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…

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Part 8 – Dad displacement

I’m developing quite a taste for this kind of writing; at this rate I’m going to have to be careful that bubbling desire and lava-hot longing don’t work their way into an overview of the East Anglian farmland market, which is the kind of thing I write in real life. It’s also a marvellous displacement activity from the usual drudgery of stay-at-home-dadness at half term: today I have successfully ignored the ironing and failed to clean the recycling bin, all in the name of Art.

However, it has not been able completely to displace my role as Dad. Last night my eight-year-old daughter glimpsed the opening chapter of Desire Be My Destiny.

‘What’s it about?’

‘A lady who is going to get married but then meets another man she likes better.’

‘Why does he say “Gotcha”?’

‘Er – they’re playing Tag.’ And I hastily shut the laptop.

Part 8 (by Oliver)

Terence raised his head. ‘Ah, poppet. Feeling better? Clever girl. This is Mr Stone, our foreman. Mr Stone, my fiancée, Topaz Eversleigh-Brinkworth.’

The figure turned, black against the sun. That languid grace, those muscled shoulders, the broad chest – why did her heart race at the sight of them? The hillside was rocky, and as Topaz kept her gaze fixed on the manly silhouette towering above her, she didn’t notice the deep rut in front of her. Her foot slipped sideways, twisting her slender ankle and pulling the heel off her Gucci sandal.

Topaz gasped and swayed, until a strong hand clasped her shoulder.

‘Gotcha!’ The voice was deep, humour lurking behind the smooth, easy tone. And where the large hand gripped the burnished flesh of her shoulder, Topaz felt once again the burn of desire – or was it destiny? She knew at once that Fate had not finished with her yet, and even before she looked up to see those ice-blue eyes piercing into her from behind a rim of thick black lashes, she knew that last night had been just the beginning.

Cleft’s wide, arrogant mouth curled at the corners when he saw Topaz’s face, flushed and gently perspiring, looking up into his own, her eyes heavy with desire and her lips wet. Quickly, she pulled away, just as she had the time before, and said ‘Thank you, Mr Stone’ with a coolness he knew she did not feel.

She started to limp towards Terence – good, safe Terence – but with a small cry she stumbled again and reached out for Cleft’s arm.

‘I’m sorry, Terence,’ she said. ‘I've really hurt my ankle. Can you take me back to the jeep?’

Before Terence could answer, Topaz felt Cleft’s breath warm on her nape and his dark velvet voice saying ‘Allow me’. And before she could protest, Cleft swept her into his arms. She left his bicep bulge by her breast, his sinewy forearms clench behind her knees, and the hot longing that lay clamped deep within her began to bubble outwards.

‘Oh God,’ she murmured by his ear. ‘What have you done to me?’


  1. Hey, no, stop! Don't like this bubbling. You're veering into M&B Blaze category, not Classic Romance. Dry her out, quick!

  2. This is the least we can offer our readers. The Greek Billionaire's Love-Child's Mother's Revenge, which I'm reading for research purposes, is much worse than this.

  3. ... thought I'd return the favour and have a read of your bodice-ripper. Far too fruity for a banana bread sort of woman like me. Wow, am I right in thinking Alan Titchmarsh writes this sort of stuff too? Surely not. Is there any truth to the widely held belief that romantic writers are living out their own fantasies in their books? You must be having great fun with this ... what a brilliant diversion from all the Dad stuff. I'm hooked!

  4. No, no, no fantasies - not with sister in tow! Anyway, we all know that Romance can never be as good as banana bread and a cup of tea on the sofa.