Guest Blogs, Origin Stories

Life is What You Make it

Today we welcome Harlequin Special Edition author Nina Crespo to our Origin Stories feature.

Visit Nina’s Harlequin page to see all her books!

Life is what you make it—write your own story.

I was recently asked in an interview, “What would be the first song on the soundtrack to your life?” My answer, “La Vida es un Carnival” (Life is a Carnival) by Celia Cruz.

I can truly relate to the song, especially this part (translation from Spanish to English):

All those who believe life is unfair, needs to know that’s not the case. That life is beautiful, we have to live it! Anyone that thinks they are alone and that it’s unfulfilling, needs to know that’s not the case. That in life, no one is alone; there’s always someone!

https://lyricstranslate.com

Those lyrics are even more relevant to me now that I’m packing my life into boxes. Again. I’ve made over a dozen major moves in my adult life—from the southwest to the northeast to attend college, military PCS (permanent change of station) moves to installations in the States and overseas, a few cross-state transfers causing us to live in two homes to accommodate my and my husband’s careers, and cross-town relocations to new homes. Moving is as familiar to me as breathing. Sometimes, it’s been stressful, overwhelming, or even sad. But like the lyrics of the song, it’s also been beautiful. I’ve discovered new places and created spaces that felt like home and made new friends. Each experience is like starting the first chapter in a book.

My love of reading comes from my mother who was also a military spouse. She viewed every move as wonderful adventure (I’d post a picture of her, but all of my photo albums are packed away, and I don’t have any good ones of her on my phone). She was a teacher who chose to become a stay-at-home mom. Some of my earliest memories are of her engrossed in the local newspaper, Ebony magazine, a book, or an encyclopedia, reading about places around the world. She also read me bedtime stories, but as soon as I was able, she had me read my books aloud to her. Cinderella, The Tortoise and The Hare, Little Red Riding Hood, and Stone Soup—I not only learned to love words but also the escape a book could provide.

Eventually, I graduated to Nancy Drew Mysteries, but things completely changed for me while putting away my older sister’s laundry a.k.a snooping through her bedroom. She had a couple of Harlequin romance novels in her dresser drawer. I “borrowed” one and read it. From there, I was hooked. Enemies to lovers, marriages of convenience, love against the odds, as well as unforgettable adventures, loyal friends, and family saga dramas, all in places I’d yet to visit. Romance books were one of the things that inspired me to leave home and travel.

Very important box!

Back then, I certainly didn’t envision moving over a dozen times. I also never imagined I would pack a box of Harlequin romance novels with my name on them. But Mom and Celia Cruz are right—moving is an adventure, life is beautiful, and as my husband and I move into our new place, I’m looking forward to starting another chapter in our lives and writing my next book.

***

Nina Crespo lives in Florida where she indulges in her favorite passions — the beach, a good glass of wine, date night with her own real-life hero and dancing.

Her lifelong addiction to romance began in her teens while on a “borrowing spree” in her older sister’s bedroom where she discovered her first romance novel.

Nina’s sensual contemporary stories and steamy paranormal tales satisfy a reader’s craving for love, romance, and happily ever after. Her work has been published by Harlequin, Pocket Books, Kensington, and Entangled Publishing.

Stay connected with Nina on InstagramFacebookTwitter or through her newsletter.

Guest Blogs, Origin Stories, The Writing Life

My Hero Origin Story

(Today we welcome guest USA Today bestselling author Naima Simone, talking about where she gets the inspiration for her heroes)

Very recently, my mother-in-love (not mother-in-law, ‘cause I luvs me some her!) asked me a question: Do you read anything besides romance? And let me put this out there, she wasn’t asking it to be ugly. Because my mom-in-love has read every single one of my books, owns almost all the print copies and they occupy a special place on her bookshelf. She was genuinely curious. I answered her honestly. I do read some mystery thrillers—Lisa Gardner is the ish!—but for the most part, I’m a romance reader. There’s so much variety in romance that I can find it all there. Comedy. Suspense. Sci-fi. Historical. Horror. Contemporary. Paranormal. And of course. Love.

I freely admit it. I’m in love with love.

From the time my mother read me my first fairy tale, I’ve been completely enamored with love and everything it entails. The falling into it. The pitfalls of it. The dysfunction of it. The joys and pain of it. The edification and complications of it. The heroines and heroes.

Especially those heroes.

Because the heroes are my romance origin story.

Now, I have a confession. My first books and stories? Horrible. Like, hide in a chest, lock it, bury it and order three viciously horned dragons and a puzzle-wielding Sphinx to guard it, horrible. Yeah. That bad. LOL! But the heroes in them shaped the ones I write now. Who were these heroes? So glad you asked.

The first romance I wrote starred Ralph Tresvant, lead singer of the boy band New Edition. Soft voice, romantic and obviously sensitive. I mean, he serenaded women, sooo… And though I nearly killed him off in my book (hey, didn’t I warn you it was terrible?!), my kiss did bring him out of that coma, so it all worked out in the end!

Naima’s notebooks

The next short story featured Oliver from Oliver Twist. He was so cute with his tortured past. Kid has abandonment issues written all over him. And yes, yes, I know, he has a happy ending, but seriously. You know he has serious emotional baggage. And I live for the tortured hero he’s destined to become!

I followed him up with Duke from G.I. Joe. Alpha, strong, honorable, man in control Duke. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved the action and excitement and the whole good vs. evil of the cartoon. But I also obsessively watched for Duke and Scarlett. To see when, and if, they would ever get together. And since they didn’t to my satisfaction, I wrote their story. Over and over again.

Then there was Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block. Oh Donnie. *sigh* Bad boy. Rebel. A little wild. And from the way he could dance, you know he could…move. Whether he was a member of a boy band or a famous producer, or later, a millionaire, he provided the hero for several of my books and short stories. Including the one the first book I sold.

Naima’s first published novel

Though my writing has evolved—thank goodness!—the leading men in my books are all an amalgamation of my first heroes, my origin heroes. The core of honor, strength and alpha maleness of Duke. The sensitivity of Ralph. The tortured pain and hurt of Oliver. The bad boy wildness of Donnie. Their backgrounds, appearances and stories may change, but the heart of them remain the same.

Author bio:

Published since 2009, USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone loves writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. Her books have been featured in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and described as balancing “crackling, electric love scenes with exquisitely rendered characters caught in emotional turmoil.”

She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.

Guest Blogs, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Guest Blog – Josie Metcalfe

It’s a real thrill to welcome Josie Metcalfe to the blog today!  Josie is the author of 52 Medical Romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon, and is currently busy editing and re-issuing selected books from her backlist.  We took this opportunity to ask her a few must-know questions.

What made you become an author?

I can’t remember not being able to read because my mother, a junior teacher, had me reading before I started school. It was only when a medical ‘never event’ took away my speech and my ability to read and write that the fight to get all that back fired me up to have a go – that and a dare from my husband!

If you weren’t a writer, what else would you like to be?

I trained as a teacher – well, with a mother and an aunt teachers and a grandfather a headmaster why wouldn’t I? Then, after I married and the children started arriving, there were various occupations including doing alterations for a very spiffy gents outfitters, making wedding dresses, knitting Aran jumpers to order, medical secretary in a private clinic – a Jill of all trades.

Can you pick a favourite book from your backlist? And/Or a favourite character or location?

It’s just too hard to choose a favourite – a bit like asking which one is my favourite child. Doubly difficult because I tend to fall in love with each of my heroes while I’m writing them. Well, why wouldn’t I when each of them has a little bit of my husband in them, even though none of them resemble him.

Can you give us an idea of the process for editing your books for re-issue? Did you find that a lot of changes were needed to accommodate changes in technology and medicine?

Obviously I’m careful to check that any drugs I mention are still in use for the same purpose but I’ve been quite surprised how much the world has changed in such a short time, particularly with the advent of mobile phones that do everything except boil the kettle. It wasn’t so long ago that they had to be switched off inside a hospital; now they’re used to take a quick picture of a suspect growth, for example, which can immediately be sent to the relevant specialist.

What’s the thing you enjoyed the most about re-visiting your early books?

It was great fun reading them for the first time in ages – I’d almost forgotten what my characters had got up to – but then I had to take my ‘reader’ hat off and put my ‘editor’ hat on!

If you could go back and give your younger self one piece of advice, at the start of her writing career, what would it be?

The piece of advice I was given after I wrote the first book was to learn to touch type so that it becomes completely second nature and to learn to work straight onto the screen so I didn’t waste any more time and energy writing longhand then copy typing. I’ve passed that advice on many times already.

Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?

Don’t end a day’s work at the end of a scene but in the middle of something. Then, when you come back to it the next time you’re never staring at a blank screen but can start right into the ‘paused’ scene. Then, by the time you get to the end of the scene, you’ll already have the following scene brewing in your head. I also employ ‘critical path analysis’ when I’m plotting. Sounds scary? Not a bit when you realise it just means that once you know who your characters are and their situation you go direct to the happy end of the story and plot it backwards, putting in all the important threads and weaving them together at the critical point so that everything hangs together. With that outline constructed the writing becomes so much easier.

Josie will be back with an excerpt from ‘Forgotten Pain’ next Wednesday.  You can find all Josie’s newly released editions on Amazon – look out for these distinctive covers!  And do click the links below, you’ll be in for a real treat!

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No Alternative (St Augustine’s Hospital Book 1) – Ella James alienated her family when she chose to become a chiropractor rather than a medical doctor, but orthopaedic surgeon Adam Marshall has his own reasons for regardng her as little better than a charlatan. With both of them appointed to a research forum, clashes are inevitable but that can’t stop the attraction growing between them.

Secrets to Keep (St Augustine’s Hospital Book 2) – Jacob could easily expect to feel hostility towards Louise, after all, it was her husband’s reckless driving that had killed his wife, leaving their premature baby fighting for her life.  

But while he watches her tenderly caring for her own dying baby, animosity is the last thing he’s feeling, and when he comes up with the suggestion that she should take on the care of his child, permanently… 

Hell on Wheels (St Augustine’s Hospital Book 3)  A&E nursing sister, Sophie, starts a new job, and is shocked to find that Luke Hellier, the school-friend who broke her heart ten years ago, is now a doctor working at the same hospital.

A Voice in the Dark (St Augustine’s Hospital Book 4) – Jenny, an oncology nurse and single mother, is on her way to join her twins and their grandparents on holiday in Spain when the plane is forced to land unexpectedly. That’s when she discovers that Tomas, a fellow passenger, was once a leukaemia patient of hers. As a result of disastrous previous relationships in both their backgrounds, he doesn’t trust that she’s not after his considerable family wealth while she is worried that the only reason he wants a relationship with her is because she has children….. which he can now never have.

Bound by Honour (St Augustine’s Hospital Book 5) – Needing to ‘disappear’ from an impossible situation, A and E nurse Honour chooses the wrong person’s ID to misappropriate, but when Army Medic Matt extracts her agreement to accompany him to Peru to relieve a colleague at a remote clinic, it isn’t hard to agree, not when the attraction she feels towards him far outweighs his glowering disapproval of her.

Forgotten Pain (St Augustine’s Hospital Book 6) – There’s something about Luke and the shadows in his eyes that sets Sally’s antennae buzzing. He’s unfairly good-looking and he’s obviously excellent at his job but that can’t outweigh the fact that when she tries to get to know him better, he’s so evasive that she knows he’s hiding secrets.

Guest Blogs

ONCE A MEDICAL AUTHOR, ALWAYS A MEDICAL AUTHOR by Lynne Marshall

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Padraig Delaney’s pub connected to the family hotel

Greetings to Love is the Best Medicine blog and followers! It is always a treat to stop by and say hello.

We medical authors hang out in a virtual break room and often remind each other that though some of us may have moved to other Harlequin lines or to completely different genres (shout out to Fiona Lowe and Anne Fraser) we will always be considered one of the tribe.

Thank you for that!

I’m especially happy to be here to share this milestone!

25thbookharlequin

I’m fortunate to publish three books over the next few months for the Harlequin Special Edition line in US, which is the new Mills & Boon True Love line in UK. It is still called Cherish in Australia, though. As it just so happens, the hero in the launch book FOREVER A FATHER, is a doctor. Surprised? I’m not. My loyalties to the medical profession will continue until the day I kick the bucket.

Daniel Delaney is a Doctor of Physical Medicine and has opened his own clinic back in his hometown of Sandpiper Beach. That is also where his family runs a quaint hotel. Some say you can never go home again, nor should you! But Daniel doesn’t see it that way. Returning to a family that loves and supports him is very important at this time in his life.

In this book, I get to introduce the entire family, Mom, Dad, brothers Mark and Conor, and including grandda Padraig, a real character, if you know what I mean. Plus three lovely women.IMG_3003 (2)

There are also a couple of medical scenes in the first book, one an emergency on Sandpiper Beach, and another where Daniel must relocate a dislocated shoulder using the Cunningham technique. I loved writing those scenes!

The Delaneys of Sandpiper Beach2
When I saw this logline written for the series, I thought, yeah, they nailed it.

I hope you’ll check out the trilogy to find out how eighty-five-year-old Padraig Delaney is up to his usual mischief and makes a bold promise that each brother will soon find the love of their lives. Where the seriously doubting brothers, one by one, fall in love, and finally might have to admit the old guy isn’t as daft as he seems.

Here is the UK cover and the book blurb

ForeverAFatherUK51Ttym-AGEL

“Will you be my dad?”

Ask me anything but that.

Once upon a time, Dr. Daniel Delaney had it all. But he lost it in the blink of an eye, and he won’t let himself fall again—not even for his dedicated new assistant, Keela O’Mara, and her adorable, lonely little girl, Anna. Resisting a starry-eyed four-year-old is tough enough. Denying her perfect, loving single mom may be more than Daniel can handle…

 

QUESTION FOR READERS: If an author writes a trilogy, do you read them one by one as they come out, or wait until all are released and read them all at once?

Thanks for putting up with me again!
Lynne Marshall
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Excerpts, Guest Blogs

Excerpt – Greyfriars House, by Emma Fraser

isbn9780751566123

Prologue

Charlotte

October 1984

The house looms behind me, grey and forbidding in the moonlight. From the turret window a light flickers so briefly I can’t be sure I saw it. Ever since I arrived on the island I have had the sensation I am being watched, that someone wants me gone. But I no longer trust my senses. There is so much that is strange about Greyfriars.

It is very still. As if the island is holding its breath. I move towards the shore. What my great-aunt has told me so far has shaken me. And there is more to come. More secrets to be revealed. I am not sure I can bear to hear them.

As I pick my way along the rough path I think regretfully of the torch left behind in the porch. But I persevere, wanting to put distance between me and the house. The moon and stars provide just enough light although every now and again scudding clouds obscure the moon and I am momentarily plunged into darkness.

I continue through the trees, innocuous in the daytime, but in the shifting darkness as sinister as watching sentinels. Then at last I am in the open again, the sea, glittering in the moonlight, stretching in front of me. I suck in lungfuls of salty air and my pulse slows.

A rustle comes from the copse behind me and my heart kicks as I whirl around. Something has moved within the shadows. I think of the ghostly presences my mother told me about, then immediately dismiss the thought with an impatient click of my tongue. The only ghosts are the ones in my head. Some placed there by Georgina, others of my own making.

Tiger has run off and I can hear cracking of branches as she sniffs amongst the piles of rotting leaves. A shape swoops over my head and I smother a cry. A flutter and a flash. It is just the owl that roosts in the eaves, returning with a mouse trapped in its beak.

It isn’t just the house that unsettles me, or the two women within, it is me, the way I feel inside. Untethered and adrift. A boat without an anchor at the mercy of the wind and tide.

I’d told myself I’d come here to find answers although I knew, deep down, I was fleeing from the world, my grief, my guilt, from having to make a decision about the rest of my life.

Tiger growls. She has emerged from the bushes and is standing in front of the copse of trees, her ears up, her tail rigid behind her. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end. I know she is there before I see her. The figure emerges from the shadows, her face hidden. I have seen her before. Edith sleepwalking I’ve been told. I no longer believe it.

 

Greyfriars House‘ by Emma Fraser is available now in hardback and ebook, and in paperback in May, (available to pre-order from Amazon, now).

Guest Blogs, Holiday Celebrations, New Releases

Thanksgiving in US and the Holidays to Come!

Hello LIBM! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, though I frequently stop by to read the wonderful posts by my favorite Medical Romance authors.  Though I’m writing for a different Harlequin line now, and a new small press, I still love to write doctors and nurses as main characters. My last Medical was out May 2017, Miracle for the Neurosurgeon, but I still feel part of this lovely group of authors.

Happy Thanksgiving beautiful turkey card

For USA readers, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow! Gobble gobble. We all have much to be thankful for, and it is nice to take time to think about those blessings, even if hanging out with “certain” relatives tests our patience. 😉

Now, since LIBM is an International website, I’d like to talk about some of my upcoming books for 2018 with Harlequin.

The Delaneys of Sandpiper beach

ForeverAFatherUK51Ttym-AGEL
I’m excited to say that in 2018 I will have a trilogy out (Harlequin Special Edition in US and True Love line in UK, as well as Cherish line in Australia). FOREVER A FATHER, is book #1, where the hero is a Physical Medicine doctor. Here are the US and UK book covers. And yes, it is also (finally!) my twenty-fifth book with Harlequin.

 

 

 

 

However, I come with an ulterior motive today, to talk about my current release.

THEIR CHRISTMAS MIRACLE from Tule Publishing

take two for christmas

Tracy Blevin is an RN, so there is that. 😉
I set out to write a Christmas book with a G rating for TULE Publishing, for those who want to enjoy a story that isn’t loaded down with angst during the holidays. Also for those who have friends and family who may not want to read hot romances, so they can share the book with them, too. The first draft was a little too breezy, and my Tule editor pointed out the ways I needed to dig deeper. I took her advice!

Here’s an ad lib snapshot of the story, though the final paragraph is right from the book blurb:

Hunter Wood is a good guy, just trying to make a living while venturing out with his own café. But life has a curve ball heading his way.

Tracy Blevin is still carrying around a grudge from her childhood, and really needs to let it go and move on, so she can finally see the great guy standing in front of her.

When a Montana winter car crash leaves a baby an orphan, Godfather Hunter, lives up to his promise, taking in the ten-month old. With the season of miracles upon them, Hunter can no longer deny his strong attraction towards Tracy. Is her life-long wish for her own family finally being answered this Christmas?

Available in Digital format only at these vendors:
Amazon Kindle
B&N Nook
iBooks
Kobo
Google Play
Amazon Kindle UK

You can read the full blurb at any of the digital venues above or at my website. If you read the book, I hope it adds a little extra something to your holidays this year. Hopefully it will put a smile on your face. Above all, that was my goal this Christmas.

NEWS FLASH:
I have a BookBub ad scheduled for tomorrow, November 23rd, USA Thanksgiving Day, for the first book in the Charity, Montana series: Her Baby, His Love. Get it free and tell your friends!

Thanks for having me back!
Love,
Lynne Marshall

 

 

 

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. 

Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorCharlotteNash/
Twitter: @CharlotteNash79
Website: http://www.charlottenash.net/

 

Guest Blogs, Travels Around the World

Persistent courage, under unrelenting fire – by Charlotte Nash

Today, Charlotte Nash makes a very welcome return to ‘Love is the Best Medicine’.  Charlotte will be joining us again next Wednesday, with an excerpt from her new release ‘The Paris Wedding’.

Charlotte Nash - Author

Recently, I drove 3600 km across America in the name of research for my next novel. Before I left, everyone was asking if I was excited, with that hopeful (perhaps vicarious) gleam in their smile that I hated disappointing. Because sure, I was excited, but I held more than a little trepidation, and I didn’t mind saying so. The trip was going to be tight. I had to learn to drive on the other side of the road. In Los Angeles. And I was leaving my little boy at home with no knowing how he would handle the time without me.

I thought it would be a kind of character research, because my protagonist is making the trip against her will, being forced to exhibit a courage under fire she’s never had to find before. And that’s the kind of character we write about, right? Romantic stories are as much about how people negotiate their lives, and survive their circumstances, as they are about relationships. Maybe the surviving circumstances is really the core of it, the protagonists the embodiment of a bigger idea.

This book won’t be out until next year, but I think every character I’ve written is like that. In my current book, The Paris Wedding (out this month), Rachael is having to face the love of her life marrying someone else in Paris. She goes only because she sees she had no choice: it’s that, or be hung up on him and their imagined life forever. She thinks the decision to go is the easy part, the courageous part. Muhahahaha … of course it isn’t.

Same thing with my trip. I wrote a blog in the early days of the trip about the mild culture shock of America. “Mild” belies the effect of it, because it creates a huge background anxiety. Just thinking about driving on the right, of flicking light switches up not down, of paying before pumping gas, of saying pumping “gas” not “fuel”, was enough to make me want to curl up in my cheap hotel room, watch endless TV and not venture out anywhere.

But, then, I was there for a purpose I couldn’t escape. I had one shot at the research. A lot of people thought what I was doing was crazy, but it was really, really important to me. So I had to drag my unwilling self up and to the local diner. And strike up conversations. And ask questions. Man, it was uncomfortable. For at least the first half of the trip, I was constantly self-conscious, sure everyone could tell that I was a stranger in a strange land. And it dawned on me that my characters go through the exact same thing. They, too, have one shot at this situation they’re in. Big consequences if they fail to act. Uncomfortable as hell, in their own version of a culture shock: out of the comfort of what came before. And in the acting, in the persistent pursuit of this once in a lifetime chance, no matter how wrong it seems to be going, they earn the courage they need to get through it. Ergo, persistent courage under unrelenting fire.

On my trip, I began to find I didn’t care about being the American n00b. That people were in general hospitable, generous, proud of where they came from and glad to share it with me. I could tell the moment my attitude changed because I started to meet interesting people in all kinds of places: a group of exuberant schoolteachers in a park in Fort Smith AR, a veteran pilot in a Starbucks in Nashville TN, a TV personality in Katz’s Deli in New York. Things that just seem to happen once I got over feeling I couldn’t do it.

I’m fortunate that my trip did not have the “all is lost”, darkest-hour moment that stories require. It’s not that I couldn’t imagine what that would look like: lost down some Dixie Alley back road with a broken-down car and a tornado roaring through. But there came a point where I was all in: I’d made it this far, and I was sure I could make it through something like that. And I guess that’s where I want my characters to be at the end of the story: with the courage that comes from having survived something big. I was very glad to come home, but I’m not the same as when I left, not quite. Stories should be about things like that. I want to go again.

FINAL COVER_PARIS WEDDING_800x519Charlotte 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. 

Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorCharlotteNash/
Twitter: @CharlotteNash79
Website: http://www.charlottenash.net/

Pre-order The Paris Wedding from:-
iBooks,  Kobo,  Google Play (Charlotte Nash Author Page),  Amazon AU,  Booktopia

Guest Blogs

Guest Blog – Emma Fraser

51QRrTnj+zL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_One of the pleasures of reading (as Laurie said so eloquently on her blog last week) is that it allows us to experience places we haven’t been to and lives we haven’t led. The same might be said of writing. I have always been intrigued by ‘what if’ scenarios. What would I have done had I been in a particular situation? How would I have coped? What choices might I have been forced to make?

Having said that, in my most recent book The Shipbuilder’s Daughter, I draw on personal experience and childhood memories as well as stories of a time before I was born, passed on to me by my grandfather Peter, my mother Annie and her brother, Lachie as well as great aunts and other relatives.

In The Shipbuilder’s Daughter, my heroine, Margaret, fearing her children will be removed from her, flees to North Uist where she has accepted a post as a doctor. Unable to keep her children with her while she carries out her medical duties, she arranges for a family of a friend to care for them while she works. I’ve kept the name of my grandparents home, Sandbank, describing it as it would have been in the thirties (and still was when I was a child !) and modelled the family the children stay with on my mother’s family, even giving them the same names.

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My grandfather worked in the shipyards of Govan but left to return to the islands when the health of his children, particularly that of his eldest son, Lachie, suffered in the smoggy, damp conditions of Glasgow. My grandfather, Peter Morrison was a remarkable man. Although he received very little formal education he was a well-known Gaelic bard. Many of his stories, songs and tunes have been recorded and collected over the years by the School of Scottish studies and are still sung today. He was also a prolific writer of letters to newspapers, sharing his opinions, of which he had many with the world at large. In the forties – seeking a better life – he took his family, including my mother, to live on the Monach Islands, about as far away from civilisation as you can get, where they lived, just the six of them for four years, surviving on what they could grow themselves, and income from the sale of lobsters or rabbit pelts – but that it a story for another time.

As a child going to Sandbank to stay with my grandparents for the summer holidays was a great adventure. The journey there seemed to take forever involving an interminable car journey; how me and my five siblings and our parents ever squeezed in to one car, I can’t imagine – it almost certainly involved sitting on laps – plus a boat journey of around three hours. Arriving at Lochmaddy (North Uist’s port) we’d be met and another journey over single-track roads would follow. Even then the journey wasn’t over. Sandbank at that time had no road or causeway to it, so if the tide was in, we’d be bundled in to anther small boat and rowed across to the house.

The magic for me didn’t stop there. Because of where Sandbank was built the tide would come in twice a day, high or low depending on the time of year and when it did it would completely change the landscape. I’d go to bed, (my way lit by a small paraffin lamp – there was no electricity at the house only a generator which supplied electricity for a couple of hours ) with my uncle’s boat lying its side on the sands only to wake up to find it bobbing in the sea, the house completely surrounded by water. (The causeway you can just see in the photo is a relatively recent addition.)

Without television or toys, we children would make our own entertainment. There were too many of us to be kept in doors so we’d be chucked out to play regardless of the weather (although the sun always seems to shine in childhood memories ) and we’d roam the croft, sail pretend boats made from reeds in the fissures of the fidean, or share a home- built wooden one (made by my then bachelor uncle Lachie), on the incoming tide. We’d search rabbit holes and feed hens, play in boats that were no longer in use and had been left to rot on the sands, dig for cockles, or hang our legs over the jetty and fish using crab heads for bait.

Many of the activities necessary to survival were shared by the community and often we children would help lift and stack peats or gather the hay – looking forward to when the Byre filled and we could fling ourselves from the hay loft into mounds of sweet-smelling hay. There were also trips in Grandfather’s boat to other, uninhabited islands where lunch would be tea, made with water taken from a loch and boiled by a fire made with heather (to this day I can still smell its particular scent) along with mussels picked from the rocks and bannochs or scones baked that morning by my grandmother and spread with home-made butter.

Not all the memories were pleasant; there was no indoor toilet and no running hot water so baths had to be taken (and shared ) in a zinc tub in front of the Rayburn stove, and my grandfather used to force spoonfuls of seal blubber on us to keep us healthy. A man of his time, he was strict and as a staunch member of the Free Church of Scotland, forbade any activity on Sundays that wasn’t reading the bible or writing letters – excruciating for young children.

In the evenings, people from other parts of the island would visit. Drams of whisky would be poured for the adults, someone would bring out an accordion or fiddle and then the music and dancing would start. In between there would be the story-telling. My parents and all the islanders were gaelic speakers – but not us children – so sadly we couldn’t follow what was being said.

My mother’s family were crofters and lobster fishermen and an abiding memory is of my Uncle Lachie striding across the sands – a sack of crabs slung over his shoulder (crabs weren’t considered to have monetary value back then in the same way lobsters did) and me running to meet him. It was he who told us the story of Baroomba who lived in a nearby loch and wanted nothing more than to grab a child and drag her, or him, in to a watery grave – thinking back it was to keep us away from that particularly deep, steep- sided loch, he who made us bats and boats out of wood and even painted them for us and he, who later, when my brother and I returned to live with him and my grandfather as lively teenagers – intervened in what could only be described as a clash between the generations. But that too is another story and for another time.

So it is with much love and gratitude that I dedicate this blog to the memory of my Uncle Lachie, who died in 2015 at the great age of 91 and is still sorely missed.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. You can read an extract from The Shipbuilder’s Daughter here on Wednesday and order it on Amazon. The ebook version of my second book We Shall Remember is currently, but only for a little longer, heavily discounted and you can buy it on Amazon at its reduced price if you’re quick.

Thanks also to my fellow authors for inviting me to contribute today!

Finally, I have a question for you. Is there somewhere that holds an abiding place in your heart?