The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Monday, 20 June 2016

Talk To Me


We're having some sterling conversations on Twitter, which it regularly tops my social media list.#ownyourown is a fantastic hashtag for marginalised writers to tweet why they write. It was started by @gildedspine

http://www.yainterrobang.com/ownyourown/

In the midst of the tag, I saw @aromancechica 's tweet:

When I first decided to pursue publication, I didn't think I'd ONLY write Latina heroines. Then I thought: Why not?



And it rings so true. A while ago, I thought maybe I'd tell a different woman, rather than a British born or British raised West African all the time. But nah. I like those birds. They are me. They are my aunties, my mum, my grandmothers, my godmothers, my friends, my cousins, my friends. They deserve to see versions of themselves in my stories. Letting their boyfriend tease them about the sexiness of a night headscarf, buy their hair products for them or give them a half head of cornrows (Giuseppe's about that life). They deserve to be the doctors, nurses, chefs, lawyers, businesswomen, that they are - to be educated, exactly as they are, to have family just like the ones I'm surrounded by. They deserve to be centre stage in romances, finding (losing - looking at you Stella) and keeping love.

In view of that, I need the prompt to get back on Mature Carole, my glamorous grandma and her glorious gentleman, which is where @rebekahwsm came in and gave me a jolly good jolt:

i would also like to see more creators embrace older characters too so EVERYONE can see that life doesnt end at 30.

True dat. Sneak peek right down there...

She reached over and grabbed his hand. “Thank you. Jackie would have been devastated if the kids hadn’t been there. Did you see the pictures? They looked adorable. Jackie looked beautiful.” Carole put the tray on the floor and scrambled for her bag. She had several photos on her phone as well as all the professional ones in her email. Her screensaver happened to be Carole with her three children at Jackie’s wedding. “Here, that’s Jackie outside of the Mayfair Library.” Wearing stark bright white, a traditional wedding dress that mimicked the one Carole wore on her own wedding day. She just didn’t want the marital jinx from Carole’s marriage.
“I’d never recognise her.”
“She said it was for one day, and she wanted to be a Disney princess.” Carole had to get her to talk about what had gone wrong with her apple-pie-sweet daughter-in-law, Karisa. Jackie was spending far too much time with Carole and Greg, which didn’t at all bode well for their brand new marriage.
“What was that like?” Aneurin asked, scrolling through the photos. “When she told you she liked girls.”
“She came to me and she was crying her eyes out. I thought she was going to tell me she was on drugs. Then she bursts out mum, I’m a lesbian. So I said, what makes you think I didn’t know that?
“You knew?”
“That’s my child. Of course, I did! But then, again Jackie was very sick when she was a baby. I didn’t care as long as she was healthy. There are worse things in the world for your child to be. Dead being one.” Carole had known from when Jackie was very small. A fact that irritated her ex-husband, as he hadn’t caught on, and was more than insulted by Jackie’s what he called ‘life choices’. Idiot. She exhaled heavily, bending down to pick up her wine glass. “Old news.”
Aneurin looked away down to her phone. “This is a good picture of you.”
She leaned in to see what he had chosen. For some reason, Greg wanted some pictures of her, and grabbed her phone while Carole was mid giggle with some family members across the top table. It probably helped that she was practically falling out of her dress. “So I’ve been told.”
He reached around her to rest his arm on the back of the chaise longue and Carole leapt into the air, throwing half her wine over herself and into her lap. Silly cow! “I’m so sorry.”
Aneurin got to his feet and disappeared into his en-suite, returning with a hand towel. “Sorry, your pretty dress with spoil.”
“It’s fine,” she said, her voice shaky. “It’s my fault, not yours.”
Brisk strokes of the towelling penetrated through the fine silk and the camisole she wore beneath. He dabbed into the vee of her dress, and her breathing turned shallow. There was thorough, and then there was this. Whatever this was. She placed her hand on top of his, halting further movement.
“It’s fine,” she whispered.
His blue eyes bored into hers. “Have I got this wrong?” He asked into the thick silence between them. “There’s something... I haven’t even looked at another woman in years.”
“Me either. Man, I mean,” she stuttered a correction. “I... Yeah...”
Sod it. She leaned forward and kissed him. The muffled sound of surprise that broke from him almost pulled her back. She hadn’t done anything of the sort in such a long time, she almost forgot how to do it. Aneurin reminded her pretty quickly. Without lifting his mouth from hers, he threw the hand towel to the side and sat next to her. His hands encircled her biceps and he pulled her forward, hard, right into him. The sensation of his beard rubbing into her skin took her breath away, she tried to take what little oxygen she had from him. To feel, to feel like this... So good. Her hands trailed into his hair, the nape covered in fine, soft strands that fell over her fingertips like water. His kisses were drugging, delicious, a hint of forbidden which only made her crave more. Rough palms gathered her dress, and skated over her thighs. Where was he...? Oh. Oh my.
He hooked a finger beneath the lace edge of her knickers and tugged them. She lifted her bottom to allow the material to be drawn along her legs and yanked from her heels. Briefly, she opened her eyes to see them thrown over his shoulder, somewhere on the other side of the room.
“Leave it,” he ordered, before she got up to find them. And because he told her to, she obeyed, even when he caught one thigh in a huge palm, urging her to straddle him. The denim of his jeans grazed her inner thigh sent a shiver right to her sex. The unmistakable sound of ripping made her gasp. Aneurin lifted her with a single arm wrapped around her waist, flinging the skirts of her dress up and placing her bare bottom on his lap. Her wanton position made her realise that it wasn’t the dress that had been the problem, it was her lack of flexibility, combined with the sheer width of the man.
Bien?” He asked, his mouth brushing back and forth across hers.
Tres bien,” she whispered. And while those massive hands of his palmed her bottom, he spoke to her in her language. Her beautiful French. People thought she’d forgotten. Ridiculous, she was Ivorian to her depths. The words ran through her blood. The same words Aneurin used to seduce her, to whisper over her silk covered breasts. Her fingers curled over his broad shoulders, rocking into him, searching for more than what he’d already given her. A cry emerged from her throat at the graze of a single finger between her thighs, right over the soft lips of her sex. Another stroke saw her swell against his touch, and part with the barest resistance.
Danger Will Robinson, she thought. Danger had never felt so good. Do anything to me.
“Mum!”
Jackie’s shrill voice was as welcome as a television crew. Carole nearly fell off Aneurin’s lap, her whole body throbbing at a single pulse.
“We’re going. Now, Mother!” Jackie heaved.
Carole twenty years ago, would have told her child to shut up, go away and close the door behind her. Carole post-divorce and a hysterectomy for which she was taking medication, knew it was an interruption of sense. What on earth was she doing? She barely stopped herself from doing something not only stupid but enormously out of character.
Scattered, Carole went to find her knickers and collided into Aneurin. “Leave it,” he suggested, knowing exactly what she was on the hunt for.
“Okay,” she said breathlessly. “Okay, bye. Enjoy the cake. I mean... Sorry. Bye.”
She rushed out of the room, past her daughter and down the stairs. Shame heated her face while she stood outside. Oh god, she’d left her bag and phone. Jackie finally emerged from the house with both.
“Here. Do you know what he said to me? The fucking cheek!”
“What?”
“He called me little girl and said that’s the first and last time I get in between the two of you.”
Carole started, clutching her bag to her chest. What did he mean by that? “Then he said he’s not my dad to be frightened of me. I mean... How fucking rude.”
Carole, twenty years from the sexual fire that used to burn in her, unfulfilled by her husband with his high blood pressure, took a step back towards the house, to that man, to that bedroom, to beg for the weight and feel of every part of that man inside her, only to be blocked by her daughter.
“Mum!”
“What?” Carole raged, infuriated.
“Don’t you remember what he did to your son? To your family?”
“For goodness sake, he was supporting his daughter. Just like I supported Greg. Like I support you!”
Jackie looked utterly appalled. “You were about to shag a man who nearly ruined Greg’s life.”
“So?” Carole asked, and Jackie’s mouth opened and closed like a guppy fish. “So what? What’s happened? Nothing.”
Jackie stared at her as if she’d never met her. “Why do you want to get in that hornet’s nest? It’s disgust...”
Carole held up a hand, and Jackie was quiet. “Who the hell do you think you are? I’m your mother. You don’t get to tell me what to do. I’m perfectly able to make my own decisions about my body and what the hell I do with it. Under no circumstances do you ever speak to me like that. Do you understand?”
“Mum...”
“I said, do you understand?”
“Yes, Mum.”
Carole breathed out and started walking to her car.
“Mum, I’m sorry, I was just worried... Let me drive you.”
“Go home Jackie.”
“But I can...”
“Jacqueline, stop fussing!” She snapped, her irritation most likely all focused on being unfulfilled, so close to release she hadn’t known she’d craved until... Until now. “I have been making decisions without your input for thirty-three years. Stop. All right?”
Jackie turned to her own vehicle. “Fine. Do what you want.”

She hadn’t even said goodbye to Greg or the children. But Jackie hovered. Instead she got in her car and drove home, the hour’s journey across London long enough for disappointment to set in. Discomfort mingled with need. Did she have Aneurin’s number? Could she call him? No, the children were coming home with Greg. What was she supposed to do with all her pent up energy? And she stank of stale wine! Goddammit. She yelled in the confines of her car, pausing at a red light. To her left, she saw a car full of people staring at her. She flipped the finger at them all and sped away as soon as the lights changed.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wild Horses


This year has been a series of trials, and I am just making the calendar by good days I have to look forward to. One of my favourites, and I mean Christmas just pips this to the post, is Royal Ascot. I know, I'm black and a royalist. I don't care. I love it. I never feel as British or as beautiful on my way to those historical grounds, in all my polished finery.

When I was younger, I used to watch ladies on their way home. Hats in hand, or more likely barefooted on the Clapham Junction platform looking a little worse for wear, but content with their choices. Eventually, I discovered where they were all off to, looking so dapper. Outside of weddings, you never saw men in tops and tails or ladies with a veratible peacock of feathers on their heads, colours complimenting their dress, coat and bag. I love dressing up! Who doesn't? I'm desperately looking for excuses to wear hats at the moment. My poor friend has a christening this month and I've already warned her I'm wearing one of my collection.

This is my fifth year at Ascot and I am ready. My dress if from Phase Eight, my hat is from Marks and Spencer and my shoes are a little outside the British Isles - Miu Miu, but as green as my country. "IN ENGLAND'S GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND!" I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, the day starts with the most preening I ever do. False eyelashes, CC cream, foundation, blusher, highlighter, eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick and topping gloss, perfume layered, nails gelled, feet buffed - because I will wear heels and they will make me cry and if I'm going to be near Daily Mail, eagle eyed, frankly evil photographers, I ain't bringing the side down with rough feet.

I pick up my friends, and we start the day early - champagne and a toast to our gambling fortunes. We all squeeze onto the train to the racetrack, and it blooms before us!


It's glorious. All the women keep checking each other out, and forthrightly will tell anyone they admire that they are looking gooooood! It's the time to go all out - there will be cameras. There are cameras everywhere. There are the set that comes every year in unison; the girls that arrange the whole year what they will wear - the Phillip Treacy crowd of extravagant millinery - and the vintage crowd. I happily seat myself in the High Street lot. Although if I won the lottery, guaranteed I'd be in Alexander McQueen head to toe. 

Then it's food time:


Traditionalist as ever, and there's nothing quite like sitting in a spot of sun, with a bottle of Moet and the scent of fat, crispy soft chips in the air. Last year I saw cheese on toast doing roaring trade. No kebabs though. It's not the right place for a kebab. After? Of course! Inside the hallowed grounds of Ascot. Not today, Jeffrey! 

We have a gander around, read through the Racing Post - honestly, it is genuinely like being in the middle of a Jilly Cooper novel - and pick our favourites. The one who will fund our after party drinks and meal if we win. By 1pm, we gather to greet the Queen in the procession. Her Majesty has won me a few bob by wearing the colour I've guessed she'd be wearing. Until last year when she came out of left field with bright pink. 


She's sitting opposite the Ginger Winner - Prince Harry who was beaming ear to ear when she lost me a tenner. -_-

Once all the beautiful horses, their coats brushed into intricate patterns, have allowed us a peak to see if their worth our money, the racing begins. And all propriety goes right out the window. You haven't lived until you've seen a man well into his seventies, screaming, "COME ON YOU FACKING WANKER!" as his horse storms to victory. You haven't seen anything until you see a woman probably related to the queen, kick off her heels and throw her loosing tickets onto the ground and stamp on them, enraged by her loss. Girls using their scarves to sit down on the grass, men struggling with their cravats, bookies yelling the odds, the crowd clapping for the winners.  

It is brilliant. Mix it up with cake and more booze and star spotting near the Royal Enclosure (where all the celebs go and you're not allowed to because you haven't been invited since Prince Harry won't acknowledge you yet...), seeing which Royal gets to give certain prizes. Actually winning on a horse that had odds of 42 - 1? Best day ever.

After the last race, we all congregate around the bandstand and sing the most British songs you could ever imagine. My Old Man, Jerusalem, Rule Britannia... all the while waving Union Jacks and tipping pints over your neighbour because you can't sing and not hug the nearest person next to you.


It's set to rain next week as well, but I am holding out hope - mostly because I'm not sure that my hat will survive a downpour. And yet, I am supremely confident that nothing will defeat the joy that accompanies a June racing day.

It's posh, it's messy, it's fantastic. I can't wait!