Saturday, February 25, 2012


It's Sunday and, since we're getting close to the end of this year's Here Come the Grooms competition, I thought I'd choose my Six Sentence Sunday snippet from myown  hero's book, FLIRTING WITH ITALIAN.

Matteo di Serrone is many things. A botanist, wine maker, adviser to the United Nations, conte. His complex personality has been influenced by a childhood marred by the death of his father and the betrayal of two women who were important to him. He has two passions; the quality of his wine and the protection of his dysfunctional family. Sarah Gratton's arrival appears to threaten the latter and there meeting is fraught with tension that culminates in a kiss...

The world seemed to have slowed down and it took forever for his lips to reach hers.  Somewhere, deep inside her brain she knew the word “…no…” was teetering on the brink, ready to fall to her lips.  All she had to do was move them, say it, but her butter-soft mouth seemed to belong to someone else. 
When it parted, it was not to protest and as his mouth found hers a tingle of something like recognition raced like wildfire through her blood, blotting out reason.  Her  and her body, with nothing to guide it, softened, melted against him, murmured, “Yes…”

It wasn’t enough and she clutched at his shoulders, fingers digging into hard flesh as she began to fall back, leaving gravity to take them down into the soft thick grass on the shady side of the wall.

If you'd like the chance to win a copy, along with books by Kate Walker and Anne McAllister, click HERE - we'll be drawing the winners on the Sadie Hawkins Day - 29th February!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Copyright Theft

I wonder how many people have downloaded this short story?

At least three of them have given it glowing reviews on Smashwords. Which should be gratifying.

I don't know who Kay Manning is, but she didn't write this story - I did. THE CINDERELLA VALENTINE was published as a free read to launch the Brides of Bella Lucia continuity series in 2006.

All Kay Manning has done is change the names of the characters, change the location and minor details. Why, I cannot imagine, since she's giving it a way free. To have her name on a successful story, perhaps? To build a reputation she can use to sell her own work?

If you'd like to read the original, you can read it for free on the Mills and Boon website HERE

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I was drawn to Eva Ibbotson's books when I read Jenny Haddon's obituary of the author in 2010.

Her response to my query about which book she would recommend as a first dip was pure envy that I had them all to read.

I began with Madensky Square, and fell in love. Eva Ibbotson's writing is magical. They have that fairy tale quality of innocent and good young women who fall in love with powerful men. Her books are populated with wonderful characters - not all of them good!

The temptation was to glom her entire list, but I restrained myself, keeping them for those moments when you need a special book. I have read The Morning Gift, the Magic Flutes (which won Romantic Novel of Year) and I had A Company of Swans on my Kindle - a little gift to myself, waiting until I needed the perfect book.

This week I decided to read a Susanna Kearsley I had downloaded. I clicked the title, lay back in the bath and began. I was immediately swept up in the story but thought, this is very odd. This doesn't read like any Susanna Kearsley, I've read. If I didn't know better, I'd have said it was an Eva Ibbotson. And of course, when I checked, I'd clicked on the title above and had begun A Company of Swans by accident.

This is a magical story of a girl who finds the courage to defy her appalling father and aunt (very fairy story!) and run away with a company of dancers to perforSwan Lake m in the heart of the Brazilian jungle. I'm about two-thirds of the way through (you didn't think I could stop when I discovered my mistake, did you?) and it is utter bliss.

The hardest thing is to take is slowly, because I want it to last. I don't want it to end. How many books can you say that about?

Monday, February 20, 2012


Since it's the weekend and, hopefully, you'll have a little time to enjoy your favourite book blogs, I'm introducing the three books featured in this year's HERE COME THE GROOMS contest.

First, Kate Walker's -


Kate's groom is Carlos Diablo Ortega -  who, as he tells Martha - made his  fortune in 'horses and wine' - is a championship polo player and owns a hugely successful vineyard. He's also just discovered that he's not actually the son of the man he thought was his father - or the grandson of Javier Ortega.  And that has turned his life upside down.

Martha's rather different -  but her life has just been turned upside down too.

Martha Jones has never taken a risk in her whole life. Until the day she runs out on her wedding and succumbs to the magnetism of a man she has only just met! A man she knows only as Diablo.

Lone wolf Carlos Ortega won't promise Miss Jones more than one searing-hot night. Yet Carlos is shocked by Martha's sweet innocence. This runaway bride is a virgin, and it seems the repercussions of their sizzling encounter could last forever . . .

Finally there is Anne McAllister's brand new novel - out at the same time as  The Devil and MIss Jones - that's March (UK) and April (USA  - Presents Extra)

Anne's Groom is Yiannis, the youngest of the Savas brothers and his heroine, Catriona MacLean. Yiannis and Cat have a bit of a history – or a lot of history, depending on which of them you ask.

According to the back cover:
YiannisYiannis Savas, the irresistible playboy of the Savas dynasty, was every girl’s dream. But he quickly turned into Cat’s nightmare when his idea of a relationship was no more than a fiery affair.
Now Cat MacLean has grown up and out of her girlish fantasies. Determined not to fall prey to smooth talk and fast charm again, she’d engaged to someone sensible.
Then she’s forced to spend a week with the one man she’s never been able to forget . . .

 Finally my own -

Flirting With Italian US cover
My Groom is Conte Matteo di Serrone, the owner of a great vineyard, a plant breeder who is working with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Office.

The lady in Matteo’s life is Sarah Gratton, a history teacher, who is picking up her life after her fiance falls for someone new and she finds herself working in an international school in Rome.

The blurb for Liz’s book says:
MatteoBag: packed. Flight: booked. Soon I’ll be in Rome and experiencing life in a foreign language! Watch this space…
Newly single Sarah Gratton is about to jump start her life and a just-for-fun romance with dark-eyed Matteo di Serrone could be just what the doctor ordered! 
This Italian count is ideal flirting material—if Sarah’s brave enough to make a move!
Well, she might not be—but luckily Matteo is! Matteo decides to keep this mysterious woman close—no hardship at all, given their spine-tingling awareness of each other and for a while it’s like something out of a fairy tale—until Sarah realizes she’s made the most rookie mistake of all: falling in love with her holiday fling….

Now for the competition - each of the Grooms has asked one question; your task, should you wish to win a copy of each of these books, is to answer all three of them.
Here is Carlos' question - What is Martha wearing – and holding when he first sees her?

Yiannis's question is quite simple -  he wants to know - Who’s Harry?

Matteo’s question is -  I asked Sarah if she’d found someone. Who was it?
Yiannis, Carlos and Matteo would like you to check out their books. You can access them by clicking on the books tab at the top of each of our web pages and then find the individual book pages.

If you’d like to enter this year’s Here Come the Grooms! contest, read the blurbs/ the extracts and/or our blogs and find the answers to the questions the grooms have asked  and send them to each of us . You send all 3 answers to each of us to complete your entry - that way you have three chances of be on of the three winners  of  three great books. (Let's hope your lucky number is  3!)

Send all three of us an email with Here Come The Grooms in the subject line so that it will go into the right folder.

The contest is now open and it closes on Sadie Hawkins Day - or Leap Year Day - February 29th.

Good Luck!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

It's been a few weeks since I've played Six Sentence Sunday so this week I thought I'd share a few lines from my eBook, WILD FIRE. This is the third of the Beaumont Brides trilogy - you can download the first book, WILD JUSTICE, for free.

It's Melanie Brett Beaumont's story and, having been caught up in the dramas of her new family for the last few months, she is desperate to reclaim her sense of identity. More, to re-invent herself. She is being blocked at every turn: -

Swept along on a tide of blistering rage, her angry momentum carried her through the heavy glass door of the travel agent's office with such speed that the man approaching it from the other side was forced to step back sharply to escape the abrupt and painful rearrangement of his profile. And still she was oblivious to her surroundings until, on a reflex honed by an acute sense of self-preservation, the man grabbed her shoulders to prevent her from cannoning into him.

'Hey, there! Slow down.' The abrupt jolt almost stunned her, so deep had she been in her fury, so intent in her purpose. Melanie had never been so angry, had no idea that it was possible to feel that way and she raised her hand to her forehead, dazed by the suddenness with which she had been wrenched out of her temper.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hi, I’m Matteo di Serrone and apparently I’m one of the Grooms in a competition that Liz and her friends, Kate and Anne run each year.

Liz asked me to drop by and introduce myself. Roman - we've had a palazzo in the city for more than seven generations - Italian, a botanist, wine maker, the head of the Serrone family, with all that entails.

That's it - I hate talking about myself and anyway the Italian gossip magazines have been having a field day with the revelations about our family in the last few weeks. It’s all there so maybe I should tell you about my home instead.
I live - when I can get away from the Rome, from my work - in the small town of Isola del Serrone, in the Lazio region of Italy.

My family have been there for centuries, we one with the soil. The Volci were here before the upstart Romans got going and we still speak a dialect that predates Latin.

Italian is a very modern language – created to unite a country that was a series of city states, each with their own language. Dante’s writing was used as a template, which is why Italian is so beautiful but at home we still speak the old language.

I first met Sarah on a path high above Isola del Serrone, in a place that overlooks my home and my family vineyard. She was trespassing. My idiot younger brother warned me that she was there – after he’d held open the gate for her.

I really couldn’t blame him.

I’d only been with her a few moments and I was kissing her. Her reaction, the tears, left me as shaken as she clearly was. What could I do but offer her lunch? How better to get to know her? To find out why she was so interested in my house. What she was doing so far off the tourist trail.

Good food, my best wine, will lower the guard, reveal secrets.

‘So,’ he said, as they dug into the creamy pasta, ‘you didn’t tell me how long you have been in Rome?’
‘A month, give or take a few days.’
‘And you are enjoying it?’
‘Great job. Great apartment. What’s not to like?’
‘You have a job?’ he asked, clearly astonished.
‘Of course.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean so sound so surprised, but since you don’t speak Italian…’
‘I’m teaching at an English language school in Rome. Maternity cover.’
It was clearly not what he’d been expecting if the barely perceptible pause, an instinctive lift to his brows was anything to go by. But he was swift to recover.
‘History,’ he said. ‘I recall that you have a degree in history.’
‘It feels a bit like taking coal to Newcastle to be honest,’ she said. Then, because he clearly hadn’t a clue what she was talking about, ‘They used to mine vast quantities of the stuff in Newcastle. It’s a saying.’
‘Of course. I understand. But your degree is in Modern History.’
‘I’ve become pretty familiar with the Tudors, since they’re part of the curriculum. But not a Roman in sight,’ she admitted.
‘Are you enjoying it?’
‘Yes, I am.’ Which was true. The job. Rome.
‘But you must miss your family. Friends.’
‘They are a telephone call away. We exchange emails, photographs.’ As if to make the point, she picked up her phone and dropped it in her bag. ‘Chat on Skype.’
‘It’s not the same,’ he pointed out. ‘A computer can’t give you a hug.’
She laughed. ‘No, that’s true.’ And you had to like a man who understood the need for a hug now and then. ‘But I always wanted to travel.’ She lifted her shoulders. ‘I talked about doing a gap year, before university, but in the end I decided to be sensible, get the degree and the PGCE over and done with first, then travel.’ Sensible Sarah. ‘I had all the brochures, was deciding where I’d go, what I’d do, when the dream job came up. Too good to miss and when I met Tom on my first day it seemed like fate…’
‘Everything set fair until he ran into the boulder.’
And she smiled again, not because she didn’t still have the bruises, but what was the point in poking at them to see how much they hurt? It was over. It had been over from the moment Louise had walked into the staff room. Forget the teeth and claws. Why would she fight for a man who had never looked at her the way he’d looked at Louise? As if he’d been felled.
Being mean was pointless. Louise had the kind of voluptuous figure that any man would swoon over. But Matteo had made her laugh about it. Who would have guessed that was ever going to happen?
‘This seemed like a good moment to go back to the beginning,’ she said. ‘I signed up with an agency which recruits teachers for overseas jobs, got a reference so good from my Headmaster that I suspect he couldn’t wait to be rid of me.’ She pulled a face. ‘It’s tricky when you all work together.’
‘A decent man would have left.’
‘He did, but he’s head of sports. The kids love him. And I’m the one who always wanted to travel.’
‘You left so that he could return to his job?’ He grinned. ‘I take it all back. You are not nice, Sarah Gratton.’
‘Excuse me?’
How much “nicer” could a woman get?
‘Every day this man goes to work he will know he has you to thank for his job. And so will Louise. She won’t be able to stand it. Sooner or later she’ll insist he changes his job and he’ll blame her. It’s positively Machiavellian.’
The chicken, golden-skinned and scented with rosemary, arrived at that moment, giving her a moment to gather herself.
It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be.
Could it?
Did that warm glow come from knowing she’d done the right thing?  Or was that no more than self-righteous cant?
How many times had she imagined him walking down the corridors, seeing her everywhere the way she’d seen him? Missing her? Realising what a mistake he’d made?
Matteo dressed a green salad. Topped up her glass.
‘No need to look so distraught, Sarah. You didn’t twist his arm. The choice was his.’
‘He loved his job.’
‘So did you.’
‘Yes, I did. But right now I’m picking up my life plan, taking the first step on my journey around the world.’
‘You are happy?’
Right now? At this minute? With the sun slanting through the heavily laden vines overhead. The soft murmur of insects, the scent of warm earth and Matteo di Serrone teasing her, making her laugh.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I’m happy.’
He glanced across the table, holding her fixed in the power of his dark eyes as he said, ‘Then let me say that I’m very glad you started your journey in Rome, Sarah.’
And she found herself saying, ‘So am I.’
The chicken was amazing, a melting of dollop of dolcelatte could not be denied, but she finally begged for mercy when he offered her a peach.
‘Enough.  No more.’
‘You must have something. A pear? A plum?’ Then, in apparent desperation, ‘A grape?’
She laughed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed as much.
‘No,’ she declared. ‘Not even a grape.’ But refusing to take no for an answer, Matteo reached up and plucked a huge dark grape from a bunch growing above his head. Held it close enough to her lips for her to smell the sweetness.
‘Resistance is futile,’ he said and she felt herself sliding into temptation.
Everything today had been about the senses.
Vivid colour, the scent of herbs and the sun-baked earth. The touch of a man’s lips for the first time in months.
Languorous in the still heat of the early afternoon, lulled by the faint hum of drowsy insects, mesmerised by Matteo’s dark eyes gleaming softly in the shade, urging her to this one last pleasure, she leaned forward the inch required to take the grape, closing her lips around it.  Around the tips of his fingers.
The grape exploded on her tongue, the juice dribbling over her lips, over his fingers.  And it seemed the most natural thing in the world to lick it up…

All the details of the competition are in the previous post - you have three questions to answer, and for three chances to win send all your answers to Anne, Kate and Liz.

Meanwhile, I have a fountain to fill with wine and a statue to organise before the wedding.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I hope you’ll be spending the day with your loved one, quietly, madly, doing whatever floats your boat.

It doesn’t have to be about expensive, out of season roses, or chocolate or champagne. “I love you” written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, or in the steamed up windows of the bus, or a heart drawn in the snow says it all.

It’s about taking the time to remember all the good things you share and saving a moment to say the words.

Meanwhile, since it's Valentine's Day it's time to welcome the Grooms!

First up, Yiannis Savas from Anne McAllister's Savas's Wildcat!
Yiannis Savas, the irresistible playboy of the Savas dynasty, was every girl's dream.  But he quickly turned into Cat's nightmare when his idea of a relationship was no more than a fiery affair.

Now Cat MacLean has grown up and out of her girlish fantasies.  Determined not to fall prey to smooth talk and fast charm again, she's engaged to someone sensible.

Then she's forced to spend a week with the one man she's never been able to forget...

Yiannis' question is "Who's Harry?"

Next it's Carlos Diablo Ortega from Kate Walker's The Devil and Miss Jones
Martha Jones has never taken a risk in her whole life. Until the day she runs out on her wedding and succumbs to the magnetism of a man she has only just met! A man she knows only as Diablo.
Lone wolf Carlos Ortega won't promise Miss Jones more than one searing-hot night. Yet Carlos is shocked by Martha's sweet innocence. This runaway bride is a virgin, and it seems the repercussions of their sizzling encounter could last forever . . .
Carlos' question is What is Martha wearing – and holding when he first sees her?

Finally it's Matteo di Serrone from my own, Flirting With Italian
Sarah Gratton is a history teacher, picking up her life after her fiance falls for someone new. She has taken a job in an international school in Rome and has her heart set on finding out what happened to the woman who saved her great-grandfather's life in 1944. Instead she finds Matteo.

Matteo's question is, I asked Sarah if she'd found someone. Who was it?
Here's the competition - email Anne, Kate and myself (all three of us!) - subject line Here Come the Grooms - with the answers to all three of the questions posed by our grooms. You'll find the answers in the excerpts on our web pages. Three lucky winners will each win a copy of all three books.

We'll be drawing the prize winners on Sadie Hawkins Days, which, if you've been paying attention you'll know is 29 February.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It’s Leap Year, in case you hadn’t noticed and that means that Sadie Hawkins day is coming around. Have you heard of it?

It’s the day that the women get to take things into their own hands and grab the man of their choice – if they can catch him.

It began – well, it probably all began in the dark reaches of history – but for our intents and purposes, it began on November 15, 1937 when American cartoonist Al Capp began to write a story arc in his comic strip, Lil Abner, about Sadie Hawkins, the daughter of Hekzabiah Hawkins, Dogpatch resident. 
Feb 29Sadie, reputedly “the homeliest gal in all them hills,” was growing increasingly panicky about her chances of matrimony as the years went on. And finally, when Sadie reached 35 with nary a suitor in sight, her father (also frantic at the thought of being stuck with her for the rest of his – or her – days) took matters into his own hands.
He declared it Sadie Hawkins Day, and decreed that there would be a foot race: the holler’s bachelors would run and Sadie would take off after them.  And whoever she caught would find himself at the altar with Sadie as his bride.
He took out his gun and said, “"When ah fires, all o' yo' kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin—after givin' yo' a fair start—Sadie starts a runnin'. Th' one she ketches'll be her husband."
sadie-hawkinsWell, it worked a treat.
And you’d better believe that all the other unattached women in the vicinity took note.  They thought it was a fine idea and declared that there would be a “Sadie Hawkins Day” every year.
Because he got so much fan mail in favor of the idea, Capp did a variation on his Sadie Hawkins Day story every November for the next 40 or so years. 
Sadie Hawkins Day got translated into once every four years when it became associated with old folk customs which claimed that on leap years women were allowed to take the initiative and propose.  Combining the two seemed perfectly reasonable.
And celebrating it seems like something romance readers and writers ought to do.

groomformal_thumb2In honor of Sadie – and to celebrate our 5th annual Here Come The Grooms! Contest, Kate Walker, Anne McAllister  and I -- and our respective heroes (who are currently on the run with some determined heroines after them) --  are opening this year’s contest on Valentine’s Day this year and ending it on February 29th – Sadie’s day.
So please drop by each of our websites during those two weeks and answer all three of our heroes’ questions, then send all three of us those answers and three lucky winners will each get a copy of all three featured books.
Come and join in the fun!

Friday, February 10, 2012


I’ve been sitting on some big news for weeks but today I can announce that Flirting With Italian has been short-listed by the Romantic Novelists’ Association for the RoNA “Rose”, their annual award for short romantic fiction.

Some of my favourite writing colleagues have also been nominated, so whichever name is in the envelope on the big day – 5th March – it will be a celebration. On the day I’ll be travelling to London to lunch with Romance HQ, then onto the awards reception, and finally having dinner with more writing friends. Definitely what used to be known as a Red Letter Day!

Here are the rest of the finalists –

Kate Hardy - A Christmas Knight
Jessica Hart - Ordinary Girl in a Tiara
Jan Jones - The Kydd Inheritance
Sarah Mallory - The Dangerous Lord Darrington
Mary Nichols - Winning the War Hero’s Heart


Thursday, February 09, 2012


Have you heard of Sadie Hawkins?

Check out Anne McAllister's post at Tote Bags and Blogs today! And then come back next week  to join in the fun!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

So What Do You Think of This Cover?

I spotted a surprise new release of Chosen As the Sheikh's Wife at Amazon this week.

Authors are never informed of special or re-releases. We either pick them up on the internet or a couple of copies arrive (eventually) in the post.

This is a novella, originally released in an anthology called 100 Arabian Nights for Mills and Boon's centenary.

It's part of a new series called Mills and Boon "Shorts" and while the cover doesn't scream "sheikh" it does have my name in large letters which is always a treat.

My other novella, The Temp & the Tycoon, was the most downloaded romance on Amazon a while back (it said so in the Daily Telegraph of all places) and it's still selling well. Here's hoping that Violet and Fayad's story hits all the same buttons.

Here's a picture of Fayad, if that helps!

And here's what the story is all about.

After a mysterious object that Violet Hamilton found under a floorboard is valued by a TV expert, Sheikh Fayad al Kuwani comes to find her.  He knows that her discovery of the legendary dagger known as the “Blood of Tariq”, together with the revelation of her ancestry, puts her in great danger.  The only way he can keep her safe is to put her on his private jet, take her to his desert kingdom and … marry her.

And here's a link -

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


A Writer's Life has been voted #2 Writing Blog on eCollegeFinder! Wow... Thank yoiu all so much for the votes - your fingers must be red hot!

Thanks again for your effotts. I'm feeling all loved up!

Congratulations to Miss Snark's First Victim who too khe top spot and to Unwritten who came third.