Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Pups That Make Miracles – a New Four Book Christmas Continuity

 

by Susan Carlisle

If you like the idea of Christmas in Scotland, love dogs, castles, and damaged characters who find their happily-ever-after this new continuity is for you.

It all takes place at Heatherglen Castle that has been turned into a physical therapy clinic that specializes in pet therapy as part of the recovery. In conjunction with the clinic is a veterinary clinic on the estate that cares for the dogs and a staff that trains them.

Annie Claydon, Annie O’Neil and Karin Baine and I make up the authors of the continuity. I had the honor of writing the first book. (No pressure there!) Below you will find an excerpt from my book Highland Doc’s Christmas Rescue. It will be out on November 1.

Look for more excerpts from the other books in the near future.

Warning: In these books there is snow on the ground, Christmas in the air and love to be found at Heatherglen Castle Clinic.
Highland Doc's Christmas Rescue (Pups that Make Miracles Book 1)

AS THE TAXI rolled up the rise Cass Bellow looked out the window at the snow-blanketed Heatherglen Castle Clinic in northern Scotland. Why had she been sent here?
MORE THAN ONCE she’d questioned her doctor’s wisdom in transferring her to this private clinic for physical therapy. Weren’t there plenty of other places in warmer climates? Particularly in her native US. Or, better yet, couldn’t she have just gone home and handled what needed doing on her own? But, no, her doctor insisted she should be at Heatherglen. Had stated that he sent all his patients with extensive orthopedic injuries there. He declared the place was her best hope for a full recovery. Finally, at her argument, he’d bluntly told her that if she wanted him to sign off on her release she must complete her physical therapy at Heatherglen.
As the car came to a stop at the front door she studied the Norman architecture of the building with its smooth stone walls and slate roof. The place was huge, and breathtaking. There were more chimneys than Cass had a chance to count. This place was nothing like what she’d expected. Though it was early November, festive Christmas wreaths made of greenery and red bows already hung on the outside of the lower floor windows. They further darkened her mood.
When she had been given the search and rescue assignment assisting the military after an explosion in Eastern Europe, she had never dreamed she’d end up in traction in an army hospital on a base in Germany. Her shattered arm and leg had finally mended, but she needed physical therapy to regain complete use of them. Now she’d been sent to this far-flung, snowy place to do just that. All she really wanted was to be left alone.
She opened the cab door and wind blasted her. Despite the heat coming from the still running car, she shuddered. As Cass stepped out, one of the large wooden castle doors, decked with a huge Christmas wreath full of red berries, opened. A tall man, perhaps in his mid-thirties, with the wide shoulders of an athlete stepped out. With rust-colored hair and wearing a heavy tan cable sweater and dark brown pants, he looked like the epitome of what she thought a Scottish man should be. As he came down the few steps toward her, he smiled.
“Hello, you must be Ms. Cassandra Bellow. I’m Dr. Lyle Sinclair, the medical director here at Heatherglen. You may call me Lyle.”
His thick Scottish brogue confirmed her earlier thoughts. Yet she was surprised by the way the sunny cheerfulness of his voice curled around her name, nudging at her icy emotions. Irritated, she pushed that odd notion away. This doctor was far too happy and personable for her taste. Her goal was to do what must be done with as little interaction with others as possible. She planned on nursing her wounds in private.
“Yes, that’s me.” To her satisfaction her flat, dry tone dropped the brightness of his smile a notch. If she could just get to her room and collapse she’d be happy. Her right side was burning from the ache in her arm and the agony of putting her full weight on her right leg.
“Flora McNeith, the physiotherapist whose care you’ll be under, couldn’t be here to greet you and asked that I get you settled in.” Concern filled his face. “Do you need a wheelchair? Crutches?”
“No, I can walk on my own. Run, that’s another thing.” She pulled at her jacket to stop the biting flow of air down her neck.
A light chuckle rolled out of his throat and over her nerve endings. “I understand. Then let’s get inside out of this weather.” He looked up at the sky. A snowflake landed on the dark red five o’clock shadow covering his cheek.
Cass averted her eyes and gave the cobblestone drive, cleared of snow, a searching look. It was farther than she wanted to walk, yet she wouldn’t let on. The three steps up to the door looked even more daunting.
All she needed was fortitude to make the walk and climb those steps. She had plenty of that. Soft snowflakes continued to drift down as she took a deep breath and steeled herself to put one foot in front of the other. With another silent inhalation, she started toward the entrance. Dr. Sinclair walked beside her.
She managed the first two steps with no mishap but the toe of her short boot caught the edge of the last one. Grabbing at air, Cass finally found the fabric covering Dr. Sinclair’s arm. She yelped with the effort to hold on. Being right-handed, she’d instinctively flailed out that arm and immediately regretted it. Pain shot through it, but not as sharp as it had been weeks earlier. She gritted her teeth, thrusting out her other arm to ease the fall.
Instead of tumbling onto the steps, her body was brought against a hard wall of human torso. The doctor’s arm circled her waist and held her steady. Her face smashed into thick yarn. A hint of pine and smoke filled her nose. For some reason it was reassuring.
“Steady on, I’ve got you.” His deep burr was near her ear.
Cass quickly straightened, getting her feet under her even though pain rocked her. She refused to show it, having already embarrassed herself enough. Her lips tightened. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
Glancing at him, she got the weirdest impression that the concern in his eyes had nothing to do with her physical injuries, as if he was able to see her true pain. That was a crazy idea. She shook that odd thought off and focused on where she was.
Taking a third fortifying breath, Cass stepped into the massive foyer.
No way was she going to let him see the effort it took to keep walking. She’d lived through much worse.

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Pets

Bit of a milestone by Kate Hardy

Kate HardySo my last few blog posts have been about my run for cancer research. I kind of hope you’d like to hear the last one in that – I did it! Sunday May 12. It was hot, some of the route was on a camber (so I walked that bit – otherwise there would have been a trip and a wrecked ankle), and I hate running outside. (I hate running, full stop. But outside is much worse than the gym.) 10k – or six miles – is a very, very long way. But, clad in my T-shirt and hat and tutu (!), and with my tech sorted out so I actually had music (I could NOT have done it without that), I did it. Took me 89 minutes (I have short legs so I’m slow), but I did it. And I raised £1325, so a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored me. But the big takehome? I was listening to Coldplay’s Up&Up as I crossed the finishing line, in fact to the very last words of the song. And they were very, very appropriate: NEVER GIVE UP.

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So even if something feels like a challenge (and, as I’m not a runner, a 10k run was a huge challenge for me), don’t give up. Believe in yourself and keep trying.

As well as that, I’ve been busy with other things – learning ballet! I’ve rather fallen in love with ballet, and my local theatre sent me an email after Swan Lake asking me if I wanted to join their adult beginners’ class. Absolutely! I’m not sure if it’s the gorgeous music, or the fact I have to concentrate on the teacher’s instructions, but after class I feel totally chilled out. (And then there’s the obligatory coffee and scone with my classmates afterwards…)

imageI’ve also been working hard, and I’ve reached another writing milestone this month with the publication of my my 85th M&B! A Nurse and a Pup to Heal Him does what it says on the tin 😉 It’s about a GP, a nurse and her PAT (pets as therapy) dog, and it’s set in my part of the world; and, although the dog on the cover is gorgoeous, the dog between the covers owes more to this one… 😉

 

 

 

And this picture was taken at the weekend in ‘Great Crowmell’ (aka Wells-next-the-Sea, my mash-up Norfolk seaside village). This is very much our happy place – the beach stretches for miles. The sky looks a bit dramatic, but it was actually a gorgeous afternoon and very warm.

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Where’s your happy place?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

An Irrational Fear

I’m afraid of dogs.  I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been, but I’m told it all started when I was three years old.  An incident with a very large dog and an owner, who thought that trying to force a screaming terrified child to hug her dog was a good idea, left me physically unhurt but not without scars.  To this day, man’s best friend is still capable of filling my heart with terror.

Things have got better over the years.  When I was little, I went through phases of having to be dragged out of the house, I was so afraid I might meet a dog.  My mother would put pepper dust onto the soles of my shoes, telling me that it would keep dogs away from me.  (I’m not sure that this was a wholly practical proposition but I believed it because my Mum had told me in no uncertain terms that it was true, and it gave me the confidence to walk to school on my own.)  In my teens, I’d avoid streets where I knew ‘monsters’ lived, and cross the road if I saw someone approaching me with a dog on a lead.

In my twenties, I made a breakthrough.  On a long train journey I fell into conversation with a couple who were blind, each of whom had a guide dog.  These beautiful, placid creatures didn’t seem so very bad to me, and after a while I gathered up the courage to ask if I might touch one of them.  They agreed, giving their dogs a command to sit still, so that I could reach out and stroke them.  I’ll always remember this couple, who so generously helped me face my fears and shared in my achievement.

And… it’s better now.  I walk wherever I please, and if I give dogs a wide berth, and sometimes jump when one takes notice of me, then so be it.  But here’s the thing.  It’s an irrational fear.  Annie O’Neil’s gorgeous, gentle Bernese Mountain Dog failed to scare me even slightly, even though I’m sure he was bigger than me!  Another friend has a Red Setter, whose main aim in life seems to be to knock visitors over and lick them to death, and I can deal with that.  I adore Kate Hardy’s and Lynne Marshall’s Facebook posts about their dogs, and have been known to reach out and stroke them on my computer screen.  But at times, even the tiniest dog can have me racing for cover, and I can’t be persuaded to approach it.

The only answer I have for loving owners who push their dogs towards me, telling me that I can’t possibly be afraid of their dog, is that yes actually, I can.  I have no idea why some dogs scare me and some don’t, but I’m always immeasurably grateful to those owners who allow me to keep my distance if I need to and approach their dog in my own time.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to respect other people’s fears.  To accept that it takes courage to face them, and and that everyone needs to be able to dictate what they can and can’t do.  In every other area of my life, I can assess risk and use logic to decide what I should and shouldn’t be afraid of.  I’ll pick up the biggest spider from the bathtub and carry it carefully out of the house, I know that flying is statistically a very safe form of transport… and so on.  But this is a fear I can’t explain, and if it doesn’t make much sense to anyone else I guess that’s the thing about irrational fear…

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that after all this I’d tell you that I don’t like dogs.  But strangely enough I love dogs.  I’ve always wanted one, even though I know it’s impossible.  Imagine me at a puppy training class 🙂  Or in the park, when another dog wanders innocently up to make friends with mine 🙂  But if anyone’s ever wondered why so many of my heroes and heroines have dogs of their own…  well they’re my dogs.  The ones I can’t have in real life, but can love and look after on the page.  Bruno, the retired rescue dog, who has the courage to save his master.  Trader, who’s at his mistresses side when she’s alone and frightened.  Jeff the faithful friend who’s been with his master through thick and thin, Maisie the mountain rescue dog, and Arthur the beagle puppy.  They all mean a great deal more to me than just four-legged characters in a story.

I have to admit that it’s taken a bit just to write about my irrational fear, and I’m not sure that I understand it any better.  Do you have an irrational fear?  I guess that everyone has something…  And can you explain it?  I’d love to hear what you think!

Pets

Goodbye to a dear friend.

Gus snoozing in the conservatory
Gus snoozing in the conservatory

Last Saturday my dog, Gus, reached the end of the road. He was fourteen years-old and he had been showing his age for a while but I had just kept hoping that a miracle would happen. Sadly, it didn’t.

I got Gus at a particularly difficult time in my life. I had recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow, and the prognosis wasn’t good. My old dog had died while I was in hospital and I assumed that was it, that I would never own another dog; however, my daughter thought differently. They say that parents know their children but children also know their parents and Vicky certainly knows me inside out. ‘You need another dog,’ she told me firmly. ‘Not a pup, but an older dog for company.’

I protested that it wasn’t the right time, that I wasn’t well enough to look after a dog, that I didn’t need the hassle when it took me all my time to look after myself, but Vicky would have none of it. She and Jamie, my lovely son-in-law, whizzed me off to a rehoming centre and insisted that I looked around. I did so reluctantly, determined that I wasn’t going to give in. And then I saw Gus, a nine year-old, black brindle Cairn terrier, and that was it – I knew I had to have him.

Gus settled in immediately. Although he’d had several previous homes, he obviously felt that he belonged to me from the outset. So long as he knew I was there, he was happy. As for me, well, I am in no doubt that Gus helped to save my life. I had to get fit, I had to keep going because Gus depended on me, so slowly but surely I regained both my fitness and my confidence.

Soon Gus and I were going for long walks over the fields together, playing ball in the garden, and snuggling up on the sofa to watch television each evening. The future that had seemed so bleak just months before now looked very different. Maybe my cancer couldn’t be cured but, by heaven, I could still enjoy life! I decided that I would get the most out of each and every day whether it was going for a walk, playing with my grandchildren or writing. I had such a lot to be thankful for, such a lot to look forwards to as well.

So will I get another dog at some point? I said I wouldn’t but in my heart I know that I will. I don’t think I’ll have a choice actually seeing as Vicky is already checking the websites of several local rehoming centres!