Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Appeal of Medical Romances

Today we’re thrilled to have romance reviewer extraordinaire, Julie from Bookish Jottings, blogging with us.  Welcome Julie! 

Category romances have been a part of my life for more years than I am prepared to admit. As a young girl of 13/14, I was attracted to these books with their handsome heroes and doe-eyed heroines on the cover. Harlequin Mills and Boon novels have seen me through adolescence, school, college, marriage, babies, several house moves and many other significant milestones. But I must confess that I came to the Medical Romance line by accident.

Sure, I had read scores of Betty Neels books with their brooding Dutch heroes and nostalgic view of the world, but I had never really paid much attention to these books; preferring the brooding Alpha heroes, the sensuality and exotic locations of the Presents line, the emotion and the feel-good factor of the Romance line or the sweeping stories of the Historical line. But twenty years ago, I remember being in the library and, having read all of the books on the Mills and Boon shelves from the lines mentioned above and finding nothing to strike my fancy on the general fiction shelves, I decided on a whim to pick up a copy of Partners in Love by the great, late and much missed Maggie Kingsley. I went home and started reading the book and I was hooked.

Partners in Love had all the emotion, drama and tension I looked for in the Romance line, the gorgeous heroes I loved from the Presents line and the enthralling and compulsively readable romantic read that I look for whenever I pick up a Harlequin Mills and Boon novel. I went on to read every single book of Maggie’s I could find and discovered other favourite writers like Jennifer Taylor, Caroline Anderson, Marion Lennox, Meredith Webber, Kate Hardy, Amy Andrews and many, many others.

Whether the books are set in a GP practice in rural England or Australia (my personal favourites), in a busy city hospital or in other far flung countries in the world, Medical Romance readers are treated to a wonderful story with gorgeous heroes, wonderful heroines, action-paced medical drama, heart-pounding emotion and a love story that will make them laugh and cry. Medical Romances, far from being the conservative and old-fashioned stories many perceive them to be, have, over the years, dealt with topical issues such as divorce, abortion, domestic abuse, surrogacy, adoption and many others.

So, if you’ve been thinking about picking up a Medical Romance or haven’t picked one up in a long time, I urge you to stop thinking about it and stock up on the latest releases – you will certainly not be disappointed!

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

September New Releases

We’ve a bunch of brilliant new releases this month!  So, for your reading pleasure…

From Passion to Pregnancy, by Tina Beckett

lgcover.9781488020711After just one night… 

The last thing Dr. Sebastian Texeira wants is to settle down, but when one sizzling night with sexy nurse Sara Moreira results in pregnancy, he feels he must do the right thing!

Sara refuses to marry for anything less than love. Though she does agree to work at Sebastian’s hospital—where the temperature between them grows hotter than ever! All Sebastian needs to secure their happiness is to admit how much he really loves Sara, but sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do…

 

The Doctor’s Forbidden Temptation, by Tina Beckett

lgcover.9781488020704“Nata…we can’t do this.” 

To Dr. Adam Cordeiro, Natália Texeira has always been off-limits. As his best friend’s sister, and a cancer survivor, he’s felt a duty to protect her. But the doctor he meets on her first day at Santa Coração Hospital is all grown-up and far too tempting…

Natália has always had a crush on Adam, but he has a playboy’s reputation! Nevertheless, when their forbidden passion becomes irresistible, Natália is compelled to discover what’s really holding Adam back from giving his heart…

 

 

One Night that Changed her Life, by Emily Forbes

lgcover.9781488020735The midwife’s pregnancy shock! 

From the moment she sees Dr. Xavier O’Donnell, midwife Brighde Campbell knows how the night will end. In the gorgeous obstetrician’s arms, she can forget the closely kept reason she avoids commitment—but then she discovers she’s pregnant…

Finding out he’s going to be a father both shocks and delights Xavier, but Brighde seems intent on shutting him out. Her painful secret will test both their hearts, but can he convince Brighde that no matter what the future holds, they can face it together?

 

The Midwife’s Longed for Baby, by Caroline Anderson

lgcover.9781488020728A marriage worth fighting for 

Obstetrician Nick Jarvis and midwife Liv had the perfect marriage—until not conceiving the baby they ached for tore them apart.

But separation has only compounded how much they need each other, and now they’re working together again, delivering babies every day! It could be their chance to rekindle their relationship, but only if they can rediscover the sheer joy of loving—the one thing that will make their marriage whole and give them the courage to try for a baby again.

 

 

Bride for the Single Dad, by Jennifer Taylor

lgcover.9781488020759New beginnings? 

Moving to the Dales is all about a fresh start for Dr. Elliot Grey, until he meets feisty—and beautiful—midwife Polly Davies. Not since his ex-wife abandoned him and their son has Elliot had such a strong reaction to a woman!

A relationship is the last thing he needs, yet there’s something special about Polly. Maybe it’s the way she’s bonded with his son, or that the pain of his past fades in her presence, but one thing is certain—he’s struggling to find reasons to stay away!

 

 

The Prince’s Cinderella Bride, by Amalie Berlin

lgcover.9781488020742Operation Marriage… 

Prince Quinton Corlow’s life was turned upside down the day his divorce was filed and his military papers were executed. Seven years later, the embittered soldier returns, only to walk straight back into his ex-wife’s life!

But when Quinn discovers he’s still married to the one woman who could claim his heart, he realizes he must tackle the past for the future he wants…the future Anais wants, too. But can he convince his Cinderella bride to fight for their love?

 

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt: Bride for the Single Dad, by Jennifer Taylor

Today we’re bringing you an excerpt from Jennifer Taylor’s new release, ‘Bride for the Single Dad‘.  This is the second book in Jennifer’s trilogy ‘The Larches Practise’ the first being ‘The Boss who stole her Heart‘.  

Both books are available from Amazon, Mills and Boon UK, Mills and Boon Australia and Harlequin.

9781474051750Chapter 1

Why did this have to happen today of all days? Surely she had enough to contend with, without this as well!

Polly Davies struggled to contain her frustration as she brought her car to a halt. Opening the door, she hurried over to where two vehicles had collided in the centre of the carriageway. It was barely six a.m. and there was no other traffic about but Polly was very aware that if the accident had happened later then it could have been a different story. A lot of people could have been injured then so it seemed that even the darkest cloud could have a silver lining. Maybe that maxim could be applied to her own situation?

Polly bit back a sob, knowing that now wasn’t the right time to dwell on what had happened. Right now her main concern was to check if anyone had been injured. It appeared that one of the vehicles had run into the back of the other. It was a very expensive car too, the logo on its bonnet declaring its pedigree for all the world to admire. Even as she watched, a tall dark-haired man climbed out of the driver’s seat, cursing under his breath when he saw the dent in the front bumper. It was obvious that he wasn’t seriously injured, however, so Polly headed towards the other vehicle, her footsteps quickening when she recognized it as the van belonging to the Applethwaite family. They used it to deliver their famous Dales lamb to the local shops and restaurants, but it was only as she drew closer that she realised Lauren Applethwaite was driving it. Polly’s heart sank. At three months pregnant, and with a history of miscarriages, this was the last thing that poor Lauren needed.

‘Lauren, are you all right?’ Polly demanded, opening the van door.

‘I don’t know. I had this terrible pain…’ Lauren broke off and groaned. ‘There it is again.’

‘Just try to stay calm,’ Polly instructed when she heard the panic in Lauren’s voice. She leant into the van, knowing that she couldn’t risk moving Lauren until she was sure that she hadn’t suffered a spinal injury. Her heart sank that bit more because the last thing she wanted was for Lauren to become even more upset if she had to remain in the van. The calmer she was, the better it would be for her baby…

‘Stop! For heaven’s sake, woman, have you no sense?’

Polly stopped dead when she heard the deep voice behind her. Turning, she saw the driver of the other vehicle striding towards her. He glared down at her and she shivered when she saw the hostility in his green eyes. As the community midwife, she was used to dealing with all types of people. However she had never seen such naked animosity on anyone’s face before.

‘You never, ever, move an accident victim until you’re sure they haven’t suffered a spinal injury,’ he rapped out.

Polly flushed, resenting both his tone and his assumption that she had no idea what she was doing. However, before she could explain that she had been about to check that it was safe to move Lauren, he elbowed her aside. Sliding his hand between Lauren’s back and the seat, he gently ran his fingers down her spine, and Polly frowned. There was a confidence about his actions that pointed towards the fact that he knew exactly what he was doing. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him if he was medically trained when he turned to her and the question froze on her lips when once again she was treated to an openly hostile look. It made her wonder if he had a problem with her in particular or with women in general before she dismissed the thought. She had enough problems of her own without worrying about his.

The thought of what had happened in the past few hours rose up and swamped her before she could stop it. She should have realised that something was terribly wrong when Martin failed to phone her last night, she thought, feeling the bitter tears stinging her eyes. She had tried calling him but she had been put straight through to voicemail. She must have left a dozen messages, asking him to phone her back, but when he still hadn’t replied by midnight she had got into her car and driven to the cottage they had bought. Martin’s parents had given them the deposit as a wedding present and Polly had been thrilled at the thought of them starting their married life in their very own home.

It had been a relief to find lights on when she had reached the cottage. At least it appeared that Martin hadn’t had an accident even if he hadn’t returned her calls, Polly had thought as she had let herself in. However, her anxiety had soon started to rise again as she had checked each room and found no sign of him. It was only when she had gone back to the sitting room that she had seen the envelope propped up on the mantelpiece…

‘There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with her spine from what I can tell, but it would be better to wait until the ambulance gets here before we attempt to move her.’

Polly dragged her thoughts back to the current situation when the man spoke to her. ‘That won’t be possible,’ she said, blanking out the thought of the furore it was going to cause when everyone found out what had happened. She forced down the fresh wave of panic that hit her, aware that there was nothing she could do about it. ‘We need to get her out of there immediately.’

‘There’s no way I’m prepared to take that risk,’ he countered, his dark brows drawing together into a frown. It was obvious that he didn’t appreciate her arguing with him but Polly wasn’t going to let that deter her. Stepping away from the van, she beckoned for him to join her.

‘Lauren is three month’s pregnant,’ she explained flatly. ‘She has a history of miscarriages and has just told me that she’s having pains. She needs to lie down if we’re to have any chance at all of saving this baby.’

‘And you’re an expert on these matters, are you?’

‘Yes, as it happens I am.’ Polly bridled at the disparaging note in his voice. Normally, she would have let it pass but not today when she was already feeling so emotional. She looked coldly back at him. ‘I’m the community midwife for this area and Lauren is one of my patients. I think I can safely say that I know what I’m talking about.’

***

Elliot Grey could feel his temper soaring, which was unusual for him but he really didn’t need this aggravation on top of everything else that had happened recently. He had spent the last week trying to sort out the mess he had found himself in and he had failed. Miserably. He was no closer to finding anyone reliable to look after his son, Joseph, than he’d been this time last week. Not for the first time, he found himself wondering if he’d made a huge mistake by moving to the Yorkshire Dales. Back in London, he could have contacted any of a dozen agencies and there would have been a highly qualified nanny knocking on his door a couple of hours later. Granted, he would have had to pay through the nose for such a service but money didn’t matter: making sure Joseph was safe and happy was his only concern…

But Joseph hadn’t been happy, had he? Elliot thought suddenly. Joseph had hated the constant changes, the fact that no sooner had a new nanny been hired then she would find another job and leave. That was why Elliot had decided to leave the city and relocate to the country. It would be easier to find someone permanent to care for Joseph while he was at work in a place where fewer jobs were available, he had reasoned. However, it certainly hadn’t worked out that way. The woman he had hired had backed out at the last moment and finding anyone else qualified to look after an eight-year-old with major health issues was proving an uphill battle…

‘Hello? I hate to rush you but I would like to get this sorted out this side of Christmas if it isn’t too much trouble.’

The sarcasm in the woman’s voice roused him. Elliot glowered at the tall, red-haired woman who was watching him with what looked very much like disdain on her face. It was a whole new experience to have anyone look at him that way too. None of his former colleagues would have dared and, as for anyone else, then he would have soon put them in their place. However, he had a feeling that this woman cared little about upsetting him and it made him feel strangely vulnerable to realise that his disapproval meant nothing to her.

Elliot dismissed that thought as the fanciful nonsense it undoubtedly was. Moving back to the van, he peered inside, his reservations about moving the driver disappearing when he saw the pain on her face. It was obvious that they needed to get her out of there as quickly as possible.

‘I’ve a rug in my car – I’ll go and fetch it.’

He glanced round when the red-haired woman spoke beside him, feeling his senses swirl as he inhaled the fragrance of the shampoo she had used to wash her hair. It was years since he had been aware of something like that and it shook him so that he missed what she said next. ‘I’m sorry – what was that?’ he asked thickly.

‘Can you phone for an ambulance while I fetch the rug?’ she repeated. ‘Lauren’s in a great deal of pain and she needs to be in hospital.’

Elliot nodded, not trusting himself to say anything this time, although it was understandable if he was acting out of character after the week he’d had. The thought helped to reassure him as he took his mobile phone from his pocket and put through a call to the emergency services. He sighed inwardly when the operator explained that it would take some time for the ambulance to reach them. The sooner this was over and done with, the sooner he could get home to Joseph, he thought anxiously as he ended the call. Asking Mrs Danton, his newly acquired housekeeper, to spend the night with his son had been a last resort, but he’d had no choice when he had been called into work. However, he couldn’t expect Mrs Danton to keep covering for him so he would need to find someone suitable to look after Joseph soon…if he could.

The thought of what little success he’d had to date didn’t sit easily with him. It was a relief when the red-haired woman came back and he could turn his attention to other matters. Elliot moved aside while she bent down to speak to the driver.

‘We’re going to get you out of there now, Lauren. We’ll take it nice and slowly so there’s nothing to worry about. The ambulance is on its way and it won’t be long before it gets here.’

Elliot felt a ripple of something that felt very much like shame run through him and he frowned. Why did he feel ashamed to hear genuine concern in her voice? Was it the fact that he was more concerned about his own problems than this poor woman? When was the last time he had really felt anything? he wondered suddenly. When had he truly cared? Oh, he cared about Joseph, of course, cared about every aspect of his son’s life. It was his raison d’etre, the thing that kept him focused. He also cared about utilizing his skills to give his young patients a better quality of life, but even then his interest was detached, impersonal. He didn’t feel it inside, didn’t feel anything very much in there. Apart from his love for Joseph, his heart was a wasteland, empty, barren, and all of a sudden Elliot found himself wishing that it was different, that he was different. Listening to this woman, with her concern and her caring, he realised how much he was lacking.

‘Can you swing your legs out, Lauren? I know it hurts, love, but we need you to lie down.’

The woman’s voice was gentle, soothing, and for some reason Elliot felt his guilt subside. Moving closer to the van, he waited until the driver had swung her legs out of the door. ‘I’ll carry her,’ he said gruffly because old habits took a long time to die.

‘Are you sure you can manage?’

The redhead shot an assessing look at him, obviously weighing up his physique, and Elliot felt himself colour. It happened so fast too that he didn’t have time to stop it. Bending, he gathered the driver into his arm, feeling heat scudding around his body. He couldn’t recall ever blushing like this before, would swear that he had never done so, not even when he was a teenager, and the shock of what had happened robbed him of the ability to speak. He could only nod like some damned puppet as he carried the young woman over to the pavement and gently laid her down on the rug.

‘Thank you.’ The red-haired woman stepped around him and knelt down. ‘Where exactly is the pain, Lauren? Can you show me?’

‘Here.’ Lauren pointed to the lower right-hand side of her abdomen and Elliot frowned.

‘Appendix?’ he murmured, not realising that he had spoken out loud until the redhead looked sharply at him.

‘Was that a lucky guess or do you have some kind of medical training?’

‘Medical training,’ he said shortly. He had a list of qualifications as long as his arm but he wasn’t about to share them with her and have her make some disparaging remark. It shook him that she should be so sensitive all of a sudden and he hurried on. ‘I’ll check with ambulance control to see how long it will be before they get here.’

‘You do that. And, while you’re speaking with them, make sure they know the patient is three months pregnant with a history of miscarriages.’ Her tone was laced with genuine concern once more. ‘They need to be prepared when they get here.’

Elliot didn’t say anything as he moved away to make the call but it didn’t stop him thinking it. Somewhere along the line he had forgotten why he had gone into medicine in the first place – to alleviate suffering and help people. Would he ever find his way back to those days when he had cared? he wondered. Return to a time when each and every patient he had treated had left their mark? He hoped so, he really did. Because he knew with a sudden flash of insight that he would never be truly happy unless he did.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Remembering Roger Sanderson, by Jennifer Taylor

We received some very sad news last week when we found out that author, Roger Sanderson, had died. For many years Roger wrote lovely, heart-warming Medical Romances under the pseudonym, Gill Sanderson.

I met Roger many years ago at the first RNA conference I attended. We had just broken for lunch when this tall, suave-looking gentleman came over to me and said, ‘I have a picture of you on my desk back in my study.’ Immediate stalker alert!

Roger laughed as I backed away and went on to explain that he had read an article about me in the Liverpool Echo. It had mentioned the fact that I had been a pupil at New Heys High School for Girls, which was what had attracted his attention. As a newly-graduated English teacher, Roger had applied for a job at the school and been granted an interview with the headmistress, the formidable Mrs Pennyquick. Nearing the end of the interview, she had pinned him with a look and asked him to tell her what exactly his interest was in teenage girls!

Now, being nervous, and having indulged in possibly a glass too many of the finest bitter the evening before, Roger had failed to come up with a suitable reply – and also failed to get the job. Every time we met after that, we used to laugh at the thought that if he had been hired then he would have been my sixth-form English teacher.

Roger was a lovely person, warm, kind and funny. He went out of his way to make everyone welcome at the various functions we all attended. I am not the only person who is going to miss him.

Jennifer Taylor.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

I have / have not…

It’s come to our notice that we’ve made an important omission on our blog.  We haven’t played the Have / Have Not game yet!

So we’re remedying that immediately.  Susan Carlisle has rushed to the rescue with eight must-know questions, and we invite you to tick all of the options which apply to you.  And, as always, we want to know more 🙂  So if you can answer ‘Yes’ to any of the questions, we’d love you to leave a comment and tell us about it!

The results will update as more people answer, and you can see them at any time by clicking the ‘View Results’ link.  So please check back again later to see the final results.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Hot Docs!

Read all about it!

Here at Love is the Best Medicine, we always like to bring you news from the romance community. So when the ‘Six Hot Single Dads’ anthology, which includes stories from three of our Medical Romance Authors, hit the newspapers, we had to know more. And now we can bring you the inside scoop.

The trend for ‘Single Dad’ heroes was spotted by Mills and Boon earlier this year, and the six book anthology of Single Dad stories, with brand new covers, is available now in the UK from Mills and Book and Amazon.  It will be published in Australia in August, and is available for pre-order now at Amazon.  US readers can find the individual titles at Harlequin.

News coverage so far includes articles in the NY Post, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and Glamour Magazine.

We caught up with the three medical romance authors featured in the anthology:-

Emily Forbes: ‘Falling for the Single Dad’

“It has been such a thrill to read these positive articles about our “Single Dad” books. I really love creating my heroes and I find there’s something special about my single dads so it is such a pleasure to know readers enjoy these stories too. A word of warning though – don’t believe everything you read in the media 🙂. In “Falling for the Single Dad” it is my heroine who is the army surgeon, not my hero although he is also a plastic surgeon. Abi suffers from PTSD and it is up to my hero, Damien, and his daughter, to help heal her.

My latest book, ‘A Mother to Make a Family‘ also features a single dad, Mitch, who is a cattle rancher and father of 3!”

Annie Claydon: ‘Saved by the Single Dad’

“Writing Jack and Cass’s story was such a joy, and it’s wonderful to be included in this anthology.  One of the reasons I love Medical Romance is that it gives me the opportunity to write nurturing and caring heroes like these very special Single Dads.  Being ‘on-trend’ isn’t something I’m often accused of 🙂 but in this instance it’s a real thrill!

My latest book, ‘Saving Baby Amy‘ is the story of Chloe and Jon, who take on the responsibility of caring for Chloe’s baby niece, when her mother runs away.”

Lynne Marshall: ‘Hot-Shot Doc, Secret Dad’

“When I wrote Hot-Shot Doc, Secret Dad, I never expected the story would be chosen for a “single Dad” anthology. It is actually a secret dad story, and one or more reviewers have mentioned it. However, I revealed the secret to the hero in the first chapter, and I loved how, after getting over the shock of having a pre-teen son, Trevor stepped up and expected Julie to fill him in on all the years he’d missed. Then he wisely went about getting to know his son step by step, only toward the end telling the boy who he was. My biggest kick out of being included in this wonderful group of writers is having my first ever “man-chest” book cover. 🙂

My latest book is ‘Miracle for the Neurosurgeon‘.”

***

And now for the covers…

51O3GqNK9lL

Lynne Marshall: ‘Hot-Shot Doc, Secret Dad’

Julie Sterling hadn’t wanted to return to her hometown. She hasn’t lived there since leaving thirteen years before, heart broken and pregnant. When she loses her parents in an accident she has no choice but to go back where it all began, and try to raise and protect her son.

Trevor still remembers Julie from that summer night all those years ago. The nurse and the doctor have changed a lot from their younger selves but even after all this time they’re drawn to each other. When Julie reveals to Trevor the true consequence of that night was a son he’d never known it’s the second time she’s taking a risk with the handsome cowboy.

And maybe this time their story can have a happy ending…

Life has a way of sometimes putting two hearts exactly where they belong in this sexy-sweet single dad second-chance romance.

51IogNrNb6L

Annie Claydon: ‘Saved by the Single Dad’

It’s just crisis bonding. That’s what Cass tells herself. It’s just stress and exhaustion from the floods and long nights.

She’s not falling for the gorgeous paramedic she rescued near the river. She’s not thinking about what his skin would feel like under her hands as she patches him up with the first aid kit. She’s not listening to him showering in the next stall.
She’s definitely not thinking about how when she’s around him and his young daughter Ellie she feels like she can finally let herself have the family and love she’d tried so hard to make, and lost. They both think anything they could have would only be temporary— intense and fast.

But when her house is flooded and Jack— and adorable Ellie— invite her to share their house, Cass begins to feel like she wants to stay…

51PzeYOHUFLEmily Forbes: ‘Falling for the Single Dad’

Abi isn’t really one for believing in ‘happily ever afters’. The combination of spending two years working in Afghanistan as a reconstructive and plastic surgeon, and post-traumatic stress disorder tends to do that to a person. When she takes a job at a high-end plastic surgery clinic in Hollywood, all she’s thinking about is rebuilding herself and healing. There’s no room in her life for anything but surviving. Exceedingly hot or not, Damien would only be an unnecessary complication.
Especially since he’s a single Dad.

Abi resolves to keep her distance. Unfortunately this might be little difficult since he’s her boss and neighbour…

Excerpts, Guest Blogs

Excerpt – The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash

We’re thrilled to have Charlotte Nash with us again today, with an excerpt from her latest release.  ‘The Paris Wedding’ is released on 27th June 2017 and can be pre-ordered from: iBooks,  Kobo,  Google Play (Charlotte Nash Author Page),  Amazon AU,  Booktopia

FINAL COVER_PARIS WEDDING_800x519 Chapter 1

The day after the funeral, Rachael by force of habit, woke near dawn and made two cups of tea. She dumped the teabags in the sink, then, remembering it would annoy Tess, squeezed them out and tossed them in the bin. It took her longer to register that the second cup wasn’t needed.

She poured her mother’s tea away and braced her hands on the sink, looking out the window. Their harvest had finished two weeks ago and the wide rolling fields of stubble were grey before the sunrise. A beautiful grey, like a dove’s feather, joining the pale soft light at the horizon. As the sun appeared, it gilded the cut stalks, and the single majestic gum on the rise seemed to float on a sea of burnished gold.

Seven, Rachael thought. Seven sunrises without my mother.

She pressed her hand to her mouth. The tears kept boiling up unbidden, the wound still raw and open. Mercifully, Tess, Joel and the children were still asleep. She had time to pull herself together.

‘You’re up early.’

Rachael jumped and sucked back the tears. Tess had padded into the kitchen in thick, silent socks. Her checked robe was tightly knotted at her waist, her blonde hair stowed in a neat plait. Rachael involuntarily touched the unbrushed, ragged clump behind her head, the result of sleeping on her ponytail. Amidst the frizz were bits of broken elastic sticking up from the overstretched band.

‘So, we’re getting started on Mum’s things?’ Tess asked, flicking on the kettle.

‘What?’

‘Mum’s things. I asked you about it last night. You said we’d do it today.’

‘When?’ Rachael said. She couldn’t remember a single thing that had happened yesterday, apart from those two women talking outside her window. The day had been a blur of tears and hymns and the scent of white lilies.

‘This morning.’

‘No, I mean when did you ask me?’

‘After dinner. When Joel was doing the dishes.’

‘I don’t remember.’

She didn’t even remember eating dinner. She took her tea from the windowsill, but didn’t drink it. She wouldn’t have been able to swallow around the lump in her throat.

‘Look, have some breakfast,’ she said, dodging around Tess.

‘I’ll eat later. Where to first – lounge or bedroom?’

‘We don’t need to start right now,’ Rachael said, trying and failing to keep the wobble out of her voice.

‘But it’ll be a huge job. Her wardrobe is overflowing. What a woman on a farm wanted with all those fancy clothes, I don’t know.’

‘She made a lot of them for other people – for formals and weddings and things like that.’

‘What are they doing in her cupboard then?’

‘Because people brought them back and she’d modify them for someone else. She didn’t—’

‘I bet you don’t even know what’s in there,’ Tess said. ‘I bet that ottoman’s still stuffed with winter woollies nobody wears. Don’t worry, Joel will feed the kids and keep them away.’

Rachael had a vision of her sister striding around her mother’s room and stuffing garbage bags with dresses and quilts and other precious things, mixing up what was going where. ‘No,’ she said.

‘I don’t understand. We have to get back to the farm in a few days, so I won’t be around to help later. You said you wanted to get started.’

Rachael threw her hands up. ‘I don’t remember what I said! It was her funeral, Tess. Besides, I was here with her the last ten years. I know what she wanted. If you have to go home, that’s fine. I can manage.’

‘Oh, I see. This is about me choosing to go with Dad when we were kids.’ Tess folded her arms, bringing out a well-worn bickering point like a favourite toy. ‘Well, someone had to. It doesn’t mean I didn’t care about her. And I’m just trying to make things easier for you.’

Tess delivered her speech without a shred of sadness. Rachael was utterly unable to understand how her sister was navigating the grief so easily.

‘It’s not about that,’ she said.

Though she couldn’t help remembering standing beside her mother on the day Tess and her father drove away. Rachael had pressed herself against her mother, her eight-year-old eyes unbelieving. Marion had squeezed her fiercely, tears in her eyes, though she’d held her voice calm and level. ‘She’s still your sister,’ she’d said. ‘This will always be home. She’ll be back one day. She’ll be back.’ Over and over the same words, as if they had the power to make it true.

Now, Tess pursed her lips. ‘Well, can I at least make some lists for you? There’s all the medical hire equipment that needs to be returned, and someone should throw out all the tablets.’

‘Why would I need a list?’

‘So you don’t forget.’

Rachael stared. Was it possible that Tess still thought of her as a dreamy girl with her sketchbook and pencils, often late and forgetful? Yes, that’s what she had been, once. But she’d worked very hard in her last years of school; and then had come ten years of looking after her mother’s appointments, medicines and meals, toilets and showers, and the farm. All that had changed Rachael forever. Tess simply hadn’t been here to see it.

‘I’m not going to forget,’ she said.

‘You forgot what you said yesterday.’

Rachael gritted her teeth. All she wanted today was to be left alone, to stare down the fields or wander round the house, to be as lost as she needed to be. Choosing retreat, she abandoned her tea and headed for her room.

Tess followed. ‘Well, what about cleaning out the fridge? There’s tonnes of food from the wake that needs organising.’

‘Then take it home for Christmas.’

‘Speaking of Christmas, I think you should come up to Dubbo. You shouldn’t be here all by yourself. Or, a better idea. I’ve got someone I want you to meet.’

Rachael spun back. ‘Why would I want to be fixed up with anyone?’

‘Who said anything about fixing up? It’s Joel’s cousin, nice man. He’s bought a farm near Orange and he doesn’t know anyone yet. Family’s all in WA, so he’s going to be alone too. You can talk shop and keep each other company.’

Rachael rubbed her face. She hadn’t slept much this week, her mother’s last days in the hospital replaying in her thoughts at night. Worries about the farm and the future were also accumulating like fallen leaves. Couldn’t Tess understand how tired she was, how upset? How the smallest things seemed like mountains?

She started back down the hall. ‘Will you please just leave it alone? We only just buried Mum.’

‘I thought it would take your mind off everything, and besides it’s time you found a man. There’s been no one since Matthew.’

Rachael froze with that same sick feeling she’d had yesterday, as if his name had dropped a cage around her body, one that was so tight she could barely draw breath. She steadied herself on the wall. Retreat wasn’t enough; she needed to escape. The door onto the rear verandah was right there. She suddenly found herself outside, boots on, striding through acres of field, mowing down a row of cut stalks in her haste.

‘I’m just trying to help!’ Tess yelled at her back.

Rachael didn’t turn around. Out under the sky, she pulled out her hair band and sucked in the warming air, trying to shake off the shock. Finding that Matthew’s name could still hurt was an unpleasant surprise. She thought she had packed him away so deep in her heart that he couldn’t affect her any more.

She strode south, trying to lose herself in her steps, and avoiding the long field where a dip in the ground lay hidden in the wheat stalks. Sadly, avoidance didn’t help. If she closed her eyes, she could still imagine lying in that hollow with Matthew, the earth cool against her arms, his body warm beside her. She had lost hours lying against his chest, twisting his curly brown hair in her fingers, staring into his eyes, and listening to his plans for them both. She’d been so excited by the prospects he’d effortlessly sown in her mind: of university, and then coming home to work and build a home together. Dreams that were still tied to the earth and the baked-straw scent of the fields, to everything Rachael was.

He’d broken off and given her his broad smile. ‘I’m going on.’

‘No,’ she’d said. ‘I want to hear more.’

So he’d brushed his thumbs across her cheeks, cradled her face, and said, ‘I’ll love you forever.’ Fierce and certain, he’d sealed his promise with a kiss and her heart had lifted with joy.

Rachael wrenched her mind back with an exasperated curse. That same straw scent was in her nose, but everything else had changed. They’d both been seventeen when he’d made that promise, imagining a different life than the one that had happened. And yet she knew she would never love anyone like that again.

She walked until she hit the south fence and still the ache clamped around her like a too-tight belt. The sun was behind a cloud, shooting beams of filtered orange across the sky, and birds wheeled and skimmed low over the stalks. Across the highway in a neighbour’s field, a combine turned a lazy circle at the end of a row, the distant grumble of its engines competing with sporadic traffic. Rachael lifted the hair off her sweating neck, but couldn’t put it up again; she’d lost the band somewhere in the field. She leaned on a fence post to pick the prickles off her socks, then chewed the remaining nail on her left hand as a truck rumbled down the highway towards Parkes. Another passed a minute later. Rachael lingered, watching.

The next truck had cowboy western murals painted over its cab. Then came two caravans, and two sedans. A sheep truck was next; the driver waved. Then she spotted a green Corolla flying down the highway. Rachael straightened. Just as she made out the mismatched door panel, the car flicked its lights at her and ploughed onto the hard shoulder.

The driver’s door flew open and Rachael almost cried again, this time in gratitude. Sammy was here.

‘I thought that was you,’ Sammy called, negotiating the slope to the fence, the breeze ruffling her choppy fringe. She had a blonde pixie cut, dimpled cheeks and long eyelashes. ‘What are you doing out here?’

‘Avoiding the house.’
Sammy raised her eyebrows. ‘Tess?’

‘She wants to get into Mum’s stuff.’ Rachael’s voice caught.

‘She’s being really awful. I don’t understand how she can be so…’

‘Callous? Invasive?’

‘Yeah. She’s worse than normal.’

Sammy hugged Rachael awkwardly across the fence. She was wearing her black work pants and blue blouse with Parkes Country Motor Inn stitched over the breast pocket.

‘Are you on your way to work?’ Rachael asked, confused. It was far too early for a shift at the motel; Sammy was more likely to have been at her second job, at the bakery.

‘Later. I came to see how you are. I brought food.’

‘I’m not hungry.’

‘I know. But I bet your nieces and nephew will be. Come on, I’ll give you a ride back to the house.’

Rachael glanced over her shoulder, gauging how long it would take to walk, then bent to slide through the fence. ‘Probably a good thing. Tess might have decided to clean things out on her own.’

‘I’m sure she wouldn’t,’ Sammy said. ‘But leave Tess to me. You’ve got enough to deal with.’

***

Charlotte Nash - Author Charlotte Nash grew up obsessed with horses and good stories, and is now a bestselling author of contemporary romantic novels. She came to writing after an eclectic past in engineering and medicine, and loves writing about brave women in testing circumstances, finding love and themselves. She lives in a cosy Brisbane cottage with her family. The Paris Wedding is her fifth novel, released 27 June 2017. 

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