We are in the process of moving into a new house in the country. On five glorious acres. Okay, so it’s not a vast estate by most standards, but when your old house has a garden the size of a postage stamp, it seems huge. And exciting. And like a scene out of The Sound of Music.
So a funny thing happened on my way to the country. This girl didn’t think things through completely. I mean, I am so thrilled to be able to have real egg-laying chickens. But then a friend cautioned me to make sure the chicken coop was secure against predators.
Okay sure. Predators. Like foxes and raccoons and other poultry-loving critters, right? No big deal.
But there are a few other creatures that evidently like to munch on eggs. I mean, they really like eggs. So if you know me, you know that I am not afraid of most animals and insects. I mean a grizzly bear might stop me in my tracks, but spiders? Or bees? Nope. Not afraid.
Until someone said the word sssssssssssnnnnnaaaa… <clears throat> Okay, let’s try that again. Until someone said the word sn…sn…sna… Snake! There, I said it.
I am terrified of things that squirm around on their bellies and lie in wait behind logs. Our new house has a huge barn (for the horses, right?). And it’s surrounded by acres and acres of the most beautiful cornfields imaginable. When this friend first used the dreaded “s” word (which I won’t attempt to say again), it was in reference to those cornfields. Because my husband mentioned wanting a pool. And this dear friend warned him that we might find things floating in the pool. Because of the cornfields, which you can see in the picture below.
Snakes. Why didn’t I think of this possibility before we signed on the dotted line? Because the place is beautiful and private, with a long gravel lane leading to the house. And green pastures on either side of it. So I will do my best to remember that those belly surfers are more afraid of me than I am of them. Oh wait. That’s not true. Because the very thought of them paralyzes me.
So that’s my sad tale. Don’t get me wrong, this house is a dream come true. Really, I can’t wait to move in and make it home. Every dream has its hiccup, right? So that’s my hiccup. Is there something that scares the bejeebers out of you? Sharks? Slugs? Things that go bump in the night? I’d love to hear what makes you squirm and shudder. Just so I know I’m not alone!
I decided to write Reunited By Their Pregnancy Surprise for a very special reason. It uses the amnesia trope and some of you may already know, that my own parents had their very own amnesia story.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to write such a story. It had such personal significance to me, but I also knew a lot of people don’t actually like amnesia stories!
So, it was a risk. But one I wanted to take.
Years and years ago, when my Mum and Dad were engaged to be married, my Dad was in the army, the Sherwood Foresters (no prizes for guessing which city I was made in!) He got stationed abroad a lot – Malaysia, Cyprus, Ireland. But it was in Singapore, when he was driving a water truck through the jungle, that it overturned and he received a significant head injury.
Dad woke up in hospital, not knowing his name, how old he was, who he was or even where he was. The padre in the hospital went through his uniform pockets and found a love letter that my Mum had written to him, just the week before. So the padre then wrote to my Mum, telling her what had happened and that my Dad would be flown back to England and she and his family would have the job of re-educating my Dad.
I’m sure you can imagine my Mum’s distress. She and my Dad had fallen in love, but he now didn’t know who she was! Could she get him to fall in love with her all over again?
Happily (and obviously, because I am alive) she managed this task. My parents have now been married 53 years, have four children and five grandchildren and to this day, my Dad still doesn’t have any memories of his childhood.
It was hard to come up with a completely different story, whilst also documenting the angst the grief of such an accident and how it can affect two people and those around them. That it DOES happen. It’s a trope, for a reason.
I do hope you’ll be able to check it out. It has a lot of my heart in it.
Widower Corporal Matt Galloway came to London Grace Hospital for his tiny daughter. But he finds himself facing a barrel of emotions on meeting beautiful Dr Brooke Bailey—his late wife’s best friend and single mum to her own baby girl.
Brooke can’t believe Matt is her new boss. But the feelings she has for him are even more troublesome. Brooke swore to raise her baby alone, but loving father Matt melts her heart and Brooke starts to hope…could they really make one big happy family, after all?
Valentine’s Day is one of those days where true love takes over, and all things chocolate, flowers, cards, romantic dinners and gifts are on our minds. Well, most of our minds. I could do without the chocolate and my cats eat my flowers. But I do love gifts and romantic dinners. Have you ever wondered, though, what Valentine’s Day is all about?
It’s said that this festival for lovers had its origin with Emperor Claudius II, who didn’t want Roman men to marry during wartime because marriage distracted them from their killing. Bishop Valentine, an Anglican and a right romantic gent, went against Claud’s wishes and performed secret weddings. For that, Valentine was jailed. While there, he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “from your Valentine.” He got caught, and was beheaded the next day–on February 14, sometime near the year 270.
It wasn’t until the 14th century, though, that the date February 14 became linked to romantic intentions, largely thanks to the tradition of courtly love, which abounded in the circles of Geoffrey Chaucer. Still, it took another 4 centuries before the day became about gifts, and candy and all those other things we typically think about.
And just an aside here–about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. Whether or not it’s true, the first Valentine’s Day card may have been a love letter from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Makes sense, considering Charles was a Frenchman and France is noted for its romantic traditions. Oh, and in case you’re interested, teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets. But don’t feel sorry for poor Fido and Fluffy, who come in last in cards, because they get 3% of all the Valentine’s gifts given. Not bad for a loved one who has a wet nose.
Speaking of love letters, every Valentine’s Day, the city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet. But Verona isn’t the only place where letters or notes are popular. In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine, then write that name in a heart-shaped note and pin it on their sleeve for everyone to see–especially the one whose name was on the note. Hence, the phrase: “to wear your heart on your sleeve.” It’s still a tradition in South Africa, today and, in some cases, it’s how South African men learn of their secret admirers.
But South Africa isn’t the only country with a unique Valentine’s Day tradition. In South Korea, the gift-giving commences on February 14th, with the women in the wooing mood when they give their men chocolates, candies and flowers. The guys return the woo on March 14th with a little one-upping by adding lavish gifts to the giving of chocolate, candies and flowers. Not to be outdone, however, in Italian tradition, young, unmarried girls wake up before dawn to spot their future husbands, believing that the first man they see on Valentine’s Day will be the one they will marry within a year. Of course, if that doesn’t happen, they have a back-up plan to help them save face, where they simply say, “Well, at least he looks like the man I’ll marry.” That plan runs a distant second to actually marrying the guy, but it’s something to hang on to. Back-up plans like that one are good though, and sticking with Italy, their next back-up plan is to come Valentine-calling with Baci Perugina in hand. It’s a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut wrapped with a romantic quote.
Yes, chocolate… Everybody loves it, including the Brazilians who go a-courting with it, as well. But not on February 14, because it’s too close to Carnival. So they hold off their lovefest until June 12, when they celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” And yep, chocolates, along with flowers and cards, music festivals and performances.
So, why chocolates? Why not licorice, or cinnamon red hearts? Honestly, nothing spells romance better than a gummy worm, don’t you think? But, we have chocolate, and it’s been hanging in as the lovers’ favorite since the early 1800s. Back then, though, it wasn’t a romantic thing. Doctors prescribed it to their female patients to help relieve those certain symptoms associated with that special time of the month. It calmed them down, so it was said. Of course, so did those vibrator treatments those wacky doctors were giving out, personally, in their offices, back then. A vibrator AND chocolate…must have calmed m’lady right down into a perfect bliss. Oh, and about chocolate–Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s, and more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of pure, silky ecstasy are sold for Valentine’s Day any given year.
Cards, love notes, chocolates…isn’t it romantic? Actually, word romance wasn’t associated with the romance we know. It was originally a Latin adverb for Romanicus meaning “of the Roman style.” You know, when in Rome… The Romans considered themselves a chivalrous people, and their earliest tales of romance were actually stories of chivalric adventures. It wasn’t, until the late 17th century that the chivalric adventures turned more to the romantic escapades we know today. Probably had something to do with the hunk on the cover of a romance novel one of the ladies of the day was reading. She took one look at his bare chest, his long flowing hair, his well-muscled arms, his steely thighs…well, you know what I’m getting at.
Being the proper lady that she was, though, she surely hankered for the gift of a red rose from her true love, since chocolates weren’t around yet. Which is just another way to transition into why red roses have become the traditional Valentine’s flower. First, the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. That’s as good a reason as any. But there’s more… red roses are also considered the love flower because red stands for strong romantic feelings, blood and fire, passion, desire, heat, longing, lust, sexuality…it’s a pretty long, self-explanatory list. Or, in other words, red just works.
So does the Welsh tradition of giving a love spoon for Valentine’s day. Only, it’s not exactly Valentine’s Day. It’s the celebration of Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th. The hand-carved spoons were given as token of affection for the women they loved, and different patterns were carved into these spoons, including horseshoes for good luck; wheels to symbolize support; and keys for the keys to a man’s heart. Often, spoons given to lovers had two handles intertwining to form one. Interestingly enough, this tradition of giving spoons known as “spooning” makes it especially fitting when two handles intertwine. We all know what comes of that!
So, before I end this history lesson, let me leave you with a few more romantic traditions, like an old one in the Netherlands where prospective couples were put in separate sacks in the same bed to sleep together, but not allowed to engage in any premarital hanky-panky. Talk about tough love. Then there was that time during Italian Renaissance when the gentlemen would give their lady loves erotically-inscribed belts which would both remind them of their chastity while at the same time inciting them to horniness. Also, there’s that old, popular stand-by called the bridesworth, which went beyond the offering of the dowry, but could include acts of humiliation or entertainment such as chariot racing, singing, dancing and grueling interviews with the bride’s family. Often, a bridesworth could last for an entire year. And finally–the eating of the haggis every day, from Valentine’s Day to Valentine’s Day, for a year, to prove a man’s worth to his lady love. Actually, I just made that one up. But it sort of fits in doesn’t it?
There are so many kinds of wacky, wonderful, strange and romantic ways to celebrate your love, and that’s something I try to capture in my books. The different ways we go about it. To each his own, as they say. For some, Valentine’s Day is an expression for every day of the year. For a dear friend, it’s the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates her husband can find. My grandfather always gave my grandmother red carnations for Valentine’s Day, and my grandmother always gave me a fresh, brand new five-dollar bill straight from the bank. For me, personally, Valentine’s Day is all about the thought, not the deed. Deeds are nice, but in end, I’ll take the thought any day. So what about you? Are you doing something special for Valentine’s Day? Gifts? Chocolates? A romantic dinner? Staying home together in your jammies, eating popcorn and watching a romantic movie? Or a scary one that’ll make you cuddle up?
Whatever your Valentine’s Day will be about, I hope it’s everything you wish for. It’s only one day of the year, so enjoy (unless you take up that haggis thing, then it’s for a whole year!).
And now…promo time. My latest, The Nurse and the Single Dad came out on the 1st. It’s available in all the usual places. That’s it. No more promo, no more wacky Valentine’s traditions like the one where, in 19th century rural Austria, an eligible lass would keep an apple slice crammed in her armpits during an entire evening of dance. At the end of the evening, she would give her used fruit to the guy she fancied. If the feeling was mutual, he’d wolf it right down, which sounds like true love to me. I know the old saying is something about the apple of his eye, but the apple of her armpit? Okay. I’m really done now. Promise.
My husband and I went to the state fair a few days ago. We go every year, and it’s always fun. And, we do the same thing every year, it never varies. We start out splitting a ribeye sandwich from the beef barn, then we visit the Family Arts building displaying homecraft, photographs and antiques. At the antiques display we compare what’s on exhibit with what we have at home and always decide ours our better, that we should enter the antiques competition with some of our collection next year. Then at the photographs, we always play “Which one do you like best?” at each individual display. After which, I try to convince my husband to enter some of his photography someday.
Eventually, we go outside, split an order of fried cheese, get a lemon shake-up, and go to the agricultural building where we see the bonsai display, the orchid competition, the prize-winners from the various vegetable competitions, gourds, honey, and stacked-can sculpture. Next, we split a corn dog. Then come a couple of university educational displays, a look at the giant cheese sculpture, a funnel cake, pigs, horses, sheep, cows, another lemon shake-up, ending with one of the fair’s deep-fried delicacies (this year Oreos and Reeses Cups) and that brings our day to a close. We’re tired, our bellies are full, and we’ve had a great time.
Of all our regular activities though, I think the one I enjoy the most is people-watching. It’s fun to sit back and observe, and wonder where they’re going when they pass by, what are they thinking, what is their story? I like to attach my own stories to some of these people. One small group – possibly grandmother, daughter and son – passed me four times within the span of twenty minutes as I sat in the shade and sipped a drink. They scurried by, turned around, scurried back, turned around, scurried by again, then scurried back. To me, they were looking for something. But what? The biggest pig at the state fair? The best grilled giant turkey leg? In my mind, they were looking for the best value for their limited money. Perhaps they were going to split one terribly expensive ribeye steak sandwich three ways, or they were looking for a lemon shake-up stand that served slightly larger portions than the other stands because all they could afford was one drink to share. A tragedy had befallen them recently, left them very poor, but they scrimped and saved to have this one special day at the fair, one day to get away from their everyday lives and problems, and while they couldn’t afford to spend much, they weren’t going to let that ruin their day. They had each other, the sacrifices it took to get them to the fair were forgotten, and they were having the best day they’d had in a long, long time. In my mind, their story had a beautiful happily-ever-after ending because of the pure joy they found in being there, together, as a family.
Then there was the big burly man, pushing his baby daughter in a carriage. He had tattoos everywhere, was shaved bald, looked pretty ominous overall, but I saw the tender expression on his face when he looked at his daughter, and that said it all. To me, he became the single father hero I like to write about. Victim of a tragic divorce, a cheating wife, or death. The man who gives up his life to take care of his child. The man who doesn’t know a thing about raising children but blunders his way through it to become the best possible dad ever. Someone who lovingly makes the sacrifices and is eager to face each and every new day because he is a daddy, and daddyhood now defines him. This big, burly guy didn’t look like the typical hero in my books, but he was the hero in every aspect of the word and in my story, he met the perfect woman, maybe even at the fair, had many more children, and had found a happiness he’d never known could exist for him.
So, state fair is over for me for another year. And next year, I think I will enter a few of my antiques in the antiques competition. Next year, I think we’ll enter one of my husband’s beautiful photos in the photograph competition, as well. We’ll also have a corn dog, fried cheese, and a funnel cake. Next year, I’ll also sit back and observe the people, and make up stories about them. It’s a great way to stretch the writer’s mind!
Do you go to a fair of any sort? Or a park, or a shopping mall, or a restaurant where you can observe the people and make up stories? Have you ever used one of those stories in your own writing?
Until next time, wishing you health and happiness…
Last time I was here, I was whinging about having a Very Significant Birthday.
Actually, I had a ball. I made it last from the week before my birthday until about four weeks after. Lots of little parties – afternoon tea, lunch, drinks, and of course the big family lunch party. (And look at my cake! This is just so awesome. My friend is an amazing sugar artist and these irises are so delicate.) (Cough – we all know I go by two names. Kate’s work. Pam’s family.)
My nearest and dearest contributed money towards my birthday present – a new camera.
And I was utterly thrilled at the definition I could get of the moon. (This is a hand-held shot. On my old camera, it would’ve been a blob with fuzzy edges. Notice the craters.)
And y’know you have to test these things out. (It’ll be put through its paces at a gig this weekend, when I go to see Muse, and I am SO EXCITED about that. But that’s another story.)
Now, one of my passions (yes, apart from cake and the gym and music and dancing) is history. I live in a part of the world where there are nearly a thousand medieval churches (some in ruins, but most still working). And if it’s a nice afternoon at the weekend, my DH and I sometimes sneak off to do some church-crawling – basically looking at the architecture. Sometimes it’s glass, sometimes it’s brasses, sometimes it’s incredible carved bench ends, and sometimes it’s something very obscure indeed…
So here are some shots from our last trip.
This is a carved bench end of an elephant and castle from Thurgarton church. The definition is amazing.
And a brass from Thwaite – roughly dated 1472.
At Heydon, there’s something really unusual – a bit of a crusader shield. It’s painted with the cross of St George – and apparently it was actually used during the Crusades. (This was a bit blurry because I was experimenting!)
But for me some of the most poignant things were at Sheringham. There are several 15th-century carved bench ends; one commemorates the legend of a mermaid who was apparently thrown out of a service by the vicar as someone who shouldn’t be in the church (which is half a mile away from the sea, up a hill – our poor mermaid must have suffered getting there!). (And anyone who’s read my ‘Crown Prince, Pregnant Bride’ – this is what sparked the mermaid window.)
Then there’s a cat carrying one of her kittens.
And the Chrysom child – a baby wrapped in swaddling bands (specifically for baptism). I found this really moving.
And there’s a lovely brass, too – I adore the kennel headdress!
Do you come from an area with such rich architectural heritage? Where’s your favourite place?
I think I have my husband worried. That’s not completely unusual, but this time it’s a little different. Why? Because I’ve found the perfect horse, and he came home with me. Only I already have a horse.
But this big goofy guy kind of fell into my lap through a variety of circumstances, and I’m already in love with him. My first husban…err horse…is a former show horse who is as talented as she is sweet. She’s amazing to ride. But this new fellow is a trail horse through and through with more “whoa than go.” I claim him as my “hubby horse,” a gentle soul that I hoped would tempt said hubby to ride. Except, I’m the only one riding him at the moment.
So why is my nearest and dearest worried? It’s not that he’s afraid of being replaced—although maybe he should be just a little concerned. 😉 No, he’s worried because I already have a couple of collections that have gotten out of hand. I have a collection of bells that numbers in the dozens, although in my defense, most of those were gifts. And then there’s that collection of quilts. But I only have about ten of those. And I have quite a few pieces of hammered aluminum that I love.
I realized the extent of his worry, when he sent me the video I posted below. Because I also love chickens. And alpacas. And goats. And…. Well, you get the picture. I promised him I could stop any time I wanted to. I’m standing by that statement. For now.
So, do you have any collections? If so, can you control the urge to add to it, or does your hammered aluminum cup runneth over?
Oh, and one more thing I collect are the cover images of my books. This is the latest one, which comes out in December!
I love spring. I love kneeling in the sun and digging in the warm soil. I love planting flowers. Oh how I love those flowers.
We have a pug who loves the very same things as I do.
Only we call him the Pug of Doom. Because with him around, those flowers don’t stand a chance. It’s not that he has a black thumb (if dogs had thumbs), rather that everything he…erm…“touches” will soon wilt and die. We’ve tried everything. We planted hardier flowers. They succumbed within weeks. We put up a cute little wire fence to protect them. The Pug of Doom hopped right over it. But now…yes, now (insert evil laugh), we think we’ve finally outsmarted him.
As you can see from the pictures, we decided to build some planter boxes out of concrete
stepping stones, carefully measuring to make sure the flowers would be higher than he could reach. And it seems we may have succeeded. We think. Except, you can almost see the wheels in his head turning. Can I reach them from here?
How about here? What was that formula for trajectory anyway? Must go do some calculations.
I’ll let you know who wins this latest battle. But for now, the flowers appear safe, sound, and happy. All is right with the world.
Did I mention that I love spring? I do!
Do you have any pets? If so, do you ever have to outsmart them?
And because this is the Harlequin Medical authors’ blog, here’s the book I have out this month: