This is how it began. My sister Anna, a brilliant and witty writer, suggested that we should try to write a romance novel according to the guidelines published by Mills & Boon. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently. She created a finely judged opening paragraph and sent it to me. And, intoxicated by the stylistic possibilities that are simply not offered by my usual literary output of press releases on Bedfordshire’s latest social housing project, I have taken up the gauntlet. The idea is that we will take it in turns to develop the story, in full view of you, dear reader.

We are taking this project seriously, but I am already acutely aware that writing about simmering desire with one’s own sister might be possible only with tongue tentatively in cheek. We have agreed not to discuss our plot ideas, so the novel will unfold as unpredictably to us as to our readers. This could lead to trouble later on, but for now it seems a very liberating way to start.

Who knows where this project will take us? To the dizzying heights of publication by the world’s leading romance brand? Probably not. But wherever we end up, it should be fun getting there…

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Part 6 – Heroes: romantic fiction

What do you call a male floozy? Because I think Cleft is one. Somehow, though, that doesn’t seem to matter in romantic fiction: from what I can make out, it’s fine for the hero to be the sort of man most people would avoid like the plague in real life. Arrogance, ruthlessness and an unshakeable ego appear to be the romance-reader’s ideal attributes in a lover.

Note to self: check with wife that she’s fine with arrogance and ruthlessness (but only after have cleaned kitchen floor and tackled linen cupboard).

Part 6 (by Oliver)

Cleft sat at the wheel of the jeep, leaning an elbow on the sill of the open window and squinting down the track. Nearly nine o’clock – that jerk of a client would be there soon. An hour, maybe two, and he could return to the beach. That girl would be there again, he knew it: Cleft had long since learned how women react to an unexpected kiss on a moonlit shore. He had the afternoon free for fun; then in the evening there was sure to be another lovely strolling alone on the beach. Really, this site manager's job was working out very well indeed.

A plume of dust betrayed Terence’s approach, and Cleft swung his legs out of the jeep. Terence held out a damp hand.

‘Mr Stone? Terence Dunkley. How do you do?’

‘Fine, just fine,’ said Cleft. ‘Are you by yourself? I thought your wife was coming.’

‘She won’t be my wife until next week’ said Terence, flushing slightly. ‘And she’s not feeling well, poor poppet. Never mind, I know her mind almost as well as she does herself: I know what she’ll want in this house.’


  1. No, no, no! I don't think Mills & Boon rules permit a hero to be such an outright b***d. Get in a redeeming feature, quick!

  2. They do! In The Greek Billionaire's Love-Child's Mother's Revenge, or whatever my current research tool is called, he's perfectly horrid. But rich. Ah, I get it....