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My latest blog posts

Le Jaguar

In earlier blog entries I have written of the poetry of Leconte De Lisle.  De Lisle writes with such passion of exotic locations and the beasts that stalk them, and as I wrote of the setting and the animals in Burning Embers, set in Kenya, I found myself often drawn

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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

Italian iced coffee – shaken, not stirred

Summer’s here! Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine. I’m certainly taking every opportunity to write outside in my garden, amid all the tantalisingscents and vibrant colours and the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves and the distant waves crashing on the rocks. It’s

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Heroes and heroines: Tortured, complicated souls

Ask me my most favourite books, and a classic English romance will always appear near the top of the list: Wuthering Heights. The agony and passion at the centre of the love story between Heathcliff and Cathy has always gripped me, moved me – and it inspired me as I

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An argument for digitising books – all books

I’ve always loved this song: The tune is haunting, and the main lyric ‘Where have all the cowboys gone?’ strikes a chord about how society – gender roles, notions of romance – has changed. Cowboys aren’t quite my ideal heroes, so I’d perhaps be singing ‘Where have all the gentlemen

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Favourite film: Gatsby

Did you know that when author F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940 he believed himself a failure? That long years of alcoholism saw a heart attack claim his life at just 44? That since the publication of his book The Great Gatsby, which had received poor reviews and lack-lustre sales,

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A Jungian perspective

No doubt you’ve heard of Carl Jung (1875–1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who was the father of analytical psychology. Yung wrote prolifically, and his writings have been hugely influential in many different areas, from philosophy to archeology, psychiatry to literature. In my novel The Echoes of Love, Paolo quote Jung to Venetia

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Ferrari: A car for a male romantic lead

The following extract is from my novel The Echoes of Love: It was two o’clock in the morning. The Ferrari sped through the night towards San Stefano in Tuscany. Attuned to the darkness surrounding him, his sombre mood overwhelming, Paolo drove the sleek, powerful sports car as though he was

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Book review: Not Quite Enough by Catherine Bybee

From the blurb: Monica Mann has made it her life’s work to save lives. After an earthquake and tsunami hit the shores of Jamaica, she volunteers her trauma skills with Borderless Nurses. Calculating and methodical, Monica creates order out of whatever chaos she finds. Until she finds the perpetually barefoot,

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Favourite poet: Petrarca

A love poem a day for the woman you adore – what can be more romantic? This was the gift of Italian writer Petrarca: 366 sonnets penned way back in the fourteenth century, later collected into the Rime in vita e morte di Madonna Laura – Petrarch’s Sonnets. Francesco Petrarca was

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Historic Italian culinary bibles

I love Italian food – eating it, but most of all cooking it. To get me in the mood while writing my Italian-set The Echoes of Love, Italian was often on the menu at home. For me, cooking Italian doesn’t just mean throwing some dried fusilli pasta in a saucepan,

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How do your cure writer’s block?

This was the question posed by Mslexia writing magazine in its most recent reader survey. Author Terry Pratchett famously wrote: ‘There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.’ But of the 1,904 women writers who took part in the survey, four

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To the Letter

Dear Margaret, We regret to inform you that your husband is missing in action… Dear Mother, Finally, I can write the words: Born this morning, a beautiful baby girl… Dear John, I’m sorry but I just can’t do this anymore… Dear Grannie, Did I leave my spectacles at your house?

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Favourite film: A Room with a View

When I’m writing a novel, I like to immerse myself so far as is possible in the culture and time in which the story is set. For my most recently published novel, The Echoes of Love, that meant enjoying Italian culture – watching films, reading books and listening to music

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Writing Italy: Treading the line between reality and cliché

In this season’s issue of The Author, Tobia Jones shares an interesting article entitled ‘Italy: Real and Imagined’, in which he explains that ‘[a]nyone who writes about Italy has a battle on their hands to avoid “italianity”, the cult of Italian myths and clichés’. He goes on to explore in

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Bookspotting: an app for the future

Visitors and residents of Scotland are to be envied by book lovers worldwide: a creative collaboration there has come up with a fantastic application for smartphones and tablets that marries, on the one hand, authors and books with, on the other, locations and themes. So, wherever you are in the

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Book review: Married to Maggie by Jan Romes

From the blurb: Texas playboy, Ty Vincent, heir to the Vincent Oil fortune needs a short-term wife to convince his grandfather and the Board of Directors that he’s changing his ways so they’ll name him CEO. Ditching an environmental conference in Atlanta to play in Reno, Ty suffers razor-sharp chest

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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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My latest blog posts

Making time to read the books you want to read

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s a safe assumption that you’re a reader: you enjoy reading books (perhaps even my own novels; I do hope so). Consider these questions: How much time do you devote to reading? In your reading time, which books do you choose to read? Whatever

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Authors who handwrite manuscripts

As a child, I wrote and wrote – stories inspired by fairy tales, when I was young, and then, in my teens, romantic tales. Of course, these stories were handwritten on paper. I can recall even now the rustle of the paper, the scratching of the pen nib, the scent

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A light exists in spring

Persephone has returned from the underworld, heralding the return of spring: daffodils and snowdrops, blue skies and warming sunshine, longer days and milder nights – spring has sprung! There is such a feeling of hope in the air, of the promise of rebirth and growth and discovery. As Emily Dickinson

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Reading: an escape into your own past

We all know that reading fiction is a means of escape: from wherever you are reading, you are transported to the fictional world, to another place and time, and that can be as inspiring, relaxing and enjoyable as travelling for real. Have you ever considered, though, that reading is not

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Win a reading journal in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome, and thank you for visiting my website as part of this hop. I’m giving away a lovely reading journal made by the British Library and inspired by the Olga Hirsch collection of decorative papers. ‘The main section of the book is organized alphabetically with flexible writing space to note

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Categorising romance novels

Many years ago, when I set pen to paper and wrote the first draft of what would become my debut novel, Burning Embers, I thought a lot about the setting and the story and the characters and the mood – and I thought very little about specific categorisation for the

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The romance – and sensuality – of sailing

My home in the South of France – a French mas (Provençal farmhouse) in Ste Maxime – affords beautiful views over the Mediterranean. I often write in the garden, in the shade on the terrace, or in my writing room if the heat is too much; and as I write

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Supporting independent bookstores

For me, there are few pleasures that can compete with a half hour spent browsing in a bookstore. Canterbury and Dover, the main cities near my English home, offer a wealth of options, but for a special treat I venture to one of the quaint seaside towns on the Kentish

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