I write love stories set in a fast track world, where my characters move from Paris to the Himalayas more easily than they can work out the secrets of their hearts. The happy ending is guaranteed of course. But my lovely heroes and heroines have a load of twenty first century problems to solve and some dark places to travel - often literally - along the way.
Readers call them
richly felt, intelligently written, pure romance and speak of their
emotional intensity and
brainy, gutsy style.
Dear Readers, thank you.
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This is a very special collection, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association in 2010. It contains 44 stories by some to today’s members - international best sellers, prize winners, library favourites and some of my best mates among them.
It is so varied, it makes your head spin. I guarantee you’ll cheer, wonder, boggle, be amazed, be intrigued, sigh with satisfaction, get carried away with passion, weep buckets once or twice, laugh aloud lots and just occasionally say, ‘Yes, me too.’
Katie Fforde, Joanna Trollope, Liz Fielding, Carole Matthews, Nicola Cornick, Maureen Lee, Joanna Maitland . . . and Sophie Weston.
My contribution is another Cinderella story (to my own surprise) about a girl I’ve had walking around in my imagination for quite a while who has no time for fairy tales, human nature or fabulous beasts.
They had nothing in common. Not the high profile international correspondent, and the awkward runaway whose only skill is mending vintage cars. But Patrick Burns, born to wealth and privilege, has gone out on a limb for what he believes in and now finds himself wounded and alone. And if there is one thing orphan Jo Almond knows about, it is being alone.
But she has secrets And Patrick seems to think she is a defenceless innocent who needs protecting.
For a moment the silence between them was like a physical thing. Fog, maybe in which you couldn’t see your way. Or a rushing wind that blew you off your feet. She could not hear, could not think. All she could do was look and look at him. Jo put a hand to her throat to ease her breathing.
Then Patrick straightened and came into the room. The door swung to creakily behind him.
'I was right,’ he said grimly. ‘Reckless. That’s what you are.
Born to be enemies...
Natasha is a prize pain in the neck, a twenty first century go-getter with a company to run and a schedule to stick to. She has no time for gallant suitors. She even sends their presents back. Her only flicker of romance is a taste for fantasy shoes - and she buys them herself. Prince Charming would definitely not make it into her address list.
Kazim is a desert prince turned international peacemaker. He has high responsibilities, deep principles and a short fuse. ‘Maybe you’re so good at making peace because everyone in the room ends up hating you,’ his friend tells him frankly.
He thinks a woman’s place is on the receiving end of roses and poetry. And not getting in the way of him saving the world from itself.
Yup. Born to hate each other. If they didn’t have something to prove.
Men are only useful for three things. Emptying mousetraps. Opening champagne bottles. A quick sexual thrill.
His eyes danced. ‘And -?’
‘And I can rent a feline mouser; you have to turn the bottle not the cork ; and John Donne lasts longer.’
‘Donne?’ He looked interested. ‘You like poetry?’
‘Does it for me every time.’
‘I’m glad to hear it. But even so, are you sure that there is really no room for a man your life?’
‘Surplus to requirements. No question.’
He gave a soft laugh, that nobody but the two of them could have heard.
‘It would take me one night to change your mind,’ he murmured, his breath stirring the hair that curled round her ear. ‘Just - one - night.’
Brain like a computer, tongue like a razor, heart like outer space...
The business world calls Pepper Calhoun the Tiger Cub. She's heir to retail multinational Calhoun Carter and she's a workaholic. And then it all goes wrong.
Steven Konig has done his time as a corporate pirate. These days he's rich, influential and In Charge - in charge of his dynamic company; in charge of an Oxford College that needs a new roof; in charge of a nine year old girl who needs a new home. And then on a dawn flight, mid Atlantic, he literally bumps into -
his golden Venus with her shy smile and infectious laugh. And that mouth that brought him out in a cold sweat just to think about.
Only she disappears into the crowd. But then...
Behind the producer, Lord Zog was glaring like a hanging judge. There was not a lot of ways to play this one, short of eyeball to eyeball. And that might not be a good thing before they went on television together.
Pepper passed her options under review and decided on breezy good humour.
She held out her hand. Being British, male and superior, he would have to shake it. She had come to know the type. They might be cold as ice as hard as reinforced concrete but they made a fetish of good manners.
Professor Lord Zog ground his teeth visibly. But she had read him right. He took her hand shook it firmly.
Pepper bit back a smile. 'Big name, huh?' she said innocently. 'Sorry I don't recognise you. I've only been in the UK a couple of months.'
'I know', said Lord Zog arctically.
Steven could feel her bristling at his shoulder. His lip curled. What had she got to bristle about? He was the one who had been wasting his time for weeks - no make that months - day dreaming about a completely fictional woman!
Time to wake up, he told himself grimly. No, time to grow up.
In her heart of hearts, Pepper knows she is large and plain and only good for business. And then the man she calls Lord Zog goes and tells her just that on national television. Or that's what she hears.
Steven doesn't know that of course. All he knows is that she's a gorgeous red head - and deceptive.
They hate each other. And neither of them can walk away...
People often ask me if my heroines are me. Of course, the short answer is no: they're braver, wittier, more together. And they do a whole lot of things I couldn't begin to get my head round. Well, what's the point of writing fiction if you can't improve on reality?
BUT in Pepper Calhoun I've got a heroine really, really close to my heart. She's clever and competent and kind - and she has just dealt herself out of the dating scene all her life because she thinks... Well, you know what she thinks.
The truth is that the "ideal American woman is five feet, seven inches, weighs 110 pounds and wears a size four; the REAL American woman is five feet, four inches, weighs 144 pounds and wears a size twelve." *
Pepper is a real American woman. I love her to bits.
*(Fraser, 1997, Food Angst: The Diet Trap. Family Therapy Networker, pp. 44+.)
All her life, Izzy has been "not the pretty one". Not that she is jealous. She has loved her sister Jemima Jane from a baby. She always fought her battles in the playground and now Jay Jay is in trouble again. From a distance the tall red heads look sufficiently alike to fool people...
But will explorer, maverick and all round hell raiser Dominic Templeton-Burke keep his distance?
Two people with secrets meet on a magical island...
Jay Jay has everything twenty first century woman wants: glamorous career, handsome men queueing up to date her and celebrity. She can’t wait to get away from all of it.
Niall is a professional gambler. His aristocratic family have always had two sons: the heir and the spare. Niall was the spare. Niall has not been home to England for ten years. For Niall is a one-woman man. And the woman belonged to someone else.
For a moment she felt paralysed. She did not know what to do. Go - stay - give an excuse and leave. Face it out . . . Jemima put a distracted hand to her temple. For a moment she nearly turned and fled.
Niall must have seen something of that in her face. Her stood quite still, surveying her. One dark eyebrow rose in silent question.
Jemima took hold of herself. This was ridiculous. Of course she could handle it.
I am never going to be afraid of a man again. Any man.
Only a small voice in her head was saying, but you’re not afraid of this one. You’re afraid of yourself.
Afraid? Afraid? Ridiculous!
Without giving herself time to think about it, Jemima marched up to him and said all in one breath, ‘Hello-I’ll-have-a-white-wiine-spritzer-it’s crowded, isn’t-it?’
Niall’s eyes crinkled with amusement. He waved away the crowd in the bar as an irrelevance. ‘Didn’t recognise me, huh?’
Jemima set her teeth. ‘Not just at first, no,’ she said with dignity. ‘These Chinese lanterns cast a very peculiar light.’
He was not deceived. ‘I told you I cleaned up nice,’ he said complacently.
A woman who isn't all she seems hits on a man who is.
'You can't keep going through men like they grow on trees.' Suze's voice was full of righteous indignation. 'Quite apart from anything else, it's not fair to the rest of us.'
You're gorgeous. You're a known heartbreaker. You're an ace sister and a brilliant friend. You've got sex well and truly sussed and back in its box. Your family and friends think you have no secrets.
If only they knew...
I might not understand love, thought Jay. But I've seen the harm it does. Oh Carla, why can't you settle for honest sex and friendship?
But he knew she would not. His heart twisted with pity for her. Yet even as he winced at the thought of her distress, he could not wait to get away. It suffocated him, all this terrible, exhausting emotion. It made him want to go out on the moors and run and run and run until he couldn't think, could barely breathe - and still keep on running.
You're a man with a conscience - and a bad track record. You've promised yourself you won't hurt any other woman. But Zoe Brown has a practical problem - and you're just the man to handle it!
Sir Philip Hardesty's ancestors have been sacrificing themselves to duty for over four centuries. Philip is no exception. He has a castle in Kent, an apartment in New York and hardly gets to stay in either. His job takes him to every hot, dusty, conflict-ridden corner of the globe. He doesn’t have girlfriends, he has a rotating list of women he takes to concerts - if he ever get to use the tickets he booked.
And one day, in a Far Eastern hotel in the middle of peace talks, he looks up and sees a girl swimming. And what follows is a time out of mind. No names. No tomorrows.
Kit says she is strictly a live-for-today kind of girl. She has left the shadows of her past behind. But even so she has her policy. No risks. No commitments. But maybe this time she wants something beyond today.
She owns a bookshop by the gasworks, mends her glasses with sticking plaster and has just lost a fiancé. Well, not exactly lost. More blew him away after her father brought one or two salient facts to her attention. That doesn't mean she wants her father to fix her up with a substitute though.
He is an expert on volcanic irruptions. Only he can do without them in his private life. And he has no desire at all to become a Career Royal.
But she is the daughter of Montassurro's richest exile; and he is Montassurro's Crown Prince.
Francesca and Conrad - they're just made for each other; aren't they?
Reluctant Raver meets the Human Volcano. Again.
Emilio Diz made his way out of the slums by playing tennis. Now he is a millionaire businessman with an international empire and a deep suspicion of the British upper classes.
Only Emilio thinks he has met Lady Abigail Templeton-Burke before. These days the press call her the Fab Ab and she works in PR. But when she was sixteen and gawky as a colt she lectured him on the scent of roses. And then kissed him with her whole heart.
Bella Carew is the original party girl. Blonde and gorgeous. She masterminds office-chair races round the minimalist work space that is New York's Elegance Magazine. She dances like a dervish at the latest salsa clubs. She flirts outrageously with mysterious strangers she meets on the dance floor.
But Bella has a secret. She is running away from being her beloved stepsister's bridesmaid.
When Gil comes across the wild blonde he calls Tina the Tango Dancer, he knows the timing is wrong. He's working all hours to save his software company. Anyway, he's just been badly let down by a woman. And he's leaving town tomorrow morning. So there's nothing he can do. Is there? In the end, Bella can't disappoint Annis. And as the wedding turns into a nightmare, she meets the mysterious stranger again...
Annis Carew has a bad case of workaholism. Her millionaire father accepts it as normal but her loving stepmother has other ideas. Annis, she thinks needs a man to distract her. So tonight's glittering dinner party is more than the family gathering that Annis expected.
Tonight's candidate has a Byronic profile, a voice like warm treacle and what Annis privately calls the Look - the look of a man who does not have to try. But Annis is over-tired, under-dressed and her minimal make up has run in the rain. Look or no Look, tonight's candidate hasn't a chance.
Konstantin Vitale does not know that he is a candidate. But he does know that the prickly woman in the business suit does not like him. And Kosta never resists a challenge.
Holly Dent has been on the run from her rich, rich family for a long time. Jack Armour is only passing through.
But when the brother in law from hell tracks her down, Jack senses a resignation in her that he recognises. He does not like it. She should not be resigned. She should be fighting back. Jack takes a hand in the only way he can.
Jack makes her feel safe. But Holly's independence was hard won and she does not want to rely on anyone, ever. From Paris to the Caribbean, from Latin America to an English village, Jack and Holly are locked in a duel of passion that began at their Midnight Wedding.
Nicky Piper hates being blonde and gorgeous. For eight years she has been running away from the memory of a Caribbean night when being blonde and gorgeous did her no good at all. She is certainly not going to trade on her looks to sort out Esteban Tremain, no matter what her boss says.
But Esteban is used to getting his own way. And Springdown Kitchens certainly owe him. In his isolated Cornish castle, Esteban joins battle with the first woman in years to resist him - and is forced to confront dark memories of his own.
Leonora is twenty four and bumps into furniture.
Amer is wickedly sophisticated and doesn't bump into anything unless he means to.
'You don't know how to play this game,' he tells her and gives her a crash course in romance under the stars of the Nile. He doesn't tell her his real name or that he is heir to a desert kingdom.
Finding out hurts, but Leo has a life to get on with. She goes back to her career in her father's London empire and does her best to make her mark there.
It is not until she reads Amer's mocking guide to being a fantasy lover that she gets really mad...
'I don't do what I'm told,' she said. 'And I warn you, I fight dirty.'
But Nikolai doesn't listen. Why should he? He can handle anything. He's an explorer by profession, a Count by inheritance and he can even handle his Great Aunt Tatiana if he really puts his mind to it. But he has never met anyone like Lisa Romaine before.
Lisa is from the wrong side of the tracks in a big way. These days she is a high flying bond trader. She is irrepressible, hard working and quick on the draw. But she never forgets how much is luck. Or how easily it could all go wrong. Above all she has no time for snobs.
Counts are snobs by definition, aren't they? Only Nikolai has never thought of himself as a snob. Yet he certainly wants to put Lisa Romaine in her place. Or is that all it is?
Book 1 ... Irresistible Temptation by Sara Craven
Olivia hates London. Declan hates deception. And they hate each other on sight. So when Declan decides to seduce her away from his cousin's husband, it isn't going to work. Is it?
Book 2 ... Reform of the Playboy by Mary Lyons
Cool and ultra sexy Finn only has to turn his amazing blue eyes on a woman and she melts. Harriet is a sensible lawyer as well as Finn's temporary landlady and she is determined no melting. And Finn doesn't like it.
If you would like to buy any of these books, you can order them online at