Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt: Greek Island Fling to Forever, by Annie Claydon

Which one of us isn’t looking for a little bit of an escape, right now?  Perhaps you can tell what was on my mind when I wrote this book – some sunshine, a blue sea and the feel of a warm breeze 🙂

x500_2876ef82-0fa0-4786-a7d1-6538ff5e022c_360xThe day that had changed her life had been bright and clear, bathed in sunshine, and every detail was still sharp in Arianna’s dreams. She was six years old and had insisted on wearing her new white broderie anglaise dress for the journey to the Petrakis family’s holiday home on the tiny Greek island of Ilaria.

Her father had frowned when he heard the news that their own launch was out of action, and her mother had smiled as if it was of no consequence and said they’d take the ferry. It had been a new experience for Arianna and her older brother Xander, waiting with the jostling crowd of other passengers to board, and then finding a place on deck where her mother could sit.

Even her father had loosened up a bit, opening the collar of his shirt and gesturing to their bodyguard to take a family photograph. Then he’d acceded to Xander’s excited demands and agreed to take him on a tour of this large, exciting craft. Xander had turned, waving to her as they’d walked away.

Her mother had been wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a red and white fitted sundress, so different from the faded colours she wore now. She’d perched on a slatted wooden bench and started to talk to the other mothers, telling Arianna that she could go and play if she wanted, as long as she stayed close.

The ferry had slowly manoeuvred out of the busy dock, speeding up a little as it entered the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Arianna had wished they could take this route every time, and when Ilaria had begun to loom on the horizon she’d wanted the island to stay away for a while longer, so that they could spend a little more time on the ferry.

Then… Then a juddering, crashing sound. The world tipped suddenly and she fell, grazing her knees on the wooden deck. She heard her mother screaming her name, but she was sliding, falling. Somehow, the water seemed to rear up and grab her, pulling her down.

She couldn’t breathe… And then something…someone…was there. Grabbing her flailing arms and holding her tight. Their heads broke the surface, and muffled sounds turned into a chaos of shouting and screaming. She could breathe enough to choke and cry, and when she opened her eyes, blinking against the sting of the salt, she saw an older boy with a shock of blond hair, wet and plastered around his face.

He said something to her, but she didn’t understand the words. She understood safety, though, and when he wound her arms around his neck she hung on tight. They bobbed together in the water, and then the boy started to swim, labouring hard while Arianna clung onto his back.

She didn’t dare look behind her. Maybe if she had, she would have caught one last glimpse of Xander. But ahead there were small boats, leaving the tiny port of Ilaria and making their way towards them.

Arianna was sobbing now, and the boy stopped swimming. More words that she didn’t understand, but which made her feel safe again. The water was pulling them back, towards the sinking ferry, and he began to strike out again, towards the rescue boats. She closed her eyes, reciting the prayer that her mother always said with her before she lay down to sleep.

Then she felt strong hands around her and she was lifted out of the water. One of the boats had reached them, and the boy had pushed her up into the arms of its occupants. A man held her tight as she reached back for the boy, but a wave carried him away. She started to scream and cry as his blond head disappeared amongst the waves and the scattered mass of people in the sea.

And then… The memories lost their clarity. She remembered her mother crying and her father hugging her until she could hardly breathe, when they found her, wrapped in a blanket and sitting amongst a group of survivors in the taverna, which had opened its doors to provide shelter and warm drinks. And she remembered her father, kissing her mother and running back down to the boats that were ferrying people back to the shore.

He’d been gone a long time, but her mother had refused to move, holding Arianna tight as they both shivered in the warm breeze. When he finally had returned, he was alone. Her mother had taken one look at his face and screamed in anguish…

Arianna sat bolt upright in her bed, feeling the cold sweat beading her forehead. Returning to Ilaria, to establish a medical practice here, had left little time for anything other than work. Now that the pressure was off during the day her dreams at night had become more frequent and much more vivid. Breathing deeply to steady her racing heart, Arianna told herself it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and that perhaps she needed to get the trauma of that day, twenty-five years ago, out of her system. And it was one more precious chance to see Xander again, along with the blond-haired boy who had carried her to safety and then disappeared amongst the waves.

The boy hadn’t drowned. Later, when she was older, she’d traced everyone who had died that day and there was no one matching his description on the list. He’d just disappeared in the melee of survivors. He was out there somewhere, grown up now, and Arianna wondered if he ever thought of her.

***

It was a bright, warm day. Ben Marsh stepped off the ferry, pulling the map of Ilaria’s harbour town from his pocket and looking around to get his bearings.

He’d wondered if he might remember this place when he saw it; he’d thought about it often enough over the years. But he didn’t. There was nothing familiar about the ferry terminus, but it was a new building, obviously constructed since he’d last been here, twenty-five years ago. Ben made a beeline for the tourist information booth and a smiling woman welcomed him to the island and marked the position of the health centre on his map for him.

He walked to the main harbour, stopping to scan the small boats moored there. None of them were familiar either, although in truth he’d been too intent on scanning the horizon to look for other survivors to remember much about the craft whose crew had finally pulled him out of the sea. And the people? The frightened little girl who had clung to his back as he’d swum away from the sinking ferry would be beyond recognition now. She could be any one of the young women who passed him in the street, and Ben told himself that searching their faces for any shred of recognition was a waste of time.

But he knew her name. Arianna Petrakis. It had been six months since he’d stumbled on an old newspaper account that had answered the questions he’d wondered about for so long, and since then the name had seemed to resound in his head.

Icy fingers skittered from his neck, down his spine, and he shivered in the sunshine. What if she didn’t want to see him? The answer to that was easy; he’d take the next ferry off the island and go. What if she did want to see him? How could he explain that the day the ferry had sunk had shaped his life? Could he even begin to say that now he had the strangest feeling that he needed Arianna to rescue him?

Ben shook off the questions, knowing he had no answer to them. Jumping into the water to save Arianna had been the first defining moment of change in his life. The second had been crushingly different, he’d made a solemn vow to love and cherish, and then not been there when his wife had needed him. Emma was gone now, and Ben couldn’t turn back the clock and save her.

But he hadn’t thought twice when he’d seen the little girl in the white dress sliding across the deck of the ferry and falling into the water. He’d jumped. And now he needed to do that again, to just follow his instincts and jump.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Visions of the future

Now that we’re shot of 2020, and 2021 is bringing us hope of a gradual return to normality, I’m thinking a lot about all the things I used to do and which I’m looking forward to doing again.  Little things, like taking a trip into the centre of London, which I can see on the horizon from my local park but which has seemed like a faraway friend during the last year.  Being part of a group of friends and family all in the same room.  People watching, instead of people-avoiding 🙂  Sitting in a coffee shop and letting the bustle of the city go on around me.

But maybe – just maybe – I’m setting my sights a little too low.  Maybe my yearning for normal isn’t enough and I can replace that with a yearning for better.  My parents, and the older members of my family taught me this – and like most children I didn’t really listen at the time.  They’d talk about the war, but they talked about ‘building the peace’ as a far more important venture.  Things didn’t always go as planned – even the best of intentions can’t guarantee that we get things right first time.  But looking back, perhaps part of the peace that they built was one where John Lennon could sing ‘Imagine’.

I’m starting with myself, because there’s always plenty to be done there 🙂  I could do with noticing the little things around me more – not taking them so much for granted.  Thinking about how lucky I am, because this last year has been less difficult for me than it has for many.  Oh – and taking more advantage of the back of my wardrobe/cupboards – shopping for non-essentials on the internet isn’t quite the same as going out and browsing the stores, and I’ve been re-discovering a few treasures I’d forgotten I even had!

One thing that the last year has highlighted is that we have to work together, and protect each other.  In London, there’s been a lot of talk about taking lockdown as an opportunity to make our environment better.  There have been a number of new schemes brought into effect, to regulate traffic flow and create healthier and safer residential neighbourhoods.  There’s a lot of controversy about the best way to do this, and how to balance the needs of pedestrians, residents, cyclists and drivers.  But the rewards of getting this right are great, in places London is a wonderful garden city and in others… there’s still some work left to be done.

Also close to home – l love the way that Harlequin/Mills and Boon have continued their work in welcoming diverse voices to our community.  The current #MedicalRomanceIncludesYou Facebook and Twitter event is taking place on the 26th March, and if you haven’t heard about this yet, there’s still time to enter.  Check out the details here.  We’ll be posting tomorrow with our own hints and tips for aspiring writers.

The NHS.  What can I say about the NHS that hasn’t already been said?  They’ve worked ceaselessly to protect us all in the last year, and at great personal cost.  There are lots of practical ways that we can support our NHS better in the future, and repay just a fraction of the debt that we owe them.

Covax.  The World Health Organisation is working for global access to Covid vaccines, reminding us that no-one is safe until everyone is safe.  My shot of the vaccine was free and when my turn came around I was able to access it locally.  I’m incredibly thankful for that, and as my horizons begin to open up, I’m wondering what I can do on a personal level to help bring that gift to others.

John Lennon invited us all to call him a dreamer 🙂  And there’s something about confinement within the walls of my home that’s made my dreams feel more important to me, as a way of sustaining myself and making me smile.  I know that dreams aren’t everything, and that they take a lot of hard work to make them real, but are you dreaming with me?  I’d love to hear about your visions for the future – the personal ones, those for your own community, or the global ones.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

A letter to my younger self

A month or so ago I was chatting with a friend about the first manuscript I sent off to Mills and Boon.  I spent the summer after I returned from University bashing it out on a manual typewriter and then sent my pages off by snail mail.  In due course it was rejected but by that time I had a job and other things in life had begun to take over, so it was another lifetime before I tried again.  But that first try, and my first hero and heroine, still occupy a very special place in my heart.

The conversation inspired me to dig out the manuscript (yes, I still have the whole book, gathering dust at the back of a cupboard) and to re-read the first few chapters.  I could see exactly why the book was rejected, and if I’d known then what I know now…

But of course, I didn’t.  How could I?  Because when I think about it, writing is all about making your own mistakes, finding out what you can and can’t do, and no-one else can talk you through that.  I’m often asked ‘how do you write’ and never quite sure what to say.  But I don’t mind dropping the tact with my younger self and giving her a bit of a shake 🙂  Now I’m much older and slightly wiser, perhaps a letter to the Annie who wrote that first manuscript is the best answer I can give.

Dear Annie

When I read the first few chapters of your book, I liked it – I really did.  Your enthusiasm for your characters shines through, but… well I’m going to give it to you straight.  There’s an awful lot you need to learn before this is even remotely close to being good enough.

I could go into a bit of detail – that first chapter where you tell me what everyone else thinks of the heroine, and what brings her to the place where she first sets eyes on the hero is tolerably well written.  But I really don’t care about any of it, because as a reader the one thing I want to know is how the hero sees her!  Cross it all out, throw your hero and heroine in at the deep end, and let their past experiences filter out as and where they’re needed.  I understand how much you value order, but aim for a bit of chaos as well!

As to your dialogue…  Seriously, Annie, I know you don’t speak like this.  If you’d just read it aloud you’d have realised that all those ‘I will’ and ‘I have’ would sound a lot less stilted if you’d popped in a few ‘I’ll’ and ‘I’ve’ here and there.

Your hero is pretty darn perfect.  Actually a bit too perfect, he’s driving me nuts.  How about a few human flaws?  The things that I know you value in the people around you, just as much as their strengths.  The point of all of this is that although your hero and heroine will be asked to be super-human at times, that loses its impact if they’re not human the rest of the time.  Try writing what you see around you, rather than what you think you ought to see.

Since I like to think that I’m not so very different from you, all of this is annoying the life out of me.  But they’re things that can be rectified.  The one thing I want to get into your head in terms of your writing is that you’ve got to make lots of mistakes and learn from them. Cultivate the fine art of knowing when something isn’t working.  Grit your teeth, cross out whole passages or even chapters.  Try again, and make it work this time. 

In life, you’ll be making your share of mistakes and you’ll survive them (I can’t tell you how because… spoilers…).  And while I’d love to apply a quick nudge to the tiller in places, to steer you away from things I regret now, I wouldn’t want you to un-live a single one of the mistakes you make in your writing.  Because time’s never wasted on those, you have to learn and they’re all part of an ongoing process that hasn’t ended for me yet.

Finally – and you’re going to have to trust me on this one because the rules of time travel don’t permit me to tell you how it’s going to happen.  But hang on in there, because I know you’ll make it 🙂

Love Annie xx

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

January New Releases

Six new stories to see the New Year in with!  

y404Falling Again in El Salvador by Julie Danvers

A second chance…

…could be their greatest adventure! A humanitarian mission in stunning rural El Salvador will give obstetrician Cassie Andover the chance to focus on the medicine that she loves. But the one piece of her past she never expected to find there was the handsome Dr. Bryce Hamlin! And while this bold motorcycle-riding version of Bryce is nothing like Cassie remembers, he’s certainly one she’s compelled to know…

y404-1His Blind Date Bride by Scarlet Wilson

A missed blind date…

…leads to a chance at forever! After exchanging messages for months via a dating app, surgeon Ivy Ross is finally ready to meet up with “Mr. Right.” But when work calls her away the chance is lost…until fate intervenes and Ivy’s blind date—Travis King—arrives as her new senior medical officer…aka her boss! Travis and Ivy know mixing business and pleasure is a bad idea, but sometimes bad ideas feel so good…

y404-2One Night with Her Italian Doc by Karin Baine

One hot summer night together…

…that just isn’t enough! A Mediterranean cruise is exactly what nurse Sophie Blythe needs. It’s the perfect opportunity to rediscover the free-spirited woman she once was, before she met her cheating ex. And ship doctor Luciano Montavano could be the perfect fling… Gorgeous yet guarded, the irresistible Italian isn’t interested in settling down any more than she is. Until one night of passionate abandon forces them to acknowledge that they both might want more…

y404-3Risking Her Heart on the Trauma Doc by Louisa Heaton

Can two love-weary doctors…

…heal each other? Dr. Jess Young plans to use her time on the small Scottish island of Thorney to figure out how she can rebuild her shattered life after a recent blow that has stolen the future she dreamed of. Only Dr. Adam Campbell is a complication she didn’t expect! He’s handsome but hurting, too, and Jess sees a kindred spirit in Adam. Will he heal her already-fragile heart?

y404-4Second Chance in Barcelona by Fiona McArthur

He’s the stranger she’ll never forget…

…she’s the midwife he still wants! Midwife Cleo Wren is horrified to discover the gorgeous Spaniard she spent an impulsive night of passion with is Dr. Felipe Gonzales, an eminent oncologist with VIP connections! She’s tempted to turn down the job of accompanying his young cousin back to his home in Barcelona. But she accepts…on the understanding that they never revisit what happened. Now Cleo just has to stick to her own rules!

y404-5The GP’s Secret Baby Wish by Sue MacKay

Is the future she wants…

…just a dream? Four years ago, GP Lily Scott walked away from Dr. Max Bryant and their sizzling fling. Why? Well, if the past had taught Lily anything, it was to be cautious with her heart. But Lily’s rule book is about to go out the window, because Max is her new colleague! She can’t ignore their powerful connection—or the family she pictures—every time she’s with him. Can that family become a reality?

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Friday the Thirteenth

Today is that most uncomfortable of days, Friday 13th.  When every kind of calamity is supposed to happen, and after dark…  we just won’t talk about what happens after dark on Friday 13th…

But I’d like to take a different view.  Welcome to this Friday 13th!  I hope you have a great day!  Because Friday 13th is my lucky day.

It hasn’t always been. I adopted this rather unlikely tradition after a discussion with a friend at work – we saw eye to eye on most things but Friday 13th was the exception to the rule.  My friend was convinced that Friday 13th would bring her every bad thing that she could think of, along with a few that she couldn’t. To me, it was just another day.

So one Friday 13th, we decided on a little experiment. We’d start at 8.30 in the morning, when we arrived at work, and write lists. My list would contain all the good things that had happened that day, and my friend’s would contain all the bad things. We were each quietly confident that our own list would prove the longest and settle the question for good.

We stayed late after work, and compared notes (we couldn’t go to the pub or a coffee bar and do it in comfort, because my friend was sure that unnecessary travel would prompt all kinds of catastrophe). The lists were both long and detailed, and while I don’t remember exactly who had the most entries, it was more or less a tie. My friend continued in her dread of the date, and it became my lucky day.

x500_a49f5ff2-667d-40bf-998d-be86c1aa0c7a_360xSo, it’s without any trepidation at all, that I bring you the cover of my latest book, which is released this month. Cal and Andrea are hoping to make their friends’ wedding day perfect, but they meet with their share of bad luck, including a particularly distressing accident with the cake!  Somehow they manage to get through it all – and maybe that’s the whole point of my Friday the 13th story.  That having our friends and loved ones stand by us, through both good luck and bad, makes everything better.

Do you have a particular charm, or routine, to bring you luck?  I’d like to think that I’m not very superstitious, but then I do always cross my fingers when a new book makes its way out into the world…

EDIT – And I’ve just seen that Harlequin have a Friday 13th offer, to bring us some good fortune today!  If you buy 4 books or more then you save 40% on your order – the offer runs from 12.00am to 11.59pm ET on Friday 13th November.  Here’s the link!

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, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Amazing Adventures of Two Annies, A Dog and a Tennis Ball

I guess we’re all getting used to video conferencing these days.  How not enough light can make you look as if you’re speaking from a dungeon, and too much light can turn you into a shadow puppet.  The very lovely Annie O’Neil and I put all of our skills to good use the other day when we were asked to do a Facebook Live chat with Vic Britton, the Commissioning Editor for Mills and Boon.  Did we have an amazing time?  Yes, we did! 

We had a few hiccups, of course, because that’s what live chats are for 🙂  Those of you who wear varifocal glasses will recognise my rather faraway look in the first few frames, which comes from trying to find the right part of the lens to read something on my screen.  Annie had a special guest with her – Skye the border collie – who almost caused a disaster by sitting on her computer cable.  When my connection dropped suddenly, Vic and Annie valiantly kept going until the internet fairies flew to my rescue.  Oh, and if you want to know about the tennis ball, you’ll have to watch the video… 

 

A huge thank you to the ladies at Mills and Boon, who invited us and made this possible, and to Vic who was our wonderful host.  And, of course, wild appreciation for Annie O’Neil who is always a star in any given situation.

To round off Annie’s and my trip to Dolphin Cove, I’ll end with a short excerpt.  Drew has been recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident, but is keen to get back to work.  He’s taken his new puppy Phoenix to scout out the Veterinary Centre, early one morning, before anyone’s due to arrive for work…

***

The deserted reception area smelled of wax polish and hope. The consulting rooms were still the same, one of them filled with a mass of photographs of Ellie’s canine patients, and another with a more restrained set of framed photographs that belonged to Lucas. Drew’s was…empty. Neat and tidy, without a speck of dust. Drew smiled. It was ready and waiting for him.

‘Drew! What the blazes are you doing here?’

Ellie’s tone generally became firmer, in proportion to the size and momentum of the animal she was dealing with. This must be the one she reserved for charging rhinos.

Drew did the only thing possible and let go of Phoenix’s lead. When he turned, he saw the puppy barrelling along the corridor, the lead trailing behind her, and Ellie fell to her knees, scooping Phoenix up into her arms. Worked every time.

Or… Every time apart from this one.

‘Come on. What are you doing here?’ Ellie stood to face him, trying not to smile as the puppy licked her neck.

‘I could ask you the same question. Shouldn’t you and Lucas be staring into each other’s eyes over your cornflakes? You are technically still on your honeymoon, even if you are at work.

Ellie flushed slightly, presumably at the mention of Lucas’s eyes. ‘You do know what you’re doing, don’t you? Deflecting one question with another. It so happens that I didn’t have cornflakes for breakfast, and Lucas isn’t here. He’s doing the school run this morning.’

‘So you’re letting him in gently to the joys of parenthood.’ Drew grinned. He imagined that the other parents at the school gate were more of a challenge to Lucas than the whole six years he’d spent as TV’s favourite vet.

‘He said that yesterday was a bit like running a gauntlet of meerkats.’ Ellie shrugged. ‘He doesn’t mind, really.’

‘He loves it. You know that.’

Ellie nodded, smiling. She’d been in love with Lucas ever since the three of them had studied together at veterinary school. Lucas had left to become a celebrity vet, and Ellie had returned to Cornwall, where she and Drew had set up in practice together in Dolphin Cove. When Ellie and Lucas’s son, Mav, had been born, he had been so like his father, and a constant reminder that something was missing in all their lives.

But now Lucas was back. Ellie had never loved anyone else, and Drew was happy for them both.

‘You still haven’t answered my question.’

He hadn’t counted on springing this on Ellie today, but since she’d asked, he may as well grasp the nettle. ‘Why don’t we go and sit down in my office.’

‘I’m really getting worried now. You’re trying to butter me up by sitting down, aren’t you?’

Drew chuckled. ‘Yep. And I don’t want Phoenix running around here until she’s had her second set of vaccinations.’

He let Ellie tuck his hand into the crook of her elbow, but Drew was careful not to lean on her as they walked. He’d leaned on Ellie far too much already and he appreciated her support, but it had to stop. Leaning on the people around him was beginning to weaken him.

Ellie plumped herself down into a chair, keeping Phoenix on her lap for more cuddles, and Lucas lowered himself into the seat behind his desk. The surface looked as if it had been polished every day while he’d been away.

‘I’m coming back to work, Ellie.’

Ellie’s eyebrows shot up, but she took a moment to moderate her reaction. ‘We weren’t expecting you till the end of the month. Are you sure you’re well enough? What does your physiotherapist say?’

‘She says that if I think I can manage it I should give it a try, just for a couple of days a week for starters. She told me to take things slowly and stop if anything gets too much.’

Relief showed in Ellie’s eyes. ‘That…doesn’t sound so bad.’

‘You know I’ve been going crazy at home, Ells. I really need this and I’m going to need your support. I know you and Lucas can do with a helping hand here.’

‘Yes, we could.’ Ellie’s gaze softened suddenly. ‘Lucas isn’t replacing you, Drew. You know that’s never going to happen.’

It might. The complex animal surgery Drew excelled at took stamina and strength, and no amount of concentrating on the positive could tell him for sure that he’d ever be able to do that again. But he still had a lot to give, and if anyone was going to replace him, he wanted it to be Lucas. And if anyone was going to replace cool Uncle Drew in Mav’s affections, he wanted that to be Lucas too.

But the late-night fears about being of no more use to anyone were just paranoia. They weren’t what Ellie needed to hear from him at the moment.

‘You’re not the only one who’s pleased to see Lucas back, you know. We were all friends, and I’ve missed him too.’

‘You never said…’

Drew rolled his eyes. ‘Of course I didn’t, not while you were missing him on a completely different level. And being remarkably tight-lipped about it.’

Ellie heaved a sigh. ‘Okay. You have my support, just as long as you don’t overdo things. If you do, I won’t hesitate to escort you off the premises.’

‘It’s a deal.’

‘I suppose…the accounts need signing off.’ Ellie shot him a mischievous look. No doubt it had crossed her mind that checking them through involved sitting down.

‘I can do that.’ Drew called her bluff. ‘Although I haven’t forgotten that it’s your turn this year. Or maybe we should give them to Lucas, since he’s our newest partner in the practice.’

Ellie didn’t take the bait. ‘We’ll both owe you one, then. Mrs Cartwright’s coming in this morning, with Tabatha…’

‘Okay. You take Tabatha, and I’ll take Mrs Cartwright.’ It was well known that whenever Mrs Cartwright made an appointment for someone to look at her cat, she really wanted to sit in the waiting room and chat for an hour. The vets at the Dolphin Cove Clinic always made sure that she got a cup of tea and that someone was available to listen to her.

‘You’re a darling.’ Ellie frowned. ‘I suppose you’re not allowed to drink welcome-back champagne…?’

‘At eight in the morning, and with painkillers, probably not. We’ll do that another time.’

‘Welcome-back coffee, then? Your mug’s in your top drawer….’ Ellie gave Phoenix one last hug and got to her feet.

‘You go and get on. I’ll make the coffee.’ Drew opened the drawer of his desk, finding pens and his coffee mug stacked neatly inside. He was going to have to do something about all this tidiness.

‘All right.’ Ellie planted her hands on his desk, leaning over to kiss his cheek. ‘I’m so glad you’re back, Drew.’

‘Don’t get sloppy on me Ells…’ Drew could feel a lump forming in his throat.

‘Tough guy, eh?’ Ellie shot him a speculative look.

‘Not really. I just don’t want you to get me started.’

‘That might not be such a bad idea, Drew. You’ve always been there for me, and now Lucas and I both want to be there for you.’

‘You are. And I appreciate it.’ He just didn’t want to talk about it. ‘White no sugar?’

Ellie rolled her eyes. ‘That’s right. Glad to see you haven’t forgotten.’

When Ellie left, he took a moment to soak in the feeling. He was here, sitting behind his desk, and already had a few things to do with his day. Looking at the accounts, making the coffee and chatting to Mrs Cartwright might not be quite at the cutting edge of veterinary practice, but it was a start.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Things I never thought I’d need to know

Humans are a lot like magpies sometimes.  We collect shiny little pieces of information and store them away carefully, our instincts telling us that at some point we’ll be glad we knew that there are 270 stations on the London Underground, or that peanut butter can be made into diamonds.  (There!  That’s two off my list already.)

The sad fact is though, that a lot of this interesting information resembles an iceberg.  One tenth of it may be majestic and shiny in the sun, but nine tenths remain submerged, stored up for a future that isn’t going to happen.  Our brains are wonderful and sometimes mysterious things, and our innate curiosity about the world is one of the things that fuels science and innovation, but there’s also a degree of frustration.  When am I ever going to be able to slip the fact that opposing faces of a dice will always add up to seven into everyday conversation?  (Did you see that?  Three off my list!  Squeee!)

But sometimes, just sometimes, a writer gets the pleasure of being able to dredge beneath the surface, and haul something up that they never thought they’d need.  Take Latin, for instance…

There’s a story attached to this.  For some reason, my parents thought that learning Latin was going to add to my life skills.  I have no idea what that reason was, I was too busy trying to avoid the subject, which in retrospect was probably a mistake because at fourteen I found myself sitting in class at school, struggling with a language that seemed to me to be totally irrelevant to modern life.

I tried – I really did.  Two of the more unlikely things that stick in my mind from my teens are being able to decline a Latin verb, and knowing all the words to ‘American Pie’  (in order, no less!).  But after a year, the indignity of being thrown out of the Latin class when I’d worked so hard to get to grips with it, was far outweighed by relief that I was never again going to have to know how to stab someone with a sword in many different tenses.

(Just a moment ago, I went to look for my old Latin primer, so I could take a picture of it.  It seems that at some point I had the good sense to throw it away, which is more than can be said for some of the books on my shelves, which are a pretty random collection as well.  But that’s another blog.)

imageAnd – yet again, writing has proved me wrong.  Because when I wrote about a doctor hero and an archaeologist heroine, who solve an ages old medical mystery together, a Latin inscription became an integral part of the puzzle. (I’ll add a picture of that book, instead.)  I dedicated the book to teachers everywhere, and particularly my Latin teacher, who after all these years had been proved right.  Finally, finally my impoverished understanding of the language had come in handy.

Writing’s a bit like that.  Putting our characters into situations that we don’t generally find ourselves in.  Needing to know things that aren’t generally necessary.  Have you ever found yourself in a situation where that ‘never need to know’ information has come in handy?  Does anyone have any of those sparkly, useless facts for me to add to my ever-growing collection?  Or have you acquired the knack of concentrating only on what is useful or beautiful, without that clutter of random things?  (If so, any advice on how to do that would be much appreciated!)

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Welcome, Julie Danvers

I’m thrilled to be welcoming our newest Medical Romance author today – welcome Julie Danvers!  Julie’s debut Medical Romance ‘From Hawaii to Forever’ is available from the 1st June (not long to wait!) and it’s the perfect read for a sun-soaked holiday in the comfort of your own home.  I’ve asked Julie the need-to-know questions, so I’ll leave you to get acquainted…

color wall headshotI discovered Medical Romance when:

I’ve always been interested in medical dramas, whether they were fast-paced emergency room stories or cozy family practice dramas. In college, I was obsessed with shows like ER and Everwood, two very different medical dramas that demonstrate just how versatile the genre is. Discovering Harlequin’s Medical Romance line was a happy accident for me. About a year ago, I decided to get serious about my writing, and I thought that I wanted to write a thriller. As I was researching how to write suspense stories, I came across the So You Think You Can Write website, and learned that Harlequin had put out a call for new Medical Romance authors. I decided to give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did, because it’s opened up a whole new world of storytelling possibilities. I might still write that thriller someday, but Medical Romance offers plenty of opportunities for excitement and suspense.

I wrote my first story when:

When I was eight years old, I wrote a short story called The Christmas Cat. I remember that I had a green gel pen that I really enjoyed writing with, so much so that I wrote an entire six-page story with it. Sometimes all it takes to find the motivation to sit down and write is a great pen.

Where do you live:  

I’ve lived in Chicago for almost ten years. I love it. It’s a great city, and all my stuff is here, so I don’t think I’ll ever leave.

My best trait is:

I don’t give up easily, which is probably a very useful trait for a writer. I think writing is a lot like yoga. If there’s something you can’t do yet, you get further if you think, “how can I learn to do that,” rather than, “I can’t do that.”

My worst trait is:

I am not a very tidy person. I’ve heard a number of writers say that if you want to make time for your writing, you have to put housework on the back burner, and unfortunately I think that advice is all too easy for me to follow.

Five things on your bucket list: 

  1. Visit Ireland, New Zealand, Banff, and Yellowstone National Park.
  2. Write a gripping psychological thriller-romance that tops the bestseller lists.
  3. Eat a bagel from the Beigel Bake in Brick Lane in London. I have been to London three times, and each time, some obstacle has prevented me from getting to the Beigel Bake. Someday it will happen.
  4. Attend a Broadway production of Bring it On: The Musical (you never know, it could come out again).
  5. Explore The Met Cloisters in New York.

 

Julie’s website can be found at www.juliedanvers.wordpress.com.  Her debut Medical Romance ‘From Hawaii to Forever’ is available from 1st June.

y404Two things she never meant to fall for:

Hawaii…and him!

When her perfect life implodes, high-flying city doctor Kat Murphy plans the ultimate escape. In Hawaii, she finds sun, sea and sand on her doorstep—and delicious paramedic Jack Harper to rescue her from drowning! Her fascinatingly carefree new colleague is temptation personified… And when Kat can no longer resist, she has an enticing offer for the island’s most eligible bachelor: a fling without forever…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Catching up with a PB&J

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They’ve always fascinated me, not least because when I first heard about them, I thought that they actually did contain peanut butter and jelly.  (Note for our American readers – we refer to the preserves that we spread on our toast as jam.  In the UK, jelly is the wobbly gelatine dessert that goes with ice cream.)

Anyway.  PB&J always sounded a little odd to me, but it came up in the course of an email conversation with the lovely Susan Carlisle, which started with my enquiry about a typical American breakfast, took an unexpected right turn via marmalade and then got lost in a discussion of the various different names for things you can spread on bread or toast.  Somewhere along the line I admitted to my jam/jelly confusion, and Susan recommended peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to me, although not necessarily for breakfast.

It’s taken me a while to indulge my curiosity, but staying at home has given me a new respect for the untravelled path.  So I decided to make a totally British PB&J.  That’s peanut butter and jam, in case you were wondering 🙂

And my results?  Well, I think that ‘getting there’ might be the right term to use, and if anyone out there can see a flaw in my method and help steer me in the right direction, I’d be grateful.  I used buttered wholemeal toast, along with equal amounts of crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam.  (I spent some time extracting the pieces of strawberry from the jam.  I’m not entirely sure why I did that, but it seemed a good idea at the time.)

I’m not sure that I qualify as a PB&J lover yet – I may need to work on my recipe a bit, or it may be an acquired taste.  But it has a lot of potential.  And it’s reminded me of what book-lovers already know.  Not being able to go out into the world, doesn’t stop the world from coming to you.

x500_b7823310-66af-4786-8070-fe58a1cb0220_360xAnd, in other news, I have a book out next month.  It makes absolutely no mention of PB&J’s but it does have a hero, a heroine and home made apple pie 🙂

Is love the one challenge…

they’ll face together?

Her rivalry with doctor Jamie Campbell-Clarke is fun and, most importantly, strictly professional!  After the devastating demise of her brief marriage that’s all plastic surgeon Anna Caulder can handle.  But when Jamie’s own painful past arrives at her London clinic, Anna’s compelled to seek a deeper connection… Once in his arms, Anna knows that’s where she wants to stay – if only she can find the courage to share her heart-breaking secret.