Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Two milestones – by Kate Hardy

So August 1 saw two milestones for me – my 25th wedding anniversary and the official publication day of my 75th book for Mills and Boon.

We decided to celebrate our anniversary in the Italian Lakes – and where could be more romantic on the day itself than Verona?

August 1 1992 was a baking hot day.

August 1 2017 was even hotter, because Southern Europe was having a heatwave – 39 degrees (but felt like 44).

And I guess the day was very much like any marriage, because there were bumpy bits in the day, starting with the tour bus not picking us up, an hour trying to find out where they were and discovering that our booking hadn’t gone through even though they’d taken the money, and then making the best of it and catching the local bus to Verona and doing the ‘tour’ ourselves. We saw the Arena, Dante’s statue, amazing churches, pretty courtyards and majestic towers.

We visited Juliet’s balcony – after putting our names on the wall (on a band-aid, no less – well, a Medical Romance author would be prepared…)

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And over the rest of the week we saw some amazing sights. We caught a cable car to the top of the Dolomites.

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We saw the most romantic sunsets.

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We ate lots of pizza, pasta, fresh fish and ice cream (I think my dish of the week just had to be pasta with zucchini and scallops, in this lovely cream and saffron and tomato sauce). We tried local wines. We discovered just how nice Aperol spritz is – the local aperitif, basically 1 part bitter orange liqueur, 2 parts prosecco and 3 parts sparkling water, all served over ice.

And with our eldest about to start his second year at uni and our youngest about to start sixth form, it was probably our last family holiday – and definitely one to remember.

Plus there’s my 75th book milestone with M&B – which, coincidentally enough, is set on a fictional Italian island. The title – The Runaway Bride and the Billionaire – pretty much tells you what the book is about, and it’s part of the Summer at the Villa Rosa quartet which I wrote with Liz Fielding, Scarlet Wilson and Jessica Gilmore.

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So all in all it’s been a pretty overwhelming week. But milestones like these aren’t reached alone – and the support of my family and friends has been really appreciated over the last quarter of a century, plus my M&B readers and writing friends for the last 16 years. So I’d like to raise a glass (of Aperol, of course!) to you all to say thank you – and cheers!

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets, The Writing Life

Love is the answer

kate hardy sept 2015 400pxI’m writing this with a really heavy heart, given the events of Saturday night in London. But I’m also writing with a sense of defiance, because the extremists who seem to hate just about everything do NOT have the right to tell me what to think, do, wear or anything else for that matter. And I’m not letting them win by letting them suck the joy and the love out of my life. (Or the bigots who are using this as an excuse for spewing vileness and hatred against anyone who doesn’t look or sound like them.)

So if this seems light and frothy and inappropriate, I apologise, because recent events have hit me very deeply (my teenage daughter and I go to concerts together all the time, and we’re due in Manchester next month to see Radiohead at the Arena – something we’ve wanted for years and looked forward to since the second I got tickets; and the M&B offices are at London Bridge Street so that’s very close to home).

I believe that sharing love and joy is the best thing we can do right now. Find our common ground instead of using our differences to divide us even further.

So in that spirit – along with my family, here are three things that I love.

The seaside. This is Wells-next-the-Sea, where my husband took me on our first date outside the little market town where we both lived at the time. It holds a special place in my heart – it’s also the first place where our eldest went to the seaside and tried ice cream (while still in his baby sling), where I go when I’m sad and need something to bolster me, and where we go when we’re happy (DH’s birthday two days ago, and we took the puppy with us – he loved having a run along the sand and meeting lots of new dogs).

Archie. He’s nearly 9 months old now and has brought us so much joy. I didn’t cope at all well when we had to say goodbye to Byron, and the only thing that got me through was knowing that we’d have four paws and a waggy tail in the house again. Archie’s great-x5 grtandparents were Byron’s grandparents, and it’s really nice to have that continuity. Archie’s exuberant, terribly inquisitive, and believes that everyone he meets is going to be his new best friend. And he’s really cuddly. (I posted a pic of him a while back showing this dinky little pup on my lap – now, he’s INCREDIBLY tall as you can see by him giving me a cuddle, here.)

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Bluebells. I’m fortunate enough to live near a bluebell wood, and May is an utter joy. This year, they seemed to stretch on for ever and ever and ever. It was glorious. (This was taken without a filter, btw. It really was that magical.)

imageTell me what you love, and share a picture – I’d be thrilled to see it.

 

Book Awards, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The RoNAs 2017! by Kate Hardy

A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual awards do. It was especially lovely because I’m good friends with everyone who was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose award, and I was really looking forward to catching up with everyone. Louisa Heaton was up for her first nomination, Scarlet Wilson for her fifth, and me for my seventh (OK, so I’m greedy…). And it was FAB.

Sadly, Louisa went down with a nasty bug the day before the awards (and we missed her so much!).

They say that a picture tells a thousand words, so I’m telling most of our day by pictures.

Firstly we had lunch with the editors at the Corinthia. Anticlockwise from me – that’s editor Bryony Green, Christy McKellen, editor Linda Fildew, Virginia Heath, editor Sheila Hodgson, Scarlet Wilson, and editor Megan Haslam.

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Then we had some pink fizzy in Scarlet’s room and dressed up before heading to the Gladstone Library at One Whitehall Place. (It’s pretty much opposite the London Eye.)

Look at the amazing staircase!

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And our shortlisted books were on show.

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And then it was time for the official photographs. (LTR Scarlet, Christy, me, Virginia.)

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And then we waited nervously at the table next to our editors…

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for the awards to be announced by Prue Leith…

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And it went to our Scarlet!

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And she made a fabulous acceptance speech 🙂

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Congratulations, Scarlet Wilson – and it was a real pleasure to be there!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets, The Writing Life

What a difference two months make…

kate hardy sept 2015 400pxTwo months ago, I talked about losing my lovely old boy – and about our new little bundle of joy who’d joined our family.

What a difference two months make. When Archie first came home, he was tiny and could fit on my lap.

 

 

 

 

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Now, he’s a whopping 15.9kg (about 5-9kg less than his full adult weight), though he still is a lapdog and he’ll hop onto my lap to have a snooze if I sit down in the evenings. (Otherwise he’s doing what a Proper Author’s Dog does and sits by my feet.)

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He’s still at the toddler stage of being into everything and can reach almost to the back of the kitchen worktops (you would not believe how tidy my house is right now). You cannot leave newspapers or shoes about, or they *will* be trashed. He is completely banned from my office!

I have a string of very clashing deadlines at the moment, so I’m desperate for him to sleep in the day so I can work. The way to achieve this is to take him for a very long walk (he’s getting so much better at walking on a loose lead, thanks to puppy classes), and then he naps for an hour and a half and I can focus.

Obviously, being on deadline means that I’m a tiny bit stressed (!) and I’m eating way too many biscuits (shortbread being my favourite – but gingerbread men will do very nicely, thank you). But, because I’m going on all these long walks, my weight is staying the same. (Result!! Thank you, Archie.)

He’s quite a character – one of my friends captioned this pic “Cool Paw Archie” (aka Cool Hand Luke).

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In fact, he’s been a total joy, and I think the thing that put the biggest lump into my throat when taking my son back to uni for the second term was when he sat on the kitchen floor hugging the puppy and they both looked so sad. (They’ll be reunited in the Easter holidays.) My Facebook feed is full of pictures and videos of him – and he’s got a starring role in both my current book and the book after next. Whether I manage to get a spaniel on the cover is another matter entirely… But I’m trying 😉

So my question for you today is: what’s your biscuit of choice?

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets, The Writing Life

Saying goodbye… And hello!

kate hardy sept 2015 400pxThis year has been a bit of a rollercoaster year. We knew we were on borrowed time with Byron, our beloved Springer Spaniel – he was 14 1/2 and, considering that he’d had a heart murmur as a puppy, he’d done incredibly well.

But we had noticed him slowing down a lot over the summer and he tended to sleep all day. To be honest, I feel as if he was waiting for our eldest to be settled at university and then for our youngest to  come back from a school trip to Berlin before he’d admit that he’d had enough. We’d always said that we would do the right thing by him when the time came, and we did.

imageBut it totally broke my heart, and I discovered that I just couldn’t function when the house felt so wrong. There was a massive dog-shaped hole in the house. I couldn’t get used to not hearing the thump of a tail as I walked downstairs, or the patter of paws across the floor, or just gentle doggy snoring at my feet while I was working. I spent most of the day sobbing my eyes out.

When we lost our previous spaniel in 2006, we had planned to get another pup (we were using to having two dogs), but we were remodelling the house at the time and it wouldn’t have been fair to bring a pup into the chaos. Byron got used to being an only dog, so we decided to leave it. The breeder we’d planned to go to had a very long waiting list – so quite what possessed me to look up their website when Byron died… (I think my parents and my old spaniels had a hand in it, but that’s another story.)

But there were pups for sale. Three boys. I got in touch, we went to meet them and played with them, and one of them climbed onto my lap and fell asleep. We’d clearly been chosen. It was too soon for our youngest and she felt we were being disrespectful, but Gerry and I felt it was fate – especially when I recognised names on the paperwork and we realised that the new pup was actually related to our Byron.

imageSo Archie came to join our home nearly 3 weeks ago. He’s a very bright, funny, affectionate little chap. He hasn’t replaced Byon, but is a gorgeous addition to our family. He is a bit of a shock to the system after an elderly dog – he’s absolutely full of beans and it’s like having a toddler in the house again (even down to putting him in time out when he’s overexcited and nippy – puppy teeth are like razors and the ‘ow’ thing doesn’t work because he thinks we’re playing). I can only really work either when he’s asleep or when someone else is home to puppy-sit, but it has focused me. And, most importantly, the house feels right again with four paws and a waggy tail.

Even if he does rearrange my kitchen cupboards for me and find odd places to nap…image  image

Do you have pets? I’d love to hear all about them!

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Half an empty nest by Kate Hardy

The middle of August saw a key date for us: A level results day, which would tell us whether our eldest was off to university or not.

I’m thrilled to say Chris got his place at Nottingham Trent University for a four-year Masters degree in chemistry.

But that means that at the end of September, he left home. And that in turn means we only have one teen left: and it’s quite odd to get used to the household being smaller.

I wasn’t sure that I was going to cope too well, so I planned a bucket list thing for the day before we dropped him off (going to see David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall – and it was worth waiting 35 years to see him because it was the best concert of my entire life and I loved every second). And I also planned extreme deadline pileup so I’d be too busy to think.

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Then it was drop-off day. We followed a bunch of lovely students who were there to held the newbies, through the new block.

 

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We got to his flat.

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We did a quick supermarket run while he was unpacking, then said goodbye so he could settle in.

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Though I was good. I didn’t embarrass him by crying when we left. (I might admit to crying all the way home, but I was wearing sunglasses and I can cry very quietly.)

And then all the Mum-worries popped into my head. Would he get on with his flatmates? Would he eat properly? (Thankfully he’s self-catering so he won’t have to contend with what we referred to in halls in my first year as ‘badger pie’ – a green pastry casing containing lumpy mashed potato and corned beef, and it tasted worse than it sounds.) Would he get homesick? What if he didn’t get on with his tutor or his tutor group? What if he didn’t settle in and really hated it? What if he was so busy that he forgot to stay in touch (I remember the lads in my own student days being rubbish at keeping in touch at home) and I just worried and worried and worried about him?

But I’m thankful to report that he has been BRILLIANT about texting us, and calling home a couple of times a week. His flat is really nice (better than in my day, which is what I wanted – we saw some truly awful places elsewhere!), he’s getting on well with his flatmates, he’s cooking proper food (and I get the odd text asking me about oven temperature and timings), and he likes his tutor and tutorial group.

Today is his first day ‘proper’, and he has a fairly hefty workload (about five times as many contact hours as I did, what with labs and group work as well as tutorials and lectures – my English degree meant a lot of self-study). But I’m so glad that he seems to have settled in.

I’m gradually getting used to prepping the right amount of vegetables for dinner (for three instead of four). And because he calls/texts us, we don’t miss him as badly as we thought we would (it feels as if he’s still around). The one who really misses him, though, is the dog; Byron’s quite deaf now, so he can’t pick up Chris’s voice on speakerphone. Last night, at dinner, he sat and looked mournfully at Chris’s empty chair, and you could just see ‘where has my boy gone?’ in his little doggy expression. But I think there will be a joyful reunion in December.

For those of you in the same position – what did you miss most about yours while they were away? How did you cope with the changes in your house?

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

Bucket list stuff by Kate Hardy

As you might have gathered from previous posts, this is my Year of Having Fun, and last week I ticked quite a few things off my bucket list.

Ever since I was really small and first read Nordic mythology, I’ve wanted to visit Iceland. Last week, I finally made it to Reykjavic.

And it was AMAZING.

The midnight sun means just that. Look at this sunset!

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This was getting on for 11pm – but it didn’t actually get dark. I woke at 1am and it was still light. And at 3am. And I saw the sun rise at 5am.

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We went to the Thingvellir National Park and saw the tectonic plates splitting.

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We saw amazing waterfalls with rainbows. (This is Gullfoss.)

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We visited the Geyir area and saw a geyser erupting (it’s really interesting because you can see the water boiling at the bottom and the cooler water at the top making a ‘lid’, and then you can see the pressure get too much and it blows).

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We saw humpback whales breaching in the wild (that was so incredible – really humbling).

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We saw black sandy beaches. (This is the Dyrholaey promontory.)

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We got up close to a glacier. (Solheimajokull.)

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And we walked behind a waterfall at Seljalandsfoss.

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It was an incredible few days, and the best thing of all was sharing it with the people I love most in the world.

And, to top it all, today marks the release of my 70th M&B (it’s a Cherish/Romance rather than a Medical, but I hope you won’t mind me sharing here) and it’s my 24th wedding anniversary!

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So have you visited anywhere that took your breath away?