Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Vale Jennifer Taylor

Dear Readers,

P1100635
Jennifer receiving her award for her 75th book: a Tiffany solid silver keyring.

It is with great sadness that we’re writing here today to tell you that the wonderful medical romance author, Jennifer Taylor, has died after a long battle with multiple myeloma. She was courageous and generous to the end and she is greatly missed, not just in the medical romance family but also the Harlequin family and by her beloved readers.

Jennifer wrote 85 medical romance novels over almost thirty years, entertaining millions of readers and capturing their hearts with her heartwarming stories set mainly in GP surgeries, country hospitals, or in the Mediterranean, a place she loved.

9781474051750
September 2017

A few of the medical romance authors have written tributes below and we invite you to leave your own in the comments section.

Fiona Lowe writes:  I like to think of Jennifer at home with her beloved dog. Way way back in the day, before I was published, Jennifer was a driving push to highlight medical romances and as a ‘wanna-be author’, I commented on the new blog.  I won a green leather keyring with gold lettering that said, ‘Medical Romance’ and it had  a gold heart.  As an aspiring author, I used that keyring every day as a talisman.

By the time I got published, I’d rubbed all the gold off the leather!  When I sold to Harlequin Mills & Boon, I was so excited to be welcomed to the author group and ‘e-meet’ the woman who had organized the keyring.  She was warm and welcoming and generous with her sage advice. I remember her sorrow when her beloved husband Bill died and I remember the quilt many of the authors contributed a square to when Jennifer’s first grandchild was born. Only two days before she died, Jennifer was contributing to our ‘staff room’ conversation. Recently, during a stay in hospital, she’d been cared for by a handsome, Rugby-playing doctor who she declared was perfect hero material and great research for a book.  Vale, Jennifer. You are dearly missed.

n_a-3
Jennifer & Bill at their daughter’s wedding 2006
n_a-2
The quilt the medical authors made for Jennifer’s first grandchild.

Amy Andrews writes: I read Jennifer’s books long before I was ever privileged enough to know her as a person. Her’s (and Caroline Anderson’s) were the books I glommed when I was learning the craft of medical romance. When I finally made it into the medical romance author fold, Jennifer was so generous and supportive of me, especially in the beginning when everything was a little overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that this woman, whose books I had read and loved, was being my cheer squad. It was my great privilege to meet her on three separate occasions and I was very excited that she came to London last April when I was there for our medical authors high tea. I know it was a hike for her and was touched that she went to the effort.

IMG_8256
From left to right: Amy Andrews, Jennifer Taylor & Caroline Anderson. (April 2016)

Kate Hardy writes: I’m so sad that our dear friend Jennifer Taylor has died. I ‘knew’ her before I started writing for M&B, because I loved her books, and I was so thrilled to meet her in real life and discover that she was one of the nicest women you could ever know. In fact, I’ve been friends with her right since my very first M&B authors’ lunch, so we’re going back more than 15 years. I have an early pic here of some of the medical authors from 2003, which puts a lump in my throat, because out of the five of us Sheila Danton, Jennifer and Roger Sanderson are no longer with us, and Margaret Barker is frail. (This pic made our editor, Sheila Hodgson cry, too.)

102-0271_IMG-1
From left to right: Kate Hardy, Sheila Danton, Jennifer Taylor, Caroline Anderson, Roger Sanderon and Margaret Barker. (2003)

Jennifer and I set up the email loop for the M&B medical authors, so we could get together and talk books, gorgeous men, medicine and inspiration – not to mention giving people a hug when it was needed and cheering on all the good times. And how amazing it was, in the days before broadband, to think that we could actually talk to people on the other side of the world!

My enduring memory of her is her laugh. That lovely Liverpudlian giggle. She was always so positive and upbeat (and down to earth – never any airs and graces with our Jennifer). Even when she was facing some really difficult personal challenges and ill health, she always found something good in life – she was absolutely inspirational. And she was always one of the first to put her hand up and say she’d come to a meet-up (such as here in London when Amy Andrews came all the way over from Australia and we had afternoon tea).

P1000302-1
From left to right: Jennifer Taylor, Caroline Anderson, Fiona Harper, Annie O’Neil, Lucy King, Amy Andrews, Kate Hardy, Annie Claydon. (April 2016)

I was proud to be there when she got her award for her 75th book. Here we are beforehand – Caroline Anderson, Scarlet Wilson, Jennifer and Annie Claydon.P1100603 2-1

My daughter plays guitar and recently Jennifer told me how she met Paul McCartney as a teen.  Her friend lived just down the road from him, and they went to the Cavern and everything. Even when you’ve known someone for years, they still have the capacity to surprise you! 🙂  The day she told me this was the last time I saw her. At the M&B lunch – here we are with Susan Carlisle.

P1020210
From left to right: Kate Hardy, Susan Carlise and Jennifer Taylor.


Jennifer was one of the best. I’m grateful for all the years of friendship and laughter and hugs. And those memories are always going to be there.

Fiona McArthur writes: Jennifer was one of life’s kindest ladies and I feel blessed to have known her. We last emailed each other just two weeks before she died.  The photo on the left below was taken in London 2011 just after we’d spent the weekend together in Paris. We took photos of each other next to the Louvre to say, ‘Yay! We were here’. 🙂

rosielast 131
Jennifer Taylor & Fiona McArthur in 2011

2808097076_8e3e628577_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caroline Anderson writes:

I was so sad to hear of Jennifer Taylor’s death, because our lives have touched intermittently for the last twenty-seven years. In that time, she’s been not only a fellow author but also, because she was warm, friendly and open and always, always kind, she’s also been a friend. I can’t believe she’s gone.

We only met up once a year, twice at the most, and always at author functions – most of which are a good excuse for a party and a lot of talking.  Authors all over spend so much time locked up with their own thoughts, generating words, that having an opportunity to have a real conversation with real people is always a joy!  And seeing Jennifer was ALWAYS a joy.

I remember one occasion when she’d travelled down to London with her husband for the author lunch and I was privileged to meet him. What struck me instantly was how like her he was – funny, gentle, kind, with a mischievous sense of humour so like hers.  I was so sad for her when she lost him just a few years later.  She dealt with his loss with quiet courage and great dignity, just as she dealt with everything life threw at her, and there have been some great sadnesses in her life, moments from which you don’t recover but simply soldier on.

That was Jennifer all over.  She was always so positive, so genuinely pleased to see everyone, and although I knew she was fighting a running battle with her health, she never let it show, never moaned about it or let it interfere with getting on with her full and busy life.

I’m useless at taking photos of memorable events, but luckily I also share these special author moments with Kate Hardy, and she’s taken some great photos of us together, which I’ve been looking at again. They bring a lump to my throat, because I can’t believe she won’t be there next time, that there’ll never be a next time.

It was a privilege to know her, to share however slightly in her life, to feel the warmth of her smile, to hear her lovely laugh, and there will always be a place for her in my heart.  Rest in peace, dear friend…

(Caroline with Kate Hardy, scattering rose petals in memory of Jennifer Taylor)

If you would like to share a Jennifer Taylor story– perhaps a book of hers touched you or maybe you met her– please leave a message in the comments.

Vale Jennifer.

Thank you for touching our lives in so many wonderful ways.

 Rest in Peace.

Advertisements
Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Partying in London by Amy Andrews

One of the many pinch me moments I’ve had with this writing gig is being invited to swanky author parties. On the other side of the world!

Seriously. How awesome is that?

Thought you all might like to see some pics from the AMBA party in London last month with your medical authors. Kate Hardy has already shared some of hers but I thought I’d add some of mine into the mix too.

londonparty
Swanky 17th floor of the News Building with almost 360 degree views of London town!
londonparty2
The lovely Scarlet Wilson with her thick Glaswegian accent who pronounces “girl” as “geddle”…that was an interesting conversation!
londonparty3
The perfectly gorgeous Kate Hardy who was the star of the night with her 75th pin!
londonparty4
The irrepressible Caroline Anderson (l) and the fabulous Annie Claydon (r)
londonparty6
The fab Flo Nichol!
londonparty5
And my seriously gorgeous, ever patient editor, Megan Haslam!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the pics. Ever had a pinch me moment?

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life

A Family’s Legacy

Mt NeboI’ve had a hard time this month deciding the topic of my blog. First, because it’s autumn where I live, I thought something about the season might be in order. You know, insert a pumpkin recipe or how to make cinnamon applesauce. Maybe something about a trip to the apple orchard. This is my favorite time of the year and blogging about it would be a natural for me. But, I’ve blogged IMAG0410autumn in the past, so I bypassed that topic. Then, I thought about word choices…why we use the often-odd configuration of words we do. For example, I saw a sign offering horseback riding lessons. At first, it seemed innocent enough. But then my mind started whirling with things like why call it horseback riding? Seriously, does anybody 20170812_151024_resizedever ride the chest of a horse? Next thing I knew, I was in the mental middle of a Michael McIntyre-ish comedy routine. Could almost picture myself pacing back and forth across the stage with him.

Sadly, the real topic came to me at a family funeral. My father-in-law was buried just over a week ago, and the Despain family gathered from places near and far to pay tribute.  It was a nice service done with full military accolades, and I’ll admit I korean-war-memorial-1809436__340[1]got a little choked up at the rifle salute and the playing of Taps. The weather was perfect, the people in attendance all respectful. As funeral services go, this was a very nice one. But, it wasn’t the funeral that caught my interest. It was the family stories that came afterwards, in the wee hours, sitting at the kitchen table, and at breakfast, and other odd times when the family was gathered. The stories were funny and sad, and they captured the essence of a man no one there knew in his entirety. What struck me was that the stories were only circulated among the older members of the family. The younger ones didn’t care.  They weren’t there. They didn’t listen.  And, I think that’s typical. As generations pass, so do the things that maybe only a generation ago were important.

I think about my grandmothers. One was a suffragette. I’m proud of that fact. In a lot of ways, knowing what my grandmother did has defined me. But, I don’t know the stories of her marches. Don’t know what made her want to get involved, or why my grandfather would have allowed it. I don’t even know where she marched. And, that’s my loss. My other grandmother told me of the times she and her family would covered-wagon-1675111__340[1]go on vacation in a covered wagon. They would be flanked by Native Americans as they were wandering outside the established United States in the early part of the 20th century, into one of the territories. And, my grandmother would sneak off and play with the Native American children who would come along to, what was essentially, escort, my grandmother’s family to a place where most people of the time didn’t dare go. I certainly know that story, but I don’t know why my grandmother’s family vacationed where they did, I have no idea what their covered wagon looked like, or why she knew and played with the children of the Natives sent out to flank them. Again, my loss.

Certainly, the old always gives way to the new. I understand that. But when I look at the photograph of my suffragette grandmother and see how much MacKenzie (who would be her great-great granddaughter) resembles her, I realize that my loss goes far beyond me. I can’t tell MacKenzie the stories of who her great-great grandmother was because, in a large sense I don’t know. I never took the time to ask.

And when I listened to the stories of my father-in-law, many of which were new to the majority of his six children, I wondered if anything of his life other than a few photos would be passed down, or whether those odd moments, when only the oldest of the family gathered around, would be the end of a legacy.

As a writer, I’m all for capturing those moments, writing them down – or, at least, the highlight of them. But I haven’t done that. Why? Because I never asked, and now the people I would have asked are gone, as is most of their legacy. Is a family legacy important? To the outside world—no. To the family—in some instances, yes. Overall, I don’t really know, but I hope it is. Because, for me, in another generation or two, I’d like to think that my family might sit around the still-life-379858__340[1]kitchen table where someone would say, “Dianne…yes, I remember hearing about her. Wasn’t she the one who wrote some books?”

R.I.P. Richard Steele Despain. You are missed.

No books coming out this month, but look for me in January, when both REUNITED WITH HER ARMY DOC and HEALING HER BOSS’S HEART will be out!

As always, wishing you health & happiness. And maybe a little bit of family history. 

Dianne

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Exciting News!

Mills&Boon_NewLogo_Teal

Last week, it was announced that Mills and Boon in the UK will be undergoing a transformation!  A huge relaunch will be taking place in January, and we’ve been given a taste of some of the great things to come – a new logo, delicious new covers and re-designed point-of-sale material.

You can read all about the planning that has gone into the relaunch, and some of the customer research that’s taken place here, in an article in The Bookseller.

We can’t wait!  Tell us what you think.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

October New Releases

Is it really less than three months before Christmas?  Six new books for October, which include the first two books in the ‘Christmas in Manhatten’ series.

A Christmas Miracle, by Amy Andrews

Her knight in shining leathers!

Trinity Walker has learnt the hard way to stand on her own two feet for her sick son Oscar. But, when ex-army surgeon Reid Hamilton walks into her life and offers her a job and a home, she can’t refuse!

He might ruffle her feathers, but Trinity can’t help falling for the knight in motorbike leathers. Reid never expected this little family to bring such sparkle into his cynical life but now he’ll do whatever it takes to give Trinity the love she deserves this Christmas!

Christmas in Manhatten – A Firefighter in her Stocking, by Janice Lynn

A gift impossible to resist!

When a firefighter rushes a child into her ER, Dr Sarah Grayson is stunned that the ash-covered, exhausted hero is her incorrigible playboy neighbour, Jude Davenport!

Sarah is wary of such men, but when gorgeous Jude suggests a Christmas fling, she can’t resist. Yet their relationship deepens, and Sarah sees behind the playboy is a man who has loved and lost. He might try to keep his emotions on ice, but Sarah begins to wonder – could she be the one to heal his damaged heart?

Christmas in Manhattan
All the drama of the ER, all the magic of Christmas!

Falling for her Fake Fiancee, by Sue Mackay

A temporary arrangement…

Kelli Barnett invented a partner to avoid her parents’ matchmaking schemes. So, when her boss Mac Taylor – the man whose kisses once made her melt – offers to step in as her fiancé for a family wedding, Kelli snaps up his offer!

Widower Mac believes himself incapable of loving again. Until playing Kelli’s fiancé at the beautiful island retreat throws his senses into overdrive. But Mac must learn to let go of the past for this fake relationship to have a real future…

Reunited with her Surgeon Prince, by Marion Lennox

Claiming his secret heir – and his bride!

Dr Ellie Carson once married her secret prince, but then duty tore their whirlwind marriage apart – only Ellie was also pregnant!

Now, surgeon and Crown Prince Marc Falken is soon to become king – and he’s discovered he has a son! Claiming his heir means seeking out Ellie – the woman he’s never stopped loving. But can Marc convince Ellie she can be a doctor and his queen, and that finally they can become the family they were always meant to be?

Christmas in Manhatten – Sleigh Ride with the Single Dad, by Alison Roberts

Her secret Christmas wish

Dr Grace Forbes’ dramatic first day in Manhattan Mercy’s ER is unforgettable – especially when she runs into her old flame, ER Chief Charles Davenport, again!

That spark is still there between them but they’re different people now – after losing his wife, Charles is a single dad to adorable twin boys, while Grace has survived cancer but lost her dream of having children. Yet, as the weather gets colder she is drawn into the warmth of his family – could he make her Christmas wish come true?

Christmas in Manhattan
All the drama of the ER, all the magic of Christmas!

The Family She’s Longed For, by Lucy Clark

A family to heal her heart…

Dr Clara Lewis was devastated when Virgil Arterton left, but she picked herself up and started again, even after an accident that left her unable to have children…

Six years later, Virgil, now a widower, walks back into Victory Hospital – with his daughter! He knows leaving Clara was the worst mistake of his life but can he convince her he’s changed and that, if she’ll trust him with her heart, he can give her all the love and family she longs for?

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

A heartfelt thanks by Kate Hardy

The highlight of my calendar is the annual M&B authors’ lunch and party. It means I get to see my author friends in person – including, if I’m lucky, some of those visiting from other countries – and the editorial team. And at the party the editors present milestone awards to the authors – this year it was to Michelle Styles (Historical) for her 25th, me for my 75th, and Carol Marinelli for her amazing 100th!

I think the easiest way to show what it’s like is by photographs. So here I am with Sheila Hodgson, senior Medicals ed (she edits my Medicals)

image

And in the M&B offices where Sheila said some very nice things indeed about my books and almost made me cry.

image

Carol Marinelli making her speech

image

Oh, and did I mention the amazing view from the top floor of the News International building?

image

The party in full swing:

image

Me with Carol (and it’s not going to be another 10 years before we meet up again!)

image

With my other editor, Megan Haslam (who edits my Cherish/Romance books)

image

And my milestone award for my 75th book – this gorgeous Tiffany keyring 🙂

image

But one thing I said in my speech I’d like to share here: authors don’t write their books in a vacuum. I’m incredibly blessed to have the most wonderful friends (officially colleagues and editors, but definitely friends) – people you can talk to when you’ve painted yourself into a corner and they’ll brainstorm ideas of how to get you out again; people who understand what it’s like when you get ‘tiny tweaks’ revisions (which are nothing of the kind!!); people who celebrate the good times with you and are there for you in the tough times (and it definitely goes both ways). And I’m also privileged to have wonderful readers – without you, I wouldn’t be able to do the job I love. So I want to say a very big thank you to you all, from the bottom of my heart xxx

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt – The Midwife’s Longed-For Baby, by Caroline Anderson

As I promised you earlier in the year, The Midwife’s Longed-For Baby is out now.  It’s the story of a love broken by failure and despair, and the rebuilding of that love into a strong and solid marriage that can survive anything life throws at it, but Nick and Liv had a mountain to climb to do that, and they dragged me up the hill with them every step of the way!  So here you go, a little taster to whet your appetite.  I’d love to hear what you think of it!

Caroline x

 

Chapter 1

‘LIV, HAVE YOU got a minute?’

She hesitated, about to say no, but Ben wasn’t one to waste time and if he wanted to talk to her…

‘If it really is only that? I need to check on a mum soon.’

‘That’s fine, it won’t take long. I just want to run something by you. Can we go in my office?’

His office?

‘Is this about Jen?’ she asked as Ben closed the door.

The fleeting smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. ‘In a way. Did you know she’s got cancer?’

‘Yes, Simon told me yesterday. I was gutted. She’s such a lovely person and it seems so unfair. He said they’re moving home so their families can help with the children while she’s having treatment. So what is it you want me to do?’ she asked, thinking flowers, a gift voucher, something for the kids—

‘Nothing, but what I do could affect you, because yesterday was Simon’s last day and his compassionate leave’s pretty open-ended so we need a locum, and I’d like to talk to Nick about it.’

‘Nick?’

Of all the things he’d been going to say, her ex husband’s name was so far down the list it wasn’t even on it, and just the sound of his name made her heart beat faster. And he wasn’t officially ex, because she’d never quite been able to follow through on that—

‘Are you still in touch?’

Ben nodded. ‘Yes, we’re in touch. I speak to him quite often. He always asks about you,’ he added gently.

Her heart lurched. ‘Does he? How is he?’ she asked, trying not to sound too needy and failing hopelessly.

‘He’s OK. He’s well, keeps himself busy.’ He frowned, hesitating, then went on, ‘I know it’s none of my business, Liv, and I’m not asking any questions, but I was really sorry when you two split up.’

She felt her eyes fill and blinked as she looked away. ‘Me, too, but it wasn’t working.’ Any more than this was, this awful aching emptiness where her love for Nick had been…

‘I know. I could see there was something wrong, so I wasn’t surprised, just saddened for you both. Look, don’t worry about it. I’ll try and get someone else. I only thought of him because he’d be perfect for the job, but I don’t want to make things difficult for you—for either of you, really.’

The shock had worn off now, swamped by a tidal wave of mixed emotions that she couldn’t quite work out. Longing? Dread?

She didn’t have a clue. Both, maybe, but confusion was fighting its way to the top of the pile.

‘I don’t understand how he could do it anyway. Doesn’t he have a job?’

He must have. He was paying the mortgage on their house—

‘Not any more, as far as I know. His existing locum post’s about to come to an end and I haven’t heard that he’s got anything else lined up so I wanted to get in soon if we were to stand a chance, but it’s probably too late anyway.’

He was locuming? He’d been made a consultant at Yoxburgh Park Hospital a few months before they’d split up. How had he ended up working as a locum? Although it was only a year ago since he’d left. Maybe nothing had come up, nothing as good anyway. Nothing that would do him justice…

‘Can I think about it? Before you ask him, or get anyone else. It’s just—it’s the last thing I expected you to say and I can’t quite get my head round it.’

‘I know, I can see that. And I realise you might need to talk to him first.’

No way. She hadn’t spoken to him since that horrible day that she’d regretted ever since, but this wasn’t the time or the way to do it. She shook her head. ‘No, I don’t need to do that. How long can I have?’

Ben shrugged. ‘The rest of the morning? I’m sorry, I know it isn’t long, but if you think you can deal with it I really don’t want to hang about in case we lose him. It’s right up his street—mostly obstetrics, but there’s some of the fertility clinic work as well, which is why I thought of him.’

That stopped her mind in its tracks, and she felt her jaw drop. She just couldn’t picture him in a fertility clinic, of all the ironic places, but of course Simon’s job partly involved it.

‘I didn’t realise he knew anything at all about infertility.’

Apart from their own, but she wasn’t saying that to Ben.

‘Yes, that’s one of the reasons why we want him, because of Simon’s role here. Plus he’s a damn good obstetrician, of course, but he’s a perfect fit. He’s been running the fertility clinic in his hospital since last May, and it shuts any day now.’

Her heart was beating so fast she could feel it thudding against her ribs. Of all the things for him to do, running a fertility clinic was so out of left field she’d never have seen it coming. Why would he choose to punish himself in that way? Unless he’d had no choice. Had he been driven to it just to earn a living? Her guilt over the mortgage ramped up a notch.

‘I had no idea,’ she said numbly. She took another moment, letting it all sink in a little, and then took a deep breath and made a decision she just hoped she didn’t regret.

‘Talk to him, Ben. Ask him if he’s interested. If he is—well, I’m sure we can be civilised about it.’

‘Are you sure? I realise it’s a big decision for you.’

‘But it isn’t really mine to make. It’s yours, and his, and if he’s the right man for the job, who am I to stand in the way? And anyway, it’s not permanent. Ask him, Ben. Just keep me in the loop, OK? I don’t want any surprises.’

‘Of course I will.’ He opened the door and stared down thoughtfully into her eyes. ‘Thank you, Liv. I do appreciate it and I know it can’t be easy for you.’

Did he? She wondered how much he knew about their break-up, about the why and the how. Had Nick spoken to him about it? Surely not. If there was one thing her marriage had taught her, it was that Nick didn’t talk about his feelings. Not to her, and certainly not to his boss.

She found a smile from somewhere. ‘You’re welcome. Just let me know his reaction.’

‘I will.’

* * *

‘Nick? It’s Ben Walker. Are you OK to talk? I want to ask you something.’

‘Yeah, sure. What d’you want to know?’ he asked.

‘Nothing. I’m headhunting you. I know your clinic’s shutting any time now, and we need a full-time locum consultant to cover Obs and Gynae and some of the fertility clinic workload and I thought it sounded right up your street, unless you’ve got your next job lined up already?’

Ben was asking him to go back? With Liv still there? At least, he assumed she was. He hadn’t heard otherwise and Ben would have told him, he was sure. Would he be working with her?

His heart rate rocketed, and he hauled in a deep breath and let it go, consciously engaging his brain instead of his adrenal glands.

‘Whose job is it? It sounds like Simon’s.’

‘It is. His wife’s got cancer and he’s gone off on compassionate leave with immediate effect. They’re moving back to their home town so their parents can help with childcare.’

‘Oh, no, that’s horrendous. Poor Jen. Poor all of them. And poor you, because it’s obviously left you in the lurch, but I’m not sure I’m the man for the job. Does Liv know you’re asking me?’

‘Yes. I asked her first. She said she thought you could be civilised about it.’

Civilised?

He’d be right under her nose, working with couples to solve the very thing that had left their marriage in tatters. Civilised wasn’t the word he would have applied to that situation.

A minefield, more likely.

Or an opportunity to build bridges? He knew so much more now than he had then, but the pain was still raw and no amount of knowledge was going to make that go away.

Could he do it? It wasn’t as if they’d be working together, and it was only temporary in any case. They could keep out of each other’s way if necessary, but it might give them a chance—

‘So, are you still free?’

‘Yes, technically. I haven’t got anything lined up yet, at least, and I’m seeing the last patients today, but I had thought I’d take a break. When would you want me to start?’

Ben made a sound that could have been laughter. ‘Tomorrow? And by the way, that was a joke, but—ASAP, really. We can cover it for a few days but after that it’ll get really tricky. Every woman in Suffolk seems to be pregnant or trying to be at the moment.’

His chest tightened. Not quite every woman. Not his Liv…

‘Why don’t you come and talk to me about it?’ Ben went on. ‘See how you feel?’

He had no idea how he’d feel. Confused? Desperate to see Liv? Afraid to see her, to find that she was happily settled without him when he was still miserable and lonely and struggling to make sense of it all? But maybe she was happy, which would mean he’d done the right thing by leaving without a fight. Maybe he needed to know that so he could move on?

There was no real reason why he couldn’t go. When the clinic closed its doors at five that evening, he’d be jobless. He’d planned a holiday, something reckless and adrenaline-soaked, but he hadn’t booked anything and now Ben was dangling this opportunity to go back to Yoxburgh right in front of his nose.

Yoxburgh, and Liv.

They’d been so happy there at first in the pretty Victorian seaside town, but it had all gone horribly wrong for them and now the only memories he had of it were sad ones. Did he really want to go back?

He’d made changes in his life, tried to get it back on track, but although his diet and lifestyle had undergone a radical overhaul, his heart hadn’t moved on. He’d just shut it away, buried it under a massive pile of work and endless runs around an inner-city park, and going back was bound to open a whole new can of worms. Did he really want to do that? The sensible answer was no—or was that just the coward’s answer?

And Ben needed him. He had no commitments or ties, no reason why he couldn’t go, except that Liv would be there, and maybe that wasn’t a good enough reason to stay away.

Even though it was a minefield, even though they hadn’t spoken in over a year, even though he knew it was rash and stupid and ill-considered, he realised there was a massive part of him that wanted to see her again.

Needed to see her again.

It was high time they had the conversation he’d been putting off since they’d split up. The conversation he owed her—and the one she owed him, like why after more than a year she still hadn’t started divorce proceedings…

‘Let’s just go for it,’ he said, suddenly decisive. ‘I can’t do tomorrow, but why don’t I come up on Friday? That gives me a day to tidy up here and pack, and if I can sort everything out with your HR first thing on Friday morning I can start work right away. My paperwork’s all in order, so once HR have seen it I’ll be good to go. Then you’ll only have to deal with tomorrow, and I can spend the weekend finding somewhere to live.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, absolutely,’ he said without giving himself time to back out of it. ‘Let’s do it. I’ll drive down early so I’m with you for eight and I can be in HR as soon as they open.’

‘Nick, thank you. I can’t tell you how grateful I am,’ Ben said, and the relief in his voice made Nick realise just how much pressure his old clinical lead was under. ‘And don’t worry about finding anywhere to live,’ Ben added, ‘you can stay with us as long as you need to, Daisy’d love to have you. Come here, to the hospital. You know where to find me. They’ll page me when you get here.’

‘Sure. Thanks. I’ll see you then.’

He hung up, slid the phone into his pocket and stared blankly across the room.

He was going back.

He wasn’t sure he was ready to see Liv again, because he’d never managed to get any emotional distance and his heart was still as raw as it had been the day she threw him out, so it was going to be tough. Very tough. But maybe he could use the opportunity to find out if she was happy without him, because he sure as hell wasn’t happy without her…

There was a knock on the door and a nurse popped her head into the room. ‘Mr Jarvis? Mr and Mrs Lyons are waiting to see you.’

He nodded, gave himself a mental shake and got to his feet. ‘Show them in, please.’

* * *

He was coming back today.

Taking Simon’s job, at least in the short term. She still couldn’t work out how she felt about that. Confused, more than anything. Confused and nervous and tingling with apprehension. Lots of that.

She found a slot in the staff car park, got out and headed for the maternity unit on autopilot, her mind whirling.

Would she see him today? Did she want to? Did he want to see her? Their last exchange had hardly been amicable. Well, her side of it anyway. He’d hardly said a word but then he hadn’t needed to, the evidence had spoken for itself.

She reached the kerb and glanced up, checking that the road was clear, and saw a car approaching.

Nick’s car.

She recognised it instantly, and her heart started to thud as he drew closer, their eyes meeting as he slowed down.

To speak to her?

For a moment she thought he was going to stop, and then he raised his hand in acknowledgement and drove on, and she hauled in a breath and crossed the road on legs like jelly.

Her heart was tumbling in her chest, her lips dry, and she was breathing so fast she could have been running. Ridiculous. He was just a doctor, here to do his job, and she was just a midwife doing hers. The fact that they were still married was neither here nor there. They could do this.

She just had to work out how.

* * *

Nick parked the car and sat there for a moment, waiting for his heart to slow down.

He’d known it would be odd to see her again, but he hadn’t expected the thunderbolt that had struck him when he’d met her eyes. It was like being punched in the gut, and it had taken his breath away.

Jaws clenched, he took the key out of the ignition, picked up the briefcase containing his stethoscope and the file with all the documentation for HR and got out of the car, following her towards the maternity unit.

Why the hell had he said yes? He could have turned Ben down, walked away, gone and had the holiday he’d been promising himself. Then he wouldn’t have been here, he wouldn’t have seen her and ripped open the wound left by the abrupt end to their marriage.

Not that it had taken much ripping. It had barely skinned over in the last year and a bit, but he was here now, the damage was done and he might as well just get on with it. And anyway, she needed the truth. They both did, and maybe then they could both move on.

The door slid open and he strode through it, went up to the maternity reception desk and asked them to page Ben.

* * *

‘Morning, all.’

‘Oh, Liv, I’m so glad I’ve caught you. Can you do us a huge favour? Would you mind covering an antenatal clinic this morning? Jan’s called in sick and you’re the only person who’s not already involved in a delivery.’

She felt a little shaft of relief and smiled at her line manager. ‘No, that’s fine, I’ll head straight down.’ And she’d be nicely tucked out of the way so she wouldn’t run the risk of bumping into Nick.

Which was stupid, really, because it was going to happen sometime, but she’d had less than forty-eight hours to get used to the idea of him coming back and judging by her reaction to him in the car park, it had been nothing like long enough.

She’d spend the morning giving herself a thorough talking-to, and then by the time he actually started work she’d have herself firmly under control.

Good plan.

Except it wasn’t.

The clinic receptionist welcomed her with a smile of relief and then comprehensively trashed her peace of mind.

‘Thank heavens it’s you, Liv, we need someone who knows the ropes. There’s a bit of a delay because the locum who’s covering for Mr Bailey is still in HR, but he’ll be down soon, apparently, so if you could make a start that would be amazing.’

Simon’s clinic? That meant she’d be working with Nick all morning, before she had a chance to shore up the walls and get all her defences in place. Great. Fabulous.

Her heart had started to pound, and she hauled in a breath, picked up the first set of notes with shaking hands and pasted on a smile.

‘No problem. I can do that,’ she said, as much to herself as the receptionist. She walked out to the waiting area, glanced at the file and scanned the room.

‘Judy Richards?’

* * *

‘Nick! Welcome back!’

He recognised Jane, the motherly but ruthlessly efficient woman who acted as Ben’s secretary as well as Simon’s, and greeted her warmly.

‘Hello, Jane, it’s good to see you again. How are you?’

‘I’m fine. I’ve been expecting you. HR said you’d be up here shortly. They said you were very well organised, ironically.’

He laughed. ‘It just so happens I had a file ready with the relevant paperwork in it because I knew I’d need it soon, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. I hate admin.’

She smiled knowingly. ‘I haven’t forgotten that. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you do everything you have to do.’

‘Can you read my mind?’ he asked, and she just laughed.

‘If necessary. That’s what I’m here for.’

‘Good. I don’t suppose you’ve got Simon’s schedule handy, have you? I really need to hit the ground running. Ben said something about a clinic and I’ve got a list this afternoon.’

‘Yes, I’ve printed it all out for you here. First on your list is the antenatal clinic, as you know. It’s still in the same place and they’re expecting you. And your elective list starts at two, so you should just about have time after the clinic to meet your patients before you start in Theatre. The notes are on the ward.’

‘Jane, you’re a legend.’ He hung his stethoscope round his neck, left his briefcase in her care and went.

At least in the clinic he was less likely to run into Liv, because she’d be safely tucked away on the midwife-led unit. And even though in a way he’d wanted to see her, their brief encounter this morning had shaken him more than he’d expected and he could do without any more surprises.

Yes, a nice, busy clinic was exactly what he needed. Just until he got his head round the idea of working in the same building as her…

* * *

‘Liv…’

She was standing in the empty corridor with an armful of notes when she heard him say her name, and she turned slowly and met his eyes.

Anguish, love, regret—and then nothing, as he got control of himself again and slammed the shutters down. He’d had plenty of practice at that, he’d got it down to a fine art in the last year of their marriage, but he’d been too slow this time and his reaction exactly mirrored her own.

‘Hello, Nick,’ she said, her voice sounding scratchy and unused. The words how are you hovered on her tongue, but she couldn’t speak because it had glued itself to the roof of her mouth so she just stared at him.

His face was leaner, she realised, the crows’ feet more pronounced, the frown lines shallower. Because he was happier? He hadn’t looked happy, but he looked more like the old Nick, the man she’d fallen in love with, fit and well and healthy but with a touch of grey at his temples now. Stress, or just age? He was thirty-nine now, nearly forty, and he wore it well apart from that.

Not that the silver threaded through his dark hair did anything to dim his subtle but potent sex appeal—

Her heart was beating so fast it was deafening her, her breath was lodged in her throat, and she had to clamp her lips together to stifle a sudden little sob.

She blinked fiercely and adjusted the folders in her arms before looking back at him, and as she met those beautiful, smoky grey eyes again her heart thudded, but his gaze held her eyes and she was powerless to look away.

‘I wasn’t expecting to see you down here,’ he said after a second of silence that seemed to scream on for eternity, and his gruff voice set her free and she breathed again.

‘Ditto, but it’s just as well you’re here now, we’ve got a lot of work to do.’ She pretended to look at the notes in her arms. Anything to get away from those searching eyes when her own were bound to be too revealing. ‘I take it you managed to tick all HR’s boxes?’

‘Yes. I have a file I keep up to date. It comes in handy when you’re a locum.’

That again. Why hasn’t he got a full-time job?

He hesitated, as if there was something else he wanted to say, but after a moment he looked down at the armful of folders she was holding. ‘So, what’s that lot?’

‘The ladies who’ve had their BP and fundal height measured and their urine tested, so they’re all ready for you.’ Her voice was almost normal again, and she nearly laughed. If he had any idea what was going on in her chest—

She led him into the consulting room and handed him the folders, and as he took them his hand brushed lightly against hers and the heat from his skin sent a wave of longing through her. She almost dropped the files but he had them, and he turned swiftly away and dumped them on the desk.

‘Anyone I should be particularly aware of?’ he asked, his voice a little taut and very businesslike, so she followed his lead. Anything to help get herself back under control before her heart gave out.

‘Yes, Judy Richards,’ she said briskly. ‘She has a history of early miscarriage. This is her fourth pregnancy, she’s thirty-two weeks which is the longest she’s ever gone, but her fundal height hasn’t changed since her last appointment a week ago and that wasn’t as much as it should have been, so it might be that the baby’s found a new position, or it could be that it’s stopped growing for some reason. She’s on the top of the pile.’

He frowned thoughtfully, all business now. ‘Right. Good. Has she been tested for APS?’

‘Yes, after her last miscarriage. The test came back negative.’

‘Hmm. OK, well, she’d better have another scan before I see her, if we can do it without worrying her too much.’

‘It’s done. I knew you’d ask for it so I told her it was because it was a new consultant, and she didn’t question it. The results are on here,’ she said, handing him the department tablet.

‘Great. Thanks.’ He scrolled through and studied the results, then handed it back, frowning thoughtfully.

‘OK. I think I’m going to admit her. Can you call her in, please, and I’ll check her over and break the news?’

‘Sure.’

And oddly it was fine, because Judy Richards and her baby needed them, they had a job to do and so they just got on with it, slipping seamlessly back into the familiar routine as if it had been yesterday. Not that she was relaxed in any way, but it was a joy watching him with Judy, and a stark reminder of how good he was at his job.

She’d forgotten how intuitive a doctor he was, and how caring. Kind, gentle, thorough—and from his first greeting onwards, Liv could see Judy had utter faith in him.

‘Mrs Richards—I’m Nick Jarvis, I’ve taken over from Simon Bailey. I’ve had a look at your notes, and also the scan you had done today. It doesn’t really shed any light—which is good news in a way, I suppose, but it still leaves some unanswered questions and I don’t like that, so I think I’d like to admit you and do a few more tests, get a closer look at your baby and the placenta and retest you for APS—antiphospholipid syndrome. Has anybody discussed that with you yet?’

‘Yes, Mr Bailey did, but he didn’t think I’d got it.’

‘He may well be right, but I’m erring on the side of caution, so if that’s all right with you, I’ll ring the ward and make the arrangements for you to be admitted now, and then maybe someone could bring some things in for you later.’

‘I can’t go home and get them myself?’

‘You can, of course, but I’d like to get the tests under way as soon as possible and I’m in Theatre this afternoon, so I’d very much rather you didn’t because I’d like to look after you myself rather than hand you over to someone else in my team.’

By the time he’d convinced Judy to come in immediately for closer monitoring, she was still calm and relatively relaxed, which considering her obstetric history was nothing short of a miracle.

If only they were as calm and relaxed things would be fine, but they weren’t. Liv felt like a cat on hot bricks, and she wasn’t sure he was faring any better.

They got through the morning by keeping out of each other’s way as much as possible, avoiding eye contact, restricting conversation to a minimum and all work-related, but fun it wasn’t and her nerves were in bits, so the second the clinic was finished she made her escape.

* * *

He closed the door as Liv went out with the last patient, leant back against the wall and closed his eyes, letting his breath out in a long, slow huff.

Well, they’d survived, if you could call it that.

Not that it had been easy, but they’d got through it by sticking to business and getting on with the job, and they’d done that well, working together as a smooth, well-oiled team just as they had in the old days. Except in the old days they’d enjoyed it, and he was pretty certain neither of them had enjoyed it today, and the tension between them could have been cut with a knife.

It couldn’t go on like this, though, and he knew he had to do something to break through the icy politeness and careful distance between them or it wasn’t going to work. At all.

He shrugged away from the wall, picked up the last set of notes and left the room, scanning the clinic for Liv, but there was no sign of her.

‘Seen Liv?’ he asked at Reception as he handed over the file, and was told she’d gone for lunch.

Which meant, unless she’d changed her habits, she’d be in the café that opened onto the park.

Good. He could do with a nice, strong coffee, with caffeine in it for a change. It might help him get through what was sure to be a deeply awkward conversation.