Their differing reactions to a fortune telling bring happiness, love, flowers, danger, tears, fabulous food and cocktails, to best mates Stella and Daphne.
Despite Stella's misgivings her best friend Daphne persuades her to visit a fortune teller. Rosie-Lee promises both girls will live long and happy lives. For orphaned Stella, the fortune teller's claims include a tall, dark handsome man and the family she longs for. Stella doesn't believe a word, so Rosie-Lee produces a letter, to be read in a year's time, which will prove her predictions are true.
Stella remains sceptical but Daphne is totally convinced. She attempts to manipulate Stella's life, starting by introducing Stella to her new boss Luigi, who fits the romantic hero image perfectly. In complete contrast is Daphne's infuriating policeman brother John. Despite his childhood romance with Stella ending badly he still acts as though he has a right to be involved in her life.
Soon John is the least of her worries. Daphne's keeping a secret, Luigi can't be trusted, romantically or professionally and both girls' jobs are at risk. Worse still, John's concerns for their safety are proved to be justified.
John, and Rosie-Lee's letter, are all Stella has to help put things right.
I'm a fiction writer so I make stuff up. Therefore I didn't really need to spend a lot of time in Italian restaurants, gazing at glossy haired waiters, inhaling the scent of fresh basil and brandishing a pepper grinder inappropriately as I researched for A Year and a Day. I did.
All the cocktails gorgeous Luigi makes in A Year and a Day are a different matter. I did have to mix and drink every one of those, for research you understand. It wasn’t so much to help me describe the flavour and colour but rather to put me in the right frame of mind for John's terrible puns. There's a good reason that man is a copper and not a comic. Honestly, would you trust a police officer who arrested someone for the theft of a vanload of food for a kid's party with the words, 'Jello, jello, jello. This is no trifling matter, I'm going to have to take you into custardy'? No, me neither which is why I didn't let him do it. He got away with worse though when I was distracted by thoughts of his sister's cooking.
Talking of Daphne, I did need to eat the chocolates and desserts she created. Poor girl used to be a school dinner lady. I felt a bit mean about giving her that job, so once she started working in Luigi's restaurant I let her get a lot more adventurous. Her best friend Stella was chief taster of her bruschetta, fresh tomato soups, quirky pizzas and all those indulgently sweet goodies.
Fortunately, as Stella is another character from my imagination it had to be me who had to do the actual tasting. That was mostly for my mental health. Spending hours at the computer editing descriptions of handmade white chocolates decorated with pistachios and cherries and creamy panna cotta without having at least a taste would probably have resulted in some kind of emotional trauma.
Although none of the characters in the story are based on real people, the relationship between Stella and Daphne is very like that between my friend Nicola and I. We used to spend the summer holidays together, getting into and out of minor scrapes. Obviously I'd love to tell you every detail of the embarrassing things we did, but there's one thing about Nicola which prevents me doing that. She kept a diary. That means she has more on me than I have on her.
Some of the events are based on reality, though of course they've been altered or exaggerated, or even toned down to suit the plot and characters. If you're wondering if I've pushed anyone down the stairs, been a stalker, got stuck in a window, owned a stuffed cat, found a towel-wrapped blonde in my boyfriend's flat, experienced a dognapping or been serenaded in a boat then yes, I've done some of those. Quite a few in fact, but not all.