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…

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Part 34 – Fight Club

Last time Terence and Cleft confronted each other, I copped out and admitted that I have no idea about the finer points of fisticuffs, and therefore am unqualified to write about them. But the wonder of writing fiction – especially spoof Romantic fiction – is that personal experience is the last thing you need. At least, I hope the authoress of my research tool, The Greek Billionaire’s Love-Child’s Mother’s Revenge (or something) didn’t experience what her heroine did.

So at last Terence shows his Alpha side. It’s not very impressive, but good for him nonetheless.

Part 34 (by Oliver)

The two men faced each other, spicing the air with the insistent tang of testosterone, the heavier musk of enmity. The space between them fizzed over Topaz’s prone figure, and both knew that the time of reckoning had come at last.

Cleft’s gaze was inscrutable behind the gloss of his shades. Motionless he stood, a slight pulse quickening the sculpted, hair-fringed hollow that showed in the bronze V of his open-neck shirt, ticking tense moments away. Terence swallowed once or twice and mopped his slick forehead with the sleeve of his linen jacket. Then he said:

‘Say goodbye to all this, Stone: you’re off the job. And –’ gesturing to Topaz’s slender body at his feet – ‘say goodbye to her too. This is where it ends between you.’

Cleft opened his mouth in a silent snarl of contempt, then his lips curved into a smile, easy and slightly swaggering. ‘That depends,’ he said, evenly. ‘If you think you deserve her, you’ll put up a fight for her, man to man. So why not? Why not sort this out here and now? If you had what it takes, you would.’

What happened next took even Cleft by surprise. Terence looked up into Cleft’s face, shaking slightly, Cleft thought, with the sweat beading again on the pale dome of his forehead. Cleft felt almost sorry for this little man, so indecisive, so powerless in the pulsing presence of raw male strength. Then suddenly Cleft felt a blow to his stomach, and Terence was a ball of energy, bent double, launching his shoulders and fists into Cleft’s taut, muscular frame like a pugnacious goat tackling a mountainside.

Hopeless though Terence’s attack might have been, it unnerved Cleft momentarily so that he took three or four paces backwards before bracing himself against the onslaught of Terence’s frustration and anger. And in the brief pause between realisation and retaliation, Cleft knew that this fight could never be a fair one. The drooping Dunkley frame could never match the primeaval strength of Cleft’s chiselled body, as firm and as unyielding as weather-hewn granite, despite its unexpected nimbleness and the sharp, cutting blows that swiped Cleft’s thighs and abdomen. And small blame on Terence to fight for his woman – Cleft would have done the same himself.

So Cleft unclenched the ball of a fist that his hand had involuntarily coiled into; instead he dodged and ducked, parried and recoiled so that in a short while Terence had vented his ire and his strength and subsided into a panting huddle on the very rock where once Cleft’s rough, tender hands had caressed the supple softness of Topaz’s body, felt through the flimsy stuff of her sundress to the bubbling wells of desire beneath.

His jacket smeared with the dust of Paradise Heights and his wiry white legs still trembling from unaccustomed effort, Terence sat panting on the rock, looking with loathing at Cleft through the haze of thin hair that had straggled across his face. And when he spoke, he almost spat the words:


  1. No, I don't like bubbling, not at all. Nor smears. I think we need to wake Topaz up and quickly to show that she's a modern woman who fights her own corners. Or shall shove her in a corset and say we're doing historical romance.