Ballroom to Bride and Groom

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Cherish

Mar 2013

ISBN 9780263900941

 

Harlequin Romance

Feb 2013

ISBN: 9780373178629

It started with a dance…

TV presenter Polly Anna Adams has spent a lifetime living up to her name, Suddenly single, Polly hides behind her cheery facade and enters a celebrity dance competition. Her partner? None other than gorgeous but wary professional dancer Liam Flynn.

Liam has learnt the hard way to keep his heart on lockdown, but Polly's joie-de-vivre puts a spring back in his polished step. As the competition heats up, so too does their unstoppable attraction. If only they could convince themselves their hot tango passion is just for the cameras…

Also released as:

  • UK hardback (Feb 2013, ISBN 9780263234251)
  • UK large print hardback (July 2013, ISBN tbc)
  • Also released in Australian paperback (Feb 2013, ISBN: tbc).

 


Behind the Book

So this was the big move for me - after a long discussion with my editor, we agreed that my voice was a better fit with the Cherish line, and I was given the chance to switch my ballroom dancing book from Riva/Modern Heat to Cherish.

The book's set partly in Vienna, and I had the pleasure of a research trip there with my husband and children. We didn't get to waltz in a ballroom, but we did go to two of the oldest cafes in Vienna for research purposes (I mean, what other job would require you to eat cake for research?? My research team were very pleased with this one).

And the ballroom dancing? Well, I've long been a Strictly Come Dancing fan. And when I was planning this book, a new ballroom dance class for beginners was about to start. Being the Method writer that I am (!), I wheedled Senior Research Assistant into learning to dance with me. We did two or three of the dances that Polly and Liam do in the book, but I can assure you that the waltz is absolutely impossible and, at the time of writing this, six months later, we still find it really tricky. (Latin, though - we like Latin. A lot. Give us a cha cha cha or a rumba, and we're happy.)

The book is basically like a 'Strictly' set-up, with Polly as the very bright and cheerful children's TV presenter… except she's just lost her job, her home and her fiancé in one fell swoop. And Liam, the professional dancer, is recovering from a serious accident - he lost his world champion status and this is his comeback.

Together, they learn to trust. And Liam uncovers Polly's deepest, darkest secret. Oh, and you will need tissues SO much. But there is a happy ending!

I've dedicated it to my wonderful editors, Sheila and Anna, who had rather more confidence in me than I did at a very tricky time for me.

The book's soundtrack

It's a dance book. So we have lots of dance music.

  • The cha cha cha: Dean Martin's 'Sway' (and also Abba's 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!' - both of which we've enjoyed in class)
  • The waltz: Fleetwood Mac's 'Need Your Love So Bad' (couldn't resist that as it was our wedding song); also, in Vienna, to Einaudi's 'Le Onde'
  • The jive: Johnny B. Goode
  • The tango: Abba's 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!'
  • The rumba: Paul Weller's 'You Do Something To Me'
  • Read a bit

    ‘Polly, I know you said you were fine, but I was passing anyway, and I thought I’d just drop in and –’ Shona did a double-take and stopped short. ‘What happened to your hair?’

    ‘I cut it last night.’ With nail scissors. The long, straight blonde hair Harry had said he loved was no more. And at least getting rid of it had been Polly’s choice. Something that was under her control.

    ‘Cut? Hacked, more like. Has Fliss seen it?’

    ‘Um, no.’ And Polly knew her best friend would panic, remembering what Polly had done half a lifetime ago. Her lowest point, when she’d sworn that her life would be perfect from then on, no matter how hard she had to work at it. When she’d learned to smile her way through absolutely anything.

    Shona blew out a breath. ‘We need to get you to the hairdresser’s. Like now.’

    Polly waved a dismissive hand. ‘I’m fine. It’s not as if anyone’s going to see me. I don’t have to go in to the studio.’

    ‘That, sweetie, is where you’re wrong. Coffee, first,’ Shona said crisply. ‘And, while I’m making it, you need to get changed. The sort of stuff you wore for Monday Mash-up will be just fine.’

    ‘I don’t work on Monday Mash-up any more.’ Polly shrugged. ‘Anyway, I’m busy.’

    ‘Doing things that Harry really ought to be doing, since he was the one who called off the wedding,’ Shona said, her mouth thinning.

    ‘I’m the one who organised it, so it’s easier for me to do it. I have the contacts,’ Polly pointed out.

    She left unsaid what they were both thinking: it also meant that Grace wouldn’t be involved. Cancelling the wedding arrangements less than two weeks before the big day was tough enough; letting her ex-fiancé’s new girlfriend do it would be just too much to bear. And she knew that Harry would definitely delegate cancelling everything: he’d give that little-boy-lost look that always got him his own way.

    ‘I could strangle Harry, I really could. Selfish doesn’t even begin to –’ Shona stopped. ‘But you already know what I think. OK. Go and get changed while I sort the coffee and make that hair appointment. Oh, and put some stuff under your eyes.’

    To cover up the shadows Polly knew were there. It was one of the disadvantages of having fair skin; even one night without sleep meant she had dark shadows under her eyes. She hadn’t slept for several, since Harry had told her that he couldn’t marry her.

    ‘I do love you, Pol, but…’

    As he said the words, someone filled her veins with liquid nitrogen. Freezing her.

    But.

    That meant Harry didn’t love her at all.

    ‘…it’s as a friend. There just isn’t the kaboom,’ he finished.

    ‘Kaboom?’ She didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. How was this happening? Was she in some parallel universe?

    ‘Kaboom. When you meet someone and it’s like the sky’s full of fireworks.’ He gestured wildly, mimicking starbursts in the sky. ‘A thousand red balloons floating into the sky.’

    She still didn’t have a clue what he meant. When she saw Harry, she didn’t see dangerous fireworks or balloons that could pop and leave her with nothing. She saw warm and safe and secure. And she’d been so sure he’d felt the same. That they’d be together for ever. That theirs would be one of the marriages people looked up to in showbiz – one that lasted, instead of being over almost as soon as the publicity photos had been printed. Because she and Harry were friends. They fitted. Polly wasn’t going to have the same kind of on-again, off-again relationship that her parents had, in between their affairs. This would be a proper marriage. Harry’s family liked her. His friends liked her. And her friends liked Harry and his easy charm.

    They were a couple.

    Except now it seemed that they weren’t. And her head couldn’t process it.

    ‘I’m sorry, Pol.’

    And then Harry told her about Grace.

    His new assistant, who’d made him feel the kaboom – the way Polly never had…

    Polly shook herself and changed into one of the bright long-sleeved T-shirts, jeans and trainers she’d worn on Monday Mash-up, then swiftly added enough make-up to erase the shadows and the pallor from her face. And then she pinned on her brightest smile, ready to face the world. By the time she’d finished, Shona had made them both a coffee and was speaking rapidly into the phone.

    ‘I’ve managed to get you in with Enrique in twenty minutes,’ she said. ‘I’ve told him it’s urgent. And we’ll take a taxi to make sure we get to the studio in time.’

    ‘Which studio?’ Polly asked. ‘And in time for what?’

    Shona shoved one of the mugs towards her. ‘Drink this. I put enough cold water in it so you can chug it straight down. I need you awake. Because, sweetie, you’re going to be on Ballroom Glitz. Starting tomorrow.’

    This was definitely a parallel universe. Polly had just walked out of a steady job, knowing that there was a recession on and she’d be lucky to find a waitressing job to tide her over until her agent managed to get her so much as an audition, let alone find another job she’d enjoy as much as she’d loved her role as a children’s TV presenter. And now Shona was talking about a new contract on a new show? She couldn’t quite take it in.

    Ballroom Glitz? Since when?’

    ‘Since I got a phone call from the producer an hour ago saying that someone had had to drop out and asking if I had anyone on my books who could fill the slot,’ Shona explained. ‘Obviously there are other people auditioning for it – but you’re going to be the one who gets it, Pol.’

    Polly appreciated the older woman’s faith in her – right now, her faith in herself was pretty shaky – but she knew it was misplaced. ‘Shona, I’ve got two left feet. Look at the mess I made of it when Danny tried to teach me those dance moves on the show.’

    Shona rolled her eyes. ‘Danny’s not as experienced in teaching as the guys on Ballroom Glitz are. And street dance isn’t the same as ballroom. You’re going to be great.’ She patted Polly’s shoulder. ‘And if you trip or make mistakes, so what? It shows you’re real. People will be able to identify with you, Polly.’

    Polly couldn’t help smiling. ‘I’m hardly an A-lister, Shona. Monday Mash-up isn’t even on terrestrial telly. Nobody’s going to have a clue who I am.’

    ‘People like you. They identify with you, and Fliss would tell you the same.’

    ‘Fliss is my best friend. She’s supposed to say things like that.’

    ‘It’s still true,’ Shona said firmly. ‘That’s why the “Challenge Polly Anna” segment was so popular on Monday Mash-up. You did the things people wanted to try doing themselves. And you didn’t always beat the challenge – so they knew it was true to life, not something set up with all the flaws airbrushed out. You’re going to learn to dance with one of the professionals, and every woman in the country, young or old, will be able to imagine themselves in your shoes. They’ll love your warmth and that amazing smile of yours. And that, sweetie, is exactly why you’re going to nail this audition and be on the show.’

    ‘What about the costumes?’ Polly asked quietly. ‘They let me have long sleeves on Monday Mash-up.’

    ‘They can do the same thing on Ballroom Glitz. If not long sleeves, then cuffs or fingerless elbow-length gloves,’ Shona reassured her. ‘Nobody needs to see your wrists and nobody’s going to ask questions. Don’t worry.’

    Easier said than done. Polly dreaded the wardrobe department seeing her wrists and asking questions – or, worse, speculating. Especially if they thought the scars were because of Harry. Which they weren’t.

    But being on the show could make a huge difference to her life. It’d mean eight whole weeks of work, if she managed to stay in the competition until the finals. Even if she was voted out at the first elimination, it still meant that she’d have two slots of prime-time exposure – slots that could lead to other opportunities. Plus dancing was something physical that might just tire her out enough to let her sleep in her new flat instead of lying awake and realising how wide the bed seemed without Harry in it, wondering where she’d gone so badly wrong and why she hadn’t been enough for him. And she’d have to concentrate on the training, so she wouldn’t have time to think about the wreck of her life.

    Everything could be perfect again. Far, far away from the lowest point in her life all those years ago. The point that had led to her scars and the long, slow climb to the settled and happy life she’d wanted so badly.

    Yeah. She could smile her way through this. Fake it until you make it.

    ‘I’ve always wanted to learn to dance,’ Polly said. She pushed away the memories of her five-year-old self begging for ballet lessons and her father’s sneered refusal. Fairy ballerina? Fairy elephant, more like. You’re too clumsy, Polly.

    She lifted her chin. ‘We’ve got the lemons. Let’s go make lemonade. With a sparkly swizzle-stick in it.’

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