‘My novel Mainlander is set in Jersey over twelve days in October 1987. It features some very tangled relationships, so here I have tried to imagine how the characters would have approached Valentine’s Day, had it fallen within the timeframe of the book.’
In the early years of his relationship with his now-wife Emma, Colin would have gone all out for Valentine’s Day, a dozen red roses would have been the least of it; there would have been a card at breakfast, a meal in the evening, a present at the meal, and then another secret present hidden under the pillow at bedtime, spent in a hotel room booked without her knowledge, into which he has snuck her toiletries and a change of clothes for the morning. But by the time of the book, disillusion has set in, and he is dealing with the fact that he fell “in love with the romance as much as the woman”. So his Valentine’s Day will see him scrabbling to make a gesture that will avoid an argument and charges of diminished passion.
Emma is no longer in love with Colin, and so will be secretly hoping he doesn’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s, as it would highlight her own lack of effort, which will stretch solely to a card. It occurs to her to make a more extravagant gesture, which she could use to argue that he clearly doesn’t love her as much as she loves him, and that maybe he should man up and leave her. But she’s not sure she’s reached that final point yet, plus it might encourage Colin to try harder, which she isn’t sure she wants either. What she will certainly do, although possibly at a later date as part of a side argument, is compare Colin’s display unfavourably to that of Rob, the husband of her best friend Sally, with whom she is having an affair.
Rob is a rich alpha peacock, so he’ll go completely over the top. He’s a rampant philanderer (Emma is the least of it), but whilst it would be tempting to see his grand gestures as covering for guilt, he feels none of that. He knows his wife will tell her friends how she got a new watch or necklace, and that her friends will feel envious and resentful towards their husbands and partners, and that he will be seen as the true prize. Love for his wife is part of his motivation, but it’s bottom of the list.
A part of Sally still cannot believe that she got together with Rob, after he split with the more beautiful Emma when they were still at school. And so for her Valentine’s Day is filled with trepidation and elation. Trepidation that this year maybe the bunch of flowers will be smaller, or that she might not have something new to wear round her neck or wrist, something that will be noticed by society and which she can pass off as a little trinket from her darling husband. And elation, because Rob always comes through.
Debbie is a colleague and friend of Colin’s, who is besotted with him. There is an unspoken bond between them, but she shies away from exploring this, clinging to the fact that while there is no rejection, there is still hope. She knows it’s probably a dead-end; Colin is both married and loyal. So she holds back, not wanting to wreck the friendship, which is the most she can expect for now. So she’s either a shut-in on Valentine’s Day, or puts on a brave face and goes out with other single friends, masking the angst increased by February 14th, and which stems from both the fact that the man she loves is not available, and the fear that were she able to tempt him away, his lack of constancy might mean she loved him a little bit less.
Barney is a corrupt local policeman, who doesn’t baulk at protecting local drug dealers, or covering up a murder. But his marriage to his childhood sweetheart Eileen is the strongest relationship in the book. With her he can show his vulnerabilities, safe in the knowledge that she will love him no matter what, although this would be severely tested if she knew the full extent of his activities. Their Valentine’s Day will be sweet and simple, a walk on the beach and a meal at a cosy cliff top bistro.
Louise is young, tough, and unromantic. Jersey is a gilded playground after her hometown of Liverpool, so she’s just up for a good time. The last person she’ll want to see on Valentine’s Day is her lovesick friend Danny (unless she’s drunk after the buses have stopped, without a taxi fare). She’ll be out drinking with her friends, looking at all the entwined couples and thinking “it never lasts, and if it did, it would be boring”.
Mainlander is out now in paperback
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