This book was inspired by a sign in the market for a local butchers, Bullivant and Daughters. At the same time, I read a piece in the paper about a girl who’d upset her parents by rejecting a place at Oxford to train as a builder. The two ideas melded together and No Place For A Woman was born. You’ve heard of sex and shopping novels – well, this is sex, shopping and sawdust!
Finn Delaney longs to join the family building business, but her dad Joe insists the building trade is no place for a woman. Finn’s determined to prove him wrong, even if it means telling a few white lies along the way. Meanwhile, Gina Tate’s having similar trouble trying to get her wealthy father to take her seriously. She and Finn don’t seem to have much in common, but little do they know they both hold the key to each other’s dearest desire..
‘What do you call this?’ Joe Delaney looked down at his breakfast in disgust.
‘Muesli. It’s good for you.’
‘Looks like budgie food to me. Hardly a proper breakfast for a working man, is it?’
‘You know what the doctor said. No more fry-ups.’
‘Flaming doctors! What do they know?’ Joe picked up his spoon and prodded at the cereal.
‘They know you’ve got angina. And they also know you’ll have a heart attack before you’re sixty if you don’t start looking after yourself.’
‘Rubbish. I’m as fit as I ever was.’
Finn looked at her father’s broad-shouldered bulk. His face was lined and his hair had turned grey a long time ago, but he was still the same big, dependable man she’d known all her life. And he refused to admit he couldn’t go on forever.
‘All the same, it wouldn’t hurt you to listen to someone’s advice for once in your life.’
‘That’s good, coming from you. You’re as pig-headed as anyone.’
‘And we all know where I get it from, don’t we?’ Finn half-heartedly tackled her own cereal. Her dad was right; it was budgie food. Her stomach rumbled for bacon, eggs and a greasy helping of fried bread, but she didn’t want to set a bad example. ‘So what have you got planned for today?’
‘Not a lot. Just a kitchen to finish, and a garden wall to do. Ciaran can take care of that. I’ve asked him to stop off at the builders’ merchants and pick up the bricks.’ He looked at his watch. ‘Where’s Ciran? He should be here with the van by now.’ Finn understood the unspoken message. Joe Delaney hated discussing work with her. ‘Since when did Ciran ever turn up on time for anything, unless there was something in it for him?’
‘Now, Finnuala, don’t talk about your brother like that.’
‘But he’s always letting you down. How often does he turn up late for work?’
‘He can’t help it. He’s got a family, responsibilities – ’
‘That’s a joke. You know as well as I do he spends more time with his mates than he does with Mel and the baby. God knows what they get up to.’
In fact, she did know, but she didn’t want to tell her father. That really would send him to an early grave.
‘What do you want me to do, sack him? This is a family business. And since Ciaran’s the only son I’ve got, it looks like I’m stuck with him, doesn’t it?’
‘He might be your only son but he isn’t your only family,’ Finn said quietly.
Joe sighed. ‘Not again! We’ve been through this a million times, Finnuala.’
‘But it makes sense, doesn’t it? You’ve always said you wanted the business to stay in the family. And I’m willing to do it, unlike Ciaran – ’
‘The building trade is no place for a woman, Finnuala. You don’t know what it’s like.’
‘Don’t I? I practically grew up on a building site, remember?’ Right until she’d started school, and all through every holiday she’d followed her father around as he worked. She had to, as he was a single parent and there was no one else to look after her, but she didn’t mind. She’d play in the sand, or build with off-cut bricks. At other times she would just watch him, fascinated by his skill and speed as he made a wall grown, ever brick neat and level, or slicked plaster on to bare brickwork like pink icing, leaving it smooth and flat. As she got older he would sometimes let her mix mortar or check levels. By the time she was eleven she could accurately calculate how many bricks it would take to finish a wall, and knew what kind of timber should be used to different jobs.
And what was her big brother doing all this time? Out with his friends, getting drunk and stealing cigarettes from shops.
‘You’re better off where you are,’ Joe said firmly. ‘What’s the matter, don’t you like being a hairdresser?’
Finn looked down at her untouched bowl of cereal. ‘Of course,’ she muttered.
‘There you are, then.’ Seeing his daughter’s sulky face, Joe went on, ‘Look, if you really want to help me you can always type up some invoices.’
‘I’m not a typist!’
‘You’re not a builder, either.’
Finn glared at him. That’s what you think.
Her father had gone to work and Finn was washing up when Ciaran rang.
‘Has he gone?’ he asked.
‘You’ve just missed him.’
‘Thank God for that.’
‘He was expecting you to pick him up. With that load of bricks you were supposed to pick up.’ There was an ominous silence. ‘You did get them, didn’t you?’
‘Look, I had a lot on my mind, okay? I had some business to sort out. Which is why I’m ringing..’
Finn recognised the wheedling tone in his voice. ‘What is it now?’
‘I had to pay some bloke back the money I owed him and it’s left me a bit short. I don’t suppose – ’
‘Why should I keep bailing you out? You still owe me twenty from last week.’
‘I know, and I wouldn’t ask, but it’s for the baby. We’ve run out of nappies and Mel doesn’t get her child benefit until Monday.’
‘You should have thought of that before you went out gambling with your mates, shouldn’t you?’
‘Who said anything about gambling?’
‘Ciaran, it’s always gambling.’ He lost every penny he had on poker or the horses.
‘I don’t know why you’re acting so high and mighty.’ Ciaran’s tone changed. ‘You’re not exactly whiter than white yourself, remember? Maybe you’d better be a bit nicer to me if you don’t want Dad finding out your little secret. I don’t suppose he’d be too pleased if he found out what his little girl was up to behind his back.’
There was a moment’s silence. ‘How much do you want?’ Finn said.