Sex Lies & Litigation is set in London’s ancient Inns of Court where traditions date back to the 15th Century. The story is narrated by Evelyn Hornton, a fledgling barrister in Manolo Blahniks who cuts a swathe of mayhem through London’s stuffy legal world, scattering un-zipped one-liners while wrangling her eccentric circus of Notting Hill and Mayfair friends.
Evelyn’s determination to keep a dignified distance between her conservative professional life and utterly bonkers personal life go spectacularly awry when on her first day in court (sick with nerves and woefully unprepared) she discovers the opposing council is her ex-boyfriend Giles; a man who used to lick crème fraîche off her belly, before she caught himin flagrante delicto with another.
All dignity is swept aside, especially once she discovers her client is Keith Conan The Head Butter of Shepherds Bush. As Evelyn puts it, “It was going to be one hell of a Bad Lipstick Day – the sort of day that comes off on your teeth.”
Sex Lies & Litigation is the first instalment of a three book series tracing Evelyn Horton’s adventures in and out of court as she takes on London’s criminal world with a dash of panache and more than a pinch of Ab-fab madness.
EVELYN On Her Ex:
“You know the sort! Gorgeous, successful, vowels to die for and genetically-programmed to break hearts. He used to lick crème fraîche off my belly. I had even toyed with the idea of marriage but that was in the days before I found out that I wasn’t the only one with an anatomical desert bowl.”
EVELYN On The Inns Of Court:
“Our Lady of Justice looked down on me from above the dome of the Old Bailey. Tall & statuesque – here was a woman made to wear Lacroix! In her classical robe she was the Donatella of Versace, the Loulou de la Falaise of Yves Saint Laurent, the muse of the justice system. She was weighing up my chances and as a fellow woman she knew they were halved by this lipstick shade.
EVELYN On Drugs:
“‘Never take drugs before Marmalade,’ Charles warned me, as she spread marmalade on her toast. Even behind her Ray-Bans the weekend’s excesses were obvious. ‘They send you mad,’ she insisted, not looking entirely clear-headed herself. It sounded like a truism my grandmother might have told me as a child. Gran was big on marmalade, big on truisms, big on drugs come to think of it. She was always upsetting our family doctor by referring to him publicly as her pusher.”
EVELYN On Love:
SNAB – Sensitive New Age Bastards are men who have done a crash course on what makes women tick and know what buttons to press to make them explode. He was your usual man when it came to romance, which is to say he couldn’t recite Baa Baa Black Sheep when sober whereas when drunk sixteen cantos of Byron’s Don Juan was par for the course.
Only your girlfriends can tell you you’ve got lipstick on your teeth!
I had just broken the heel of my new two-hundred-pound Manolo Blahnik stilettos – the first two hundred pounds I hadn’t made yet! I climbed out of the heat of the black cab and felt the other heel sink into the hot tar of the square in Notting Hill. For a minute I thought I’d just walked onto a Merchant Ivory set. A mixture of crisp white Georgiana circled a garden of some six or seven acres suffocating on roses. I was so nervous.
I was due to start Bar school next week with an overdraft at Natwest that made me want to sign up for the French Foreign Legion and I had nowhere to live. And that was just the start of it. The only person I knew in this city was my ex-boyfriend, Giles the super-bastard.
You know the sort! Gorgeous, successful, vowels to die for and genetically programmed to break hearts. He used to lick crème fraiche off my belly. I had even toyed with the idea of marriage, but that was in the days before I found out that I wasn’t the only one with an anatomical dessert bowl!
I rang the buzzer with my broken heel. A female Cockney twang answered.
‘Yeah?’ Laughter and muffled voices crackled over the intercom.
‘I’m here about the room?’ I called out.
I heard another burst of giggling as the door buzzed and I pushed it open onto a high-ceilinged lobby with mosaic tiles. It smelled of stale champagne and vodka and something musty, vaguely redolent of backstage at the ballet.
The ad I’d pulled from the notice board at the Temple library read, ‘Two professional women looking for one other to share large flat in Notting Hill- must be open minded.’ That was me I’d told myself – my mind is an abyss.
But even I – whose idea of housework is to flap my duvet around my pillows – wasn’t prepared for the Home Alone mess of designer shopping bags, shoes, magazines, clothes, underwear, jewellery and make-up which were strewn over every surface. It was as if two hundred well-heeled women had been asked to empty their handbags for market research.
Gaultier perfume kissed my senses and Elastica’s lyrics wrapped around me like a Lycra body suit. The evidence was clear – this flat screamed GIRLS!
Since walking in on Goldilocks in my boyfriend’s bed, I’d been clinging to an anti-man stance like a Zimmer frame. Get real! I’d tell myself everyday as I woke up with my heart in my throat and tears stinging my eyes. They all cheat, they all lie, they’re all selfish and they all leave the seat up in the loo. You are over men, I would insist whenever my groin stirred from its coma. From now on in, this sister is doing it for herself!
‘Take a seat,’ urged Charles, suggesting a Mae West lips’ sofa choking on magazines and shoes. She sat opposite on one of the two red velvet chairs by EDRA that looked like vulvas. She had a no-nonsense plummy voice like Princess Anne’s – somewhat at odds with her bleached-blonde crop and tiny black satin shorts. She also had those few extra inches that give a girl a stomping edge in life – mile-high stilettos.
‘Yeah take your shoes off,’ insisted Sam, the voice I’d heard on the intercom.
‘Excuse the mess but we had a – ‘ Charles started.
‘We had a cleaner but she walked out,’ broke in Sam. ‘Oh you so messy mizzes – I not clean your shit no more,’ she mimicked in Cockney cum Portuguese.
Sam was small and shapely with short neat hair. She wore jeans with the knees frayed away and a T-shirt and she talked at a thousand miles a minute with languid interruptions from Charles.
‘So if cleanliness is your thing, Evelyn,’ she chatted away like Lois Lane meets Tank Girl, ‘seriously – this is not the flat for you. We’ve seen cleaners come and go but mostly they go. I blame all those middle-class matrons that clean up everything before the dailies arrive. Like your mother, eh, Charles? “Charlotte! The cleaner is coming today – don’t forget to clean up your mess in the bathroom!”
We seemed to be getting through the preliminary stuff pretty well I thought to myself hopefully as I relaxed into the sofa, trying to strike a pose that showed I belonged. I liked Charles’ measured assurance plus the fact that she was a barrister four years called. That had to be an asset.
Sam, on the other hand, was more like a one-woman army mowing through conversations like a Panzer division gone AWOL and I was slightly terrified of ending up under her tracks. She had one of those viciously sharp wits that comes at you like an automatic weapon and takes no prisoners.
Charles and I shared Temple gossip while Sam made tea. She was telling me how she’d been asked for sex to secure her tenancy but that, as luck would have it, she’d accidentally walked in on her pupil master being ridden around his room by Anita the receptionist. As Charles put it, ‘He was riding the smooth with the rough.’
Sam called out from the kitchen. ‘If you want serious scandal you should try the bond market. We get the real sickos!’ she promised, as if we should be humbled by the bond markets superiority over the more moderate sickos of the Bar.
Later, as we sat cross-legged amongst the paraphernalia sipping a concoction called Red Zinger with a welcome breeze blowing through the French doors from the square, I was thinking, Yeah I can handle this. Everything was going swimmingly, which was great because God knows I needed this room! Then out of the blue, Sam asked that question.
‘So, Evelyn, do you have a man in your life?’
I spluttered into my cup as the aperture of my mind snapped shut. Despite a voice inside telling me to stay calm, I couldn’t. I manifestly lost it actually. Finding out the man you’ve had up on a pedestal – the man you let eat his dessert off your belly – is cheating on you kind of warps your self-control I guess.
My contempt for the male gene pool started pouring out of me like bile from the possessed. I told them that not only was there no man in my life, but that if one of those missing-ribbed bastards tried to cross the threshold of my temple, they’d be doing it without genitals!
I’d been doing a lot of reading about ancient female rituals concerning that very matter – the castration of men’s bits. Thing was, I didn’t see anything strange about it at the time. Gran always insisted that only your girlfriends can tell you if you’ve got lipstick on your teeth.
Charles and Sam looked at me as if realising for the first time that I hadn’t walked through a metal detector on my way in while I held forth on the virtues of genital desecration. What’s more I couldn’t stop myself going into details about how some ancient matriarchal societies had these rituals where they’d string men out on mountain tops with herbal ointment smeared on their organs of lust – so that birds of prey might be encouraged to swoop down and peck off their …
‘OK already. Chill out,’ yelled Sam. ‘We’re all girls here all right?’
Somehow I managed to get a grip. I tried to smile up at her insouciantly from the ditch I’d just dug for myself. What the hell was I thinking – running around like a radical wimmin’s separatist? They were looking for someone to share the bills, a bit of washing-up and the odd joke. Who was going to open up their flat to a feminist Pol Pot?
‘Well, maybe you feel even more strongly than us, Evelyn. It’s not that we hate men you see,’ Charles explained calmly. ‘It’s just well … the reason I asked is … ‘
‘We’re lesbians,’ added Sam, walking over to the balcony. ‘That’s right,’ Charles agreed, going over and putting her arms around her – just in case I wasn’t familiar with the term.
‘And, well, as you can imagine,’ she went on, ‘men urm, well, because we’re lesbians. I mean it’s not that we’re, urm … separatists or anything mad like that. Not that we don’t like separatists or anything. Well gosh, I’m running around a PC minefield here aren’t I? But look, the point is, we’ve got nothing against men or their … urm whatsits and well it’s just that they – ‘
‘Don’t have a lot of place in our lives!’ Sam interrupted, rolling a knot around the midriff of her Calvin Klein T-shirt, exposing a navel-ring.
‘Exactly. I mean, especially their urm … urm … ‘ Charles struggled for the word, scraping back her blonde crop for inspiration. ‘Genitals,’ Sam explained.
Sitting there watching those red velvet vulvas yawning at me, I decided that this was just what I needed. What better way to avoid men than living with lesbians? After all, living with single girls usually means a stream of men running through the living room like a river. And I loved the flat – the atmosphere. OK it was a mess, but it was the sort of mess I liked.
But that was when I had the fit. I’d slurped a mouthful of tea on top of a biscuit which must have gone down the wrong way and I went into this frenzied coughing spasm. God it was so embarrassing. I must have looked like some sort of puritanical vicar’s wife choking on her sense of decency. I mean it’s not as if I was shocked or anything. You don’t spend twelve years in a convent school and not discover the mysteries of the clit-club for God’s sake. But I could tell by their faces that they thought I disapproved of them.
Charles ran off to get me a drink of water while Sam looked down on me with undisclosed hatred.
‘God, I’m so sorry,’ I struggled to explain. ‘Look, I hope you don’t think I was shocked or anything … you know by what you said. It was just the biscuit … ‘ I floundered.
She looked at me in sad disgust like a farmer looking at a calf with BSE. ‘Oh no. Not a bit. We get that reaction all the time,’ she reassured me sarcastically.
‘Well you’re wrong,’ I insisted feeling braver. I was a bit hot under the collar actually. We Horntons don’t like being misjudged. It’s the last thing you need as a Catholic. ‘The truth is, I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend. That’s why I was mouthing off just then. Look, I’m not trying to patronise you honestly. To tell the truth, living with women is just what I need at the moment. I mean you probably guessed, men aren’t exactly flavour of the month with me.’
Charles passed me the water. I felt reassured by the way they looked at one another, like two nurses agreeing that it was time to unstrap the straight jacket.
That was two years ago. I got the room – and I’m still in it.
“Bridget Jones on speed” The Guardian UK
“Brings to mind Kathy Lette and Jilly Cooper” Mail on Sunday UK
“Ab Fab meets Sex In The City!” The Telegraph UK
“Full of high octane court room drama, lashings of comedy and crackling with un-zipped one liners.” BookChitChats