The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Jukebox Baby


I did wonder what music my parents played while my mother was expecting me. I have a feeling a lot of it was Barry White based, because my limbs move uncontrollably when his songs play. Even thinking about it, my bum is twitching with the need to dance. Isaac Hayes is my Dad's fave, so definitely that would have featured, and a lot of High Life music.

For Delilah's pregnancy, there's no real rhyme or reason to my choices apart from getting a little bit jiggy. Or a lot jiggy. Because with all that woman goes through, the least she deserves is a damn good ride.

The Baby Gift on Spotify

  1. Prince feat. Lenny Kravitz American Woman
  2. Radiohead Reckoner
  3. Justin Timberlake Lovestoned/I Think She Knows
  4. James Vincent McMorrow If I Had A Boat
  5. Madonna Justify My Love 
  6. Joy Division Love Will Tear Us Apart
  7. Rihanna feat Mikky Ekko Stay
  8. Robin Thicke Superman




Baby Be Mine...


This was my "Strange" from Boomerang moment. I had a collection of pictures of men who resembled my Dane, Tais and a collection of women who looked like Delilah from the shoulders up. Nothing really bump-like. And I thought about it. Let's try something a little different. Taïs is a man who falls for the beauty of Delilah as a quite obviously pregnant woman. And there are so many contradictions that a woman has to deal with while she is carrying a baby, I wanted to celebrate it. So here we are. The Baby Gift, with possibly the sexiest woman I've seen on digital cradling the new life within her. Probably thinking about sitting down soon. Or going to pee. But still. Flipping sexy.

If you haven't read this story before, or wasn't particularly taken by it, let me change your mind...

Blurb due imminently

Any good romance starts with a funeral…


Tais Nørgaard has been too close to death to wait around for anything in his life to happen organically. Cancer cured him of any reticence in getting what he wants, and what he wants is entirely wrapped up in Delilah Bancroft. Tais is completely enamoured by Delilah’s pregnancy, with the type of fervour reserved for fathers. He doesn't care about her gay husband, or his irritating, gold-digger of a boyfriend. He’s not even bothered by the potential scandal stemming from the impending battle over Delilah’s late father in law’s estate. He just wants Delilah. And everything that comes with her.

Except expected below

Freya sat Tais down in the pew closest to the family and whispered gleefully, “This is the best spot. Trust me.”
“Why are you so happy this man is dead?” Tais asked, his tone mild as he surveyed the gathered mourners. He recognised faces not only from the Bancrofts’ company, but clients, acquaintances, the owners of various tabloids, department stores and Michelin starred restaurants the family patronised. They were indeed losing a very good customer. Samson Bancroft had been a man with expensive tastes.
“Urgh, don’t say things like that!” Freya made a face of disgust. “I’m not happy he’s dead, but I am happy we were invited to the funeral. We couldn’t get this close to the family unless we were at a board meeting. There are opportunities here you need to take advantage of.”
“And here I was thinking this was a social gathering,” he said dryly.
Freya ignored him. “Just think what you could achieve if you had a controlling share board member on your side. All those projects you want to push forward, all those plans we have for finance.”
His plans had always been logically accepted, but the heir apparent, Edward Bancroft, would not see things the same way as his father. Samson’s shrewd business sense was legendary. Many had fallen beneath his sword of thriftiness. “It’s a funeral. Where people are grieving.”
Freya gave a dismissive snort. “No, they’re not. Look, that’s wife number four and five sitting on the other side of wives three through to one.”
“You’re gossiping again,” Tais warned. “I’m not interested.”
“You need to be,” Freya retorted. She was irritating him intensely today, but she worked hard as his second in command. He was now hugely reliant on her knowledge, considering he’d been out of the game for the last year. “Those women don’t have any company shares. It’s in their pre-nuptial agreements. The company stays with the Bancroft name.”
A woman swept past, delicate netting covering her eyes like a film noir femme fatale. She had a black scarf elegantly swathed around her shoulders, which only served to emphasise the extravagant curve of her hips, draped in black silk that swirled to her ankles. Tais watched her as she sat in the pew with wives four and five.
“That’s who you need to butter up—the famous Delilah. Before Samson died, he signed all his shares to his daughter-in-law.”
“My, my, my,” he quipped. The photograph on her law firm’s website hadn’t done her any justice. He had been looking at it obsessively for some time now. She possibly had conducted the smartest Bancroft marriage to date. A family lawyer, the Bancroft company had not only pushed her services to a range of exclusive, high-paying clients, but she had drawn up her own pre-nuptial agreement, and hadn’t been seen falling out of clubs or bars. More importantly, and by the same turn disappointingly for him, she had kept the wedding out of the national media. “She doesn’t look any older than twenty-five, if that,” Tais murmured, noting that Freya was still waiting for a response.
“You’d think being married to Edward would add a few years. I think she’s almost forty.”
Tais thought it would be insanely disrespectful to start laughing at such a revelation. “I thought you said Edward was gay?”
“He is.” Freya grinned. “Well done for paying attention.”
“Then why is he married to her?” Again he stared at the back of her head, glossy, tar-coloured hair twisted into an elegant knot at the base of her neck. What a waste.
“Samson didn’t have any idea about Edward. The last thing Samson wanted to happen was for the Bancroft shares to end up in someone else’s hands because Edward’s far too generous with all his friends and er... acquaintances.”
“Isn’t that what the cast-iron pre-nups are for?”
“I can’t see that one,” she nodded to the front pews, “signing anything. I can see him refusing out of some principle that love is stronger than any contract or some such rubbish. Edward and Delilah have been friends since law school. Maybe she just wanted to get the shares. It’s worked out quite nicely for her.”
“Isn’t Edward upset that his father’s dead and his shares are with his wife who isn’t a member of his desired gender?”
“He’s relieved. Now he can bang as many cabana boys as he wants when he’s in Miami.”
“She’s too smart for this, dipping into the Bancroft murky waters,” he asserted, flipping through the order of service. “This seems... too calculated.”
“You’ve had a second long glimpse of her. Is this a spark of interest in a woman?” she asked, her voice teasing.
Tais was surprised himself. He thought his libido was long gone. “You sell a fascinating story,” he said instead. “So wives one to five have nothing from the company, and all the controlling shares are in the hands of one daughter-in-law who technically isn’t a true Bancroft.”
“If you want the board to approve your plans for international expansion for our department, then you need Delilah. No one can cough without her say-so now.”

“Fair enough.” Tais watched as Delilah wiped a hand beneath her veil and folded her hands in her lap. But then again, he wasn’t at all interested with the shares she held. “I think at least one person is grieving here.”

Friday, 22 April 2016

When Doves Cry


This probably isn't going to be a very coherent post, but the need to express something is important to help me understand what is happening.

When artists, legends, who have been part of every single moment of your life, start to die - or rather ascend to another astral plane - it reminds one horribly of one's own mortality, the brevity of a person's existence in this world. And it is crushing. I am crushed.

To me, Prince, the Purple God, the Ultimate Diva, hasn't aged a minute. He remains ever youthful, irreverent, insanely accomplished, sweeping through the arrogance of award ceremonies and AR executives with a flick of perfectly coiffured hair, an arched brow and a curled lip. It doesn't make sense that he can die.

This is the man who taught me about sex. I know - totally inappropriate, but that's how I discovered him. He conquered my body before he conquered my mind. I remember that my cousin was obsessed with him. She had posters all over her room of Prince and that enigmatic symbol of his. Prince - whilst acknowledged in my family home as a musical virtuoso - was on the naughty side. The very naughty side. I didn't get why, until my cousin showed me the Purple Rain album. That voice, those rifts, the beat smoked through me and I inhaled every molecule.

Then came the biggest film of the year - Batman - and Prince was all over it. Crazy, sexy, cool as the other side of the pillow. I knew the words to every track Prince wrote, not just because everyone else did, but because that music made me mooooove. Funking up my life was nothing compared to what he did next.

Gett Off. Diamonds and Pearls. Cream. Money Don't Matter Tonight. For that to coincide with my entering puberty, was nothing short of a divine intervention. There was this eyeliner wearing, lipgloss pouting, jeri-curled hair, stubbled, ruffle loving, lycra adoring, short, pert arsed black man, telling me that sex wasn't at all what they told you in church. That it was something to be enjoyed, worshipped, adored, embraced and honoured. That I shouldn't be ashamed of my blooming curves (and my God did I bloom and bloom early) but revel that it was heck-a-slammin'. While Madonna found herself on the side of my parents's disapproval with her cone bras and her pelvic thrusts, Prince was the soundtrack to my sexual discovery and understanding. He was quietly mine while I tried to figure out how you really do get to 23 positions in a one night stand. What more could you want as a teenager surrounded by other hormonal girls?

All the "Prince is so gay" nonsense. Because he liked a nice blouse? Or because he was pretty as hell? Or because people knew if he was inclined, he'd have a girl on her back with a gentle breath to the back of her neck? If he was, it wouldn't have mattered, because he absolutely challenged perception of how black men "should be" or what black people "should like" musically, fashionably, in life. He lived his without barriers, without contention, for himself. A lot of babies in the 80s wouldn't have been born without Prince. A lot of babies in the 90s wouldn't have been born without Prince. Damn. That man is responsible for a country's worth of babies...

I'm pretty devastated by this new blow. I've barely accepted that David Bowie's dead. Barely. And now this. Prince didn't even reach 60. I thought he'd outlast all of us, cooling himself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, I thought he'd be playing gigs until four am, trying even the most hardcore of fans to stay the distance. I thought he'd be ninety, slinging a guitar over his neck and getting out his pick on stage for the newest artist, or quietly supporting causes behind the scenes and without a single fuck telling folks about themselves. I am wrong. And I've never wanted to be more right about something.

What do we do with this vacuum that Prince has left in his wake? Let's not reduce him to one single thing, particularly his ability to cast a forest of shade in his later years. But let's instead celebrate his immeasurable talent. To be able to play 27 instruments, write, sing and produce your own music, is a God given gift. To have all those accolades and awards, and still want to go and play to fans, to surprise fans, to keep writing, is more than a legacy. It's like being cast in the stars. Enduring until the end of the universe. As my friend said last night, Prince has not died. He's just transformed.



"We could all die any day. But before I let that happen, I'll dance my life away."
Prince 



Monday, 18 April 2016

Waterfalls



It will not surprise you that I had no desire to come back to London, or more likely, to work. All my zen has gone within three short hours of being at my desk. The process is, as I coached myself, in the middle of the Atlas mountains, to recall that calm, to grasp the meditation I learned (for all of eight hours) and try to remember why I had such an amazing time.

So let me tell you the story of Ouzoud. Ouzoud is Africa's second largest waterfall. I didn't even know it existed, that's how closely I paid attention to the Lonely Planet Guide. We went right down to the base of the falls, felt the mist on our faces, could almost touch the water as it thundered down over mountainous rocks. On brightly coloured boats, paddled by men in hoodies, who helpfully took our photos before the falls, we touched life. I'm feeling better just thinking about it.

And then, when we were half way down, and the falls opened up to us, in all its magnificent glory, a woman came down with her friends, and she burst into tears. It was that kind of sight, it would make anyone cry - and to be fair, several people, myself included, were deeply moved. Because I'm a walking pharmacy, I handed the lady a tissue, and returned to my boiling hot seat, underneath a moustache print scarf to protect my gradually bleaching hair (it's gone brown. It was black. It's now almost the same colour as my skin, because smarty pants here forgot her Topshop straw hat...)

While I contemplated the falls, and how it would be there, many thousands of years after I had gone, the woman approached me. She thanked me for the tissue, once more, and just as I was about to tell her it was nothing, she spoke again. She said, "My dad died three years ago." My stomach dropped for her. "And he used to come here all the time. I'm just overwhelmed to be here. Where he was. So thank you."

Gobby as I am, I didn't know what to say, except, "God bless you." She gave my hands a squeeze and went off to see the rest. I so very nearly caved to my own tears, which had been threatening since I arrived in Ouzoud. To hear how far that woman had travelled - not just physically to be at the falls, but emotionally. I wanted to find her and ask a thousand questions, and I stopped myself. It was her journey, and she allowed me to know enough. Anything more was not my business. But it's stayed with me. I think it will every time I look at the photos of the falls. How precious life is. How important it is to see the world beyond our own small borders. To not be afraid to see Africa in all its beauty, naturally, awesome, incredible beauty, wary of repercussions from small minded, Godless people. To take that leap not only for yourself, but your family, your history and your future.

I thought Morocco amazed me the first time I went. Now it has my complete and absolute awe.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Vacation!

I have not had a proper holiday in over a year. I mean a good week away from the office, no one calls me, WhatsApps me, FB messages me about things I do not care about the minute I'm in a bikini. I'm burning out. I need sleep and inspiration and food. I need sun. Doesn't matter if I sound like a plummy boarding school girl from Fulham (even if it is South West LDN...) I need vitamin D. The deficiency in this country is real.

So, I'm going back to Africa. North. I know. Danger. And yet, I live in London. I know danger. I know vigilance. I can do that while haggling with a Berber for a hand embroidered pashmina. I'm also a lot friendlier on holiday. I'll talk to randoms - old and young- or rather they talk to me, because I have that sort of face that invites you to share all your deepest darkest. I can glean notes to put into some good tales, and I can rest. I won't be tense, or on edge - mainly because I'll be having several massages, one after the other, until my bones are jelly, followed by a pomegranate bellini. They exist and they shall be mine. All mine....

I've written some of my best work during and or after a good holibob (don't tell anyone I used that word, I'll get so much grief) Windows was on the island of Kos, Greece (the first 35% of it anyway, the rest in my friend's coastal flat in Hove ) The Baby Gift in Mexico - heatstroke, I swear, A Life Sublime after the best gelato ever in Capri and Sorrento, Italy, Verde Bianco Rosso in Lucca, Italy - sitting on the wall that surrounds the city as the sun went down; and on the train back to Venice, and a lot by a canal outside a small cafe that served me a few Aperol Spritzes, a hella load of Beppe's story (30,000 words in, soooo much left to do!). All the little stories that make up Wynne's Surprise are from my time in Morocco, nearly being run over or being offered marriage....

Hot Muse Hank tends to remind me that my creativity is best channelled when I'm in neutral. I'm never more neutral than when I'm in the sun and nothing to worry about. I'm a girl with some valium and a suitcase ready to be filled with goodies.

Let's go!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Honour Him


I love Hans Zimmer. I don't even think love is a big enough word to accurately describe my feelings for him. Let's go German - allumfassende liebe. My brother thinks all his music sounds the same. I have disowned him for this pronouncement. Don't even curr.

In my youthful, hungover days at university, while everyone else was outside enjoying the summer rays, I  was within the library walls, looking on forlornly, wondering if I too would ever enjoy the summer sunshine. Hans soundtracked my dramatic educational imprisonment through the music of Gladiator. I thought it was my first introduction to him. I was wrong. I'd known him in Backdraft, in the music of the Lion King - that bit where Simba claims the pride in the rain? Hans. All Hans. Through King Arthur's battle cry, to Sherlock Holmes' Victorian intrigue, Pirates of the Caribbean's rum soaked parlay, to the magnificent and magic of space of Interstellar - Hans has conjured worlds for me to escape to. I don't see the films any more, when I listen to his music. I see my own characters running around, causing havoc, bringing tears, doing the impossible. In the last few weeks, when writing had been a struggle, I turned to The Dark Knight Rises, and boom! Bitch started writing again. That chanting rise, rise, rise! I feel the power, I feel the urgency, I feel like bloody Batman, I'll tell you!!!

And then came Batman v Superman. The only reason I looked forward to this film was because of Hans. I loved his Man of Steel score with a passion. On the extended album (which I bought without a second thought) the track Arcade conjured the weirdest dream that is now in a story. No lie. What elevated a lacklustre plot (don't @ me, I didn't like it) beyond the visuals was the music. Comic book visuals became memorably enhanced by the collaboration of Mr. Zimmer and Junkie XL.

Junkie knows a drum beat - we get this in spades. But the cello - it's an electric cello - who the hell knew??? for Wonder Woman's theme aka "Is She With You?"... I have never got up to cheer in a cinema before, but I nearly did. I nearly started a Wonder Woman riot. But I had chocolate I didn't want to overturn, so, I barely and I do mean barely kept my bum in my chair.

In the "Men Are Still Good" track, therein lies the Batman Suite. You can definitely hear the homage to Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman theme, ghosting throughout. There are also reminiscent parts of his score with James Newton Howard for Batman Begins. Powerful, dark, enraged, vengeful. Homage, echo, elevate. That solo trumpet towards the end of this track - the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader - alone he stands for justice. Standing damn ovation.

You can't tell me that Lex Luthor's theme - throughout "The Red Capes Are Coming" -  is not reminiscent of Mozart's Requiem. Villains need to have some sort of class, and nothing is more classy than a bit of Mozart on death. Then throughout the scenes of Superman saving reams of people (making up for all the damage he caused in Man of Steel) you have echoes of the stirring and beautifully simple piano theme from his first film.

Then you get to my favourite track - Their War Here. I may be a little controversial here, but it's a little Marvel. A little Sam Rami's Spiderman (again Mr. Danny Elfman) the comic book pages flipping, and then bam! Whack! Wallop! Into the midst of the destruction of Metropolis as Superman battles Zod. It's just brilliance. Artistry at its finest. Each character has their own unique, individual theme music, and something I hope that will play out over the next films as well - even if Hans has officially retired from Superhero movies. (super sad face, I can't even!)

To Sir Zimmer (I'm just arbitrarily going to knight him) thank you. For stirring my soul, for urging me to be a hero, but really, to be a better writer. To match the levels of the music I adore. What Am I Going To Do When I'm Not Saving The World?

Write.




Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Older...



You know by now that most writers have more than one tale on the go. Since I finished Wynne's Surprise last week, a mature lady just drive by interrupted my self satisfaction with a, "Get me a bloke! It's like the Sahara down there!"
What do you do with that, except start writing? Carole, my darling, dearest, horniest heroine I know. Carole's in her early sixties, has three children, two grandchildren, an ex-husband, her own home and has taken early retirement. She's the embodiment of a woman I know and absolutely adore, and that means this story is me trying to give her everything she deserves, which includes watering the desert. Sorry. Had to. There's one serious, no nonsense, man's man for the job - Aneurin Agnarsson. Sixty-five and more than alive. Big, bearded, buff. I would. I mean, I think about Santa Claus these days, not for presents, but what I can give him. I need help, I know this.
We all have our age comfort zones, and either side of my own is always cause for a little apprehension. This time around I don't even care. Because Carole doesn't give a monkeys. Surgical scars, troublesome family members, not enough coconut oil to tame her hair... She ain't bothered. Hot Muse Hank's eyebrows are right at his hairline. Yesterday, I was bashing away at the laptop, and Hank tried to interrupt me. "Isn't a bit soon for all of that? That's... Yeah, that's a lot."
I told him, nah. Carole's getting laaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyd!
And she will continue to do so, on the damn regular - if everyone stays out of her business. Except Aneurin. That's all his.
Age ain't nothin' but a number! Coz these old folks, they are dirty. Dirty.