This page is called “Romance?” for a particular reason. Frances and Christine led a session on the genre of romance only to find that it was an extremely wide subject area. It stretches from the study of manners by Jane Austen to the blatantly sexual books of the 21st century with the books of Barbara Cartland somewhere in the middle.
The following piece is not part of this genre but is an autobiographical piece based on an experience of attempting to write in the romantic genre:
A Frustrated Romantic Novelist.
As a child I always wanted to read. I suppose, as an only child, it was my way of escapism and of surrounding myself with friends. It also ensured that I avoided domestic chores especially when the washing-up had to be done.
“Oh, leave her, ” my father would say. ” She’s absorbed in her book.”
Inevitably, there came a time when I began to run out of the type of books I enjoyed. I remember having read some historical romances by Anya Seton and I wanted more so I decided to write my own. My first novel would be set in Elizabethan England and its working title was “David and Elizabeth”; not terribly original but it gave me my two central characters. Each day I would set aside some time to write a chapter and, in the evening, I would read that section out loud to my friends. At the time I attended an all girls’ boarding school in Clevedon, Somerset. There were six of us in the dormitory and they persuaded me to keep them up-to-date with my romance. It became quite a highlight of our evening and I loved having an audience.
Soon, the reputation of our nightly entertainment spread and I received a request from the dorm on the floor above. Could they please borrow what I had written so far so that they, too, could have something to read at night? The request came from a particular friend, Rosemary, so I saw no problem with it and leant the exercise book to them.
A couple of days’ later I knew something was wrong. A hand grabbed my arm and I saw Rosemary’s white face as she turned me towards her.
“I’m really sorry, Helen, “she said, “but I left your book on my bed and now it’s gone.”
Surprisingly, I wasn’t annoyed or even worried about it. I was probably going through some writer’s block at the time and had been wondering how to continue with even more chapters. I knew it would turn up somewhere and I wasn’t wrong.
The following day I received a request at break time to attend the Head Mistress in her office. I could not think of any reason why she wished to see me and so I queued up with fellow pupils quite unaware of what awaited me. The green light went on and it was my turn to enter her study. Immediately I knew what this concerned as there, in her hands, was my exercise book with the names Elizabeth and David written on the front. It seems Matron had found it, read some of it and had handed it to Miss Forster.
I cannot recall the one-way conversation we had about my pathetic attempts at writing a romantic novel. I know that my literary genius had not enthused my Head Mistress. In fact I am surprised I ever put pen to paper again as her final words to me shamed me to my very core.
“At least you could learn to spell bosom.”
She wasn’t there. Tobias parked his Range Rover at their base camp and decided to wait, unwilling to accept he had been wrong about her. The air was cold and his beard was speckled with moisture from the fine mist drifting off the sides of the mountain. He took his time assembling the things they would need for the ascent, pausing every now and then to massage his leg that still ached …. a constant reminder of his ordeal.
The national papers had covered the accident in detail. Taking the unmapped route had ultimately been his undoing. One simple slip had jettisoned him over the edge. His body had been cruelly smashed against one jagged outcrop after another as he cartwheeled down the mountain … this same mountain that he intended to climb today. This time, though, he hoped he wasn’t going to be alone.
Trauma seemed an insignificant word for what he had endured a year ago. Five days and five nights, thinking he would never be found. He should not have been alone. His fault of course. He was his own man; his business was set up to run without him now. There had been no special person to share his weekend plans. Truth was there had never been anyone of real importance until Frances had become such a significant part of his life.
Tobias Appleby, the Stock Exchange legend hadn’t wanted to be beaten. Despite two broken legs, cracked ribs, and dislocated shoulder, and pain that would have defeated all but the most determined, he had dragged himself inch by inch to reach his pack and sat phone that had taken a different trajectory down the slopes. Thankfully, his phone had held its charge and he had set his own rescue in motion.
Three extensive operations had put his body back together. Somehow his body and mind had remained disconnected for much longer.
Today was to be his return to climbing — the culmination of months of therapy that Frances had overseen. If he was truly whole again it was because of her.
As the dawn light fell on the lower slopes, he hoisted the heavy pack onto his back, pulling the straps tight around his broad shoulders. He adjusted the safety helmet that barely contained his mane of dark curls.
Tobias lifted the phone and dialled her number one last time. It rang eerily in the stillness of the morning. No response. So, in the end, she had returned home. The mountain had had its way. It had made her a widow five years previously and continued to have its malevolent hold on her.
Such a short while ago they had spent the day together. The day that had become a night that he would never forget.
He felt her presence before he saw her. Then arms encircled his waist. “And where do you think you’re heading without me?”