Friday, 24 December 2010


I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas - and if you're celebrating something different - I hope that everybody has a fabulous time.
As usual, I seem to have ended up with too many presents still to wrap....
I've spent the morning cooking (a motley mixture of two different types of chilli and some cauliflower cheese! This is because my son's Christmas Eve party has now become an annual event) - and I know that there are a whole pile of things I should be doing - if only I could remember them.
But one of the reasons for my disorganisation is that I have spent the last few days tweaking my latest manuscript and my editor has just phoned to say that it's been accepted. Hurrah! What a lovely way to start the holiday!
So for all you readers who wanted to know if Zahid and Francesca had their own story - well, they do now!

For everyone who has read and commented on this blog - thank you. And for all the people who still haven't received their prize-winning books - these will be reaching you very soon.

Try to listen to the Carols From Kings - which start at 3pm GMT today, sung live from Cambridge - and which you should be able to access due to the marvels of modern technology. The sound of that lone choir-boy's voice is pure, spine-tingling perfection.

I wish you all peace. And love.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Yesterday, I had lunch in one of my favourite restauants The Poule au Pot, in Pimlico. Always twinkling and atmospheric - it's especially pretty at Christmas.
Here I am posing happily with one of my presents.

Often occupied by politicians and expensively-dressed locals, you can usually spot a famous face or two - and yesterday was no exception. In walked a tall and commanding man whose scruffy jogging clothes and woolly hat did nothing to detract from his essential star-quality. It was the actor Rupert Everett - who I've always found to be a mesmeric screen presence.
It was actually the second time I've seen him while eating out....the last time was in Soho. (You don't think he's stalking me, do you?)
I love observing famous people at close quarters (while pretending not to, of course!) - do you?

Friday, 17 December 2010


Each May, I run a week-long creative writing course in a watermill in deepest, greenest Tuscany - where you can learn and practice your craft against the most stunning and inspirational backdrops.
Like this one....

The courses are organised by Lois and Bill Breckon - who do much to nurture talent and creativity - and to this end they are running a brand-new writing competition.

Would you like to win £1,000 ($1,500) and the chance to get yourself and your story noticed?
Of course you would!

So why not find out more? Go on.... push all the wrapping paper off the table and dust down a story. Or take yourself off into a quiet corner and write a new one. Write something from the heart. Something which will make the reader's heart quicken.
Who knows? It just might make your dreams come true....

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas....and a new book!

I love the cover of this book, THE FORBIDDEN INNOCENT - which is out in the UK now.
It's a book which has an interesting little back-story of it's own....
Last year I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at the Cheltenham Literary Festival (weirdly, I have given Nick Clegg a name check, in those faraway days when he was just another Lib-Dem politician who probably thought he'd never set foot in 10 Downing Street.....wouldn't life be peculiar if we could each look into a crystal ball?).

It was at Cheltenham that I had to talk about Jane Eyre (among other great classics) and had to hurriedly read it up beforehand. As a latecomer to the book, I completely fell in love with it - so much so, that when I mentioned this to one of our editors, she suggested I write a modern version for Harlequin Mills & Boon.

A daunting prospect! But what is life without challenge? So, I wrote the story of Ashley and Jack and the isolated and harsh landscape they inhabit. Some things about the story have changed to fit in with the times but I hope that the emotions are the same. A young, innocent girl who falls in love with a tortured man, with secrets he dare not share.....

I'd love to know what you think of it.


And the photo featured below was taken by a pal who demanded I showcase it on my blog!
So here's a snowy fir, to get you in the mood for the festive season.
Are you knee-deep in wrapping paper?
Searching for those hidden presents and wondering where on earth you hid them?
Or have you given into the lure of the mince-pie?
Do tell what Christmas preparations take place in your part of the world.
Maybe you treat it as just another day....

Monday, 6 December 2010


Yesterday, I was singing carols around a baby-grand piano (and eating far too much pastry) during a glorious afternoon spent in London.
Hurtling by train through the foggy and still-frozen snowy fields of Hampshire - I was amazed to be greeted by bright blue skies and sunshine the minute I arrived in Canary Wharf.
And when I stood on the terrace of my friends' apartment - it looked and felt as if I was on a luxury cruise-liner, headed for some balmy destination.
It was also an extremely inspirational day - because this is exactly the kind of achingly-cool urban penthouse in which one of my heroes would live.
Look in the distance and you will see Renzo Piano's controversial Shard which is in the process of being built.

And here's the Christmas tree in the dining room. Quel view!

And the best carol?
Silent night, probably (especially the verse sung in German).
Or Good King Wenceslas (sung in parts).
But every one of them gave me the requisite lump-in-throat-now-where-on-earth-did-I-put-my-tissues?

What did you do which was inspirational this weekend?

Monday, 29 November 2010


Driving along the picturesque but scarily-icy roads on Friday, I was too busy listening to the soporific voice of the woman inside my new Sat-Nav ("Turn around where possible!" "Turn around where possible!") to be able to concentrate much on the magnificent scenery of the North Downs Way.

I was on my way to the wedding of the lovely Lucetta who was marrying Glenn at an amazing hotel at Newlands Corner.
And here are the happy couple, having just plighted their troth.....


It was a fabulous wedding - with people of all ages having fun and my enduring memory of the day is one of laughter.
Here's a picture of the cake I made for the newly-weds.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that I also made a cake for Lucetta's mother's wedding (what a lot of apostrophes!) almost a year ago. No-one can say they aren't a romantic family!

And here I am with not only an extravagent confection of feathers on my head.....

But also a handful of golden glitter which was thrown on my hair by my god-daughter!
Well, it was a glittering kind of day...

Have you done anything glittery recently?

Friday, 26 November 2010


Yesterday, I had lunch at Skye Gyngell's sublime restaurant at Petersham Nurseries - which was a fairyland of creamy candles, sprays of green foliage and waxy, scented gardenias. And lots of Christmas trees....
Look closely and you'll see that (in true panto fashion) there's one behind me!

It is the most incredible place to eat - full of light and atmosphere and using locally-sourced incredients wherever possible. Somewhere in among the branches behind me in this photo - a little robin is hopping around.

It took some time before I could be persuaded to remove my coat because the temperature outside was ARCTIC! But the restaurant helpfully provides soft, tweedy blankets which you can snuggle up in. We ended wrapping them around our waists, sarong-style and staging an imprompu fashion show (thanks to the diners on the next table for applauding!).

And the best part of the meal? The conversation, naturally - though the baked ricotta and Italian peasant soup came a close second.

I'm off to a wedding this afternoon - after I've scraped an inch of ice from my windscreen....what will you be doing this weekend?

Monday, 22 November 2010


Once again, I visited Waddeson Manor - the luscious Oxfordshire pile belonging to the Rothschild family. Only this time, Christmas had come early.

Usually, I'm one of those people who try to hold off from buying a tree or being bewitched by twinkly lights until the very last minute - but this time I just couldn't resist cooing in admiration.

The slightly spooky soaring building was enhanced by Christmas trees....

Which, when viewed en masse - looked a little like a troupe of Daleks gathering before attack (question: are Daleks famous throughout the world?).

And has Christmas "got" to you yet?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Just back from a weekend spent in glorious Umbria, picking olives with a highly-entertaining group of people.
And here I am in a shot which made feel feel as if I was taking part in a rural cookery programme!

Only four of these crates were filled this year (we had eleven last year), since weather conditions meant a sparse crop.
Next they will go off to be pressed and turned into rich olive-oil.

Fresh air, simple physical work and al fresco lunches (in November!) made me feel deliciously relaxed.
What has made you feel relaxed recently?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Dan sent me this amazing photo of autumn in all her glory, taken close to where he lives, in Chicago (or is it near Chicago, Dan?).

The leaf colours are particularly spectacular this year....there's a reason for it (too much rain? not enough rain? wrong kind of sun?) but I can't remember what it is.

What's it like where you are?
Oh, and I'm playing word games over at ihearts presents - so do come and join in.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


I've never been very good at sums and although I had a very good relationship with my maths teacher (Mr. Barrett!) - I wasn't allowed to sit my Maths G.C.E because it was accepted that I would fail.

But authors are supposed to keep a tally of the books they've written. For a start, when the numbers accrue, some of those numbers become milestones - like 75, for example - and you get something silver and rather gorgeous, from Tiffany. Yum!

I was sure I'd written 75. So I asked one of our editors if she could find out - and she did. Turns out that I'd actually written 81!

From the very first, back in 1988:

To the one which is out this month:

She also told me that I had sold ten million books - which means more to me than anything which comes in a turquoise box.
In fact, it seemed unbelievable.
It still does.
I might just have to write it down as numbers to see what if that helps...
No. That really IS unbelievable!
So thank you to all you lovely readers who keep buying the books and telling me how much you enjoy them - you're the ones who really count.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


I'm absolutely THRILLED that one of the aspiring authors I was mentoring for the New Voices competition has made it through to the
final four. And commiserations to those who didn't make the cut - the standard was unbelievably high and I hope that each and every one of you will complete your manuscript and send it in.

Carrie Spencer's HELP WANTED: APPLY FOR LOVE has everything you'd want from a romantic novel. A feisty heroine in Gabby and a hero who is more than her match - the delicious Finn. A sparky and intelligent office romance, it was one of those stories which engaged me from the get-go and which made me desperate to read what happens next.

The last part of the competition is for the four finalists to write a pivotal moment. This is a big, emotional point in the book - maybe that dark time when they lay their souls bare and you think that there is no hope left....

I hope you'll read the entries, which will be on the website next week. And I hope you'll

Good luck to you all - and Carrie - you're brilliant!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


is out in the U.K AND in the U.S right now!
In other words, it's out ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POND!

It's a great cover and I think it's a great book (well, I would, wouldn't I?).
Have you bought it? Read it?
And do you have any idea who first named the massive and imposing Atlantic Ocean, "The Pond"?

Friday, 15 October 2010


The other day I had lunch at one of my favourite restaurants in London.
The Criterion is a few short steps from bustling Piccadilly Circus Tube and the nearby statue of Eros. But into what a different world do those steps lead honestly feels as if you've stumbled into a picture book.

Inside you'll find marble, mirrors and mosaics. The intricate and glittering ceiling is a little like being in church.
Here's my friend Katrina bathed in gold from the reflected light.

You'd never find it - not unless you knew it was there.
So do you have any secret places you'd like to share?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Hope you've been following the exciting writing competition being run by Mills & Boon.
There were LOADS of entries of an impressively high standard and Romance HQ had a tough time trying to decide who should go through to the next round.

Congratulatons to all you who were successful - and I include those of you who didn't make the short-list. To enter is to prove that you're serious about your writing - so DON'T GIVE UP. There is a long list of successful authors who had to try and try again before they got published.

The ten short-listed then had to produce a second chapter. These will face the public vote to be whittled down to a further four.

Below are the three books I am mentoring - and you can click on the links to read the fantastic writing on offer:

by Cady Phelan

by Carrie Spencer

by Lucy Snowe

I love, love, LOVE them!
Have you read them yet?
And more importantly: HAVE YOU VOTED?

Saturday, 9 October 2010


The production I saw recently at the National Theatre was in modern dress (the Prince of Denmark was wearing a hoodie!) which I know isn't to everyone's taste....

And I know that director Nicholas Hytner changed some of the text....

But for me, as a first-timer at this play - it was an utterly captivating and moving performance. I loved it.

So I give you this enduring image of Sir Laurence Olivier with the skull of (poor) Yorick.

And leave you with the play's most famous soliloquy - which I now "get".

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

And wonder which is your favourite speech or quote from Shakespeare....

Friday, 1 October 2010


An email and photo arrived from Rachel this morning which really made me smile - and with her permission, I've included it in today's blog.

It's Rachel having just purchased a copy of SHAMEFUL SECRET, SHOTGUN WEDDING and it really cheered me up on a morning where the rain is coming down in a relentless grey torrent and I'm trying to learn the plot of Hamlet before seeing the play tonight for the first time in my life! I know. How can I have lived this long without experiencing it?
Yesterday, I talked about coincidences and most of you will know that the opening scene of Hamlet is set at Elsinore - the Danish royal castle. Well, I grew up in a street called Elsinore! How's that for coincidcnce?

So....have you seen Hamlet - or are you doing something new this weekend?
(Oh, and if anybody else wants to send in a photo of one of my books in an interesting setting, I'll gladly feature it here).

Thursday, 30 September 2010


My latest book is out in the UK.
It's called SHAMEFUL SECRET, SHOTGUN WEDDING and it's available in all good bookstores now.
(Er, actually that's not quite true - since Waterstone's doesn't stock it. You're missing a chance there Waterstone's, I must say....)

It's about a gorgeous international playboy called Giancarlo Vellutini and Cassie, a naive girl from Cornwall who takes a Christmas vacation job in a glittering London department store. Sparks really fly when this most unlikely of couples meet.

Thanks to the lovely Rick Stroud for inspiring the heroine's name - Rick and I were at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year. And thanks also to Elizabeth Douglas, who has already read the book, which prompted her to write me a letter about growing up in Cornwall in the 1040's. My job has all kinds of wonderful perks - and letters like Elizabeth's are at the top of the list.

Apologies to the prize winners of my recent competition. Caroline, Michela and Rachel - if you've been wondering where your books are - I'll post them out next week.

Do you like the snazzy new cover?

Friday, 24 September 2010


Cornwall is really one of the most beautiful places on earth.
I think of it in shades of blue and grey.
In one morning, the sea turned from pewter to sapphire with a zillion variations in betweeen.
But blue is best.....
See what I mean?

Here I am at Harlyn Bay - plotting out my new Chapter I.
Inspiration comes easy here. One gulp of that bracing, salty air and I'm away! Let's hope it stays with me.....

I have a book out next month called SHAMEFUL SECRET, SHOTGUN WEDDING - some of which is set in this part of Cornwall. Perhaps I should make it a trilogy...

Is there somewhere which always fills you with inspiration - and is it by the sea?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


There's an old proverb that says if you're lucky at cards, you'll be unlucky in love.
Needless to say, my up and coming hero (Sheikh Zahid Al Hakam) is absolutely BRILLIANT at cards!

For all those who entered my Name An Imaginary Sheikhdom competition - thank you. I liked Michela's MAKHARIAN but felt this was too similar to MARABAN, which was another of my fictional countries. I also liked Dan's JANNAT AL'ADN - but not sure if it's really a national name. (It may be used as the name of one of the Sheikh's palaces!).

However, since a huge consignment of books arrived this morning - I will happily send a copy to the first five people who email me with their (snailmail) address.

And in the meantime, what do you think I should call Zahid's falcon?

Thursday, 9 September 2010


I'm blogging over at iheartspresents today - so please come over and add your thoughts.

Specifically, I'm talking about the exciting new competition which is being run by Mills & Boon, giving one lucky entrant the opportunity to have her/his book published.

So what are you waiting for, and are you going to enter?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

You SPHINX so?

Am mulling over ideas for my new book which will be set in an imaginary Sheikhdom of golden sands, azure skies and palaces of impossible beauty.
What would you call YOUR imaginary kingdom?

I have several book prizes to give away - so send me your entries now!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

More from Fuerteventura....and breakfast

This is one of those images which I look back on (rather wistfully) - whenever I want to imagine myself in a Sheikh-type land. Actually, I'm about to run a Sheikh-type competition so

And this is pretty much my perfect breakfast: chilled and juicy pink grapefruit, strong black coffee and delicious bread - all served by someone other than myself! The sunshine and the distant view of the sea add yet another layer of enjoyment.

What was, or is your perfect breakfast?

Thursday, 26 August 2010


It's the long Bank Holiday weekend and so I'm off to glorious Italia.
(Which is where I am photographed with my "children", this time last year).
Black and white photos can be so atmospheric, don't you think?

I think I've come up with a new plot for my next book - but will definitely garner some information while I'm over there.
What are you doing for the weekend?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Just back from holidaying with my daughter in glorious Fuertevenura.

When I booked it, I thought it was a Balearic island (I really should have paid more attention to my geography lessons at school) and was very surprised (and excited!) to discover that it was actually one of the Canary Islands - and just 100 kilometres off the coast of Africa.
Which might explain the climate (hot all year round, but with a delicious breeze).
And the terrain....
The photo above shows the lush, tropical foliage.

While the interior was barren and sandy (lots of Sheikh material here!).
It was quite different to anywhere I'd ever been before - and gave me lots of inspiration.
So now I'm looking out at the rain falling on green leaves back in Winchester and wondering where you might have been recently, which has inspired you...?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

You can see why they say....

sunsets are romantic.

Thanks, Dan - for sending this picture-perfect shot. Can you tell us where exactly it is so that I can fix the location in my mind (and perhaps use it sometime!). Does anybody live nearby? Are there shops? Roads? Trains?

As for romantic settings - does anybody have a favourite?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

NOTORIOUS! Talking about the past....

as well as my newest release - over on iheartspresents

Well, actually - it's a re-issue of two titles I wrote back in 2004.
Please come over and visit - even make a comment!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010



Go on - you know you want to.....

Monday, 2 August 2010


Here I am at Petworth House - pleased to be wearing my gorgeous Purple-Shoes-From-Paris. I've found another folly and am in reflective pose because my book is coming towards the end and I must deliver even more emotional punch.

I started thinking about famous endings to books and here is my favourite, from F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.
(I'm delighted that he seems to love ellipses and dashes as much as I do - and it still makes me shiver whenever I read it).

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

So what ending to a book has marked itself indelibly on your mind?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Oxford wedding

A vast wooden door, opening straight onto the picturesque high-street - leads into a secret world of cloistered gardens and ancient stone. Yes, I'd finally got my foot inside an Oxford college (and wished I worked harder at school!)

Where erstwhile students can marry......
And this is Sarah, my clever cousin, marrying the musically-gifted Tom.
Don't they look gorgeous?

Here I am with my cousin Gerald - with whom I shared many a happy (!) game of Monopoly when I was growing up.

And here's the dining hall where we ate the delicious wedding breakfast and I kept looking up, expecting to see banks of floating candles or magical happenings occurring around the portraits, because it was just like being on the set of a Harry Potter film.....

Since I'm a romantic novelist, and since Mills & Boon is currently running a competition to find a new writer - would you like to share your experience of Beautiful Weddings You Have Been To? It might inspire some of the entrants.....

Friday, 23 July 2010


I couldn't resist trying out this balletic pose while exploring the beautiful gardens at Nymans, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

Here are some pretty flowers (aka "exquisite herbaceous borders")

This is the surreal house - minus a roof!

And this is what they call a Herm

Are you still with me? Do you like the Herm?

As for the exciting news - it's for all you would-be romantic novelists who are longing to write the most powerful love-story of all time.
Well, now you can.
AND you can get it published.
All you have to do is to enter the fantastic new competition being run by Mills & Boon.
So what are you waiting for?