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My latest blog posts

Love at first sight?

I am, of course, a romantic at heart – what romance novelist isn’t? But in today’s fast-paced era of busy people hurtling around in their busy lives; of connecting to people via the internet and mobile phone more than face to face (even arranging dating online); of rising divorce rates

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A slice of summer

It’s a gloomy autumnal day here in Kent, so I’ve been cheering myself up by looking through pictures of this summer. Here’s a shot of our pool in Kent, where I do a lot of dreaming and writing.

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Kenyan recipe: Mango ice cream with pineapple rum sauce

Earlier this month I posted a recipe for delicious groundnut soup – a traditional dish eaten in Africa. But what meal is complete without a little something sweet to finish? In Burning Embers, the protagonist, Coral, savours the ripe, succulent mangos that are grown in the area surrounding her homestead

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Chasing rainbows

Yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk typing, I took a break to gaze out at the dark grey sky lit by a beautiful golden sun, and was rewarded by a stunning full-arch, vivid rainbow in the sky. Nature at its most beautiful. I gazed into the sky until

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The hunter and his prey

Africa, the setting for Burning Embers, is of course a country famous for hunting. Natives have hunted to survive since the earliest days of the continent’s inhabitation, and the vast array of large, dangerous wildlife there created a real pull for white hunters, keen to demonstrate their prowess by gunning

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Coral’s doppelganger: Twiggy

When I was growing up, one of my favourite pastimes was visiting the cinema.  My governess, Zula, bless her, was just as romantic as I, and would accompany me to see the latest love story on the big screen. When I was twelve, South Pacific was released, and I must

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Swahili love poem

In researching Burning Embers, I read a lot of books on aspects of African culture.  I was particularly fascinated by the stark honesty of many folk tales and proverbs of this area of the world – no euphemism and delicate delivery; often, the message is loud and clear. For example,

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Put the coffee on

How many cups of coffee does it take to write a romance novel? The answer, for me, is many indeed – but they must be of the very best beans.   In Burning Embers, which is set in and around Mombasa in Kenya, Coral is invited to stay at a

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Sweet nothings

If, like me, you have a sweet touch, you’ll appreciate a shop dedicated to nothing but delicious, melt-in-the-mouth flavours that transport you back to the carefree days of childhood. The window of my local sweet shop looks like this… Can you blame me for wandering in for a humbug or

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The setting for Burning Embers: Mombasa

My novel Burning Embers is set in Mombasa in Kenya, on the east coast of the African continent. Because my book is a novel, not a travel or history guide, there is little room there to explore the many facets of this interesting town. So here I provide some nuggets

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Favourite poems: La Jungle

In an earlier blog entry (29 September) I introduced you to the poetry of Leconte De Lisle, a nineteenth-century French poet who has inspired my writing with his vivid, evocative imagery. I have always been a descriptive writer; I enjoy imagining how a setting looks, sounds and smells and then

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African proverbs: “A good name is better than riches”

In an early blog entry I explained that while researching my book, Burning Embers, I read a lot about Africa – including books on proverbs. In any culture, proverbs are a poetic and memorable way to impart wisdom. I’ve decided to run a series of book exploring a proverb in turn,

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A riveting read

Confession time: one of my hobbies is reading dictionaries. Certainly not as comforting and engaging as a romance novel, but it’s amazing what you learn when you read a few pages.  

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Respect your elders?

In Burning Embers, Coral is reunited with her former ‘yaha’ (nanny) Aluna when she comes back to the childhood home she left in her youth. There is, at once, an interesting dynamic between the two women – one white, naive, young and wealthy who has grown up chiefly in England;

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Music to write books by: Fausto Pappeti

I love music: it has such power to move, to affect, to inspire. When I write at my desk, I often have music on in the background – carefully selected to reflect the mood of the particular chapter I’m writing. In Burning Embers, as well as running a prosperous plantation,

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African recipe: Groundnut Soup

Food has always been a rich source of pleasure for me; I have wide-ranging tastes and enjoy the thrill of sampling a new cuisine. I subscribe to the school of thought that believes a direct connection exists between stomach and heart: an intimate meal between characters comprising succulent, delicious food

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It’s romance, but what kind? Deciding the genre for my novel

I’ve recently been involved in an interesting discussion with my publisher, Omnific, about what genre my upcoming novel Burning Embers fits into. My book is a love story, so categorising it as romance is no problem; but what sub-category within which to situate the book?   The list of sub-genres

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Inspired by nature

The bay at St Tropez on a wild and stormy day – little wonder that after seeing this tempestuous, magnificent power of nature I went home and added a storm to the chapter I was writing.

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The perfect man…

Last month the Guardian reported on an interesting survey undertaken by the Festival of Romance, an international convention on romantic fiction. They interviewed 58 romantic novelists to find out what qualities are important in a man. These were the results: The perfect man, according to romantic novelists (% agreeing), is:

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The poetry of Leconte De Lisle

The seeds of inspiration for the verdant setting of my novel Burning Embers were sown way back at school when I was introduced to the flamboyant poetry of Charles-Marie Leconte De Lisle, better known as simply Leconte De Lisle, who was the leader of the group of French poets called

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Through a child’s eyes

‘Write about what you know’ is the advice given to any fledgling writer, and it’s certainly wisdom I have tried to take on board in my development as a writer. The action in my novel Burning Embers begins on a cruise ship bound for Mombasa. Coral, the protagonist, is gazing

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Favourite places: Dover Castle

The nearest town to my home in Kent is Dover. I love spending afternoons wandering around the magnificent 12-century Dover Castle which stands majestically above the White Cliffs for which the town is famous.

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Favourite films: Out of Africa

Out of Africa is one of my favourite films – I’ve watched it at least fifteen times to date, and it never fails to move me. The film is set earlier in the twentieth century than Burning Embers, but the breathtaking settings (which include Mombasa, where Burning Embers is set)

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My latest blog posts

Ebooks to outsell print books

It’s 1980, and you’re reading a novel set in a futuristic world that is astonishingly different to the world as you know it. For one thing, in this futuristic world books don’t exist in a physical format; all books are digital, read on various computer devices. Clearly, the book you’re

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The Palazzo Barbaro: artistic hub

One of the finest examples of architecture in Venice is the Palazzo Barbaro, two adjoined palaces in San Marco, Venice, on the Grand Canal, near the Ponte dell’Accademia. One palace is in the Venetian Gothic style, influenced by Byzantine and Moorish architecture, and it dates back to 1425, when it was crafted

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Luminara

Recently, I visited a luminarium built by the visionary Architects of Air: an enormous inflatable sculpture one can enter to, as the makers put it, ‘be moved to a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and colour’. It was amazing. The luminarium got me thinking about the role

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Taking inspiration from classic children’s books

I write fiction for adults, but that doesn’t for a moment mean I don’t appreciate children’s fiction as well. Classic children’s books: Take me back to my roots: My love for books – for reading and writing – began in early childhood. Such adventures I had between the covers of

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How languages evolve

I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, where the language predominantly spokenis Arabic. So I learnt to speak Arabic. My school was run by French nuns, my parents were fluent in French, and my governess was half-French. So I learnt to speak French. My parents were well-educated and well-read, and they

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Recipe: Baci di Dama

What better recipe for a romance novelist to try than one for a delicious Italian sweet treat called ‘Lady’s Kisses’? American readers may spot a striking resemblance between these and the US-originating whoopie pies. For both one element is key: the filling! And any biscuits sandwiched with chocolate are bound

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The best views of Venice

  There is a glorious City in the Sea. The Sea is in the broad, the narrow streets, Ebbing and flowing; and the salt sea-weed Clings to the marble of her palaces. No track of men, no footsteps to and fro, Lead to her gates. The path lies o’er the

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Book review: Shades of Avalon by Carol Oates

From the blurb: Ben Pryor grew up as an average kid in Camden, Maine, unaware of the supernatural storm brewing in his Celtic blood. However, at nineteen, as the last born in the royal line of beings that once ruled Atlantis, Ben has eagerly embraced his newfound abilities and birthright.

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Transcending the pages: fiction as visual art

Once upon a time, books were books, only books. Then along came the motion picture, and books – for so long the foundation of culture – were the obvious source of inspiration for films. Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Rip van Winkle, The Assommoir, Uncle Tom’s

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Shopping the Venetian way

Last time I visited Venice, it was a research trip for my novel The Echoes of Love. I wanted to firm up descriptions of the setting, and so I walked in my characters’ footsteps, seeing the city through their eyes. But of course, I could not resist just a little

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Navigating the ‘spaghetti streets’ of Venice

One of the many charms of the city of Venice, setting for my romantic novel The Echoes of Love, is its unique map: this is a city of waterways cutting among myriad winding streets that form something of a daunting labyrinth for the tourist. Not in Venice will you find

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Maya Angelou in quotations

I was sad to read this week of the passing of the great American writer and activist Maya Angelou. Readers of my novels and followers of my Twitter feed will know that I am something of a collector of quotations, and over the years several of Maya’s quotes have been

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Ode to the notebook

If there’s one shop, other than a bookshop, in which I can lose all track of time (and spend a near fortune!) it’s a stationer’s. Notebooks in all shapes and colours and sizes and designs, lined up on shelves, just waiting to be filled, to paraphrase William Wordsworth, with the

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To sleep, perchance to dream…

Recently, I’ve been thinking about dreams. To be a romantic is to be a dreamer. And so to write romance is to write of dreams. The dream is integral to the romance novel. No wonder, then, that a search for the word dream’ in my latest novel, The Echoes of

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My latest blog posts

A print book resurgence?

Recently, the arts news has been full of a major comeback: that of the vinyl record. In 2016, vinyl sales in the UK reached 3.2 million, which is the highest figure for 25 years, and represents a 53 per cent increase on the previous year. Most interesting is that this

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An inspirational composer: Manuel de Falla

After all the vibrancy and jubilant cacophony of December, January always feels a quiet month to me: the silence of a snow-covered field, the gentle crackle of logs on the fire, the scratch of my pen moving over the paper, and – most notably – the lulling melodies of classical

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Tradition: the preservation of fire

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to travel to Spain several times, and each of these visits provided rich inspiration for my Andalucían Nights trilogy, spanning Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy. Each of my stories is set during the hot, heady days of summer, but I didn’t limit my

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Mistress of the night: the moon

This holiday season, I have been fortune enough to do some stargazing. The night skies have been velvety blankets sprinkled with stars, and the moon… magnifique! I have always been fascinated by astronomy and astrology, but more than anything the moon has captured my imagination since childhood. Little wonder back

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The art of the gingerbread house

Knusper, knusper, knäuschen, wer knuspert an meinem Häuschen?  Nibble, nibble, gnaw Who is nibbling at my little house?  So says the witch in the children’s fairy-tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ by the Brothers Grimm. I loved fairy-tales growing up, but I always found this one quite dark and chilling. However, like

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Celebrating Boxing Day

I was in my twenties when I first came to England. I recall vividly my first Christmas; it was bitterly cold, which was a shock after a lifetime of Christmases in sunny Alexandria, Egypt; but then it snowed and I was enchanted, and I understood Charles Baudelaire’s verse: I watch

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Two wheels move the soul

In my latest book, Legacy, the heroine Luna is a scientist, with a first-class honours degree in Molecular Biology from Princeton, followed by a PhD in Science Communication. She’s bold, inquisitive, rigorous, sensible, logical – the perfect candidate to write an exposé of a cancer-treatment clinic. But what Luna is

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