This is how it began. My sister Anna, a brilliant and witty writer, suggested that we should try to write a romance novel according to the guidelines published by Mills & Boon. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently. She created a finely judged opening paragraph and sent it to me. And, intoxicated by the stylistic possibilities that are simply not offered by my usual literary output of press releases on Bedfordshire’s latest social housing project, I have taken up the gauntlet. The idea is that we will take it in turns to develop the story, in full view of you, dear reader.

We are taking this project seriously, but I am already acutely aware that writing about simmering desire with one’s own sister might be possible only with tongue tentatively in cheek. We have agreed not to discuss our plot ideas, so the novel will unfold as unpredictably to us as to our readers. This could lead to trouble later on, but for now it seems a very liberating way to start.

Who knows where this project will take us? To the dizzying heights of publication by the world’s leading romance brand? Probably not. But wherever we end up, it should be fun getting there…

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Part 5 – Keeping it real

My brother-in-law is convinced that Terence is modelled on him, because he, too, possesses a pair of longjohns and he brings Anna a cup of tea in bed each morning (see below).

The idea that any element of Desire Be My Destiny could possibly be based on reality seems extraordinary to me, but perhaps that says more about my love life than anything else. And about my attitude to writing romantic fiction. Maybe I should be approaching this as a work of gritty realism.

Part 5 (by Anna)

Terence awoke her as he always did, with a moist salute on her left ear lobe.

‘Rise and shine!’ he declared – as he always did. He placed a cup of weak tea near her head. ‘I’ve run your bath for you. We’ll need to be off in an hour if we don't want to be in a panic about time.’

‘Just gimme a minute.’ Topaz tried to smile sweetly as she dismissed him, but it was an effort to stretch her lips into a semblance of goodwill. As the door closed behind him, she slumped back onto the pillows and tried to assemble her thoughts.

Had she dreamt it – that electric touch, that massive yet suave silhoutte amid the frills of foam, the crush of a stranger’s lips on her own barely resisting mouth, the strange cold fire that had flickered through her as his warmth had pressed aganst the silk of her sun dress? Part of her wanted to believe it a fantasy.

This could not, after all, be happening to her, Topaz, daughter of a millionaire horse breeder in Berkshire, whose life, thus far, had coursed smoothly in accordance with the carefully inked predictions in her gold-rimmed engagement diary. But another, larger, disturbingly throbbing part of her wanted it desperately to be real. In less than a week – God, was it that soon? – she would be Mrs Dunkley, wife of...

The bedroom door bounced open and Terence’s painstakingly groomed head loomed round it. ‘Better get moving, treasure,’ he pronounced.

Topaz thought quickly. Her pulsing flesh told her that she had reached a crossroads. The rest of her life depended on which road she now chose. ‘Actually, darling, I’ve a bit of a headache,’ she said. ‘One too many cocktails last night.’

She watched his face pucker in concern. ‘You go, dearest. I trust you to make the right decisions.’ But, the thought stirred in her, could she trust herself to do the same?

As soon as she had persuaded him to go without her, his mouth adroop with disappointment, she showered swiftly, selected the white Prada sheath dress that her father had bought her for her twenty-first birthday and hurried down to the shore. She caught her own reflection in the glass doors of the hotel – slender but with the firm ripeness of youth, her fragile throat somehow elongated by her swept-up hair.

Determinedly she crossed the still-cool sands. She stood there where but a night ago her world had shifted to suddenly. She stared at the sea and the sea stared flatly back. 


  1. I think she is onto a good thing with Terence - tea in bed in the morning roll on!! Although I think that Topaz would probably have an I Phone wouldn't she .. I'm wedded to my Filofax but apparently that's out of date now. Topaz is quite blingy ... her engagements are going to be electronic ....

  2. I like the way the sea stares back. also I want the prada dress please!

  3. Yes, meant to write iphone4 but my finger slipped!

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