Author Archives: newromantics4

Scotch on the Rocks by Lizzie Lamb and November Book at the Door Winner

Many thanks to Jessie of Behind the Willow for organising this giveaway for me. I loved her review of Scotch on the Rocks and I hope you do, too.

Behind the Willows

And the winner is:

I won a Book at the Door with Behind the Willows

Anyes from Far Away in the Sunshine!

Anyes will need to watch her mail box because on it’s way is a brand new paper back copy of Scotch on the Rocks by Lizzie Lamb, the print of the first line artwork by Bradley Corbett and a fun packet of extra goodies sent along by the author!

Ishabel Stuart raced her car against the combined forces of time and tide, a thunderstorm snapping at her heels. Ishabel Stuart raced her car against the combined forces of time and tide, a thunderstorm snapping at her heels.

Lizzie Lamb writes humorous, contemporary romance, you can find her on her website, on Twitter and on Facebook. If you hop on over to any of those places you’ll see that it just so happens, that her books are on sale right now!

If she’s a new author to you, this is the perfect time to give her books a try.

I think they are just as good…

View original post 498 more words

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Welcome to our blog – SUE MOORCROFT

New Romantics Press is thrilled to welcome  successful author and fellow RNA member Sue Moorcroft to our blog. Lizzie has known Sue for quite a few years now (!) but thought some of our followers w…

Source: Welcome to our blog – SUE MOORCROFT

LOVE CAN’T BE HURRIED, NOR CAN A SECOND NOVEL

 

book2My second novel Twins of a Gazelle is out, a mere six months later than my NR4 co-conspirators’ got out their seconds, the other fab three, Adrienne, June and Lizzie. My small band of readers are probably wondering, ‘So, what took you so long?’ Taking my cue from The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”, I couldn’t hurry Twins of a Gazelle. No matter how hard I tried, I just had to take as long as it took. How(see below) will probably explain everything.

Way back in February, Sarah Houldcroft told us what every writer needs to know which is what readers want to know. I will do my best to answer her five questions.

What inspired you to write your novel?

Twins of a Gazelle began with a house nestling in the Leicestershire countryside. Over the years I have regularly driven past this house very much like the one in the picture. I thought, one day I shall write a story about the people who live there. Lonely, disillusioned, contrite Calista Blake and her charming, wealthy and manipulative husband Adam Burgess seemed ideal occupants. They began to haunt the house as they did my imagination. BUT, Calista needed to escape her comfortable prison and where better than to the enchanted Greek island of Ithaca where she becomes spellbound by PJ Wood.

????????????????????????

 

How, why and where do you write?

cat1 copyEasiest one first, where, here in my small back room. Not in a café, a library or on the kitchen table, an attention-seeking cat is distraction enough, though interruptions from The Long-suffering One with coffee or tea are always welcome.

 

Easier second, why, because I must or I would go ever so slightly madder.

How, slowly and with difficulty. I start with a character, to-date, a woman, clever, successful at what she does. Her flaw, to begin with, she is emotionally naïve. In both Twins of a Gazelle and Last Bite of the Cherry, the main character’s story-thread is interwoven with that of a second female character who started out as my heroine. On reflection, theirs was, for me, too straightforward, not so Calista’s in Twins of a Gazelle, nor Monica’s in Last Bite of the Cherry. I like to probe their character, their motivation, their psyche, find just the right words to convey their state of mind, their emotions, and the undercurrents beneath an-on-the-surface ordinary situation. All this is equally relevant to the men they fall in love with, the two or three or more ‘heroes’ before they find ‘the one’. To me all my heroes are lovable in their own way, even Adam. As a reader, please feel free to take your pick. My novels are so not boy-meets-girl, jump through a few hoops and then live happily ever after. For me, there are no endings, just new beginnings. At the end, I would like my readers to think, ‘Knowing them both as well as I do now . . .’ Maybe some do.

Afterthought: One of my reviewers of Last Bite of the Cherry wondered if the ending would have been ‘happy’ – to my mind it was more like ‘satisfying’ – if the main protagonist had been ‘poverty struck’. If I were to write about people struggling to make a living, feed their children, becoming homeless, that would be something quite else, which brings me to question 3.

Have you experienced first-hand any of the aspects in your books?

Well, I have been known to fall in love with unsuitable men, not unsuitable in themselves, just not for me. That’s character-building and informative. Makes you think ‘What do I really, really want?’ Answer: ‘Not this’. Also, many moons ago, I took myself by surprise by becoming pregnant. Now there’s a surreal experience. Anyone agree?

Did you base your character on a real person?

My characters come from my imagination based on many years’ observation of the way people are and behave towards each other. At social gatherings, events, meetings, airports, in trains, part of the time, most of the time I love sitting back people watching. Fascinating.

If so, was it you?

I suspect I do what most writers do which is imagine myself as the person I’m writing about at any given time, what they’re thinking, feeling, seeing and hearing, smelling, doing. I try my best to make it ‘real’. Then it’s me in so far as it’s what I may have thought, felt etc. in similar situations.

??????????Nuff said, I think. I shall now sail off into the sunset in PJ Wood’s sloop.

 

Mags, aka Margaret C.

 

LOVE CAN’T BE HURRIED…

…NOR COULD TWINS OF A GAZELLE, MY SECOND NOVEL!

Twins of a Gazelle MEDIUM (2)Twins of a Gazelle is out, a mere year and three months later than my New Romantics Press co-conspirators got out their seconds, the other fab three, Adrienne, June and Lizzie. My small band of readers are probably wondering, ‘So, what took you so long?’ Taking my cue from The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”, I couldn’t hurry Twins of a Gazelle. No matter how hard I tried, I just had to take as long as it took. How (see below) will probably explain everything.

Way back in March 2014, Sarah Houldcroft told us what every writer needs to know which is what readers want to know. I will do my best to answer her five questions.

1. What inspired you to write your novel?

Twins of a Gazelle began with a house nestling in the Leicestershire countryside. Over the years I have regularly driven past this house very much like the one in the picture [insert jpeg of Calista’s house]. I thought, one day I shall write a story about the people who live there. Lonely, disillusioned, contrite Calista Blake and her charming, wealthy and manipulative husband Adam Burgess seemed ideal occupants. They began to haunt the house as they did my imagination. BUT, Calista needed to escape her comfortable prison and where better than to the enchanted Greek island of Ithaca where she becomes spellbound by PJ Wood.

The Old Rectory

2. How, why and where do you write?

catEasiest one first, where, here in my small back room. Not in a café, a library or on the kitchen table, an attention-seeking cat is distraction enough, though interruptions from The Long-suffering One with coffee or tea are always welcome.

Easier second, why, because I must or I would go ever so slightly madder.

How, slowly and with difficulty. I start with a character, to-date, a woman, clever, successful at what she does. Her flaw, to begin with, she is emotionally naïve. In both Twins of a Gazelle and Last Bite of the Cherry, the main character’s story-thread is interwoven with that of a second female character who started out as my heroine. On reflection, theirs was, for me, too straightforward, not so Calista’s in Twins of a Gazelle, nor Monica’s in Last Bite of the Cherry. I like to probe their character, their motivation, their psyche, find just the right words to convey their state of mind, their emotions, and the undercurrents beneath an-on-the-surface ordinary situation. All this is equally relevant to the men they fall in love with, the two or three or more ‘heroes’ before they find ‘the one’. To me all my heroes are lovable in their own way, even Adam. As a reader, please feel free to take your pick. My novels are so not boy-meets-girl, jump through a few hoops and then live happily ever after. For me, there are no endings, just new beginnings. At the end, I would like my readers to think, ‘Knowing them both as well as I do now . . .’ Maybe some do.

Afterthought: One of my reviewers of Last Bite of the Cherry wondered if the ending would have been ‘happy’ – to my mind it was more like ‘satisfying’ – if the main protagonist had been ‘poverty struck’. If I were to write about people struggling to make a living, feed their children, becoming homeless, that would be something quite else, which brings me to question 3.

3. Have you experienced first-hand any of the aspects in your books?

Well, I have been known to fall in love with unsuitable men, not unsuitable in themselves, just not for me. That’s character-building and informative. Makes you think ‘What do I really, really want?’ Answer: ‘Not this’. Also, many moons ago, I took myself by surprise by becoming pregnant. Now there’s a surreal experience. Anyone agree?

4. Did you base your character on a real person?

My characters come from my imagination based on many years’ observation of the way people are and behave towards each other. At social gatherings, events, meetings, airports, in trains, part of the time, most of the time I love sitting back people watching. Fascinating.

5. If so, was it you?

I suspect I do what most writers do which is imagine myself as the person I’m writing about at any given time, what they’re thinking, feeling, seeing and hearing, smelling, doing. I try my best to make it ‘real’. Then it’s me in so far as it’s what I may have thought, felt etc. in similar situations.

‘Nuff said, I think. I shall now sail off into the sunset in PJ Wood’s sloop.

PJ's sloop

Extract from Twins of a Gazelle:

‘PJ Wood.’ She took the hand he extended. Not used to callouses her turn to recoil except she didn’t. ‘Everyone calls me PJ.  Not even my mother has the courage of her convictions.’ He spoke clear, educated English with just a hint of mid-Atlantic. She refused to ask why he was known by his initials.

‘Calista Blake. I mean Burgess.’ He took the chair opposite. Whilst he discussed with Marcos what he would eat and drink, she could observe him without seeming rude. Beneath his polo shirt, he was lean and sinewy, the ideal shape for a long-distance runner. She wondered how he earned his living. ‘Are you eating?’ He smiled across the table. His face lit by light from inside the taverna, his eyes startled her. They were the deepest lobelia-blue. ‘I’ve already eaten.’ Not very much, her insides had been a tangle of knots. The thought of spending the night up at the villa alone . . . Anyone would think she was not used to being on her own, and Kioni was the least threatening of places. ‘Only a salad,’ Marcos said. ‘Why don’t I get Petros to prepare you the mixed fish dish for two? PJ would like that.’ He agreed he would. She was tempted. The wine had helped her relax and the mezedhes had given her an appetite. A meal would prolong the time she could spend in company. Her eyes met PJ’s, his look as guarded as she felt.

Twins of a Gazelle, by Margaret Cullingford, available on Amazon –http://tinyurl.com/qj2hzlf

A Fresh Page

Lizzie, June, Mags and Adrienne ...plotting again!

Now the very last of the twinkly lights have been put away and before February crashes headlong into Valentine’s Day and then Easter, here’s a mini wrap up of 2014 for the New Romantics Press and a teeny peak at some of the very exciting plans, for what is going to be our fourth year as one of the literary world’s favourite indie groups! (Over-egged the last bit, slightly, but hey you know what we mean).

Lizzie, June and myself spent much of the start of 2014 promoting our latest novels, Boot Camp Bride (Lizzie Lamb); 20’s Girl and all that Jazz (June Kearns) and A Change of Heart (Adrienne Vaughan). Aided and abetted by Mags, who was busy editing her new one, Twins of a Gazelle.

Where's Mags . . .February 2014 – Lizzie, June and myself hosted a Meet the Author event at Waterstones, Market Harborough, which was a great success and resulted in lots of media coverage, including an in-depth interview with BBC Radio Leicester for Lizzie and I with the inimitable Tony Wadsworth and Julie Meyers, great supporters of the NRPs since day one.

As summer started to sizzle, the stunning Belmont Hotel invited Lizzie and I, to host a Literary Luncheon, where 30 plus ladies relaxed in the elegant restaurant, enjoyed lunch, readings and chatted about writing …and it wasn’t just the lunch that was saucy! Then, June’s talented film-maker daughter Mary, made a ‘fly on the wall’ video of us talking about our projects (see link here) which was amazing and really gave us a focus for the rest of the year.

July saw us flying the flag at the Romantic Novelist’s Association National Conference at the Harper Adams University in Shropshire, meeting many old friends and making lots of new ones. In September I was thrilled that A Change of Heart was shortlisted for the Best Author Published Read awards at the Festival of Romantic Fiction held at Leighton Buzzard – the highlight of which, was an impromptu dinner with best-selling, award-winning authors Katie Fforde, Liz Fenwick and Jo Thomas – what a hoot!

Following a series of ‘behind closed doors’ meetings we started to hatch a plan for our ‘global’ Author Showcase in London. And in a flash, November saw June, Lizzie and myself hosting a glitzy reception at Waterstones, High Street, Kensington kindly sponsored by June’s son Patrick and his partner Tom. (Sadly, Mags couldn’t make the gig due to a new knee, which is now coming on nicely, I’m happy to report.)

Who would you like me to dedicate it toTrundling towards the end of 2014, and the ‘World Premiere’ of the final novel in my Heartfelt trilogy Secrets of the Heart, held in the very cocktail bar in Dublin where the story opens, saw a merry crew of industry professionals, media, friends and family bandy together to welcome the arrival of my latest offering, which to date has been extremely well received. So, thank you all for your incredible support, it’s been amazing!

Phew! 2015 dawned full on and feisty, as we gathered for our first meet of the year, amid diaries, calendars and planners. Mags is due to publish Twins of a Gazelle next month, Lizzie’s latest romcom, Scotch on the Rocks, will be out in March – can’t wait for these two fantastic new novels – as myself and June continue, heads down, working on current WIPs.

We’re planning to attend as many events as possible. Word of Lizzie’s fantastic talk The Changing Face of Publishing last November at Leicester’s favourite ‘art house’ Phoenix Square, has started to spread and to date she is booked to talk at Lutterworth Writers Group on Tuesday March 24th and then on September 19th at the London chapter of the RNA. I’m booked to talk there too, a little earlier on 20th June. I’ve also been conscripted by the Society of Women Writers & Journalists to speak later this year – date to be confirmed

We’ll be supporting all our fabulous writer chums at the RNA Awards, the RoNAs on March 16th in London, and also have the RNA Conference in our sights for July, also in London.

And that lot is just the stuff we know about …looks like it’s going to be a quiet one again ladies – ahem!

Huge and grateful thanks to you all for your fabulous and continued support, and we’re all looking forward to seeing you at some stage this year …bring it on.

Author Event at Waterstones, Kensington, London brings another successful year to a close!

 

The Girls in the Band

 

We are happy to ask you to join us in celebrating an exciting and successful year for the New Romantics Press.

Adrienne’s story:

When you think about it, our story might not be amazing, show-stopping or world-breaking …but it is interesting. What started as June’s original concept: “Let’s hold a showcase for our work.” Quickly followed by Amanda Grange’s advice: “Publish independently and then you’ll have something to show.” Add Lizzie’s gritty determination to keep us all on track; my PR background and Mag’s literary connections and I must admit, as my third novel sits patiently in the wings (ready to be launched at the end of this month), I feel a tiny smidgen of pride for what we have achieved. Nine novels, each individually penned, and one anthology of short stories, to which Lizzie and I have contributed … in just two years, is not bad going. 

Add, excellent reviews, not-to-be-sniffed at sales and some fabulous author-events, topped off with our ‘packed-house’ showcase at Waterstones, Kensington earlier this month and well, it could all be deemed rather dazzling, and perhaps one could take just a second or two to rest on one’s laurels. Ah, what a team!

Not flippin’ likely. Bag about to be packed for the ‘World Premiere’ of Secrets of the Heart, to take place where the story opens, Neary’s Cocktail Bar, Chatham Street, Dublin 2 on Wednesday, December 3rd, 7.30pm – 9pm. See you there? Did I ever tell you, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” by Queen, is my anthem? 

*****

June’s story:

Too far out? Too close to the City.

Pub, Club? Bar or Bookshop.

When son Patrick and his partner Tom suggested hosting a launch for us in London, it set them off searching the streets for weeks – (a bit like trying to find a house, but cheaper.)

Tricky stairs, dicky lift. Too blow-all-of-the-budget? Ooh, no buzz. A little bit Rovers Return?

Then Adrienne wrapped it all up with her cracking connection – Waterstones!

And, it was wonderful – a real winner,(see pictures!)

Wine flowed, books were sold, lots of lovely people came to support us,(thank you, all of you!!) and, as you can see from those pics – apart from missing Mags and her fab new book – we all had A Jolly Good Time.

*****

Mags’ story:

At a Romantic Novelists Association conference I remember a talk by a Literary Agent with a fearsome reputation saying she expected her writers to be healthy, and had no time for sickly ones. How ruthless, how unfeeling, I thought, but as an Indie author-cum-agent-publisher I now understand her. I was gutted not to be able to join my three New Romantics mates, Adrienne, June and Lizzie at our Author Showcase at Waterstones Kensington just 4 weeks after I had a much-needed, total right-knee replacement. Although in my head I believed I could be there, it finally dawned – duhh, no way. To compound my disappointment, my second novel Twins of a Gazelle was ready to be uploaded as a paperback on Create Space, and as an eBook ready for the event. I believed as soon as I was home from hospital I would steam ahead with this. Well, what did I know about how I’d actually feel in the aftermath of surgery?

I published my debut novel Last Bite of the Cherry) in 2012, and my second, Twins of a Gazelle will be available, I hope, in a couple of weeks. I can’t claim either novel is ‘romantic’, though both have a similar theme – clever woman, emotionally naïve, initially makes disastrous choice of man (men) before meeting ‘The One’. Not the conventional Girl-Meets-Boy love stories, but about love in its many guises nevertheless. To quote the latest reviewer of Last Bite of the Cherry, “This wasn’t going to be a straightforward romance. There were darker layers to this story. I was intrigued.” (Sharon Booth, Amazon and Goodreads). I hope readers will be equally intrigued by Twins of a Gazelle.

*****

Lizzie’s Story:

We little thought when we published Tall, Dark and Kilted, The Hollow Heart, An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy and Last Bite of the Cherry two years ago that we would go on to write second and third novels. Nor did we imagine, even in our wildest dreams, that we would hold an Author Event in a top London Bookshop – yet that’s exactly what we’ve accomplished. How? Through team work, keeping our eye on the ever changing publishing world and having determination by the shedload. For me, the Waterstones evening was a personal and professional milestone. When I set out to become a published author I thought I’d be happy with a few paperbacks to give to friends and rellies at Christmas, and to have the satisfaction of seeing my work in print. Yet, here I am – with readers emailing how much they loved both books; and with an accountant who, when asked what I could do to make his life better, said: “Get another book out there.” No pressure then.

Writing is a bit like trying to climb K9 – just when you think you’ve reached the summit, there’s another hill to climb to break through the clouds and into the sunshine. I couldn’t have got this far without the help of my husband Bongo Man, my many friends and fellow writers. So . . . Thanks to everyone who came to our Waterstones gig, even the Russian gentleman in tracksuit and combat jacket who drank a bottle and a half of red wine, ate all of M&S canapés and then scarpered when asked to buy one of our books. I only hope he wasn’t a famous editor/agent in disguise – or one of Vladimir Putin’s henchmen.

*****

Thank you for helping us have such a terrific year and here’s to a wonderful 2015 for everyone!

(All photographs are the copyright of The New Romantics Press/Carole Matthews)

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New Romantics Press Author Showcase

img036

An ‘Author Showcase? So what, you ask?

Friends, let us tell you that four indie authors hosting an Author Showcase in a one of Waterstones flagship London bookstores is no mean feat. It has required determination on our part and the belief and open mindedness of Waterstones to ‘take us on’. On top of that, we’ve produced eight quality novels with proven sales records and have demonstrated our ability to deliver a night no one will forget.

This Author Showcase is the culmination of a dream. One which began two summers ago over lunch with Amanda Grange in Lizzie’s garden. Our path to publication is well documented in our blog but on November the thirteenth we will have exceeded what we hoped to accomplish on that bright summer’s day.

  • poster with live links removed (cropped)Written nine books between us
  • Created joint and individual blogs
  • Established a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn  and Pinterest
  • Hosted eight book launches
  • Presented two literary lunches for over twenty five guests
  • Fronted a Valentine’s Day event at Waterstones Market Harborough
  • Been short listed for awards at Lit Festivals
  • Appeared on writer panels telling others our road to publication
  • Created a professionally edited video of us and our achievements
  • All working to write, edit and publish our third/fourth novels in 2014 – 2015

There have been highs and lows on our journey. More highs than lows, overall, and we have kept moving forward. It’s been hard but rewarding work, but we have never lost sight of our main objective – to write the best novels we can and to share them with our expanding readership.

We see this Author Showcase as the culmination of that work and our dream. Thank you for sharing the journey with us.

waterstones kensington                                                        wstones HSK

NR4 Summer Celebration

September already! How the summer has flown by.  To celebrate the start of the new “school year”, we’ve made a short video about us and our writing – we hope you enjoy it.  And if you have a look below the “Loose Women,” you’ll find a few words from each of us about where we are with our projects.

 

~Lizzie Lamb

Two years ago I uploaded Tall, Dark and Kilted on Create Space and tentatively pressed the ‘GO’ button. That kick-started my adventure as an indie author and it’s been a whirlwind ride. I now have two books available on amazon, a raft of reviews, thriving social networking presence and a growing number of readers. It’s been hard work but I’ve done it and I’m proud to have travelled the road with my fellow New Romantics: June, Adrienne and Mags. What does the future hold for me? Hopefully a new novel published early 2015 and one a year after that. As I have said on my blog – Life is not a rehearsal, if you have a dream go for it. That’s what I’ve done.

~Mags Cullingford

Without Adrienne, June and Lizzie, my debut novel, Last Bite of the Cherry, was unlikely to have been published in 2012, nor would I be about to bring out my second (eBook and paperback), Twins of a Gazelle. Both have a similar theme – clever woman, emotionally naïve, initially makes disastrous choice of man (men) before meeting ‘The One’. Not the conventional Girl-Meets-Boy love stories, so not instantly appealing to agents or publishers, yet my select band of readers seem to have enjoyed Last Bite. Some say they look forward to my next novel. To quote Russell Grandinetti of Amazon, “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and the reader” [see The Observer, 17.08.2014]. With 30,000 words of as-yet-untitled novel number three in the bag, I hope he’s right.

~June Kearns

Firstly, a huge thank-you to the lovely readers who’ve bought, reviewed and supported mine, Lizzie, Adrienne and Mag’s books this year. You’ve been wonderful.

So … where am I now, with my current WIP?

Um, not quite where I was supposed to be.

My 1930s novel hadn’t been going well – piles of clean white paper glaring accusingly whenever I sidled past my desk.

Then a plea came, via Twitter, for 60’s memorabilia, and as I rummaged through bits and bobs – match-book covers from jazz clubs, Biba receipts, photos – BINGO! I had one of those bombshell moments, (the sort that usually strike in the middle of the night, only to be forgotten the next morning!)

This, I thought, is what I should be writing about. The Sixties!

So, in the next 6 months, I hope to be well on the way to completing a first draft of said novel – 60s London setting, photographer hero – while still keeping abreast of all strands of social networking (gulp) – because failure to do these things will result in being beaten with a big stick by Lizzie.

~Adrienne Vaughan

I recently rediscovered my ‘long lost novel’ aka first attempt, and was horrified to find I first typed ‘The End’ nearly 30 years ago!

It wasn’t until I hooked up with Lizzie, June and Mags, that this long ago dream finally came true. With two books published, The Hollow Heart and A Change of Heart, and the final in the trilogy, Secrets of the Heart, well underway, I am, at last, a novelist with readers who love my books! #followyourdream

 

WHEN I FALL IN LOVE . . .

The New Romantics 4 write romance in its many forms . . . romantic adventure/suspense, romantic comedy, historical romance and dark romance with a soft centre. It being Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d share the moment when our hero and heroines experience the coup de foudre which will change their lives . . . forever.

Read our extracts and let tell us . . . when did you know that you’d met the love of your life? 

Love

June Kearns

20s Girl Cover MEDIUM‘Take care of my heart, I’ve left it with you.’  Edward Cullen

True Love? Romance? Ha! Rare as hen’s teeth in England after the First World War. After a trip to Texas, (The 20’s Girl), Gerardina Chiledexter is sure she’s had her one and only glimpse of both.

Back home, she confides in her friend, Prim:

Minutes ticked by.

Then, a slow, slow shake of Prim’s head. ‘Oh … my … Lord.’ She folded arms across her chest.

‘What?’

‘You admire him, don’t you?’

‘No! No, not in that sort of …’

‘You do. You’ve fallen for him.’

Silence.

‘Well …’ Gerry  sighed ‘… what if I have? Nothing happened.’ A few lovely moments of closeness and understanding, a frisson of pleasure. Nothing more. ‘It’s the land that Coop loves, the Circle-O.’

‘I knew it. Oh, Gerry …’

Fallen? Gerry was thinking. Is that like casting yourself over a cliff? Out of control, tumbling, floating through air? How do you get back, then? Can a person ever recover?

If only he hadn’t kissed her.

She could have stayed as she was, a frustrated spinster, in her narrow monk’s bed. Like Prim and most other women here. All those slowly breaking hearts, under buttoned-up layers of woolly cardigans.

Must stop thinking about it, must, must. Such a bad idea. But thoughts kept running away, out of control. She’d forget, eventually, of course she would.

‘Mmmn, yes,’ she imagined herself saying, eons later, ‘of course. I remember it now. There was someone once. That man, the man with no last name. Wrong time, wrong person.’

How long would it take to reach that stage, that blessed blur of not remembering? Until then, whenever the urge to think of him came over her – his touch, his mouth, that kiss – she’d have to lie down and wait, until it passed.

Whatever it was, it was over. The end.

‘Anyway …’ she said brightly, to Prim. ‘I’m here now, aren’t I. I’m home.’

Home. With rain pecking at the windows and the entire rest of her life stretching out emptily, in front of her.

Never again, she said to herself. Never again.

Heart

Adrienne Vaughan

A Change of Heart Movie star, Ryan O’Gorman arrives unannounced on the island of Innishmahon, hoping to rebuild the relationship with the love of his life Marianne Coltrane. Marianne can’t believe he’s turned up, assuming their troubles are in the past, and though she’s never been happier to see anyone in life, she doesn’t want him to know that …just yet.

 “You mean you don’t want me here,” his voice was harsh in his throat. He laid a hand gently on her shoulder. It branded like an iron. She swallowed. She could smell him. He moved closer, his musky sea-scent filled her nostrils. She could not breathe. She ducked under his arm and found sanctuary by the kitchen door. She opened the top half, letting the breeze cool her. He came to stand beside her, following her gaze out past the little windblown garden, the gate to the lane and the sliver of sea beyond. Grey clouds broiled above the Atlantic.

“Marie,” he whispered, “tell me you want me back.” She did not answer. He stayed there, looking out to sea. She stole a glance at him as he watched the horizon, the breeze lifting his hair, thumb prints of tiredness stamped beneath his eyes. He caught her looking at him, and moved to block her view, lifting her chin with a finger, eyes burning into her.

“Well?” he lowered his mouth to hover over hers, she tasted his breath. She stepped back, slamming the top of the door closed.

“You’re wet. Go and shower, we’ll talk later,” she dismissed him.

“Did I do the wrong thing?” he asked again.

“Yes, Ryan you did,” she replied.

“Don’t you love me then?” he spoke quietly.

“Yes, Ryan I do,” she told him, avoiding his eyes.

“Gotcha!” he shouted, making them all jump. “Knew I was still in with a chance, can’t resist me, mad about me, that’s obvious.”

She picked a cushion up and threw it at him.

“Don’t get carried away, boyo, we’ve a lot to discuss, things we should have agreed before now, before this.” She made a gesture encompassing them all.

He gave an involuntary shudder.

“Shower!” She pointed at the door.

He left, attempting a sort of squishy samba, she rolled her eyes as he sashayed up the stairs.

“God loves a trier,” she told Monty, who was waiting patiently for his soup.

lovers

Margaret Cullingford

Last-Bite-of-the-Cherry_Cover_SMALLAugust 1973, Monica Sommers, eighteen years old, and Will Ackroyd, twenty one, are on their way to Florence, Italy on Will’s motorbike stopping off to spend a week on the French Riviera:

At last Cap d’Antibes, unerring, Will found their quaint little hotel . . .

Monsieur, comme vous voulez, un chambre avec un grand lit.’ . . .

‘You specifically asked for a double-bed?’ Monica said

‘Ah, bliss.’ Sitting on the side of what looked like a comfortable modern divan, Will undid his boots and kicked them off, then flung himself backwards, bouncing as he landed flat on his back. He closed his yes. ‘No road winding in front of me.’ A few seconds and he sat up looking concerned. ‘I’ll see if we can swop for singles, shall I?’

She turned away to pull open wider the tall window, push back shutters, lean over the wrought iron balustrade, breath in warm Mediterranean scents, wormwood, rosemary and pine. There room overlooked a secluded garden vibrant with scarlet geraniums, magenta bougainvillea, and white jasmine. To her left, an awning shaded a terrace where the hotel guests could sit and eat. Swivelling round, she inspected their room, white walls, white linen, white-matt painted armoire, dressing table, except the white wasn’t white. In early evening the room shimmered shades of pale apricot, its shadows tinged amber.

She looked across at Will. He was watching her, wary. Wet with sweat his curls clung tightly to his head, his face flushed with heat, beads of perspiration glistened on his upper lip. He was beautiful.

There’s a small hotel . . . Softly, she sang the opening lines of a song she remembered from one of her father’s old 78’s.

Will’s smile of relief only made him more beautiful. She rushed over, and pushing him backwards, threw herself onto him. He responded to her kiss with such hunger, she was taken by surprise.

flowers

Lizzie Lamb

Boot Camp Bride

There was a certain something about him; an air, a manner of just being that set him apart from the other men in their Paul Smith suits and two-hundred-pound shoes. It was almost as if, like her, he was here under false pretences. Then she assured herself that it was his clothes – battleship grey linen and silk mix trousers, loose-fitting jacket and white Sea Island cotton shirt – that made him stand out. Nothing more. Except – perhaps – his Byronic good looks. Charlee grimaced. If she was beginning to think in clichés, it was time for her to put down the empty glass and head for the cloakroom.

She was intrigued by him, by his mood switches and sudden change of tack. There was a story here, one the journo in her wanted to investigate. Why, for example, did he have a long, grey cashmere scarf wound loosely around his neck in this overheated room. Affectation? How come his eyes were dark-circled beneath his tropical tan – as though he was recovering from a long illness? Why, despite his obvious youth and vigour did he look world-weary – as though he’d been there, seen it, done it – and had worn out the tee shirt?

‘You walked off without giving me a chance of a rematch,’ he said smoothly, looking over Charlee’s shoulder at the photographs of the exhibition. His warm breath stirred the tendrils of hair on the nape of her neck and a tiny shiver of reaction travelled the length of her body. Charlee put the frisson, and the goose bumps in its wake, down to the fact that the gallery was cooling now that the evening was almost over and the big doors were wide open.

Oh, My Giddy Aunt!

       ‘I have always maintained the importance of aunts.’

Jane Austen

‘Aunts are not bad but they are inclined to be soppy and call you darling chiz chiz chiz.’

Nigel Molesworth

‘Aunts,’ someone said recently, ‘seem to have starring roles in all of your stories.’

Do they? Well yes, I suppose that they do.

I think the stiff-as-sticks Beatrice and Eugenie, from An Englishwoman’s Guide, were probably summoned-up by Lady Bracknell – Algy Moncrief’s awful aunt in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Lovely Leonie, from The 20’s Girl – who taught her niece to dance the hoochie coochie and the turkey trot, while wearing ostrich feathers and waving an Egyptian cigarette in a long ebony holder – is possibly more like Auntie Mame, who sent her nephew to a school where all classes were held in the nude, under ultra-violet ray!

I adored my own aunts. I was the first girl in my mum’s family, and her sisters completely spoiled me – sitting me on their knees,  twirling my curls around their fingers. Sigh.

June Aged 2

PG Wodehouse seemed to have a thing about aunts, too. As a schoolboy, he was passed around between quite a few of them, apparently.

In his stories, they keep being blamed for all ills and failures.

‘Behind every poor innocent blighter who is going down for the third time in the soup,’ Bertie Wooster moans, ‘you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.’

Then, there are Agatha and Dahlia – sister’s to Bertie’s father in The Mating Season. Agatha, according to Bertie, ‘is the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.’ She has ‘an eye like a man-eating fish and wears barbed wire next to the skin.’

Who could resist characters like that?

AuntiesThis picture of my mum and her sisters, Nell and Kath was taken in  Somerset, when they were all in their late eighties. We were spending a few days together at a hotel in Somerset. I have never got through so much brandy in my life. ‘Ooh, just another nip, ducky! Helps you to sleep, y’know.’ All three lived well into their nineties. 

I think of them every day.

Eccentric, exotic, mad, bad or dotty – for me, aunts do seem to offer a new angle on the world and on my writing. Does anyone else feel the same attraction?!

June