Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I’ve got a lot to get through in this post but I’ll do my best to keep it short because I’ve got Fiona Harper as my guest this week and I don’t want to keep you from the excerpt from ENGLISH LORD, ORDINARY LADY, her latest book and already short listed for the RNA Romance Prize.

First, Elizabeth Rolls has chosen her prize winners. Three of you! What a generous woman :) Congratulations to Eva, Cryna and Jean, this week’s lucky winners. You’ll be hearing direct from Elizabeth about your prizes.

Now I have to tell you that February – tomorrow! -- sees the start of the annual Anne McAllister/Kate Walker/Liz Fielding “Here Comes the…” competition. Last year it was the Brides leading the Grooms a merry dance. This year it’s going to be Grooms turn and who knows what they’ll get up to. What I can tell you is that there are three prizes and each prize will consist of the three latest titles from each of us. Anne's ONE NIGHT LOVE-CHILD, Kate's SPANISH BILLIONAIRE, INNOCENT WIFE and my THE BRIDE'S BABY.

You’ll find a question from each groom on our blogs and for a chance to win, you’ll have to send all three answers to each of us. Which gives you three chances to win. I think that’s clear…

I’ll introduce you to Anne and Kate’s grooms next week, but for now let me introduce you to self-made tycoon, Tom McFarlane.

He's a man who has everything except the very necessary well-bred wife to put the gloss on his meteoric rise from the lowest sphere of society.

A man who knows that love hurts and is having none of it, only for love to throw a spanner into the carefully oiled works and overturn his well-laid plans.

No doubt he'll take over and tell you the tale himself, but here's a bride's eye view of him to be going on with.

Sylvie turned to find her way blocked by six and a half feet of broad-shouldered male and experienced a bewildering sense of déjà vu.

A feeling that this had happened before.

And then she looked up and realised it was not an illusion. This had happened before – except on that occasion the male concerned had been wearing navy pin-stripe instead of grey cashmere.

“Some billionaire…” Laura had said, but she hadn’t mentioned a name. And she hadn’t bothered to ask, pretending she didn’t care.

She cared now, because it wasn’t just “some” billionaire who’d bought her family home and was planning to turn it into a conference centre.

It was Tom McFarlane, the man with whom, just for a few moments, she’d totally lost it. Whose baby she was now carrying.

Tom’s question is --
What colour silk did I become intimately acquainted with?
You’ll find the answer on Liz’s website.

If that’s not enough excitement for one week, Nicola Marsh is running a Valentine competition during February with books galore to win, including one of mine on the 1st. Check it out here.

Okay, you’ve had the trailers, now here’s the main attraction.

Fiona Harper stepped into stardom with her first book, the wonderful BLIND DATE MARRIAGE, winning the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Award against a line up that included mainstream women’s fiction. This year she has two books on the the “Romance Prize” shortlist and she’s going to be telling you about one of them, ENGLISH LORD, ORDINARY LADY, and offering a signed copy to one lucky prize winner. You’ve got until Monday morning (Sunday evening if you’re in the US) to enter.

Here’s Fiona to tell you about the inspiration for her book and give you an irresistible taster.

The inspiration for English Lord, Ordinary Lady came from a secondary character in my first book, Blind-Date Marriage. The heroine’s best friend was a rule-breaking pink-haired dynamo called Cassie, and I so badly wanted to give her a story of her own, even if it meant killing off her vicar husband and leaving her pregnant and homeless (aren’t I wicked!). I even had a hero all set up and a great idea for an ending, but…I just couldn’t get the timelines to fit with the past I had given Cassie in the previous book.

So, in the end, I decided to take the ‘spirit of Cassie’ and create a new heroine – one whose history I could manufacture to fit my story – and, hey presto, Josie popped into being. Her hair was just as pink as Cassie’s, her take on life just as unconventional, but she turned out to be younger, feistier and naughtier than I could ever imagine! I also kept the same ending I’d dreamed up for Cassie. In fact, the whole of English Lord, Ordinary Lady was written, and Will’s character created, just to let that ending make sense. I’m not going to give anything away, but let’s just say that it’s the bit where Will decides to keep everything under his hat (wink, wink).

It just so happens that I have relatives that run a tea room at a stately home. What a great way to bring an ordinary girl into the path of a stuffy, need-to-be-shaken-up English lord, I thought. But then the ‘what if’ fairies got to work on my idea. What if, instead of being a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, struggling to make good, Josie was actually from a family just as privileged as Will’s? What if she’d turned her back on that life? Suddenly, Josie became an upper class party-girl seeking to straighten herself out – and I knew I had a story that I was itching to write. But it turned out that I could take the it-girl out of the party circuit, but I couldn’t take that special something – the ‘it’ – out of the girl. And, despite himself, Will noticed it too. And that’s when all his troubles began, poor man…

'I’ve had an idea about how to get some more money in for Elmhurst Hall.’

‘Fire away.’

Josie was so excited she was almost bouncing in the chair. ‘I first got the idea yesterday…but I wasn’t sure…now I think it could.’

‘Josie, you’re not making any sense.’

The next sentence was delivered in such a breathless rush he only just recognised it as English.

‘You and me…we could…do a wedding, see how it goes. It could give us a wonderful future.’

Uh-oh. This is what you got for kissing your employees in the orchard. He’d known it had been a mistake right from the moment he’d opened his eyes afterwards. But this? This had caught him completely off-guard. Josie didn’t look like the rushing-into-wedlock type one little bit.

‘You mean…Josie, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.’

She looked puzzled. Had he really read her that wrong? Who would want to get married after just one kiss? He wasn’t that good a kisser, was he?

‘Why not?’

He stared at her. ‘Isn’t this a little sudden? I mean, I only just…’

She gave him a begging look. ‘I know you’ve only just given me the job, but I think this could really work.’

‘You do?’

‘Of course.’

She was deadly serious. He had fun with Josie. She was great company. And OK, despite his best efforts not to be, he was attracted to her. But marriage?

‘Give me a few seconds to mull this over.’

She crossed her arms, leaned back in the chair and waited.

His thoughts wandered back to the blossom-scented orchard of two nights ago. What had she said about him needing a wife and producing an heir? Not that he wasn’t flattered she was offering her services. But he couldn’t see Josie in that role.

He needed someone who not just knew the rules of high society, but was willing to play the game. If he got married—and it was still a big ‘if’—he would need a peacemaker, someone who could pour oil on troubled waters. That wasn’t Josie. Oh, no. She was the type to light a match and watch the oil slick explode.

Of course, her family money might help—he presumed this was part of the reason. And great families down the ages had made marriages of convenience to cement their positions, to increase their status or wealth, but he didn’t think it was something he could stretch to.

Money alone would not buy what he wanted. For the sake of his grandfather, he needed respect and a good reputation. With Josie on board they'd have reputation in spades. Just not the kind he wanted.

‘I think I’m going to have to say…’ How did he say this? He’d never had to turn down an offer of marriage before.

‘Please don’t say no before I’ve told you my plans!’

‘Plans?’ His voice was horribly croaky.

‘My brother is getting married in July. If they have the service and reception here, we could use it as a test run.’

‘Test run?’ This was getting scarier by the second.

‘Will, are you OK? You keep repeating the last thing I say.’

He clasped his hands, lay them on the desk in front of him and tried to look normal. ‘Fine. Absolutely fine.’

‘If Alfie’s wedding goes well, we could plan to book more for next year. I’ve checked the figures. People will pay thousands to get married at a beautiful place like this. It’s part of the fantasy, isn’t it? In a few years we might be able to get every Saturday through the summer booked. It would boost the income substantially. What do you think?’

Oh. She was talking about other people getting married. Weddings. Business. And he’d thought…

He checked his reflection in the blank computer screen to his left. Sometimes, Will, you rate yourself a little too highly.

My question for the competition is:

What is the name of the stately home that Will has just inherited in English Lord, Ordinary Lady? Check out my website for the answer. I'll be giving away a signed copy of English Lord, Ordinary Lady to the winner.

Send your answer -- plus your name and street address -- to liz @ with "Fiona Harper" in the subject line.


Snookie said...

OOOOH that looks like a must read book. Where do I send the answer to the question? to Liz or Fiona?

Snookie said...

I remember Billionaire takes a Bride Liz, I really liked it :) But then, I really like your books :)

Michelle Douglas said...

Fiona, I can't wait to read English Lord, Ordinary. It sounds like great fun.

And I loved your story of inspiration. I love that you have two pink haired women out there in the world of your books (I had a pink haired heroine once and the hero - her boss - ordered her to change it with an added proviso that blue and green hair weren't appropriate either. So she dyed it bright purple). Hair styles and colours can be such fun, and such an indicator of character, don't you think?

Is there one particular characteristic you look to when you're creating your character that brings them to life for you?

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Snookie -- thanks for not putting the answer here. I woke up in a panic realising I hadn't put in the addy for the answer. Whew!

Billionaire was fun, Snookie. Quite possibly the daftest book I wrote, but it sold # 1 in its month in the States and the UK.

Waving to Michelle. Great question. Tell all, Fiona!

Liz Fielding said...

Duh! I did put it in the post, but you send your answer to me, Snookie -- usual deal. Fiona Harper in the subject line, answer and name and address in the body of the email.

juliemt said...

I just finished this book and I absolutely adored it! A truly lovely, lovely, lovely, read!


Annie West said...

OK, Fiona, I'm hooked. Another book to add to the TBR pile!

Love the idea of pink hair. Reminds me of someone I used to work with who changed hair colour with every cut. Her best ever was red - bright red - like a British telephone booth. The down side was that she had trouble getting the next colour to take.

Thanks for sharing with us.


Eva S said...

I'd love a story like that! Poor guy, he didn't know what hit him...At this time a year I love to read lots of romantic books.

Donna Alward said...

This sounds so FUN! And I can totally see your casting. He is SO hot, and yet cute....mmmmm.

Liz Fielding said...

I love your "Will" too, Fiona. Is he someone I should recognise, or just one of those faces you occasionally find in magazines?

Snookie said...

Hey Liz, Don't know how I missed where to send it the first time around, must have been to involved in the excerpt and thinking about Josie with pink hair in her green dress:) I went to Borders last night to look for it then realized it wouldn't be there yet! Have to wait another 10 days or so :(

Maureen said...

Congratulations on your successes and the book.

Barb said...

Fiona, this story sounds wonderful. I can feel the fun you had writing it leaping off the page. Good luck with the RNA prize.

catslady said...

Thanks so much for the win and I really enjoyed today's excerpt!


Trish said...

Ooohhhh JOE FLANIGAN as Will???!!!

Fi! That's you moved up to the top of the TBR pile then... Deadline? WHAT deadline??

Cryna said...

This book loooks so good, and you can feel the fun you had with it. The poor guy is just full of himself only to be let down like that......ROFLOL. Bet there are many moments like that. Looking forward to this.