry, you don't have to be polite. I only came back because of the lawyer. He phoned and said I needed to get myself down here. Anyway, let's not talk about that now." She was so thrilled to see Evie she was burbling uncontrollably. "How are you? You look fantastic! Oh, I've missed you so much. You have to tell me everything!"

It was true, she had missed her oldest friend more than words could say. But at the time she'd known it was the only way. And look at Evie now, eighteen years older and obviously looking older... but at the same time miraculously unchanged. Teasingly, she turned Evie sideways and peered at the back of her white skirt. Thirty-four years old and she still hadn't learned how to keep herself stain-free. "You've got dirt on your skirt."

"Have I? Oh no! How did that happen?" As she always had, Evie seemed genuinely surprised. For a couple of seconds she slapped ineffectually in the general area of her rounded bottom before giving up. "Oh well, never mind, you're here. This is so brilliant! I'd almost given up hope, then I heard someone say on their way out, ‘Was that her? Was that the daughter who ran away?' So I knew you were in there. Everyone's gone back to the house for drinks. Is that where you're going now?"

"Urgh, no way." Lara checked her watch: almost two o'clock. "I'm meeting the lawyer in his office at three thirty. But I'm free till then. Do you have to be somewhere or can I buy you lunch?"


Fifteen minutes later they were sitting at a pavement café by the abbey, drinking Prosecco and catching up. Having spotted the emerald engagement ring, Lara now heard all about Joel and the imminent wedding. Less than six weeks from now, Evie was set to become Mrs. Barber. Joel was the one she'd waited so long for, and she'd never been happier in her life.

By unspoken mutual consent they'd covered Evie's story first, getting it out of the way. Then it was Lara's turn. Evie said, "Tell me what happened," and Lara took a deep swallow of fizzy, ice-cold wine.

"The people at the church, you said they called me the one who ran away. Is that what everyone thought?" She placed the glass carefully in the center of the table. "I didn't run away. They kicked me out."

"I went round to your house to see where you were," said Evie. "Your dad answered the door. He just said you'd gone and wouldn't be coming back. Then Janice appeared next to him and you should have seen the look on her face. Like she'd finally got what she'd always wanted. Which I suppose she had. But I'm telling you, it gave me the shivers. I was so worried... you could have been murdered."

"I was late home," said Lara. "I had to be back by eleven o'clock and I missed the last bus. By the time I got home it was almost half past. That was when it all kicked off." She didn't go into detail; this wasn't the time or the place. "It was the biggest argument we'd ever had. Janice called me some vile names and told me she wished I'd never been born. Dad said I was ruining his life and he'd had enough, he wasn't going to put up with it anymore. He gave me an hour to pack my things. Then he told me to get out."

Evie was appalled. "How could he do that? You were sixteen!"

"Didn't matter." Lara shrugged and emptied her glass. "He wasn't going to change his mind. On the bright side, looking back on it now, I'm glad it happened. Mind you, at the time it wasn't so great. I'd never been so scared in my life."

"You should have come to our house!"

"I couldn't. It was three o'clock in the morning. And I was just desperate to get away. So that's what I did. I sat outside the train station for the rest of the night, then caught the first train out of Bath."

"Where did you go?"

"I called my aunt Nettie and asked if I could stay with her for a couple of days." Lara broke into a smile at the thought. "That was it, basically. I turned up on her doorstep in Keswick and that's where I've been ever since."

"Keswick? In Cumbria? We had no idea," said Evie. "None of us knew where you were. I kept waiting for you to call or write..."

"I know. I'm so sorry." The guilt had haunted her all these years, but even now she wasn't able to tell Evie the rest of the story. "I just knew I'd never come back to Bath as long as my father was alive. It was easier to make a clean break."

The food arrived, they talked and drank some more, then it was time for Lara to head off for her appointment with the lawyer in nearby Harington Place.

"And I have to get back to work." Before they left, Evie took out her diary and said, "But we're not going to lose touch again. Give me everything you've got... address, email, phone numbers, I want the lot. And you have to have mine too."

Once that was done, Lara walked back to Evie's car with her. They hugged each other again hard.

"You must come to the wedding," Evie begged. "It'll be fantastic. You will, won't you? On the twelfth of August." She squeezed Lara's hands. "Please say you'll be there!"

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Jill Mansell knows how to string along tiny stories into one huge story that keeps me interested, keeps me laughing and keeps me sighing all over the place." - The Book Scoop

"Jill Mansell is the master of British romantic comedies... a pure escapist read, with plenty of drama and romance to make you forget your own troubles for a little while." - Diary of an Eccentric

"[Mansell's] characters are always cleverly written and are so multi-dimensional that it is easy to relate to them. " - Charlotte's Web of Books

Customer Reviews

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A Walk in the Park 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually adore Jill Mansell's main character, but this one wasn't very likable. I wasn't rooting for her at all. I couldn't help feeling that Flynn deserved better. I actually regret purchasing this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She is one of my favorite authors & I've loved all of her books. However, I didn't even bother finshing this one. The main character was too flawed & selfish & I never saw a connection between her & Flynn. I won't give specifics to spoil the story but she did several different things that made me not want to root for her at all. I don't recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author is one of my all time favorites. I can take a trip when I read her novels, escape, and feel like I am part of the fabric of the plot and characters. Most recent read, A Walk In The Park, just made me feel good.
annelap More than 1 year ago
I did like the book, I was expecting a little more in the way of how characters developed, but I found it a good book, not her best. My favorite by far is Millie's Fling and Fast Friends followed by Staying at Daisy's and Take a Chance on me. I do love Ms. Mansell's books I find them to be some of the best romance novels out there. I highly recommend any book she has written to any woman who loves a good love story with all kinds of twists!
PokrChick More than 1 year ago
Typical Jill Mansell book. Entertaining as always!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can see the plot nearly by the first chapter. Then once you start going into it farther it starts to grow. Even though I have to admit it was confusing in the begininng portion. Great job, Jill!
thebookwormNJ More than 1 year ago
Lara Carson left her hometown of Bath eighteen years ago without really telling a soul where she was off to. She ended up living with her Aunt Nettie in Keswick. Now that Lara is back in town to attend her fathers funeral. She runs into her old bestie Evie and ends up being invited to her wedding. Lara also runs into her old boyfriend Flynn. Flynn is shocked to see her and still very much intrigued by her. Now that he's finally come in contact with her again, Flynn is determined to stay in touch and get some answers. Without giving too much away, Lara has some explaining to do as to where she has been all this time and what she's been up to. In the midst of all these reunions, there's heartbreak, long kept secrets are being revealed, new and old romances are blooming, American rappers are in the mix and reality programs are being filmed. Lara has also inherited a house from her deceased father, her old home in Bath, and she decides to move back there permanently. A Walk in the Park started off with a bang, I whizzed right through the first hundred pages or so. Then the story began to get bogged down with too many different storylines and too many different characters. I don't know, maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this one. The book did pick up again towards the end, but I felt like overall, at 448 pages, it was just too lengthy. I think Jill Mansell has a knack for writing fun and quirky characters that you kind of wish you knew in real life. While I enjoyed reading about most of these people, I just wish the story wasn't so long and that it had all been wrapped up sooner. Sometimes Lara would annoy me, but other times she'd make me laugh out loud. There's a twist as she discovers a long held secret that made me gasp. I really wanted to see how everything would turn out for her. Flynn was a pretty decent character and I found him to be well fleshed out. His storyline, which revolves around Lara, and his reactions to different situations were the most interesting to me. Evie. I liked her, and again, the author writes an interesting storyline for her. I was curious as to what would happen. I did however, find it very hard to believe that Evie would welcome Lara with open arms after her eighteen year absence. Eighteen years without seeing an old bestie is a very long time, I hardly think they'd pick right up where they left off. Maybe I'm being nit picky but the American rapper Mansell adds to the storyline, EnjaySeven, was beyond annoying and just plain ridiculous. "Hey, man, don't be so tetchy. Who d'yall sell these to? You OK with this, by the way?" His dialogue and his accent would make me cringe and I found him to be offensive. He was totally an unnecessary character in my opinion. Bleh. Also, I have to add that I was so hoping for so much more from the Bath setting. Mansell barely describes it except when mentioning a few town and street names. Some of the dialogue book was witty, as per Jill Mansell's usual. The ending was slightly predictable, but satisfying nonetheless. I thought the gift Flynn gives Lara at the end was sweet and a nice touch to the storyline. So overall, I was disappointed with A Walk in the Park. If a few characters were taken out, and the book was about a hundred pages less, I might of enjoyed it more. I had high hopes for this one and I will read Mansell again, as I have enjoyed her work in the past. I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read this, but just reading the excerpt, it seems VERY similar to Susan Donovan's "The Girl Most Likely To." "The Girl Most Likely to" is one of my favorite books, and if I wanted to read the same storyline, I would've just picked up the worn out book in my shelf and started reading.
csingh More than 1 year ago
Jill Mansell has given us something a little old, and more than a little new. It's a perfect amalgam of the two.  I do think this is the first time Jill's written a book with a secret of this magnitude though.  I've read all of her books and so hope I'm remembering correctly.   I liked Lara.  I don't think she did the right thing by keeping her secret for so long, but as she made her choice as a teenager.   I think it gets easier to justify a choice some one has made as time goes on.  I really hated her parental units.  I usually don't use the word hate because it has such strong emotions attached to it, but in this case I do believe they are justified. Flynn was another character I liked.  I do think he handled Lara's return well and even the reveal of her big secret as well as he possibly could.  Most of the characters in this story were ones I liked.  The only people I felt animosity towards would be Lara's parents and Joel.  When you read the book you'll find out why. Honestly, I was taken aback by the number of secrets that were revealed.  The book also drove the point home that bitterness can ruin a good thing.  Once again Jill Mansell has written a great story.  I read this book as fast as I could and am eager for her next book.  In the meantime, I think a re-read of Jill's books are in order.
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Flies behind her.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great stories and the characters are memorable I hate to reach the end
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This book is a quick read and a nice break from my day during lunch.
SnookieB More than 1 year ago
I first "met" Jill Mansell when "Millie's Fling" was a freebie for Nook. I loved it and have read as many of hers as I can. I was so lookig forward to this one but life got in the way and it took me until last weekend to get to it. I managed to read almost half the book in one sitting. Yes, the characters were flawed but aren't we all? I still thought the book was a fun read (esp. Chapter 18; loved it!) 
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officereader More than 1 year ago
Jill Mansell does it again! Reading her books make me feel as if I'm hanging out with your bff.
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