Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So, I'm a bad blogger...

Okay, I should just admit it. I'm a terrible blogger. A fairweather blogger if you will. Not at all dedicated to my craft. If my blog were my boyfriend, we'd break up because I don't pay him enough attention.

I'd like to swear that I've learned my lesson but chances are that I'll fall off the wagon again. But I can try!

Sorry, blog. I love you, you know.

By the way, I saw this really touching blog today on Oprah. I don't usually love Oprah, but this was worth checking out. Sad and not at all related to romance novels, but still worth looking at.



An electronic bell chimed when Cass opened the door to Debbie’s office. The receptionist, a youngish, skinny woman with razor thin lips and eye brows to match, glanced from her computer and looked at her sharply. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on Cass’s knee-high boots and designer bag.

“Can I help you?” she asked, curtly.

“Um, yeah, I hope so. Just looking for Debbie.”

“She isn’t here yet. Do you want to take a seat and wait?” She gestured toward the cracked plastic chairs in the waiting room, piled high with dog-eared magazines.

“I guess so. Do you know where she is or how long she’ll be?”

“Nope, sorry.”

“Okay then, I’ll just sit down.”

The receptionist gave her a sarcastic smile and rolled her eyes before turning back to her computer screen.

Cass sat down and placed her bag beside her. She inhaled deeply and looked around at the fading East coast promotional posters on the wall. Bad 80s fonts and cheesy taglines: “There’s no place like foam” on a picture of waves crashing on the shore, “A lobster is a lobster is a lobster…but a lobster from Nova Scotia is a lobster.” Gertrude Stein would throw up on the floor of this waiting room if she were here. Cass sifted through the stack of old magazines. Reader’s Digest, Maclean’s, Chatelaine. Cass picked up a five-year-old Chatelaine and flipped through it quickly, all the while watching the door for Debbie’s flame-red bob. After fifteen minutes or so, she impatiently put the magazine down and surprisingly met the receptionist’s gaze. The receptionist glanced away quickly and Cass wondered how long she’d been staring at her.

“Um, listen…what’s your name?”

“Sandra,” the girl said, looking back.

“Sandra, do you think you could call Debbie?” she asked.


“Why not?”

“She doesn’t have a cell phone.”

“Who doesn’t have a cell phone?”

“Lots of people. Especially in this town.”

“But she’s a real estate agent! How does she do business?”

“She checks in from pay phones to get her messages.”

“What? That’s insane.”

“Well, that’s what she does.”

Cass gave her a look, and the receptionist stared right back. She impatiently twitched her leg, in a stare down with this unhappy woman. Neither of them spoke, until Sandra said “Is that a Miu Miu purse?”


“Your bag?”

Cass looked down. “Oh, yeah,” she said, a little confused. She looked at Sandra.

“What, you think we don’t have magazines?”

“Well, you don’t have cell phones.”

“I have a cell phone.”

“And apparently a brand fetish.”

“Maybe. But I especially have a thing for purses.”

“Me, too,” she said. “Not that I’ll be able to get my hands on a Birkin bag in this place.”

“Not a Birkin, but The Closet has some pretty great vintage stuff.”

“The Closet?”

“Yeah, it’s a second-hand store, kind of. We have a bunch of them, but The Closet is the best. It’s not your average garage sale stuff; Liz goes all over to find things. I have a gorgeous Chanel bag…”

“Chanel?” Cass said, surprised.

“Yeah, vintage Chanel.”

It was then that Cass noticed Sandra’s shoes. Christian Louboutins. Signature red sole. Where did this girl get $700 shoes?

“Vegas,” she said, with a smile. “I know they’re wasted on everyone here, but I love them. My boyfriend won a few grand playing the slots so he bought them for me.”

“Wow,” Cass said, seriously impressed. Hey, this girl had good taste. And was actually very pretty when she smiled. She just needed help with the too-thin eyebrows.

Debbie bounced through the door just then and Sandra’s smile faded. She curled back into her previous troll-like state as Debbie asked happily “Any messages, Sandy?”

“It’s Sandra,” she said, “and no. Just a client here for you.”

Debbie looked over at her. “Oh, Cassidy! You’re here!”

“We had an appointment, remember? For ten?”

“Yes, I know, but you’re early!” Cass opened her mouth to protest, but Debbie continued. “Your boxes are in the truck, with Mr. McPhee.” Debbie was the only woman she’d ever met who referred to her husband as Mr. anything. “He’ll follow you out to the house to deliver them.”

“Okay, that’s great. Thank you, Debbie.”

“Not at all! Enjoy the new house, missy!”

Cass smiled politely, nodded to Sandra and headed outside.

Just as she pulled her sunglasses off of her head and headed in the direction of her car, she saw him. Christian, holding the door of The Sea Bean for a couple of older women. He was different in the day light – thinner, friendlier. He looked across the street and caught her staring at him just then; she looked away too quickly and jarred her neck. She could feel her face flush and she didn’t dare look his way. She saw a big burly man with a full beard sitting in a truck just down the way and assuming it was Mr. McPhee, who looked nothing like she pictured, she walked toward him. She could see Christian from the corner of her eye. He watched her until someone called his name from inside the coffee shop, catching his attention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The caffeine fix...

Just a little more character development. Not too much steam yet. But keep reading!

I tried to find a coffee shop picture for inspiration but the only coffee shops I had on my computer were from Amsterdam...

And that's not exactly what I meant.

It's something closer to this.

Minus the fancy car. Cass drives a Mazda, remember?


Cass shivered as she drove into town, the cool morning air whipping through the open window, but it smelled so fresh. You don’t get that crisp, clean smell in downtown Toronto. There are other Toronto smells she loved – a venti non-fat vanilla latte with light foam from Starbuck’s in particular, at this time of day – but this smell, it was newly hers and she wanted to enjoy it. As she pulled into town, the shopkeepers were just opening their doors, propping up old-fashioned striped awnings, people calling out greetings across the street. It really was quaint, she thought, exactly what she was looking for. And she could smell coffee. Strong, rich coffee. European blend, if she knew her caffeine at all. As she pulled into a parking space on the main drag, she saw it: The Sea Bean. And a carefully-lettered sign said it was Open.

She grabbed her zebra-skin Miu Miu handbag, a congratulatory treat to herself when she got promoted to senior editor that cost almost as much as a mortgage payment, and followed the heady, spicy aroma. The Sea Bean was cute; it would never survive in Toronto, next to the chain coffee places, but it would do the trick here. Cass quickly scanned the menu, looking for the latte selection. She breathed in sharply when she realized, with disdain, that the menu did not have lattes. Or frappucinos. Or mochaccinos. You had your choice of coffee blend but that’s where it stopped.

“What can I get you, honey?” the middle-aged brunette behind the counter asked.

“Um, do you have blended coffee at all?”

“We have blends, sure!”

“No, that’s not what I mean. Do you do lattes?”

“Oh, we don’t do anything that fancy here, I’m afraid.”

“It isn’t fancy. It’s basically steamed coffee and milk.”

“Well, nonetheless, we don’t make them here.”

“Does anyone in town make them?”

“The Sea Bean is O’Connell Creek’s only cafĂ©.”

“It is?”

“And proud of it. So, what can I get you?”

“Strong coffee then, with double milk.”

“No sugar?”

“Not for these thighs.”

“Oh stop it! You’re a stick!”

“Well, I’d like to stay that way.”

“So no cinnamon rolls for you, then?”

“No, ma’am,” Cass said, a little too quickly.

If she thought about the heavenly smell of cinnamon and dough, she’d certainly add one to her bill. She’d put on ten pounds since the day of her wedding, since Peter’s voicemail. He’d said, “Listen, Cass, this has been really fun and I’ve grown a lot because of you. But it was a mistake to propose and I can’t do this. I’m in love with someone else. I hope you’ll forgive me someday but for now, I have to go.” Click. And something inside her snapped. She ate everything she wanted. She ate things she hadn’t eaten in years. She ate French fries by dozens. But she’d also promised herself that when she got to O’Connell Creek, she’d go back to her old routine of a sensible diet and daily exercise. She’d been slightly mortified last night when she realized that Christian had seen her chunkier-than-usual arms and the slight spare tire spilling over her jeans. It didn’t seem to faze him, she thought to herself smugly, as she remembered the look on Christian’s face when she left the room, unmentionables stuffed in her pockets. He knew she wasn’t wearing underwear and she knew he was watching. It was nice to remember that men found her attractive. And outside of the parameters of the university flings and office romances before she’d met Peter.

She paid for her coffee – only two dollars and ten cents, as opposed to her six dollar latte – and walked out to the street. She could put the money she’d save into slush fund for the house, she thought, as she crossed the road to the realtor’s office. Debbie promised to meet her there with her boxes early in the morning so she’d be home to meet the furniture delivery by noon. If all went well, Christian’s peep-show was a one-night-only affair.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I will not neglect my blog, I will not neglect my blog...

Picture me, in Bart Simpson-esque fashion, writing lines on the blackboard. I'm taller, less yellow, and I do not sport spikes in my hair, but basically the same. I have done the very thing I swore I would not do: I've left my (very few!) readers hanging.

So, here we are, back in O'Connell Creek...

Please forgive me!


Christian splashed his face with warm water and patted his cheeks dry with a fluffy white "company towel" as his mother would say. He always made a point to use these special towels whenever he stayed at the house, just to irritate the tiny, feisty woman who raised him.

Christian stared at himself in the mirror and ran a hand along his stubble. He should have shaved this morning, he thought, before he left Boston. He looked scruffy now, unkempt. Cassidy probably thought he was a caveman.

"What is her story?" he thought to himself, acutely aware of the fact that just one floor below she was sleeping starkers in his childhood bedroom. It had scared him a bit to see a strange car in the drive, and even more so to hear the soft snoring from his parents's bedroom as he crept up the stairs, but Cassidy's reaction when he leapt into the room was absolutely worth a little fear. Her mass of wild hair, light brown like the colour of butterscotch, sticking out in all directions, and the sheet slipping just so as she pulled it up around herself was almost too much for him. He had to put on an angry front just to keep his knees from giving out. And he put her into his old room to get her as far away as possible, but also as a tribute to his former teenage self who wasn't allowed to have girls in his room.

The truth was that he wasn't at all shocked to find a stranger in his mom and dad's house. Over the years, he had walked into their house a number of times to find someone crashing on the couch or in one of the bedrooms. Whenever someone needed a place to stay, the townsfolk called Sally and Ed first. They were always up for company, even when they weren't around, though usually they at least left Christian a message so he wasn't caught off-guard.

Christian stripped down to his boxers and crawled into the queen-size bed in the master suite. He laughed to himself as he propped the pillows up, remembering Amanda Brown and prom night in this very room while his mom and dad were out on the boat. The smile left his face when he fluffed the top pillow and caught a whiff of sweet perfume. Soft, very feminine, even elegant. Amanda Brown wore Tribe, in the pink and green bottle; it was aggressive and sharp, like the girl herself, but it got old quickly. The same held for other women over the years: Christian was never sad when their scents left his pillow. For a second here, though, Christian felt a wave of pain thinking about never knowing that perfume. He growled into the pillow before leaning over to open the balcony door wider, inviting the sea salt to overpower the smell of the woman downstairs. He fell into a restless sleep, scowling, trying to think of Boston and the possibilities in front of him.

In the morning, Christian rose from a terrible night's sleep to a car's engine revving. Groggy, he stood up and walked to the French doors, just in time to see Cassidy speed off down the lane. He sighed and shook his head, disappointed that he wouldn't see her this morning. He had planned out how to keep up with the gruff image he had given her the night before, for the sake of his sanity and of his budding business. The very last thing he needed was a woman to distract him from the tasks at hand.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Picture Dermot Mulroney meets James McAvoy. Obviously.

After hearing a laundry list of instructions about the main house, Debbie finally excused herself to "get home to the mister." Cass pictured Mr. Debbie to be a pert, thin man with wire-rimmed glasses who was painfully shy in high school. And Debbie was probably the soft pudgy cheerleader who anchored the pyramid and was saving herself for marriage. Theirs was a romance made for an after-school special.

Debbie honked her horn – shave and a haircut, two bits obviously – with a promise to return tomorrow with some of Cass's boxes. Cass was happy to see her go, but even happier to break in to the official welcome basket Debbie had left for her. The large bottle of wine peeking through the boxes of crackers, spa slippers and roadmaps was calling her name.

After a long hot shower, Cass tucked herself into bed in the master suite, TV flicker in hand, with the wine. A couple of glasses and multiple episodes of Friends later, Cass drifted off into a sleep only capable of a woman who had just driven east until she hit a new life.

The clock ticked away peacefully, the tide breaking on the shore methodically, ensuring Cass slept soundly. She didn't hear the key in the lock and she certainly didn't notice the squeaking on the stairs. She might have been less terrified when the stranger jumped into the room, fireplace poker in hand, screaming "aha!" if she had heard anything.

Cass screamed in response to this intruder and pulled the blankets up to her chin. She had been too tired to get her suitcase from the car and so not only was she scared to death but she couldn't make a naked escape. The stranger turned the lights on, poker still posed, and demanded answers.

"Who the hell are?"

"Who the hell are YOU?"

"I live here!"

"No, you don’t! The people who live here are in Florida!"

"How do you know that?"


"Debbie told you? She's your accomplice?"

"No, my real estate agent."

"So shouldn't she be finding you your own house?"

"She did…but wait, you didn't answer my question."

"You didn't answer mine. Who are you?"

"My name is Cassidy Pearce. I bought the guest house at the back. Now, tell me who you are or I'm calling the police."

"Oh, you're telepathic? You don't need a telephone?"

"I have my cell phone."

"In bed with you?"

"Yes, in bed with me. So who are you?"

"I'm Christian McKenzie. This is my parents's house. I'm house-sitting."

"No, you're not. Debbie said your mother gave permission for me to stay here. She knew the house was empty."

"Well, I look after the house when they're gone and if you must know, my furnace is broken so I've been staying here."

"And you didn't tell your mommy?" she mocked.

"No, I didn't want her to worry."

Cass rolled her eyes and Christian gave her a look that was nothing close to mama's boy. He took a step toward her and said "Listen, lady…" and she recoiled, pulling the sheets up higher. His look softened and he said "Get dressed. If you're going to stay here, you're sleeping in the guest room downstairs. This is my room."

"This is your parent's room."

"And by extension, my room."

"Whatever. I'll move but if you don't mind, I'd like to get dressed."

"Two minutes," Christian said, leaving the room.

Cass muttered to herself as she pulled on her jeans and t-shirt, stuffing her bra and panties into her pockets. She crossed her arms and stalked into the hallway and down the stairs, Christian following on her heels.

The guest room turned out to be the old servant's quarters and was about as big as a broom closet. Christian threw an extra blanket and pillow on to the bed when he left the room, chuckling as he said "Sweet dreams."

"I wouldn't be too smug, if I were you. You don't know me or my sordid criminal past," Cass said.

Christian started to snicker but the comment must have registered because his facial expression turned cold and he said nothing more.

Cass lay awake, listening to Christian get ready for bed, loathing the very thought of him with her bottle of wine and the sound of the ocean. She could hear the tap dripping in the kitchen now and nothing more. She scowled to herself as she drifted off to sleep, but Christian's chocolate brown eyes swam in her mind's eye infiltrating the deep, new-life sleep.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bear with me...we need a little character development...

Debbie McPhee, sneaky real estate agent and undercover town gossip, meet Cass, a new breed of urban man-eating barracuda the likes of O'Connell Creek has never seen.

I promise, it'll get steamier. Or I'll try anyway!

Tune in tomorrow. It's worth it, I promise.


Cass kept humming as she looked around, taking in the small community she now called home. There wasn't much to this place, she thought to herself – just a few stores, a library, a couple of churches, the odd cafe – but that's what she wanted. A small, isolated place on the ocean, where she could keep to herself and write. She just hoped the house would be okay. The listing, and her annoyingly bubbly real estate agent Debbie McPhee, had reported the house as needing minor repair work. Cass hoped for Debbie's sake that the listing rang true, because Debbie would be there when she arrived, to give her the keys and a full tour of the house. If things weren't in good shape, Cass knew she wouldn't be able to hold back. Debbie would consider leaving real estate for Avon. No one makes you cry when you're selling cosmetics. They might hang up on you or shut a door in your face, but they'd never make you question your self-worth.

Cass opened her dayplanner to her handwritten directions; Debbie had emailed turn-by-turn instructions from downtown O'Connell Creek, taking Cass along a pretty seaside road. There weren't many houses lining the route and Cass started to worry that this house was a remote cabin in the woods, but as she guided her sporty little Mazda around the final bend, all of her fears slipped away. A beautiful whitewashed house with a wraparound porch stood in her midst. Cass, releasing a sigh of relief, pulled into the driveway. She was just checking her makeup in the mirror, wishing she had made more of an effort when she left the motel where she had stopped to get a couple of hours sleep, when someone knocked on her window, scaring her so badly she could hardly open the door to the plump red-haired woman grinning at her through the window.

"Hi there, you must be Cassidy!"

"Cass, yes. And you must be Debbie," Cass said.

"Yes, ma'am!" Debbie said, cheerily. "But this isn't your driveway."

"What?" Cass said, her heart beginning to thump in her chest.

"This driveway belongs to the main house. Your house is the guest house."

"But this is the house in the picture."

"Yes, in the property pictures. The interior pictures are from your house but the exterior pictures are from the estate."

"Is that even legal?" Cass said, her voice an octave higher. "Isn't that misrepresentation?"

"Oh no!" Debbie said, clearly surprised. "Didn't you read the description?"

"I suppose not," Cass said. The pair stood in silence for a few moments, before Cass gave in. "I guess you better show me my house."

The tension was just about unbearable, as Cass followed Debbie around to the back of the house. Debbie attempted to ask how the drive from Toronto was, but Cass could only manage short, icy answers. They walked for a few minutes, through a barren orchard, to a clearing at the back of the property. A smallish white house, with a sagging porch and an overgrown garden stood in their midst.

"I know it isn't much to look at," Debbie said, nervously, "but it's a gem. Really. And wait 'til you see the bookshop. So quaint!"

"I didn't sign up for this, Debbie," Cass whispered.

"Forgive me, darling, but you did," Debbie replied. "Let me show you inside." Debbie didn't wait for an answer and walked towards the front door, jingling the keys a little with every step. Cass had no choice but to follow, mentally making a checklist of everything she'd need to do to repair the house so she could go at Debbie with her guns blazing.

Debbie pushed the front door open and stepped into a small vestibule area, opening on to a large bright kitchen. Cass stepped into the house behind her. This was more like it; the floors were clean, the windows sparkling, and the situation considerably brighter. The kitchen, with its pale blue walls, had been the dealbreaker when Cass was house-hunting online. She could see herself making coffee every morning, looking out on to her backyard.

Cassidy was quiet as Debbie guided her on a tour of the house. The main level was average, and she didn't get a great look at the bookshop; Debbie just sort of gestured through a small door in the living room. Cass tried to pause for a look inside, but Debbie was on a mission to show her the upstairs. The bedrooms were what she expected, bright and cheerful if not a bit small. The master suite was lovely, with French doors opening on to a widow's walk. Cass had actually squealed when she saw the widow's walk online – a bit out of character for a woman who had just been jilted – because she had seen a mansion with a widow's walk in Toronto when she was a little girl. Her grandfather had explained that women went to the highest point in their houses to watch for their husbands coming home from the sea. Many sailors didn't come home, and so the small balcony was aptly named. It became a design element further inland, instead of a practical element, but Cass could actually see the ocean from the house. She tried to open the French doors and step outside, but Debbie shrieked and jumped in front of her.

"It isn't safe. The balcony isn't up to code."

"What?" Cass said, exasperated.

"That's the only thing that didn't pass expection. If you want to use it, we'll need to arrange for it to be repaired."

Cass didn't say anything in reply. She had a dozen things she wanted to say to this woman, to this happy little hustler, but all of a sudden she was just too tired. Tired of the driving, tired of arguing, tired of starting over. She was still in the middle of the last start-over, so she figured she should just make the best of it.

"Where are my keys, Debbie?" Cass said.

Debbie handed them over, with a cheery smile. "I thought you'd come around!"

Cass rolled her eyes and left the room, leaving Debbie to waddle along behind her.

"Did my things arrive yet?"

"Yes, your boxes came to my house yesterday. Your furniture arrives tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Where am I going to sleep?"

"I've arranged for you to stay in the main house. The owners, Sally and Ed, are snowbirds, so they are in Florida for another few weeks. Their son looks after the place when they're gone, but he's on a business trip at the moment. Sally's my best friend, so I have keys. She said you should make yourself at home."

"Well, it'll have to do until I have my own home, I guess."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Harlots and hunks

When I was a kid, my mother had garbage bags full of romance novels. I could never figure out if they were in garbage bags because she considered them trashy or just to keep them away from the eyes of her three (pre-teen) daughters (who read everything and anything). After all, these were the days of covers featuring ripped men in half-torn shirts staring with smoldering eyes whilst holding beautiful women with ample bosoms (I always wanted to use that phrase) and long flowing locks. I'm sure my mother did not want her daughters asking questions. But, try as she might, those books ended up thieved from the garbage bags (and later from the bookshelf in the cantina, amongst the tomato sauce and roasted red peppers) and hidden under beds.

Last weekend I was on my way (fittingly) to a bachelorette party. I had to take the train, so thought I'd grab a book when I got to the magazine stand at Union Station. Behind the swivel cart of terrible greeting cards, I got the shock of my life. Shelves of smoldering-eyed men and ample-bosomed women in negligees (the women, not the men). I giggled but forced myself toward a trade-paperback of the new Miriam Toews novel instead. I should have known it wouldn't work, because not five minutes later I was leaving the stand with TWO (not one, but TWO) men in torn shirts. And I loved every minute of them.

So, in an effort to appease my fifteen-year-old self and her dream to write a romance novel (though she didn't quite know where to start), I thought I'd write my own online Harlequin. I tried this once before and got distracted, but now that I've revisited the genre (without blushing all over my body) I figure it's worth another go.

And, thus, I give you the first installment of my masterpiece, currently/temporarily/hilariously titled "O'Connell Creek."

P.S. I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for this. It took me a while to get my act together!


The wedding dress sat balled up in the front seat, sad and abandoned, an after-thought. It was supposed to be pressed and preserved in a box at the back of someone's closet, waiting for a future daughter or granddaughter to dig out on the afternoon of their engagement. Wedding dresses are supposed to be family heirlooms or at the very least souvenirs of a day to top all days. Instead, Cassidy's dress, worn only for a couple of hours, was caught in the passenger side door. The satin train trailed on the road all the way to O'Connell Creek. Sometime during the trip, Cass reached to answer her cell phone and spilled her coffee on the beaded bodice; at another point, she tried to squeeze ketchup on to some take-out fries and hit the immaculate skirt.

Cassidy knew this move was a bad idea, and she had berated herself for her irrational thinking for days. Most women get a new haircut or a new car or some new boobs when they are left at the altar. Most women do not put their downtown Toronto condo on the market when they were supposed to be at their wedding reception. Most women do not buy a dilapidated Victorian and an adjoining bookstore in tiny coastal town in New Brunswick, miles away from friends and family. Most women do not write letters of resignation without weighing the pros and cons. Cassidy Pearce was most women, and yet, she had done all of these things. Without even thinking twice. If Peter had a new life, with a younger, blonder model at his side, then so would Cassidy.

But Cass, alone with her thoughts and a constantly ringing cell phone, wasn't sure she wanted this new life anymore. Packing and planning had been a welcome distraction from thoughts of Peter and his new girlfriend on Cassidy's Caribbean honeymoon cruise, but now that the sleek, modern condo was empty and the corner office was occupied by a hot up-and-coming editor, the distraction gave way to devastation. No wonder her mother called every ten minutes. If Cass wasn't so afraid of heights, she'd have jumped off a bridge by now.

Cass cracked her window to breathe in the fresh, salty air. The wind was cold but she didn't mind. It was a change from Peter's spicy, masculine cologne that seemed to permeate every item of clothing Cass owned. Her hair whipped across her face and she breathed deep, calming herself before reaching to turn on the radio. In a second, familiar words blasted from the speakers and Cass laughed out loud before joining in the chorus.

"We're not gonna take it! No, we ain't gonna take it! We're not gonna take it anymoooooooore…"

Cass's strong voice screamed the song long after the DJ came on, through the news report, and into the Michael Jackson medley up next. O'Connell Creek's first impression of Cassidy Pearce was a hoarse voice bellowing Twisted Sister through the heart of town.