Sunday, March 27, 2011


WINNER! J L CAMPBELL won last week's competition for a copy of THE ORDINARY PRINCESS

* * *

It's a bit early to be talking about my JUNE release, TEMPTED BY TROUBLE, but I just checked in at my favourite on line store and I noticed that they have a pre-order offer of £2.99.  That's a whole £1 less than it will cost you retail and you won't have to pay postage no matter where you are in the world because it's at The Book Depository

I know from the last time I send you in the direction of a low price deal there that it won't last for long, so don't hang about.

Excuse me while a stop for a grin.  I've been grinning like an idiot since I first saw the cover. 

And if you want a sneak peek to whet your appetite, here's the opening -

‘LOVAGE Amery?’

If ever there had ever been a moment to follow grandma’s example and check her reflection in the mirror before she opened the front door, Elle decided, this was it.

On her knees and up to her Marigolds in soapy water when the door bell rang she hadn’t bothered to stop and fix hair sliding out of its elastic band. And there wasn’t much she could have done about a face pink and shiny from a day spent catching up with the housework while everyone was out, culminating in scrubbing the kitchen floor.

It was the complete Cinderella workout.

She couldn’t afford a fancy gym membership and, as she was always telling her sisters, cleaning was a lot more productive than pounding a treadmill. Not that they’d ever been sufficiently impressed by the argument to join in.

Lucky them.

Even sweaty lycra had to be a better look than an ancient shirt tied around the waist with an equally geriatric psychedelic tie. Sexier than the jeans bagging damply around her knees.

It wouldn’t normally have bothered her and, to be fair, the man standing on the doorstep hadn’t made much of an effort, either. His thick dark hair was sticking up in a just-got-out-of-bed look and his chin was darkened with what might be designer stubble but was more likely to be a disinclination to shave on Saturday, when he didn’t have to go into the office.

Always assuming that he had an office to go to. Or a job.

Like her, he was wearing ancient jeans, in his case topped with a t-shirt that should have been banished to the duster box. The difference was, that on him it looked mouth-wateringly good. So good that she barely noticed that he’d made free with a name she’d been trying to keep to herself since she’d started kindergarten.

Swiftly peeling off the yellow rubber gloves she’d kept on as a “sorry, can’t stop” defence against one of the neighbours dropping by with some excuse to have a nose around, entertain the post office queue with insider gossip on just how bad things were at Gable End, she tossed them carelessly over her shoulder.

‘Who wants to know?’ she asked.

Her hormones might be ready to throw caution to the wind – they were Amery hormones, after all – but while they might have escaped into the yard for a little exercise, she wasn’t about to let them go “walkies”.

‘Sean McElroy.’

His voice matched the looks. Low, sexy, soft as Irish mist. And her hormones flung themselves at the gate like a half-grown puppy in a let-me-at-him response as he offered his hand.

Cool, a little rough, reassuringly large, it swallowed hers up as she took it without thinking, said, ‘How d’you do?’ in a voice perilously close to the one her grandmother used when she met a good looking man. With that hint of breathiness that spelled trouble.

‘I’m doing just fine,’ he replied, his slow smile obliterating all memory of the way she looked. Her hair, the lack of makeup and damp knees. It crinkled around those mesmerisingly blue eyes and fanned out comfortably in a way that suggested they felt right at home there.

Elle had begun to believe that she’d bypassed the genetic tick that reduced all Amery women to putty in the presence of a good looking man.

Caught off guard, she discovered that she’d been fooling herself.

The only reason she’d escaped so far, it seemed, was because until this moment she hadn’t met a man with eyes of that particularly intense shade of blue.

A man with shoulders wide enough to carry the troubles of the world and tall enough not to make her feel awkward about her height, which had been giving her a hard time since she’d hit a growth spurt somewhere around her twelfth birthday. With a voice that seemed to whisper right through her bones until it reached her toes.

Even now they were curling inside her old trainers in pure ecstasy.

He epitomised the casual, devil-may-care, bad-boy look of the travelling men who, for centuries, had arrived on the village common in the first week of June with the annual fair and departed a few days later, leaving a trail of broken hearts and the occasional fatherless baby in their wake.


Saturday, March 19, 2011


There's nothing like a royal wedding to get everyone excited.  Mills and Boon have issued a commemorative mug - you'll find it on their website; link opposite - and there are a load of "royal romance" books on the shelves.

I've only written one "royal romance" book. THE ORDINARY PRINCESS, and since it's just been released as an eBook, I thought it would be a great giveaway this month. 

Laura Varndell, my heroine, is a bit of a republican.  She's also in trouble with her career.  She has ambitions to be a great crusading reporter like her aunt, but she keeps getting sidetracked by her emotions and missing the big story.   Her boss has given her one last chance.  Bring home a headline or rewrite her career plan.

Her aunt suggests she interview Prince Alexander Orsino.  The most elusive royal in the world.   He looks down his long nose at her from a photograph taken at a charity gala and she is hooked. 

Breaking his niece's ankle is not a good start.

‘I left her just here,’ Laura insisted, pointing to the spot where they’d both crashed to the cobbles.

‘With a broken ankle?’ Prince Alexander did not sound convinced. He glanced up at the nearby drainpipe. ‘How far did she fall?’ he asked, without waiting for explanations. He evidently knew his niece very well indeed.

‘She didn’t fall,’ she began, then stopped.

She had no wish to dwell on what – or who -- had caused the injury. Besides there were more important things to worry about. Like, what had happened to the princess? Two minutes ago she’d been lying where they were standing. Injured, unable even to attempt to hobble to the front door. Now she’d vanished into thin air.

‘I left her just here,’ she said. ‘I put my jacket under her head and…’

‘It’s not here now,’ he said, cutting short her explanation.

‘I was just going to say that!’ Then, ‘Oh!’ She turned and stared up at the Prince in total horror as the reality of what must have happened sank in. ‘She’s been kidnapped hasn’t she? And it’s all my fault!’

‘I doubt that.’ Prince Alexander appeared totally unmoved by her dramatic declaration. Or the fate of his niece. Clearly he didn’t understand what she was telling him.

‘Yes, really!‘ she insisted. It was no good. She’d have to own up. ‘Look, I saw her climbing down the drainpipe and I thought she was a burglar, so I tackled her to the ground.’ His dark brows rose imperceptibly. Actually, putting it baldly like that, it did seem pretty unlikely she realised, but after the briefest pause, she pressed on with her confession. ‘That’s when she broke her ankle. As I said, my fault. I didn’t want to leave her –'

‘But she insisted?’ Then, without giving her an opportunity to reply, ‘I wasn’t actually referring to your culpability.  Merely to your reasoning.’


‘Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Princess Katerina told me that she wasn’t supposed to be out. I get the picture, okay? You’re mad at her and she’s in trouble. But that scarcely matters under the circumstances. She’s disappeared and you have to do something. Now!’

‘I’m sorry, Miss …’ He paused offering her an opportunity to introduce herself.

‘Varndell,’ she completed quickly. She was beginning to suspect that this was a man who wouldn’t do anything until the social niceties had been satisfied. No matter what the emergency. ‘Laura Varndell. But I really don’t think-’

‘Alexander Orsino,’ he replied, offering his hand. ‘How d’you do?’

That was it. Enough.

‘This isn’t a cocktail party!’ she declared, furiously, ignoring his hand. ‘And I know who you are. All I want to know is what you’re going to do about finding your niece!’

‘Nothing while I’m standing in this alleyway,’ he informed her, his voice cool enough to freeze a whole pitcher of cocktails. ‘If you’ll come back into the house –'

Ice? Had she thought the man was made of something as warm as ice?

‘I don’t want to go back into the house!’

What was she saying!

Hadn’t she been standing on the pavement trying to come up with some plan to get herself invited inside? Her whole career depended upon it. Possibly. But right now Princess Katerina’s disappearance took precedence.

‘I want you to call the police - or Special Branch - or the Diplomatic Protection Squad. Right now!’ she demanded, when he didn’t leap to her command.

‘And how do you suggest I do that?’ he enquired, apparently unperturbed by the crisis.

That “serene” bit of his title wasn’t just for show, apparently. But this wasn’t a time for serenity. It was a time for panic.

‘Shout?’ he offered, when she didn’t help him out.

The air left her lungs with a little whoosh, deflating, along with the rest of her. ‘No … sorry - of course not,’ she muttered. Then she laughed – well it was more of a giggle really, but even so, quite unforgivable under the circumstances.

‘I don’t appear to be thinking very clearly.’ Which had to be the understatement of the year. ‘I’m not used to this kind of thing.’

‘You’ve had a shock, Miss Varndell, one for which my niece will, in due course, apologise. In the meantime I really do think you should come inside. Take a moment to recover.’

It was hysterics, of course. The desperate urge to giggle. In some small rational part of her brain she recognised that. This man’s niece had been kidnapped and all he was concerned about was that a total stranger might have suffered a little shock.

Noblesse oblige was safe in the hands of His Serene Highness Prince Alexander Michael George Orsino.

And why would she be complaining, exactly?

She’d got her wish. The Prince was inviting her into his home and handing her a scoop on a plate. The inside story on a royal kidnapping was just what she needed to get back into Trevor McCarthy’s good books. The very least she could do was to say “thank you” very nicely and let His High Serenity take her inside so that she could do her research in comfort.

While she was recovering.


So that she could watch the story unfold around her.

‘Thank you,’ she said, as nicely - if somewhat breathlessly - as she knew how. ‘I do seem to be feeling a little bit shaky.’

One moment it was an act, the next it was nothing but the truth as the Prince took her elbow in his palm and directed her firmly towards his front door. His manner suggested that, thoughtful though his invitation had appeared, he’d had no intention of letting her go anywhere until he’d grilled her about her involvement in his niece’s disappearance.

She swallowed.

It would make great copy, she reminded herself.

Once she’d got bail.

For a chance to win a paper copy of THE ORDINARY PRINCESS, tell me what you thoughts are on the royal wedding.  What you hope for Will and Kate.  What you'll be doing to celebrate on the day.  Or not.  A memory of some other royal wedding.  I'll draw a prize-winner from all the comments on Sunday March 27th (which was my parents wedding day).

Meantime, if you want one for your Kindle, you'll find it here on Amazon

Monday, March 14, 2011


It’s nearly here. There are afternoons, in the sheltered part of the back garden when it feels warm enough to stretch with pleasure and imagine pulling out the lawn mower. There are tiny leaves on some of the hardiest of the bushes. And late, very late, my hellebores – the Christmas roses – are blooming.

They were one of the first things I planted in this garden when it was being reclaimed from a field. They fling their seeds far and wide and I now have their offspring planted beneath the silver birches in the little woodland garden behind the Snap & Scribble, along with the violets, primroses, ferns and Lords and Ladies.

My secateurs have migrated from their drawer to my pocket. A walk alongside the long raised bed at the side of the drive – usually on my way to the post box - results in a little pile of dead stuff as I tidy up.

Plants have been ordered. This year I’m going for those big blousy begonias in a big way. Last year I had two big troughs of them and while everything else gave up, they took whatever the horrible weather threw at them. (And we had some horrible weather). They shook it all off, were self-cleaning and bloomed through the first frosts, looking good until the snow finally did for them in December.

Of course, if I was any kind of a gardener, I’d have lifted the corms and put them somewhere dry and frost free to bring on again this year. Never mind. The garden centre will be pleased to see me.

And in the evening the knitting needles are getting busy again with a new woolly-pully for my grand-daughter (she of the seven teeth!). The Kindle is getting a good workout, too. I’m reading Susanna Kearsley’s, Mariana at the moment. I’ve also put in an advance order for To Marry a Prince by Sophie Page – better known to Harlequin Romance readers as Sophie Weston. Just the thing to get me in the mood for a royal wedding.

I will be giving some library workshops on writing a royal romance as part of Mills and Boon’s celebrations of the event.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Whew.  Or words to that effect.

The book, after four months of constant thought - well apart from December, I cannot write in December - has left the building.

It felt much, much longer, but that's winter for you.  I'm now getting up to light, there are snowdrops in the hedgerows, crocus and primroses in my garden and suddenly I want to be out there doing stuff.  (A couple of big weeds bought it yesterday afternoon after I'd hit the send button!)

The book is set in Rome.  I had planned a research trip last spring.  To check a few details, walk the streets, remind myself how the place feels and sounds.  The day before we were due to fly everything was grounded because of the ash cloud.  And then I had another deadline and so I've had to rely on memory.  And the pictures from my last trip.  But writing the book has made me more desperate than ever to go back.

It's the story of two generations, two love stories separated by 60 years.  (Me not following the script again.)  I foresee a certain amount of "cutting" in my future but I can only write the book that I can write.  If that makes sense.  I might rewrite it, it might end up very different (that has happened before!), but I'm glad I wrote this one.  Eventually.

Of course the first thing that happens when I hit "send" and the ms is despatched to my lovely editor, is that I immediately start thinking about all the things I should have included.

What the heroine would have been thinking when the black moment hit.  Something she would have taken with her. But that's okay.  I have not the slightest doubt that said editor will have a few thoughts of her own so I'll open a new file, make some notes and then, when the revisions come back, I can include my own.

Anyway, I thought you'd like to see who I've been playing with for the last four months.  So here are Matteo di Serrone and Sarah Gratton.

Sarah's tiny apartment is on the top floor of the yellow house on the left.  And that's her minute terrace, just big enough for two.  And the pot of lemon thyme.
Now I'm going to treat myself to a reading binge.  The best beloved bought me a Kindle for a surprise present last week and I've loaded a Jane Lovering, a Susanna Kearsley and a Michael Dibden.  I've also got a new Kate Hardy to read and I've finally got around to reading Eat, Pray Love (it's paper so it's the bathtime book).

I also need to do something about a book I have to deliver in August.  An idea would be good.

In the meantime I'm supposed to mention that BECOMING THE TYCOON'S BRIDE is now on sale in the US.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


"Bestselling romance titles include a number from British publishers such as Mills & Boon whose 'The Temp and the Tycoon' is one of the most downloaded Romance novels to date."  Daily Telegraph, 5 March 2011

Writing in the DAILY TELEGRAPH on Saturday, Richard Alleyne reported a boom for Mills and Boon in the eReader market. Clearly, Mr Alleyne isn't a romance reader since he suggests that this is because women are less embarrassed to read romance in public when they can do it undetected.

Actually, it's because romance readers (and publishers) have been ahead of this game from day one.  These are women who read A Lot. Who are not embarrassed by the covers.  Who don't feel the need to apologise for their taste.

The rush to buy eReaders was not from geeky lads and ladettes wanting the latest kit. It was led by women - many of them well past the ladette stage of life - who like the fact that they can buy books without having to leave the house.  Their computer.  They talk to one another on line, on twitter, on facebook and buy the books their friends recommend.  Instantly.

The alternative for me these days is a thirty mile round trip to my nearest proper bookshop and bookshops are not a romance friendly zone.

My nearest bookshop does not stock my books.  In fact I was once told by a "friendly independent bookseller" to whom I had just been introduced as an romance writer that she only sold "real books".  She was actually smiling as she said it.  As if I should somehow think she was clever, when in fact she was being about as rude as it was possible to be.  I was a very newly published author, too stunned to say anything, but I did better than that.  I took my friendly bookbuying ass online where, as well as romance, I buy an awful lot of "real books".  Her loss.

Mr Alleyne also mentioned that The Temp & the Tycoon, a book published in the Mills & Boon Centenary Collection, is one of the most downloaded books in the romance genre at Amazon UK

You can read the first chapter HERE

THE TEMP & THE TYCOON was published in the US in a two-in-one called STRICTLY BUSINESS.