Usually, my first thought is the beach. (Yes, I know I live 30 minutes away from the North Sea. And there’s nothing between the coast and Siberia. I just love the cool breeze and the sound of the sea and walking hand-in-hand on the beach. Even in winter.)
But at this time of year, when daylight hours are so short in England – you can’t beat fireworks and fairytales.
And that’s exactly what happened, a little earlier this month. We had fireworks and fairytales for a whole weekend. So it was a bit like living one of my novels instead of creating them.
Usually, on Saturdays, I’m up early with a mug of coffee, trying to work as fast as I can before everyone else wakes up, so I can spend quality time with my family for the rest of the weekend. This particular weekend was different. I didn’t work AT ALL.
It was a special day for all the right reasons. It was my daughter’s 8th birthday (and a double anniversary for me – 7 years since The Call, and 6 years since my first M&B, A BABY OF HER OWN, hit the shelves). We went out to dinner and the waitress was wonderful: when we’d ordered desserts, she turned off the lights (though there were candles on each table!); she lit a Roman candle in a bowl of ice-cream, which she brought over to my daughter; and she got the whole restaurant to sing ‘Happy Birthday to You’. I really didn’t think it could get better than that. (The look on my daughter’s face when she told her cousin all about it, the next day, is the kind of look I want to put on my reader’s faces. I want to give them something magical.)
But, actually, it did get even better. Because, some months ago, I was doing a radio interview with our local BBC station, and while I waited in the foyer I leafed through the programme for our local theatre and discovered that the stage show of Beauty and the Beast was going to be on. And that there was a performance on my daughter’s birthday. So I booked tickets that night, and was delighted to find I’d booked early enough to get really good seats.
The acting was superb. The singing was superb. The lighting and staging were utterly brilliant (and all kudos to the wardrobe department).
And the story was right up a romance author’s street.
Firstly, we have the perfect romance heroine. Someone who’s not part of the crowd; someone whose head is usually in the clouds, and who really, really loves good stories. (Recognise Belle in yourselves, anyone?) Someone who puts others first, whose family is important to her, and who doesn’t want to be married to someone who doesn’t understand her. (Well, would you marry Gaston? The gorgeous, brawny guy who acts like a tank and can’t recognise other people’s feelings?)
Then we have the hero. OK, so the romantic hero is usually gorgeous at first sight (hmm – I suppose the Beast is, if his backstory’s told first). But he’s also difficult. Someone who won’t let others close. Someone who needs to learn that there’s more to life than he currently sees. I think our Beast definitely fits that.
He makes her dreams come true (that library – oh-h-h, if someone did that for me… Oh, wait. My real-life hero did, and it’s yet another reason why I love him so much); and she gives him something he’s never had before: love, for who the beast is as a person.
Add a fabulous score, some clever special effects (the transformation of The Beast, as in 5 seconds to get him out of a costume that takes a good hour to put on before the show – now that’s magic; not to mention the indoor fireworks), and true love… The perfect wind-down. Fairy tales and fireworks.
That was the Saturday. Just wonderful.
Sunday was more like one of the epilogues in one of my books: I find it very hard to say goodbye to my characters, and I like to revisit them after the big declaration… just to be sure that the path of true love is still running smooth. So on the Sunday we had a big family party. Lots of talking and laughter and hugs and smiles – oh, not to mention lots of cake. And chocolate. (See, I told you it was HEA and a wind-down. Chocolate = fairytales, right?) And as soon as it was dark, DH added the last bit of magic. (And this picture really is from my back garden. I discovered that my camera has a ‘fireworks’ setting.)
The perfect wind-down. And a very special weekend.
What makes your weekends special?
Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded is on the shelves in Australia/NZ at the moment (Harlequin Australia is out of stock!); you’ll be able to buy it from eHarlequin.com in December (on shelves in the US in January). The Greek Doctor’s New Year Baby is out in the UK, US and Australia/NZ in January (available online in from Mills & Boon, eHarlequin.com and eHarlequin.au in December!)
You can find out more about these books, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com)