It is 10 years since The Illicit Love of a Courtesan was first published and she is celebrating with a new jacket

10 years ago I travelled over to the USA alone, on my first trip to America, to attend a promotional event for the release or Illicit Love, as it was called then. I attended the Romantic Times Conference in Kansas City. The magazine review team had read the story and scored it 4.5 stars, which was quite an accolade at the time, anything above 4 stars was rare.

It was a point in my life that was exciting and scary at the same time. I was in a room signing books among authors I’d read and admired for years! I travelled in a lift with Mary Balogh 🙂 I was sitting next to E.L. James in a conference panel session. I also still clearly remember how much my hand shook when I signed the first book for someone. I was terrified I’d spell their name wrong. It was a moment of childhood – life-long – dreams being fulfilled.

In the years since, there have been many more moments. My first visit to the Harper Collins offices and seeing my book displayed in the entrance hall. Signing next to Stephanie Laurens in New York City. Being invited to the Harper Collins parties to celebrate with their other authors, like Philippa Gregory, who I spoke to. Listening to actresses performing my work in audio additions. Changing genre to write thrillers and securing another contract with Harper Collins, in their Killer Reads Imprint at the time. Seeing book after book, from regency romances and new adult stories, to my thrillers rise up into charts time and again.

On the day of the release of Illicit Love I crazily didn’t live in the moment, but ended up being in my hotel room for most of the day thanking people online for posting about the story. So to celebrate the 10 year point, instead, I went out for a meal with the local authors from Romantic Novelists Association who have become some of my closest friends over the years, and there are so many more authors who I’ve met here in the UK, out in America and online who I am lucky enough to consider my friends. These friendships really are the best thing about my publishing journey of the last 10 years.

However, I am now taking the time to say thank you to all the bloggers who took part in my celebration online too, because books are nothing without readers. Thank you for some fantastic reviews – here are some of the highlights of the 10 year tour…

‘This was such an engaging novel that I was thinking about it when I was not reading it, and it was so beautifully written that I could picture the scenes with such vibrancy. The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is a stunning tale of love, loss, family and forgiveness.’ Jo ~ Book Mad Blog

‘A romance with a series of clever twists. Fans of historical romance should add this fabulous novel to their reading lists.’ Cathie ~ Ruins and Reading Blog

‘As the pages flew by and I inched closer to the end, I knew I was going to miss Ellen and Edward, I was so wrapped up in their romance. I think I might have to read the other books in the series, if only to get my does of steamy romance mixed with drama.’ Sharon ~ Beyond the Books Blog

‘The undeniable sexual attraction between Ellen and Edward absolutely sizzles on the page and whilst the story is unashamedly romantic, with some sensual encounters, there are also elements of danger and that is what makes this regency romance such an intriguing and passionate read.’ Jo ~ Jaffa Reads Too Blog

‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is a superb historical romance that is so moving, it could seriously sever your heartstrings.’ Julie ~ Bookish Jottings Blog

Happy Book Birthday to this fantastic read! I absolutely adored it, and was hooked from the first page.” Jennifer ~ Historical Fiction With Spirit Blog

‘I found myself submerged in this bittersweet tale of two characters who find each other, and find the strength and courage to fight the wrongdoings… This author was a real delight to discover and I cannot wait to read more from her!’ Tiziana ~ Tiki’s Book Reviews Blog

What inspires a psychological thriller?

The writing ideas for the psychological thrillers come very differently from the research I’ve done for historical stories. They can’t be found by visiting such obvious places as historical properties. But I’ve learned to use several things.

One. My own life – I’ve started writing scenes set in local places, and using some of things I’ve done. Places I’ve spent a lot of time in and have experienced life in not just visited. I shared some of the places when I told you about the inspirations for After you Fell in The Secrets of a Bestseller. My characters might carry different emotions into the scenes from the days that I’ve done the same thing or been to the same place. But drawing on my reality, I think helps to make the characters experience more real, which enables the reader to connect emotionally with the characters. And that emotional connection, writing a character the people feel something for, is just as important in thrillers as it is in romance.

There’s a seen in The Twins when they hitchhike to Buscot, to swim in the weir pool on National Trust land. That’s something I and my friends did as young teenagers 🙂

My Twins are truants. I admit I did skip school occassionally, but I once met a girl at the bus stop who was going to school for the first time in two years. She said she used to hide in the day. I never saw her again, she didn’t come back. It’s strange how my real life memories from a long while ago can return to influence a story now. I remember her though because I always wondered what had happened next.

Two. Learning about real life crimes, and most importantly the people who commit them. The TV channel, CBS Reality, is my late-night watch. I’m funny I know. In my day job in a meeting we were asked to draw how we were feeling, I made everyone laugh because in my drawing I included a drawing of a woman with a knife – I was tired because I’d stayed up late watching Wives with Knives. Hee hee. But another late-night programme is about twins who commit crimes. I watched it as much to learn about the relationship between twins rather than to find ideas for the story. I’m pleased to say that I’ve already had feedback from a twin to say they relate to my characters. So, that has thrilled me – thank you to the television show.

Three. Identifying the settings for the scenes. Choosing real settings adds to the stories realism. It engages people’s minds with the fiction more effectively. Although there’s always a writer’s licence to embellish spaces, my settings are usually deliberately not accurate to the real places. For instance, two of the characters in The Twins own a cafe in the Lake District. I chose the Lake District for the adult years of my characters because it’s quite an enchanting place. It’s also out of the way, where the characters could go to hide. But a lot of the lakes are full of tourists, and the towns busy with thousands of visitors. So when I found a quieter setting, it became the perfect place for my reserved characters who didn’t want to let anyone know they were there. The small cafe at the Esthwaite Water Trout Fishery became the spot I used as a reference to describe my cafe. But then I embellished it. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of the real cafe. In reality, on the entrance side, it’s a solid wall with a single width door. My setting has a glass front so that the characters see who is coming and going. My fictional cafe is also bigger, it has more tables inside, and a wider selection of food. But the fact that it’s set right on the edge of the lake, and that there’s nothing else around it, those are the things that the real cafe inspired. It has a homely, welcoming atomosphere, tucked away in the woods.

Oh that might take you back to the first inspiration I mentioned in this recent flurry of blog posts.

Four. Music. The inspiration of music runs from historicals into psychological thrillers without change.

The Twins: The most gripping psychological crime thriller of 2020 with a twist you won’t see coming!

available in audio an ebook from today

If you liked Blood Orange, The Perfect Couple and The House Guest you will love this!

Susan and Sarah. Sisters. Best friends.

Nothing could break them apart.

Until they meet him.

And he can only choose one…

Now Susan is back. Determined to reclaim everything Sarah has taken from her.

Her home, her husband…her life?