Tag Archives: romance writers

City of Light, City of Art, City of Amitié

2 Oct

Ten years ago I was sitting beside a pool in Valencia, explaining to a woman I’d never before met that I’d laid in my hotel bed the evening before, dressed in every garment I had with me, shaking and shivering through Spain’s sweltering summer night.

“You were in shock,” she said.

Yes, I was. But right at that moment, the bigger shock was that I’d confided my vulnerability to a complete stranger. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t conduct personal poolside conversations exposing my fears and misfortunes to people I don’t know at least very, very well. And yet, there I was.

Because Amanda is that kind of person. We had a few more days in Valencia, me travelling back and forth to Madrid to try and replace the travel documents I’d lost during a mugging, her sharing her son and her kindness with my own young son who’d been equally traumatised by the fairly brutal experience and his mother’s resulting stress.

And then we never saw each other again. A rich, deep connection – it seemed too brief to call it a friendship, though that’s what it felt like and that’s what it meant to me – evaporated with time and distance. We wrote occasional messages on Facebook, and mirrored each others’ experiences as single mothers, and the years passed.

I booked this trip to Paris, knowing what I really, really needed after a challenging year was three weeks entirely on my own. Out of the blue, Amanda invited herself along – just for a few days, she was just across the pond after all. I wasn’t sure, but I said yes anyway. And then she wasn’t sure, but she said yes anyway. And it turned out that the very last thing I really, really needed was three weeks entirely on my own.

Healer, artist, friend – Amanda is again working her magic on my soul. It can’t be coincidence – can it? – that for a second time, she’s arrived to take me in hand when I’ve been fragile and fearful. We’ll have only a short time together again, and I hope she gains as much as she gives from her time in my little Paris apartment.

Yesterday we took a long walk to the Tour Eiffel. Amanda wanted to sketch it. When we finally made it home, she wanted to paint it. And this morning, she’d almost finished it. Almost, but not quite. To see the final, quirky, clever result, drop in to her website.

2015-10-02 17.29.44

But give us a few more days first, to talk…

First light, last light

30 Sep

First flush

First light appeared around 7, when I’d already been awake four hours. Twilight crept in around 7, too.

There was a full day in between.

There was an impromptu visit to Chantilly and its magnificent chateau, built for Marshal and Constable of France Anne de Montmorency in the fifteenth century and lovingly preserved ever since by generations of French warrior princes.

There was almond essence wafting up from the patisserie below my writing window in the chill at 4am. It smelled warm, comforting, companionable. And yet, I’m normally repelled by almond essence.

There was the forgotten statue of Gaspard de Coligny, still imprisoned as ever the Huguenots were, behind a tall iron cage with crumbling foundations, surprising me just as it surprised me the first time I saw it.

There were the cheery green crosses announcing pharmacies, every 100 metres or so. Years ago, when my feet were blistered and bruised and bleeding from walking the cobbled streets, I was very glad Paris is apparently a city of hypochondriacs. Today it made me smile again.

There was the most delicious, subtle salmon mousse on crusty bread at lunch. I was proud to be able to string together the French for “I want to lick my plate.” it made the waitress laugh, anyway.

There was that oh-so-seductive French whisper just behind my left ear, on the coach all the way home from Chantilly. Not speaking to me, not understood by me, but still…

There was the most absurd traffic jam. Truly. I thought Mumbai had the stubbornest, stupidest drivers but it turns out that prize goes to Paris.

There was goats cheese and more baguette and fresh raspberries for supper. A little under five euros for this epicurean splurge.

2015-09-30 03.56.09Je suis très fatigué.

Tonight, it feels wonderful.

First there’s the getting there…

29 Sep

Je suis très fatigué.

My Paris neighbourhood

My Paris neighbourhood

The first (and last) time I travelled alone to Paris, I was more than a decade younger and a thousand years less tired. I’d plotted out my first days of pre-conference playtime in 15 minute intervals, determined to see every single thing in case I never returned.

As it transpired, I returned again and again over the following years. A Christmas lunch on a bateau on the Seine with my family; a romp down the Champs Elysees at midnight with some work friends, giggling like school girls; a glorious long springtime weekend with my son, just hanging out in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

But now I’m back here alone, having caught the same flight and arriving at the same ungodly hour as all those years ago. This time, though, I arrived footsore and heart-heavy, vulnerable and impatient. By the time I checked into my apartment (on the beautiful rue de Rivoli – thank you, AirBNB!), I’d been travelling more than 37 hours. In the same clothes. In the same shoes. In the same stressed-out headspace.

This time I didn’t throw my bags on the bed and rush back down onto the street to explore. This time, it was enough to sag into a chair in the streetside cafe below my apartment, order a vin rose and some lunch, and watch the traffic roar past; the impromptu friendships renewed in the middle of the intersection; the crow high on a balcony turning age-creamed walls into art deco cliche. It was enough, just to sit, just to be. Just to be in Paris.

And just like that, the magic was back. I need to rest now, but I can’t wait for tomorrow.

My Paris apartment/workshop

My Paris apartment/workshop

But I promised you pictures, so here are two. The one at the top is my neighbourhood for the next little while, taken from the salon where I’ll be working. And this one on the left is my little Paris apartment – light, bright, high enough for the street noise to be charming, and with a view to inspire all sorts of dreaming and wordsmithing.

Jusqu'à demain!

A Parisienne Pastiche!

28 Sep


Ah, Paris… City of Light, City of Love, my favourite city in the world. And my home for the next three weeks!

I plan on plenty of exploring, musing and observing, and hopefully plenty of writing!

Paris is a wonderland for the senses, and I’ll be posting some highlights here each day. If you have favourite Parisian places and memories, please share – I’d love to hear them.

Hope you find my favourite city as inspiring, exhilarating and just plain romantic as I do!

Sarah Belle is in the Calypso Bar!

6 Sep

Sarah Belle writes wonderful romantic comedies about women on fantastic journeys with a hint of magic! I’m delighted she’s brought some of that magic on her journey here to the Calypso Bar!

Why the Calypso Bar? Hearts on Hold is set on Gozo, said to be the true location of the mythical island of Ogygia where, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus washed up on the shores and was saved by the goddess Calypso.

Our Hearts on Hold heroine, Cate Boyd, is struck by the tragedy of Calypso’s fate, doomed to give up the man she loves to the perils of the sea. If you want to find out why Calypso’s story means so much to Cate, you can find an excerpt here.

In honour of Hearts on Hold‘s stunning island setting, we’ve named our guest bar after Calypso, whose grotto home was renowned for its wonderful banquets and exotic elixirs!

So chill your cocktail shaker, pull up a stool and join me here in the Calypso Bar each week as I talk to some fascinating guests about writing, love, and their desert-island essentials (books, music, cocktails… and their favourite people, of course!).

A fine Scot for ‘Tuitous Tuesday?

9 Jul

One of my favourite historical series, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, is coming to the screen, and Sam Heughan is tipped to play Jamie Fraser. I think he looks a perfect choice, but I don’t know any of his work.

What do you think? Will he bring Jamie to life?


Words are so powerful, and so beautiful.

4 Jul

Words are so powerful, and so beautiful. Today I feel compelled to use “discombobulate”.

use these words more often

“Hearts on Hold” is out in the world!

1 Jul

“…beautifully written, a story of love, grief and acceptance, and finding the one that can make you feel whole again. First time author Ms. MacGregor is a magical storyteller.”

“Her attention to the history of the region and insight to human character is quite remarkable… I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another of this author’s books for the writing style alone.”

Some people talk about delivering a book in the same terms as delivering a baby. I must have been lucky (in fact, I know I was!), because delivering Hearts on Hold was a breeze compared to childbirth! But that just makes me all the more grateful for the help I had in fulfilling this dream. From the family and friends who encouraged me, to the fellow authors, editors, designers and publishers who were so generous with advice, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful support team.

You can buy “Hearts on Hold” from your favourite ebook retailer, and I’d love to hear what you think of it!

Happy reading,

Gracie x

Meet Tara Chevrestt, an author as strong as the women she creates

8 Jun

Tara Chevrestt Tara Chevrestt is a deaf woman, former aviation mechanic, dog mom, writer, and editor. You’ll never see her without her Kindle or a book within reach. As a child, she would often take a flashlight under the covers to finish the recent Nancy Drew novel when she was supposed to be sleeping (a habit she unknowingly shared with me – I adored Nancy Drew!).

Tara is addicted to Law & Order: SVU, has a crush on Cary Grant (don’t we all? I’ve added a pic to remind you why!),  Cary Grant laughs at her own jokes, and is constantly modifying recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. Her theme is Strong is Sexy. She writes about strong women facing obstacles—in the military, with their handicaps, or just learning to accept themselves. Her heroines can stand alone and take care of themselves, but they often find love in the process.

You can connect with her on Facebook or follow her blog, and here’s the synopsis of Tara’s latest book, A Healing Love, available right now on Amazon, AllRomance and Secret Cravings.


Kimberly Rogers vowed to fight a tragic past the only way she knew how: she joined the Army and became strong. No man would hurt her again. But a war wound sends her to her brother’s in Cripple Creek, WY, with vision and hearing impairments.

Whereas glasses can help her see and hearing aids can help her hear, nothing can force her to talk again. Is she really unable to speak, or is she hiding behind her disability to protect herself, her pride, and her heart? Regulated to the most menial of jobs, her world in shambles, Kimberly is finally convinced to seek medical assistance.

Carlos Medina is Jackson Hole’s best therapist. If anyone can make Kimberly speak again, it’s him. But Kimberly has to meet him halfway, and Carlos has his own past tragedy that the young, mute woman threatens to force him to conquer.

They both have wounds…and sometimes wounds must be reopened before they can heal. Can they open up to each other? Can Kimberly find her voice again and open her heart? Can love heal them both?



This is why I write about love

29 Mar

Blokes, stop reading now. This post is for women.

Off you go. Go and do whatever it is you do when you’re supposed to be minding your own business. Thank you.

Let’s get started. Do you remember, when you were a little girl, where your ideas of love and romance came from? For me, it was from the world of Disney.

Someday my prince will come.

I know you, I danced with you once upon a dream.

So this is love, mmm-mmm, so this is love.

A little later, Rodgers and Hammerstein (I know, I’m showing my age, but stick with me). Think Oklahama, Carousel, The King and I, The Sound of Music (Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, so somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good).

Then, mid-teens, I discovered the magic of Mills & Boon – Charlotte Lamb, Penny Jordan, Emma Darcy – and mixed it up a little with medieval bodice-busters.

Is it any wonder my marriage failed? My husband was no prince, and I was no secretary.

For the last few years I’ve been writing romances – my first published novel, Hearts on Hold, is out 1 July thanks to Harlequin Escape – and I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m writing this genre.

In my other life, I have a “serious career”. I’m writing under a pseudonym because I’m anxious, if professional colleagues find out I’m publishing romance – even the slightly less worrisome romantic suspense (because, you know, it’s not all hearts and flowers. It has the occasional dramatic bit) – they won’t take me seriously anymore. And you know, it’s hard enough being a woman in a boardroom without having all the others around the table (ie all the men around the table) thinking I spend my spare time draped in a fluffy pink boa and tapping out heaving daydreams on a Fujitsu Floral Kiss. Sorry, that’s their stereotype, not mine.

But it occurs to me that when Gen X-ers like me angst about the next generation of young women, many of whom seem to take for granted the progress of women (or perhaps the lack thereof) over the last couple of decades and who shun the ‘feminist’ term like it’s an indicator of gauche and rampant unattractiveness… perhaps instead of ranting on our proudly feminist blogs we should take to our proudly romantic novels.

Because the stats on romance readership are as strong as they ever were: more than 25% of books sold are romance novels. It’s the single biggest category in the book-buying market, nearly twice the size of the next biggest category (I could leave you to guess what that is – it’s mystery).

35% of romance readers are under 30, and 22% of readers are men (you thought I was joking when I sent the men away from this post, didn’t you?). A lot of women, in the years when they’re formulating their ideas of love, romance and relationships, are reading romance novels. And they’re not stupid – 42% of readers have a bachelors degree or higher qualification.

Despite their reputation for being formulaic and old-fashioned, romance novels have mostly kept up with the times. Heroines these days are rarely “just” secretaries. They’re certainly not subservient. They’re seldom virgins. They are feisty, contrary, intelligent, flawed, beautiful (inside and out) women. They are women who, despite the contradictory evidence the world sometimes throws at them, believe deep, abiding love and happily-ever-after is possible. They’re just like all of us. That’s why we read them. That’s why we love them. That’s why so many young women look to them when they’re feeling that perhaps the dream isn’t going to happen for them.

So that is why I write about love. I want the generations of women who follow me to hold onto the dream – because growing and sharing deep, abiding love is why we’re all here – and to aspire not just to the great loves but to the great lives of my heroines – in the boardrooms as well as in the bedrooms. There’s a way to change women’s ideas about relationships – about equality in connection as well as in opportunity, about feminism amongst strong men as well as strong women – and it’s through books about love and romance.

I’d love to hear what you think, so please leave a comment below.

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