Wednesday, 1 October 2014

SYTYCW 2014

It's closing day for the SYTYCW14 competition and I promised I would put up my top picks of what I've read so far. Most of these were read in the first few days so don't include later entries. And when it all comes down to it...it's a matter of personal taste.

Bear in mind I have read less than 100 chapters so I could be missing dozens of fabulous entries. I have also read less of imprints I don't usually read so there will be big holes in my choices.


My top picks consist of entries that have three things.

1. I like the story

2. I think the writing is of a high standard

3. The story is something I believe might appeal to the editors.

Please note: ..I...I...I...It's all subjective. (see graphic above)


So how did I do? 50% of my top ten made it into the Top 25 plus 2 of my recommended reads. I hadn't read 11 of the top 25 chapters. So of the 14 Top 25 chapters I had read, I picked 7. Additionally, one of my top picks was requested but withdrew due to time constraints. Just realised another of my top ten had to withdraw so I suppose if you don't count them it was 40% but if you do it's 60%.

Final List of Top 25 Picks

Leah MaserWanting the Detective
Tanya M. BurnstadRemembrance
Alison FrenchHer Italian Man
Amanda CinelliResisting the Sicilian Playboy
Traci DouglassAbout That Night…
Chase EwingLove for Sale
R. Lynn DewittSophie’s Hart
T.R. McClureA Perfect Match
Katherine DaneAgent of Desire
Autumn ShelleyFire and Iron
Carolyn HectorMistletoe Mischief
Ison HillImpulse
Karin BaineBelfast Belle
Amy JaneLearning To Love Again
Shelley IñónWhen the Bus Stopped
Thérèse MarieA Foundation of Love
Jeannie HallViolation of Innocence
Analiesa AdamsIn Desperate Search of Peace
Katie MeyerParadise Found
Sam(antha) BurnsSaving Greene Farm
Janet Lee NyeMan Maid
Laura BrownPerfect Together
Narelle BuxtonChanging Her Baby Plan
Darby KarchutStone’s Heart
Megan B ZehringThe Prodigal

Top 25 Picks So Far with Imprints

Paradise Found - Katie Meyer - (Special Edition) 
Belfast Belle - Karin Baine - (Medical)
Man Maid - Jan L Nye -  (Superrromance)
Perfect Together - Laura Brown -(Superromance)
About That Night - Traci Douglass - (Blaze)
Sophie's Hart - Gina DeWitt - (Heartwarming)
Mistletoe Mischief - Carolyn Hector - (Kimani)
Resisting the Sicilian Playboy - Amanda Cinelli - (Presents)
Violation of Innocence - Jeannie Hall - (Suspense)
Agent of Desire - Katherine Dane - (Historical)
Wanting The Detective - Leah Maser - (Intrigue) 
Faking It - Taryn Leigh Taylor - (Blaze) Withdrawn
Fire And Iron - Autumn Shelley - (Historical)
Twist of Fate - Susanah Loccarno - (American) Withdrawn
The Prodigal - Megan B Zehring - (Love Inspired)
Stone's Heart - Darby Karchut - (Love Inspired)
In Desperate Search of Peace - Analiesa Adams (Romantic Suspense)
Her Italian Man - Alison French - (Presents)
Saving Greene Farm - Samantha Burns - (Special Edition)
Impulse - Ison Hill - (Kimani)
Remembrance - Tanya M Burnstad - (Intrigue)
When the Bus Stopped - Shelly Inon - (Romance)
A Foundation of Love - Thérèse Marie - (Romance)
Changing Her Baby Plan - Narelle Buxton - (Superromance)
Love for Sale - Chase Ewing - (Desire)
A Perfect Match - T R McClure - (Heartwarming)
Learning to Love Again - Amy Jane - (Medical)










.


In no particular order - My top picks so far.



Presents

At His Disposal - Danielle Doolittle


Savage Pride - Maggie Jones - Requested


The Rinaldo Heir - Dora Bramden


Resisting the Sicilian Playboy - Amanda Cinelli - SYTYCW Top 25

Blaze



Faking It - Taryn Leigh Taylor - SYTYCW Top 25 - Withdrawn


Medical



SuperRomance

Man Maid - Janet Lee Nye - SYTYCW Top 25


Special Edition









































But wait...there's more.

I'm putting a list of recommended reads here without links. These are ones I would have liked to put in my tops but felt they needed a little something extra.

Presents


Proof of Love
Kate Francis

Playboy Sheikh, Forbidden Heir - Requested through slush
Emily Keeler

His Gilded Trap
Calida Ally

Paying the Sheikh's Price
Sue Child

Traitor in the Sheikh's Bed
Ros Clarke


And this is my hero...Pascal...who belongs in this section in my opinion.

Blaze

Strip for Me
Jem Lowe
Discreet Pleasures
Megan Ryder

Over Easy
Casey Wyatt

Homegrown Rockstar
Heather Hopkins

At Her Service
Mia Sosa

Romance

Beauty & the Recluse
Ellie Gray

Falling Deep
Tasha Taylor
Just because I love this.


Desire

Love for Sale - SYTYCW Top 25
Chase Ewing

Medical

Emergency:Two Blue Lines
Catherine Coles

Special Edition


How Not to be a Tabloid Cover Story
CA Speakman

Wake Me Up Inside
Gina Hagedorn

Intrigue


Hunted by the Past
Jayne Evans

Love Inspired

Love Thy Enemy
Erica D Hearns

American

The Cowgirl's Lost Love
Sophia Sasson

Historical



Fire and Iron - SYTYCW Top 25
Autumn Shelley

SuperRomance


Love at First Flight
Maria Michaels


And just a couple of ones that I'm not sure if they are quite right for the line but they made me laugh...in a good way.

Blaze

Seducing the Senator
Elle Marlow

Intrigue


Birthday Disaster
TN Payne







Thursday, 14 August 2014

What A Lady Craves Blog Tour

This is the first time I've participated in a blog tour so forgive me if I get it wrong.

The book is as pictured. Very nicely pictured in fact. What A Lady Craves. Self explanatory really.

I used to read a lot of historical romance in my teens and the first books I wanted to write were historical. Usually Georgette Heyer fan fiction I suspect but it made a change from my Anne McCaffrey fan fiction. If only the internet had been invented back then.

I've recently started writing historical romance again and so I've taken to reading more historical as well. I was interested to see this line from LoveSwept.

I'm half way through this story and enjoying it thoroughly. Henrietta is engaging, the humour is fun without being tedious and Alexander...well you know...see the cover for details. Ashlyn has also created a nice set of supporting characters that have depth and personality and we've been introduced to one of the other men in this Eton boys series and hints about the third gentleman.

I'll be back later when I finish reading.

I'm back...and here is my review.

This is the sort of book you should read and enjoy without thinking too much about it. It is at first glance an enjoyable romp with humour, a touch of boys own adventure stories and a romance with some sizzle.


The reunion of Henrietta and Alexander was bound to be fraught. He left England to salvage his families fortune leaving his fiancée behind, promising to return. Instead he marries someone else in India and Henrietta is left to face the ridicule of London society forcing her to withdraw from all contacts and eventually, to take a position as companion to Alexander's great-aunt. Lady Epperley is an eccentric and quite well drawn and entertaining.


The story takes up when Alexander and his Indian servant are shipwrecked close to his aunt's house and he must recuperate from his injuries under the wary eye of Henrietta. Thrown together, their reunion is complicated by the arrival of his daughters and the matchmaking efforts of his great-aunt. 


Henrietta is disturbed by the news that he has recently been widowed and his daughters have lost their mother. She is tantalised by the might have beens...


The introduction of an element of mystery with dark strangers threatening locals and hints about the tragic deaths that follow Alexander is a plot device that brings that element of an adventure tale that is just slightly over the top. Even the Indian servant has an air of mystery about him adding to the faintly gothic overtones.


I have to say the romance lacked the emotional intensity I expected considering the history between these two. It didn't quite match the fairly explicit smex scenes. They were well done but overwhelmed the emotional elements. 


The characters were well drawn and the author did well with the secondary characters who each had quite distinct personalities. Now and then it reminded me of Heyer's extended casts of characters from a range of social spheres.


Henrietta had a very definite personality and I liked her little quirks and interior monologues when confronted by her eccentric employers behaviour.


Alexander...well he was a nice guy but by the end of the book I was a little disappointed.


All through the book I kept remembering this quote... "I could not love thee, dear, so much,: Lov'd I not Honour more" from the 17th century poet Richard Lovelace.


(view spoiler) I explain this in detail in a spoiler in my Goodreads Review.


Overall this was an enjoyable read. It suffered a little from an identity crisis, not sure if it wanted to be an adventure story, a light-hearted romp or a sizzling ball of angst. The characters from the rest of the series were introduced and look interesting enough that I shall look out for them.


This was an ARC for review. I think you can tell I've been honest.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Why New Adult is inevitable and Necessary for the Romance Industry.


The "next big thing" in Romance is the New Adult sub-genre. By now, everyone knows it, but as little as three years ago people weren't talking about it.

Now it's everywhere and people are jumping on the bandwagon. Even Harlequin M&B tried to market to it within their category lines.

But why this sudden splurge of coming of age romances?

Because there was a big black hole in Romancelandia. It was like a small town where all the school leavers have left to go to the big city and didn't come back.

Young adult as a genre is stronger than ever with the ubiquitous trilogy plus stories being made into movies. These stories cater to the adolescent verging on adulthood market (and quite a few middle aged women) The young adult market is resistant to including more intense romances with young people experiencing sexual relationships or leading to marriage within a genre that is read by children from around nine years old. So where do you go next?

Once upon a time it would have been category romance edging out the Babysitters Club and Judy Bloom. But not any more.

18306335Because mainstream romance is getting older. The bulk of heroines are late twenties and into the thirties. This is particularly true in the category lines with stories about successful professional women and their successful professional men. The medical lines, the good old fashioned doctor nurse romances, always tended a little older because to be a nurse or doctor you had to have spent years training and now we are seeing more heroines in that line nudging into the thirties. Where are the sweet stories about first year nurses falling for the hot doctors? Or vice versa.

The Road To The BorderWhen I was a fourteen year old, (yes I was once a teenager, don't tell my children), I read category romances with heroines mostly aged between eighteen to twenty-three. These were the mainstream romances and the heroines were mostly considered mature enough. Yes there were older heroines. Mostly in the medical profession, but in an era when a lot of girls had been in the workforce from sixteen, maturity was expected at that age. Most were virgins, most were in their first job or at most just left college. Sounds like New Adult to me.

So what does fourteen year old read in romance these days that would be the equivalent of a 1975 Harlequin Mills & Boon. Because a twenty-eight year old heroine is never really going to be someone a fourteen year old can identify with. OMG, that's almost as old as parents. Truly icky.

The Last Woman He'd Ever DateThe expected answer, the Cherish/Sweet category line, isn't going to meet the needs because it is full of single mothers and more mature heroines. Even if the sweet, closed bedroom scenarios are approved by Mom for her teenager to read, the story lines are not going to appeal to a teenager. The glamorous increasingly explicit Sexy/Presents line is generally not going to be something Mom wants to find her tweenage daughter reading under the covers, even if the exotic nature of the story lines helped overcome the age barrier. (we won't mention the titillation factor *giggles*)

At His Majesty's Request (Call of Duty, #2)Girls always want to read ahead of themselves. It's a normal part of growing up and learning what it means to be a woman (of course we all think we are WOMEN at fourteen). It's not until later we stop calling ourselves "nearly sixteen" and mumble "shady side of forty".

The point is, that the romance industry had left a gaping great hole which means there is a generation of young women out there who never read a category romance. But now it's being filled with the influx of New Adult books flooding the market.
Girl Least Likely to Marry (The Wedding Season, #2)
How is this working for the category lines? Not so good it appears. Because the closest thing Harlequin Mills & Boon managed to put forward was the KISS/Modern tempted line. It has younger heroines and heroes and is marketed as flirty and sexy. Maybe too sexy? Because the line is closing down, and it may be because the target market was that generation who never read a Harlequin Mills & Boon under the covers when they were fourteen. You have to catch them young.

So we have New Adult. And with a whole lot more publishers out there, the competition is fierce. Now that the market is identified, everyone wants to be a part of it. I don't think the genre is new. I think it was a core part of mainstream romance that was sadly neglected as publishers chased the holy grail of realistic romances that reflected the social mores of the present day.  More sex, later marriages, more single parent families, more second, third and fourth chance romances.

They forgot that teenage girls don't want that kind of reality. They still want to dream about finding their prince charming the first time round.




Monday, 16 June 2014

Diversity in Romancelandia




Towards a more diverse population in Romancelandia. An aspiring writer’s perspective.


Harlequin Mills & Boon are running a Historical Heroes tournament at present which is a wonderful thing and a great opportunity. But the limited range of heroes suggested by the competition opened up an interesting billy of worms. The question was asked - Where were the opportunities for ethnic heroes when the competition seemed to be asking for British Gentlemen, Knights and Tudor Lords, Vikings and Warriors? Warriors might encompass a broader demographic. But what of Chinese Scholars and Black Businessmen? Are they not heroic enough or are there supposedly none out there?

There has long been a perception that romance is dominated by “white” sensibilities. Looking back over my decades of Harlequin Mills & Boon reading, I have to say they are not entirely wrong. The most exotic of reading might bring a sheikh or even a Turk. But often this alien culture was softened by a French or British mother and frequently an education received at a fine British institution.

Modern contemporary romances are stretching the boundaries. We have Indian heroes and heroines and even a black Frenchman in the Presents lines. Brenda Jackson, a long established author and also a POC (Person of Colour-this is the term being used in the on-line discussion) has a series of romances in the Desire line featuring African-American protagonists but they seem to be a niche even within the mainstream. Sarah M. Anderson is writing Desire romances and others featuring First Nation heroes (Please excuse me if I get the current designation wrong). Special Edition have a few interracial romances. Harlequin even have a dedicated line for interracial and POC romance. I’ve read the Kimani line and as a Aussi with minimal daily contact with American POC I did notice differences in language but otherwise, not much different.

I’ve been puzzling about interracial romance for some time. Because I’m white and I want to write about POC in my romances. Not deliberately as some kind of crusade, but because characters just come that way. The hero in the romance I put up for the Harlequin Sold Blog first page critique is not entirely white. But he isn’t entirely a POC either. With an unknown black father and brought up by a white mother in Australia, his experience would be different to a POC brought up in a family in the US or even England. I feel comfortable in writing about him because his experience is not so far from my own.

What I didn’t feel sure about was where he could be published as he doesn’t fit standard category lines. I looked at a range of digital publishers, mostly US based, wondering if I should try submitting the story to one of them. But when I look at their offerings I noticed something that made me as an Australian, very uncomfortable. Several of the digital publishers have a category “Interracial Romance”. I hadn’t ever considered it as a “thing”.  Without being aware of it, I wrote an interracial romance. In fact I have written several. I have written a story about a Chinese-Australian girl who falls in love with an Italian-Australian boy.

Now I’m worried. Because I wonder if people will look at my stories as some kind of statement. Will they look at my Chinese-Australian girl and see racial stereotypes. Am I a racist because my heroine does Martial Arts? Should I have made her a surfing groupie or something typically “white” just to prove I don’t see her as “different”? Should I not make my Chinese-Australian hero so enigmatic in case it plays into the stereotype of the “inscrutable Oriental”? Should my Italian avoid Pizza and Pasta? Where do I draw the line?


I recently went to see the Georgian era romance “Belle” at the cinemas. (Twice actually, cos I loved it so much.) It is a beautiful romance with such a positive heroine, the illegitimate daughter of a well-born sea captain and a black slave. The slave trade was in the background through her guardian, Lord Mansfield, who as Lord Justice had to pronounce on a significant legal issue with a slave ship, but it was not the primary story. The romance came first and it was lovely, if a little enhanced for the sake of the story. But at that time, in 1783, Lord Mansfield estimated there were 15,000 POC in England, slaves and free in a population of 7.5 million. I suspect many people would say that constitutes only a handful.

Where is the Black Hero?
In the Castonbury Park series published in 2012, Marguerite Kaye, a historical author has written a romance between a white woman and a black former slave set in 1816. I have come across the odd historical romance with a half Indian heroine, but they are rare. Jeannie Lin has a fascinating series of Chinese historical romances in the Harlequin line. In the broader romance community, Beverley Jenkins writes romances with African-American protagonists and First Nation heroes are found more often in American historical romances. I’m sure there are others but they seem to be very much a niche market.

I suppose to be truly diverse, no-one should feel the need to comment when there is a hero or heroine of a difference ethnicity in a mainstream romance. Somehow I can’t see that happening for a while.

banner-belle-film

Saturday, 18 January 2014

I haven't been very opinionated lately. Must be the Christmas Season...all that good will. To tide you over I'll post a short I did for the Writing Challenge on the Harlequin Boards. The theme was...it had to start with "This past year hadn't been what he'd expected. If only" and there had to be a kiss.  This was my entry which scraped into the winning spot by .4 of a point.

I like to think it is a Presents story told in 1000 words.
Sunset over Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, WA where I attended a wedding last week.


Coming Home

This past year hadn't been what he'd expected. If only he hadn’t walked away, leaving Lily alone. At the time, with his anger threatening to overthrow his control it had been the obvious thing to do. Go away and cool down. Then go back and sort things out with Lily.
Only Lily had been gone. Their room, usually so immaculate, looked like a bomb exploded. There were clothes everywhere. The contents of her jewellery box scattered over the bed. She hadn’t taken a single thing he’d given her.
Twelve months later and he was no nearer finding her. The bedroom was immaculate once more, all her things restored to cupboards and drawers. Her scent had faded, only a whisper of lavender and vanilla when he stirred the clothes in the walk in robe. Soon it would be as if she’d never been a part of his life.

Lily halted the car at the entrance of the Belliconi mansion. Would Nick have changed the codes? Winding down the window, she pressed the keys of the security panel. With a buzz the heavy gates parted. Odd that security conscious Nick hadn’t ordered new codes after she left.
The paved driveway curved up to the portico, the pillars faintly reminiscent of an antebellum plantation house. The double doors loomed impressively and she hesitated. She owed this to Nick…and to Lucas who looked so like his father.  Even if Nick didn’t believe her.
The past year hadn’t been what she expected. If only… She shook her head. When Nick asked her to move in with him eighteen months ago, the only fly in the ointment was his spoiled younger brother. Danny, who Nick felt responsible for, so he had him living with him in the ocean front property he called home. He had been in rehab when she and Nick first met at her gallery. It had only taken six weeks for him to destroy everything.

The door chime echoed through the empty rooms, pulling Nick out of his absorption. The latest reports from the private detective were promising. He had tracked Lily to Adelaide, Melbourne and then Sydney through the gallery’s that showed her paintings. Post Office boxes weren’t much help, but they indicated the direction she was moving. Closer to home. He allowed himself to hope.
Striding across the foyer to the door, he quashed it. There was still the issue of the child. How would she explain that small aberration? Dragging open the heavy door, he froze, his heart stopping and then thumping hard. Lily…and the child. A boy, all black curls and bright blue eyes. A Belliconi through and through. It should have been his. Would have been if fate had not thrown his charming brother in Lily’s path just when he needed to be out of the country on business.
“Lily. What can I do for you?” Just the right tone, he congratulated himself. Cool and a little distant.
“I’ve come to see you about Lucas. My son.” Her son. Well the boy was as good as fatherless with Danny back in rehab.
“I suppose you want some financial arrangement. Unfortunate that Danny is unavailable. Perhaps you could come back another time.” In about six months, going on his brother’s usual pattern.
“I know he’s not here. I wouldn’t set foot in this house if he was here.”
“That’s a different story from the last time you were here.”
She sighed, adjusting the child on her hip. He was a solid child and she was so slightly built. Skinny, she called it. Not his usual type certainly. His past women had been tall blondes with plenty up top, and he didn’t mean above the neck. She looked tired.
“You’d better come inside.”

She should have known better than to come back. Nick wasn’t interested in his son. He’d barely glanced at Lucas and his voice, usually so warm, was putting off arctic chill. Seems like he’d believed Danny’s drunken ramblings. Well either way, he would believe Lucas was a Belliconi and that meant he was entitled.
Following Nick to his study, she had an opportunity to study him. He seemed thinner but it was hard to remember after a year apart. The Tee and jeans clung lovingly to his muscular torso and hugged his butt. What was wrong with her?
She was glad to sit down, resting Lucas on her knees while Nick fiddled with papers on his desk.
“I want you to move back in.”
Not quite believing her ears she stared at him.
“I said I want you back. Danny will never be a father to the boy. I can offer that at least. The child will need a father. A proper family.”
“You want me back? Even though you believe I had an affair with your brother, had a child by him?”
He looked uncomfortable, his eyes lowered, avoiding hers. “Yes.”
“What if I said no?”
That brought his face up, the intense blue eyes wide. “Why would you refuse? It’s a good deal. We were good together.”
Lily stood up, letting the anger out. “Because I couldn’t be with someone who doesn’t trust me. Who believes his lying brother before he believes me. I can’t live like that. All I want is financial assistance for Lucas. He should have the chance for a good education.”
“I didn’t believe it once I had a moment to think. But you didn’t come back, so I thought it must be true. I thought you were afraid to come back. I’ve been searching for you all year.”
“Even though you believed that of me?”
“Don’t you know I would forgive you anything? I need you.”
“You never said. I thought it was just about the sex.”
“It was never just that.” He smiled crookedly. “Though it helped.”
He was around the desk in an instant. “My son?”
“Our son.”
His arms wrapped around them both. “I love you, Lily.” His lips met hers, soft and tender. She was home.

The End

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When Good Heroes Go Bad

Some people were upset that Superman kills
the bad guy in his latest incarnation
"Man of Steel" staring Henry Cavill
Today has been the sort of day that I wonder if I'm really meant to be a romance writer.

Which is funny because I was notified that I was one of six people chosen to pitch to eHarlequin (Contemporary) so I should be feeling on top of the world. Especially coming after making the top 50 in the SYTYCW2013 competition. The quality was exceptionally high this year so even making it to the top 50 out of over 700 entries is pretty special.

"So how can this be?" you ask. It comes because I was reading one of the top ten entries and absolutely loving it. Beautifully written and a wonderful emotive story. And then the hero, after being sort of jealous about the possibility that the heroine had been with other men, casually drops the information that he'd been with other women during the two years of the separation.

Apparently his ego took such a beating when the heroine said she didn't love him, it was necessary to go and have meaningless sex with nameless women. After all men have needs and he also needed to forget this woman he loved passionately.

In the interests of realism, this is now quite acceptable behaviour for a hero. One, going out and sleeping with women while separated but still married to the heroine (who he supposedly loved). Two, using nameless women to relieve his sexual frustration (and try to forget the heroine).

So in Romancelandia we accept that heroes will have sex with someone other than the heroine even when still married to her. We also accept that it is perfectly acceptable for a hero to have meaningless sex with nameless women. I can only hope the nameless women enjoyed the one night stands and didn't develop an emotional attachment to the hero. Probably they did simply enjoy the sex because in this new world, women don't develop feelings for their one night stand unless they are in a romance novel with that trope. Confused? I certainly am. There has to be some kind of feminist logic in there somewhere.

It's not that I object to stories being written with those happenings. I know many, probably most people, don't have my skewed view on what is desirable behaviour for a romance hero.

But now and then I get the feeling that somehow, by stating out loud that I would prefer it if a hero had not behaved in such a way, I am seen as betraying the sisterhood. A sort of "love me love my dog" equation. Surely if I feel so emotional about a characters behaviour (I cried real tears) it means I really care about them and so it becomes a complement to the writer. But it always seems to be taken as a criticism.

So what has all this to do with me doubting my place in the Romancelandia world?  

The least thing I can imagine happening to an unfaithful hero
Every one trying their hand at writing has doubts of course. My doubts mostly consist of whether anything I write will be commercially publishable in the modern world. If the trend in romances is any indication, we are living in a world where sexual fidelity does not have the significance it did in past decades.

When I look at all this, I wonder if this "realism" that is permeating even the last bastion of "Pleasant" reads, the Harlequin, Mills & Boon, will forever close it's doors to someone like myself who cannot bear to have my hero betray his married vows even under the direst of marital breakdowns. Because no-one in the real world would believe a hero can keep his pants zipped for any length of time.


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A Short Story to tide you over...


Last week I went and did my CPR update and was chatting on twitter afterwards.  I mentioned that if a gorgeous guy were to fall at my feet I was prepared.  I was due to write a 1k short for the Harlequin boards so this is the result.   It came second incidentally.  Not enough romance.  For those not in Australia, we dial 000 triple zero instead of 911.



Be Careful What You Wish For.


God, he was beautiful.
From the corner of her eye, Suvati scanned the stranger seated along from her in the waiting room.  The white-blond hair over a golden, classically beautiful face, the broad shoulders, narrow hips and legs long enough to… Don’t even think about it.

She dropped her gaze back to the magazine, trying to focus on the latest gossip about some actress or other but her eyes were drawn to him again and again.  He seemed indifferent, the vivid blue eyes staring straight ahead at the blank wall.  Suvati couldn’t help wondering what brought the frown to his face?  What brought him here today? He looked healthy enough, his body well developed and muscular, like an athlete.

What she wouldn’t do to have a man like that at her feet.  What was a man like him doing in this small rural town?  She’d have seen him before.  Unless he was the new CEO of the Moncrieff Mining Consortium due to arrive this week?

His eyes shut briefly giving her the opportunity to take a really good look.  Her first impression of his face hadn’t lied.  He really was beautiful.  The high cheekbones, the long straight nose between heavy lidded eyes, and his mouth.  Full, well shaped lips with the tuck in the corners that suggested humour despite his frown.  To have that mouth under hers...it would be worth dying to be kissed by him just once.

Fingering her grandmother’s jade pendant, Suvati smiled wryly at her thoughts.  Wishing wouldn’t bring a gorgeous stranger to her feet, desperate for her kisses.  But she wished anyway, comforted by the warmth of the stone under her fingers.

A murmur of sound brought her back from thoughts of Grandma Aditi.  A choking gurgle came from the strangers throat.  One hand pressed to his chest as the other flailed in the air, the long fingers splayed before they clenched tightly in a fist.  As she watched, he slid to the ground in a heap, his face white as chalk.
Leaping to her feet, Suvati glanced over at the receptionist who sat gaping.  ‘Call the ambulance.  Dial Triple Zero.’

The dark head ducked down behind the counter, followed by the clatter of the phone as the girl fumbled with the receiver.

Looking down at the man at her feet, Suvati tried to remember what she’d learned at her First Aid classes only a few weeks ago.
 
Check for Danger.  Okay.
Moving the chair away from his head, she knelt down.  What came next? Check for Response.  ‘Can you hear me?  Open your eyes.’  Taking his limp hand, she leaned over, assessing his condition. ‘Can you hear me?  Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.’  It lay flaccid in hers.  Please don’t die. 

‘Is the ambulance coming?’

The Receptionist nodded. ‘It’s on the way.  They said to start CPR.’

‘Can you help?’

‘No…no way.’ The girl backed away. ‘I’ll wait at the door to show the paramedics in.’

Looking down at the stranger’s pale face Suvati knew she had no choice.  He wasn’t breathing.  Releasing his hand, she gripped his jaw and the back of his head, tilting it back.  She couldn’t see any rise and fall of the chest and no whisper of air from mouth and nose. Open Airway. Done.

Resting the heel of her hand on his chest, trying not to notice how good the muscle felt under her touch, she found the right spot.  Thirty Compressions ‘One and two and three and four…’ She counted carefully as she pushed down with both hands.  Now two breaths.  She sucked in a deep breath.  This was not how she imagined kissing this man.  It certainly wasn’t what she wished for…was it?  An awful suspicion clouded her thoughts for a second.  Stop it.  He could die while you debate the question.

Gripping his nose and chin Suvati lowered her mouth over his, careful to form a seal as she breathed, turning her head to watch the chest rise.  All good.  A second breath and his body convulsed beneath her.  Coughing and spluttering he pushed her away roughly, just as the paramedics burst into the room.
Sidelined, she watched as the two uniformed men dealt with the patient.  They hardly seemed to notice her as they placed the blonde stranger onto a trolley to wheel him away.  He may be conscious but they had no intention of letting him go under his own steam.
She didn’t even know his name.

The hospital corridors were busy at this time of day, visitors hurrying to greet loved ones burdened with flowers and mysterious packages.  Probably food or clothing items.  Nervously Suvati stopped at the door of the room the nurse had indicated.  Would he resent her interest?  She just wanted to see he was okay.  A simple question and then she would leave
.
He lay in the bed with the sheet at his waist, a hospital gown covering that broad chest, staring out the window.

‘Um…excuse me.’

Those eyes were just as blue as she remembered.  His sandy brows rose slightly, in a question.

‘I’m Suvati.  I was in the waiting room at the Radiologists when you…’

‘Collapsed at your feet?’

His voice was luscious, deep and slow with a faint accent. ‘Yes.’  She thrust her parcel at him.  ‘I brought you some fruit…grapes.  They grow them here.’

His strong sinewy hand reached for the gift.  ‘Thank you. That is most kind.’

Standing awkwardly, she wondered what to say.  He didn’t seem inclined to talk, choosing a grape and popping it into his mouth.  His mouth.  Oh Gosh, she was staring.

Licking his fingers, he returned her look narrowly.  ‘So I fell at your feet and you gave me the kiss of life.  How was it for you?’

How was it?  ‘Probably better for me than you?’

‘Perhaps we should try again some time.  When I’m conscious.’

His warm gaze sent prickles of awareness all over.


‘Perhaps we should.’

The End