Sunday 25 October 2009


No, I am not in the fictional soap street named Coronation Street, which is in Manchester. If it was Manchester it would be raining, wouldn't it?

Neither am I in ancient Greece - although here I am posing next to a stunning Corinthian pillar.

Nor am I in Narnia - even though Mr. Tumnus would just LOVE this lamp-post!

You've guessed now, haven't you? I'm outside King's College, Cambridge - where I was attending the memorial service for ex-Press Association boss David Chipp, whose illustrious career included thirty months spent in Peking as Reuter's correspondent - the first non-communist Western correspondent to be granted residency by the Communist government.

The service was sublime - especially the music. Lit by guttering candles, the sweet song of the choir soared high up into the vaulted ceilings as dying light filtered through beautiful stained glass.
At the reception afterwards, there was the opportunity to pick up a copy of David's memoir - a fascinating tome entitled MAO'S TOE.
Because he once stood on Chairman Mao's toe.

Thursday 22 October 2009


Yesterday, in dire need of inspiration - I went to visit Waddesdon Manor. This is a luscious (and completely over-the-top) country pile, built for zany Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874.

First sight of it left me swooning. There were turrets galore. Latticed shrubbery. Spurting fountains, avaries - and enough sweeping views to keep Halloween witches jealously guarding their broomsticks.
The problem?
My camera ran out of battery after the very first photo.

Which was this:

So if you want to see more of Waddesdon's wealth of historical and idiosyncratic detail (the "Batchelors' Quarters" with billiard room, cosy smoking room plus sparkly 13th century vase is particularly fine) - visit
Or you could tell me about a place which inspires YOU.....

Meanwhile, I must now go and phone a divorce lawyer on behalf of my latest heroine....

Tuesday 20 October 2009


Here's mine. The trees are amazing and the leaves on the tree on the right look much more golden in real-life than they appear in this photo. Like bright foil-wrapped toffees hanging from the branches.
But I've written in all kinds of places....a windowless hallway....a dining room table...a caravan park in West Wales or overlooking a Mediterranean swimming pool. Actually, the view is irrelevant as well as sometimes distracting. Because when the story is going well - you don't want or need or notice anything else.

What can you see from your window?

Monday 19 October 2009

Inspiration where you can find it

Have just started my new book - set in June - in high summer. I'm trying to imagine roses, and lilac - the drone of bees in the hazy sunshine. While outside my window the leaves are turning bronze and gold and it's most definitely autumn.

And that's why I took this photo this morning. The blooms look perfect - almost too perfect -as if I had pinched the image from a gardening catalogue! From the outside the flowers look completely flawless, just like my latest heroine....though you can only imagine the turmoil which lies beneath her enviable exterior.

When I'm trying to lose myself in the great swirl of love - and all the feelings and emotions which go with it - I can do no better than to consult a perfect poem. Like this one. Here are the first two verses:

Come into the garden Maud

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone ;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

Do you have a poem which always inspires you?

Saturday 17 October 2009


Cheltenham Literary Festival was one of those days which felt like Christmas. It's a delicious chocolate-boxy town and all the festival tents made the site resemble some flower-filled medieval jousting spot. I kept spotting famous faces. (But what on earth was Nick Clegg - the Lib-Dem leader promoting?)

I was on a panel with the wonderful actress and campaigner Virginia McKenna, chick-lit Queen Katie Fforde and broadcaster and novelist Stella Duffy. We were chaired by the Shakespearian actress Fiona Lindsay and discussing Romance On the Page. About the survey which had asked who is the ultimate romantic hero? (Bizarrely, it was the barking Mr. Rochester).

A packed hall contained a lively audience who afterwards came through for a book signing, where they were served pink champagne by Butlers In The Buff. You don't believe me?

A big hello to Barbie, Sarah-Jane and various members of the fabulous Roberts family who were all there.
I also met Rick Stroud - director extraordinaire - who has written a book called THE BOOK OF THE MOON. Rick, Stella and I travelled back on the train together. To Reading (how appropriate!) which was the slowest journey in the world but we giggled for most of it. Did you ever read that book by John Masefield - THE BOX OF DELIGHTS? Well, our train journey seemed to be sprinkled with a Masefield-type atmosphere - or maybe it was just the end of a magical day.

Don't you think that train journeys are always more memorable than travelling by car or plane?

Oh, and here's the youtube link...

Thursday 15 October 2009


I love my job.  What other job in the world would give you the opportunity to stand next to a life-size fake horse outside a tea-shop in San Francisco?
So thanks for the photo, Kimberley - sadly, there was not a playboy sheikh in sight - but readers will be able to find his story on Harlequin easily enough....

Today I'm doing an interview with BBC Radio Solent at 2pm to talk about my latest book: THE ITALIAN BILLIONAIRE'S SECRETARY MISTRESS.
I will also be making a boeuf bourguignon (even though I've just checked it - that still looks like a typo) - to accompany the Nigella snowflake brownies I made yesterday (what's that creaking sound?  that'll be the arteries!) because I was so influenced and entranced by the Julie/Julia film.  Suddenly, I'm back into cooking in a big way.....

What's your all-time favourite recipe?