The house is littered with cereal box models, folders of artwork and improbably numerous bits of PE kit, all of which I've been trying to process before we go away tomorrow. The children are in expansive holiday mood-- inviting friends for tea and for sleepovers at every opportunity and making regular stealthy raids on fridge and biscuit tin which would earn the respect of any one of Michelle Styles's Viking heroes.
Talking of which, I finished Viking Warrior Unwilling Wife on Friday when my husband was away-- which was good, because he does have an irritating habit of looking at me every three seconds when I'm coming to the end of a book I've raved about and saying 'Are you crying yet?' It's a fabulous story-- a beautiful, tender romance between two fantastically well-drawn characters, but also an edge-of-the-seat adventure. The emotional journey of the hero and heroine is set against a real journey which is fraught with dangers, and which challenges each of them to re-examine the things they thought they knew. I love Michelle's writing voice so much, and I particularly love the voice she gives to her characters-- the dialogue in this book is fast-paced and wry and totally credible, and made it very, very easy to fall in love with Vikar. (Even without the pervasive images of his green eyes, and the most beautifully depicted love scene in a cave. A cave with a waterfall. Oh yes.... Heaven can wait....) I was hopelessly slow in getting to reading this one, which came out in June. If like me you haven’t read it yet, make sure you put it in your suitcase this holiday!
So, today is packing and excitement-management day. Last night, sprawled on the sofa amid the chaos of waterproofs and fishing nets, drinking wine and wistfully watching gorgeous Francesco wander around the Parthenon we did feel fleetingly lazy and ashamed for not whisking the children off somewhere exotic and mind-broadening this summer. They, however, are boiling over with excitement at going back to the same place we go to every year and are busy writing lists of the order in which they want to do the usual things: the beach with the fossils, the beach where we always barbeque, fish and chips in the harbour and crabbing from the rocks. Last year we were lucky enough to be on a deserted beach when the Red Arrows were doing a display across the bay, so a repeat of that is featuring heavily on wishlists too. Mine included. I’d just finished writing Mistress Hired for the Billionaire’s Pleasure then, and was madly in love with Orlando, so to see the RAF in all their dashing glory was quite something.
This year I’m still deeply involved in the middle of a book, which isn’t quite so ideal in theory, but I’m actually really looking forward to having some time away from the non-stop madness here just to think and get to know my characters better. I'm crazy about the hero already, and it’s a bit like being a teenager again, marking the summers by different crushes. Way back then it was the summer of the Surf Instructor, or the summer of the Gorgeous Blond Boy in the Year Above; now it’s the summer of the RAF hero, or-- this year-- the summer of the Spanish Duke. It’s just as well I have a very understanding husband.
I'll be back in a week and a bit to pick a competition winner for my ever-expanding box of treats (to which an Audio CD of Sara Craven's Wife Against her Will, read by the lovely Michael Praed has just been added. Remember him? I used to pass interminable chemistry lessons dreaming of him, so I actually remember him a lot better than the periodic table, or how to balance an equation. That probably explains a lot...)