Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Last Chance!

The grooms -- Flynn, Tom and Raul -- are about to take their contest and go home. The last day to enter their "Here Come The Grooms!" contest is February 29th.

So if you still haven't entered (and you enter three times -- once on my website, once on Kate Walker's and once on Liz Fielding's -- links on my sidebar), drop by and enter NOW!

Raul, Flynn and Tom will be glad you did. And you might be, too, if you win a copy of each of their books.

All you have to do to enter is answer three questions:

From Tom: What colour silk did he become intimately acquainted with?

From Raul: What's his full name and the name of his heroine (and no, it's not the name on the back cover of the book)?

From Flynn: What story was he covering when he went to Montana six years ago and met Sara McMaster in the first place?

The answers to Flynn's question is on my blog and in the excerpt on my website. Tom's is on Liz's website, and Raul's is on Kate's website. It doesn't take an advanced degree to figure out the answers.

And to be honest, Theo and Max and Domenico (last year's grooms) think you guys have it easy. They asked three questions apiece! They have been giving Tom, Raul and Flynn a hard time about it ever since they put up the contest. They say this year's grooms are 'lowering the standards.' So you better turn out and prove them wrong!

On Thursday I'm going to be blogging at Liz's -- so drop by and say hi if you want. You can win a book there, too. Or you can go out and buy one. What a novel concept! They're on the shelves now, except at Wal-Mart where Chris lives. There is a chance, I suppose, that they may have sold out. But my money is on them never having made it to the shelves in the first place.

So if you go looking and don't see it at your favorite store -- ask! Say, "Where's One-Night Love Child?" I'm sure they'll know precisely what you're talking about!

And if they don't, you can tell them. Thanks!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Flynn's Out!

Well, Sara is, too, of course. But you know what I mean.

I was at the drug store/post office this morning -- sending off some homemade Grasmere gingerbread to a friend who loves it and, incidentally, buying a gallon of milk before The Big Snow hit this afternoon -- and there on the shelves sat Flynn and Sara, otherwise known as One-Night Love Child.

Right there at eye level. They looked lovely. Very appealing.

I'm sure all the other books did, too, but to tell the truth, I didn't notice much. I will next time I go. I promise.

But I straightened their stack and then I decided to buy a copy to give to my mother. It isn't that I don't have author copies, but I thought Flynn and Sara would enjoy being purchased. And my mother will enjoy having it -- even if her eyes are not the best anymore.

I think of it as priming the pump -- purchasing the book -- now maybe other people will, too (she said hopefully). If you want to try before you buy, remember you can check out an excerpt here.

Now I must go shovel off some snow. We're up to our eyebrows in the stuff and there's more coming down!

Seb says hi. He's whistling at the moment. He's about to get the shock of his life, though. Poor Seb.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seeing the world through Jane-colored glasses

This weekend we watched The Jane Austen Book Club. I'd heard of it, but though I have enjoyed all of Jane Austen's books (some more than others), I missed this when it was in the theater, and I hadn't rushed right out to get the DVD either.

I should have.

It was delightful. The characters were quirky, but not unbelievable. They were engaging, even as they had foibles and eccentricities that made them human and, thus, vulnerable.

They brought back memories of reading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion (my faves) as well as some of my less faves.

And, of course, they had the added benefit of allowing me to spend a couple of hours with Jimmy Smits, Hugh Dancy and Marc Blucas. Yes, very enjoyable indeed.

The story revolves around five women and one charming, slightly innocent, often misunderstood, occasionally clueless man who read and discuss Jane Austen's six novels at the rate of one a month. Some of these people know each other well. Some are complete newcomers.

Each, of course, brings a backstory -- Sylvie has given her all for her family for twenty-odd years; Jocelyn loves to organize everyone but can't seem to commit to anyone; Bernadette reinvents herself -- and her love life -- every few years; Prudie can't seem to define herself except in contrast to her mother; Allegra falls in love with whoever rescues her; and Grigg, well, he's often far too nice for his own good.

The novels are their refuge from their day-t0-day lives -- and also the lens through which they see their own dilemmas. The parallels aren't like cudgels the director beats you over the head with. They are simply there -- perspectives you might not discover unless you'd read Persuasion or Mansfield Park or Sense and Sensibility that week.

And seeing a film of a book club reading books that make them reflect on their own issues may seem a little too far removed to be interesting. It's not. It's charming, well-written, and very well acted.

If you haven't watched it, and you enjoy ensemble stories and Jane Austen, you are missing a treat.

As we're on a Jane Austen kick, Becoming Jane is next. And since PBS has re-run P&P, I think we might have to break out the DVD version and do the same.

What have you seen lately? Got any good recommendations? I'd love to hear them.


Friday, February 22, 2008

RITA books

I just finished reading the last of my RITA contest books.

It's always intriguing to open the package from Romance Writers of America every January and find out which books I get to read for the contest. Sometimes they are by authors whose work I am familiar with. But often they are books I don't know the first thing about by authors I've never heard of.

Because we can't, of course, judge books in our own category (for me that is short contemporary or whatever they are calling it now that it and 'traditional' have been lumped together) I don't know the names of as many of the authors as I do among the books similar to mine.

So it's always an adventure to read the long historicals or the witty regencies or the super-short novellas or big thick single titles. And nearly every year I discover an author whose voice delights me, whose characters fascinate me, whose plots make me keep turning the pages.

It's so much fun to find someone new to watch out for. Sometimes it's a first book. When I'm lucky it's someone with a backlist so I can go find all her earlier books and read and read and read (well, when I'm not writing).

I wish I could tell you whose books I read this year. I definitely found one I will be checking back lists for.

On another topic (one that I am nervous of addressing for fear it will jinx things), Seb is cooperating nicely right now. He's had two good days in a row. This is perhaps not a record, but it is a good sign. I have very low standards when it comes to Hero Performance in a Book, as you can tell.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Bride's Baby

I've mentioned Tom, Liz Fielding's groom in The Bride's Baby whenever I've mentioned our Here Come the Grooms! contest. Tom has even done a bit of blogging on Liz's site.

But mentioning Tom and reading his blog isn't the same as having read his book.

Last night I finished reading his book.

Of course I was expecting another warm, wonderful Liz Fielding read. Does she do any other kind? Well, yes, she does funny and moving and soul-touching and sometimes ironic, but you know what I mean. They are always worth waiting for -- and worth reading whenever one comes along.

But Tom -- what can I say about Tom?

He's a great hero. He's the quintessential 'wounded' hero. He has wounds so deep and so lasting that you wonder if he's ever going to make it past them.

Of course, at first he simply thinks he won't have to bother, that he can 'go around' them and get what he wants without having to confront his past head-on.

Bad idea, Tom. You should know better.

And, of course, being a Liz Fielding hero, he learns. Mostly he learns from Sylvie, who is an absolutely wonderful heroine. A woman with wounds of her own, she hasn't had the perfect life Tom imagines she's had. But she hasn't let it stop her, either. Mostly.

In The Bride's Baby Tom and Sylvie have awareness and passion to begin with. But before it's over, they have something more. They have helped each other grow, have given each other the strength to confront their respective pasts and move on -- together.

I loved this book. I didn't want it to end. Thank you, Liz -- and Tom and Sylvie -- for giving me so much pleasure as I read The Bride's Baby.

The Bride's Baby will be coming out as an April book in both the US and UK.

Now, what I want to know is: when's the next Liz Fielding book hitting the shelves?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Those Ocean Movies

I was a kid when the first -- aka 'real' -- Ocean's Eleven came out.

It wasn't in my top ten films of all time. It might not have even made the top twenty or top fifty. But it was a fun film. I like caper movies and I like movies with a twist at the end -- and this one was good for that.

I saw the 'new' Ocean's Eleven hoping for the same reaction.

I didn't get it. I actually got confused by it. And I left the theater feeling disgruntled and irritated and I wondered why I'd bothered.

Well, perhaps George was why I bothered, but he didn't save the film for me.

So I wasn't desperate to go see Ocean's Twelve when it came out. In fact I didn't go see it. And for a long time I didn't even rent it. But finally it rolled to the top of our Netflix rental list and appeared on our doorstep and, well, what can I say?

I watched it.

I found that I liked it better than Eleven. There was a bit of warmth to it. Not just cutesy capery stuff. Well, there was plenty of that. But there was Brad getting Catherine Zeta-Jones together with her dad at the end . . . (oops, was that a spoiler? Sorry. I thought it was a point in its favor.)

I liked that. What can I say? I'm a sap for a happy ending.

So I rented Ocean's Thirteen. And tonight we watched it.

And I like it best of all. It had all the same capery elements of the earlier ones, but it had something that I didn't really see in the first one and only caught a brief glimpses of in the second one, but which finally came into its own in Thirteen.

It had heart.

It was based on heart - on friendship. On what a group of men will do for each other when one of them is down and out. You could call it a revenge movie. But it's not a bloody revenge movie. It's a funny revenge movie. It's a movie of sharp wits vs sneaky wits. Of cleverness vs power. Of cunning vs ruthlessness.

And, of course, the good guys win.

They break the rules. But they outwit the Bad Guy -- and the pretty bad guy. At the same time they get teary-eyed at Oprah, make sure that the 'little people' succeed, and end up making the pretty bad guy look good against his own inclination.

It gives us heroes to root for who are not in the slightest conventional. They do everything illegal they can possibly do. And we are on their side the whole time. Not just because they are George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Matt Damon -- though admittedly that helped. We are on their side because we appreciate what they are trying to do.

We'd go to bat for our friends, too. We identify with them. We care about they people they care about. The movie works because the heroes in it have heart.

They make us care.

The best heroes do.

Of course, it doesn't hurt if they look like George and Brad and Matt, too.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008


Well, in some peoples' lives they were.

The man on the far left is my great-grandfather. And this is his saloon in Sumner, Iowa. The photo was taken in 1899 by his son, my grandfather, then age 18, who was working for a photographer that winter.

I don't know who the other men are. I'd love to know. So if you have family in Sumner, or know someone who did, show the picture around and see if we can identify some of them.

In case you're wondering what on earth I'm doing with this -- I'm trying to pull the threads of my life together. I'm taking a terrific online course from Ed2Go on using Photoshop Elements 5.0 (which I took so I could finally figure out how to do something with the software I'm supposed to be using to put photos on my website). And every week I get two lessons.

I did lessons 9 and 10 this morning (and this afternoon) and then I went off to mess with some of my own images. The guys in the bar just seemed a natural to practice on.

What? You thought I was going to mess with the perfection of Hugh-in-a-towel?

I'm in Neely's head at the moment and she's messing with the interiors of some condos she's working on. So while she messes with that -- using my software and hers -- I can mess about with the guys in the bar.

All I can say is, Must've been a cold winter in Iowa that year.

Kind of like this one.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Naturally, I'm late. Valentine's day has about an hour or so left where I live. But I couldn't get here to do anything before now.

So I hope you have all had a wonderful day with those you love.

I did.

A year ago I was sitting on the Mezzanine in Bewley's on Grafton Street in Dublin drinking tea and watching as an impressive number of Irish men bought flowers for their ladies. This morning I toasted them all with a cup of tea and a bowl of lovely Irish oatmeal and hoped that I would get back to Ireland someday.

The memories still make me smile.

Speaking of things that make me smile, I've got the Friday Film Night blog on The Pink Heart Society for this week -- which means that since it's already Friday in a good chunk of the world -- including GMT -- the piece is up now.

Stop by and check out my pick for this week.
  • It starred Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford
  • Kevin Spacey had a bit part
  • Alec Baldwin had a slightly bigger part
  • It had a great Oscar-winning song
  • It's still a fun film -- even after 20 years
Know what it is?

Of course you do -- it's Working Girl!

And because I promised them there that we were discussing heroes here, I'd like to toss out a question -- what is it that made Harrison Ford such a good hero in so many films?

He generally wasn't your traditional 'alpha' hero. Not really. I have my own theories, but I'd be delighted to hear yours.

Tomorrow it's back to the houseboat. Tell Seb he needs to get his act together. We have a book to write!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here Comes A Groom - Raul

The last -- but certainly not least -- of the three bridegrooms in Liz Fielding's and Kate Walker's and my Here Come The Grooms! contest this year is the hero of Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife -- Raul Somebody Or Other.

I say that because his name is wrong on the back cover of his book, and his question to you for the contest is quite simply, "What's my real name -- not the name on the cover -- and the name of my heroine?"

You can find out the answer on Kate's website.

So, besides his name, which will remain a mystery for you to discover, what can I tell you about Raul?

Not as much as Kate, who wrote his story. This is what she has to say:

Two years ago, Alannah turned down Raul's cold-blooded proposal of marriage and walked away without one word of regret. Now tragedy has thrown them together once more, and this time the proud Spanish aristocrat will see that she doesn't get away from him again.

He had always wanted Alannah from the first moment he saw her. Her unique combination of purity and passion intrigued, then intoxicated him. And Raul is a man used to getting everything he wants.

She got away from him once - This time, he intends to keep her.

Sounds as if Raul is a man who knows his own mind. And as if he's going to have a battle on his hands. I have a copy of Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife just waiting for me to find time to read it. Thank you, Kate, for sending Raul and Alannah to me. I can hardly wait.

There's still two weeks left for you to enter the contest. Remember, the drawings will be held right after the February 29th deadline.

So answer the three questions (check my contest page for all of them) and send your answers to me, to Kate and to Liz and you'll have three chances to win three brand-new books!

Good luck!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Guest blogging at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs

This is my day to blog at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs -- the lovely Lee Hyat's blog about books that have to do with all things romance.

As a year ago today I was heading off to Chicago in an attempt to beat a blizzard so I could catch a plane to Dublin to do research for One-Night Love Child (at the time simply called Flynn's book), I thought that writing about 'research' might be interesting.

It's my favorite part of writing, as a matter of fact. And you can read why -- in brief -- over there today.

But here I'll give you a list of my favorite research moments -- ones that I never would have got to do if I hadn't been writing a book:
  • going to bull-riding school for The Cowboy and The Kid
  • spending an afternoon at Frederic Fekkai Salon in NYC for The Inconvenient Bride
  • lunching at the Society of Illustrators in NYC with the artist who did my cover for Dream Chasers and who took me to a cover shoot afterwards
  • learning how to build an 11 ton sand castle for Marry Sunshine
  • going to Ireland in search of a perfect place for Flynn for One-Night Love Child
  • interviewing a major league umpire for A Chance of Rainbows
  • Having a stunt coordinator work out a stunt-gone-wrong for Cowboys Don't Quit
  • Learning what goes into being a muralist for The Santorini Bride
  • Going on an archeological dig for Dare To Trust
  • Exploring an island off the coast of Maine for Call Up the Wind
  • Following a professional beach volleyball player's tour for Out of Bounds
Just thinking about on them all makes me reflect how rich and varied a writer's life can be. It's not all sitting in the garret staring at the blank computer screen -- though some of it definitely is!

Anyway, the trip to Ireland was an adventure -- the blizzard was only the start of it. But it was great fun -- and definitely worth the trip, as well as the hours in the garret writing afterwards.

Stop by and say hi. You also have a chance to win a copy of Flynn's book just by leaving a comment there. Gunnar will be picking the winner on Tuesday.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Here Comes A Groom -- Tom

I promised to introduce you to the other two grooms who are part of the Here Come The Grooms II contest.

So let me begin with Tom MacFarlane, hero of Liz Fielding's The Bride's Baby.

In fact, because Liz knows Tom so much better than I do, I'll let her introduce him to you.

According to Liz, Tom is a man who has everything except the very necessary well-bred wife to put the gloss on his meteoric rise from the lowest sphere of society.

A man who knows that love hurts and is having none of it, only for love to throw a spanner into the carefully oiled works and overturn his well-laid plans.

No doubt he'll take over and tell you the tale himself, but here's a bride's eye view of him to be going on with.

Sylvie turned to find her way blocked by six and a half feet of broad-shouldered male and experienced a bewildering sense of deja vu.

A feeling that this had happened before.

And then she looked up and realised it was not an illusion. This had happened before -- except on that occasion the male concerned had been wearing navy pin-stripe instead of grey cashmere.

"Some billionaire," Laura had said, but she hadn't mentioned a name. And Sylvie hadn't bothered to ask, pretending she didn't care.

She cared now, because it wasn't just "some billionaire" who'd bought her family home and was planning to turn it into a conference centre.

It was Tom McFarlane, the man with whom, just for a few moments, she'd totally lost it. Whose baby she was now carrying.

Whoa. Sounds like there's going to be just a bit of conflict there!

And as just this past Thursday a copy of The Bride's Baby, straight from Liz herself, landed in my mailbox, I am just about to settle in and open the book and find out what happens between Sylvie and Tom.

As every book Liz writes is a warm and wonderful treat, I am looking forward to it!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Repressed Hero

We were talking about heroes last week and the week before, and I don't think we've said all there is to say.

In fact I know we haven't.

And while I was trying to articulate the problem my current hero, Sebastian, is having with the woman who is turning his world upside down, I discovered that Pam Rosenthal had done it for me.

A Rita Finalist this year for her long historical, The Slightest Provocation, the talented and insightful Pam wrote a wonderful blog piece about Jane Austen, Mr Darcy, Colin Firth and repression (which I am not going to link to here because it's on an over-18 blog and this will doubtless be the day my teenage grandson decides to visit granny's blog!).

In it she quotes Colin Firth who, as we all recall, created a Darcy for the ages in the 1990s BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

When asked how he got into the character, Firth said, "I thought to myself: 'This is where he wants to go across the room and punch someone. This is where he wants to kiss her. This is where he wants sex with her right now.' I'd imagine a man doing it all, and then not doing any of it. That's all I did."

He repressed it.

And with that, I knew that Pam -- and Colin -- had nailed Sebastian's dilemma.

Like Mr Darcy who didn't want to fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet, Sebastian doesn't want to fall in love with Neely. Fall in love? He doesn't want to be anywhere in the same universe. She is everything he distrusts in a woman. And he's sure she's about to destroy the life of the man who has been his mentor for years.

And yet, even as he is convinced that she was the last woman on earth he would ever want anything to do with, he finds her getting under his skin.

He can't stop looking at her. He is always aware of her. If she's in the room, he knows exactly where.

He wants her. Wants to touch her. To kiss her. To go to bed with her.

And at the same time, damn it, he doesn't want to want any of it!

Like Mr Darcy, Seb is mortified by his attraction to this wholly unsuitable woman. And at the same time, he can't quite stay away.

Well, the fact that they're sharing digs makes it difficult anyway, but he can't get away from her at work either and that makes his life even more difficult.

Then there's the inkling that perhaps she isn't exactly what he thought . . .

Perhaps there's more to her than that. Or perhaps he's misjudged. But how was he to know? And now that he thinks he does know . . .

Well, life will get more complicated before it gets less. Poor Seb.

Poor Mr Darcy.

But we, as readers, Pam points out, love the repressed hero, the mortified hero.

"And we especially love it," she says, "when the author has first introduced him in all his smug, hunky, thoughtless toughness and now shows his inner writhings and torments."

Indeed we do.

And we want to be there to witness him stick his foot in his mouth, then have to extricate it, regroup, rethink, and know, all the while, that he deserves the very torment he is experiencing because he once spurned the woman he has come to love. We want to see him grow, change, and learn to value her as she deserves to be valued.

I just hope Seb is hero enough to do it.

Thanks, Pam, for giving me the words to articulate what Seb is going to be going through in this book.

I told him to take notes. I wish he could take a master's acting class from Colin Firth. On the other hand, this won't be an act. It will be his life as I write it.

What do you think about this 'repressed hero' idea?

We get very used to expecting heroes to 'go after what they want.' And of course they must. But does it alway have to be overt? Jane Austen seems to prove that it doesn't. And Darcy certainly convinced me.

Do you remember other similar 'repressed' and 'mortified' heroes? Of which books? By whom? Tell me. I never mind adding great books to my TBR pile, and I definitely want to read more Darcys.

And if you want to read the article from which Pam quoted Colin Firth, you can find it here.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Breakfast at Giovanni's

The lovely talented Kate Hardy, who writes faster than I can read, also writes wonderful books.

She writes Medicals for Mills & Boon, and she also writes M&B Modern Extras, or as they are now called, Modern Heat. And some of the latter are coming out in America as part of the Presents line.

One of them, Breakfast at Giovanni's, on Monday won the Romance Novelists' Association prize for category romance!

Kate's book has been retitled -- something about an Italian Boss, I think. Personally I love the title Breakfast at Giovanni's. But I think marketing feels it doesn't 'fit' with 'The Presents Promise."

Personally I wish they'd 'promise' more variety in their titles. Many of the books do. They aren't as cookie-cutter as critics -- or marketing -- would like you to think. But you'd never know it from the sameness of the titles.

Anyway, I'm thrilled for Kate who, as you can see here, looks a bit stunned and 'who me?' when they called her name.

And yes, that's the lovely Liz Fielding, whose wonderful Secret Life of Lady Gabriella was also short-listed for the prize, sitting far to the right. (So you can see how stiff the competition was).

Congrats to all who were short-listed -- and special congrats to Kate for walking away with the Betty Neels' Bowl which will be hers for the year.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

How I Met Sara

Flynn Murray here.

I don't think we've met.

But I understand from Anne that I've got a contest going on. Something about Here Come The Grooms! -- which she says is in its second year.

And someone is going to win my book and find out how I
finally got Sara to say YES.

But I also understand that Anne has asked a question you're supposed to answer -- and said it was MY question. And the truth is, it isn't.

I would have asked you something about Sara, not about what I was doing when I met Sara. Sara's what's important -- not that. I would have asked you what Sara intended to do with her life. Answer: go to med school. Or idealistically: save the world. Or I would have asked: "What colour are Sara's eyes?"

They're brown. Except when she's angry -- and then they sort of flash gold. They did a lot of flashing in our book. She was pretty peeved.

But Sara, annoyed, is pretty exciting. And certainly tempting. Not that I wouldn't have settled for her just falling into my arms.

She didn't. In case you want to know. She took a LOT of convincing.

Well, you would, wouldn't you (this is Sara, by the way) if some here-today, gone-tomorrow Irish journalist knocked you off your feet, chatted you up, turned your world upside down, acted like he loved you -- did actually make love to you -- then went his merry way?

It wasn't like that. It was a matter of honour. Of doing what was best for her. I had nothing to offer her th
en --

And you do now, I suppose?

I'd say so, yes. Marriage. A home. Family.

Ha. You live in Ireland!

People do. You like Ireland. Beautiful country. Very green.

On account of the . . . ?

All right. So it rains . . . A lot. You had three feet of snow on the ground in Montana when I first came here six years ago. And now there's more!

We've been saving it for you.

See? This is what she's like. She fights me every step of the way. And most of the time, believe me, what we're fighting about is not the weather!

I'm not fighting. I'm only saying. And you don't have to come in here and complain to Anne's readers. You get your way in the end, you know.

It's YOUR way, too.

Well, yes, but, just tell them what you were doing here six years ago when you came to Montana, so they can answer the question.

I was covering The Great Montana Cowboy Auction for Incite Magazine. But then I met you and other things were a lot more appealing like . . .

Flynn! We are not doing Public Displays of Affection on Anne's blog!

No? Why not? Doesn't she permit it? We could go to Kate's . . . I hear she's running a dating service for cats.

So that's where Sid ran off to. I wondered. No, we're not going to Kate's. Not unless she invites us. Anyway, she has Raul and Alannah to deal with -- and Sid and Lola.

We're not cats. And we're not going anywhere.

We're helping Anne this month. She's signed you up to write for her blog, and that's what you're going to do.

Yes, Sara. Whatever you say, Sara.

He acts like this when he wants his way. I'm warning you, Flynn! Flynn! Put me down! Anne, get this hero under control! Anne!

Oh, good heavens. Well, don't mind us. We'll be back. Flynn has been looking forward to blogging ever since he talked to Theo and Spence. I'm sure he'll ha
ve something to say when he isn't . . . distracted.


Whatever you want, Sara . . .

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