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

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Routine? Who needs Routine? by Allie Kincheloe

Routine is a BIG thing in our house. My 11-year-old son has autism and thrives on routine. Saying it is important to us is a massive understatement. Well, like everything else in this world, routine has been thrown out on its ear like a rowdy customer in a bar. Virtual classes this spring were far from a success, so we opted to home school this year. It’s going better than virtual did, but it’s still a lot of change. He does not like change.

He’s not the only one. 

My routine has been swept to the side because his needs have to come first. My every weekday writing schedule was shredded back in the spring, never to be recreated. Writing has been squeezed in around home schooling, meltdowns, and lots and lots of walks. My office has morphed into a home school classroom. The hours of quiet where the noisiest thing I heard was the sound of my dog snoring at my feet are long gone. They have been replaced by a stimming boy running back and forth through the house, bare feet slapping rhythmically against the hardwood floors. 

A few weeks ago, my husband noticed that I was getting stressed from not writing. With a looming deadline for my next medical, my anxiety was skyrocketing. I only had half a book. What was I going to do with half a book? I couldn’t turn that in. I didn’t have time to write though. So, he worked it out so that I could have a couple days every other week where he’s here to do home school and I could write. (He’s pretty great, huh?)

Side note: Anyone ever tried to write a cohesive book while only working on it a couple days every other week? I do NOT recommend this.

I even managed to turn my newest manuscript in before the deadline! It’s a second chance romance, full of enemies-to-lovers vibes and forced proximity. It really took an emotional toll on me, so I’m hoping that readers will connect with it. It will be coming sometime late spring/early summer. It wasn’t written like anything that I’ve done in the past, but I’m proud of it all the same. Maybe even more so because of the struggles I endured to write it. Through all this, I learned that I don’t need quiet to write. I don’t need a dedicated office or a typical Monday through Friday work week.

And routine? Who needs routine? (We do… we still do.)

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt! The Vet’s Secret Son

We tried to whet your palate for our veterinarians in Cornwall with this weekend’s blog by letting our characters introduce each other…now here’s a taste of the real thing along with some pictures of my pets (who have definitely met the vet)! I hope you enjoy this opening scene from The Vet’s Secret Son xxx Annie O’

ELLIE LIFTED THE small ball of fluff up in front of her face and gave it a nuzzle. Puppy time after a difficult surgery was always curative. ‘Who’s the best little-bitty puppy?’
The pitch-black Labrador put its paw on her nose then gave her a tiny pink-tongued lick on the cheek. Even though she’d had a million puppy moments like it, Ellie’s heart strained at the seams.
‘You’re definitely the cutest.’
As if in protest, the other puppies—a mad mix of golden, red, black and a solitary chocolate one—began tumbling up and over her legs, vying for cuddles.
Four weeks old and full of life. A perfect litter of ten, spanning every colour of the Labrador spectrum. It was the last litter Esmerelda, Ellie’s beloved Lab, would have, and even though she knew she wasn’t entirely objective, she was certain it was the best.

“She picked up another one and breathed in the sweet, scrummy puppy scent. Mmm… Perfect. She couldn’t wait for Mav to get back from surf school. Her son’s giggles of delight combined with puppy cuddles…sheer heaven.
‘Having a bit of puppy therapy, are we?’
Ellie looked up and saw her long-term mentor smiling down at her. ‘Ha! You caught me, Henry.’
‘Tough surgery?’
‘Very.’ She told him about the golden retriever who’d been injured when he’d tripped whilst carrying a big stick.
‘And the oropharynx?’
‘There was a truckload of splinters in his tongue and his mouth. A huge one was lodged in his throat, the poor lad. He’s in Recovery now. I don’t know who’s feeling worse. Him or his owner.’
Henry gave a sympathetic shrug. ‘It’s a tough call sometimes. I just had a woman sob the entire time I clipped her cat’s nails!’
Ellie made an empathetic noise. ‘Mrs Coutts?’
Henry grinned. ‘You clearly know your patients’ owners well.’
‘One of the keys to our success here in Dolphin Cove.’ She patted the newspaper-covered play area where she was stretched out, puppies using her like a climbing frame. ‘Join me?”

Henry, who’d valiantly stepped in to be her emergency locum vet over the last few months, grinned and sat down opposite her. ‘How could I resist?’
The puppies climbed and tumbled over him, vying for cuddles. For someone with a puppy tucked in the crook of each arm, her mentor didn’t look all that chirpy.
‘You’re looking serious. Got a new surgery you need to brainstorm?’
Henry shook his head, his white hair flopping across his forehead as he did so. He looked every bit the mad professor. Semi-retired and as smart as a whip, he was also her hero. Who else in the whole of the UK would’ve given up their summer holidays to come down to Cornwall and take over the roster of complicated surgeries her business partner had lined up?”

“She shoved aside the niggle of discomfort the question elicited and smiled at him. Just about no one, that’s who. No one she cared to lay eyes on, anyway.
‘It’s not that,’ he said, easing yet another puppy into his arms.
Ah. So there was something.
Ellie gently extracted her insanely curly ponytail from one of the puppy’s mouths. One day she’d get her hair under control. She snorted. And one day pigs would fly. ‘Not a pull toy, little one,’ she cooed, easing a final golden coil out of its gummy mouth.
She inspected Henry as the pup he was holding scampered away and he pulled one of her favourite pups, the only chocolate Lab in the litter, into his lap. He was looking awfully serious.
The chocolate pup put both of its paws on Henry’s beard then slid back down into the nook of his arm and instantly fell asleep.
Ellie laughed. ‘I guess that was enough playtime for him.”

“Guess so.’ Henry cupped the little pup’s head in one of his big old hands. His tone was much more reflective than a vet with over forty years of experience might be. He must have seen thousands of puppies curl up into sleepy little balls of fur and puppy snorts over the years.
‘C’mon, Henry. Out with it. There’s something playing on your mind. You rescued me in my hour of need. If I can do anything to help you in yours, just say the word.’
She wasn’t kidding. When Drew, her business partner and her bestie, was in a horrific car accident, Henry came right down. Drew’s long stint in hospital was coming to an end, but there was still ample rehab and healing to keep him away from the surgery for at least the next eight to ten weeks. More if there were any setbacks.
Uh-oh. Drew hadn’t had a setback had he?
Henry readjusted the puppy and something about the look in his eyes made her scoop one up into her own arms. She gave it a nuzzle as Henry began to speak. When he’d finished, she could hardly hear for the buzzing in her ears.”

It wasn’t Drew. It was a favour. And not just any old favour. He was asking her to do the one thing she’d promised she would never do. Let Lucas Williams work at Dolphin Cove.”

Excerpt From: Annie O’Neil. “The Vet’s Secret Son”.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Guest bloggers, Ellie Stone and Drew Trevelyan

We’d like to introduce you to the Vets of Dolphin Cove, Ellie Stone and Drew Trevelyan.  Their stories feature in a new duo, Ellie is the heroine of ‘The Vet’s Secret Son’, by Annie O’Neil and Drew is the hero of ‘Healing the Vet’s Heart’, by Annie Claydon.  But since Ellie and Drew have been friends since childhood, we thought we’d let them introduce each other to you.

Drew Trevelyan

Let me introduce you to Ellie Stone.  Also known as Ells to her friends, Mum to her son Mav, and…  on second thoughts I won’t mention the nickname I gave her when we were both kids.  Ellie’s got a very vivid imagination when it comes to pay-back.

Ellie’s an all-round great person, and I’m proud to call her my best friend.  We’ve known each other since before we could walk and some of my first memories are of playing on the beach at Dolphin Cove with Ellie.  Our first taste of beer was sneaked out of the pump at her Dad’s pub, The Hungry Pelican, and our first teenage attempt at changing the world was to persuade my Mum to drive us into town so we could attend a rally to protect Cornwall’s sea-life. We shared a love of animals and going to the same Veterinary School in London, was an obvious first step on the ladder of our careers.  

During our university years, I fell in and out of love on a pretty regular basis, but Ellie found her one true love.  She and Lucas were made for each other, and when he left her the circumstances were enough to make anyone crumble.  Not Ellie, though, she’s made of sterner stuff.  She picked herself up and announced that she and I were going to make our childhood dream a reality.  Establishing a veterinary practice in Cornwall, in our home village of Dolphin Cove.

We worked hard and made a success of the practice, and now we have a brand new building, along with an Innovation Centre and a wildlife sanctuary.  We’ve had our ups and downs, raising a child on her own has been tough for Ellie, but she’s done a great job with Mav.  And she’s always been there for me, too.  I couldn’t have made it through the last two years without her.

And… the question that everyone always asks.  Ellie’s gorgeous, we get each other’s jokes, and her son calls me his cool Uncle Drew.  We’ve stuck together through thick and thin, and we love each other.  Hasn’t there ever been just a hint of romance?

I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but… No.

The truth, although Ellie would never admit it to you, is that she’s still in love with Lucas.  I’ve had my share of love and loss too, but I’ve never seen Ellie in that way.  She’s my best friend, and like a sister to me. 

Apart from that one time…  But a gentleman doesn’t tell.  If you want to know about that, you’ll have to ask Ellie.

Ellie Stone

Drew Treveleyn? *shakes head* Where do I begin? The day I was born? The day after? We’ve pretty much been friends since then. Or near enough. Our parents used to park our pushchairs next to one another on the quay out front of my parent’s pub at Dolphin Cove and I would say our mutual love of animals started then, too. That’s what happens when you’re battling seagulls and passing dogs and cats for your summer ice creams.

I could tell you more than a few stories about him, but we’d probably better focus on the ones that don’t embarrass him too much. Like the time he triaged a seagull’s leg with a pair of ice lolly sticks. Or the time he carried a dog who’d been hit by a car three miles to the next village (there wasn’t a veterinarian’s at Dolphin Cove then) even though it weighed practically as much as he did (he was a string bean for quite a while before he developed into the strong, sea-loving, muscular veterinarian you see before you today). And that was because my parents were working and his were fighting (pretty normal back in the day before they got a divorce which I would say was a good thing, but as their kid, it obviously wasn’t very nice which was why we hung out at ours more often than his, but really we were usually wandering all around the countryside trying to find animals to fix). 

Did we ever fancy each other? (falls about laughing)

No. 

Erm.  Maybe once we thought we did. For about three seconds. We were teenagers and thought we knew absolutely everything there was to know about everything, but obviously we were hormone-addled idiots who knew absolutely nothing about anything other than the fact that we were best friends. It was summer, the beach was perfectly lit by moonlight and we were buzzing from the excitement of both of us getting into the Royal Veterinary College in London and, possibly, a pint or two from my parent’s pub…and we never, ever discussed it again because then I met Lucas. 

And enough said about that. 

Drew’s romantic life hasn’t been that much better than my own, to be fair. He had a proper rough run when his fiancée…well…he’d better tell you about that because he went through the wringer bigtime and suffice it to say, it’s been an uphill battle for someone who seriously does not deserve it. 

Anyway, I’m risking getting waaaay too sentimental here and that is not how we roll. Long story short, a girl couldn’t ask for a better best friend than Drew. He plays boardgames, can swim like a dolphin, knows exactly what type of ice cream to bring over after we’ve had a tough day at the clinic and is the absolute best cool Uncle to my boy, Maverick, ever.

Ellie and Drew’s books will be published in September. Any questions for them?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Our Big Trip During the Virus

by Susan Carlisle

Warning: This is like being invited to your neighbors for dinner and having to see all their vacation pictures.

My husband said he needed to get away. (Thankfully it wasn’t from me.) He wanted to go somewhere. Being a red haired man with fair skin, he cares nothing about the beach. Since it’s super-hot, and the humility makes it feel like you’re always walking in the rain in our part of the US at this time of the year, he always wants to go north where it’s cooler. He suggested Yellowstone National Park. We’ve been a number of times, and even with the virus it’s crowded in the summer time. I didn’t won’t to be involved with too many people with the virus about. So I took his wants into consideration and my concerns and came up with North Dakota.

We had been to North Dakota before, sort of. We’d stepped across the state line just to say we’d been there. But I can now say I have experience it – big time.

All our family and friends asked what we were going to do for a week in a state with nothing but miles and miles of plains. It turns out we found plenty to do. We had great fun finding the unusual and out of the way sites. I have to say that North Dakota is the friendliest place I’ve ever been. The people couldn’t have been better to us. We had an A+ visit.

Below are just a few of our finds. If you would like to see more check out my facebook page.

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This is the State Capital built in the Art Deco style in Bismark. It was well worth the visit.

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This is fort Abraham Lincoln and the Missouri River. General Custer was station here. He took his calvery down to Little Big Horn and didn’t return.

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Miles and miles of wheat growning. This area is call the “Bread basket of the World.” The sunflower fields were my favorite. 

We visited The Teddy Roosevelt National Park. It’s the best kept secret of the national park system. We thought it was amazing, and unbelievably  beautiful. President Rossevelt started our national park system. He thought everyone should have a chance to see the majesty of the US.

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What is the US west without a buffalo?

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The zany wasn’t to be under estimated. This is the wood chipper from the movie Fargo in Fargo, ND

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Road art. My husband is in the picture for scale. This is a family of pheasants. A large family in more ways than one. There are 8 of these type of sculptures along this road.

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Who knew that Rigby, ND was the Geographical center of North America? I do now.

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We also managed to get in a little culture while we were in Medora, ND. It included singing, dancing, and cowboys on horseback all in an outdoor theater with social distancing.

All in all, I would recommend a visit to the US’s least populared state. It had a lot to offer.

Have you ever been somewhere you thought wouldn’t have much to offer and found there was plenty to do?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Difference in Style and the Lost Fingernail

Fairly early on in the advent of covid-19, my husband’s employer switched over to having their staff work remotely. Immediately Hubby and I, erroneously, thought that meant we’d have some time to get projects done around the house. In our defense, when we first got married he worked from home almost all the time, and there seemed to be quite a bit of time for us to do things together. Since then, however, he’s been given a new position and before the lockdown had been working in the office again.

That’s why I had really no idea just how incredibly busy he had become during the day!

Yet, that didn’t stop him from deciding at least one of the projects we’d talked about was definitely going to get done. Of course, he chose the most labor intensive one on the list. Which is why I now have a fingernail that looks as though I still bite my nails, and am gazing (with some dismay) at the insides of my (messy) kitchen cupboards.

My poor fingie!

In his infinite wisdom, Hubby decided we’re going to refinish those cupboards, and I somewhat reluctantly agreed.

Now, there are a couple of things you need to understand about us.

He’s decisive and a go-getter.

I think everything to death before taking it on and, while I’m not afraid of hard work, I guard my time and energy jealously.

He consistently underestimates the amount of time a project will take, while I subscribe to Murphy’s Law, knowing that if something can go wrong, and mess up the timeline, it will.

We’re both thrifty in our own ways, which should be a plus but, in this case, really isn’t.

We agreed that a kitchen remodel wasn’t necessary, but the horrible old stain job had to go.

I suggested we clean and sand the wood and paint the cupboards, knowing that will be quicker and easier. I also thought it would brighten the room.

He was horrified.

In Hubby’s world, solid wood cupboards should never, ever be painted. He likes dark wood, and that’s what he wanted again.

While I was still pondering all of this, and thinking it’s the kind of job best left for when it gets cooler, and he can take a week off, he suddenly just…started.

Without any kind of preamble, or warning.

He just went outside, came back with a screwdriver, and start taking cupboard doors off.

I. Was. Not. Ready!

At least the division of labor makes some sense—he does the initial stripping and sanding, while the detailed sanding is mine.

However, I didn’t factor in just how bad the previous job had really been, and the effect of the sandpaper on my nails, which are super-soft to begin with. I’m now in danger of having the quick of my index fingernail start to bleed.

And he didn’t factor in how often he’d be interrupted by work, or heat (we’re working in our garage, which doesn’t have AC, and summer in Florida is no joke!), or side projects he deems have to be done right away.

I, however, am left looking at the list of chores I had planned for the week, knowing they won’t get done.

Because now that we’ve started, I want this over with ASAP.

And there’s really no end in sight.

Update: This was written a week ago, in hopes getting one thing off my to-do list would make me feel better, and I’m sorry to report, things haven’t improved much. Cupboard doors are stripped, but the drawers aren’t even out in the garage yet, and the main inside job—the stripping of the actual bases—hasn’t even started!

Work is kicking his butt, and I’m immersed in final edits.

I’ve been waking up early to get outside while it’s not yet a hundred degrees, and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m NOT a morning person.

I’m going to use this blog post to remind myself that sometimes it really is better to pay the professionals to do these big jobs…although I doubt I’ll get Hubby to agree. Handyman sorts never like to hand over the reins to others!

Wish me luck!

If you’re still looking for a tropical summer read, Best Friend to Doctor Right is an island set, friends-to-lovers romance with a cast of characters that’ll make you smile, laugh and maybe even cry, but just a little…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Everything Old Is New Again by Amy Andrews

So….I’ve been busy this year re-editing, re-covering and re-releasing some old Harlequin medical romance titles to which I’ve had some rights reverted. It’s been super exciting and super interesting. I’m learning a lot as I step into the unknown – indie publishing. Eep!

This is what’s out so far! And, as you can see, they can all be read for FREE if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited!

KUbooks

Prognosis Temporary used to be Rescued By The Dreamy Doc

Prognosis So Done used to be The Surgeon’s Meant-To-Be Bride

Prognosis Baby Daddy used to The Italian Count’s Baby

And, on Sept 8th this one will be out –

PrognosisIncompatible

Prognosis Incompatible used to be An Unexpected Proposal.

There’ll also be a Christmas book out in Nov/Dec and a few more books out next year – yay! 🙂

So…if you’re after some vintage Amy Andrews with an upgrade, then click on the title hyperlinks for the blurbs and you can one-click while you’re there 😉

Thank you so much for your continued report and happy reading!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Welcome Shelley Rivers

Hey everyone! I’d like to introduce you to our newest medical author Shelley Rivers. I’ve asked her to share a little bit about herself so we can get to know her better. Please give her a warm welcome.     

Shelley Rivers

I discovered medical romance when:
I’ve been reading Mills and Boon novels since I was eleven years old. I was sick and bored so my mum handed over the Mills and Boon she had just finished. This was before they were too sexually explicit. And so my obsession with romance began.

I wrote my first story when:
I’m a reader first. Being a writer didn’t enter my head for years. But sometime during my twenties, I attempted to write something loosely resembling a love story. It involved an Italian millionaire, a gorgeous blonde model and hundreds of clichés. It was brilliantly awful, had no plot line, far too short and still holds a fond place in my heart.

Where do you live?
In a house in Dorset, England.

My best trait is:
I asked my family this question and they insist I’m caring and funny.

My worst trait is: I’m sorry but I really don’t suffer any bad traits. 😊 I just have unique personality quirks that may occasionally annoy people.

Five things on your bucket list:
This was hard because I don’t really do the bucket list concept where you make a note of things you want to do at some point in the future. I think it’s important to do the dreams in your heart and not put them off for years. If this year has taught us one thing, I hope it’s that.

Anyway, here are my five things.
1) Travel to Ireland and wander around castles and medieval ruins while dreaming up wonderful historical stories that I will one day write.
2) Adopt more greyhounds. Though this may upset the princess hound I already spoil. My aim is to slip into old age with more animals around me than people.
3) Name an Irish race horse. My dad loved horse racing so it would be lovely to do this in his memory.
4) Tango badly on a deserted beach on a cloudy day.
5) Laugh with a loved one beneath the Northern Lights.

 

Shelley Rivers book

Alex Morsi:
Heartbreaker…or heart-healer?
The lush Dorset countryside is just what veterinary nurse Kiki Brown needs to regroup after her broken engagement. What she doesn’t need is grumpy-but-gorgeous new boss local vet Alex Morsi and the temptation of his sweet kisses! Yet the shadows in Alex’s eyes are all too compelling for soft-hearted Kiki. She’s been let down badly before, but can Alex prove that he’s the man who will always be by her side?
Release date July 2020

 

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

Friends on the Long Road to Publication

NA CoverIt is hard to believe that I am getting to write the blog post for my second Mills and Boon Medical! An author may dream up the characters and write the stories, but, if they are lucky, the bumpy road to seeing their name on the cover of a book isn’t done alone. And I am incredibly lucky to have had more than a few people hold my hand or give me a shoulder to cry on when that long road felt never ending.

This book fulfills a promise I made years ago to my very first beta reader, Sarah. I always said that my first book had to be dedicated to my supportive husband, but if I was ever lucky enough to write more than one, the dedication would be to Sarah.

Sarah read works that have never, and may never, see the light of day. Though she is a good friend; she also never held back on telling me when something didn’t work, or when a hero was coming off a might (or a lot) evil! She cheered me on as rejections piled up and never hesitated to say she’d love to read what I had.

There are not enough words to say thank you for all Sarah read and her continued encouragement. But I hope this dedication makes a small dent in the enormous debt I owe her.

For Sarah, who lovingly read my early works and cheered me on.

An excerpt from Falling Again for the Single Dad – available September 1st: 

Chapter One

DR. ELI COLLINSS breath caught as he stared at the gaggle of new employees. The first night was always a bit disorienting for the new hires, and they tended to arrive in packs for the first week or so. A petite woman, with long dark hair, lagged behind the rest.

The graceful way she moved sent a pulse of need through him. Amara? He hadn’t seen her in years.

And he wasn’t seeing her now.

Still, Eli’s heart pounded as he tried, and failed, to control his reaction to the miniscule possibility she was here. Hope, need, love, all wrapped around him before pain dismissed the fantasy.

Amara Patel was the best part of his past—and the worst. Any time he saw someone who bore a vague resemblance to her, Eli would stare for just a moment. It was never Amara, but after nearly a decade of trying, he still couldn’t break the habit.

“The new crop of nurses and doctors start tonight.” Dr. Griffin Stanfred slapped Eli’s shoulder as he slid in front of him.

“I know.” Eli shifted, trying to catch another glimpse of the woman. But she’d disappeared with the rest of the group. He wanted to run after them, force his mind and heart to realize that the mystery hire was just another look-alike. A beautiful, graceful, jet-haired woman, a talented nurse or doctor, sure, but it wasn’t his Amara.

His—that was a ridiculous thought. Amara hadn’t been his for nearly a decade. It was just a symptom of Eli’s loneliness.

He had let his desire to be the perfect son of the great Dr. Marshall Collins cost him his happiness. At least he’d come to his senses before taking on a surgical residency he didn’t want. That decision had been the right one, but Marshall had refused to speak to Eli during the entire duration of his residency and subspecialty training or the years that came after.

Only after Eli had given a keynote address at the second-largest emergency medicine conference in the country, eight months ago, had his father reached out to him. Their relationship was still more professional than personal, but Eli couldn’t stop the hope that one day Marshall might finally soften toward him. If Eli just achieved enough…

He let his eyes linger on the staff lounge door for a moment longer. Eli took a deep breath. Amara wasn’t at his hospital—she couldn’t be.

She’d landed a job at a prestigious university research hospital a week before graduating with her nursing degree. And two weeks after they’d broken up. Eli had watched from the corner of the room as she celebrated with their friends.

He’d wanted to reach out to her, to tell her how proud he was, celebrate with her. But he’d worried that if he said anything, he would beg her to take him back. Instead, Eli had made his excuses and left the party. It was one of the many moments in his past he wished he could change.

But life didn’t have a rewind button.

Eli hadn’t gone into surgery, but every activity he did was weighed against what it could do for his career. How it would improve Boston General. Make the institution great. Get it noticed.

Get him noticed.

Because no matter Eli’s achievements, he couldn’t stop the questions about his father. Even when he was surrounded by emergency professionals, someone always asked if he was related to Dr. Marshall Collins. Their eyes inevitably widened when Eli admitted he was his son. And part of him evaporated as they peppered him with questions about his father’s legacy.

You’re enough…

Eli’s soul lifted a bit. Even after all these years, Amara’s voice still floated through his memories just when he needed it. That constant kept him sane and yet sometimes drove him mad.

Eli had considered calling Amara so many times. Just to check in, say hello. See if she’d like to catch up; if she’d gotten the life she wanted; if she’d moved on. But he couldn’t, because if she had, then the tiny ball of hope Eli had never managed to extinguish would die. His heart didn’t want to accept that final loss.

It was easier to imagine Amara in the ER than at home with a husband and family who loved her. Safer… They’d both believed emergency medicine was their calling. Even if he’d doubted it for a brief period.

“Gina quit. Took a job in Baltimore.” Susan Gradeson, the ER’s head nurse, sighed as she laid her laptop on the charging pad at the nurses’ station. “Luckily, one of the new hires agreed to take her shift.” Before Eli could ask any questions, Susan hustled away.

Boston General’s emergency room had one of the highest trauma rates in the nation. It was used by physicians and nurses as a launching pad to one of the nationally ranked academic hospitals that dotted the city. If only they were recognized on that list, then maybe the other hospitals wouldn’t have such an easy time siphoning away Boston Gen.’s talent.

Eli had been offered a position at several of those academic hospitals too. But he loved the chaotic nature of Boston Gen. He thrived on the constant challenges, and even took pleasure in turning down the jobs. He’d bring in the offer letter and let the staff help him draft a blistering no-thank-you note. Eli never sent those, but it was an excellent way to let his friends and colleagues blow off steam.

His cell dinged with an image of his niece, Lizzy. She was waving at the camera; her cheeks covered in chocolate pudding. Eli darted around the corner and video called his mother. She’d taken to the role of grandma the minute Lizzy was born. And she’d refused to allow him to hire a nanny when Lizzy came to live with Eli eight months ago. He didn’t know how he would have survived without his mom’s calming presence.

He’d never expected to be a father. Marshall hadn’t set a great example, but Eli was doing his best. Which mostly meant Googling everything and hoping the mistakes he made were minor. His insides relaxed a bit as Lizzy waved again. Lizzy looked a lot like her father—a man she’d never remember.

Eli pushed his grief away. The months since his brother’s passing had dulled the pain, but there were still moments where Eli had to remind himself that he couldn’t call Sam after a hard day. Or text him a celebratory note after an unexpected success.

At least he had Lizzy.

“Hi, cutie!” Eli cooed as his niece played with the chocolate pudding on her high chair tray. Lizzy needed a happy parent, not a concerned, uncomfortable uncle who was still terrified that he was going to screw everything up.

He smiled and laughed at her silly antics as worries niggled at the back of his brain. Eli never wanted Lizzy to see how terrified he was to be a father. He may not have planned to be a dad, but he couldn’t fail Lizzy now that he was.

“Did she eat any of that?” Eli shook his head as he stared at the messy, almost two-year-old.

“A bit.” His mother laughed. “I was just getting ready to put her in the bathtub. Figured she might as well have some fun. Every kid loves to play with pudding at this age. I’ve got pictures of you and—” she paused for just a moment “—and Sam covered in the sweet stuff.”

A nurse with dark hair passed by in Eli’s peripheral vision. Amara? She’d already slipped into a patient’s room by the time he turned to get a better look.

Why was his mind playing tricks on him tonight?

“Look!” Lizzy giggled as the pudding dripped off her fingers.

Focus, he reminded himself. Smiling at Lizzy, Eli shook his head. “You really are a mess—a cute mess.”

“Daddy!” Lizzy stuck her tongue out at the camera.

Eli’s stomach clenched. That title still felt off. Like he was robbing Sam somehow. “It’s Uncle Eli, sweetheart.”

“Daddy,” Lizzy repeated.

“Well, I’m going to get her cleaned up.” His mom offered a soft smile, though he could see her blink away a few tears. “It’s okay to be daddy, Eli. Maybe it’s what she needs. Sam would understand—even give you a hard time about it.”

“Probably.” Eli agreed, then waved one last time before his mother shut off the video connection. Eli wasn’t Lizzy’s father. Sam was…always would be.

But he was gone.

He’d been killed in a plane crash along with his wife, Yolanda, heading to a surgical conference, just as Lizzy was starting to say her first words.

Like Daddy.

Daddy… It held so much meaning. Eli still felt lost, but Lizzy was his responsibility. No, she was his daughter. When she was older, he would make sure that Lizzy knew as much about her parents as possible.

Sam was the good son, after all. The one who’d followed in his father’s footsteps, though he’d refused to take on any roles at his father’s research facility after Yolanda announced she was pregnant. It was unfair that Eli was now the one putting Sam’s daughter to bed, getting to watch silly pudding videos, planning her future.

And hearing the word Daddy.

When Sam and Yolanda had asked him to be Lizzy’s guardian less than a week after her birth, Eli had agreed without thinking about it. But he’d never expected to take custody of Lizzy. He loved Sam, though watching him with his wife and daughter had always sent a wave of jealousy through him. But Eli’s goals didn’t include a family.

Hadn’t included a family.

In the horrid days after the accident, Eli had held their sleeping child feeling devastated. But he’d sworn to raise her with all the love Sam had shown for her. Somehow, Eli was going to be both an amazing father and a top emergency room doctor. The patients and Lizzy came first. He could do this—he had to.

Turning, he stared at the room where the dark-haired nurse had disappeared a few minutes ago. Eli didn’t think she’d exited yet. If a patient was being difficult, she might need help. That was why he was moving toward the room. Not because he needed to prove to himself that it wasn’t Amara.

Just before he got to the door, Susan grabbed his arm. “I’ve got a kid in room 7 that needs stitches and an elderly man in 4 that probably needs to be admitted for pneumonia. Any chance you can clear either of them out of my ER?”

Your ER?” Eli echoed. “Last time I checked, I was the senior doctor on staff this evening.”

“That supposed to mean something?” Susan quipped as she marched toward another room.

That was Eli’s running joke with Susan. The head nurse had worked at Boston General longer than anyone, and she ran a tight ship. Everyone fell in line when Susan Gradeson ordered it.

Eli looked over his shoulder one last time. But the nurse, or more likely, the figment of his imagination, still hadn’t materialized.

He tried to convince himself that it wasn’t Amara. It wasn’t.

Eli had a few hours left on his shift. He’d see the dark-haired woman before he went home. Then his brain could stop hoping that a miracle had occurred. He had never stopped loving Amara, but that was a feeling he’d learned to live with.

***

Amara held her breath as Dr. Eli Collins finally walked away from the room where she was hiding. Her pulse rate was elevated, and she could feel the heat in her cheeks. Eli was here…here.

She’d already double-checked on the patient, a young woman waiting on her release papers following a minor fender bender. Amara had gone over the concussion protocol with her and made sure she knew the indicators for internal bleeding. Now Amara was hovering. Her stomach twisted as she tried to work out what to do.

She’d left Massachusetts Research after her relationship with Dr. Joe Miller had crashed and burned in full view of all her colleagues. No matter how high she’d held her head, there’d been whispers when Joe immediately started dating her ER colleague Kathleen Hale. Louder whispers when they’d eloped a few weeks later.

Amara had been considering a change for years. If Joe’s affair was the catalyst for it, so what? But now she was facing working with another ex—and she’d never fully recovered from their breakup…

Amara was independent. That was the word she used to describe herself. Independent…that word sounded so much better than afraid of commitment. Terrified of losing your dreams to someone else’s goals. Of disappearing in the one relationship where you were supposed to stand out.

That was the fear that had driven her to walk away from Eli. It had been the right choice. But it didn’t stop the regret that sometimes seeped deep into her bones as she lay awake at night. They wouldn’t have worked. It was the mantra she’d repeated for years. He wanted to chase glory, like her father. Eventually, that need destroyed everything it touched.

She’d watched her mother give all of herself to her father. All her dreams, her goals had been sacrificed to support him. And she’d gotten almost nothing in return.

Even after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Amara’s father hadn’t put away his bid to secure funding for his newest start-up. Her mother had fought for her life without her husband by her side. And it had been Amara holding her hand at the end, not the man she’d stood beside for nearly forty years.

The patient coughed, and Amara’s cheeks heated again. The young woman hadn’t commented on her extended presence—yet, but she was watching Amara count the supplies in the cabinet. Amara made a note to restock the extra-small gloves, and wanted to shake herself.

Coward! her brain screamed. She should march out of the room and pretend that Eli was just any other doctor on the ER floor.

Boston General was supposed to be her fresh start. Her new place.

And Eli was here.

Did he still have to look so handsome?

Amara hated the selfish thought. Eli had been gorgeous in college, and the last decade had been very kind to the man. No beer belly or receding hairline for him. No, he was still the tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired medical student that had been every woman’s dream date. Except now, he was an ER doctor. Not a surgeon.

Joy tapped across Amara’s skin. Eli had evidently followed his own path. That didn’t make it any easier to walk out the door and say hello, but she was surprised by how much it warmed her heart.

Amara once believed they’d grow old together. That they’d work in the same ER and go home to a small house with a couple of kids. It had been a good fantasy, and for a short period, she thought those dreams were enough for Eli too. But what was a happy home life compared to medical glory?

Amara’s heart clenched as she forced the past away.

What was Eli doing at Boston General?

She’d assumed he’d gone to Chicago. It was ridiculous, but every year she checked the online annual hospital report to see if he was listed with the other top surgeons. He’d wanted to be like his father so much, but working at Boston Gen. wasn’t likely to land Eli on that list.

In a city full of prestigious academic hospitals, Boston Gen.’s administration wasn’t interested in attracting investors that would make demands that took resources away from the hospital’s patients. Which meant it was chronically underfunded in its quest to provide quality care. Eventually, many of its talented physicians and nurses sought out the hospitals with research dollars, beautiful new buildings and better hours.

The low retention rate for employees at Boston Gen. was well-known. It was one of the reasons why, when Amara figured she needed a change to jump-start her life, she’d applied here.

If she’d known Eli was working at this hospital… She forced that thought away. It didn’t matter. Amara was not going to be another retention statistic on Boston Gen.’s ledger.

Squaring her shoulders, she marched from the room and ran directly into the head nurse, Susan.

“Sorry!” Amara grabbed her to keep them from tumbling to the floor. She instinctively looked over Susan’s shoulder. Eli was gone—at least he hadn’t witnessed her bout of clumsiness.

What would he say when they finally crossed paths?

Amara ignored that thought. She didn’t want to think about Eli, now. Or ever, though there was little hope of that.

“No harm done…?” Wrinkles ran along Susan’s forehead as she stared at her.

“Amara,” she said helpfully. She’d stepped in at the end of their orientation yesterday when Susan had announced that the ER was short-staffed for this evening’s shift. Amara doubted the head nurse had even bothered to write her name down before rushing back to her post.

She looked around Susan one more time and then mentally chastised herself. Amara needed to get Eli out of her head.

“Looking for someone?” Susan raised an eyebrow.

“A doctor… I…no,” she stuttered.

Amara suspected Susan knew she was lying, but at least she didn’t press her. “While we have a lull, I wanted to see if you’d help with the health fair in a few weeks. All the hospital’s departments have a few booths. Several of the ER doctors always run their own. There is a competition—the winner gets two extra vacation days.”

Eli would love that. He’d thrived in competitive environments in college—always pushing himself to come out on top. But Amara hadn’t been the right prize. She knew that wasn’t fair, but a decade later, she still woke up from dreams where he was holding her. Her subconscious refused to give up the whisper of hope Amara was too scared to voice while awake.

Pain rippled up her spine, but she ignored it. Amara was starting a new chapter, and it did not include Dr. Eli Collins. Straightening her shoulders, she gave Susan her full attention. “Put me down for whichever booth needs help.” Her voice didn’t sound as strong as she wanted, but at least it was a start.

A man walked behind Susan, and Amara made sure to keep her gaze focused on the head nurse. She was not going to look for Eli again—she wasn’t.

“You might want to get to know the doctors who are participating first. Like I said, this helps the community, but the competition…”

Amara waved away Susan’s concerns. “It’s fine. I don’t need extra vacation time.” Her father and his new wife lived in California now, and she had no desire to visit.

Not that she’d been invited.

Jovan Patel had barely waited until her mother was gone to set a wedding date. No long mourning period for him.

“We’ve got a four-car pileup coming in!” one of the nurses cried as she ran past Amara and Susan.

Susan turned and yelled, “Dr. Collins was talking to his daughter over by room 3, but he might be in room 7, putting in a few stitches now, and Dr. Stanford is in room 6.”

Amara’s insides chilled. Eli had a daughter. Perhaps even a wife. Her heart raced as she headed for the ambulance bay doors. It was her body prepping for the incoming wounded, not because of Eli.

How simple would life be if she could believe that?

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets

Of Cats and Other Things

Meet the love of my life.

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His formal name is Akira Purrosawa, after one of my favorite film directors. His informal names include Hobbes, Hobbsey-Wobbsie, Widdle Kitty Widdershins, His Nibs, and Wee Baby. Among others.

Mostly, we call him Kitty.

Kitty is probably the handsomest member of my family. He definitely has the most charisma. I’ve never seen him get self-conscious when he walks into a room, which is more than I can say for myself.

But he’s getting on in years, and so three days ago, I bought him an expensive water fountain to help him stay hydrated. If you have a cat of your own, then you already know that the amount of money one spends on an item for a cat is inversely related to how much the cat actually uses that item. I believe this is Newton’s Third Law of Cats. It’s not a total loss: he adores the box the fountain came in.

I’ve tried changing the water settings. I’ve tried putting treats near the fountain. I’ve tried getting down on all fours to show him how the fountain is supposed to work (I will not be sharing pictures of this). But no dice. Kitty is not interested. He doesn’t care that this fountain is better for his health. All he knows is that there is a Strange Thing in his Territory, and he didn’t ask for it to be put there, and he can’t make it go away.

As frustrated as I am with trying to get him to drink from this fountain, I also get it. I’m tired of change, too.

I began working from home in March, and I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do my job online. But at the time, making the change from going to an office every day to working out of a corner of my bedroom was terrifying. I didn’t know that everything was going to be all right, or that some things might even be better now that I was online. All I knew was that a Strange Thing was happening, and I didn’t ask for it, and I couldn’t make it go away.

I think that’s the hardest part about change: you can’t control it. And a lot of the time, that’s ok. Sometimes it’s actually better not to have control, because things end up working out better than expected. But I know that I usually appreciate that most in hindsight, rather than while I’m going through a change.

When I have the advantage of hindsight, maybe I’ll be able to appreciate how I’ve spent significantly more time with my partner over the past few months. Or how I’ve had more time to write, now that I’m not commuting. Or how my values have become clearer to me during a time of much-needed social change.

Or perhaps, instead of waiting for hindsight, I can simply accept the changes and appreciate those things now.

After all, that’s essentially what I’m asking my cat to do. A fountain may seem like a small thing, but he’s such a habitual creature that it’s a huge alteration to his world. And yet I’ve caught him taking tentative laps a couple of times, before skittering off to hide from the Scary Thing that Gives Water. This is better for you, I want to tell him. This is just a change. It’s normal. It’s part of life.

I try to remember that, too, while working from home. It’s just change. It’s normal. It’s part of life.

So Kitty and I are both working on coping with change. I’m not sure which of us has it easier at the moment. Probably Kitty: at least he doesn’t have any writing deadlines. But if anyone has ideas about how to make a cat fountain more appealing, I know that Kitty would love some tips.

Update: SUCCESS! About an hour after I finished writing this post, I noticed Kitty staring at his fountain. I stood next to him and he just hunkered down against my leg for about 5 minutes. looking at the fountain and then back at me. Then he slooowly began to paw at the water, and ended up taking a long drink. And I realized something that I completely forgot as I was writing my post, which is that change is far easier to handle when you have a friend around.