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…

Monday, 24 October 2011

Part 7 – Getting my goat

I am not sure what the significance of the goat is in this latest contribution from Anna, but who am I to question how artistic inspiration manifests itself? Perhaps it’s a touch of the gritty realism I pondered a couple of posts ago. In which case, should I be visualizing Topaz as an Anna Magnani type rather than as a more conventional romantic heroine? Come to think of it, I’m having trouble visualizing her at all…

Posts might be a bit erratic this week, what with half term and all. There’s nothing like a dose of concentrated childcare to focus the mind on escapist fantasies. This could be good news for Topaz and Cleft. On the other hand, there is also nothing like a dose of concentrated childcare to kill off any imaginings of an amorous nature. So whether half term is an aid or an impediment to romantic inspiration remains to be seen. Watch this space.

Part 7 (by Anna)

As Terence clambered awkwardly into the passenger seat and began the lurching ascent up the mountainside, Topaz was gazing at the wavelets lapping her sun-bronzed toes, willing them to give her a sign. Then suddenly, as though the sea had spoken, the answer came to her. A moment of moonlit madness could not imperil the future she had decided on.

‘I am your destiny,’ the stranger had said, and some slippery inward part of her inflamed at the memory. But her destiny was Terence – kindly, predictable Terence with his collections of floorplans and acne creams.

Swiftly she ran back up the beach. The hotel receptionist looked up startled as she flung into the lobby, her Gucci sandals clotted with damp sand.

‘Taxi, quick!’ she commanded breathlessly. She looked at the delicately bejewelled dial of her watch which Terence had bought for her upon their engagement. He’d been gone twenty minutes. She should have time.

When the battered cab rattled up to the front door she slid onto its sweaty leather seat and spoke urgently to the small bald man at the wheel. ‘Paradise Heights. Quickly please. Thirty euros if you can get this jalopey to the top of the track!’

The taxi lurched off and Topaz gazed at the fecund lushness of the summer landscape as it wobbled past the dusty windows. The ground began to fall away as the track mounted the lower slope of the mountain. Her mountain. Hers and Terence’s.

Then a screech of brakes. Topaz craned round the head rest. A goat straddled the roadway. It looked insouciantly at the intruder and turned away as the driver honked his horn. ‘I no can go far now,’ said the man helplessly.

Perhaps it was guilt that bestirred Topaz into action. In one fluid movement she emerged from the back seat and placed a manicured foot beneath the goat’s greasy rump. She thrust hard and the creature scrambled up, glanced reproachfully and shambled off into the undergrowth.

Topaz climbed back into the taxi and as it moved onwards a warm, raw animal smell arose from her sandalled flesh. At that moment the car reached the climax of the mountain and she saw Terence, half obscured by a drooping sun hat, surveying a cluster of prickly pears. Beside him was a figure that looked obscurely familiar.


  1. Hang on, I got it all wrong! Can we start that last par again? M&B would not, however dizzy the passion, permit two 'obscures' in the last two lines.

  2. Yeah, I take back what I said about you being a brilliant writer. But you know the rules: no looking forward, no going back. We're in this alone, together. The obscures remain.