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, 22 November 2011

Part 20 – The Ego Has Landed

I return refreshed, and looking at blogging with new eyes. Because the last post showed me a different side to blogging – the egotistical one.

I like to think that this blog isn’t all about me; I am but a humble servant to the literary muse, a conduit for the thoughts and emotions of others, even if they are fictional. And it really isn’t all about me – half of it is Anna’s contribution.

But of course, anyone who blogs is in it for themselves, otherwise we wouldn’t obsess about our viewing stats. And yesterday’s Musical Interlude was all about me. It’s an intoxicating feeling, even if it means that my self-esteem depends more than ever on those stats, and how many comments are posted.

So I scurry thankfully back to hide behind Topaz ’n’ Cleft, secretly hoping that someone might Tag me again so I have a good reason to talk about Me without looking as if it was my idea. Meanwhile, Mrs E-B shows her true colours, and I’m not talking about russet spray-tan and cerise lipstick…

Part 20 (by Anna)

The midday sun glared down on her as her kitten heels snapped fervidly down the muddy lane. Her breath came in ragged gasps, each one tearing at her throat and heart, yet she did not founder. Unconscious of the snakeskin uppers that bit into her tender foot, she tore onwards. Only when she reached the start of the driveway that curled between the lines of young conifers did she pause.

She leaned against one of the orange brick gateposts and gazed up at the stone folds of the pineapple that crowned it, and three male faces shifted before her; one pale and fretful beneath a sheen of damp, one worn with time and worry and one as brown as the leather-topped dining table in Brinkworth Place. It was the thought of this last face that caused her to falter, but only for an instant. Removing her chafing shoes, she padded wearily up the close mown verges of the driveway and into the house.

The fountain still tinkled heedlessly into its marble basin and yet the great hall with its glossy white flooring and gaping atrium had altered impercetibly; become alien, menacing even. The gold-framed portraits of her father and mother, once so cheery in their rainbow oils, stared coldly at her. Even her own likeness, painted for her twenty-first birthday, seemed a stranger’s face.

‘Dad! Dad!’ Craving reassurance as her world seem to slide perilously around her, Topaz ran urgently through the white double doors into the living room. Music hummed softly from the small vents in the wall but the room was empty. Topaz noticed as she turned the wedding files scattered over the leather sofa and her mother’s magenta imprint on the drained sherry glass beside it.

Desperate now, she hurtled across the hall, the cold marble burning her bare soles. Dining room – no one. Sun room – the same. The air thickened. The house loomed. Topaz wrenched open the door of the sauna where her father sometimes lingered after a morning at the stables. Wet heat assualted her like a blow, but the wooden bench was empty.

‘Dad! Mum!’

She took the shallow stairs two at a time, banged open doors as she came to them, swept each empty room with pleading eyes and tore onwards. Her own bedroom came last and as she stumbled in she started at the figure on the bed. Her mother gazed coldly at her, her eyes almost menacing in their thick mascara frames.

‘Terence came round after you left,’ she said. ‘He told me what's been going on. About this brutish American who’s turned your head and goodness knows what else.’

Her scarlet fingernails stabbed at the peach silk counterpane and Topaz noticed that an object was clutched between them.

‘He also told me that you know the situation now. If you let yourself be led astray by some oafish stranger, all this’ – she gestured round the opulent chamber – ‘will be lost to us. I won’t let you do this to your father. I won’t let you do this to me.’

Topaz stood silent. She looked levelly at the woman seated before her – at the sculpted yellow hair, the coppered skin, the white slacks that stretched a little too tightly under their gold-leather moorings. And love turned to momentarily to pity and then to something harder.

‘It’s too late,’ she replied. ‘What’s done is done. The world knows now and all of us will be tainted with the shame of it. It’s worse for you – all this’ – and she echoed her mother’s sweeping gesture – ‘has become too much part of you, whereas liberty and love will be enough for me to live on.’

She swung round to leave the way she had come, but her mother, moving with startling swiftness, was too quick for her. She lunged at Topaz’s shoulder and Topaz saw that the item she clutched was a key; the gold-tasselled key that belonged to her bedroom door.

‘You will not leave this place until you are wed,’ said Mrs Eversleigh-Brinkworth. ‘I intend to make sure of that.’

With one powerful movement, she hurled her daughter towards the bed and darted onto the landing. The door crashed shut and Topaz heard the key turn in the lock.

Her breast heaving, she crossed to the window and clutched the swagged silk drapes. There was no doubt now in her mind. Her family had forefeited her loyalty and affections and she owed nothing to Terence who had been complicit in her sacrifice. Cleft, too, would see no more of her after his treachery.

But she remembered his velvet voice: ‘We are creatures of the sun and the sea and the maquis,’ and she knew it to be true. With or without him she had to return to the place where her soul could roam freely. The place where destiny had tapped her shoulder.

Without further thought, she hoisted one of the silk drapes out of the window, dangled from it for an instant then dropped ten feet onto the damp grass.


  1. Love the post title. Judging from your last meme you have a few more dimensions than Topaz.

  2. Trying to comment but no room amidst the ego!! On a more serious note, will you do a post where you explain how you both chose the character's names? Apologies if you already have done, I'm still working my way through your posts!