‘You don’t need to find a relationship without emotional baggage; you need to find someone to unpack with.’
I can’t remember where I read or heard this quote but it really stuck with me.
In my novel, The Scottish Billionaire’s secret lover, both Angus and Natalie have devoted their lives to a charitable cause. It's their outlet for not having a child to love. Each believes they can’t be successful in a relationship but in working together to organize a ball, they help each other examine past hurts and discover their ability to be in a partnership again.
2. We all can change.
We learn about ourselves through relationships. All of us have grown up with a complete set of beliefs that have to this point helped us navigate our way through life but if we don’t challenge those beliefs and try something new we’re destined to go round and round repeating the same cycles and not even try to reach for our dreams.
Romance novel heroes and heroines have to shift their beliefs about who they are and their purpose in life. Sometimes they must even discard old dreams in favor of new ones in order to get to their happily ever after.
As in Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice', Elizabeth had to change her belief that as rich man Mr Darcy is selfish and prideful. Mr Darcy has to get past the belief that a woman will marry for money, with or without love.
3. Never accept defeat.
Heroes and heroines may have set backs of the sort you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy but they always rally and have another go at trying again in a different way. They learn from their mistakes and misfortunes and are brave about having another go. In real life, we need to understand that when we fail it’s a learning experience. In my own life, I’ve had to accept that a relationship needed to end, but I took time to examine my role in the relationship not working out. What would I do differently next time? I handle myself in a more healthy way in my current relationship.
Mr Darcy had to correct his haughty behavior to win Elizabeth. If he'd gotten offended at her rejection and pushed her away, he never would have been happy in the end.
In the Italian Billionaires Secret Baby, Alessandro has made a colossal mistake walking out on his wife when she needed him most. She made the mistake a disaster when she left without telling him she was pregnant.
Believing she had to raise their child alone, she got on with it. When he finds out that his actions combined with her past experiences created a situation that put his child out of his life he tries to fix it acting in the same old way but he gets rejected. Instead of boarding the first plane back to Italy he sticks around and listens to her. He sees mistakes as fixable and tries to find a way to get his family back together. No matter what happens he’s learned not to give up.
It’s finally autumn in Melbourne, Australia but it’s as though summer wants a last hurrah before departing for 2018. In a way, my romantic life is doing the same thing. Today I turn fifty-seven and yet I’m in a relatively new relationship. As you know, I’ve sold my unit and Sam, and I bought a house just over a year ago. So we're kind of just nearing the end of the honeymoon phase.
On my desk are the Valentines’ day bears he bought me, sitting under a bouquet of silk flowers that also inspire romance when I’m writing. This morning he gave me a birthday card and a gift voucher to Westfield so I can splurge on something special for myself. His sweetness keeps me feeling a bit younger than my years and is a little bit of summer although I’m in the autumn stages of my life.
Love and romance make me feel ageless in some ways, but in others, there’s a definite difference to spring romance. I don’t have the energy I did when I was young. Like the plants in my garden preparing for winter, slowing growth and conserving energy, I live life at a slower pace in my fifties. My days of dancing all night at a concert have been left behind in favor of gentler pursuits. Dining out and strolling along the pier hand in hand is life’s great pleasure now.
As I go through the seasons of my life, I find that in each one romance was present but maturing along with me. I know I’ll still be benefiting from having romance in my life as I move into winter also. But I must admit, autumn romance is the best yet.
My favorite book, ever, is Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion.’ Set in autumn, it reflects a mature love that has endured the rush of young love and disappointment, but is richer for their having had to wait. I also went on a kind of pilgrimage to Chawton, Jane Austen’s house museum and it happened to be in the autumn, so I was looking at the countryside she described in her book. I set my first book ‘The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover’ in the UK in late autumn because it has that kind of second chance at healing a broken heart theme.
Being a romance writer gives me so much pleasure. I get to immerse myself in feelings of love whenever I sit at the keyboard. Autumn is a time when we can all take a breath and relax. After the heat and long days of summer, I look forward to taking a cup of tea and a romance novel out into my new garden where I’ll vicariously enjoy feelings of spring, summer, autumn or winter love every day. To be honest I love them all.
Romance novels offer access to live vicariously through characters who suffer but find love. But instead of sitting around feeling like victims, waiting to be rescued, they act. When I'm closing the book after reading the final pages of a thoroughly enjoyed romance novel, I have a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I’m left with a sense of being motivated to face the real adversity in my life with courage.
Having seen hero and heroine through the twists and turns of heartbreak and courageous acts to overcome emotional and material world obstacles, I am emotionally there with them when all their efforts pay off. When they have won success through effort and not handed it by some fateful lottery ticket, their victory is sweeter for the struggle. I feel uplifted, and empowered to act in my own life as a result of borrowed bravery. That is a lot.
Perhaps the uplifting effect of romance novels can explain what happened during the GFC (The Global Financial Crisis) when the publishing industry was hit hard. Editors lost jobs due to falling sales, authors lost contracts for future planned books however the romance genre defied the trend and sales remained strong, even growing.
The general popularity of the romance genre, is not just a recent phenomenon. It could be said that the popularity of the romance novel coincided with the industrial revolution and the rise of a middle class in western society when for the first time a large portion of women came to have funds available for discretionary spending. Romance sales have remained strong right through the 20th century and into the 21st.
Ever since the early nineteenth century when Jane Austen was taking her first steps into the publishing world with what would become classics, there has been a following. But through the ages, women’s lives are very often not like the happy ending of a romance novel. So what do readers find that is relate-able in the romantic stories with happy endings?
In my own life experience, I’ve been very sad with relationships ending and suffering from illness. But loss has to be endured and even illness to a certain extent heals, adjustments can be made to adapt your life to the new normal and positives can be found. The sad, difficult times don’t last forever. In romance books this is what happens. There’s healing of hearts and hopefulness at the end of the story.
In real life the happy times return but it could be months or even years before healing can work its magic. In a romance novel it happens at the end of the book, every time. While a mature sane woman knows the romance is a fantasy and real life won’t mirror it exactly the underlying message is that enduring difficulty will eventually pass.
Sexy scenes or not?
It is impossible to talk about the romance genre without considering the physical relationship between the hero and heroine. Many genres include love scenes of varying degrees of explicitness. The genre I write contains intimate sexy scenes between hero and heroine. I find it is a natural progression for my characters to physically act out what they are feeling. In romance novels the the love scene, be it sweetly sexy to highly erotic, differs meaningfully from pornography. It must be an emotional experience, relevant to the story and move the relationship between hero and heroine forward and advance the readers knowledge of their character.
What does the reader gain?
Carol Rinkleib Ellison, PhD, a psychologist and author of Women's Sexualities has some ideas I think make good sense. She is quoted on a 2011 blog by Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatals and Fantasy, where explores the idea that through reading romance, women are able to move out of their traditional roles and into their sexual self. She says, ‘Taking part in enjoyable activities such as walking with a partner, listening to music, having a glass of wine, taking a bath, or reading a romance novel can help put women in the mood for sex. These activities can help women shift into their "sex self" from their role as mother, wife, employer, or employee.’
I conducted a survey of my female friends on when they read romance. I found timing had to do with a need to alter their mood. They claimed to read romance when had have leisure time as a way of lowering stress. Each has the pressures of modern life, responsibilities of various mixtures of the following: career; children; partner; and balancing family or personal budgets. One friend said she likes to double the de-stress dose and read romance while taking a bath. Another said that reading romance provided a leisure activity she can do when she is physically tired. A friend who shifted in with her in-laws whilst her new house was being built retreated to the bedroom with a romance where there is peace and quiet after the children have been put to bed.
During times of stress we all need a bit of feel-good and pick-me-up. The romance genre seems to have found the right mix of ingredients that provide upliftment in a way that women find accessible. Be it finding her sexual self, the optimism of the happy ever after ending, or the sheer love of the romantic ride, the sales tell the tale. The more demanding a woman’s life is, the more she reads romance.
Mum taught me to sew when I was a teenager. The first thing I learned to make was a basic wrap around skirt first which I wore with pride. Then, I graduated to more complicated dresses.
Smock style clothes were my favourite I have a picture of me wearing a smock top I made when I was about forteen. I loved the feel of cotton the most and the sight of luxurious, meters spread out on the dining table. It seemed a shame to cut into it but I wanted the new dress so the paper pattern pieces were pinned on and cut out with Mum’s best sewing scissors.
Those early clothes making attempts gave me a can do attitude to crafting with fabric. I altered patterns and combined two different patterns to get the style that would suit me best. I made party dresses and the dress I wore to my high school graduation ball. I also made the dress I wore to my engagement. But with the price of patterns and fabric going up and the cost of buying a new dress coming down, it didn’t make good financial sense as I went into my twenties. What had once been a necessity was a luxury later on. But sewing my clothes during my teenage years created a lifelong love of fabrics and fashion.
I went to work in an office and that allowed me to buy an expensive fashion magazine called Harpers Bazaar. During the early 1980’s I cut out pictures of the fashions I loved and pasted them into a scrap book. I still have it. I dreamed of being a fashion designer and going to Paris, but it was never something I could fund so it remained a dream. There in the back of my mind until I began writing romance. A fashion designer came to me, a rebel with vibrant magenta hair at high school and a dog eared scrapbook that she took everywhere with her.
She woke in me the girl who’d made her own clothes and took pride in her work and she lived the dream I couldn’t. Ruby Baxter finished high school and went to work for a middle of the road family fashion house. She designed bread and butter styles that sell but dreamed of having her own line. She put in hours of work to pull a new collection together to relaunch the fading fashion house but when it was met with rave reviews her boss took all the credit. So Ruby leaves determined to pursue her dream and work as a freelance designer but her ex boss is afraid Ruby’s work appearing elsewhere will uncover her lie so she tells another. She claims that Ruby stole the designs from her and passed them off as her own.
Of course she needs a white knight and there’s one who’s been following her career for years. He’s the boy she loved back in high school. Hushing up a family secret had divided them but now he’s determined to clear her name. Ruby has no other option than to accept Jarrod’s help but he commands a high price. Ruby’s hero turns out to be a calculating businessman in the fashion industry who will turn protecting an old friend from scandal into an advantage.
It always amazes me where my stories come from and I’m really enjoying the memories of how much I enjoyed sewing and creating a fresh design to wear that no one else will have. I think if I’d been on the verge of achieving my dream and having it stolen from me, I’d so just about anything to make it right. If it was the handsome Jarrod who I’d never really gotten over, it would be a major challenge but I think I’d take the chance. What would you do?
The Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal is the final book in the Baxter Sisters Series and is coming soon.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free short story, Brave in Love and get the details of when Ruby and Jarrod’s story will be released.
I want my novels to have an uplifting effect on the reader. I take passionate, sexually attracted couples with terrible emotional wounds on a journey through the relationship they are meant to have. In finding a healing love it leads them to strive for their happy ever after.
In this week’s blog I’ve posted an excerpt from The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby. It falls close to the end of chapter two, and begins in Katrina’s point of view. It changes to Alessandro’s in chapter three. I did this because it’s about a man meeting his child for the first time. I want you the reader to be able to feel what each is suffering and hoping for It’s a huge moment in all their lives, Katrina, Alessandro and their baby Alex.
For Katrina and Alessandro, their past is playing a huge role in their present, and it is playing out through their internal thoughts and is preventing them reconciling.
In the first couple of chapters we see that both Katrina and Alessandro are still very sexually attracted to each other. It’s a strong pull that is matched by real love. But the hurt that this love once delivered makes them reluctant to let those feelings resurface. But it’s still there. You can read the first chapter on Amazon.
Have a read of the excerpt below and after it I’ll talk more about how healing love is working in the story.
Katrina and Alessandro fell in love but their relationship didn’t work out the first time because Alessandro lacked the ability to commit and Katrina couldn't believe a man could truly love her.
In the excerpt, baby Alex brings Katrina and Alessandro back together. You can see the effect on Alessandro that meeting his child has. Also what is shown is that their pasts play a huge role in how they internally process the events taking place. Alessandro finds the will to be a better man and show up, while we also see how Katrina is going to have to rethink her plan of raising Alex alone.
Neither is comfortable with the way things are changing. No one ever is, but the love they feel for each other and their little boy will keep them trying hard to work things out. Of course they have a lot of changes to make regarding their view of the world and each other but their love enables them to heal.
Although Katrina and Alessandro are good people, their past hurts have caused them to make hurtful errors of judgment, so that now it’s almost impossible to put things right. But this is a romance and they do find a way. That is because of the healing kind of love which is my kind of romance.
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The Italian Billionaires Secret Baby is available in eBook and print or borrow for free from your Kindle device with Amazon Prime.
In the evenings we walked along the foreshore and stopped at a restaurant that took our fancy for dinner. The sun would set as we sipped a cocktail or glass of wine and listened to the waves patting the shoreline. We were treated to a full moon one night and I managed to get a picture of it
Last year, we had just moved into our house when we had to leave it again because we had a holiday booked. For me, Sam and I were starting our lives together. I’d looked forward to it for so long and had expected to be in our house a month or two earlier. But delays in the renovation put us back so far that our holiday had rolled around just as the removalists finished bringing in the furniture. So we locked the front door and left all the boxes and headed off to Palm Cove, just out of Cairns. For non Aussies, Cairns is the tourist capital of northern Queensland
We caught a gondola back down, which also had the most amazing views. We did have to share with another couple but you know, we were high up. Even though the view was wonderful, there was plenty of eye contact too.
I wrote that I'd like a man who was tall, like me, kindhearted, honorable and someone my children would admire and like. I kept hope there, in the presence of fear that it might never happen. I just knew I needed to do more. I needed to help myself to be in the right frame of mind for romance to come into my life. I decided to start saying yes to new experiences and to practice being romance ready.
I was invited to join a friend on a trip to Europe and in particular Italy. I had always wanted to go and so I jumped at the chance. I purchased a red lipstick at Harrods before the tour started and I wore it everyday of the bus tour leg of our trip. I was tired but when I put on that lipstick I felt alive. I absolutely loved Italy and I've always had a soft spot for Italian men. Paris might be the city of romance but Italy is the country of romance. The beautiful countryside, the villages with cobblestone piazzas and the ornate, pretty architecture all filled my previously empty romance well.
I came home feeling so inspired, I began taking myself out for dinner and picturing a loving partner sitting opposite me. I went to bed at night and imagined how it would feel to have that loving man curled behind me. I imagined walking down the street next to him and the feeling of my hand in his.
I had doubts about it ever really happening but, kept hope alive with my imaginings. I went on to finish writing a novel about an Italian hero and an Australian heroine, 'The Italian Billionaire's Secret Baby'.
I enjoyed meeting some very nice men that I'd met through internet dating sites but they weren't the right nice man for me. Then one day when I least expected it to happen (because I'd just come home from hospital) Sam contacted me. Born in Australia he has deep roots in the Italian culture, and he was exactly right for me. My grown up children think he's fantastic.
I still occasionally wear my red Dior lipstick. But I always hold Sam's hand when we walk down the street. He takes me out to lovely restaurants and it feels so wonderful gazing into his long lashed brown eyes. He's there at night beside me and I love it. All the imagining and dating was completely worth the journey to finding the man who makes my life romantic everyday.
When Valentine’s Day rolls around I want to look romantic. I like to style my hair in romantic waves and curls and wear makeup. Not least, I’ll choose to dress romantically, even if it’s a dinner I cook at home. Sam and I have been together for four years so we’ve notched up a few Valentine’s day dinners. He’s not super romantic, but goes along with it all to please me. There romance in that.
But not everyone is in a relationship, so to those of you who are single, I was single for a while too. Celebrating Valentine's Day was still fun for me. One year a friend invited her women besties over to her house for dinner. She’d decorated the room with hearts, and we were all dressed up and drinking champagne and toasting each other a happy Valentine’s day. Love comes in all shapes, and types so you can still enjoy the spirit of romance and the day devoted to love with an outfit that makes you feel romantic.
So what do I mean when I say dress romantically? For everyone, that’s going to be a bit different so I wouldn’t like you to think that my style of romantic is for everyone. However the color red and pink preferably together say Valentine’s day. For me flowers are also synonymous with romance. This year I’ll be wearing a dress (pictured above) that I wore to a wedding last year (you might have seen it on my Instagram feed). It has a black background and has a stunning border of pink and red full-blown blooms. They also feature on one shoulder.
In years gone by a red and black dress in chiffon was my favorite. This photo of me and Sam was taken at another wedding. Sam has a matching red tie, how cute is that? I framed this photo of us and gave it to Sam for Valentine’s day the following year. For me silky, slinky and soft fabrics are the sort I love for a romantic mood. Brides choose these sorts of fabrics for their wedding dresses because they’re romantic. Lace is also used for romance, and I’ve seen gorgeous red lace dresses in the shops this year.
A word on red, you need to find a red that will suit your complexion. For me blue-based reds make my skin look healthy and cheeks pink. A yellow based red and my complexion goes grey. Don’t do it to yourself. No matter how much of a discount you’re getting it’s not worth it. Yellow based reds look great on people who can wear orange next to their face. If you gravitate to cool blues, go for a more bluish undertone.
Lastly, be comfortable. Your dress doesn’t need to push up your boobs or cinch your waist. Romance can be sexy, but it’s about love. Love your outfit and yourself in it. If you’re not comfortable, it will show on your face. You want to be able to feel the love of friends family or your partner, not how your shape wear is digging into your ribs. Indulging yourself with a day or evening of feeling lovely and romantic is the goal. Your fashion choices can enhance your experience.
I really and truly hope that you all have a very, lovely, Valentine's Day.
Sadness over losing Mum last year is still very present. Sometimes it’s worse than others. But I know what she’d advise me to do, to carry on. When I’m feeling down it can be so hard to be enthusiastic and cheerful. I find if I spend time doing the things I enjoy I can bring some cheerfulness back to remind me there’s still good in my world.
If, like me, you groan at that idea, read on. I have ways to get myself walking by doing things I like that involve taking a stroll. It’s worth trying because; it has been proven that walking is good for enhancing the mood. My Dad thinks it might have something to do with getting more oxygen to the brain, I think he’s got something there. But I also think, getting out of the house for a while works wonders too. But my daughter and I were joking that just walking for the sake of it is a non starter for us. We just won’t. However we know we’ll walk if there’s something to look at or a reason to go somewhere on foot.
I will drive to a small local lake to look at the pretty views and birds. It’s so beautiful it entices me out of the car and walking to the pier. Then I think I’ll go for a walk to see all the plants and birds on the other side. Sometimes I meet my sister and we walk around it together.
Another less obvious walk is to go to a garden centre and walk around looking at the plants. I love this because plant nurseries stock flowering plants so it’s very pretty. I might treat myself and bring home a punnet of seedlings to pot up.
The last way I manage to get a walk in my day is inside but it’s better than not moving. I park my car at one end of my local shopping mall and walk all the way down one side looking in the shops as I go and then all the way back the other side. This is great for really hot or cold/wet weather because it’s air conditioned or heated and dry.
Art and Craft
The act of making something is soothing to my creative soul. I have lots of unfinished projects to choose from so I might tinker with an ongoing hand stitched quilt or do some colouring in. Anyone else love the smell of Derwent pencils?
Christmas was a bit tough this year so I made myself think of some things I could make to lift my Christmas spirit. I saw a YouTube video of wooden clothes peg snowflakes; to me they looked like stars so that’s what I call them. Hot glue gun in hand I made a milky way of wooden stars and it worked like a charm.
YouTube creators have a lively energy. When I’ve absolutely had it with living and am blobbing on the couch but nothing interests me on the TV and I’m just over it all, I go to YouTube. When really sad, I choose an Andre Rieu video and in no time my spirit rises. He actually says a doctor told him that when he plays one of Andre’s DVD’s to patients they all feel well again. It has that effect on me too. I am feeling brighter and enjoying living after listening to a few songs.
I have some other favourite YouTube channels that always give me a lift. Women who do craft and decorate their houses inspire me to make things. Garden Answer is a lovely channel for getting me motivated outside, planting things or potting up cute little succulents.
Of course I sometimes need a good cry. But when it’s time to dry my eyes these things help me to look forward and be as happy as I can. I know Mum would want me to try and make the best of things even though it’s not how I would like it to be.
What gives you pleasure and lifts your mood? Do you know what your top three things are?
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The last of my Christmas chocolates have gone. The days of wine and turkey-stuffing are behind me. It’s time to pack up the Christmas trees.
I’ve let them linger this year, because I have been enjoying the baubles and the red and blue color scheme so much. The winter themed room, in the middle of an Australian summer, lifted me out of the everyday and into a wonderland of fairies nutcrackers and Father Christmases but I want I sense of space and that corner of the room, where the tree sits, back. There is a need to clear the cosy and create some fresh energy in the room.
The task is a wee bit daunting. A seven foot tree, and a three foot one are being tackled today. There’s another five foot tree in the dining room but if I try and do that as well I may not start. So I’m breaking it down into manageable steps. The three foot one was a breeze but the seven foot one is a bit more involved. Every branch is slotted individually into the stem to set up the tree so the reverse has to happen to pack it up. I have the different levels of branches stacked around the room in green furry piles. They’re ready to be stacked back into the box it came home in.
I’m enjoying looking at all the pretty things as I place them in piles on the floor ready to go back into their hobby box homes in the garage. The sweet little baubles from the tree are so charming. I love looking at the intricate designs on the few expensive ones I have. The fairy sitting high on the tree can be looked at up close and all her finer details fully appreciated.
I’m putting all the wreaths together in a big garbage bag. The decor is bubble wrapped and then put into a hobby box. Heaviest things go in first so that they’re on the bottom, lighter things go in last and sit on the top. The care I take putting things away will ensure I have all these lovely things to enjoy same time next year.
So while I’m wrestling with wired branches I’ll keep calm and remember that Christmas comes every year and without fail I’ll be looking forward to it. I might even start Christmas decorating earlier this year. Normally I wait until December 1st but early November t seems to be a time when a lot of bloggers are starting to put it together and publish posts so there’s a thought.
For now I will enjoy a putting my summer decor back out on display. It’s not long until Valentine’s Day and I’ll start thinking about what I can do to make it special for Sam and me once I’m finished with the putting away the Christmas things. By the end of next week I think it will all be done. Wish me luck with getting the trees back into their boxes.
I love writing romance novels, creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style, living a loving, romantic life filled with family, friends, and exploring lovely places with Sam.