It’s nearly the end of November and this is the time of year my mind turns to decorating the house for Christmas and what presents I will buy for family and friends. I usually approach this preparation time with joy and confidence that I’m going to have a lovely time. In the past that has always been the case but this year it’s different for me.
I’ve had so much sympathy for people who aren’t looking forward to the festive season. Many times have I heard people say, I don’t like Christmas it’s a sad time of year for me? I really feel for those people, and to help them cope I have suggested they take time to be sad but also focus on who they currently have in their life. To be sad at a time when everyone else seems to be happy makes it all the more poignant, so to be able to feel that you still have some joy is important.
This year I have a taste of what they’re talking about and it’s my turn to practice my own advice. It’s the very first Christmas I’ve faced without my mother. She has been in my life since my first breath and now she’s not here and a large hole is left. Mum always made the Christmas plum pudding and added a generous amount of cheer. She had a warm and excited-to-see-you greeting for all that was infectious. Her gift to me is the example she set. Her mother passed when I was a teenager but Mum kept making Christmas day special for us. I’ll honour her by carrying on in the way she would want me to.
She taught me how to make a plum pudding so I’ll be making one this year. And I’ll be focussing on the people I have in my life: my dear partner Sam; Dad; my kids and their partners; and Sam’s and my sisters and their families. Mum always decorated the house for Christmas so I plan to do that this week too.
I’ve been watching Christmas decorating videos on YouTube for inspiration and motivation, fortunately that has been working. Below, I've included a video I made of my home last year if you’d like to have a look.
I really always did love Christmas, the joy of buying gifts for loved ones and adding to my stash of pretty decorations. I think family and love are the themes that make Christmas so special and warm my heart. That still is so important to me. I included a Christmas scene in the epilogue of my book ‘The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover’, because it was a way to show how wonderful it is for family to gather and give to each other.
My recently released book The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby” was inspired by an overseas trip to Italy that my darling mother paid for. I can’t believe she’s gone but I can believe that her love goes on and that she inspires me every day, also that Christmas day will be no exception.
I encourage you to stay tuned for updates on the Christmas decorating I’ll be doing. There will be a blog about it with photos next week.
In case I’ve piqued your interest in either of my books, the buy links are below.
Natalie and Alessandro's careers bring them together in Melbourne, a meeting that makes sparks fly on the racetrack and in the bedroom. Together they've created a baby that Alessandro wasn't ready to have. Now he's discovered his child and wants to reunite with Katrina, but having broken her trust, he has to begin again with her. Katrina and Alessandro both love their son and this love has a lot to teach them about commitment and trust and sharing their deepest secrets. Will they be able to acknowledge just how much they really love each other?
It's such a treat to be able to bring you a romance novel that I've been nurturing carefully for so long. It's with pride I let it go out of my hands and into yours, the reader.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt from 'The Italian Billionaire's Secret Baby.'
The glint of fire in his eyes betrayed his relaxed stance. His brow pressed downward, creating a crease across the top of his aristocratic nose. His gaze fixed on her sore knee as he took a step closer.
“You should get ice on that soon,” he said.
Ice would need to wait.
She made a show of checking her watch and twisted the end of the towel around her palm. “Are you going to tell me what you want?”
“You’re as beautiful as ever, mia sposa. Your flushed cheeks remind me of the times when I was the reason for your pink glow.” He tilted his head sideways as he narrowed his gaze and showed her the angle of his strong jaw.
His words slammed into her like burning wind across a sand baked desert. Unbidden memories swam in her mind’s eye. Her womanly places tingled and plumped. She exhaled slowly to control her racing pulse.
“Get to the point, Alessandro. I don’t have time.”
“We have unfinished business.”
“I know it’s not a mistaken belief we might still share something. I’ll see a lawyer and have divorce papers sent to you.” There was nothing to be gained from continuing a marriage that had outlived the rush of their whirlwind romance. Even so, she couldn’t regret it. She’d gained something very precious to her, something Alessandro had never wanted.
“I didn’t come here for a divorce. There’s something you have that I want. Can you think what it might be?”
She had no idea. She hadn’t taken any of Alessandro’s things when she left Milan two years ago. Even her wedding ring had been left on the bedside table. The memory of that morning chilled her blood. Their marriage was over, irreconcilably. “I can give you directions to the airport.”
“I want my child,” he growled.
A cold chill seized her heart. “You, what? How did you find out?”
“I found out in an email from the ballet company that you’ve won a new mother grant.”
Of course. Alessandro was a major benefactor to the ballet in Milan and Australia.
“I’m sorry you found out like that. I didn’t think…”
“I’m a father. You didn’t think to pick up the phone at any time over the last two years?” He raised a black eyebrow and drew his lips in tight, as if holding back a flood of sadness. His hands remained in his pockets. Usually, they’d be waving in the air when he spoke.
His reaction unnerved her but she’d had terrible sadness caused by him. “Two years and not one phone call from you either.” All the pain of hoping he would call during those years rose in her throat and silenced her.
“I had no idea you were pregnant when you left my townhouse in Milan.” He cleared the sadness from his eyes and leveled a glare at her that stopped her heart from beating. “I would never have let you get on the plane.”
Another shiver stole through Katrina. She’d stood in the first class lounge hoping he’d come through the doors and demand that she stay. If only she’d simply said it, I’m pregnant, but the words had stuck in her throat. Had she made a mistake? No the risk was too great.
Her biological father didn’t want her when she’d found him. He’d taught her that blood meant nothing at all to a driven man. If she couldn’t have Alessandro’s heart, she wouldn’t trap him with a child, but to have him reject that child… If that hadn’t kept her painfully silent her sister, Natalie’s experience would have. Her first husband didn’t want their baby. In a fit of rage he drove through a red light and killed himself, their unborn child and almost killed her sister.
“You’re a racing car driver who cannot consider having children. Children and racing don’t mix. Isn’t that what you said when I was trying to talk to you just before you walked out?”
He looked as if he’d been shot. He closed his eyes and tilted his head to the ceiling. He shook himself and looked at her again with those brown glissening eyes. “What I said then is irrelevant now. The child is mine.”
My grandmothers listened, guided and helped me where they could. They didn’t have the important responsibility to raise me or pay for my shoes or doctors’ appointments. They’d done all that with one of my parents. Now was their time to enjoy children and to offer unconditional love and a wise word here and there. When creating my heroines, I always seem to think about not just her mother and what she was like but also who was her grandmother and what influence did she have. In my latest book, Katrina’s mother was a successful artist and worked a lot, so it was her grandmother who provided the stability and attention that little Katrina craved. Having had a close and loving relationship with both of my grandmothers, who were there for me when my mother couldn’t be, enriched my life beyond measure. I like to share a little about them with you.
My Nana (Dad’s mum) lived a few houses away in the same street. She was the social outgoing type who always came to see me dance at my annual ballet concert. I would call in and see her whenever I liked and was welcomed with a warm smile and offered a packet of chips, a treat that I promptly ate. She had fun loving friends who came to play cards. Sometimes I would call in after school and find them laughing and sitting around a card table in the lounge playing ‘Stop The Bus’. A chair for me would be pulled up and a pile of copper coins placed at my disposal. Under the window sat a coffee table. On here she had photos of her seventeen grandchildren displayed under glass. She called all of us ‘Dear’ because she used to get our names mixed up. Parties at Nana’s were a highlight at Christmas with all her children and grandchildren arriving for a sing-along and sometimes there was dancing. I used to love playing in her crystal cabinet. I was actually dusting it, but it was like playing to me. She left me that cabinet (see the photo above) and I will cherish it always.
My Granny (Mum’s mum) lived in the next suburb but it was there I had many sleepovers when Mum and Dad went out. She was an older grandmother and had been the head Sister in a country hospital before she married. She was a quiet woman who liked a simple life and kept her country ways even though she now lived in a big city. She taught me how to knit and crochet and to make paper pieced patchwork. A wood fired stove turned out scones and sausage rolls and an open fire in the lounge room was a special delight. There was a pot of tea with cups and saucers brought into the lounge on a tray, and Cadbury milk chocolate for supper.
I remember asking her some of the big questions. Like ‘Aren’t you scared of dying now that you’re old?’ I cringe now when I think about my young self being so tactless, but she gave me an answer that has stayed with me all my life. She explained that she wasn’t scared because she’d lived a long life and was tired now. She also told me that I didn’t have to worry because I’d be ready too when I was old and my time came. I stopped worrying about what lay ahead in all areas of my life. I assumed I’d be ready when the time came. She let me play with her makeup and I’d put on her red lipstick and bright rouge although I never saw her wear it and I assume it was kept solely to entertain her granddaughters. I was allowed to look through the jewelry that she kept in a crystal bowl. She left that bowl to me and I keep it in my study where I write.
I’ve dedicated “The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ to my grandmothers because of the love they gave me, and all their grandchildren, for the stability and quiet confidence that came from being family women who’d lived through all the stages of womanhood. They knew what lay ahead for me and did their best to help me see a light inside myself. They were giving in their time and showed how happy they were to see me whenever I visited.
Katrina, pretty ballerina, as I like to call her, had a close relationship with her grandmother. Because of this she wants her son to get to know his grandmother in Italy. I believe I could write this lovely lady from the heart because I had some wonderful women to inspire me.
If you’d like to order a copy of The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby.’ Follow the links below.
Kindle e-book buy link
Paperback buy link
I was sitting in the library during a class at primary school, when I chose a book to read simply because there was a fairy-like ballerina on the cover. Her light as air fluffy tutu and her elegant hair pulled back into a bun made me want to be her.
I don’t remember the name of the book but I have vague memories of a girl coming from a poor home. Her life was spartan and she fed the mice in the attic to make pets of them. I don’t think I’m mixing this up with Cinderella but you never know. I’ve had a look on Amazon and it may have been ‘Dance of the Swan’ A biography of Anna Pavlova. Her mother was poor after her father died. Born in Russia, she could learn to be a ballerina at the government-run school once she turned ten years old. It changed her life. She worked hard and endured painful feet to become a famous prima ballerina. I really wanted to be her. I wanted to be a beautiful woman who rose from obscurity and danced on a stage to the applause of hundreds.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait until I was grown up to have that experience.
I told my mother I wanted to learn ballet. Luckily there was a school in our neighborhood and although we weren’t well off, Mum somehow found the money for the fees, leotard, pink tights and of course the coveted shoes. To my extreme surprise and severe disappointment, they weren’t toe shoes. At only 10 years old I had a while to wait.
I was amazed at how strict but kind the teacher was. I knew I couldn’t dance very well, but she praised my determination to give it all I had when it came to the complicated steps and jumps. She was so elegant and graceful and was precisely what a ballet dancer should be.
At the end of the year, I had my first exam. I was so nervous and I remember her kissing me on the top of my head and saying I’d be okay. I could hardly breathe when I went into the room and began going through the steps I’d learned before a panel of three judges.
When I got to my next class, I raced with all the other girls to the notice board to find out my results. We crowded around and I heard them say they had got honors with pride or that they’d got a credit with not quite as much enthusiasm. Me, I was just praying for a pass. When I finally found my name and a pass next to it, I think I felt happier than any other girl in my class.
Near the end of the year, we began rehearsing our concert dances so extra classes were scheduled. I loved Saturday afternoons when the older girls came in to dance with us. I was transfixed watching them dancing on their toes. Like magic fairies, four girls danced with interlocked hands and bounced on toes doing a famous dance from Swan Lake. I was one of the many flowers that grew around the lake, in the background watching on.
Our concert was held at the town hall in front of a large audience. The buzzing excitement of being dropped off at the stage entrance by Mum was just the beginning. I was helped to dress in a gorgeous tulle costume and had my makeup done. It was a highlight experience of my childhood. We filed up a wooden staircase to one side of the wings and waited there with the fellow flowers, listening to orchestra music and the applause at the end of each scene. We gradually descended the stairs as each set of dancers went on stage and did their performance. Finally, it was my group's turn and I ran onto the stage. It was so dark out there but I sensed the audience and knew my mother, sister and grandmother were all watching me.
I danced my piece with the flower chorus and then stayed on stage but standing at the back I watched the beautiful older girls dance their piece. Then the audience clapped so loud. It was thrilling and exciting and happy but too soon it was time to leave. I ran as I’d been taught on tippy toes across the stage and out into the wings. I was hooked. I loved every minute.
I kept dancing for another few years until illness made me retire. I never did get a pair of the much-coveted toe shoes. I probably never would have become a real ballerina anyway. I was too uncoordinated, too tall and gangly but that doesn’t dim my enjoyment in the memories I have. I did get to dance on stage and hear thunderous applause that lifted me out of my ordinary life, and for one evening a year, I was a ballerina who danced on a stage.
As a romance writer, I get to live out the dreams of my childhood through my characters. Katrina Baxter is a prima ballerina. Dancing helped shape her identity and has been the one constant love in her life until she met Alessandro Rinaldo, a very determined Grand Prix champion. Each of them is 100 percent committed to their career until a little boy captivates their hearts and makes them see that there is more to life and to love than their careers.
I suppose we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up and for a lot of us it doesn’t work out that way. I don’t think it matters that much. In researching the book I discovered how much pain ballerinas endure for their craft and I know I wouldn’t want to have the arthritis a lot of them end up with. Perhaps having the dream, the imagining of how it would be, is the best part. In my case, I was lucky to have some part of the dream come true. The experience I had was enough, so that when it was time to let it go I was okay with it.
You can find my e-book about Katrina, Alessandro and their baby ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ on Amazon Available at the special pre-order price of 99cents until the released date on Nov 14th when it will be $2.99.
I'm giving a free advance copy away. For a chance to win it, leave a comment telling me what wanted to be when you grew up.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, recusing roses and planting new ones.