Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Milestones by Amy Andrews

This is me and my dad, Noel, who turns 80 next week.

Eighty!!!!

I wonder every day where the hell that time went as I’m sure he does, too. He’s been without my mum for 9 years and is about to downsize and move into a retirement village. He’s in good health and I’m very aware – particularly right now with the state of the world and his age – of how lucky I am to still have him.

I am blessed, as is my family and we’re having a small gathering to celebrate becasue if there’s one thing I really believe in, it’s that milestones should be celebrated. Another year older, another book published, a special award, achieving a goal weight or xyz months since you had a cigarette. Whatever it is, big or small – milestones should be celebrated! After all, its the celebrations that keep us going, that make it all worthwhile!

Am I right, or am I right? 🙂

What about you? What milestones do you celebrate?

PS – I have a smutty little medical rom novella that just got a new cover that I’m celebrating at the moment 🙂 if you want to check it out!

Origin Stories

Kate Hardy: Origins of a Dream-come-true

Hello!

Today I’m here to talk about my ‘origin story’ and my journey to publication.

First book launch, November 2002

Nobody in my family is a writer.

Actually, that’s not quite true: my mum used to make up stories for me when I was tiny, though she never wrote them down. Had she lived, I think we would’ve become a mum-and-daughter writing team, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

Mum and me (plus a loyal, lovable third!)

But I was always odd. I come from a very working-class background. Yet, there I was, obsessed with books from the moment I was old enough to pick one up. I could read from a precociously early age, and the quick way for my parents to keep me occupied was to give me a pencil, paper and a title (haha — not that dissimilar from how things work nowadays, because I never get my own titles!).

I talked my parents into giving me a portable typewriter for my sixth birthday because I wanted to be a writer. I typed away happily, creating pony stories and ghost stories. Everyone in the family (and at school) knew I was a bit strange. At eight or nine, we had to come up with three questions we really wanted to know the answer to. Others had questions such as, ‘How often should you feed your dog?’ Not me. No. The weird child in the class had other things on her mind. Exactly how far away is the moon? Who was the shortest-reigning queen in history? How long after you bury a body does it become a skeleton? (Fortunately my teacher knew I wanted to be an archaeologist and had already lent me books on Egypt. And my mum was amazing — she’d worked out that I was born to tell stories, and encouraged me to keep going.)

Mum

And then, when I was 13, I discovered M&B. (Sara Craven’s ‘The Devil at Archangel’ — years later, I was thrilled to meet her and tell her how she’d inspired me. And how amazing was it that she became my real-life friend, someone who met me at author events with a huge, huge hug?)

My romances didn’t get very far at that age, but I kept writing — very Tolkienesque stories (which I think might be lurking somewhere in the loft, along with reams of terrible poetry). I tried M&B again about ten years later, and was too young and naive to realise that a four-page rejection letter from M&B doesn’t actually mean ‘go away and never darken our doorway again’. So I wrote other stuff (including ghost stories — one of which was published by Virago), and lots of journalism. I wrote some raunchy novels. But, all the time, I wanted to write romance.  

And then, when I was pregnant with our daughter, my husband asked me why I didn’t try writing M&B Medicals, given that I loved romance and loved medical dramas on TV. Good point. So I read a few. They all seemed to be written by Aussie doctors, so I thought I probably wouldn’t fit.

But everything all changed the day I was writing an article about bronchiolitis (RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Chloe, aged 6 weeks, had this horrible cough. It was a couple of days before Christmas. Was I being paranoid, or was she showing the signs of everything I was writing about? I went for the cautious option (I’d much rather be called an overanxious parent than ignore something serious!) and called the doctor. Yes, indeedy, that was intercostal recession I was seeing. Textbook case. Half an hour after our appointment, Chloe was in hospital for a nasal swab, and she tested positive for RSV. She was on the ward for a week — on oxygen, fed by nasogastric tube.

The only way I got through that week at her bedside was to start writing my first Medical Romance. Once she was back home, I carried on. My agent loved it. M&B loved it. A Baby of Her Own was accepted on Chloe’s first birthday and published on her second birthday.

Chloe, a couple of months after bronchiolitis

Fast forward to today: she’s going to be twenty in a couple of weeks, and I’m currently working on my 94th M&B.

The point is: it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. If you want to write, then WRITE, and don’t let anything hold you back. Read craft books, yes, but don’t let yourself be boxed in by them; not everyone works the same way, and not every method works for every writer. If you’d rather work ‘into the mist’ (aka ‘pantster’) that’s fine, and if you’d rather plan everything up front (aka ‘plotter’), that’s also fine. Ditto being in the middle and doing a bit of both. Try it, and use what works for you.

No time? Then put half an hour in your diary every day. That could break down into two blocks of 15 minutes or 3 blocks of 10 minutes: whatever works with your schedule. Make sure you ringfence that time and do it every day. In that time, you write and do nothing else but write. Don’t edit, and don’t overthink or worry about the future: write. It doesn’t matter if it’s on screen, or scrawled with a pencil on paper (as long as you can read it!). One page (500 words) per day for 100 days will get you a first draft of a Mills & Boon in a little over 3 months. That’s when you start editing. The main thing is: write, because you can always change a page that doesn’t work, whereas a blank page gives you nothing to work with.

As for me: lockdown and Covid have both reminded me that life is short, so I’m sneakily writing the book of my heart. It’s something very, VERY unmarketable, so I might end up writing it just for me: but the story’s there and it won’t go away. Maybe it’s time to listen to my own advice… 😉

Oh, and my family? They all still think I’m weird. But I hope they’re quietly proud of me.

Uncategorized

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

by Susan Carlisle

This was to be my year. The one that a number of things I’d been working toward for years would happen or I hoped for them to happen. For all that time I could imagine the crowd clapping, me receiving my award, even knew what I would say in my speech and then came the virus.

There would be no travel, no events, no spotlight.

This summer Harlequin was to honor me for writing 25 books. I was to walk across the dance floor and be recognized and be given a pin. They did recognize me online and with a beautiful bouquet of flowers but it wasn’t the same being dressed in my painting clothes in my basement office without be surrounded by my friends. Since the day I started writing for Harlequin, I never dream I’d be able to write so many books. I have to admit I am overly proud of the accomplishment. Maybe that’s the major part of the problem. Too much pride.

For over ten years I’ve entered my local romance writers contest called the Maggie. It’s one of the top five romance contests. This year two of my books made the finalist list. I was tickled. After I read the other books in my category, I feared my chances were slim. I was thrilled to learn of my win by a website announcement. Once again there were no crowds, no clapping or spotlight. There went my pride again.

The winner was…

Compared to many people my woes over the year is nothing. I’m tickle and grateful for what I do have. I learned a lesson in being humble, not once but twice. For that I’m a better person. Too much pride can be a dangerous thing.

I now humbly submit that I have two books coming out for the Christmas season.

My indy Christmas novella will be out on October 1. It is only .99

 This one is out on November 1

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Mug Collection Time!

It’s getting to be that cozy time of year, which means that I get to spend a lot of time with my mugs.

I’m not much of a collector. But I do love my mug collection. It’s not particularly fancy, but it’s mine, and each one means something personal to me.

There are few things that I love more than sipping a hot beverage out of one of my favorite mugs. With a cat in my lap. And something wonderful to read close at hand.

A fireplace and a blanket wouldn’t go amiss, either. Alas, I don’t have a fireplace. I suppose one mustn’t get spoiled.

I’m glad to have the chance to show off my mug collection here. I think there’s something about mugs that pulls us to have powerful emotional attachments to them. You rarely hear someone talk about how much they enjoy drinking out of their favorite wine glass or plastic tumbler. But so often, I’ve seen people pull mugs from a cupboard with a smile, or close their eyes in bliss as they sink back into a sofa with a mug of something wonderful. I once worked at an agency that prided itself on providing real mugs for the staff – “real mugs” was always spoken in hushed tones, implying that we employees were far too valuable to suffer the use of paper cups. (In case you’re wondering, yes: we all should have been paid more. Still, it was a nice gesture.)

Maybe many of us find mugs soothing because we drink from them in soothing circumstances. If we’re drinking out of a mug, we’re probably at home. Or somewhere nice. Or at least somewhere nice enough that we can pretend we’re comfortable. For me, the pleasure of a mug in my hand is as much about the warmth of the beverage as the warmth of the memories that come up.

I’d love to know more about your favorite cold-weather beverage and favorite mug in the comments. I’ll post some of the ones I love to sip from best while I’m reading.

Fans of the show Good Omens may recognize the characters Aziraphael and Crowley as cats. The second I saw this mug, I knew I needed it in my life.

The blue mug with white polka-dots holds a lovely vanilla earl grey as well as some very fond memories. It was gifted to me at my wedding shower by my cousin’s grandmother, a woman of exquisite taste, ample fortune, and boundless personality. This woman was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a real, live Lady Catherine de Bourgh in my family. We weren’t quite related – she was my cousin’s grandmother, not mine. But she gave me some really lovely presents over the years, and all of them were among some of the nicest things I’ve ever owned. She passed away last year, well into her nineties, and I think of her every time I use this mug.

The third mug in this photo is from graduate school. It’s not quite as sentimental as the others, but it does bring up some warm thoughts of old friends.

I’m sure this sly devil needs no introduction. This was acquired during a trip my mother and I took to Bath.

And finally….

I only meant to post the mug, but as I looked at the photo, I realized that everything in it is rather telling of my personality. That is a puzzle made out of photos of my cat in the background, and I really did need that much whipped cream on my cocoa. To those who might disagree, all I can say is that clearly one of us attended the Vulcan Science Academy and therefore must have something as simple as cocoa down to…well, a science.

Hope to see some of your own favorite hot drinks below! (Perhaps also with recipes, she said greedily…)

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt – Neurosurgeon’s Christmas to Remember

Hi All!

Halloween is still two weeks away here in the US, but my next release comes out November 1st and is part of the Royal Christmas at Seattle General holiday continuity this year! Stay tuned because we’ll have much more on this amazing four-book series over the next several weeks, but…

To whet your appetite, I thought I’d share an exclusive excerpt from my book with you today, because yeah. It’s 2020 and who can’t use a bit more holiday magic in their lives right now, eh?

(Oh, and if you’d like to pick up a copy, it’s available for pre-order at the link below.)

Enjoy…

Max and Ayanna

Excerpt:

Excerpt (Ayanna’s just finished giving Max a tour of her childhood home after Thanksgiving dinner):

“That’s basically it, I’m afraid.” They went back out to the loft and sat on the loveseat against the wall. It was cozy nook, far enough back from the railing that it couldn’t be seen from below. Ayanna toed off her shoes and tucked one stockinged foot beneath her, resting her elbow against the back cushion to face him. “There’s a deck out back, but since it’s raining now, we should probably wait on that.”


“Agreed.” He stifled a yawn. Between all the food he’d eaten and the ease of being around Ayanna and her family today, he felt sleepy. After pushing himself non-stop for the past two years since his wife’s death, it was a welcome, unexpected relief. “Thank you for the tour.”


“Thank you for coming.” She’d gone with jeans and a sweater, the same as him, though hers was a light pink color and fuzzy. He wondered if it felt as soft as it looked and damn if that didn’t set the blood singing in his veins again. Guard down and unable to resist, he reached over and took her hand, the way he’d been wanting to for what felt like forever. Her dark eyes widened and her lips parted slightly as he leaned in once more until her warm breath fanned his face. Max wasn’t sure what he was doing, only that it felt necessary, like if he didn’t kiss her right then, he’d be missing out on something precious. All the guilt, all the anger, all the darkness that had haunted him disappeared in that moment until there was only now, only them, only this kiss.


He half expected her to pull away again, but this time she didn’t. Time seemed to slow. Then his lips brushed hers and the rest of the world fell away. Her breath caught and he pulled back. A dull voice in the back of his head warned him to be careful, to slow down, this was all too much too soon. But then Max saw those soft lips of hers parted and ready and he was lost.


His mouth brushed hers again and Ayanna groaned low in her throat. Her hand slid into the hair at the nape of his neck, holding him close, pulling him tighter against her as if she felt the same rush, the same urgency. She gasped and he took advantage, sweeping his tongue inside to taste her—cinnamon from the sweet potatoes and decadent temptation—and he couldn’t get enough. It had been too long since he’d held someone close, since he’d felt their heart race alongside his, since he’d heard their tiny mewls of need, since…

The sound of a clearing throat had them springing apart fast.

Release Date: 11/1/2020
Publisher: Harlequin/Mills & Boon Medical Romance
Tropes: Opposites attract, Forced proximity, Holiday Romance
Blurb:
Christmastime with a stranger—

A lifetime together?

Neurosurgeon Maxwell is determined to atone for the one life he couldn’t save…his late wife’s. Set to perform delicate surgery on a king, Max finds himself shadowed by PR director Ayanna. They must work together to keep the king’s case a secret. But when Ayanna temporarily moves in to Max’s apartment, they face a very different type of tension—their undeniable attraction!

“Don’t miss out on this sweet,funny, passionate romance that will have you feeling all warm and cozy.” ~ Clara A., Goodreads

GET YOUR COPY HERE!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Traci 🙂

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

525,600 Minutes

The first date my husband and I went on was to see the movie Rent. Neither of us knew it was a hit musical. But the song 525,600 minutes rolled around my head for weeks. If you don’t know, this is the number of minutes in a year.

And oh, what a year!

On September 30th, social media reminded me I was celebrating my one-year anniversary of selling Unlocking the Ex-Army Doc’s Heart to Mills and Boon. Since then Falling Again for the Single Dad has released too, and A Stolen Kiss with the Midwife comes out in February 2021. I actually turned in Book Four, as yet untitled, the week before this anniversary note.

I started reading romance because I needed a happily ever after. I began writing romance because it made me happy when my job, at the time, did not. Romance has been my escape for years.

And Book Four will always have a tender place in my heart – no matter how well it sells. I set this story in Dallas, Texas. I grew up in one of Dallas’ many suburbs. The movie theater the characters worked at in high school is where I spent hours behind the concession stand. The high school football rivalry is a single line reference, but for my friends still in the area, the payoff will be so sweet.

It was simply a fun retreat home when I first started it. But two weeks after I put the initial words to the page, we learned my mother-in-law had cancer. She left this world before I finished. In the haze of doctor visits and hospice talks, Dot and I talked romance books.

She had stacks of them!

And when I sat with Dot while she rested, I retreated “home” to work on my character happily ever after.

When I tell people that I am an author, I get all sorts of happy questions. But when I mention my genre, a light dims in some of those excited faces. A week after I sold my first book, a man sitting next to me on a plane told me he thought romance was the easy genre. Formulaic!

It is such a grating misconception about the bestselling genre. But it is one that over that last year, I have mostly learned to ignore. Romance offers what so many don’t. An escape with a guaranteed smile at the end. The promise of hope and love for everyone.

This is the first romance that I’ve written where Dot didn’t know the end. I wouldn’t put the final flourishes in until a few weeks after she’d left. But in so many ways, Dot knew when we talked about Tessa and Gabe, and all the struggles I was putting them through, how it would end. That Tessa and Gabe would ride off together.

And writing their forever love in the days after helped pull me forward too. Getting to focus on love healed part of me. I believe that love is so much more enduring than the other emotions.

Love’s feeling—even its memory—outlasts all the emotions.

So, a year later, a year that looks so much different, in so many ways, I am grateful to shout from the rooftops—I write happily ever afters!

Here’s to finding our way through the next 525,600 minutes. May they be filled with more love and laughter than tears.

–          Juliette

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

October New Releases

Happy October! We have some brand new releases to enjoy, whether your summer is on its way in, or you’re heading into fall and want to curl up.

The Icelandic Doc’s Baby Surprise by Louisa Heaton

Their passionate fling…
Has given them a gift to last a lifetime!

When pediatrician Merry Bell turns up at his hospital in Iceland, Dr. Kristjan Gunnarsson’s quiet Christmas is shaken up. After a hot fling together in Hawaii, they both agreed to walk away. But now Merry has brought him life-changing news—she’s pregnant! Commitmentphobic Kristjan will not waver from his responsibility, but is his bruised heart ready for a family?

Tempted by the Heart Surgeon by Lucy Ryder

A dance floor rescue…
…a reunion they’ll never forget!

Boston socialite Samantha Jefferies leaps when offered a job with a charitable foundation in California. It’s the escape she needs after her broken engagement. But the new role reunites her with a man she never expected to see again—cardiothoracic surgeon Adam Knight. He once saved her with an earth-shattering kiss, but now she must find a way to resist her insatiable desire for this far too delectable doctor…

Second Chance with His Army Doc by Charlotte Hawkes

From first love…
To forever?

Fourteen years ago, teenage Kane Wheeler disappeared from Mattie Brigham’s life without a word of explanation. While nothing has filled the void left by Kane, Mattie has forged a successful life as an army doc. When they’re unexpectedly reunited in the line of duty, their attraction is still as fierce as ever. And Kane’s determined to convince Mattie they can still have a happy-ever-after above all!

Reunited on the Front Line

Book 1: Second Chance with His Army Doc

Book 2: Reawakened by Her Army Major

Reawakened by Her Army Major by Charlotte Hawkes

Could their one night together…
Change everything?

When playboy army major Hayden Brigham meets innocent nurse Bridget Gardiner in a nightclub, the chemistry between them is impossible to ignore! But when they must then work together in a hostile and challenging environment, it means keeping their focus on the job! Being under fire only brings them closer…but is Bridget ready to accept that their relationship could survive beyond their mission?

Reunited on the Front Line

Book 1: Second Chance with His Army Doc

Book 2: Reawakened by Her Army Major

One Night to Forever Family by Meredith Webber

The baby she always hoped for…
The family she never expected!

Dr. Sam Reilly can’t believe it. She’s standing face-to-face with Andy Wilkie, her late husband’s best friend—and her new boss! Sam cut ties with Andy years ago. But for their patients’ sake, they must learn to work together. They just didn’t expect to learn that, maybe, they might want to be more than just colleagues! A temptation that leads to one baby bombshell…

Christmas with Her Lost-and-Found Lover by Ann McIntosh

He’s walked back into her life—
After half a lifetime…

It’s been years since Rohan Khan promised Dr. Elise van Hagen that he would be back for Christmas. But he never returned and Elise raised their son alone. So when the veterinarian reappears during a rescue in snowy Banff, Elise can’t believe her eyes! But Rohan has no memory of their past. Can these long-ago lovers make up for all the Christmases they have missed?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Isolation Escape Tactics

knight

My boyfriend goes all out for this COVID-19 protection thing, as you can see from the above.

Just kidding, there was no one in that knight’s armour but my imaginary Heath Ledger circa 2001, but honestly, if we don’t laugh at our current dystopian situation, people….

That little iron man was in a cute restaurant on one of our day trips lately.

Aside from working like a demon on my new medical romance, which is based in Amsterdam and due even sooner than I care to admit, considering the word count still pending, I have been making more of an effort to do things away from my desk in the day time.

Any medical M&B writer will tell you, we can lose not only hours, but entire DAYS with our heads down, lost in our scribbles, or entering deep, dark rabbit holes on YouTube, filled with scary life-threatening situations and sombre doctors performing emergency procedures.

Tea breaks, and general time to breathe elsewhere, are essential.

Having a dog will get you out there, especially mine, who likes to get her cute little nose up in everything. Oh my, how Ziggy has grown since the last time we spoke, folks! Here she is doing her very best ‘bear’ impression in some lovely woodland my knight and I like to visit, north of Amsterdam. We had a gorgeous walk there the other day, not another human in sight, masked or otherwise:

ziggy

I’ve also been furnishing my home, which is an ongoing project as I’m the kind of person who likes many different things and can’t seem to settle on a theme. Among the trinkets in my living room, (much to boyfriend’s despair) I have photos of golden kings performing acts of karma sutra, bronze camels that double as candle-holders from Dubai, giant hand-woven dream catchers from Bali, and now…. Brace yourself….

pouffe

A silver, reflective pouffe! It matches absolutely nothing, except everything my heart desires from a footstool. Some idiot was throwing it away, I mean, that’s the work of a fool right there. Luckily I came along on one of my tea breaks and rescued it, and it now has a second lease of life by the sofa.

Sometimes, when I write with my laptop on my knees and my feet on this pouffe, I feel nothing of the woes in this broken world. I feel truly blessed.

I also somehow managed to get out for more than a cup of tea and a footstool, and took my writing projects to Sicily with a friend.

platter

It was a week of eating, digesting what we’d eaten, eating some more, and repeat. Honestly, I’ve never been anywhere with food that good, ever. Just take a moment to examine that deli platter. Have you ever seen anything like it? Actually, I think I’m still digesting it.

Sicily was beautiful, have you ever been? I was expecting to meet more of the mafia but I made do with a nice Godfather magnet, which also matches nothing else in my house.

I stuffed the rest of my suitcase with Sicilian garlic granules, a rock from Mount Etna, salted capers and sundried tomatoes, so my boyfriend, who is an AMAZING cook, can keep feeding me Sicilian specialties while I get back to work on my book. (Don’t tell him I’m expecting this, or he won’t do it).

Oh, the sunsets there were magical! Might have to set another romance there soon. Which reminds me, tea break blogging now over… I must add more words to that word count.

See you on the other side, and don’t forget to breathe, guys.

sunset

Image by Elchinator from Pixaby
Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Origin Stories

Girls Can’t Do Physics

(Top image from Pixaby)

There are many different quotes that have shaped my life and my writing.  ‘Girls can’t do Physics’ is one of them.

Mr M. was the Head of the Physics department at my school.  At the end of the 1970’s it was considered quite all right to express such an opinion, and he used to say it so often that it became a wry joke amongst the girls he taught.

In truth, this worked to my advantage.  At age sixteen our sixth form syllabus offered a choice of either English Literature or Physics and although Physics was the obvious option in terms of the other subjects I was studying, I wanted very badly to study English Literature.  So ‘Girls can’t do Physics’ played straight into my hands 🙂  (I’ll add that my mother, who was fiercely determined that her girls would have the opportunity to do whatever we set our hearts on, was well aware that I was doing exactly as I wanted, so held her tongue.)

I did, however, study Chemistry.  The Head of the Chemistry Department was less vociferous on the subject of what girls could and couldn’t do but when we arrived in the Chemistry Lab on the first day of term, we found him no less opinionated.  He re-arranged us, putting all of the girls in the back row and the boys in the two front rows.  When someone put their hand up and asked why he told us that in these ‘modern times’ he was sadly unable to bar girls from his senior classes, but since he believed us unlikely to succeed, he intended to concentrate on educating the boys.

So we protested – with all the fervour of teenagers who can taste the sweet nectar of change.  The Headmaster made sympathetic noises, claiming to understand exactly how we felt.  But we had to understand that some of the older teachers needed time to catch up with the idea that girls could excel in the sciences.  We were sent back to the Chemistry Lab to resume our places in the back row.

Some of the girls in my class overcame the obstacles by working twice as hard, and when national exam time came around they smashed their way through the first of a succession of glass ceilings.  For my own part I had a very serious crush to contend with, and that didn’t leave me a great deal of spare time for extra Chemistry.  Will Shakespeare might have been more than 400 years my senior, but since when did the sixteen year old heart bother about little things like that?  I wondered whether true love had turned me into a traitor to my cause, but I couldn’t help the way I felt.  If the sciences didn’t want me, that was actually fine, because I didn’t want them.

Did I cave in under pressure and miss out on a glittering career in science?  I think not – Will still leaves me slightly weak at the knees, and I don’t regret the choices I made back then.  But it wasn’t until I was in my thirties and decided to do some Open University science courses in my spare time, that I realised what I’d missed out on at school.  The elegant synergy in great books, plays and poetry, didn’t seem to be so far removed from the cause and effect of Science and Mathematics.  We were shown how weirdly beguiling fractal patterns worked, taught the mathematics of a rainbow, and for the first time I realised that Science can also be incalculably beautiful.

Things are better now, of course, but many girls are still less encouraged to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and women are still under-represented in STEM professions worldwide, particularly at high levels.  In 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations established The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, to be celebrated on 11th February.  If you’d like to see more facts and figures, and how UNESCO and UN-Women are working to encourage girls and women in science, here’s the link.

scan-27-copy-1I’ll finish with another quote, which is much closer to my heart.  My great-aunt was born in Queen Victoria’s reign, one of eight sisters, and was considered the beauty of the family.  By all accounts she’d been a little wayward in her youth, and in her old age she’d become a kindly and fragile lady, whose most fervent wish was to get through the day without the slightest hint of discord.  Even as a child I knew that she was both clever and perceptive.

When I got a place to study English Literature at University, I was despatched off to visit various elderly relatives, to impart the news in person.  I dutifully ignored those who appeared to believe that I’d be spending the next three years reproducing the complete works of Jane Austen in cross-stitch, or who told me that this would be a pleasant, if slightly unnecessary, interlude before finding a husband made my own career irrelevant.  I’d heard it all before and learned that loving my great aunts and uncles didn’t mean I had to accept their outlook on life.  But it was something of a relief when my great-aunt propelled me into the kitchen for tea-making and biscuit-choosing duties.

As soon as we were alone, she sat me down, and grabbed both of my hands, holding on so tight that I was concerned she might be unwell.  She told me that I wasn’t to listen to anyone who said my degree would be of less value because I was a girl.  And then the words that I’ll always remember, because they were spoken with a passion I’d never seen in her before.  ‘I would have loved to have had the chance to go to University.  You go.  Do it for me.’

In the face of those words, ‘Girls can’t…’ dissolves in a puff of ineffectual smoke.

And that’s shaped my writing.  My heroines can do Physics, Chemistry, or whatever else they choose, and my heroes are man enough to accept that without even having to think about it.  If that’s the way the world works today, it does so because of the determination of my fellow occupants of the back row, and the women who came before us and encouraged us to take up the opportunities they never had.

Of course, once you’ve learned to question bias, it’s a difficult habit to break.  So before I allow them to slip from my thoughts for good, I’d like to thank my old headmaster and my physics and chemistry teachers.  Somehow, despite all of your efforts, you did manage to teach me one thing of great value.

Excerpts

Excerpt – ‘Forgotten Pain’ by Josie Metcalfe

Josie Metcalfe is joining us today with an excerpt – if you missed Josie’s blog last week you can find it here and ‘Forgotten Pain’ is available now from Amazon.  Welcome again Josie, and over to you…    

I know personally that not all injuries and disabilities are immediately visible and that sufferers will often find ways to hide their problems when they have no other options. If they’re lucky they’ll find someone like Sally with the intuition to recognise that hidden pain, no matter how fraught the circumstances.

CHAPTER ONE

41sMduzowkL‘DOCTOR?’

In spite of her best intentions, Sally had just been dropping off to sleep in the corner of her big squashy armchair when the phone rang, jerking her back to full wakefulness.

‘Doctor Webster?’ the voice in her ear seemed to reach her from a long way away.

‘Yes. I’m sorry,’ she blinked rapidly and shook her head to clear away the cobwebs of sleep. ‘Dr Webster here. What is it?’

‘Accident at the gravel pits out at Abbey Meads,’ the woman said tersely.

‘How many involved and what’s the nearest access?’ Sally’s feet hit the floor and she bent forward to search around with her free hand to find the trainers she’d kicked off when she’d sat down to have a much delayed lunch. She forced her feet into them hurriedly as she stood up, belatedly reaching out for her bag.

‘Two mountain bikers racing downhill. Came off a ledge. Probable spinal injuries. You’ll have to go out past Priory Park towards open countryside. I’ll give you an accurate GPS as soon as I get it but there’s a turning on the left signposted Abbey Meads and a track almost immediately on the right taking you towards the gravel pits.’

‘Emergency services alerted?’ The surge of adrenaline meant she was firing on all cylinders now, her brain clear, her pulse rate elevated and her whole body ready to race into action.

‘Ambulance already on their way with a paramedic on board,’ the calm voice confirmed, ‘but they have to come across town. You’re closest.’

‘On my way,’ Sally dropped the phone into her pocket, swung her pack up on one shoulder and took off across a room cluttered with half-unpacked boxes, barely slowing her stride as she grabbed her jacket off the convenient hook beside the door the fluorescent word ‘doctor’ emblazoned across the back.

She reached back to grasp the handle to pull it shut but paused for the rapid scrabble of claws on the polished wooden floor as an eager canine nose followed her out onto the step.

‘Come on, then, girl,’ she invited, just missing the long-plumed tail as the catch clicked shut.

Within seconds she was turning the key in the ignition, her free hand reaching for her seat belt. ‘Down, Amber,’ she ordered, and her companion subsided obediently into the footwell on the passenger’s side.

She glanced at the map that had automatically displayed on her sat nav to confirm that she was going to be taking the most direct route and set the vehicle in motion, a flick of a newly-installed switch on the dashboard activating the flashing blue light on the roof. This was her first call-out since she’d joined the group practice at Abbey surgery and she needed to do well; she needed to prove that she’d made the right decision in coming here, if only to herself…

The GPS directions came through seconds later, before she’d even exited the driveway, and she was soon heading well away from the town through all-but deserted lanes before the automated voice sent her bumping along a rough track leading around the edge of the abandoned quarry, grateful for the superb suspension of the car provided by the practice.

‘Come on. Come on. Where are they, then?’ she muttered, the chilly wind tugging at loose strands of hair through the half-open window as she pushed her speed as hard as she dared over the unfamiliar terrain.

‘Shoot!’ She braked and swerved as a young man leapt out of no-where, his arms flailing like windmills.

Her tyres slithered to a stop on the loose gravel and she thrust her head out of the window, barely waiting for it to open fully.

‘What on earth do you think you’re…’

‘Down there!’ the youth broke in, pointing frantically at a faint track she’d almost missed. ‘They’re down there. Hurry!’ He whirled away from her and disappeared over the lip of the quarry as quickly as he’d appeared.

‘Right,’ Sally turned the wheel and moved forward gingerly until she could see the state of the track then increased her speed when she found it was an old access route to the floor of the quarry, wending its potholed way down the side.

By the time she reached the bottom she’d spotted the small knot of people grouped round the victims, the buckled remains of their brightly coloured bikes mute testimony to the event.

‘Stay!’ she ordered as she flung herself out of the vehicle, grabbed the smallest pack off the back seat, hooked it over one shoulder and took off at a run.

By the time she reached the injured boys, both of them were conscious but one was lying very pale and still, his shattered crash helmet evidence of the severity of the accident.

‘There’s an ambulance coming,’ she announced. ‘Can someone run to the top to direct them down here, please?’ then she knelt down on the gravel-strewn quarry floor shifting awkwardly as the cold dampness and small sharp stones cut through the sturdy denim covering her knees.

As she cast a rapid eye over the more seriously injured of the two she realised that she would need help with his care. The lower part of his face and neck had taken part of the force of his fall and she would need another pair of expert hands to stabilise his head while she put a cervical collar on him and maintained his breathing.

At least his pulse and respiration were within reasonable bounds, considering the state he was in.

The distant sound of a siren was drawing rapidly closer as she turned towards the second victim, hoping to have him ready to move by the time assistance arrived for his friend.

‘What’s your name?’ she looked up at the carroty-haired gangly youth hovering over her.

‘Andy,’ his voice wavered between tenor and soprano and his cheeks flamed with embarrassment.

‘Right, Andy,’ later she’d have time to smile at his adolescent trauma, but for now… ‘I’m going to need your help.’ Immediately, his shoulders straightened importantly. ‘Take one of your friends and bring out the two zipped bags behind the driver’s seat. Carry them carefully…’

He’d grabbed a husky dark haired lad by the elbow and they were sprinting towards her car almost before she’d finished speaking.

As they opened the door of the vehicle there was a low warning growl from Amber.

‘It’s all right, girl,’ Sally called, barely looking up from her task. She hardly had time to confirm her diagnosis of a broken leg before the two of them returned and she opened the bags to select the equipment she’d need.

A shadow fell over her as the surrounding group of lads pushed forward and she looked up at them. The concern they felt for their friends was so clear on their faces that it prevented her from snapping at them to stand further back.

‘Has any of you done any first aid?’ Most of them shook their heads as she glanced round at them but two raised their hands as if answering a question in school.

‘Right,’ she continued, her voice decisive. ‘The ambulance is on its way and we need to get your friends ready to go to hospital. This young man,’ she put her hand on his arm…

‘That’s Jimmy,’ Andy volunteered quickly.

‘Thank you,’ she nodded, ‘Jimmy has broken his leg. He needs to have both his legs splinted together…’

‘I can do that,’ one of the lads who’d raised his hand broke in eagerly. ‘We had that in our test.’

‘Good,’ Sally praised. ‘Take it slowly. Move him as little as possible. Ask me if you need help.’ She turned towards the second still form beside her, steadying herself with a mental reminder to check A, B and C again. She could hear her long-ago instructor drumming it into them. ‘Airway, breathing and circulation…’

‘What’s wrong with Wayne?’ Andy demanded.

‘He’s hurt his face and I think he’s hurt his back,’ she said quietly as she leant over him and carefully took hold of one hand.

‘Wayne?’ her voice was soft but carried clearly in the still air. ‘Can you hear me?’

‘…ss…’ she heard and tightened her hand gently.

‘Good,’ she encouraged. ‘Keep very still but can you squeeze my fingers?’ She waited for a response while she noted down the figures for his respiration and pulse and was rewarded by a deliberate pressure. ‘Well done. What about the other one?’

She was just taping the IV line to the back of his hand when her concentration was broken by the hurried arrival of two large pairs of feet topped by dark navy trousers at the edge of her vision.

‘Where do you want us, Doc?’ one voice panted as he lowered the stretcher he was carrying to the ground. ‘We had to leave the vehicle up on top.’

She looked across at the blond owner of the cheerful voice, his eyes as blue as the shirt of his uniform showing between the edges of his brightly flashed jacket.

It took very few words to direct him towards loading Jimmy and carrying him back up the hill with the willing assistance of his friends but before Sally had time to turn her attention back to Waynethe second paramedic knelt down swiftly on the opposite side.

‘He needs a neck brace,’ the deep voice was accompanied by a searing gaze from tawny eyes and for just a moment Sally was unable to look away. His breathing seemed unaffected by his rapid descent to the quarry floor, the only sign of his exertion the rumpled state of his dark hair.

When he looked back down at the young man between them on the ground she was left with a strange feeling of breathlessness before his forceful words finally sank in.

‘Of course…’ she began speaking, then stopped. There was no point telling him that she fully intended to protect young Wayne’s neck because he’d already taken a cervical collar out of his kit and was preparing to position it.

‘Hold his head without touching his jaw,’ he instructed, his deep voice curt as he concentrated on his task. ‘He’s bleeding from his nose so we can’t do a blind nasotracheal intubation and he’s partially conscious so we can’t do an œsophogeal…’

Sally subdued the momentary surge of resentment at his high-handedness with the silent reminder that it was the patient who mattered, not her pride.

A little imp of mischief had her watching his technique critically, but his procedure was faultless, as was his management of the boy’s transferral to the scoop.

‘When we’ve got him strapped down, we’ll load him into your vehicle,’ he said decisively, barely glancing in her direction as his hands moved competently about their business. ‘It’ll save time carrying him up the quarry track and your four-wheel-drive will smooth out some of the bumps.’

By now Sally was gritting her teeth but there was little she could do in front of their avid audience. But, she promised herself, once their patient was safely delivered…

The stretcher was locked securely in position behind the driver’s seat in the specially adapted vehicle and Sally was stowing her bags underneath it when there was a warning growl from Amber.

Glancing over the head restraint of the front passenger seat she was treated to the unusual sight of her one-woman dog sniffing at a lean male hand and she straightened up in time to see his head disappear into the vehicle.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ she snapped as she wrenched her own door open, resenting this further evidence of his intrusion into her territory, both physical and professional. ‘Travelling with you to monitor the patient – unless you intend me to do it while I run along behind.’ Sarcasm filled his voice as he swung his long legs round and tucked his feet carefully beside Amber, his reassuring words to the dog spoken in a totally different tone to the one he’d used with her.

‘Of course,’ Sally muttered under her breath and bit the inside of her lip as colour surged up her face at her own stupidity. What on earth was it about this man that seemed to rub her up the wrong way?

Admittedly, her recent heartbreak meant that she was less than happy with the male half of the human race at the moment, but she’d managed to keep her antipathy under control in a work situation until she’d met him – or was there another reason for the sparks flying between them?

The journey up the winding track called for all her attention, the gravel loosened by a recent winter of rain and storms causing the wheels to spit stones in all directions as she guided the vehicle steadily upwards.

From the corner of her eye she was conscious of her passenger turning towards her and tensed, expecting him to make the same sort of chauvinistic comment most men made about women drivers. When he remained silent she glanced across quickly to find that instead of watching her driving, he’d reached one hand back to offer silent reassurance to their patient.

They lurched their way to the top of the quarry to find that the ambulance had already left for the hospital and it wasn’t long before Sally had reached the metalled road and was pointing the vehicle back towards the town.

Beside her, the silent paramedic was one-handedly noting his findings on the checklist clipped to his board, his pen moving swiftly to fill in the columns of sequential observations. Once they reached the hospital, the duplicate copy would be handed over with the patient to form the start of his case notes.

‘Stop!’

The sharp command broke into her concentration and she automatically put her foot hard on the brake.

‘What…? Why?’ but her words were spoken to his back as he flung himself out of the vehicle and wrenched the back door open.

By the time Sally reached him he was crouched over Wayne’s unconscious body probing the base of his throat, a fresh pair of gloves covering his long-fingered hands.

‘What…?’ Sally began.

‘Apnoea,’ his voice was distracted for a moment as he concentrated on what he was doing, giving Sally time to register that Wayne had stopped breathing. ‘Either his larynx has swollen or the rough track has shifted something to press on his trachea…’ he paused to reach into the opening of one of her bags and withdrew a familiar instrument.

The blade was exposed and the incision performed in less time than it took to blink and he was inserting the tracheostomy tube in the neat hole he’d made into Wayne’s trachea before the significance of what he’d done dawned on her.

‘Dammit, you’re a paramedic,’ she snapped. ‘You’re not allowed to do a cricothyrotomy.’

There was a frozen second before his eyes snapped up to meet hers, blazing.

‘He’s alive, isn’t he?’ he looked back down to tape the tube into position and dispose of the used scalpel blade.

‘That’s not the point,’ Sally argued. ‘Paramedics aren’t allowed to do that. What you did was illegal without certification.’

‘But essential,’ he broke in, his voice hard, ‘like getting him to hospital, preferably without brain damage due to oxygen starvation.’ Pointedly, he looked back down at Wayne, his hands moving surely over him as he checked his vital signs again.

Her teeth gritted angrily together, Sally backed out of the vehicle and climbed behind the wheel, reaching across to pull the passenger door shut before she put the engine into gear. In her rear-view mirror she could see him change position so that he could travel safely beside their patient for the rest of the journey.

Sally had activated the siren and flashing lights as soon as they’d encountered the start of the town traffic, the ululating sound only slightly muted when she closed her window up tight as she radioed their position through.

They had nearly reached the hospital when the thought that had been going round and round in her brain surfaced – the life-saving manoeuvre he’d done had been text-book perfect and he’d performed it as if it was second nature to him.

‘Where were you taught to do a cricothyrotomy?’ the words emerged unannounced into the intimate space of the vehicle, clearly audible in spite of the noise of the siren.

Her eyes flicked up to the mirror and caught the fleeting reflection of a bitter expression on his face before it was wiped smooth.

‘I watch a lot of television.’ His deep voice was as mocking as the twist to his mouth but there was no time for Sally to challenge him as she drew up outside the hospital emergency entrance.