The Story of My Book: Copping It Sweet

by Anna Clifton

In Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolen quips, ‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’

I love this line. It reminds me that real life can be an extraordinary experience. And I often need this reminder when I’m hyperventilating over whether the contemporary romance story I’m writing might be getting a little bit too ‘extraordinary’ for belief.

Writers within the contemporary romance genre know they have a narrower licence for diving into extraordinary possibilities than those in the paranormal, historical and suspense genres. But the really tricky part for contemporary authors can be knowing exactly when a plot or a character’s situation is falling beyond the parameters of possibility and toppling into awkward implausibility. One solution for keeping stories out of the realm of implausibility reflects the title of this blog series, The Story of My Book: if the story you’re writing is to feel real, it helps to have a real story behind it.

At some stage I must have recognised this fact as each of my books was deliberately drawn from a real story inspiring it. But it’s Sara’s story in Copping It Sweet that comes from a particularly bittersweet story in my own life.

When I was in primary school I had a close buddy. I’ll call her Sally for the purposes of this post. Sally was kind and fiercely loyal, mischievous to the point of personal foolhardiness and outrageously funny. She also seemed to cherish our friendship in a way that I see now was beyond her years. We spent countless weekends and holidays together, the original odd couple with her hyperactive ‘Rebel Wilson’ personality an unlikely match for my quieter one. But Sally had a family secret she didn’t tell anyone, not even me.

To the outside world—at parent-teacher meetings, on the sidelines of netball courts, at birthday parties—Sally’s family looked like a regular family. But behind the respectable veneer, I would later discover, Sally’s father was a criminal underworld figure—in short, an all-round thug. I have no doubt at all that Sally had a good sense of what he was up to.

As so often happens, Sally moved away at the end of primary school and we lost touch. Something tells me though that despite her father’s career choice, Sally would have risen above that situation if anyone could.

Staggeringly, as the Australian TV series Underbelly portrayed, underworld figures have always moved seamlessly in and out of the general community, adopting guises of law-abiding normality as Sally’s father did. Copping It Sweet is a story drawn directly from this extraordinary reality. At eighteen, my protagonist, Sara, unwittingly falls for and marries the charming Anthony Dennis without any clue about his underworld celebrity. By the time Sara’s path crosses with Detective Sergeant Cooper Halligan’s ten years later she’s been estranged from Anthony a long time. But Anthony has never accepted the end of his relationship with Sara and controls her from a distance the only way he can—through stalking and intimidation.

In contrast, Cooper’s family life is about as ‘normal’ as it could be—a foil for Sara’s predicament as she hides her post-marriage secrets from them as well as from her estranged husband. When Cooper is finally compelled by his boss to investigate Sara’s relationship with Anthony Dennis, the closer he approaches the truth the harder it is to keep his distance from her.

Copping It Sweet, inspired by Sally, is not only a story about the transformative powers of love and acceptance but about keeping your heart open to the possibilities offered by hope, wherever and whenever they may be found.


copping

To find out her secrets he’s willing to risk everything — including his heart.

 

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Friends to Lovers: making the trope work

by Anna Clifton

Add one cup of friendship to two cups of simmering attraction and then stir…

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My husband and I had something of a whirlwind start to our marriage. We met one December and were engaged by March. As a romance writer, I guess that makes me something of a minor expert on the ‘whirlwind courtship’ trope, if there is such a thing. But when it came to writing a slow-burn ‘friends to lovers’ trope for my third novel, New Year’s Promise, I wasn’t quite so comfortable in my creative space.

How could there be romance between two people who’d been sharing each other’s dreams, foibles and fears for years?

How could there be adventure, frisson, excitement when you’re falling for a friend?

But despite these doubts, I knew the ‘friends to lovers’ trope resonated with audiences in films and books such as When Harry Met Sally, Made of Honour and Emma. But I also knew that the ‘friends to lovers’ dynamic worked like a treat in real life too.

In a study released last year, Canadian economists Helliwell and Grover found compelling evidence across broad ranging databases that ‘well-being effects of marriage are about twice as large for those whose spouse is also their best friend’. And as journalist Hanna Kozlowska reported on the study, ‘happiness has less to do with your social status or financial stability, and more to do with sharing wedding bands with your BFF’.

So, marrying your BFF apparently gives you a cracking good start at long-term happiness. But could I write a ‘friends to lovers’ story where the blossoming romance would feel as fresh and exciting as it does in other tropes?

The answer hit me all at once, and I found it in the name of the trope itself: Friends to Lovers.

My new novel couldn’t just be about two friends deciding it would be a great idea to shack up together. The spotlight needed to be on the way they grow together as new lovers against the complex backdrop of a long friendship. I’d finally realized it’s the journey of friends to lovers, not the furniture they share, that’s the magic ingredient in the trope.

Armed with that revelation, I set to work on my new manuscript, stacking the odds against my ‘friends’ making it through their journey together.

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In New Year’s Promise Ellie and Justin have known each other for twenty years, originally as part of an inseparable gang of six kids who shared their carefree childhood together. Ellie was the only girl in the gang, treasured and adored by her own three brothers and by their friends, Justin and Sam. But Ellie’s special bond with Sam will become the undertow in her growing love for his older brother many years later as Justin remains attentive to her, but steadfastly and heartbreakingly distant.

Sam’s mysterious and tragic disappearance from their lives at age twelve lies at the heart of Justin’s distance. But tangled up in his grief and shame over Sam is his conviction he can never give Ellie the one thing she will come to want more than anything else. Ellie is the light in his life; he will never risk their friendship by telling her how he feels. Until one fateful New Year he makes Ellie’s seriously ill brother a promise that will change his friendship with her forever…


 

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They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

 

Secret Baby!

This week’s romance trope is Secret Baby! Which has to be followed with an exclamation point, because … well, SECRET BABY!! This plot usually centres around the hero and heroine having a baby that one of them (usually the hero, but sometimes, unexpectedly, the heroine) doesn’t know about … yet. Enjoy the first installment!


by Anna Clifton

Is it time to retire the ‘secret baby’ in contemporary romance fiction?

baby1The secret baby trope has been around since romance fiction’s earliest days, and no wonder. It’s an absolute gem for ramping up the emotional conflict between two lovers who are already star-crossed.

In historical romance fiction especially, secret babies have been gurgling, giggling and burping their way through storylines for eons. They still are, given the many credible reasons why a parent in bygone times might have hidden a child’s birth from the other parent: the stigma of single motherhood, arranged marriages, class expectations – the list goes on and on.

But what about secret babies in contemporary romance fiction? Is there still a place for them given our rapidly changing world?

When you think about it, smart and independent female characters have been moving to the foreground of contemporary romance stories for a long time. This is a fabulous outcome…except that this new literary landscape makes it much harder to imagine circumstances where a smart, independent, decent woman has the need (or the will!) to hide a child from a father who is smart, independent and decent himself.

Add to this the dramatic relaxation in social morés over recent decades and the ‘secret baby’ trope becomes even more challenging.

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So are there dynamics still in play today that could morally justify or excuse a mother hiding her baby from a decent father? This was the question that niggled at me as I put together my ‘what-if’ scenarios for the manuscript that would ultimately become my second novel, Adam’s Boys:

What if…a high-profile English lawyer and philanthropist the ‘golden-haired boy of London society’ had a brief but emotionally charged affair just weeks after losing his publicly adored wife to cancer? What if Abbie fell pregnant during this affair, but on travelling to London to tell Adam, discovered the newspapers and internet riddled with coverage of his perfect marriage and his grief over losing his beloved wife? What if Abbie resolved that the only way she could protect an already shattered Adam from reputational and emotional ruin was to keep their son a secret from him, for now…

Strangely, as Abbie’s and Adam’s predicament unfurled in my mind, I became more and more convinced the secret baby trope had contemporary magic left in it yet.

Unlike eras pre-dating the internet, the highs and lows of contemporary love affairs are now splattered across digital media with an immediacy that leaves your head spinning. Most affected by this spotlight glare are the rich and famous: members of royal families, stars within the entertainment industry, the extremely wealthy, the extremely influential. With relentless scrutiny their relationships are stalked, dissected and held accountable by internet ‘tabloids’. Falls from public grace, regardless of the truth behind them, are irreparably damaging for families, careers and reputations.

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Women’s independence and standards of behavior may have shifted over the years, but turn on any connected device and you will see globalised public opinion policing these standards with a rigor equal to any other time in history. In this strange new digital world of ours, it seems that the secret baby trope has plenty of fertile ground in which to adapt to modern times. But in one respect it can never afford to change: there must be, as always, a morally bulletproof reason why our gorgeous secret babies were kept secret in the first place.


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With only mistrust and pain to bind them, can Abbie and Adam ever find a way through regret to love and the family they could be?

June Blooms New Titles – New Releases Today!

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The award-winning Chieftain series continues in a new, full-length novel about duty, determination and the power of love to heal all wounds.


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From Anna Clifton comes a sweet, emotional, beautiful romance about a man whose life has been derailed and the unexpected woman who can help him get it back on track.


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He’d been an outcast his whole life, but it never mattered with her by his side. Then she betrayed him in the worst way possible, and he will have his revenge.


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Lisa Ireland, a brilliant new voice in rural romance, invites you to Linden Gully and the wedding of the year…

The Secret to Happiness

by Anna Clifton

How’s your flow?

Don’t worry. You haven’t stumbled into a post about men’s prostate health. Nor am I referring to ice hockey hairstyles or rap rhythms. I’m talking about the other kind of flow—the flow you experience when you’re so completely absorbed in an activity you love that you not only lose track of time, you lose the ability to get up and walk away.

You may not have heard of flow. I hadn’t heard of it myself until recently. But the moment I did, I recognised where flow could be found in my life—within my passion for romance fiction. I wonder whether it’s the same for you too.

The champion of flow theory is an American Professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (if you ever want to say his name out loud try ‘me-high/cheeks-sent-me-highly’). This surname-challenged psychologist is known for his pioneering work around human happiness, fulfilment and creativity. He says that central to human happiness is flow, when the emotions are ‘not just contained and channelled but positive, energised, and aligned’, when spontaneous feelings of joy and even rapture can overwhelm us.

The best thing of all? No drugs are necessary!

Apparently flow can arise from all sorts of activities: golf, decoupage, mechanics, amateur theatre, reading, writing, music, swimming. Almost any task where the challenge is perfectly balanced against the positive feedback it’s giving you and your rock-solid conviction that what you’re doing is worth doing for its own sake.

I’m pretty sure that most of you will have at least one flow thing happening in your lives because let’s face it, the human psyche has quite a lot to put up with. Even on a good day juggling a demanding to-do list can be challenging. Pile on some work hassles, money worries or family upsets and the stress levels can skyrocket. No wonder we humans are instinctively drawn to our flow, not just to switch off but so that we’re happier, more together and more resilient across all facets of our lives.

As I said, romance fiction is where I find my flow. Whether reading or writing it I’m in a state of blissful suspension where nothing else matters. The house could be burning down and I’d still be reading or tapping away at my computer, muttering ‘Yes, yes, I’ll call the fire brigade—just as soon as I finish this chapter.’

In my stories I generally try and give each of my characters some flow space too. I figure they need all the help they can get as I push and shove them through the emotional wringer. In my third novel, New Year’s Promise, Justin Murphy’s flow space is the beach. But for his surfing he might never have made it through the trauma he endured over his brother, Sam, during their childhood years. More important still, without his flow he might not be able to get his act together for the love of his life, Ellie Halligan.

I’m relieved to say, not much gets between my flow and me. Annoyingly though, as a romance author my faith in my craft is occasionally rocked by expressions of eye-popping disapproval when I tell people what I do. Even more undermining is the slow-drip contempt of some web and media commentators as they try and elbow the entire romance genre down the literary rubbish shoot.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every novel written within the romance genre is perfect. Nor would I claim that gender messages within the genre shouldn’t continue to evolve even further than they already have over recent decades. But unless and until those commentators mount a halfway convincing argument for their relentless derision of the entire genre, I ask just one thing: please don’t get between my flow and me. In fact, while they’re at it, I’d rather they didn’t get between the approximately twenty-nine million avid romance readers out there and their flow either!

So what is your flow? What is the one activity that you love with a passion and turn to when daily life absolutely must be transcended for a while? If it’s reading or writing romance fiction (as I’m guessing it is for many of you) then no matter what happens—no matter what anyone says—don’t ever let it go.

This post originally appeared on the Australian Romance Readers Association blog.


22580They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

When Business Development Executive Ellie Halligan is offered the job of a lifetime in Paris, it seems her chance to live a fairytale adventure has finally arrived. Her only hurdle is convincing legal eagle Justin Murphy — her boss and friend since childhood — to wave his boss’s wand and waive her four-week resignation period so that she can start her adventure by Christmas.

But Justin proves to be a demanding fairy godmother. He’ll let her go early, but not unless she spends time with him over the festive season up until New Year.

Ellie doesn’t know what to do. Is Justin finally looking at her romantically after all these years, or are far more threatening dynamics at play? Justin has a secret, and he seems to want to pull her back into a past she’d rather forget. But delving into that old pain might be the only way to move forward — and for Justin to finally be free.

Putting Heart Into Romance Writing

by Anna Clifton and reblogged with permission from Book Muster Down Under

I’m reading a crime novel at the moment. It’s well written, it’s racy and I’m enjoying it. But am I ‘feeling’ it? Not one bit.
I can’t relate to the main protagonist as though he’s a living, breathing life force. I don’t care if he’s happy or sad from one page to the next. But does this ‘not caring’ thing matter in the crime genre? Probably not. I’m enjoying the mystery and the intrigue. Would it matter if this protagonist was starring in a romance novel? Absolutely it would.
It’s not by accident that readers read romance novels. They’ve got their noses in those pages for a reason. They’re looking for that special something that they know the romance genre will offer them. But what is that magic ingredient that’s won the hearts of around twenty-nine million readers worldwide?
In a recent post in The New Yorker Joshua Rothman wrote, ‘We connect with books in an intellectual way, but the most valuable relationships we have with them are emotional’*. For me as a reader, that’s where romance fiction packs that emotional punch. I care about the characters I meet there. In fact, give me an emotional love story that has touch points for my heart and it will stay with me forever. I’m guessing that most romance readers feel just as I do.
So. Note-to-self: when writing my next romance novel, inject lots of emotion.
Easy. Right?
Well, not exactly.
It sounds easy. Unfortunately, it’s not easy at all. In fact, it’s damn hard – one of the hardest things a romance novelist faces. But why is it so hard to get readers to care about your characters and feel what’s happening on the page? And why is it so important that they do?
As I prepared this post I tried to remember a scene in a book I’d read where I’d sweated and fretted over a character and the predicament they’d found themselves in. One scene in particular kept flooding back into my mind. And one line in particular:
‘In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’
For those of you who’ve read Pride and Prejudice you might recognize Mr Darcy’s explosively unexpected declaration of love to Lizzy Bennet. Being both ‘handsome’ and ‘rich’ you might also think that in the rough and tumble of the eighteenth century marriage game Lizzy would have jumped at the proposal of marriage that follows? Alas, no. Her response to Mr Darcy’s proposal is scathing given that she and her entire village decided he was ‘proud and disagreeable’ the moment he arrived at the Meryton ball.
                                ** See below for copyright licensing information and
                                              attribution
So how do readers feel about the proud and disagreeable Darcy in this proposal scene? I know how I felt but do other readers share Lizzy’s intense dislike of him? Do they believe that he deserves to be rejected as brutally as she rejects him?
You might think so, given that Austen has handed out painfully few cues about Darcy’s motives towards Lizzy up to this point. Yet strangely, I’m pretty sure most readers are unwilling to hate-on Darcy with the same enthusiasm as Lizzy does.
Jane Austen had a fierce faith in her readers’ emotional intelligence. She had faith that by the time they reached the proposal scene – with the help of just a smattering of cues – readers would already be feeling Darcy’s powerful attachment to Lizzy. She had faith that they were feeling that beyond the village gossip Darcy might be far from all-bad. She even had faith that they were feeling that he and Lizzy might actually be made for each other.
The genius of Austen is that she never ‘tells’ her readers what they should think or feel. What she does is give her readers the freedom to take ownership of the relationships they’re forming with her characters. Because of the fledgling bonds readers have already begun to build with Darcy – all on their own – this proposal scene is harrowing, even if we’re not yet quite sure why.
The temptation for romance writers to regularly ‘newsflash’ to readers how they should feel about their characters is powerfully compelling. Why? Because we’re utterly petrified that readers and reviewers will hate our characters if we don’t.
The problem with newsflashing is that readers of romance fiction want to experience the thrill of life-like relationships within the relaxation of their reading world. And in real life, relationships are not born out of newsflash moments, they’re forged within step-by-step journeys of discovery, connection, understanding and growth. To feel what’s going on a reader must experience this same slow thrill around a character’s journey too, just as I experienced Darcy’s. And although mapping out a cracking itinerary for the journey is essential, it’s not a writer’s job to frog-march readers to their ultimate destinations.
So, once a writer has mustered up the courage to let their readers run free within the world of their characters, is that it? Will that be enough to entangle their characters with the hearts and minds of their readers in a way that will endure beyond the last pages of the story?
Once again I’m reminded of another creative genius. Not an eighteenth century English novelist but a cultural icon of the twentieth century American film industry.
Walt Disney was a trailblazer. No doubt about it. He discovered that if human qualities and everyday predicaments were kept front and centre of his movies then his creative choices were limitless. Not only could he animate his films, his main characters could be talking animals!
The film, Bambi, is a great example. Can anyone relate to being an animated baby deer?
Not likely. Does it matter? Clearly not. I cried buckets when Bambi’s mother was shot and he was left to fend for himself in the wilds of the forest. But I wasn’t crying about a deer. I was crying about the gift of motherhood and the grief and vulnerability of a child who had lost that gift forever.
Romance fiction is no different to cinema. No matter who or what the main characters are, whether eighteenth century aristocrats or modern day captains of industry, their predicaments and motives must actually touch a reader’s life in some way. If they don’t, the reader won’t feel what’s happening to the characters. Whether it’s grief, joy, loneliness, jubilation, or any of the other emotional roller coasters we ride, readers must feel these being played out in a gripping and inspirational way on the pages before them.
Not every book will touch a reader’s life. No writer has discovered a one-size-fits-all recipe for that yet. But for writers who care about forging a dynamic and emotional relationship between their readers and their characters, committing to a unique journey of discovery within their story and then putting their heart and soul into its resolution is vital.
After the release of my third book, New Year’s Promise, a reader wrote to let me know how much she’d enjoyed and appreciated Justin and Ellie’s story. But what she also said was that she’d cried her way through the scene when Justin’s brother, Sam, makes his final goodbye to Ellie. The reason it had moved her, she said, was because she’d experienced something similar to that despair-hope moment that Ellie experiences on that snowy Paris street.
Did all of my readers relate to this scene in that way? I know they didn’t. The reason I know is because I was never going to reach every reader with Ellie and Justin’s story. But what I did want to do was reach my readers, with a story that was emotional and meaningful for them as individuals, as though each one of them was the only reader I had written it for.
So what is the magic ingredient within the romance genre that’s won the hearts of around twenty-nine million readers worldwide?
I’d be willing to put money on the fact that it’s the exhilarating and emotional journeys it offers its readers. But what the genre also offers, like no other, is a chance for readers to ride-up-front on those emotional journeys. They may not be in the driver’s seat, but they’re indisputably a vital and dynamic part of the journey as they enjoy the wind in their hair, the company of exciting if challenging new friends in the backseat, and the building anticipation of the destination that awaits them all.
(*Joshua Rothman (February 2, 2015) ‘The History of “Loving” to Read’. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/history-loving-read
**’Pride and Prejudice’ by Apostolos Letov available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/21596348@N05/2093445334 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode)

22580They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

When Business Development Executive Ellie Halligan is offered the job of a lifetime in Paris, it seems her chance to live a fairytale adventure has finally arrived. Her only hurdle is convincing legal eagle Justin Murphy — her boss and friend since childhood — to wave his boss’s wand and waive her four-week resignation period so that she can start her adventure by Christmas.

But Justin proves to be a demanding fairy godmother. He’ll let her go early, but not unless she spends time with him over the festive season up until New Year.

Ellie doesn’t know what to do. Is Justin finally looking at her romantically after all these years, or are far more threatening dynamics at play? Justin has a secret, and he seems to want to pull her back into a past she’d rather forget. But delving into that old pain might be the only way to move forward — and for Justin to finally be free.

Will doing this for Justin become Ellie’s final gift of love as she loses him forever?

November is Naughty *and* Nice!

New releases!

22819From the author of the internationally best-selling The House on Burra Burra Lane comes a Christmas story — country style.

Contemporary/Holiday/Rural romance, heat level: sensual


22578From the talented and versatile Ros Baxter comes the first full-length novel in her sexy, engaging, groundbreaking SF Romance series.

When everything else is gone, all you have is hope.

SF Romance, heat level: steamy


22586From the internationally best-selling, award-winning Chieftain series comes a Romeo and Juliet style Christmas novella with a Scottish twist. A bad boy highlander is about to meet his match…

Historical Romance: Scottish/Holiday romance, heat level: steamy


22579From bestselling author Fiona Palmer comes the second in a young adult / new adult crossover series about sexy spies, a super secret agency and the work they do to save the world.

New Adult/Action & Adventure romance, heat level: sensual


22580They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

Contemporary/Holiday romance, heat level: sweet


are you caught up on the Sydney Housewives? Meet Lana – available this week.

22584Meet the Housewives of Sydney. They are wealthy, elegant, poised, and constantly in the public eye. But what goes on behind closed doors, in the private homes and parties where the cameras and paparazzi aren’t welcome? Delve into the most personal details of their relationships, their friendships and their lives. The only question is: can you handle the heat?

Happy Reading!

How would you like to *love* going to work?

  • Feeling unappreciated at your workplace?

  • Counting the hours till quitting time?

  • Unhappy with your pay and benefits?

Escape’s got the answer. It’s as simple as a workplace romance!

workplaceNever considered it? According to HuffPo (23 April 2014), 56% of workers have been involved in an office romance. Some of the world’s most famous couples met (and romanced) at work: Michele and Barack Obama, Melinda and Bill Gates, and of course, Brangelina! Does it get more romantic than Mr & Mrs Smith? (Aside from that little matter of them trying to kill each other, but then what couple doesn’t have their disagreements?)

brangelinaStill not convinced? Let’s keep working on our bucket list then, shall we?

  • Feeling unappreciated?
    With a workplace romance the love of your life will never forget your birthday again because you (and your email) are close enough for gentle reminders of that special date! And that’s not taking into account the potential of the staff notice board, the team meetings, and the water-cooler brigade! Huge, ostentatious flower arrangements, here we come!

 

  • Counting the hours till quitting time?
    This is where your creativity really gets a chance to shine! Storage cupboards, empty offices, even the boardroom is perfect for a romantic tryst that will have you wondering where the time has flown! Is it 5 already? Goodness (straightens clothing, brushes back lose tendrils of hair that’s escaped the corporate hair-do), where does the day go?

     

  • As for pay and benefits…
    Choose your romance wisely and you could be in line for fringe benefits you’ve never dreamed of! Overseas holidays, corporate lunches, dinners on the company credit card, and as for hotel rooms …. how did Pretty Woman phrase it? The Penthouse suite? It’s the best!

Still hesitant about a workplace romance? Not sure how to go about it? Lucky for you, here at Escape, we not only have the lowdown on the methods, the perks and the risks of the workplace romance, we also have our very own heroes to inspire you!

Take legal eagle, JP McIntyre, for instance. With her career in free-fall and a mountain of family and fiancé expectation driving Alex Farrah straight to the ‘trophy wife’ mantelpiece, what possible methods can her boss have at his disposal to derail the runaway caboose her life has become and launch a workplace romance like none she’s ever known? The thing is, no one derails or launches like the indomitable JP McIntyre. He’s determined to meet Alex’s family – including that two-timing fiancé of hers – and get her life back on track, once and for all?

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Give me that!” Alex barked.

Not until you invite me in,” JP replied with a grin. He hadn’t seen much of Alex’s feisty side and he was deciding he liked it—very much.

Never!” she cried and launched herself at him, lunging around his powerful physique to grab at her wallet, but he was too quick for her. He soon had his arm stretched upwards as she jumped several times to snatch it from him. But he held it just out of her reach, laughing uproariously the whole time.

Alex, what’s going on?”

Alex was airborne in an effort to regain her wallet when the bone chilling tone of a woman’s voice reached JP’s ears from the front door.

Mum!” Alex breathed, but then despite her mouth being open to speak, no sound came out.

It’s my fault, Mrs Farrah.” JP stepped into the light. “I’m Jonathan McKenzie, Alex’s boss. Alex left her wallet in my car. I was just torturing her a little before I gave it back. I didn’t mean to interrupt your gathering.”

That’s all right, I suppose,” Mrs Farrah replied as Alex watched her in fascination, clearly shocked at her mother’s docile acceptance of his explanation. “Won’t you come in?”

No!” Alex cried with a shrill note in her voice. “JP has another commitment!”

JP?” Mrs Farrah questioned, looking hard at Alex and then at him.

Short for ‘Jon Paul’,” he grinned. “Like the popes … only much less holy.”

(Excerpt from Falling for the Lawyer, Anna Clifton)


But if perks are high on your list and you have a penchant for the perfect male form, then a hunk like our second hero, Jack Norton, Exploration Manager of Global Oil, might tickle your, uh, fancy. You don’t have to go for the Armani-clad multi-millionaire – choose well and the guy with the delightfully firm buttocks tucked away in a sexy pair of Levi’s may be your ticket to places you’ve been dreaming of since, well, forever. Or better still, countries you’ve never even imagined. A few days in Paris? A couple of weeks in the moonlit dunes of Africa? Let Jack whisk you away at the drop of a hat.

You’ll travel in style – business class no less – and sip on the finest liqueurs. You may even meet Presidents and Ministers and your beau will entertain them, and impress you, with his wit and charm.

More than that, he’ll look out for you every hour of every day, defending you against the attacks of evil colleagues, promoting your intelligence to the Powers That Be. Because when you dare to have a workplace romance, the best perk of all is something money can’t buy: presence.

That’s right. Presence not presents. The man of your dreams won’t leave your side and if he does, just check the photocopier or the coffee machine to find him. No more waiting by the phone. No more wondering if you’re seeing him too often or not enough. Have a workplace romance with Jack and forget all the dating rules you’ve ever learned!

And with all the time you spend one-on-one with your own personal hero you’ll form an incredible bond, the kind it takes for a man to risk his life for you.

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Jack threw himself onto Lara, pushing her to the ground to shield her body with his. He gasped as he felt a sudden jolt to his calf, the pain shooting immediately right up to his thigh, spreading like an uncontrollable fire. He was hit. He held back the swear words that sprung to his mind. There was no need to alert Lara or she might not concentrate on getting out of there.

When I tell you, we run to the car.” He saw how she trembled, and squeezed her hand. “You’re going to be all right.” He gazed into her eyes. “I promise you.”
(Excerpt from Dark Oil, Nora James)

But as with all adventures, you might occasionally run into trouble. Take our third hero, Keith Donnelli. His job as CEO of Donnelli-Smith does not come without its perks, namely one gorgeous executive, Trish Carter, whom he can’t seem to keep his hands off. However getting caught is one of the risks you run if you are considering a work romance.

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The morning’s session had gone without a hitch, yet the mood seemed different, the eyes speculative, the applause subdued. When Keith got up to do his usual sum up and ask if there were any questions, there was a general disquieting buzzing in the air before a hand shot up towards the back of the room. Trish’s stomach muscles clenched in dread, knowing what was coming, yet reacting all the same when the voice, anonymously snide and ribald, asked how she felt the rehab “equipment” compared across offices, and in particular, how it compared to head office.

For a moment, there was dead quiet in the room, allowing Trish to absorb the shock of it all. She’d known there’d be fall out, and she had prepared herself for the worst, but this…this deliberate disrespect when Keith was right here, was much worse than she’d ever imagined. As the twitters started up and the buzzing turned to nasty snickers, Trish felt herself blush from head to foot and she quickly took her seat, mortified and horrified at what she’d allowed to happen.

(Excerpt from In Bed With The Boss, Alexa Bravo)

OK, we admit it, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. There are bound to be a few little snags when blurring the line between business and pleasure. But if you’ve come to the conclusion that despite the drawbacks a workplace romance might work for you, go ahead, enjoy!

On the other hand, if you’re not currently among the workers who like to live dangerously, and you’d rather avoid the gossip, the potentially public heartbreak if the relationship fails and in some cases, the risk of dismissal, then our heroes are a pretty safe option.

We’re sure you’ll love them – and you’ll sleep at night.

Perhaps you can have your cake and eat it, too. With Escape, you’ll never go hungry.