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…

Friday, 4 November 2011

Part 13 – Scene Shifting

A change of scene today. It’s a relief to be back in England, frankly, because up to now I’m not at all sure that Anna and I were picturing the story’s setting as being in the same location. I assumed it was Spain, purely because of an early reference to Mediterranean breezes. But on that evidence it could just as easily be Libya. Or Torquay, what with global warming.

What is it with my sister and random animals? Last time, a goat; this time a castrated cockerel – only on the television, thankfully.

I see she’s ducked the challenge of exploring Topaz’s murky past. I might have to get masterful and controlling, Cleft-like, if this story’s going to go anywhere.

Part 13 (by Anna)

The dawn was grey. Grey light on damp grey grass. Grey sky laced with grey trees. With a sigh Topaz turned from the window and went into the mosaic-tiled en suite bathroom that her father had installed for her. She laid a hand on the gold tap of the Jacuzzi bath, then paused and headed back into the bedroom.

She hadn’t washed since Terence had brought her back so abruptly from Spain three days ago. She couldn’t bear to. It seemed to her that her flesh still carried the aroma of memories that she dared not fully examine; sea salt, orange blossom and a lingering, heart-breaking muskiness that she must, she knew she must, extinguish once and for all with her pink rose bath blasters. Not yet, though. Not quite yet.

‘Yoo hoo!’ Her mother’s voice quavered shrilly up the curved marble stairs. Topaz sighed, pulled on an old cashmere jersey, and closed her bedroom door behind her. She caught a glimpse of the white sun frock crumpled in the linen basket as she did so and quivered.

Mrs Eversleigh-Brinkworth was perched on one of the cream leather sofas in the vast living room. A man in green overalls appeared to be attempting to sterilise a cockerel on the plasma screen above the white marble fireplace. Topaz sat down beside her mother and felt the leather cool and yielding beneath her denim thighs.

‘You look pale, dear,’ her mother said, almost impercetibly sniffing. Did she guess? Could she scent it? But Mrs Eversleigh-Brinkworth was already turning away and her scarlet manicured fingernails closed round a sheaf of papers on the smoked glass coffee table.

‘I’ve been having second thoughts about the seating plan,’ she said. ‘Oh, and the dress shop is sending round the frock for the final fitting at 11am so we’ve got work to do.’

‘Yes, Mum,’ said Topaz weakly. The two short syllables seemed to drain her last strength and she sank back on the sofa and with eyes closed heard the doomful rustling as her mother rifled the papers that charted her destiny. 

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