Wednesday, May 31, 2006


It’s so long since I took a proper holiday, I’d forgotten how exhausting they are, but the dh and I have birthdays within a week of each other and we decided, this year, that we’d celebrate by giving ourselves a break.

We booked a car to take us to Cardiff International Airport (that would be on the bijou side of “international”) to catch the Cityhopper across to Amsterdam. Since we live in Wales the driver offered to get in bread and milk for us for our return. You just have to love this place!

We stayed at the hotel where John and Yoko had their love-in for peace back in ’69. We could have had the same suite but decided against it – it really would be too pathetic, wouldn’t it? I swear the eye-watering cost had absolutely nothing to do with it!

The dh thought his luck was in when he discovered a “pillow menu” by the bed. What kind of room service were they offering? This was, after all, Amsterdam! But no, it was exactly what it said. A pillow menu. You could phone the housekeeper and ask for ‘warm and soft’ or ‘multi relax’ or ‘extra flat’ (er, and what would be the point of that?)

At some point during the booking process, we had to provide our dates of birth –something to do with security, apparently. On the morning of the dh’s birthday, breakfast was interrupted by the maitre d’ and staff walking through the restaurant with a lit firework, a cake and singing “Happy Birthday”. We both looked round to see where the kid with the birthday was sitting. No. They headed straight for us, opened a bottle of champagne to go with the orange juice and eggs Benedict and my poor blushing husband had to acknowledge the clapping of a room full of total strangers. In the evening the hotel sent another bottle of champagne and another cake to our room. Believe me, we scarcely noticed the rain!

Did I mention the rain? No. Petty to bother about the weather when there was so much to see. Great art, fabulous diamonds, windmills, Delft, a clog making factory. It did let up on the day we visited windmills – although in keeping with the occasion it was jolly windy. We walked in the rain, had a lunch party with friends at a harbourside cafĂ©, took a train ride – they have double-decker trains in Holland, how cool is that! And it stayed fine for our candle lit evening dinner cruise when we toured the city by boat -- strongly recommended by my editor and much enjoyed.

I returned to a pile of work – and, oddly, three Dutch translations of my books. The page proofs have been dealt with, now all I have to do is deliver a short story by the second week in June. Which is ... eeek...

Saturday, May 20, 2006


First, huge congratulations to Fiona Harper who won the New Writers' Award this week, presented at the Romantic Novelists' Associaton Summer Party. There's a picture and all the lovely things the judges said about her book -- The Blind Date Marriage, Harlequin/Mills & Boon Romance, December -- at the Harlequin Romance Authors
blog She's a bright new star in Harlequin Romance and we can't wait to the read the book.

I finger-nailed my way to the end of my own wip last night -- The Academic, Mrs Mopp and Milady. Yes the title is ironic but I'm sure my editor will come up with something more appropriate! I can't say it's finished. I lay awake last night thinking ... as you do... "Oh!" (Think Gladys Pugh in Hi di Hi!) "Oh!" I thought... but I haven't done that, and that, and that and what about ....


I'll spend the rest of the weekend sorting it then email the ms to my editor so that she can read it while I'm away. Not that it will be a total break. Just to keep me on my toes she sent me the page proofs of The Valentine Bride so that I'll have a little light holiday reading.

Oh, or should that be "Oh!", and I have a 5000 word short story to write, too.
The brain, thankfully, never sleeps.

See you, with pictures, when I return!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Can I direct everyone to the delightful I Love Libraries website? Quotes and photos from authors about what their libraries mean to them -- I'm in there somewhere!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Taking a look at my colleague Natasha Oakley’s blog this morning I came across this.

“I should have looked at the proofs last night, but I was seduced by Sophie Weston's 'The Cinderella Factor' - and I'm so glad I was. It's a lovely, lovely book. Both Patrick and Jo are deliciously complicated. I also love the bigger-than-usual age gap. Jo is nineteen and Patrick is thirty-four. He's also very sexy indeed.”

It was the age gap that interested me. Fifteen years ago – and I really can’t believe it’s that long – when my own first book was plucked from the slush pile my heroine was 22, or thereabouts and my hero at least 36 (and on the gorgeous cover he actually looked it!)

Then, the experienced man of the world and the ingenue were the norm, a hangover from fairytales, the Cinderella story that inspired such great romances as Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. A hangover, too, maybe from two brutal wars where the alpha males were largely absent from society; a reflection of a world where women had to step up, take on the role of the absent father, absent husband. A need to feel cared for, cherished.

But Mills & Boon and later, Harlequin Romances, are written by women who live in the real world, women who write about the world around them. Who lived through and were part of the sexual revolution. The ingenue, that innocent, virginal girl waiting to be physically awakened by a man who would find the world renewed by her love is, today, a hard story to bring off successfully. Indeed, Sophie Weston wrote a very touching story, The Bedroom Assignment, of a woman – long past her ingenue years -- caught in exactly that situation. I’ll leave you to judge if I managed to bring it off as successfuly in The Sheikh’s Guarded Heart (September 2006).

Today, our heroines tend to be older, the survivor of at least one long term relationship and much nearer the age of the hero. Maybe it’s a reflection of a society in which women are starting families much later. Now, a thirty-something woman, finding her perfect partner, is not considered too old to start a family; to fulfil what, for most women, is a still a genuine desire to for motherhood. The books also reflect the complications of our world. Mix and match families. Single parents. Even, in books like Jennifer Crusie’s about to be republished bestselling M&B romance, Anyone But You, the women who do not want to be mothers.

Mills & Boon romances never were quite the fluff of the average lazy journalistic imagination (I use the word advisedly, since it's clear not one of them has ever bothered to read one). They have always been bigger, warmer, sexier, more exciting than that, or why else is Harlequin outselling the publishing world?

Friday, May 12, 2006


Following Nigel's adoption, the son and heir and his lovely partner have taken in Milo to save him from being drowned.

He won't be lonely. Kees and Flynn (the cream retriever) are happy to shove up and give him a bit of the sofa.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


The lovely Wendy has given my website a make-over in preparation for the new Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Mills & Boon covers -- coming in September. It looks a bit strange on my new, wide screen laptop, and I've now got to find another picture for the blog, since this one doesn't seem to work properly. But I love the new script and the colour...

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I love it when I get a romance cover that makes me smile when I open the box. One with a hero who looks old enough, worldly enough, dangerous enough to live up to the role I’ve given him.

Unlike many authors, I rarely work from a photograph, never use a actor as role model for instance, but as soon as I saw this man in a photographic magazine, I knew I had found my “sheikh” so, when my editor, needing advance stuff for the cover of The Sheikh’s Guarded Heart, asked for my “vision” of my hero, my setting, I sent her this photograph, along with a lot of other stuff (including a postcard of T E Lawrence, which I bought at the National Portrait Gallery).

As you can imagine, I had high hopes. Sheikh Hanif was strong, powerful, a superb horseman, a poet.

Naturally, his first encounter with Lucy Forrester was not promising: --

‘Hold still, I’ve got you.’
She heard the words, but they didn’t penetrate the thinking part of her brain as she fought to break free.
‘Don’t move!’
It wasn’t the harsh order that shocked her into motionless silence, or the fierce, hawk-like features of the man who gave it. It was the gleaming knife blade, so close to her face that she could almost taste the metal at the back of her throat.

Make a note of that. “... fierce, hawk-like features...”

Later, I wrote this:

‘I remember you,’ she said.
Even without the keffiyeh wound about his face she knew the dark fierce eyes, chiselled cheekbones, the hawkish, autocratic nose that had figured so vividly in her dreams.
Now she could see that his hair was long, thick, tied back at the nape with a dark cord, that only his voice was soft...’

Okay. Underline “hawkish”, add in the chiselled cheekbones, the nose, add in the long, thick hair, tied at the nape.

Got all that?

So how come I’ve got this stranger on my cover? You see him? Short hair (some mousy brown colour), soft face, love handles, nerd shirt?

I would have preferred a sand dune.