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, 19 December 2011

Part 27 – Full Circle

Honestly! I ingeniously get Topaz out of there (thank goodness for windows to jump out of) and now she’s back in again. I wish we hadn’t stipulated that we are not allowed to discuss each other’s ideas in advance… I’m sure Barbara Cartland never had this trouble.

Part 27 (by Anna)

Crack! She thought in that split second that her captor’s whip had ensnared her once again. A biting roughness flayed her ankles and she fell heavily, the trampled earth smashing against her parted lips. Then a frenzied barking and a hard wet something thrusting at her from behind.

‘Cleft!’ The name sprang unbidden, but in her inmost self she knew. That cursed rope that tethered the cab man’s dog and which she had seen twisting menacingly with its invisible burden when she had arrived. She had quite forgotten it as she had dropped from the window onto the side path. The dog must have been sleeping. It was not sleeping now. The tug as she had stumbled over its moorings had evidently alarmed the animal and now it was enraged.

Terrified, Topaz gazed up into its yellow slobbering jaws, felt its hot breath on her face and the vibrations of a growl rippling beneath its scabby fur.

‘Good dog, nice dog!’ she murmured. A sudden memory struck her of herself, ten years old and dressed in her shiny new hunting pinks. Her first day out with the hounds. Her father, purpled in the autumn sun, beaming proudly at her; her mother’s gold stilettos sinking gently into the mud of the stableyard and then the reality capsized as one of the dogs, agitated by the melee, sank its teeth into the leather of her riding boots. Her father had raised his crop, ready to bring it down on the creature's head but Topaz had been too quick for him. Instead she had laid her soft child’s hand there and the dog had subsided.

‘That thar daughter of yers has a rare magic with animals,’ the stablehand had told her father admiringly. Now the adult Topaz laid slip brown fingers on the scalp of Spanish mongrel. For a dreadful momemt she feared its yellow fangs would pierce her flesh; the creature hestitated, panting hectically, then sat down suddenly on its haunches.

Topaz unwound the rope from her grazed shin and made to rise but a searing pain through her ankle – the same ankle that she had wrenched in the rut and which had barely healed – and she knew she was going nowhere. She hauled herself upright and leaned with her back against the mottled concrete of the house. The dog inched closer and sat, still panting, his pungent slobber spooling onto her dress.

Minutes later an eruption of dust and a crash of gears announced her captor’s return. The dog’s noisy greeting drew his attention to the fugitive and he waddled swiftly over on bandy legs.

‘Whaddya thinka you do?’ he rasped angrily, kicking at her with a battered loafer. A hand, greased with sweat, clamped her slender wrist and hauled her painfully upright. Topaz’s ankle gave way and man caught her as she fell and, inserting one fleshy damp shoulder beneath her armpit, he half dragged her back into the pungent twilight of the house. This time, though, they passed the door of her brief prison and continued down the lino. Then he opened a further door, revealing a square of dank blackness. And with a single, brutal movment, he pushed her inside.


  1. Well, how was I to know what else to do with her? Cleft'll be on his way, won't he. He can find a way to get her clear of there. I certainly can't!

  2. I think it's only right that Cleft saves her, otherwise what's the point of him having a name like that?!

  3. Yes, so Anna should have had him save her instead of banging her up in a plot dead end.