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, 6 February 2012

Part 44 – Reputation trepidation

Two things worry me. First, that my readers think I really am a Mills & Boon wannabe. Second, that my readers think I share Topaz’s taste in interior decoration.

Part 44 (by Oliver)

Half an hour later Topaz was following the Armani suit across the cool dim of the apartment-block lobby: veined marble, deep-polished mahogany, the diffident gleam of bronze and antique mirrors. Then the sucking swish of the apartment’s heavy door opening, and Topaz saw the apartment that held her future. She cast a desultory glance around the entrance hall, barely taking in the glimpses of spacious room, the sparkle of the ocean beyond the enswathing picture windows.

‘Yeah, I’ll take it.’ Her voice was flat, unenthusiastic. For what was there to pique her enthusiasm for anything now? It was just a pad, somewhere to exist, while her existence flickered to life again.

Yet there was a spark still, somewhere deep within, as her thoughts turned to Paradise Heights and the plans she had for the beloved site that seemed to be the ever-drawing focus of her destiny. Already she could see the finished house: pink marble nudging against amber-tinted glass; the deep gloss of black granite offsetting the gold taps in the bathrooms; the spiral staircase, a dazzling swathe of snowy marble twining around a waterfall cascading two storeys through the atrium into a frosted-glass bowl illuminated in alternating shades of green and peach. Perfection. A showcase. A new life.

That night Topaz lay in the wide copper bath in her Guadalphin suite and flicked through the contacts on her i-phone. Not, this time, the list of friends who would be flying in that week for the latest round of house parties, or docking their superyachts for the next charity reception; nor yet the fashion houses and spas whose numbers she knew by heart anyway. No: construction companies, builders’ merchants, heavy vehicle hire were now her focus and her passion. By midnight, when she slid between the cool purple satin sheets, Topaz had arranged tomorrow’s schedule. ‘It’s down to business now, girl’, she said out loud: and she smiled as she fell asleep.

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