The songs of Burn me Once

THE SONGS OF ETHAN ASHSo my latest release for Mills & Boon has been out almost a week, and I’m so ridiculously thrilled to share Ally and Ethan’s story with you. I loved writing this book. I loved everything about it – I particularly ADORED my hero, Ethan Ash.

He’s the kind of rock star that dreams are made of. He’s every musician fantasy you’ve ever had, brought to life: and he’s soooo much better in the flesh!

The book is dedicated to Isaac Hanson, who was my first (and remains and enduring) musician crush for me, but there were lots of singers and bands that helped me come up with Ethan. I listened, ad nauseam, to my BURN ME ONCE playlist while I was writing this book. So if you read it and loved it and want to immerse yourself in the full Ethan Ash experience, have a listen on Apple music.  

BURN ME ONCE is out now.

“You. Me. Sex. It’s easy.”

All she has to do is not get hooked…

Ally Douglas has made a deal with Ethan Ash: just sex, no strings, no forever. All she knows about him is that he’s a world-famous rock star and he’s absolutely gorgeous. Their sexual chemistry is instant and magnetic, and this arrangement satisfies their needs. Only now that Ethan has started to break the rules, will Ally be able to stop herself from getting burned…

Facebook Cover BURN ME ONCE-2

Fifteen Years Ago

Fifteen years ago, my nana died. She was in her eighties and as fit as a fiddle right up until the day she died. I’m old enough now to see that this was a blessing – a long life, well-lived, healthfully lived, until the end, which was swift and painless.

But at the time, I felt robbed.  It wasn’t painless for those who loved her. We were left wondering why? We’d just celebrated Christmas together, for Goodness sake. Her eyes had shone with their usual degree of whit and vivacity, her lips had twisted with that quirk of amusement that oft sat upon her face, and she’d talked and nodded, laughed and eaten with all her usual degree of enthusiasm.

Less than a week later, she was dead.

I think of my nana often. I have her photograph right by my door and every day as I walk outside, often several times a day, I bid her farewell. I think about her life, which was full of so many road bumps, and so many joys. I think about what a gift it was that we had her for as long as we did, and that we were spared the pain of seeing her life and love dimmed by illness or disease. She was herself until the end.

I think about the lessons she taught me -resilience, perseverance, independence. My Nana Connelly was quite ahead of her times in these ways – widowed early in her marriage, with three daughters, she had to take care of herself and she did so with aplomb. She never remarried: my mother tells me Nana would say, “Better to be a young man’s darling than an old man’s fool.”

I’ve been nostalgic for nana today, fifteen years after losing her. As a child, she was a constant in my life, sweet-smelling and soft, stern at times, huggly at others, and also so very loved. I remember her laugh, more of a chuckle, really, and her kindness and her interest in me – an interest that was marked, because of her love. I remember her curious turns of phrase, borrowed from a faraway time, that were ‘uniquely nana.’ I remember feeling impatient with her, as I reached my teens, feeling that I knew so much more and oftentimes rolling my eyes at her stories. But nana wouldn’t have minded. She was young once, too, and that’s the way of the young.

Now, I wish she were here. I wish I could have a few more days with nana, to introduce her to my children’ and tell her about my books and hear her laugh and listen to her re-tell her stories.

I think of my nana, who died fifteen years ago, every single day, and speak to my children about her often. Is there more we can hope for, in life, than to make this kind of imprint on our descendants? I was so lucky to have my nana, and I’m thinking of her today, more than usual.



My Writing Work Day

close up of typewriter vintage retro styled

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about my average working day. Only, I don’t really have an “average” working day, but I have phases of productivity which form a pattern. An overall working-month, more than a ‘working day’. I do work ‘full time’ as a writer, and yet it doesn’t resemble any other full-time job I’ve ever held, that’s for sure! I have a lot of flexibility in how I structure my diary, and I think it’s a very unique process. Every writer will have a different approach to their output. This is how it is, for me.

Phase 1. Plotting. This is a term I use pretty loosely. I’m not a keen plotter, in terms of detailed storyline development. I approach a story knowing my characters inside out, and their central conflict as well. I usually have an idea of how their conflict will come to a head, and how it will resolve. I also like to have a “Hollywood moment” in mind- that is, the scene that everyone would go, “ahhhh, awwwww!” at in the movie cinema. I’m often plotting up to five stories at a time (maybe more), in the same notebook and in my head. It starts as a kernel of an idea and drives itself around and around in my mind until it’s fleshed out enough as a concept for me to start writing. I’m plotting all the time. Even when I’m writing, an idea can come to me for another story and I add it to my notebook. Sometimes, it’s just a sentence, other times, the story is almost fully formed when it comes to me.

The plotting phase looks a lot like: vagueness. Distraction. Conversations that fade into the air, as my mind ticks over new ideas, distracting me from the real world completely.

Phase 2. Writing. this is, by far, my favourite phase. When I’m in a book, it is pretty much all I’m capable of focussing on creatively. I can’t read other books or edit books of my own. Apart from an errant idea for another book I’m plotting, it’s all about the Current MS. So, in this phase, I write obsessively. The only way to describe the intensity of this is ‘claustrophobic.’ I suffocate under the weight of my story until I have written it.

I want to put everything on hold except for my book, and to this end, when I’m gearing up for a ‘writing phase’, I do try to clear as much of my schedule as I can, but obviously, that’s not always possible! So I have to squeeze my writing into the gaps of life, around school drop off and pick up, grocery shopping, extra-curricular commitments, social obligations. Nonetheless, in the weeks I’m writing, I write diligently, usually getting a significant amount of words down per day. This means waking early, and writing late. And I love it! This is, without doubt, my favourite part.

I never feel like I don’t want to write. I resent it greatly if I’m not able to get into my story for any reason, and if I go too long without being in a writing phase, I get antsy and irritable. Writing isn’t just my job, it’s my passion and my hobby.

I often ruminate on the fact that I don’t consider myself a writer, so much as a storyteller. Don’t mistake me, I love playing with words, running them around the page until they find the right order, but what I really love is my people, and their world. I love their conflict, their tension and angst, and manoeuvring the pieces of their lives into place to find their genuine, authentic ‘happily-ever-after’. Once I have the idea for the story, I desperately need to commit it to paper. It overtakes me until it’s done, pushing all else to the extremities.

I write books that are between 50,000 to 55,000 words, with the exception of three single titles I’ve written that hover around 80,000 – 90,000 words in length (and are still being tweaked). I usually add a few extra thousand words during the editorial phase. A Mills & Boon is between 50,000 and 55,000 words.

The writing phase looks a lot like: endless cups of tea, a cramped neck, and a computer tan. I will dip into my story at every opportunity, meaning my MacBook often has toast crumbs spread across it from where I’ve been typing out a scene while getting brekkie organised for the kids…I’m also riddled with doubt for big patches of this phase. I doubt my story, my characters’ motivations and my ability to do them justice, but I know that doubt will disappear the closer I get to the end and so I keep my head down and push on.

Phase 3. Editing and promotion. Though I wish I could just write stories all day every day, there are other parts of the job that need my attention. When I’m not writing, I’m usually catching up on edits. I’m generally editing two projects at a time, one in structural and one in copy edits. On a day when I’m editing, I like to choose a time when I have a proper block to work at it. If it’s a day when my little girl is home, that’s during her midday nap. If it’s a day when both kids are at kindy/school, then I set myself up at the kitchen table with a pot of tea and have at it, not shifting until I’m happy I’ve done a solid chunk of the book. It’s important to see the book for what it is, putting aside all the visions that fill out your head when you’re writing it, and read it with as fresh eyes as possible.

To this end, once I finish a book, I usually put it away for as long as possible before I begin my first round of edits – sometimes that’s three weeks, other times, it’s several months. It means I can read it as a reader would, and I also find I pick up way more typos and mistakes this way, too.

I both love and loathe editing. Once I’m finished writing a book, I consider their story told, and I want to move onto the next adventure. I find the idea of revisiting it tedious. BUT, no book is perfect on its first draft. The editing process, once you can bring yourself to do it, is an opportunity to hone your words to make them really special. To cut out the waffle and tighten the prose, and to expand on ideas that you didn’t completely capture on the first pass.

I’m lucky in that I have always worked with fantastic editors, who hold up the PERFECT mirror to my words (a mirror that is both honest and kind!!) so that I can see what needs improving without doubting the quality of the book.

The editing phase looks like: I’m human, more or less, once again on top of the minutiae of daily life, able to function, grocery shop and finish an actual conversation.

If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear about your approach. Do you write every day? Or just on weekends? What keeps you glued to the screen until you’re finished?




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When I was growing up, I never missed an episode of The Bold & The Beautiful. I loved that show with an undying degree of commitment. I have lost track of how many times we went through a Rooke phase then a Raylor phase, but I was as invested each cast-of-the-bold-and-the-beautiful.pngand every time as though it were the first. There’s something enduringly appealing about the dynastic glamour of stories like this – not just because of the unimaginable wealth and social status that allows us to imagine we were them, for a moment, but also, there’s the air of reality. Beyond all the couture and paparazzi, these were real people with real emotions, and though they proposed with twelve carat diamond rings, their hearts were no less vulnerable.

Late last year, I was invited by Harlequin to take part in an incredible exciting project – a serial novel full of glamour, betrayal, sex and drama. From the very first moment I read the premise I was suckered in. The Santiago-Marshall family, with their powerful patriarch Harris02-SECRETS-OF-THE-A-LIST-Quote-800-x-800on in a coma after a mysterious car accident, reminded me of everything I loved most about the Forrestors and the Spectors.

With Harrison indisposed, a question arises with absolute urgency: WHO IS THE FIXER? And what is his relationship to the powerful businessman?

The mysteries (and there are many) of this series are set agains the backdrop of a rarified world – money, status, wealth, society… the cast of this series are instantly, infinitely fascinating.

And they did fascinate me. I wrote the second ‘episode’ of this series, but I have devoured them all voraciously! It is a fast-paced, page-turning read and I am so jealous that you get to enjoy it for the first time now!


A new episode novella will drop each week for the next ten weeks (the first, Joss Woods’s awesome introduction to this world is FREE for a limited time so read it now and catch up!), and they’re designed to be devoured in a little over an hour – perfect, fast, exciting reading that will have you on the edge of your seat, hankering for the next instalment faster than you can say Netflix-and-Chill.

So, what are you waiting for? Go, go, go! Don’t miss Episode 1 of SECRETS OF THE A-LIST while it’s free, and then power through the series.

Enjoy, lovies!

The lastingness of love


I write mostly about romantic love, and romantic love is something that most people experience in their life. The presence of it, or the absence, I believe intrinsically shapes who we are.

But I’m thinking about enduring love today. Romantic love is – or can be – but I mean real enduring-in-the-face-of-adversity love.

The reason this is playing around in my mind is because I write from a cafe and have come to know the regular cast of characters who are here at the same times I am. There is one pair, and I cannot say if they are mother and son or husband and wife, to be honest. I know only that the woman, who wears a wedding ring, has suffered something, at some point in her life, resulting in her being silent and locked away inside of herself. And once a week, her companion brings her for coffee, and they sit and he reads the paper and she stares at other people, watches him, drinks her coffee, and every now and again, if she has stared for perhaps too long at any one particular person, he reaches across and taps her on the hand to draw her attention back to him. Her staring isn’t malicious, of course, but if you don’t see it against the background of her situation you might feel a little targeted.

In any event, the affection between the two never fails to bring a swelling to my throat. He takes such beautiful care of her, making sure she’s warm, patting her back as he settles her into a seat, laying a newspaper out in front of her to look at even though she doesn’t seem to read it.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe this is something we all think we would do for our spouse or parent, if they were to require it of us. It shouldn’t be extraordinary – this level of love should be more normal.

It’s just very moving and beautiful to see it enacted, and their love and connection gives me faith in the goodness of humanity and the lastingness of true love.



close up of typewriter vintage retro styled

Every single book I have written has a special place in my heart. I love them all. And yet… there are some, certain books, certain characters, that go into a whole other place. The book I’m writing now (my second for Harlequin’s new DARE line) – and will finish today – is one such book.

It has been an immersive experience to write. My every waking thought has been consumed by Ally and Ethan, and their story. I have resented every minute not spent at the keyboard (sorry, real world). It’s as though the ocean has grabbed me by the ankles and sucked me under; I am being rolled by every current and wave in their narrative. It’s exhausting and emotional but a rare and beautiful feeling, all at the same time.

This is a book about two people who’ve had their hearts broken in love before, and about the way those experiences have shaped them. Having been wrong before, he’s quick to spot the ‘real deal’ but Ally won’t let herself trust again.

Rockman Guitar PlayerI can’t define what, in particular, it is that makes some books like this. The characters, definitely. Ethan Ash is only my second rock star hero (the other is yet to be published), and I have buried myself in the world of beautiful musicians in order to research this book. I’ve listened to Ed Sheeran, in particular, on repeat, watched his concerts on youtube (like this one!) and Ethan Ash has become a real-life person in my mind. And I love him! As for Ally, the thing I love about her is that she’s someone we’d be friends with. She’s funny, smart, motivated, interesting and her vulnerabilities are completely understandable. In fact, the more she falls in love with Ethan, the more I find myself wanting to tell her to be careful, because we know how badly she was hurt last time.

And today, I will finish their story, and type ‘THE END’. And while it will be a relief – much like coming up for air, and being ‘myself’ again, I am going to be bereft. These people have been living inside of me and suddenly they’re gone… it’s a strange void to have to deal with.

I can’t wait to share it with you (in the first half of 2018).


I’m sorry for what happened at #Lovegonewild.

Following is a long, but not exhaustive, list of all that I’m sorry for at RWAus17.

First and foremost, I’m sorry to the presenters at the various sessions I attended. I’m sorry I didn’t smile and meet your eyes as you spoke – especially Marion Lennox. The thing is, when you’re busy scribbling notes so that you don’t forget a kernel of their wisdom (and WHAT wisdom was shared!), it’s hard to remember the social pleasantries.

I’m sorry to the organizers, who spent so much of the weekend with their heads down, running around behind the scenes making sure everything ran smoothly that they didn’t get to pause for breath, much less food. I’m sorry you probably didn’t get to experience chilled out afternoons at Sixteen Antlers, lazy breakfasts in the café, coffee overlooking King George Square, or really see how awesome the conference was like we outsiders did – it’s hard to do when running at a million miles an hour but rest assured, your hard work paid off!

I’m sorry to the people who pitched and did manuscript assessments. Whether you think you were successful or not, you were. Putting yourself out there like that is an achievement in and of itself. To those who received requests, I’m sorry for the months of nail-biting you have ahead (but how exciting!).

I’m profoundly sorry to those who bore witness to Ally Blake and my interpretive dance of THE LOVE SHACK.*

I’m sorry to all the word count warriors I roared at face to face! And even more sorry to any I missed. Our Facebook group has been an incredible source of motivation to me in the last few months and I love our camaraderie.

I’m sorry to the recipients of the RuBY, and all the award recipients of the night, who will be weighed down by their super-spectacular awesomeness forever more.  And I’m sorry to all the nominees who saw their names in lights and were commended on awesome work with admiration from the romance writing community, for the exact same reason.

I’m sorry to all the amazing authors (but most notably Annie West, Valerie Parv and Marion Lennox) who were subjected to my particular brand of enthusiastic fangirling. But how often are you in the same room with legends of their stature? My not-so-inner romance-reader apparently would not be silenced. I’m sorry. Especially to Valerie who I seem to vaguely remember tackling off the elevator on our way to the awards dinner. Please don’t let a restraining order come between good friends at next year’s conference.

I’m sorry to anyone who was bored with photos of my children, and stories about them. What can I say? #proudmum

I’m sorry to Maisey Yates and Jackie Ashenden for monopolising the last day of your holiday but how wonderful it was to shoot the breeze as much as we did – and to find you both so utterly delightful!

I’m sorry to Amy Andrews for the demands for late-night cups of tea, the failure to convert you to a die-hard Austen fan, and the wine. All the wine. I’m also sorry we didn’t get more time.

I’m particularly sorry to Kate Cuthbert for all the stalking – though I can’t really take the blame. You are particularly stalkable. Perhaps the midnight champagne in your room took the friendship too far though.

I’m sorry to Rachel Bailey for the persistent lobbying to name me an honorary Minion. But seriously. What are the chances?

I’m sorry to anyone I spoke to after that deadly Dare cocktail. Perhaps the most delicious thing I’ve ever drunk… and also the most potent.

I’m sorry to Daniel de Lorne (more specifically, Daniel De Lorne’s suit) for the melted Lindt chocolate bar, and to Michelle Douglas for things I don’t yet know to apologise for.

I’m sorry to Ainslie Paton for my undeniably-awesome bobby-pin wielding.

I’m sorry to Savannah Blaize that our coffee-catch-up was necessarily cut-short. Next time, we’ll have lunch! And, along the same lines, I’m sorry to Haylee Nash that despite organizing several glasses of wine, we didn’t quite manage to get it together.

In fact, I’m sorry to any friends I didn’t get to spend as much time with as I would have liked. While we’ll always have The Pullman and RWAus17, I’m thrilled we’ll also have RWAus18 to try again.

I’m sorry to everyone who attended the Indie panel I was a part of, alongside Chris Taylor and Rachel Amphlett, organized by RuBy award winner Amy Andrews, for all the questions we didn’t get to answer! We ran so short of time – please remember to email any of us any queries you didn’t feel we covered.

And I’m very, very sorry to those of you who could not attend RWAus17. I know your FOMO must have been in overdrive over the weekend, as social media was flooded with visual proof of our every delight. What can I say? It was AH-mazing! But there’s always next year…

Finally, I’m sorry to my liver, but the glasses of wine shared with dear friends (old and new) at Sixteen Antlers were all worth it. I am also sorry to my tummy for all those truffle fries but seriously… truffle fries.

*I cannot promise it will not be repeated next year. You have been warned.


Self-publishing gave me a wonderful professional start. I’ll be forever grateful.

I’m going to have to post a response to this article  so that I can put it out of my head.


You have to forget writing for a living. 

The assertion that self-published authors ‘are going to be marketing for a living’, the inference being that they’ll do this instead of writing, is one I must disagree with. As a self-published author, I spent 95% of my work time writing. It was, and remains, the absolute bulk of what I did. I am a writer – writers write. However, I appreciate this isn’t always the norm. Self-publishing, like traditional publishing, has authors of all different types. To play devil’s advocate, marketing is an essential part of all business. I have many writer friends who spend a greater portion of their time marketing themselves and their books than I do – the thing is, the traditionally published authors are just as active in this! Publishers expect their authors to do their bit to contribute to their success and this is definitely not just about writing a fabulous book.

Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool. 

Here, we are made to sound like the wheel-greasers of every pyramid scheme known to man. For the record, I’ve never touted my wares to friends or family. To this date, my own mother hasn’t bought a single one of my books. Not a single one of my friends knew that I had self-published until about a year into my journey, at which point I was already earning a tidy income. To suggest that the only people who will pressure their nearest and dearest to show their support financially are self-published authors is as silly as it is untrue.

Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego. 

I found this point hardest of all to stomach. The perception that there are no ‘gatekeepers’ for indies is utterly absurd and just shows a complete lack of comprehension of the entire industry. Readers are the gatekeepers. They are discerning and brilliant and incisive and they do not suffer fools lightly. I have never received a rejection from a publisher as damning as a bad review on Amazon. Believe me, there is plenty of ego-bashing that occurs to those authors who self-publish sub-par products, however, those who write good books that appeal to their audience will rise to the top, as with any free-market mechanism.

Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important. 

‘My first novel was my fourth novel’. Well, congratulations.  *facepalm* This is not at all unusual, whether traditionally or independently published. My first novel (self-published) was my tenth, and I published it more than a decade after finishing my first full MS. I have no statistical information to back this up – I doubt any such research has been conducted – but I would say most people who self-publish do not do so to their very first manuscript. Those that do? Well, it’s more than likely the free-market thing I mentioned above will take care of that. But who knows? Every now and again someone might write a first-novel that is an absolute gem. Crying about the injustice of their not having served their time smacks of jealousy (let’s face it, I could say the whole article does too).

You can forget Hay festival and the Booker. 

Boo hoo. That’s simply not why I write. I write to entertain and, FYI, so did Shakespeare, who was seen as the populist version of ‘literary’ playwrights like Ben Jonson and Robert Greene.

You risk looking like an amateur. 

Sure. Going into anything blind runs this risk. And I should know – I did go in blind (though I think I managed to avoid this fate). But here the author extolls further ‘insight’  about what an indie author should spend to avoid looking amateurish. And here-in lies one of the fallacies that angers me most (and I hear it a lot).

The Italian Billionaire's Betrayal
My first cover. 

I think all authors should be mindful of producing the best product they can. Make sure it’s edited tightly, design a gorgeous cover, research your market, write a fantastic blurb. If you go into self-publishing you are acting as a sort of publishing house. So you either need to up-skill or engage professionals who will help you.

But, for the record, I was an Amazon All-Star in America (top 100 exclusive author) and the UK (top 15 exclusive author) within six months of publishing my first book and I paid $0 for covers, editing, marketing or reviews.

70% of nothing is nothing. 

Here the author cites the experience of an author who made 100GBP profit in four years of self publishing, across seven books. And the same author says they make little as a trad-pubbed writer. So no matter how you’re published, there’s no guarantee of high financial gains.

There are a great many of us who earn well from indie publishing.

And the summation of the piece:

…It isn’t a route to financial security. For those who prefer orchestrated backing to blowing their own trumpet, who’d privilege running a narrative scenario over running a small business, who’d rather write adventure than adverts, self-publishing is not the answer. 

For the last three years, I have found self-publishing incredibly financially rewarding despite the fact I’ve spent less than an hour a week doing any kind of marketing of my books or myself. I have the orchestrated backing of myself and the hundreds of thousands of people who have found their way to my books, and loved them (Whoops! I did blow my own trumpet there, didn’t I? Guilty as charged!). My business skills are non-existent (ask my accountant).

For those of you who love to write, who live to create people and worlds and stories and dreams, who find their minds wandering and their fingers running over the keys, who have stories they burn to tell, then I would simply say this: BACK YOURSELF. I don’t care if you write and write and write and submit to publishers and agents and continue writing, or if you write and write and take the self-publishing plunge, what I care about is that you listen to yourself and your own heart rather than articles like this.

When words fail


I hugged my kids so tight tonight. So tight they complained and laughed and told me their heads would pop off. I hugged them tight, as though my life depended on it.

Because today, a tragedy unfolded in my little beach-side patch of suburbia. One of those God-awul tragedies that exists beyond the borders of comprehension; an occurrence so impossible to explain, to fathom, to accept that it fizzes inside your brain like a  bomb about to detonate, a sort of frozen-in-time terror.

Today, I drove past a neighbour’s house – a house I pass every day – and my heart was heavy, for I knew that its walls had witnessed death and loss and grief and pain, hardship and depression, and the kind of decision that no person should ever make.

Today I have grappled with humanity’s instincts and I have wondered at what we are capable of. Today I have struggled.

With so few guarantees in this world, so little promise of happiness, safety, health and longevity, today was a day to hold loved ones tight and breathe them in. I smelled my son’s rounded, warm scalp, rejoicing in the youthful aroma of six-year-old boy: sweat, sand, highlighters and vegemite. I stroked my daughter’s hair as she drifted off to sleep, her body still warmed by those extra layers of toddler insulation, her nose dotted with perspiration as she snored against my side, her toes curled back against her little thighs.

Tonight, I drank the wine, I ate the chocolate and I prayed for the people who have been heavily in my minds today. I thought of their pain and wished for a way to erase it; I despaired for the circumstances that led to this, and I am braced for the future grief those closest to this awful event must bear – life will never be normal for them again.  And today I have cried, hot tears that burned my cheeks and offered nothing in relief. Nothing. Sometimes, some acts, are too awful to be accepted.

Maybe that’s a good thing.



A sketch, in writing.


I’ve been at a writing meeting tonight – a great evening spent with like-minded lovers of words, romance and red wine (ahem). We had a fabulous technical workshop to start us off. Harlequin superstar Trish Morey  brought in a picture of a man, and a picture of a woman and asked us to write a short biographical sketch about each of them, then to write a little bit on how they meet.

I haven’t ever attempted this and I adored the exercise. So much so that I’m itching to turn Ewan and Rowena’s story into a full-length story…! I thought I’d share what I came up with, just for fun.


Ewan St Clair was good at two things, and two things only. He could recite the Latin alphabet perfectly, and in under seventeen seconds – a skill he’d honed to perfection on long nights in the dormitory of Marlebury Public School and that he still pulled out after a glass of unoaked Chardonnay. Surprisingly, it generally had the opposite effect on whomever he was attempting to impress, generally creating the impression that he was, in fact, just ramblingly drunk.

He was also, as it was turning out, discovering a talent for losing cats. Yes, cats. More specifically, the two cats his flatmate Rowena had entrusted him with: keeping alive, adoring, generally treating like Goddamned children for the two weeks she was ‘on assignment’ in Monaco.

He loved the way she did that – said ‘on assignment’ as though Mi5 itself had entrusted her with the very survival of the nation instead of what it actually was; modelling Dior swimsuits for a billboard that was, she’d informed him on at least two thousand occasions, going to be in Times Square. YES, that Times Square.

He’s afraid of two things as well. The smell of wood, from a childhood accident which saw him locked in an ancient attic for two full days; and being asked to play, watch or discuss any kind of professional sport.

Life is hectic and varied: Ewan has just taken every penny of his trust fund to open his own vegan café in Hampstead. Well, Café might be overegging it, it was more of a wardrobe with a seven year old cappuccino machine and the twenty six seats he’d bought at a furniture auction.


Rowena hated two things in life. The two days before a fashion shoot that required her to live on ice water, vodka and miso soup; and the fact that these shoots required her to leave her babies.

And by babies, she meant cats. Raisin and Toast, the two little strays she loved more than she’d ever loved another flesh and blood human. Not that she was particularly spoiled for choice. A Russian spy mother who’d ended up in that horrible prison (you know the one? Where in-mates are only allowed out for an hour a day?) and a father who’d gone underground, leaving her to be fostered out to a string of parents until, at fifteen, she was emancipated to Anna Wintour’s step-sister who did everything in her power to turn Rowena Main (Of course, she’d been Mastoyevic at first, but Main sold better in fashion bios) into a superstar.

At twenty one, she looked to have everything she could ever want. Money, fame (the right kind of fame – the one that opened doors but still allowed her to walk down Park Lane without being accosted by scum paparazzi who wanted to photoshop an extra five kilos to her hips and sell the image to OK!).

She was scared of two things in life. The first was her parents’ connections catching up with her. She thought about it every time someone took her photo and her fame increased and wondered if she needed to turn her back on the addictive lure of fame… and she was drop-dead, can-hardly-breathe, adrenalin-flooding terrified that her flatmate Ewan would realise she was in love with him and run a million miles. Because of course he’d never go for someone like her…


“The add says ‘no pets’.”

“They’re not pets.” She genuinely looked as though he’d dropped his pants and asked her to spank him right there in the middle of his Park Lane penthouse. Her shock was a tidal wave surfing towards him, so too her affront. “They’re really just like very small, very furry, super quiet and considerate people. They’re better than people. Look! Do you know anyone who makes this sound when you stroke their head?”

She ran a slender, manicured nail over the small spot of fur in between the paler cat’s pointed ears. The cat emitted a rumbling purr and slanted its eyes, regarding Ewan with completely open, unconcealed contempt.

“I think if I went up and started stroking people on the crown they’d knock me one,” he pointed out with the calm logic that came easily to him.


Ewan shifted his weight to the other foot, dragging a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry,” he shrugged, and saw the confusion slip across her features like a cloud ransoming the sun.

“You won’t know they’re here,” she said, her lips pouted – but not in a way where she was trying to be hot. This girl didn’t need to try. She was the last word in unassuming beauty, with her caramel tan, wide-set eyes, ski-jump nose and legs that went forever. “Please?”

He shook his head, thinking of the warning his parents had given him after Alexander had moved out, taking with him his drug bust and penchant for rock music and leaving behind a string of late-night, doped out callers looking for their next score and an unmistakable eau de pot.

“Will you at least show me the place?” She arched her brow and Ewan knew he should say no. Should tell her, firmly, that this was non-negotiable.

But then the one in her handbag, Raisin?, fixed him with an assessing, golden stare and Ewan found himself nodding slowly. “Fine,” he opened the door wider. “Just a quick peek…”