Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Using the Noodle

As if life wasn’t already showing me clearly just how old I’m getting, my high school class is about to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our graduation!

WHAT?

How could time have gone by that quickly???

Wasn’t it just yesterday that this was what I saw in the mirror?

Now, mind you, back then we started school at two or three years old, so I graduated high school at fifteen, but still! Ugh…

The Queen’s High School crest. The school was established in 1953, and named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne the previous year. The motto translates to: May she Flourish in Wisdom and Virtue. Clearly I didn’t live up to that, but the school gave me an excellent academic base nonetheless!

And I’ve found myself even more than ever doing ‘old people’ things, like walking into a room and standing there, wondering why I went there in the first place. And leaving things in places, then forgetting where on earth I put them. Even starting this post, stopping to look something up, and then suddenly remembering I needed to finish it, ten minutes later! So, I decided to start doing a few little things to keep my brain a little sharper.

Strange as it is, I’ve never been terribly good at word games. Long ago I used to do The Times cryptic crosswords with my father, and enjoyed them. I got good enough that we would both do it individually during the day, and compare notes at night, often completing each other’s copy. But because they depend a lot on popular references, I haven’t found a US equivalent that pulls me in the same way.

Jumbles would frustrate me, because I took so long to solve them, and the occasional time I can solve the Spelling Bee pangram is more a source of amazement than anything else.

Then, I noticed people talking about ‘Wordle’ online, and tried it. Now I’m hooked, both on it and on Quordle, which is where you have nine tries to figure out four separate words. Have they really helped stave off my forgetfulness? I don’t know, but I hope so, because I’m going to keep on doing them.

Do any of you have any suggestions for games or puzzles that will help keep my noodle working well? Drop them in the comments, if you do!

And, because I’m so excited about my upcoming release One Night Fling in Positano, I thought I’d share the cover and blurb again.

I love this cover soooo much!

Can one night of passion… 

…change her whole life? Nurse Kendra lives a jet-set life. Who needs a home and family when they only let you down? So when meeting gorgeous Massimo in Positano results in one unforgettable night, Kendra has no regrets—until he turns out to be her new boss! Continuing their fling is risky, but also irresistible… Under the red-hot Mediterranean sun, will Kendra realize it’s not her fling that’s at risk but her no-strings-attached relationship rule?

Cover reveal, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Travels Around the World

Home is…

For most people the question, “Where is home?” is simple to answer. Maybe they’d tell you their address, city of residence, or the country they’re a citizen of. Or, perhaps, they’ll tell you a special place of the heart, like a grandparent’s house, or the area their family came from.

An overcast afternoon in Kingston, Jamaica

If you ask me that question, I’d have a hard time replying.

Where I live now in Florida is home, but so is London, Ontario, Canada, and Kingston, Jamaica. I miss them both when I’m not there, although I’ll be the first to say I’m ecstatically happy where I am now too.

It’s tug-of-heart-and-soul, to be honest.

Hibiscus, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

The pandemic really put pay to any plans I had to go to either Canada or Jamaica, and I can’t tell you how excited I was to go to visit my kids in Canada last year. Then, just this month, I finally made it back to Jamaica—and I suddenly felt complete again.

Beautiful day at the beach, Discovery Bay, Jamaica

Renewed.

Invigorated.

Although I’m still trying to recover physically from the trip!

Sunset over the airplane wing- Jamaica, goodbye. Until next time…

It really made me think, though, about that question of home. Is it really a physical place at all? Or, like love, is it where the heart lies? And, like love, is it okay to have many focuses of your attention? If we can love parents, spouses, children, and friends, can’t we love all the places we have unbreakable bonds to—call them all “home?”

I rather think we can.

And I know I always will.

Donkey cart along the Mandela Highway, Spanish Town, Jamaica. Both donkey and mule carts used to be common on the streets and highways, but this was the only one I saw on this trip.

I’m excited to share with you the cover for my July/August release, One Night Fling in Positano. I love it!

Walk underneath the Mediterranean moonlight as you fall in love with Ann McIntosh’s latest Harlequin Medical Romance!

Can one night of passion… …change her whole life? Nurse Kendra lives a jet-set life. Who needs a home and family when they only let you down? So when meeting gorgeous Massimo in Positano results in one unforgettable night, Kendra has no regrets—until he turns out to be her new boss! Continuing their fling is risky, but also irresistible… Under the red-hot Mediterranean sun, will Kendra realize it’s not her fling that’s at risk but her no-strings-attached relationship rule?

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt: Island Fling with the Surgeon

I have a dear friend who has been super-supportive of my writing career, buying my books whenever they come out and even recently asking me to sign my latest, which she swears is her favorite. While I definitely have more than one friend who buys my books, her love of Island Fling with the Surgeon means a lot to me, because she’s one of those people who doesn’t hesitate to give her honest opinion. Well, maybe she just wouldn’t *say* anything if she hated it, but she wouldn’t say she liked it if she didn’t!

As I keep saying, this was a fun book to write. My impulsive, mischievous heroine and steady, loving hero are the kinds of people I’d love to hang out with, and I want to party with their extended families. While we can’t make it back to the Caribbean just yet, or have the opportunity to visit far-flung family and friends, I hope this book will remind us all of what awaits once we can again!

Excerpt: Island Fling with the Surgeon

Zach leaned back as the deepening shadows cast Gen’s face into a mysterious, gorgeous study in gray scale. They were sharing companionable silence, while she watched the final colors of the setting sun fade from the sky, and he found himself equally enthralled by her profile. The more time he spent with her, the more fascinated he found himself becoming.

It was all well and good to say they were play-acting in an effort to fool the people around them, but he knew, for him, the acting was starting to feel far too real.

Leaning over her earlier, he’d realized he was tempted to kiss the top of her head or her cheek.

It had been a long time since he’d felt drawn to another person the way he was to Gen. He could spend hours with her and never feel bored or uncomfortable—except when his body reacted to hers in untoward ways, like when they’d danced together.

Whew.

That had been far too real for comfort.

She’d moved like silk in his arms, her lush body swaying in perfect time with his. It had been easy to imagine they really were a couple, and all he had to do was dip his head and she’d lift hers for a kiss.

Which was something he’d been thinking about way too often.

Kissing Gen.

It had crossed his mind repeatedly that kissing her on her cheek when her mother was around would seem highly unusual. After all, they were supposedly in the midst of a months-long relationship. Wouldn’t it be more natural for them to greet each other with a kiss on the lips?

But that was a direction he was chary of going in, since he wasn’t sure he was ready to take such a step.

It seemed far too dangerous to go down that path, especially with his heightened awareness of the attraction building toward the beautiful woman across from him.

What he was beginning to feel for her was way too close to desire to be entirely comfortable, despite the fact it would make his performance all the more realistic.

Shaking the thoughts away, he got up to turn on the lights in the house and catch his breath.

“Would you like some pudding?” he asked, as a way to distract himself. “I have some stewed local plums and ice cream.”

The sound of her little chuckle made him smile too.

“That’s not pudding. That’s fruit and ice cream. But no, thank you.” Her chair creaked as he watched her get up. “I’m going to head home. I’m operating early tomorrow morning.”

As she spoke, she came into the kitchen, blinking at the brightness of the light. When she rubbed her left eyelid, he realized she was probably more tired than she was letting on.

“Okay,” he said, his brain unerringly going back to his previous thoughts about kissing. “Drive carefully, and let me know when you get home.”

“Will do,” she replied, taking up her handbag. “And why don’t you come by my place tomorrow evening for a change. I’m so in love with your house, I keep coming here, making you cook for me. It’s time I returned the favor.”

He chuckled. “I don’t mind. I like cooking.”

And he liked having her there. She brought new life to the house, blowing away the cobwebs of his previous funk.

“And I very much like eating your cooking,” she agreed serenely, as they walked to the stairs. “But come by anyway. I have a hankering for steak, done on the grill.”

“I’d like that,” he admitted, and it was no lie. He’d only glimpsed the inside of her town house when he’d gone to pick her up for one of their excursions. It would be nice to get a more intimate look. “You need me to bring anything?”

“Nope.”

They were at the foot of the steps when she paused, looking up at him, and something in her expression froze him in place.

“Zach,” she said softly, coming a little closer. “I’m going to kiss you. If you have any objections, now’s the time to voice them.”

His throat was suddenly so tight it rendered him unable to voice anything at all. So instead, he opened his arms to her, reminding himself it was all just play-acting, even as his body hardened and his heart rate went into overdrive.

She smiled slightly, but it had an uncertain edge to it, and he saw the color staining her cheeks just before she stepped into his arms.

And even though he tried to hold back, he couldn’t resist moving his mouth against hers, deepening the kiss in minute increments until he felt the tip of her tongue touch his lower lip.

Then all bets were off.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Love to Write Competition is open!

Harlequin and Mills & Boon continue their efforts toward diversity, inclusion, and representation, and I’m so here for it! Along with initiatives such as #RomanceIncludesYou pitch events, Carina’s Adores line, and a scholarship program, last year the company also created a mentorship program. The Romance Includes You Mentorship program for underrepresented authors had over 160 applications and, after whittling that number down to eleven, author Sera Taíno was the first recipient. Her debut novel, A Delicious Dilemma goes on sale in September 2021!

A Delicious Dilemma

Earlier in July came the announcement of Love to Write, a competition for unpublished authors from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds who live in the UK and Ireland.

From the website:

The winner of Love to Write will receive a one-book contract with Mills & Boon, a grant to support their writing, and a one-year mentorship with a Mills & Boon/Harlequin editor to help them develop their submission into a full, publishable romance novel. This competition aims to find new romance novels by writers from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds that bring more diverse characters and perspectives to the romance genre.

With initiatives like this, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of new and exciting authors publishing through Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and I can hardly wait.

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

A Return to St. Eustace

In July of last year, one of the favorite of all the books I’ve written was published. Being a tropical girl, I’d wanted to set a book on an island in the Caribbean, yet couldn’t decide on a specific one. After going over it in my head again and again, I decided to create a fictional island nation, called St. Eustace, (not to be confused with the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius) and set Best Friend to Dr. Right there.

Then, as is the way of authors, I moved on.

But that world, those characters, the setting kept calling me back.

The fact is, the Caribbean is a rich, multicultural area, which attracts so many people for so many different reasons. Centuries ago it was an area people ran to, to hide, to escape, to reflect, to prosper, and it’s really little different now. That aspect of the Caribbean is one that fascinates me and that fascination led me to a new storyline, and back to St. Eustace.

So, Island Fling with the Surgeon was born, and will be released in August 2021. In it two flawed but delicious characters navigate their way through a faux love affair, that becomes oh, so real! There are also glimpses of familiar characters from Best Friend to Doctor Right. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below!

Make-believe?

Or more than she bargained for?

When Dr. Genevieve Broussard convinces nurse Zach Lewin to enter a fake relationship to help keep her meddling mom off her back, she’s confident there’s no danger of it turning into anything more. Her first priority has to be her surgical career, and both Gen and Zach are still reeling from recent betrayals. But as the summer heat in the Caribbean loosens inhibitions, their fake “affair” is at risk of becoming all too real…

Excerpt

The drive over to Coconut Beach took only about fifteen minutes, but Zach found his thoughts repeatedly going back to Genevieve, no matter how he tried to keep them on other matters. So much so that, on turning into the car park next to the beach, he thought perhaps his eyes, following the lead of his brain, were playing tricks on him.

That couldn’t be Dr. Broussard sitting on the bonnet of her car waving to him, as he pulled into a nearby space, could it?

It most certainly was, and as she hopped down from her perch and made her way toward his car, bemusement had the muscles in his neck tightening.

What the heck was going on?

He had hardly closed the car door behind him before she started speaking.

“Hey, I’m sorry to stalk you like this, but I really needed to talk to you, and the hospital wasn’t the best place to do it…”

Although she stopped to take a breath, Zach didn’t have a chance to utter even one word before she asked, “Would you be my boyfriend?”

Gen hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that, but she was so nervous her palms were sweating, her knees were weak and the words just tumbled out of her mouth. The look of shock on Zach’s face just made it all worse. Heat climbed the back of her neck, and she rubbed at it, trying to dispel the prickling sensation.

“I’m sorry?” he said, his voice clipped and terribly precise, sharp enough to cut. “I beg your pardon?”

“Oof,” she replied, then wished she could pull the inarticulate sound back into her mouth, especially when his eyebrows contracted into a fierce scowl. Who would have thought she’d won prizes for elocution in the past, if that was the best she could come up with? “No, I’m sorry. I know it sounds crazy, but will you give me a chance to explain?”

He was still wearing that scowl, and the searching nature of his gaze made her wonder if he thought she was nuts.

She was wondering the same thing herself and couldn’t blame him if he were!

“I’m waiting with bated breath for you to do just that,” he said, with a hint of sarcasm overlaying the words.

She rubbed at her nape again and tried to regain some hint of composure.

“I’m not propositioning you, although I know it sounds like it.” The urge to start babbling again had her stopping and taking a deep breath. After blowing it out, she continued. “The truth is, I lied to my mother and told her you and I were involved in a relationship.”

“You what?”

He said it softly, but he couldn’t have sounded any more dangerous if he’d shouted.

Gen held up her hands. “I know. I know. It was stupid, but Mom is always on at me about not having a social life, and one night I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I made up a story to get her off my back.”

Not the entire truth, but close enough under the circumstances.

“Why me?”

Now she could hear curiosity warring with his outrage, and it made her embarrassment deepen, if that were at all possible.

“I don’t know for sure,” she replied, trying to be honest. “I think it was because you’d just arrived, and I’d worked with you in the OR for the first time, so your name just popped into my head.”

Zach shook his head slowly, still giving her a suspicious glare.

“And now—?”

“Now Mom’s coming to visit, and I can’t let her know I lied.”

His nostrils flared slightly, as he drew in a harsh breath. “Just tell her it didn’t work out, and we’re not friendly anymore. Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

“No!” Yikes, now she was barking at him. She had to get a grip. “It would make it worse—for me anyway—because then the whole cycle would start again.”

His gaze made her feel like a recalcitrant child, and now her entire body flushed hot. Looking around, she spied a small gazebo farther along the beach and gestured toward it.

“Can we sit down and talk about it?” Yeah, she was pleading, but although it felt weird, she was willing to do whatever it took to get Zach on board with her plan, no matter how crazy it was.

He didn’t reply for such a long interval she was absolutely sure he was going to tell her to get lost, but finally he nodded and waved his hand in the direction of the hut.

“After you.”

“Thank you,” she said, as they started walking that way. “I really appreciate it.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” he said in that cool, cutting tone. “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

“You agreed to at least hear me out,” she pointed out, perhaps more sharply than she should, all things considered.

That earned her a stern, sidelong glance, but he was gracious enough to say, “That’s fair.”

By the time they sat across from each other at the shaded table, she was struggling with what she was going to say. It had sounded, if not sensible, at least reasonable when she’d rehearsed it all in her head, but now all that she’d planned to say fled in the face of that interrogatory gaze.

“Well?” he said, not breaking eye contact. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

She was suddenly catapulted back in time to the principal’s office, where she was supposed to explain how one of her many escapades had gone awry—and the sensations were still the same.

Embarrassment.

Shame.

But also, the unmistakable high of an adventure unfolding.

The last made her smile, and Zach’s scowl grew even more ferocious.


Cover reveal, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Musings on Spring, and a cover reveal

It’s officially spring here in the Western hemisphere, but I’m not feeling it. I hate to admit it, but at this time of year I actually miss living in Canada. Just to be clear, I often miss Canada but usually for very different reasons, which usually include the family and friends I’m away from. Especially now, after a year of separation and at what I hope is the tail end of the lockdown.

No, Canadian weather isn’t something I usually miss, now that I’m living in Florida. Any of my Canadian friends will tell you that I don’t like winter. Ice on the ground? Snow blowing sideways? Days and days of grey skies and then, when the sun comes out it means the temperature drops? Ah, no thank you.

Sometimes, even when it’s supposedly spring in Ontario, that includes the occasional snow flurry, along with very cold rain. Often spring seems like just winter’s younger, just as ugly brother. Here it’s 84 degrees, while in London, Ontario, where I used to live, it’s about 48 degrees, at the time of writing. Now, I prefer warm over cold, usually, but the reality is that spring in Central Florida actually often feels more like summer come early.

One of the things I enjoyed in Canada was the visual evidence of spring slowly but surely coming into its own. Red buds on the trees, showing the first tentative evidence of leaves bursting forth. Little green sprouts courageously pushing through winter’s grime, reaching for the sun.

Then, suddenly, front gardens showing hints of color, as the bulbs begin to bloom. Tiny little wild flowers, which some gardeners may consider weeds but I love, peeping through the grass. And then the glory of the cherry and crabapple trees in full glorious blossom outside the office I worked at.

Once cameras on phones became a thing (yes, my sweet summer children, once upon a time this wasn’t even conceivable LOL!) I loved taking pictures of these signs, and my heart was happy. It was a tangible way to know another snowstorm was unlikely, and I’d turn my face up to the sun (when it was around) sort of like a flower myself, yearning for new beginnings.

Please don’t think that where I live now doesn’t have its own particular beauty, and signs of spring. I still take pictures of tiny flowers and some not so tiny ones, but now it doesn’t quite have the same meaning. Before it was a transition from a season I disliked to one that held the promise of really warm weather on the way. Now it’s Florida ramping up to become ever-so-slightly unbearable, unless you’re in a boat, on the water, slathered in sunscreen.

Yeah, now I’m left asking myself, “What on earth are you complaining about? Boating season is around the corner…”

Now, for the promised cover reveal!

Here is my M&B UK cover for Island Fling with the Surgeon, which will it the shelves in August. I love it! This book takes readers back to my fictional island of St. Eustace (not the be confused with the very real island of Sint Eustatius, in the Dutch Leeward Islands), first introduced in Best Friend to Doctor Right. Here’s the blurb:

Make-believe?

Or more than she bargained for?

When Dr. Genevieve Broussard convinces nurse Zach Lewin to enter a fake relationship to help keep her meddling mom off her back, she’s confident there’s no danger of it turning into anything more. Her first priority has to be her surgical career, and both Gen and Zach are still reeling from recent betrayals. But as the summer heat in the Caribbean loosens inhibitions, their fake “affair” is at risk of becoming all too real…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Soothing Sunday series

Ever get asked to do something that absolutely fills you with terror? You know, like give a speech to a huge crowd, or display something you made, or do an off-the-cuff presentation? Well, if you have, and are anything like me, it fills you with dread, give you that old butterflies-in-the belly sensation, maybe even robs you of sleep at night.

Yeah, that’s my life this week, since the lovely editors at Harlequin asked me to take part in the Soothing Sunday Series, where I get to do a live Facebook video, reading an excerpt of my upcoming release, Night Shifts with the Miami Doc.

LIVE.

My first thought when I saw the email was, ‘Soothing??? For whom?’

Obviously not for me! I haven’t been this keyed up since… I can’t even remember when.

Did I mention it’s live?

And that I have a face for radio, and a voice for a silent film?

Not to mention a Covid afro that refuses to be tamed?

Now that last one, I have to admit I’m rather enjoying. Since nothing is locked down here in Florida, and (of course) we have no snow, I know I could get a haircut if I really wanted to, but these wild curls of mine seem to suit these crazy times.

However, having taken part in a number of Zoom meetings and video calls over the last year, I know my hair, which is very fine and going gray, doesn’t really translate well in that medium. The gray bits sort of disappear, so I look as though a toddler got at me with a pair of pruning shears.

Still not getting it cut, though.

Of course, too, there are the technical aspects of it, which I’m not familiar with, and am sure I’ll mess up, including setting up the scheduled video. Nothing like being technically challenged in this brave new world of ours to make one feel, well, incompetent.

In the end, I hope I can bring it off without embarrassing myself, and if your free at noon on February 21st, 2021, I hope you’ll join me, so I’m not speaking into the void, mournfully wondering, “Is anyone out there?”

And now you know why I can’t get any sleep.

My crazy, rather paranoid imagination just won’t let me!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Origin Stories, The Writing Life

Onward, to a Brighter Future

If last year were a pinecone…

Happy New Year, All!

I’m honored to have this very first blog spot of 2021 to talk about a subject dear to my heart. After the year just gone, (It That Shall Not Be Named, Which Will Live On In Infamy) I’m hoping for a fresh start, and progress toward a better world for us all, including within publishing. I’m hoping readers and writers alike will find this blog interesting, and informative, and something to consider as we move into this bright, (hopefully) shiny New Year.

Over the last decade or so, there’s been a sea-change coming in the publishing sphere, and not everyone has been comfortable with it, or able to understand why it was even necessary. I personally think it started with the advent of small presses and self-publishing. During that time, a number of authors began to get noticed in a way they hadn’t been able to before. Many had abandoned the hope of getting traditionally published because they’d tried, repeatedly, and been rejected, repeatedly.

In some cases, those rebuffs came not because they were poor, sub-standard writers, but because their characters didn’t conform to what was then deemed acceptable, or marketable.

Those authors were writing about characters the gatekeepers in traditional publishing had little to no interest in. Worse, they were putting those characters in situations deemed the milieu of white, Cis-het people, yet often they were neither of these things. Those authors were writing characters who were LGBTQ+, black, Asian, and every other race, creed, color, and nationality. They were writing all types of stories imaginable. Those tales were often raw, and real, and questioning of a society that seemed inclined toward ignoring the realities of lives outside the “norm.”

“Norm,” of course, being relative and subjective; a truth that is oft glossed over, and minimized when it is convenient.

Since then, I’m happy to say, things have improved in the way of diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there’s still a struggle ahead. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t have to be a concerted effort to attract diverse stories and authors, but we would all be judged, equally, on the quality of our work. And all good stories, no matter where they’re set, or who the characters are, would have an equal chance of publication.

We’re not there yet, but it’s heartening to see the initiatives and training being offered in the hopes of getting us, as an industry, to that point. It takes effort, and courage, to affect change. Clarity about, and understanding of situations and people that perhaps are alien to us has to be sought, and taken on board. Recognition of the barriers people have faced, and often still face, is imperative, as is the determination to break them down.

At Harlequin/Mills & Boon’s new Write for Harlequin website, they’ve added an entire section geared toward Diverse Voices, and I’m hoping it attracts the attention of authors from around the world. Category romance may sometimes seem to be the unwanted stepchild of the publishing world, but it’s wildly popular, and always in need of fresh, new voices.

On the website can be found lists of initiatives and outreach programs, including mentorships and scholarships, geared toward diverse writers. By reaching out to underrepresented groups, Harlequin has shown they’ve seen, and understood, the impediments many authors have historically faced, and are making the necessary changes to address the imbalance.

With the success of those initiatives, I hope to have a much widened pool of amazing authors to read. New voices, showing us life as we’ve never seen it before.

I want to be swept away to places I’ve never experienced, see them from an insider’s perspective, and learn more about this wondrous, amazing world we inhabit.

Meet new characters, with a range of issues brought about by family traditions, misunderstandings, driving desires, and many other delicious problems, but with twists only that author, with their particular knowledge and world-view, could write.

I want my mind blown, and expanded, by those new stories.

That’s why I read: to be transported, educated, and entertained by stories outside of my own personal knowledge. To lose myself in new places, and characters, and cultures.

To learn tolerance and understanding through being exposed to life as others live it, not just be mired in my own small world.

To me, that’s the magic of books, and I want to be enchanted by all this world has to offer.

Please visit the Write For Harlequin website, and encourage others who want to be published to do so, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or the personal barriers they face.

After all, while I, and other like-minded readers, still actively long for diversity, ‘inclusion’ means everyone.

There is more than enough success to go around, when we clear the way for all authors.

Christmas Flowers from my Hubby, which lasted all through the season!
Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Year of ‘Hurry up and Wait,’ then Hurry!

A little slice of holiday cheer, to make my Zoom background more festive!

This blog post is terribly late going up for a reason that sounds frankly ludicrous in 2020: I got busy and didn’t get it written!

In a year where we’ve spent the majority of our time at home, twiddling our thumbs, that sounds nothing more than a lame excuse, but it’s true. I rarely write blog posts more than a few days ahead, for the simple reason that I like to post about something current, when I can. Last week found me rushing to finish a crochet project for a Zoom party on Sunday. Then my husband needed my help with a project on Monday and Tuesday, which took us away from home until late yesterday evening. It was only when I, exhausted, was falling into bed last night that I recalled the notice that had popped up on my phone in the afternoon.

“Okay, I’ll get it done FIRST THING IN THE MORNING,” I thought.

As they say in Canada (and apparently parts of the US Mid-West), “Yeah, no.”

This has really been a roller-coaster year, so why did I think it would end any differently?

We’re hunkered down, in a partially festive house (the tree is up, and there’s one little section of the buffet, visible behind me during Zoom calls, decorated), for the the duration of 2020, which seems appropriate and is necessary to protect the ones we love. Much as I’d like to travel south to spend the season with our families, it really isn’t the time to give in to impulses like that. Not when we can finally be hopeful that the end of the pandemic may be in sight, and can tentatively begin to dream of all the things we’ll once more be able to safely do. Travel to see those we’ve been so painfully separated from. Gather in person to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, life, death, and everything in-between.

Hug each other, as though never to let go…

So, my wish for you all is for a safe, peaceful, and healthy end to 2020, wherever you may be, and for the ability to hug, unrestrained, in 2021.

And, since this post is so late, here’s a peek at the cover of my next book, being released in March 2021, Night Shifts with the Miami Doc. Looking back, it feels as though I finished it two years ago, because time has had little or no meaning this year; stretching and warping in strange and mysterious ways. So, here’s another wish for us all: that in 2021 we find ourselves once more in the space/time continuum we’re used to, but still retaining all the lessons we’ve learned in 2020. Like how important it is for us to love one another, no matter how hard it sometimes becomes.

I love this cover, most of all because the model looks so much like a good friend that every time I see it, it makes me smile!
Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Origin Stories

All Travelers, Together

A small taste of Jamaica: Bamboo Avenue, St. Elizabeth

I’d like to tell you an immigrant story—not my own, which is pretty banal, but a far more interesting one.

My husband’s grand-uncle left Jamaica, bound for Britain, to sign up with the RAF in 1942. He served as a morse code operator, and also flew in reconnaissance missions during the war. Wanting to study medicine, he applied for and was accepted to Glasgow University, but the RAF refused to de-mob him, and by the time he was released from duty he’d lost his place.

Moving to Glasgow anyway, he met his eventual wife—a white Scotswoman—but faced the disapproval of both her parents and even the pastor of the church they started attending together.

After they married, and were looking at properties to purchase, he would see a listing for a house he thought might be suitable, and go to look at it. Over and over, when he went to look at the houses, he was told they suddenly were no longer for sale. His estate agent finally told him not to go, but to send his wife instead, and that was how they eventually managed to purchase a home.

While he still intended to study medicine, he had to work to support his family and save up to be able to go back to school. When a minister told him there was a dearth of Religious Education teachers, and there were grants available for that course of study, he decided to become a teacher instead.

Graduating as a mature student, he started his successful teaching career, eventually becoming the first black headteacher in Scotland.

I share Mr. Carl Vaughan’s story, not just because it is one of success against the odds, and in the face of intense opposition, but as a way to say, there are as many immigrant stories as there are immigrants.

Some leave their homeland in search of a better life, new horizons, or advancements unavailable in their home country. Others, like Mr. Vaughan and later the Windrush Generation, seek to serve. In 1796, Jamaican Maroons were deported to Nova Scotia, Canada, as part of a treaty with the British. They didn’t stay long, and were relocated to Sierra Leone thereafter. Men and women from Jamaica helped build the Panama Canal.

We Yaardies (Jamaicans) are pretty much everywhere! My ex-mother-in-law even tells the story of being on Malta and finding a Jamaican waiter in the Chinese restaurant where they stopped to have lunch.

My story is far more prosaic than any of the above.

I guess you could call me a double immigrant, really. Just over seventeen years ago, I left Jamaica and traveled to Canada and then, four years ago, I took a leap of faith and moved to Florida.

Neither move was easy. Both had to be carefully considered. But, in both cases, I think the right decision was made, considering the particular time of my life.

Thankfully, I was old enough, and had travelled enough, to know there was no ‘Land of Milk and Honey’ awaiting me in North America. I’d find no streets paved with gold. Instead, I expected that hard work and a willingness to fit in—without losing my innate Jamaican character—would carry me through.

Yet, even so braced and determined, there was no way to anticipate the myriad little ways that being an ‘outsider’ would hinder, annoy, and on occasion anger me.

But remember what I said in my last piece about if ‘yuh want good, yuh nose haffi run‘ (success often comes at a painful price, which has to be paid)? Well, here’s another Jamaicanism for you—When trouble tek yuh, pickney shut fit yuh (When trouble takes you, a child’s shirt will fit you; meaning, if things are hard, you make do with whatever you have to get through it.)

And that’s what I did.

But I did it with the conscious decision not to change the way I spoke, or to lose sight of my roots. Sometimes I think I’m even more in tune with my Jamaican origins since I left the island. There’s something about being far from home, living in places where hardly anyone understands the way I grew up, my idioms, or outlook, that has somehow solidified my very Jamaican-ness.

It’s a lonely feeling, leaving your country. Being apart from the places and people that helped shape and mold you, and supported you through your life. Physical distance from the familiar also sometimes leads to emotional distance from friends and family too.

Jamaicans might say, Yuh gone too far from yuh navel-string (You’ve gone too far away from your umbilical cord,) harking back to the tradition of burying a baby’s umbilical cord and planting a tree with it, signifying a connection to the land that can never be severed. No matter who you have around you, the separation from the place of your heart changes you—sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.

Because I didn’t know or understand some of the things happening around me, I became more cautious. When people laughed at me for my ignorance of things they took for granted because they grew up with them, I learned to hold my temper. Being unable to get a job in my field, and take whatever I could get, made me humble. Having people assume things about me once they heard my accent made me stronger—and I figured out how to get my own back with a smile.

Of everything I’ve been up until this point in life, I can’t help thinking that being an immigrant has had one of the biggest impacts on my life.

It permeates every facet of who I am now, and I see things through its filter.

When I write, it’s almost always about people searching for belonging; for home. It can be emotional home, or a sense of family, or just someone who wants to learn about them and, in understanding, love them unconditionally.

This is a direct result of feeling adrift, different, misunderstood, underestimated. Of sometimes feeling inadequate, often homesick, and imbued with a heart-and-soul deep yearning for times gone, or friends missed.

I’ve learned to use all these feelings and emotions when I write, seasoning my books not just with Jamaican spice, but also the salt left by tears of separation and longing.

And this journey hasn’t been all bad—not at all! I’ve made great friends along the way, who appreciate my alternate views, or ‘outsider’ insights. My family of the heart has grown, and enriched me with their acceptance and love.

There are days when I think I’d like to be able to live in even more places, just for the wonderful experience of broadening my understanding of the world even more.

The life of an immigrant isn’t for the faint of heart, but there are rewards—both tangible and intangible—both for those who move to new places, and those already there.