Sunday, September 30, 2012

50th party blog guest - Mary Nichols

I’ve known Mary Nichols for years, and we tend to meet at Mills & Boon author lunches and RNA conferences. I love her mainstream historical sagas as well as her M&Bs, and I was fascinated to discover that she’d written a book about her midwife grandmother – especially as her grandmother’s practice was in the village where my husband’s family comes from. So you can guess what we talk about when we’re together. History, medicine… (Dear editor, I will wear you down one of these years and talk you into letting me do a historical medical…)

Over to Mary:

First of all, congratulations to Kate for reaching the fifty mark for Mills & Boon books. Considering she writes those along with lots of other interesting books, it is a fine achievement.

Writing the mini-series

When I wrote The Captain’s Mysterious Lady, it was a one-off, a change from writing Regency books. The Georgian era intrigued me for its lawlessness and the way crime was dealt with at the time.

There was no regular police force. The streets were patrolled by the watch appointed by the parish and they often consisted of old men, no match for hardened criminals. Above them were unpaid constables, who were obliged to do their spell of duty whether they wanted to or not. They could arrest people caught in the act or brought to them by the complainant, but detective work was unheard of. The only real deterrent to crime was the harshness of the penalty once the perpetrator reached court. But that was often counter-productive; one might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

My hero, Captain James Drymore, searching for the murderers of his wife and intent on vengeance, is, for the first time since it happened, side-tracked into helping Amy Macdonald, a young lady he meets on a coach who is obviously in distress. She has witnessed a crime which has so traumatised her she cannot remember the details, though it gives her nightmares. In solving her mystery, James finds himself torn between his duty as a patriot and his growing feelings for her. By that time he has decided something must be done about solving crime. He consults Sir Henry Fielding who is trying to interest Parliament in the idea for what became known as the Bow Street Runners, but their scope was limited and did not include detection work. James sets up a group of like-minded gentleman, all rich enough not to require payment for their services. Not for them the taking of bribes as other thieftakers were known to do. They do it for the love of adventure and to make the country a safer place to live.

My editor liked this book so much she suggested it could be the start of a mini-series about Georgian crime and asked me to think of a name for the group. I invented The Society for the Discovery and the Apprehension of Criminals which became known as The Piccadilly Gentlemen’s Club. I wrote four books initially: The Captain’s Mysterious Lady (shortlisted for the RNA’s Love Story of the Year award); The Viscount’s Unconventional Bride; Lord Portman’s Troublesome Wife and Sir Ashley’s Mettlesome Match. Each deals with a different member of the group and a different crime, in the solving of which each finds the love of his life. The Viscount is sent to bring back a runaway daughter and discovers a dark secret in her past; Lord Portman is tracking down coiners (the forging of false coins) which are set to de-stabilise the economy, Sir Ashley is concerned with smugglers. Needless to say the heroines all appear to be in league with the criminals, until events prove otherwise.

The books have proved very popular, and after a break to write another Regency, I’ve written a fifth, out this November. This is called The Captain’s Kidnapped Beauty. (Different captain, this time a sea-farer) Alexander Carstairs is sent to rescue Charlotte Gilpin, the daughter of a wealthy coachmaker who has been kidnapped. But this is no simple kidnapping; the victim is taken on board a ship bound for Portugal and Alex must needs follow. His efforts to bring her safely back to England are thwarted by the lady herself who has her own ideas about whom to trust.

I loved doing the research for these books and there are other members of the group whose tales have not been told, so who knows, there might be more to come.

Mary Nichols has written over fifty novels, thirty-six of them historical romance for Mills & Boon.
You can find out more about Mary on her website,

Winner - Henriette Gyland, Up Close

First name drawn from the hat for ‘Up Close’ – Catherine Miller. Please contact me kate(dot)hardy(at)btinternet(dot)com with your details, and I'll get everything sorted :o) Thanks for taking part!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

50th party blog guest - India Grey

I’ve known India Grey since she first sold to M&B. And I met her when I was in bossy PTA chair mode. You want the full story? It was Kate Walker’s celebration for her 50th book, and it struck me that we would all be taking her a present, and wouldn’t it be so much nicer if we all clubbed together and got her something REALLY special to mark the occasion? So I sent India a quick email, explaining that we hadn’t actually met and I wasn’t a total nutter, but would she like to join in with a big present for Kate… and I had this lovely, ‘What, THE Kate Hardy?’ email back. (It still puts a smile on my face today. Actually, I did the same thing when Caroline Anderson first rang me. ‘What, THE Caroline…?’ And Caroline still teases me about it years and years later.)

India is absolutely the most stylish person I know. She’s the one I squeaked to when I was doing a spread in the local paper (a Valentine dinner, using recipes from my books) and two days before the photo shoot I realised I didn’t actually own an apron and I needed a massive amount of style help, pronto. (India came straight back with suggestions, including web links and photographs, and helped me choose an Emma Bridgewater apron.) And I’ve borrowed some of her jewellery and fashion sense for my more stylish heroines. I was delighted to be at an RNA lunch when we’d both been shortlisted for an award and I could cheer her as the winner. (I admit that I do envy her trophy. I didn’t have a trophy, the year I won, though I did spend the entire prize money on a Pandora bracelet and three beads to commemorate it.)

Anyway, over to India:

I’m writing this on my first day back at my desk after the annual Mills and Boon author lunch and toast, where I saw Kate (looking extremely glamorous) receive her pin for 50 books. The rousing applause that accompanied this was a reflection of how much she’s loved by her fellow writers and all at Mills and Boon.

It’s easy to understand why. As a newly-signed writer I was shocked and more than a little starstruck to see her name appear in my email inbox one day, and incredibly touched that she introduced herself by explaining who she was, LIKE I HADN’T BEEN A FAN FOR AGES. Since then we’ve shared more than a few laughs about that. We’ve shared a lot of other stuff too. Stuff About kids (our youngests are the same age), stuff about heroes and writing. Stuff about what to wear for Posh Events and where to go on holiday; stuff about favourite tea and chocolate and shops. But one of the things I love sharing between us most is stuff about music.

I can’t remember where it started, or what were the first recommendations we swapped, but I do know that my CD collection and i-pod playlists are fuller and richer and considerably more fun for Kate’s influence. This is a girl who knows her music, and it was she that I turned to (or emailed) when I needed a classical piece for a particular scene in a book. The Chopin she suggested was perfect, but the amazing thing about Kate is she’s just as hot on contemporary things that hit the spot too. Exotically-named bands I’d never have come to know without her, like Dexter Freebish and Porcupine Tree, new or lesser-known songs by artists I might have already heard of but never really listened to (hope she’ll forgive the poor grammar in that sentence!)

I thought for ages about what music to share here (in fact I had to resort to an hour-long mid-morning bath, with my best and most inspiring bath oil and my i-pod on shuffle) and in the end decided on Frisky and Mannish, who I haven’t yet shared with Kate. I chose them because they’re talented and creative and original, like she is, and because this song – a mash up between Kate Bush and Kate Nash, is the ultimate celebration of All Things Kate. And because it always makes me feel better – just like Kate’s books. (Check out their Lily Allen/Noel Coward mash-up as well, and the Question song and the Busted tribute...)

Congratulations on 50 witty, wise and wonderful books, Kate, and (in the words of ABBA) thank you for the music! (and everything else).

I can’t give away music, so instead I’m going to parcel up some of the other things Kate and I have shared – chocolate and books – in return for the names of some of the songs that mean something to you, or that you’ve shared with special people in your life. I’d love to look them up and have a listen!

You can find out more about India at her website or on her blog at
Or follow her on Twitter @indiagrey

Friday, September 28, 2012

50th party blog guest - Phillipa Ashley

Philippa Ashley is another of my RNA friends, and – unlike some of my lovely Aussie friends – we have actually met at RNA dos. We share an admiration for Richard Armitage – enough said! :o) I was thrilled when her first book came out AND was made into a film - she's only the second author I've ever met whose book has been made into a film!

Over to Philippa:

Howzat Kate - 50 not out!

I am in awe of Kate Hardy. I can’t imagine ever having 50 books published. My number six is out next week and number seven is in progress, so I have a quite a way to go.

I’ve known Kate online since I first started writing romance back in 2005. In fact, she won’t know this but when I submitted the ms of my very first attempt at a novel, Decent Exposure, to the RNA’s New Writers Scheme, I was convinced that Kate was my reader.

I was in that state of paranoid excitement/terror (mostly terror) that many new writers go through when their scripts are being assessed by the NWS. I’d heard on the grapevine that Kate was a reader for the scheme and that she was strict but brilliant, and how sought after her critiques were.

I happened to visit Kate’s blog one day to find that she was about to read a new script and I put two and two together – and made 92!

It sounds crazy now, to have made such a leap but that’s the way my mind worked back then and I’m probably only slightly less paranoid now.

I’d love to have rounded this story off by saying, yes, Kate was the reader for Decent Exposure but actually, it was another Mills & Boon author. Her critique led to me rewriting the book and it went on to win the 2007 Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

But the point is that it is the generosity and experience of authors such as Kate, that have helped so many aspiring writers achieve their dreams. Their advice and insight is more precious than gold dust at a time when you are new to the world of professional writing and in desperate need of reassurance and direction.

Since then I’ve followed Kate’s blog and heartfelt posts on a regular basis. I wept for her when she lost her beloved dad and I cheered when she won the Romance Prize.

I finally had the privilege of meeting her at the RNA’s 50th anniversary lunch which was a fabulous occasion.
So congratulations, Kate, on a wonderful milestone from someone who is still, very much, a newbie.

Phillipa’s sixth novel is Miranda’s Mount, published as an E-book on October 4th by Piatkus Entice and is a sexy, funny contemporary romance set in Cornwall.

When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic…

With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect – some would say obsession – with other people’s histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she’s made St Merryn’s Mount one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn’t bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she’s forced to delve into painful memories she’d much rather keep hidden…
Twitter @phillipaashley

You can find Miranda’s Mount online at and Amazon USA.

Winner - Nell Dixon, Be My Hero

First name drawn from the hat for ‘Be My Hero’ – Sherry Gloag. Please contact me kate(dot)hardy(at)btinternet(dot)com with your details, and I'll get everything sorted :o) Thanks for taking part!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

50th party blog guest - Henriette Gyland

I’ve known Henriette Gyland for years through the RNA (we have children of a similar age, and we tend to see each other at conferences), and I was SO pleased this year when she sold her first novel to Choc-Lit. I was even more pleased when I realised it was set in my part of the world, and I have a copy on pre-order :o) I wanted my 50ty party to be a celebration of my friends’ books as well as my own, and what nicer way than with a debut? (Especially one with a cover like this. It's gorgeous!)

Over to Henri:

When Kate asked me to help her celebrate her 50th book, I was delighted, and in total awe. “50 books? How's that even possible?” But Kate has shown us that it is possible, and it's a great pleasure for me to be here.

It made me realise that in order to write 50 books – or even just one – writers needs to have a steady source of inspiration. Obviously this can be as varied as there are people on the planet, and how, where, and when it strikes is unpredictable, to say the least.

I draw mine from my enviroment. Not that I'm surrounded by rolling hills, ancient woodlands, and neolithic remains (sometimes I wish I were...); instead I live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith, and multi-lingual suburb of London. It's cramped, noisy, polluted, with chewing-gum stained pavements, an ever-changing high street, and eagle-eyed traffic wardens on the prowl.

And I love it.

Daily, it's bustling like a beehive with a multitude of goods, foods, and services on offer, and you'll hear any number of languages when walking down the street. We have Indian, Greek, Middle-Eastern, Italian, and Caribbean restaurants, Polish delis, Lebanese greengrocers, Somali cafés, Chinese takeaways, Irish pubs, Turkish kebab shops, an Italian ice cream parlour, a Filipino barber, a Spanish tapas place, an Arabic learning centre, a Vietnamese nail artist, a Ukrainian tailor, and a good ol' English chippie.

On top of that, we have more estate agents, tattooists, hair dressers, off licences, florists, car dealers, dry cleaners, ironmongers, greasy spoons, pound shops, and parks than you can shake a stick at, as well as community groups for any kind of interest.

For believers, God, in all His forms, can be worshipped everywhere. Within a 1½ mile radius of my road there are 5 C of E churches, 1 Catholic, 2 Baptist, 1 7th Day Adventist, 1 Assyrian Christian, 1 mosque, 2 gurdwaras, 1 Hindu temple, and 1 synagogue. Festivals are a-plenty, some religious, some not, like the jazz and comedy festivals, and the London Mela.

There's a wealth of life around me, just up for grabs, for me to use in my work. My brain never stops working as I'm constantly thinking up plots, situations, and problems for my characters and their supporting cast.

Having said that, the inspiration for my first novel came from a completely different corner of the UK. It was spending a couple of days on the North Norfolk coast which inspired me to write my romantic suspense novel, Up Close. Here's a brief blurb:

Too close for comfort…

When Dr Lia Thompson’s grandmother dies unexpectedly, Lia is horrified to have to leave her life in America and return to a cold and creaky house in Norfolk. But as events unfold, she can’t help feeling that there is more to her grandmother’s death than meets the eye.

Aidan Morrell is surprised to see Lia, his teenage crush, back in town. But Aidan’s accident when serving in the navy has scarred him in more ways than one, and he has other secrets which must stay hidden at all costs, even from Lia.

As Lia comes closer to uncovering the truth, she is forced to question everything she thought she knew. In a world of increasing danger, is Aidan someone she can trust?

To win a signed copy, please leave a comment below.

You can connect with Henriette at -
Twitter: @henrigyland

Winner - Annie West, Defying Her Desert Duty

First name drawn from the hat for ‘Defying her Desert Duty’ – Caroline. Please contact me kate(dot)hardy(at)btinternet(dot)com with your details, and I'll get everything sorted :o) Thanks for taking part!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

50th party blog guest - Nell Dixon

I’ve known Nell Dixon for years through the RNA – we first met at a conference, and I’m absolutely thrilled that my name is right next to hers on the Betty Neels Rosebowl, as she won the RoNA Rose award (as it’s now known) the year before I did… and she’s the only person to have won it twice! We have another spooky coincidence in common (see below), we both love architecture (Nell gets my church-crawling – and that’s a joy to share) and castles, and there’s usually much chatting at an RNA conference…

Anyway, over to Nell:

I'm so thrilled and excited to be here to help Kate celebrate 50 books. I'm a mere baby, lagging behind with 16 but maybe one day I'll catch up!

I've always been a big fan of Kate's writing and we share quite a few things in common, including the birthdate of one of our children. We've also met up a couple of times at RNA conferences which has always been great fun.

To celebrate my own latest milestone I'm offering a free pdf of my latest release Be My Hero. Who's your hero? Kate can draw a name from any commenters under this post and I'll send a copy.

Here's the blurb!

Nathalie Mayer is thirty-four. On the surface she is an attractive, happy, single, successful woman running her own bridal business. Despite her line of work and her obvious delight in other people’s weddings, including that of her twin brother, Nate. Nathalie has always declared that a settled relationship is not for her. There has only ever been one man whom Nathalie felt she could love.

Evan Davies is back in town after a six year absence. Last time he was here, he and Nathalie had tentatively begun to take their friendship to a different level. Now he’s home again and has the reason for his sudden departure from six years ago with him – his daughter, Polly.

You can read an excerpt over on my WEBSITE
and the book is available from AmazonUK or as a Nook book

Love Nell

Romance with Heart

Renovation, Renovation, Renovation - Myrmidon Books
Be My Hero - Astraea Press
Passionate Harvest - E-Scape Press
Loves Me, Loves Me Not - MIRA Publishing
Animal Instincts - Little Black Dress - Love Story of the Year 2010

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

50th party blog guest - Annie West

I’ve known Annie West for some years now – and I actually ‘met’ her when I won one of her books at Kate Walker’s 50th celebrations. I was totally blown away by her Sheikh, and she’s been on my autobuy list ever since! I haven’t yet met her in person, but we share a love of castles and France and chocolate and… y’know, when I eventually do get to Aus and meet up with the authors there, the party is probably going to go on even longer than this blog party…

Anyway, over to Annie:

Kate, thank you so much for the invitation to join you in celebrating 50 books. 50 books! Just saying it takes my breath away. I’ve known of you through your wonderful, moving stories, and have been thrilled when our paths have crossed in the past, so being invited to share your month in the spotlight is such a treat. Even way over here in Australia I’m basking in your reflected glory.

Pondering how it is that a writer keeps producing fresh, engaging stories up to and beyond 50 books made me think about the importance of writing about a theme that resonates. For me it’s vital to write a book that makes me rub my hands with glee at the idea of tackling a particular theme with a new, individual twist. It’s like that moment as a reader when I pick up a book and read the back cover copy to discover it contains a major hook I love and want to revisit, especially as I know the author will give her own particular slant to even the most tried and tested romance theme.

For instance, I’m hooked on honourable heroes. Yes, I’ve written men behaving badly (very badly sometimes) but at their core there’s a gritty honesty even they can’t avoid, no matter how it makes them squirm. So you can imagine my joy when I found myself writing a book all about the push-pull of romance that was in direct conflict with duty. Not just the sort of duty you give might give lip service too, but duty based on bone-deep loyalty and love.

What could be harder for my loyal, honourable hero and heroine (yes, I like a heroine who has strong values too) than to find themselves dealing with forbidden love? Forbidden because it goes against what’s expected of them but especially because their consciences forbid them.

There’s something deliciously dangerous and appealing about the forbidden. That undercurrent gave an extra piquancy to the passion Soraya and Zahir share in ‘Defying Her Desert Duty’. Zahir is sent to bring her home to marry the man she’d promised to wed years before – the caring, decent man who’s been like a father to Zahir. Soraya, having promised to marry, is honour-bound to follow through. After all, her bridegroom is the man who saved her father’s life.

But travelling overland from Paris to Barakhar takes quite some time. Time enough to fall in love…

I wanted to write this story because I was hooked on the notion of forbidden passion and because I wanted to find out how my hero and heroine would handle it. Yes, I sometimes write to see what happens in the end!

As well as taking inspiration from the old Tristan and Iseult story, I had fun weaving the plot around places I’d visited and loved. Despite the book’s title much of the action takes place in France and I’ve included here a couple of location shots that inspired part of this story.

Have you ever had a forbidden passion, or even a passion that wasn’t forbidden but which you chose to keep secret? I have to say I had a few of those in my school years when I specialised in unrequited love. Do you have forbidden passions now or a secret indulgence? Personally I’m thinking about hand made truffles from a particular Belgian chocolatier…sigh.

Annie will give a copy of her current UK release ‘Defying Her Desert Duty’ to one person, chosen at random from those who leave a comment here.

Annie West is a USA Today Bestselling author of Mills and Boon Modern/Harlequin Presents stories and winner of a 2012 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for category romance. She lives in Australia and specialises in daydreaming about compelling heroes and their love lives. You can read more about her world and her books at

Winner - Sharon Archer, Marriage Reunited: Baby on the Way

First name drawn from the hat for ‘Marriage Reunited: Baby on the Way’ – Desere. Please contact me kate(dot)hardy(at)btinternet(dot)com with your details, and I'll get everything sorted :o) Thanks for taking part!