Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories

Do you believe in Monsters?

A newly released video has revived an age-old question.  Is there really a monster living in the unexplored depths of Loch Ness?

Of course when I read about the video, I had to click, and watch it.  And… well there’s definitely something travelling across the water, because there’s a pronounced wake.  Which moreover changes direction, making a ninety degree turn.  But it’s sadly not possible to make out what’s causing that v-shaped trail in the water.

All the same, I really want to believe in Nessie and so I will.  Despite pictures that sometimes look a lot like floating logs or old pieces of lead pipe, theories about plankton or freak tidal events, I’d really like to think that she exists.  Better still, since the stories about Nessie reach back a long way in time I’m open to the possibility that there’s a Mr Nessie, along with a whole gang of Nessie juniors ready to take up monster duties when their parents retire.  Since Loch Ness is so deep, it’s not possible to say for sure.

Every country has its own stories.  There’s Bigfoot in America, the Yeti in Nepal… I’m not sure what the Australian equivalent is but I’m sure there must be one – perhaps someone can fill me in?  A little closer to London, there’s the ‘Beast of Essex’, which is variously characterised as a panther-like creature or a large black ghost-dog, although some people believe that it’s really next door’s cat in the magnifying glare of the moon.  Whether or not we believe in them, monsters are an acknowledgement that this world contains more than we know, which is undoubtedly true.

Of course monsters can be terrifying.  Perhaps it’s this that explains the frustratingly shaky quality of monster photography.  Faced with a large mythical creature my first instinct would be to run, so those brave souls who stop to take a picture can’t be blamed if they’re a bit out of focus.   

The scariest monsters though are the ones from our childhoods.  When I was little I was afraid of wolves – I’d seen some at the zoo and hadn’t liked the way they looked at me one bit.  Worse still the notion of a wolf lurking in the shadows followed me home on the bus, lying in wait for me under the bed and on top of the wardrobe at night.  My mother, who was an intensely practical woman, found a book in the library which reassured readers that wolves were really cowards and that the waving of a white flag would scare them away.  So for years I trusted the authority of the written word and took a home-made white flag to bed with me, along with a glass of water, since I’d got the idea from somewhere that wolves didn’t like being drenched either.  

In hindsight the wolves were probably just a symbol of all my childish fears rolled into one – if wolves hadn’t caught my imagination then something else would have done. And the simple remedies that calmed my fears were a reassurance that everything in life could be fixed if you found the right answers.  I like to think that I apply a little more logic to my fears now, but in truth perhaps the monsters we create are the ones that we need.      

And maybe, one day, these monsters might venture from their hiding places.  Who knows we may find that they’re not really monsters at all but gentle creatures who will bask in the sun and share our sandwiches with us, on the shores of Loch Ness.  There’s something about the idea which reminds me of the themes of so many books that I’ve read, venturing into the unknown and maybe finding that things are not always as we thought they were.

But in the meantime, I’m keeping an open mind 🙂

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Falling in Love (with a Secondary Character)

There are times when I just can’t help falling in love with a secondary character.  My first love may be my hero and heroine, but there are those secondary characters that just seem to sneak up on me and capture a little bit of my heart.

I know that Ann McIntosh will forgive me for mentioning Cerise at this point.  When we were planning our recent duo together, Cerise was intended as a little bit of background – Ann’s hero David Kennedy is the father of my hero Josh, and Cerise is David’s mother and Josh’s grandmother.  For me, the love affair started when Ann suggested a name, because who wouldn’t be bowled over by a glamorous grandmother called Cerise?  Particularly when she’s a songstress who started her career in 1960’s and whose first hit record was called ‘Love in Pink’.  When Ann wrote some wonderful lyrics for the song (look out for them in her book!) I became well and truly smitten.  A little bit of fictional scandal from the 1960’s surfaced in my book, my hero and heroine dance to an impromptu performance of ‘Love in Pink’ and…  What can I say?  Both Ann and I have some love to spare for Cerise 🙂

And there’s another secondary character, in my current release, that had my heart from the very start.  But this time it’s not a person…  ‘From the Night Shift to Forever’ features a building that I’ve become rather fond of.

Let me explain.  When I was plotting this book, I decided to include a theme of ‘Hidden London’ – those parts of a city that you never knew were there and just stumble across every now and then.  So my heroine’s charity, which delivers after-hours medical supplies, has found a home in a self sufficient Thames-side community of riverboat dwellers and operates from a little-known architectural gem on the river bank.  A Tin Tabernacle.

I first discovered Tin Tabernacles many years ago.  I’d lost my way – which is a pretty common thing for me – and I came across a building so unusual that I had to stop and take a photograph.

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Afterwards I discovered that I hadn’t just stumbled across a one-off oddity, but that Tin Tabernacles exist all over the country.  Originally intended as churches and community centres for isolated or moving communities, they date back to Victorian times and were the first mass-produced examples of a prefabricated building, which could be dismantled and move with the communities they served.  They’re usually painted in bright colours – shades of blue, pink or yellow – and the corrugated iron walls and sturdy wooden doors and windows are a standard feature.  Many of them look like the one that I came across because they were made to a standard pattern, although some are a lot more elaborate, and they’re often tucked away at the side of rivers and railway lines.  And although I imagine that they were probably very noisy when it rained heavily, hot in the summer and chilly in winter, I was captivated by their charm.

marmed3So… I should mention my hero and heroine, Robbie and Joel, because the book’s really all about them!  But if along the way I stop to admire my fictional Tin Tabernacle, I hope you’ll understand 🙂

A relationship was the last thing on her mind. So why is the new doctor all she can think about? Find out in Annie Claydon’s latest Harlequin Medical Romance!  Night-shift encounter—tempted by the brooding doc!

Children’s doctor Robbie Hall has learned it’s best to keep people at a distance. It’s why working the night shift and running a charity that delivers after-hours medical supplies suits her so perfectly. So Robbie is not prepared to catch the eye of brooding new ER doc Joel Mason. Because experiencing the powerful connection she’s always dreamed of will make resisting it all the more difficult…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Imagining the future

In the first few weeks of this New Year, it comes naturally to look forward and hope for better things.  That’s something which has become closer to home for so many of us in these last few pandemic years, when no-one can predict what’s going to happen next and the newspaper headlines have increasingly been happening right on our doorsteps.

It’s made me think.  What of writers who predict the future?  Of course there are as many possible scenarios as there are books, films and TV shows.  I remember when that most ominous of years – 1984 – dawned and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  ‘Well that didn’t happen…’  But these relatively small jumps into the future such as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and alternative reality scenarios like ‘The Man in the High Castle’ tend to concentrate on changes in society rather than technology.  They’re about our own world and what might happen to it if we don’t watch out.

But there are a lot of tales of the future that are set many years from now, when human beings inhabit a completely different world.  And since last year was the year when Captain Kirk (William Shatner) really did go into space, is it possible that this kind of future might be happening a little sooner than expected?

What about the other things that Star Trek promised us?  Transporters.  Sadly not, although they’d be extremely handy for shopping.  The Replicator.  Oh, how I’d love a replicator, particularly on a Saturday evening when I find I’ve run out of hearing aid batteries or light bulbs.  Perhaps in the future, Dr McCoy will have been on my case and there’ll be no requirement for hearing aid batteries…  THE HOLODECK!  The holodeck became much more of a thing when Captain Janeway and the crew were stranded in the Delta Quadrant and there are times during lockdown when a holodeck in our homes would have been a dream come true.  Many of us made do with a well-stocked bookshelf, where arguably the ‘pictures’ are better 🙂

Some things have materialised (although not with the aid of a replicator).  Captain Kirk did make it into space although according to news reports he never got to switch his phaser to stun, or kiss an inhabitant of another world.  We’ve become used to lights and other household appliances that switch on and off on command.  Medical science helps combat an increasing number of illnesses and injuries, but just as the crew of The Enterprise were still vulnerable to new viruses, so are we.

Phones, computers and touchscreens have revolutionised communication and access to information.  Although in the future, every last thing that the computer tells you is correct.  Most of us have developed a healthy scepticism for some of the things we read on the Internet and perhaps what Star Trek didn’t acknowledge is that information is only as good as the human beings who provide it in the first place.  (I suppose there’s an alternative – but we all know what happens when computers start to think for themselves…)

One thing that didn’t feature quite so widely on Star Trek as it does in my life, is technical incompetence.  The warp drive may have threatened to explode on almost a weekly basis but Scotty always worked something out, and when the technology was working people knew how to use it.  I, on the other hand, spent a good fifteen minutes this morning trying to work out how to switch ‘modes’ via the touchscreen on the new radiator in my home office.  In the future, someone’s definitely going to have to do something about making it all a bit more user-friendly.

So what about this bright, shiny New Year?  Perhaps its most valuable gift to all of us is that readers and writers can still dare to imagine.  Not just within the boundaries of science fiction – romance goes just as boldly into the realms of what we’d like to achieve.  Human beings thrown into situations that are difficult and often unfamiliar to them, and who have to fight for their happy ending.

I’ll finish by wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  May our dreams and imaginings never desert us – and may some of them come true 🙂

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt: The Doctor’s Reunion to Remember

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of working with Louisa Heaton in creating a scenario for our two-book series ‘Reunited at St Barnabas’s Hospital’.  Louisa and I decided that we wanted to follow patients through from when they first entered the hospital until they left, and so Louisa’s book – the first in the duo – is set in the Surgical Neurology Unit, while mine follows on from that, and is set in the Neurological Rehab Unit.

So to whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from my book, which is the second in the duo.  And don’t forget to check out Louisa’s book, ‘Twins for the Neurosurgeon’, as well!

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Second chance at forever!

In this Reunited at St Barnabas’s Hospital story, Dr Gil has adapted to a slower-paced life and his partial memory loss, following his traumatic brain injury. But when Dr Clemmie arrives at his rehabilitation centre, he can’t shake the feeling he’s met this captivating yet cautious doctor before…

Chapter One

It was a brisk uphill walk from Richmond Station, and Dr Clemmie Francis was a little out of breath by the time she got to St Barnabas’s Hospital. The large modern building sparkled in the sunshine, and Clemmie turned left at the main entrance as she’d been instructed, walking towards the older building that stood next door.

The neurological rehab unit was an example of a previous reincarnation of Barney’s. Grand in quite a different way, with high arched windows and fancy brickwork, that would have been a state-of-the-art example of a modern hospital in Queen Victoria’s reign.

Clemmie was a little early, so she crossed the road and sat down on a bench that was placed on the border of Richmond Park. She imagined that the windows of the neurological rehab unit afforded a magnificent view of the park, and that it would be possible to see for miles from the top floor of the building. A smile found its way from her heart to her lips. Seeing for miles was exactly what she wanted to do.

For too long now, she’d taken each day as it came, facing each new challenge as it presented itself. It had been a matter of self-preservation, a way to ignore a future that seemed to hold only jarring reverberations from the past. But slowly she’d made a new start. Found a place to live, scraped old paper from the walls and made it home. Found a new job, at a neurological rehab unit attached to a central London hospital. She’d been determined to shine, and she had.

And now she was on a fast track to promotion. The head of the unit was due to retire in six months, and Clemmie would be his successor. Spending six weeks here at Barney’s, which was recognised as one of the best neurological rehab units in the country, was an opportunity to learn and prepare herself for her new role.

Clemmie filled her lungs with air. The future really did seem to be waiting for her, sparkling in the early morning sun. She took a moment to appreciate the feeling of anticipation, and then got to her feet. Turning up early on your first day was never a bad thing, and she just couldn’t wait any longer.

The entrance of the older building gleamed in quite a different way from the main hospital complex. No vast sheets of glass or shimmering automatic doors. Here the pace seemed a little slower and quieter, and it was the polished wood of the lobby that caught the light. Beyond that, a large, bright space, where Clemmie could see a woman sitting behind a reception counter.

‘Dr Clemmie Francis. I’m here for the director of the unit…’ Clemmie handed over the letter from her hospital’s administrator, who had dealt with her placement here at Barneys, and which instructed her to be here at nine this morning.

‘Ah! Yes, we’re expecting you.’ The receptionist grinned. ‘You wouldn’t believe how many people have turned up here this morning instead of where they’re supposed to be. You’re in the right place though. I’ll give Dr Alexander a call. Sit down right there.’

Dr Alexander? A name from the past, which even now had the power to send shivers of agitation down Clemmie’s spine. She turned, obediently walking over to the seat that the receptionist had indicated and sitting down.

It was nothing. How many Dr Alexanders were there in this world? More than one, clearly, and this one would probably be middle-aged and avuncular, if the welcoming style of the reception area was anything to go by. Or a woman, maybe…

Clemmie took a deep breath, going through all the reasons that this couldn’t be the Dr Gil Alexander that she knew…scrap that, the one she’d met seven years ago, had a brief fling with, and clearly hadn’t known at all. He’d be somewhere in the fast lane, getting his kicks from emergency medicine. That, or sitting back in a comfortable leather seat with private patients hanging on his every word. Maybe back in Australia…

Enough. Wherever Gil Alexander was, he was part of her past now. She’d moved on and she didn’t need to wonder about him every time something happened to remind her of that mistake. The first domino to fall in a succession of others that had brought her world crashing down.

‘You’ll be with us for a while…?’ The receptionist’s voice came to her rescue and diverted her attention.

‘Yes, six weeks. I work at the Princess Victoria Hospital in north London.’

‘Ah. Nice.’ The receptionist shot her a blank look. ‘You’ll like it at Barney’s, everyone’s very friendly. And if there’s anything you need, just come and ask me. I’m Maggie.’

‘Thanks…’ There was one thing. ‘Could you tell me where the ladies’ is, please?’

‘Back there, turn left and the lockers and the ladies’ room are right in front of you.’ Maggie jerked her thumb, pointing behind her. ‘If you want to pop there now, Gil said he’d be five minutes.’

Dr Alexander. Gil. Dr Gil Alexander. Shock must have impaired Clemmie’s reasoning ability because she was already on her feet and halfway over to the door that the receptionist had indicated before she put it all together. And even then she was groping for some reason not to believe it. Maybe this Dr Alexander was Dr Gillian Alexander… No, Maggie had said he.

By the time she got to the washbasin in the ladies’ room, her hands were shaking, and she turned on the cold tap, dangling her fingers in the stream of water.

A warm summer, much like this year’s. Sticky heat. Sweat. Gil doing things with her body that she couldn’t forget, however hard she tried. She’d met him at a two-week conference and liked him…a lot. Fallen into bed with him with embarrassing speed, and then believed him when he’d said that he couldn’t wait to see her again. That business with the photo booth, where they’d had their pictures taken and written their telephone numbers on the back, had been just cruel. He’d never called her and when Clemmie had called him, excited to hear the sound of his voice, he hadn’t picked up. She’d been embarrassed and belittled, as well as hurt.

She stared at her reflection in the mirror above the basin. What if he recognised her?

What if he didn’t? That could cut both ways: it would be a blow to her pride, but it would make things easier. She could pretend that it had never happened. If he started to make her nervous she could employ the old interview trick of imagining him naked…

Which wasn’t going to work. Imagining someone naked was supposed to empower you. The Gil she’d known was far more powerful naked than he was clothed.

Imagine him as a liar. Someone who breaks his promises.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Great British Bank Holiday

Over the last year, I’ve been sometimes puzzled by the things I’ve missed during lockdown.  And August Bank Holiday Monday (on the 30th August) reminded me of one more thing.

Maybe it seems perverse to miss something that isn’t so very different from what we’ve all been experiencing of late.  One of the traditional options for a Bank Holiday is to spend the time at home doing some of those outstanding DIY jobs, which is a lot like what many of us have been doing during lockdown.  Taking the day off work?  Well, I work at home anyway and can dictate my own timetable, but that’s not such a novelty these days either.  True, the idea of jumping into the car and joining a traffic jam that leads most of the way to the nearest piece of busy coastline hasn’t been possible, but frankly it never was at the top of my list for Bank Holiday pleasures.  So of all the things I could have missed, why Bank Holidays?

Thinking about it, the thing I’ve missed the most is that Bank Holidays have always been different – even from other holidays.  Usually there are people back in the office when you take a holiday, so it’s tempting to wonder what’s happening while you’re away – but on a Bank Holiday most offices are closed so you can be pretty certain that nothing’s going on.  One day isn’t really enough to do anything that requires extensive planning, so it tends to be a day when we’re free of the normal routine, and can just decide on the spur of the moment what to do.  The thing about Bank Holidays is that they’re a change from the everyday – and that’s what I’ve really missed the most, because recently they’ve become just another day.

So today I’m writing in praise of the Bank Holiday, and in the hope that in future they’ll regain their ‘something special’ status.  When I turned to the internet to find out when the idea of a Bank Holiday started, I was surprised to find that they haven’t been a feature of the calendar since the year dot.  Sir John Lubbock drafted a Parliamentary bill to create Bank Holidays in 1871 – although the May Day Bank Holiday reflects May Day celebrations that go back to at least Roman Times in England, if not before.  Unlike many of our much loved institutions, the name does give you some clue as to the original intention – they were named Bank Holidays because the banks closed 🙂  As time went on, other industries gradually followed suit and took the day off.   

Since the Queen can add new Bank Holidays to the rota, I’m wondering what might be a good candidate.  A Midsummer Bank Holiday, maybe, so that we don’t get a rash of them around April and May, and then have to wait until August for the next one.  Maybe having too many Bank Holidays would destroy their charm – but I think that the current eight might be increased to ten, just for the sake of having a round number?  Perhaps we could have a poll every year, where different dates are suggested for the following year and everyone votes on it?  That way we can celebrate different Bank Holidays that are relevant to whatever’s going on in that particular year.  Do you have any suggestions?

And – since one of my favourite pursuits for a day off is reading, this leads me on to my latest release.  Which is sadly too late for the Bank Holiday 🙂  This book is one half of a duo with the lovely Louisa Heaton – both stories are set at St Barnabas’s Hospital in Richmond, Surrey.  So don’t forget to check out Louisa’s story Twins for the Neurosurgeon as well!

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The Doctor’s Reunion to Remember  by Annie Claydon

Second chance at forever!

In this Reunited at St Barnabas’s Hospital story, Dr Gil Alexander has adapted to a slower-paced life and his partial memory loss, following his traumatic brain injury. But when Dr Clemmie Francis arrives at his rehabilitation centre, he can’t shake the feeling he’s met this captivating yet cautious doctor before…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Sugar and Spice and all things Nice…

I expect many of us remember having Barbie dolls – or their UK equivalent Sindy.  Or maybe you had a Tressy doll – the one with the adjustable length hair?  They were all the rage when I was little and I loved my Sindy doll, despite her increasingly unmanageable coiffure and her rather limited set of expectations about what I might be when I grew up.

As I did grow up, and left my dolls behind, Sindy lost her appeal.  In my teens the idea of having a different outfit for every given task seemed far too much of a palaver if you wanted to get things done.  And in my twenties these narrow and stylised versions of women didn’t reflect what I saw around me and represented everything I didn’t want to be.

But…  Times change.  And I have to admit that I’ve been loitering behind the times, because when a news report sent me off to Barbie’s website to take a look at what she’s up to these days, I got a big surprise. I found Barbies with a range of varying skin tones, body types and different disabilities.  There’s Paramedic Barbie, Vet Barbie, Space Barbie and Baseball Barbie – along with all the Princess Barbies and Fashion Barbies admittedly, but we can have aspirations to become Olympic Gold Medallists or Doctors and still enjoy a bit of dressing up.

And there are ‘Signature Barbies’ – representations of Maya Angelou, Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks, Billie Jean King and Ella Fitzgerald to name just a few.  There’s also a Wonder Woman Barbie, and for those whose aspirations are a little more on the dark side, a Darth Vader Barbie 🙂

So the news item I read, about Dame Sarah Gilbert, the co-creator of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca Vaccine, makes a bit more sense to me now 🙂  Professor Gilbert is one of six women who are working in Science, technology, engineering and maths fields around the world and who now have their own Barbie doll.  Also honoured were US healthcare workers Amy O’Sullivan and Dr Audrey Cruz, Canadian doctor and campaigner Dr Chika Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr Jaqueline Goes de Jesus and Australian Dr Kirby White who co-created a reusable gown for frontline workers.

Dame Sarah said ‘I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realise how vital careers in science are to help the world around us’ and also commented ‘I hope it will be part of making it more normal for girls to think about careers in science’.

Of course there are many other types of dolls on the market now, which aim to reflect our diverse and beautiful world and show little girls just what their potential is.  And there’s an increase in the number of people making dolls which are tailored to reflect individual children’s disabilities or illnesses.  Children today can have a doll that looks like them, and which shows them what they can be when they grow up.

And…  perhaps the world’s not quite ready for Medical Romance Reader Barbie yet.  But what about Reading Barbie?  Complete with her own towering tbr pile and comfy chair 🙂 What do you think?  And did you have a Barbie, a Sindy or a Tressy doll when you were little?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Seize the day!

Whatever the day is, it’s a National Day for something, somewhere in the world.  I love the idea that we set aside days, weeks or months to think about special things and issues because in the rush of everyday life I don’t always think to look beyond what’s next on my to-do list.  And I love that some of these days are celebrated around the world, Earth Day is a lot more than just turning the lights out at 8.30pm, but it’s amazing to feel that people all around the world are doing so in a kind of Mexican wave which spreads around the globe.

And alongside the days when we’re called upon to remember or to act, there are fun days.  I’ve picked out my top ten (if you want to see a longer list there’s a great one at Time and Date dot com which gives lots of ideas).

January 1st  Polar Bear Plunge Day  Well this isn’t one that we’ll be celebrating on the banks of the Thames anytime soon.  But we’re not completely discouraged by our lack of polar bears and in the UK New Year’s day is the time when traditionally groups of hardy people take a plunge in the sea to see the New Year in.  Not something I’ll be taking part in for the foreseeable future 🙂

January 15th  Strawberry Ice Cream Day  This is a day which originated in the US.  But what’s not to like about strawberry ice cream?  Of course it should have its own day!

February 10th  National Umbrella Day  Another day that originated in the U.S., but I can’t help feeling that this really should belong to the rainy UK at the moment.  I’ve lost count of the number of umbrellas I’ve left on the train or lost and then found again, and I have a good selection of them to celebrate with.

March 1st  World Compliment Day  This is an unofficial holiday, but what a good idea!  Spread a little happiness.

March 8th  Proofreading Day  That one speaks for itself!  And ‘The Wicked Bible’, published in 1631 by the royal printers of London shows just how important it is – their proofreaders failed to spot a mistake in Exodus chapter 20, where the ‘not’ was left out of ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’.  The printers were fined £300 for letting this through and deprived of their printing license.

May 1st  Batman Day  I grew up learning how to dance around a maypole for May Day, which generally ended up with someone being tied up in the streamers after making a wrong move.  How much more fun would it have been in Batman capes?

May 14th-25th  Nettle Week  Which just goes to show that everything has its part to play, even the humble stinging nettle, which has a whole week!

August 1st  Sisters Day  Celebrate our sisters!  The ones we were born with, and the ones we’ve adopted along the way 🙂

August 13th  International Left Handers Day  I grew up as the only rightie in a whole family of lefties – so in truth most days were left handers day at our house 🙂  But it’s one of those things it’s easy not to think about if it doesn’t have its own day – how many things around us are arranged to be convenient for righties but awkward for lefties.

Second Tuesday in October  Ada Lovelace Day  This one has a more serious theme, to encourage girls to pursue their interest in science and technology.  Go Ada!

I’ve already chosen ten, and it’s only October.  So sadly I can’t mention ‘Men make Dinner Day’ on the 4th November, or ‘Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day’ on the 8th December.  My own suggestion for a fun National Day?  Is there a ‘Have Breakfast in Bed’ day?  If not I think there really should be.  I’ll send a copy of my latest release, ‘Falling for the Brooding Doc’ in exchange for the best idea!

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Going for gold is nothing…

…compared to winning his heart

For injured doctor and championship rower, Laurie Sullivan, pushing herself to the limit is all she’s ever known. But enigmatic Dr. Ross Summerby knows she’s not taking her injury seriously. His shock tactic threat of eviction from his exclusive rehabilitation clinic, unless she focuses on her treatment and helps with some of his patients, works wonders. But the unexpected connection between them, soon makes Laurie dream of a very different future!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Long, Long wait for a Happy Ever After

A few months ago, I wrote a letter to my younger self, about the first time I tried my hand at writing romance.  If you happened to see that post, you’ll know that there was a great deal wrong with that book, as I suspect there probably is with most first tries at anything.  But, as I said then, because it was my first try, my hero and heroine have always occupied a special place in my heart.

Ross and Laurie did their best, they really did.  There was a lot of blushing, some misunderstandings and something that resembled an internal conflict.  But none of that was really enough to make their Happy Ever After special, something they’d worked hard for and really deserved.  It just suddenly started to happen somewhere around Page 199, because I knew that I’d be hitting my word-limit on Page 202.

So last year, I decided to put all of that right and give Ross and Laurie the HEA that I’d always wanted for them.  My new heroine Laurie isn’t a lot like her namesake – the original Laurie was a librarian, who had a real talent for blushing.  This Laurie is made of sterner stuff, she’s somehow managed to combine her career as a doctor with one as a championship rower, and she’s not going to let anyone tell her what to do with her life.  My hero Ross isn’t quite as irritatingly perfect as his original counterpart and even though he comes across as pretty laid back, he’s just as stubborn as Laurie is when it comes to doing the best he can for his patients.

This is one of the amazing privileges of being a writer.  I can include little nods to friends in my books, in the hope of making them smile.  I can also re-visit my previous heroes and heroines – in ‘Best Friend to Royal Bride’, when Marie and Alex needed an eye-catching mural for the reception area of their new clinic, who better to call on than Art Therapist and painter Cori Riley, the heroine of ‘Discovering Dr Riley.’  It was enormous fun to be able to check back on Cori and Tom Riley, and to find that Cori still gets to cover herself with paint at the weekends in support of a good cause, while Tom keeps an eye on their two children, Matthew and Chloe.

And now my secret’s out and it gives me a particular thrill to introduce you to Ross and Laurie.  They’ve waited a long, long time for their Happy Ever After, but next month their book will be hitting the shelves and what’s more the Harlequin Cover Artists have provided me with a great new image of Ross.  I think he’s become better looking over the years, too 🙂

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Going for gold is nothing…
…compared to winning his heart

For injured doctor and championship rower, Laurie Sullivan, pushing herself to the limit is all she’s ever known. But enigmatic Dr. Ross Summerby knows she’s not taking her injury seriously. His shock tactic threat of eviction from his exclusive rehabilitation clinic, unless she focuses on her treatment and helps with some of his patients, works wonders. But the unexpected connection between them, soon makes Laurie dream of a very different future!

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.