I’m so grateful to the lovely folk at Literally PR for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for No One But You by Tessa Levy as it looks exactly my kind of read and I’m delighted to have a copy on my TBR. I’m so disappointed I can’t make the actual launch party but am thrilled to host this stop on the tour on publication day for No One But You.
To celebrate No One But You I have a wonderful extract to share and I’m delighted to be staying in with Tessa to chat all about No One But You.
No One But You
No One but You is a fictional account of a young girl’s extraordinary life, from the post-war East End of London to the high life of America and back again. It portrays Tessa Levy’s yearning for adventure and opportunity and ultimately love on both sides of the Atlantic. She is the youngest child of a large family who takes on the responsibility of caring for her beloved dying mother. When her father secretly marries another woman, Tessa’s world is shattered. At the tender age of 17, Tessa seeks solace with her distant cousins in America and sets off on the adventure of a lifetime.
A year and a half later, she returns to England as a glamorous young woman having fallen in love for the first time. However, she crosses the cultural divide and struggles to resettle, despite her family’s best efforts to reintegrate her into their Jewish community in London. Eventually meeting the man she will marry, Tessa suffers another painful premature family death that rocks her world. She embarks on motherhood and a successful career but life continues to challenge her happiness. She finds herself torn between the two loves of her life; the handsome, poetic and artistic Gus in America; and the charismatic, successful, but disloyal Michael in England. Her romantic adventure crosses back and forth between the two countries ultimately in the quest to find the answer to the underlying theme of the book, and Tessa’s life; is it possible to love two men in one lifetime?
Staying in with Tessa Levy
Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about No One But You Tessa. Can you tell me a bit about it?
No One But You is due for release today May 24th 2018! We’re going to have a big launch party in London.
(Happy publication day Tessa. I’m devastated I can’t make tonight’s party. Sadly I live in darkest Lincolnshire and with another appointment I couldn’t get there in time. I hope you have a wonderful party.)
I personally enjoy a good psychological thriller. I loved ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins. I also love books by Martina Cole, Jeffery Archer and Frederick Forsyth.
(I’m with you on those choices. If you enjoy them then I think I’m really going to enjoy reading No One But You too!)
What can we expect from an evening in with No-One but You?
No One But You is based on my life story – a story that I’ve told plenty of people and all of whom said it sounded like a novel. I didn’t want it to be a straightforward autobiography though so I worked hard with my daughter Shelley to inject plenty of fictional elements to add even more spice and adventure, heart-break and tragedy. It’s fun to speak to people who have read the book and who are guessing which bits are real and which are fiction!
What else have you brought along and why?
Food – I have a passion for spare ribs, Chinese and Indian food from my time in America. Multicultural dining experience with a very chilled glass of rose.
(You can come again if you’re going to bring such tasty food Tessa!)
Music – Beautiful background music especially jazz, as my late husband loved it. The Music from the Royal Wedding would be perfect to portray the love story within my book.
Guests – I would love to invite;
Maureen Lipman as she is such an intellectual and brilliant actress and I would thoroughly enjoy her company.
Barbara Windsor as I feel that she would make any evening complete.
Also the late Terry Wogan, who I met through my daughter at one of my birthday lunches and we remained in touch until he sadly passed away.
I really admired Bruce Forsyth, I met him at some charity events and believe is was the most charismatic man I have ever met.
Although I can’t attend tonight’s actual party, I think we can have a pretty good virtual one with these guests! Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me a bit about No One But You Tessa. I’m sure blog readers will love to read the following extract to get a flavour of the book:
An Extract from No One But You by Tessa Levy
Chapter 3: Losing Her
Tess hopped unsteadily on the chalk marks on the pavement and over her shoulder, she called out, “My brother Danny will be here in a minute. He’s on leave. Wait until you meet him, he’ll make you laugh so much, you’ll be crying.”
She gave up on the game and raced to the corner to see if she could spot him. She had no sense of Millie’s increasing outrage as she returned with another round of excitable chatter about her brother.
“Why don’t you look where you’re going?” a woman grumbled at Tess when she almost knocked her over when jumping into Danny’s open arms.
Tess ignored the warning.
“Alright, kid, steady on, I’m right here. Step back so I can look at you. My God, you’ve grown up.” Danny shook his head and gently ran his hand through her hair. “You’ve grown, Shortie!” He laughed and tickled her ribs.
Giggling, she scrunched up her face. “Danny, stop! Come and meet my best friends in the world.”
“The whole world, sis?” He flashed his huge smile, the one that lit up his hazel eyes. Standing in the street, in his uniform, Tess felt an enormous surge of pride as she watched her friends’ faces turn red and she wanted to shout, “That’s my brother, isn’t he something?”
He pulled on her hand. “Come on kid, let’s go inside and say hello.”
Later that evening, as the family sat around the table, Pop leaned back and beamed. “Look at this, the only one missing is Howard.” He popped a cube of sugar in between his teeth and sipped on his tea. His braces hung at his sides and his hands clasped at the front of his round belly. Pop nodded proudly at his sons.
Lorna leaned forward artfully. “We should have some wine to celebrate.”
“Wine? I don’t know where you’re getting these crazy ideas. It’s enough that you smoke. Can’t you be more like your sister?” Pop said. In the kitchen, Sadie, helping her mother wash the dishes, heard his complaint. She shouted, “He’s right, you know, Lorna. You should try and be more like me.”
Sadie and the others laughed. Lorna took out her irritation out on Tess, who shrieked in pain as her sister’s hand found her thigh under the table and gave her an enthusiastic pinch.
“Some things just don’t change. Do they, Max?” Danny shook a cigarette from his pack and smiled at his brother.
Max fiddled with his unlit cigar. “Thank goodness for that. This bloody war has changed too many things.”
“You’re the last bloke to complain. You’ve got that cushy job, far away from all the action.” Danny pushed his chair back and stood next to his brother. “Come on outside and tell me about all that cash you’re making.”
“You underestimate how crucial my contribution to this war really is, just because you wear a uniform. I wore a uniform and paid a huge price because of that bloody anti-Semitic corporal. I got a court-martial for sticking up for us all. Just remember that!”
“I knew it! You’re a spy, working undercover. I get it, sunshine, you’re doing covert exercises into Germany. I apologise.”
“Now you’re a comedian? You’re jealous because I’ve managed to arrange things the way I have. Face it, Danny, I was always cleverer than you!”
They were inches from starting a fight.
“Go outside, the pair of you. Don’t upset your mother. Don’t you ever grow up?” Pop’s face turned beetroot red whenever he became angry or upset and he was not past ripping off his belt to teach them both a lesson. “As for you, Lorna, go and help your mother.”
“What about Tess, why doesn’t she have to help?” Lorna pouted, making a loud scraping noise as she pushed her chair back
“I’m too young, sorry, Lorna,” Tess said with a smirk and she folded her arms in victory. She followed her dad into the other room and curled up onto his lap.
Later that night, Tess lay awake, trying to ignore the rumbling of Pop’s snoring through the thin walls. Relishing the warmth of her sisters’ sleeping bodies, she heard the faint, familiar sounds of male laughter, drifting up from the street. Carefully, she climbed under the covers and wriggled to the edge of the bed so as not to wake the girls. Wrapping herself in her coat, she tiptoed down the stairs, the floor icy to her bare feet. She came face to face with Danny, catching him slipping off his shoes. He looked at her for a moment and pulled her outside. He struck a match against the brick wall and leaned in to light his cigarette. The light flickered briefly against one side of his face, revealing a fresh black eye.
“Oh my God, Danny, what happened?” Tess said with a gasp.
The smell of alcohol wafted on his panicked reaction. “Ssshhh, you’ll wake up the whole street. Worse still, you’ll wake up Pop.”
“But your eye looks purple, what did you do?”
“Sis, quiet, please,” he hissed. “I went over to the Paramount in the West End and there was this group of American soldiers there. They’d had a few too many and were getting really rowdy.”
Tess sat on her hands, trying to prevent contact with the freezing step. Her mouth opened wide as she listened to her injured brother.
“Anyway, there was this one soldier, a black guy, the only sober one of the bunch and he goes up to a girl and asks her to dance. No big deal. The next thing you know, these punks are laying into him like he’s a bloody German spy.” Danny gave a few mock punches to show his lile sister what happened.
“I don’t understand, what did he do wrong?” Tess asked.
Danny exhaled smoke, wincing in pain. “That’s the reason I got involved. The poor bleeder didn’t do a thing. All he did was what any normal soldier, far away from home, would do. He asked a prey girl to dance.”
Tess loved her brother more than anyone. “Then why?”
“Because of the colour of his skin. It’s not that different to being a Jew. Sadly, that’s the world we live in, sis!”
Tess worked her mind around the new information. “But that isn’t even fair!” she said, indignant.
Danny pulled her closer to him, and they shivered together. “Fair? Life isn’t about fairness, kid, look at what’s happened to Mum.”
Tess leaned back to look at him. “What are you talking about?”
He averted his eyes, busying himself with studying his cigarette. “I’m such an idiot. They haven’t told you, have they?”
Tess attempted to put the jigsaw together in her mind. So there was a secret! “Nobody ever tells me anything. She’s my mummy too!”
His eyes welled up with tears. His long lashes wet, as he stared into the night sky.
Lorna always teased that his eyelashes were God’s mistake, they’d really been meant for her.
Exhaling smoke, he flicked the cigarette butt into the street. “Kid, you’re nine years old, some things don’t belong inside the head of a little girl.”
Tess’s face tightened in a rage. “I am not a baby. Tell me, or I’m going to move in with my friends. I mean it, Danny, I’m sick of all of you!”
“Look at you two out here, you’ll catch your death,” a tired, gentle voice spoke in the darkness.
They jumped and turned around to see their mother standing in the doorway.
About Tessa Levy
Tessa Levy was born in the in the East End of London, as the youngest of six children in a Jewish family; Russian immigrants to England before the Second World War. The author, like her brothers in the fashion business and her husband in the nightclub trade of Soho, made a success of her antique business – a truly entrepreneurial woman in an era when business was dominated by men – specialising in Imari porcelain and creating an established presence in the Kensington Pavilion.
Now in her 80s, Tessa resides in West London, opposite Hyde Park, and maintains one foot on either side of the pond. No One But You is Tessa Levy’s first book, based on real events, which brings to light a topical immigrant family story of displacement, hardship, disease and death, but also of inclusion, friendship, love and success. It crosses the divide not only between two cultural differences, but also two faiths and families.
You can find out more by following Tessa on Twitter @tessalevyauthor.