Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

All Travelers, Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s what I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Wildfires and Home Fires by Fiona Lowe

I’m Australian and I live in the south of the country which is full of wonderful eucalypts or “gum trees” as we call them. We used to have damp winters and hot, dry summers. Over the last twenty years our winters have been getting drier, our summers hotter and wildfires more frequent, hotter and far more deadly. Temperate rainforest that has never burned before is burning and our wonderful gum trees explode, spreading fire far and wide.

So what does that mean? Well, for many of us, it leaves us on high alert like our Californian and other West Coast cousins. It means where we live becomes a stressor and this impacts on not just our way of life, but our mental health. As someone who has been affected by wildfire personally and professionally, HOME FIRES was the novel I had to write. If you know anyone affected by wildfires, then this is the book you need to read. I promise you it ends in hope!

It’s a best seller in Australia and now I’m excited to bring it to my US/UK and rest of the world readers. So what’s it about? The blurb says ....

When a deadly wildfire tears through Myrtle, nestled along Australia’s breathtaking Great Ocean Road, the town’s buildings — and the lives of its residents — are left as smoldering ash. Eighteen months later, Myrtle stands restored, shiny and new. But is the outside polish just a veneer? 

For four women in particular, the fire fractured their lives and their relationships. Julie thinks tourism could bring some financial stability to their town and soon prods Claire, Bec and Sophie into joining her community group. 

But the scars of trauma run deep and as secrets emerge and each woman faces the damage the wildfire wrought, a shocking truth will emerge that will shake the town to its newly rebuilt foundations… 

With her sharp eye for human flaws, bestselling author Fiona Lowe writes an evocative tale of everyday people fighting for themselves, their families and their town.  

What are people saying about Home Fires?

“Fiona Lowe’s ability to create atmosphere and tension and real relationship dynamics is a gift.” —Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Mother-in-Law on Home Fires

“Lowe breathes real life into her characters…Home Fires is a profoundly hopeful tale, one of re-generation, of the strength gained from women supporting women, and of a community pulling together.” Better Reading

Home Fires is available in print, ebook and audio book wherever you buy your books.

Buy links are Apple, Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, The Book Depository or ask your bookstore to order it in.

If you’d like to see photos of the setting, read more about why I wrote the book, and read an excerpt, head over to my HOME FIRES page on my website. While you’re there, feel free to sign up for my VIP newsletter. I only send out news when I have a new book or cover reveal or a competition for readers. Want to chat books, cats, baking and gardening? I hang out on Facebook and Instagram too. Happy reading! Fiona xxx

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Happy Birthday to me! Here’s a gift for you! 🎁

Hi All!

September is one of my favorite times of the year, and not just because it’s my birthday month. (We won’t say which one because I stopped counting at 21… LOL! 😉) I love Fall. Spring too, but Autumn just feels so cozy and comfortable and warm, like a favorite pair of slippers and a good cup of tea. Or a wonderful book that you read over and over again.

So, as a gift to you, there’s a very special sale on one of my sweet romance titles with Entangled Bliss, WORTH THE WAIT ! The special price doesn’t technically start until this coming Monday, 9/14, but many retailers drop them ahead of time, so keep checking to get this great deal! 🤓📚

For a limited time, (9/14-9/21), this book is on sale for just $0.99!

I love Alex and Mandy’s story for so many reasons. It’s funny and sweet and touching and heartbreaking and healing, all rolled into one. I started writing this book shortly after my mom passed away in 2013 and it became a way for me to work through some of the overwhelming feelings of loss and love and fear that I was going through at the time. It took seven years and many different sets of revisions to get it ready for the world, but I’m so happy with how it turned out. If you like small-town romances with brooding, wounded heroes and spunky, smart heroines who just keep on going despite the odds stacked against them, then this is the story for you. I’ve included a short excerpt for you below as well, to whet your whistle… 🥰

Be sure to get your copy at the special low price of just $0.99 HERE before it’s gone! (And be sure to let me know how you liked the book too, once you’ve read it. #ReviewsAreLove ❤️)

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Traci 😊

GET YOUR COPY TODAY before it’s too late!

Publisher: Entangled Bliss

Release Date: 3/9/2020

Tropes: Second-Chance, Forced Proximity, Opposites Attract

Blurb:

Mandy Reynolds needs a reset on life in so many ways. Her acting career isn’t exactly where she’d hoped it to be. She can’t even get a job as a germ for a commercial. When she inherits half a house she sees it as a sign and heads home to Heavenly Falls, Illinois. She’ll sell the house, and use the money to take her career to the next level in Los Angeles. That is if she can convince her hard-headed––and stupidly gorgeous–– ex-stepbrother, Alex Noonan, to sell fast. The last time Alex saw Mandy, she was a gangly teen, who followed him around like a sad puppy. But she’s grown into a smart and funny woman, who is as frustrating as she is beautiful. The fact that they have to live in the house––together––while they fix it up, is one temptation he doesn’t need. And while he’s having fun spending time with her, she’s moving on soon, and he needs time to heal. Plus, she has no idea he’s got a secret that could put a monkey wrench in all of her plans…

Short Excerpt:

She took a deep breath then turned slowly to find him watching her from across the room. He 

looked as off-kilter as she felt. Butterflies swarming in her empty stomach, she searched for some way past the awkward. “So…”

“So,” Alex said, pushing to his feet, and for a breathless second, she thought he would stride across the kitchen and sweep her into his arms for a romance novel cover-worthy ravishing. The idea buzzed through her, setting all her nerve endings alight. But instead, he turned and headed out into the hall, saying as he went, “Staining.”

Huh? Mandy blinked after him, wondering what the heck he was talking about until she remembered the cans he’d brought up from the basement. Being busy was better than standing around thinking about Alex and his almost-kiss, so she trailed after him, asking, “Need any help?”

He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, hands full of cans and brushes. “I guess.”

“Cool.” 

They headed up to the second floor and knelt side by side at the railing. He poured stain into two small cups and handed her one. Mandy moved to the opposite end of the railing to start on a baluster, doing  her best to focus on the task at hand and not the man at the other end of the railing.  They worked their way back toward the middle and each other and once they were done, Mandy sat back on her heels, her stomach growling as the smell of garlic and roasting chicken drifted up from the kitchen. She sighed and set her cup of stain aside to wipe her hands on a piece of paper towel. “I should go check the food.”

Alex squinted at the baluster he was finishing. “I’m sorry.”

For a moment, Mandy thought she’d misheard him. “For what?”

He sighed and met her eyes at last. “For whatever that was downstairs in the kitchen. I shouldn’t have tried to kiss you.” Then he shook his head, staring down at the paintbrush he was cleaning. “I’m sorry.” 

“It’s okay,” she said, trying to play it off with a joke. “I mean after you asked me if I wanted to sleep with you, a kiss seems pretty innocent, right?”

Alex looked up at her. “This isn’t funny.”

Her shoulders slumped. “Well, not exactly the end of the world, either. I mean, we’re both adults. We like each other. We want each other. What’s wrong with that?” Then because she knew exactly what was wrong with that whole scenario, she kept on talking so she wouldn’t have to listen to him tell her he didn’t want her. “I’m kidding. We can’t sleep together. It’s too complicated. We each have our own plans for the future and neither of them involves the other. You’re staying here and I’m going to California. Who cares if the chemistry between us is off the charts? I mean, I feel it, but maybe you don’t. I just…” She stopped and took a breath, out of words at last, her hopes sinking along with her voice. “I’m sorry, too.” 

Alex set his brush aside and sat back against the wall. “We make quite a pair, don’t we?”

Mandy gave a sad little snort, settling in beside him. “We do.”

Their shoulders pressed together, and warmth spread through her side from the touch. Man, she had it bad for this guy, and that wasn’t good. 

He exhaled slowly then looked over at her. “And you don’t have anything to be sorry for.”

“Neither do you,” she said, raising her head to meet his gaze, 

Alex reached over to trace his fingers down her cheek. “You’ve got stain on your face,” 

“Oh.” Her breath caught at the wonder in his touch. “Wouldn’t want to look silly.”

“No.” He closed the gap between them at last. “Hate it when that happens.”

The first brush of his lips against hers felt featherlight, tentative, teasing. Then she groaned and slipped her fingers through his hair, pulling him closer, and he deepened the kiss, no longer gentle as she swept his tongue between her lips to taste him for the first time.  She scrambled onto his lap, unable to get enough, her chest pressed to his, heart to heart, their pulses thumping together, strong and steady. 

Kissing Alex was too much. Kissing him would never be enough.

Kissing him was…

Over.

Reviewers are loving WORTH THE WAIT:

“Worth the Wait is a FANTASTIC romance with a “stuck together” trope! This author never disappoints.” ~ Miss W Book Reviews
 
“Worth the Wait, by Traci Douglass (Entangled: Bliss), is just a really very good story with believable and relatable characters and a different kind of wounded hero.” ~ Maria, Goodreads
 
“…a moving, fun, witty and emotional story filled with fabulous banter and a sensual pull… very easy characters to become friends with and I can highly recommend it.” ~ Helen S., Goodreads
 
“All around beautiful romance about falling in love when you least expect it.” ~ Living My Best Book Life

“This was a WONDERFUL book to read and it was very easy to connect with the characters. I would certainly recommend!” ~ Harlequin Junkie, Top Pick

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Amazing Adventures of Two Annies, A Dog and a Tennis Ball

I guess we’re all getting used to video conferencing these days.  How not enough light can make you look as if you’re speaking from a dungeon, and too much light can turn you into a shadow puppet.  The very lovely Annie O’Neil and I put all of our skills to good use the other day when we were asked to do a Facebook Live chat with Vic Britton, the Commissioning Editor for Mills and Boon.  Did we have an amazing time?  Yes, we did! 

We had a few hiccups, of course, because that’s what live chats are for 🙂  Those of you who wear varifocal glasses will recognise my rather faraway look in the first few frames, which comes from trying to find the right part of the lens to read something on my screen.  Annie had a special guest with her – Skye the border collie – who almost caused a disaster by sitting on her computer cable.  When my connection dropped suddenly, Vic and Annie valiantly kept going until the internet fairies flew to my rescue.  Oh, and if you want to know about the tennis ball, you’ll have to watch the video… 

 

A huge thank you to the ladies at Mills and Boon, who invited us and made this possible, and to Vic who was our wonderful host.  And, of course, wild appreciation for Annie O’Neil who is always a star in any given situation.

To round off Annie’s and my trip to Dolphin Cove, I’ll end with a short excerpt.  Drew has been recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident, but is keen to get back to work.  He’s taken his new puppy Phoenix to scout out the Veterinary Centre, early one morning, before anyone’s due to arrive for work…

***

The deserted reception area smelled of wax polish and hope. The consulting rooms were still the same, one of them filled with a mass of photographs of Ellie’s canine patients, and another with a more restrained set of framed photographs that belonged to Lucas. Drew’s was…empty. Neat and tidy, without a speck of dust. Drew smiled. It was ready and waiting for him.

‘Drew! What the blazes are you doing here?’

Ellie’s tone generally became firmer, in proportion to the size and momentum of the animal she was dealing with. This must be the one she reserved for charging rhinos.

Drew did the only thing possible and let go of Phoenix’s lead. When he turned, he saw the puppy barrelling along the corridor, the lead trailing behind her, and Ellie fell to her knees, scooping Phoenix up into her arms. Worked every time.

Or… Every time apart from this one.

‘Come on. What are you doing here?’ Ellie stood to face him, trying not to smile as the puppy licked her neck.

‘I could ask you the same question. Shouldn’t you and Lucas be staring into each other’s eyes over your cornflakes? You are technically still on your honeymoon, even if you are at work.

Ellie flushed slightly, presumably at the mention of Lucas’s eyes. ‘You do know what you’re doing, don’t you? Deflecting one question with another. It so happens that I didn’t have cornflakes for breakfast, and Lucas isn’t here. He’s doing the school run this morning.’

‘So you’re letting him in gently to the joys of parenthood.’ Drew grinned. He imagined that the other parents at the school gate were more of a challenge to Lucas than the whole six years he’d spent as TV’s favourite vet.

‘He said that yesterday was a bit like running a gauntlet of meerkats.’ Ellie shrugged. ‘He doesn’t mind, really.’

‘He loves it. You know that.’

Ellie nodded, smiling. She’d been in love with Lucas ever since the three of them had studied together at veterinary school. Lucas had left to become a celebrity vet, and Ellie had returned to Cornwall, where she and Drew had set up in practice together in Dolphin Cove. When Ellie and Lucas’s son, Mav, had been born, he had been so like his father, and a constant reminder that something was missing in all their lives.

But now Lucas was back. Ellie had never loved anyone else, and Drew was happy for them both.

‘You still haven’t answered my question.’

He hadn’t counted on springing this on Ellie today, but since she’d asked, he may as well grasp the nettle. ‘Why don’t we go and sit down in my office.’

‘I’m really getting worried now. You’re trying to butter me up by sitting down, aren’t you?’

Drew chuckled. ‘Yep. And I don’t want Phoenix running around here until she’s had her second set of vaccinations.’

He let Ellie tuck his hand into the crook of her elbow, but Drew was careful not to lean on her as they walked. He’d leaned on Ellie far too much already and he appreciated her support, but it had to stop. Leaning on the people around him was beginning to weaken him.

Ellie plumped herself down into a chair, keeping Phoenix on her lap for more cuddles, and Lucas lowered himself into the seat behind his desk. The surface looked as if it had been polished every day while he’d been away.

‘I’m coming back to work, Ellie.’

Ellie’s eyebrows shot up, but she took a moment to moderate her reaction. ‘We weren’t expecting you till the end of the month. Are you sure you’re well enough? What does your physiotherapist say?’

‘She says that if I think I can manage it I should give it a try, just for a couple of days a week for starters. She told me to take things slowly and stop if anything gets too much.’

Relief showed in Ellie’s eyes. ‘That…doesn’t sound so bad.’

‘You know I’ve been going crazy at home, Ells. I really need this and I’m going to need your support. I know you and Lucas can do with a helping hand here.’

‘Yes, we could.’ Ellie’s gaze softened suddenly. ‘Lucas isn’t replacing you, Drew. You know that’s never going to happen.’

It might. The complex animal surgery Drew excelled at took stamina and strength, and no amount of concentrating on the positive could tell him for sure that he’d ever be able to do that again. But he still had a lot to give, and if anyone was going to replace him, he wanted it to be Lucas. And if anyone was going to replace cool Uncle Drew in Mav’s affections, he wanted that to be Lucas too.

But the late-night fears about being of no more use to anyone were just paranoia. They weren’t what Ellie needed to hear from him at the moment.

‘You’re not the only one who’s pleased to see Lucas back, you know. We were all friends, and I’ve missed him too.’

‘You never said…’

Drew rolled his eyes. ‘Of course I didn’t, not while you were missing him on a completely different level. And being remarkably tight-lipped about it.’

Ellie heaved a sigh. ‘Okay. You have my support, just as long as you don’t overdo things. If you do, I won’t hesitate to escort you off the premises.’

‘It’s a deal.’

‘I suppose…the accounts need signing off.’ Ellie shot him a mischievous look. No doubt it had crossed her mind that checking them through involved sitting down.

‘I can do that.’ Drew called her bluff. ‘Although I haven’t forgotten that it’s your turn this year. Or maybe we should give them to Lucas, since he’s our newest partner in the practice.’

Ellie didn’t take the bait. ‘We’ll both owe you one, then. Mrs Cartwright’s coming in this morning, with Tabatha…’

‘Okay. You take Tabatha, and I’ll take Mrs Cartwright.’ It was well known that whenever Mrs Cartwright made an appointment for someone to look at her cat, she really wanted to sit in the waiting room and chat for an hour. The vets at the Dolphin Cove Clinic always made sure that she got a cup of tea and that someone was available to listen to her.

‘You’re a darling.’ Ellie frowned. ‘I suppose you’re not allowed to drink welcome-back champagne…?’

‘At eight in the morning, and with painkillers, probably not. We’ll do that another time.’

‘Welcome-back coffee, then? Your mug’s in your top drawer….’ Ellie gave Phoenix one last hug and got to her feet.

‘You go and get on. I’ll make the coffee.’ Drew opened the drawer of his desk, finding pens and his coffee mug stacked neatly inside. He was going to have to do something about all this tidiness.

‘All right.’ Ellie planted her hands on his desk, leaning over to kiss his cheek. ‘I’m so glad you’re back, Drew.’

‘Don’t get sloppy on me Ells…’ Drew could feel a lump forming in his throat.

‘Tough guy, eh?’ Ellie shot him a speculative look.

‘Not really. I just don’t want you to get me started.’

‘That might not be such a bad idea, Drew. You’ve always been there for me, and now Lucas and I both want to be there for you.’

‘You are. And I appreciate it.’ He just didn’t want to talk about it. ‘White no sugar?’

Ellie rolled her eyes. ‘That’s right. Glad to see you haven’t forgotten.’

When Ellie left, he took a moment to soak in the feeling. He was here, sitting behind his desk, and already had a few things to do with his day. Looking at the accounts, making the coffee and chatting to Mrs Cartwright might not be quite at the cutting edge of veterinary practice, but it was a start.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

I miss earrings.

Yes, this seems like a small thing in this world, but to me this realization came at a time when I was searching for what I could do to bring some normalcy to my life. I was trying to decide if it was really worth putting makeup on when most of it was going to be covered up by my mask when it hit me. I hadn’t put on a pair of earrings in weeks. You see, wearing the same color of scrubs every day at work gets very old and most nurses find a way to individualize their look. For some its a special head band that brings them pleasure, for others its a bright pair of shoes. For me, it was my earrings. Deciding on which pair to wear was a part of my normal life, but with masks and goggles being the new work accessories wearing earrings has become impossible.

Now, you have to understand that the earrings I wear to work have to meet one specification. They can’t be expensive. For years inexpensive jewelry wasn’t an option for me. I have a bad allergy to some metals so that I have to stick to sterling silver or gold for my ear wires or studs. Fortunately, I discovered jewelry making a few years ago and now I can design my own earrings using metals that my skin doesn’t react to. Since I had never had a touch of artistic talent, I found this medium to be very rewarding. Not only do I get to design and play with pretty beads, but I also get to wear them too.

just a few of my favorites

Staring in the mirror that morning I tried to remember the last jewelry project that I had finished. I couldn’t. It had been too long. Fortunately I had a stash of beading supplies so as soon as I had a spare minute I started a new project.

And while I won’t be able to wear the necklace to work, as soon as things get back to normal I will be wearing these new earrings. Until then, I’ll just have to settle on making more fun pairs to wear later. Because like books, you can never have too many pairs of earrings.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

What are you…?

READING…?

I have 4 books on the go at the moment….

1 for personal development: Just learning about Intermittent fasting and loving the freedom from dieting.

1 for professional development: I’m in the middle of writing two thrillers and need some help!!! 🙂

1 audio book: CITY OF SINNERS by A.A. Dhand. A police procedural thriller set in Bradford, UK, my home town. I love reading about places I know and can imagine them vividly.

1 for pleasure: Marian Keyes is one of my auto-buy authors. I love her humour and her characters.

Luckily, they’re all quite different so I don’t get confused (unlike the time a month or so back when I was listening to a thriller, reading a thriller and watching a thriller series, all with flawed female protagonists and I got very confused!!).

WATCHING…?

We are late to The Crown but enjoying it very much. I’m fascinated by this recent history about a family I have ‘known’ all my life. I love the scandal and behind the scenes intrigue about events I witnessed. (Plus, every time they have a shot of inside Buckingham palace I remember my visit there with Scarlet Wilson, and I smile.) Well worth a view!

What’s making me smile…?

Socks! I’ve just started learning how to knit socks with double pointed needles. It was fiddly, and I know this first one isn’t perfect (a thick wellington boot sock) but now I’m addicted and obsessed and have bought lots of sock yarn. I’m going to be busy!

Flowers! It’s spring here now so I’m loving all the colour in my garden. I picked these freesias yesterday and their scent is just sublime.

What are you reading, watching, doing? What’s making you smile today?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Designs on Forever – Excerpt

by Susan Carlisle

Available September 1

Designs-on-Forever-web

 

DESIGNS ON FOREVER

PROLOGUE

Mallory Andrews hurried across the parquet floor of the main hall of Ashley Court. She hadn’t expected a visit from the owner, Eleonore Townsend, yet she waited inside the parlor. Mallory clasped and unclasped her hands as her nerves rattled. They’d spoken on the phone, but hadn’t agreed to meet in person. Was Mrs. Townsend there to check on her work, or was there something more going on?

Entering the room, she found a tall, raw-boned woman with short white hair. Wearing a classic-cut navy suit, Mrs. Townsend looked every bit the head of a famous hotel group. An air of authority surrounded her.

Mallory cleared her throat. “Hello, Mrs. Townsend.”

The older woman turned, her lips tight. She appeared to be in her mid-seventies. Her gaze coolly observed Mallory from head to foot.

“I’m sorry you had to wait. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mallory extended a hand, then, realizing its condition, pulled it back, wishing she’d taken the time to change out of her dust-covered work clothes. “I’ve been painting. Sorry.”

“Hello, Ms. Andrews.” Mrs. Townsend offered Mallory a slight smile. “I’m glad to meet you as well. I’ve enjoyed your updates on your work here. I wanted to see it for myself.”

Mallory released the breath she’d held and forced herself to breathe normally. “I’d love to show you what I’ve accomplished so far. I’m excited about a number of the rooms. Especially the Lady’s bedroom.”

That brought a true smile to the woman’s face. “Then, please, start there.”

Over the next hour and a half, Mallory showed Mrs. Townsend around the hotel, pointing out areas where her renovations were complete, while others still needed attention. Mallory was delighted to show off her pride and joy – the Lady’s Room. Her grandest accomplishment to date. A tingle of excitement ran through her at the idea that this room alone could win her the International Historical Design Award.

The older woman asked probing questions, offering remarks and suggestions. They shared a connection through their love of the Cornishcastle.

As they reentered the parlor, Mrs. Townsend said, “You’re doing an excellent job here. I’m pleased and impressed. You’re bringing the old girl back to her original beauty. Thank you for that.”

Mallory glowed under the praise. She liked that the older woman respected Mallory’s vision. “I’m glad you’re pleased. I look forward to finishing the project.”

“About that…”

Mallory’s chest clenched. Something was going on. Her gaze fixed on the other woman, waiting for her next words.

“The board’s not convinced the restorations are cost-effective. They’re sending an auditor to review your work and the financials.”

“My work’s about more than money. The art and history…” Panic filled Mallory’s chest. She needed to complete this job. Had to. From what she could tell, Mrs. Townsend understood the importance of what she did, the time it took to find quality replacements. “My job’s about detail and research. No one else in my field is as comprehensive.”

Mrs. Townsend suddenly looked tired. “And I agree, but my board doesn’t.”

“Then we must prove otherwise.” Mallory squared her shoulders and gave a curt nod. “When should I expect this auditor?”

“In the next few weeks. His name is Evan Townsend.” She paused, her lips thinning. “My grandson.”

CHAPTER ONE

Two weeks later…

Mallory checked the position of her foot. If she could inch out…

She stretched her arm and extended her leg while maintaining her precarious balance as she moved closer to the top of the chapel ceiling. Her former yoga coach would have preened with pride. Another small twist should do it. This job must be perfect. The tiniest detail needed attention, even if it killed her.

Scooting her foot from side to side until it remained half-on, half-off the scaffolding plank, she reached toward the rosette. A very unladylike word, one her mother would’ve chastised her for, escaped.

She twirled the paintbrush out to the tip of her fingers. Her lips pursed in concentration. The bristles of the brush touched the right spot. She grinned, and blew out a breath of satisfaction.

“There,” she exhaled.

Mallory shifted her weight almost to standing when her balance failed. The paintbrush flew, landing with a thump on the distant stone floor. She grabbed the closest rail, twisting, and landed on her bottom–hard.

A gasp filled the air. She peered over the edge of the board.

An impeccably-dressed man in a suit and tie craned his neck to look at her. She met his gaze. His good looks dazzled her for a moment. She stared.

“Come down here before you kill yourself!” His tone matched that of a coach chastening his players for a poor performance. His football-player-wide shoulders made him look fully capable of catching her had she fallen. “You’ve no business mucking around up there.”

Mallory narrowed her eyes, stood, and swatted at the dust on her pants before starting down. Who was this guy with his curled lip and demanding attitude?

As she neared the floor, the man asked, “Are you Mallory Andrews?”

Jumping the last six feet, she landed nimbly and then moved to stand in front of him. “I am. How can I help you?”

“I believe you’re expecting me.” He quickly checked an expensive-looking silver watch on his wrist. “I’m Evan Townsend.”

He was finally here.

“I’m sorry.” She glanced at the ceiling. Had she missed something? “I was just touching up after the painters this morning and didn’t realize you had arrived.” She offered him her most polite, professional smile before giving her bottom a final slap, creating a cloud of plaster dust. Bending, she retrieved her favorite paintbrush.

The small hairs on her nape prickled. She felt Evan Townsend’s gaze resting where her hand had popped her jeans. Men had ogled her for years, especially when she’d strutted on the catwalk. These days she rarely gave their wandering gazes any thought. So why did Townsend’s eyeing her backside make her heart trip?

He checked his pricey timepiece again.

“Did we have an appointment I didn’t know about?” Her heart revved up another notch as his storm-gray gaze moved along her body in increments. A shiver shot down her spine. His appraisal made her blush like a schoolgirl.

The man stood well over six feet, would be her guess. But his superior manner made him seem loftier. She’d always been tall, growing well above her friends, who had called her “stork legs” in school. But next to Evan Townsend, she looked average height.

“I understood you were expecting me.”

Trying to regain her composure, she volunteered, “I met Mrs. Townsend a couple of weeks ago.” She paused. “She said you were coming, but hadn’t specified a date. I had no idea you would be here today. I needed to check the progress on the ceiling before the workers returned from their lunch break.”

“Can we talk?” His lips tightened with impatience. Irritation seemed to radiate off him. “Now?”

“Sure. Do you mind if we go by my workroom first? I should put this brush in thinner.”

“That’s fine.”

Townsend probably had no idea of the location of her workroom, or he wouldn’t have agreed. Not only had she given him a fright, he seemed annoyed at her for not being right where he thought she should be. To make matters worse, he’d had to come looking for her. They weren’t getting off on the right foot.

As they walked through the arched chapel doors, he asked, “Do you climb around on the scaffolding often?”

Mallory grinned. “Only when I need to approve something. Which is pretty much all the time.”

“Then you should know better than to reach out like that. You almost fell. If you had, you would’ve been seriously injured. Or killed. What were you doing, anyway?”

“Touching up a missed spot.”

He turned his head sideways in question. “Why? No one could’ve seen it from this distance.”

“I don’t skimp. It doesn’t matter whether others can’t see it or not. I do what’s right. It’s not only my job but the foundation of my reputation that no detail, however small, is overlooked.”

“Then you should’ve had one of the workmen take care of it.”

She looked over her shoulder. “Why? I was already up there.”

He put his hand on her arm, stopping her. His eyes searched hers. “As I said, you could’ve fallen to your death.”

Something electric vibrated through her. Partly because of the physical contact, but more from knowing of his concern for her safety. She found it refreshing to have someone other than her business partners and family worried about her. Years had passed since a male had shown interest in something other than her looks. Yet, at the same time he irritated her. He’d implied recklessness on her part. Even though she’d reassured him she considered the tiniest detail of her job important and she spent a great deal of time up on scaffolding.

Mallory waved her hand, dismissing her annoyance. “It’s no big deal. I’m used to doing touch-up work. This way, Mr. Townsend.”

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Origin Stories

Looking Back to Craft the Future

Family of Ernest and Alice Delvaille. From left: Lawrence, Alice, Halford, Ruby, Gerald, Ernest, Leslie, and Edna.

This rather Victorian-looking pair are my paternal great-grandparents, and the serious and dapper young man seated at the left is my grandfather. I had a very special relationship with my Grandpa, who came to live with us the year I was born, after Granny—his wife—died. He was the first person I remember reading to me every day, and through those early interactions I developed both my insatiable reading habit, and the curiosity that’s a huge part of my character.

Judging by the ages of the children, I estimate this picture was taken circa 1907. My great-grandfather Ernest, an accountant, and Great-grandma Alice, Post Mistress for the district, married in 1888. Nothing unusual at all, right?

Although the picture was taken in the hills of St. Elizabeth parish, in Jamaica, from the clothing it could have been taken almost anywhere in the world European folk lived.

Yet, here’s something to consider:

The family in this picture is, at most, one generation removed from being slaves.

Ernest’s grandmother, Mary Gittoes, was a slave. His mother, Maria Miles Tomlinson, was born prior to Emancipation, and prior to her parents’ 1836 marriage, so conceivably was born into slavery too.

This isn’t something spoken about much, in families like mine. Older generations were determined to attain “respectability” and distance themselves from those types of roots. They were more focused on the European side of their lineage, ignoring all traces of any other. For as long as I could remember, my father swore his surname was French, his ancestors Huguenots fleeing persecution, and refused to entertain the suggestion that it was actually Jewish.

Even in a country with the motto “Out of Many, One People,” where many, if not most people are of mixed heritage, the vestiges of prejudice still lingered.

This is a legacy I had to break free of, and that shapes much of my outlook on the world. I have a very difficult time with racism, and colorism, and caste/class/social prejudice, because I’m not only a genetic melting pot myself, but the descendant of both enslaved Africans and European slave owners. Descendant of Low Country Jews, and Eastern European Jews, with a sprinkling of other genes to boot.

For me, that diverse blood is a source of great pride.

I was also privileged to grow up at a time when my country was learning how to throw off the bonds of colonialism, even as many of its citizens were mourning the loss of the “motherland’s” rule. While others might disagree, I think of myself as lucky to have experienced those turbulent times, when Jamaica was trying to find herself; trying to figure out who and what she was. There was a concerted push toward equality for all, and I like to think I learned the lessons of the time.

Everyone is worthy—of life, education, opportunity, and advancement.

Worthy of love.

When I started writing romance, there was room for werewolves and vampires, aliens and shape-shifters, even ghosts, but seemingly little for people like me, or my family. Yet, through travelling, I learned that while my appearance, experiences, and background may differ from those of the people I met, there were definite similarities too. Cultures, settings, professions, and appearances may be diverse, but the problems, joys, loves, dislikes, the pain and losses we experience make us more alike than different.

We’re all individuals, with our discrete backgrounds, hang-up, and desires, but there is always something we can share, and understand.

The commonality of humanity.

But, in the beginning, I wrote what the market seemed able to accept because, above all else, I wanted to be published and was trying to be realistic. After a while, I found solace in writing paranormal and fantasy romances, because I could people them with anyone I liked. I also found that readers of M/M romances were more accepting of diversity in race and culture, and had some small success writing those too.

I didn’t think there would be a place for me in mainstream publishing if I wrote the characters I wanted to. That was a painful realization, but in Jamaica there’s a saying: ‘If yuh want good, yuh nose haffi run’ (basically, if you want to succeed, you have to deal with any attendant pain) and I yearned for success. The type of success where family members, on hearing I had a contract for publication from an e-publisher, wouldn’t say, “Oh, soon you’ll be a real author!”

Honestly, when I heard that Harlequin was looking for diversity in their Medical line, I wasn’t sure if they meant it or not, but decided to try my hand at it anyway. I wanted the chance to write a variety of characters, using my own background, experiences, and observations when crafting some of them. If I could also get a chance to put a little of my own roots into some of the stories, using culture and place to add interest, I wanted in!

I was ecstatic when they accepted my first story, The Nurse’s Pregnancy Miracle. It featured a Jamaican, immigrant heroine—successful and headstrong—living life on her own terms, despite the pressures her family put on her. She’s based on women I know, and love. Strong, determined women, who’ve succeeded beyond, or in spite of, their roots and the expectations of others.

I carry the memories of my early life, and the lessons learned, to this day. They guide me in various ways, reminding me to remain open-minded, curious, and attentive to others. But just as what seems important when we’re fifteen seems inconsequential when we’re thirty, about twenty years ago I underwent a life change that shifted my perceptions again.

But that is a tale for another day.

Another facet of my Origin Story.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

September New Releases

Happy September!

We have a some brand spanking new releases this month!

Weekend Fling with the Surgeon by Janice Lynn

A boyfriend for the weekend…

A love of a lifetime?

When Dr. McKenzie Wilkes’s boyfriend dumps her before a family wedding, she desperately asks her colleague surgeon Ryder Andrews to take his place. There’s a connection with Ryder she’s never experienced before that she’s determined to ignore… Until one unexpected and impulsive kiss puts paid to that! As passion explodes between them, could McKenzie be heading for wedding bells of her own?

The Vet’s Secret Son by Annie O’Neil

Returning for forgiveness…

Staying as a father

When Lucas Williams was forced to walk away from Ellie Stone, he knew he was giving up on their dreams of opening a veterinary practice together. Now he’s back and hoping to make amends. But he’s not surprised by how successful Ellie’s become or that their powerful connection has endured. The surprise is discovering that when he’d left six years ago, Ellie was pregnant—with his son!

The Nurse’s Secret by Sue MacKay

A single mom and her daughter…

Could he complete their family?

Three years ago, nurse Stacey Wainwright shared one magical night with a gorgeous stranger before he flew back home to New Zealand. Stacey never got a chance to tell him about their baby…until now. Because surgeon Noah Kennedy has walked back onto her London surgical ward, ready to rekindle their passion. But is he ready to learn that he’s a dad?

Healing the Vet’s Heart by Annie Claydon

Can his shy colleague…

…mend his wounded heart?

Injured vet Drew Trevelyan is relieved to be back at work. He just wants to leave his past behind, but is irritated to learn he’s relegated to desk duty! Apart from one new project—liaising with shy robotics engineer Caro Barnes. At her cliff-top cottage, Drew discovers that finding ways to put the light back in Caro’s eyes is restoring his own faith in life…and love!

Falling Again for the Single Dad by Juliette Hyland

Fatherhood has changed him—

But can she risk her heart?

ER nurse Amara Patel is starting over. Running into her ex, physician Eli Collins, on her first day at Boston General throws a major wrench in the works! Because despite his still irrefutably sexy appearance, he’s not the Eli she remembers. He’s always put work first, but now that he’s bringing up his niece, everything’s changed—except his and Amara’s feelings for each other! Dare Amara allow herself a second chance at love?

Enticed by Her Island Billionaire by Becky Wicks

Tempted…

By a man she can’t have!

Dr. Mila Ricci is excited to visit the stunning Indonesian island where Sebastian Becker is pioneering a technique to heal scars. But he’s the exact opposite of the rich celebrity surgeon she’d been expecting—and Mila is immediately attracted to him! Wrestling his own demons, Sebastian might be sexy but he’s no superficial playboy; he craves a home and family. Things Mila feels are not for her, especially not with him…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Icelandic Doc’s Baby Surprise

Their passionate fling…
Has given them a gift to last a lifetime!

When pediatrician Merry Bell turns up at his hospital in Iceland, Dr. Kristjan Gunnarrson’s quiet Christmas is shaken up. After a hot fling together in Hawaii, they both agreed to walk away. But now Merry has brought him life-changing news – she’s pregnant! Commitment phobic Kristjan will not waver from his responsibility, but is his bruised heart ready for a family?

I’d always wanted to set a book in Iceland, after we had an unexpected visit there many moons ago.

In the January after the 9/11 disasters, my husband and I had a flight booked with our eldest son (then 14 months) to go to Clearwater in Florida. We boarded the plane (my first ever flight!) and set off. Six hours into the journey, we discover, we’re turning around and being rerouted to Keflavik airport in Iceland, as there was a bomb threat on our plane. Out of the windows we saw two fighter jets escorting us out of American airspace.

We landed at Keflavik and were told to deplane and we came down the stairs we noticed guards armed with sub-machine guns. We were freezing, only wearing tee shirts and jeans, having expected warm weather at Florida, rather than the freezing January cold of almost midnight in Iceland!

They fed us, made each of us do a handwriting sample (the bomb threat had been left on a toilet airplane mirror that Osama Bin Laden was a hero and we all deserved to die, so it was someone on the plane that had written it.) At 3am, we were finally allowed to hotels, with a new flight set for the morning at 9am.

We arrived at the airport, only to be told that we were going to be put on the same plane and that no-one had been arrested yet. Well, neither my husband nor I wanted to get back onto a flight with a suspected bomber, no matter how unlikely a threat there was of a bomb, or not, so whilst everyone else chose to fly on to Florida, me, my husband and our fourteen month old son, stayed an extra two days in Iceland, whilst we waited for a London flight.

Iceland was constantly in the dark, except for maybe two hours of semi-daylight between two and four pm, but we explored when we could and tried to enjoy ourselves. It was expensive, the food was lovely and the showers smelt of sulphur as the water came up through volcanic rock.

All the Icelandic people were kind and generous and spoilt us rotten, knowing how we’d ended up there and I knew that one day, I wanted to set a story in such a beautiful country where at least one of my characters gets stranded on Iceland for different reasons, of course!

I waited a long time for the right story to come along and when it did, Dr Kristjan Gunnarsson appeared in my head, looking exactly like Lasse Matberg. You can see a picture of him here on Pinterest. I hoped my cover hero would look as close to Lasse as they could get!

The Icelandic Doc’s Baby Surpise is due out this September. I hope you enjoy his story as much as I enjoyed writing it! Buy/Pre-order links are below.

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (US)

Barnes & Noble

Love Louisa xxx