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…

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Part 39 – Cleft Bereft

Well, Mills & Boon expect it – a Parting of the Ways – but I think they expect it a bit sooner than this. I hope this doesn’t mean we’re only half way through this opus.

What’s worrying me is that without Cleft around to define her and provoke periodic low moans, Topaz is going to have to become her own woman. And I honestly don’t think there’s enough going on beneath those tousled tawny tresses to justify any kind of independent life at all…

Part 39 (by Anna)

When he was out of sight Cleft sagged. He sank down onto a low rock, his elbows on his wide-spread knees and his tousled head in his hands.

‘Goddam it!’ he hissed through clenched white teeth. He kicked savagely at a stone with his booted foot and sent it scuttering over the precipice. Its rattling progress echoed with startling intensity in the still and waiting air. The sun was hoisted high in the sky now and burned viciously down on the slumpled figure on the mountainside, but Cleft was heedless of time and place and of the rivulets of sweat sliding down his muscled grooves.

‘Goddam it!’ he ejaculated again. Fury subsumed him. Fury at himself for the crass joke born of jealousy and fury at his own vulnerability to this woman, this almost-stranger, whose fluid brown eyes dissolved the barriers that had always shielded him from heartache

Life had been accommodating to Cleft. Oh, he’d voyaged through stormy seas – walking out on his parents’ Californian ranch with only a fistful of dollars and his sunshades to make his own way in the world and drifting unfettered round the five continents. He’d laboured under unforgiving sun when the cash flow ran dry and prostrated his long lean body in bars and on beaches when his wallet was full. Romance for him had been a passtime, sometimes amusing, occasionally thrilling, but always transitory as his restless spirit propelled him on to the next new horizon. It had been in many ways a hard life, but he had always been at the controls.

Until now. Or rather until that evening that seemed an eternity ago when a stranger’s profile had lassooed his heart. Now the unfolding horizons had shrunk; the aimlessness evaporated. Cleft had confronted his destiny and found that it resisted his control. For the first time in his life he experienced doubt.

Formerly the rugged beauty of his rippling bronzed body had been his currency. It had always sufficed. Now he looked inwards and wondered. Was he as much Man within as without? Was Terence, behind that scrawny yellow-tinged surface, perhaps nobler than he? He had been prepared to sacrifice his future for the woman he loved. He had perceived through those watering myopic eyes that Cleft was her irresistible fate.

Cleft understood at that moment that it was not enough to desire Topaz; he had to deserve her. Slowly he raised his head. His path was clear now. He knew what he must do. With an ease that defied the exertions of the night he rose to his feet, tilted his chiselled features towards the sun and wordlessly made his vow.

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