No Time For Romance: A Coffee Break Tale From Our Archives

Gondola under bridge of sighs in Venice

By Della Galton

Surely romance belongs in a book, not in the real world?

A convention of romance writers in Venice – pity she was so cynical, Kay thought, as she scanned the restaurant for her agent. Hopefully she was sweet-talking a publisher about Kay’s latest book. Then she noticed the man – it was hard not to, there weren’t many here, and he was over six foot with what looked like all his own hair. Unusual!

He was looking around the room, unsmiling, probably thinking he could take his pick of women. That was often why men came to these conventions.

She stared pointedly at her menu and hoped he wouldn’t notice the empty seat opposite. Then a shadow fell across the table. It was him.

He cleared his throat. “Would you mind if I joined you?”

She was about to refuse when he said, “Please – the only other seat is next to someone I’m trying to avoid. You’d be doing me a massive favour.”

He looked worried. She softened. “Be my guest. I was waiting for someone – but she’s probably got waylaid on a gondola or something.”

“Sensible lady.” He sunk into the chair. “Although water taxis are cheaper.”

“You’ve been on a gondola?”

“Purely for research. I don’t have a romantic bone in my body.”

She read his name tag. “You’re a publisher then, Andrew?”

“Romantic novelist,” he said. “You?”

“Ditto.” She gave him a stern glare. “I write it. I don’t believe in it either.”


“Yes,” she said. “You?”

“Yep.” He picked up his menu, just missing knocking over a vase containing a single red rose.

Kay transferred it to the floor. “There’s not enough room for these, is there? I don’t know why they bother.”

“Because it’s romantic?” he hedged.

“Happy ever after is a myth.”

“And love at first sight’s an even bigger one.” His eyes flashed.

She felt an unfamiliar quiver deep in her stomach.

All that nonsense about instant attraction

Don’t you think it’s odd,” Andrew said, as they ate, “that we both write romantic fiction, but neither of us believes in romance?”

“Nope,” she met his eyes. She felt light headed. Must be the wine. “All that nonsense about instant attraction.”

“Complete rubbish.” He reached for the salt, accidentally brushing her hand, which made them both jump. “And as for sparks…” he added.

“Ridiculous,” she agreed.

“We’re just perpetuating a myth.” His eyes were very dark and there was a crinkle of a frown between them.

“We have to give our readers what they want or we wouldn’t sell any books.”

“Every story ending with the line, ‘and then he kissed her’.” He shook his head as if trying to clear it. “Have you been to Venice before, Kay?”

“No.” Why was it suddenly so difficult to look away?

“I have. I could show you the good bits if you like? It’s a great place to set
a romance.”

“Why not?”

“Would you care to see the dessert menu?” a voice interrupted.

They both looked at the waiter in surprise. For a moment Kay had forgotten they were in a room full of people. Andrew, too, blinked in confusion.

“I don’t seem to have much appetite,” he said.

“Me neither,” Kay said. Odd that, she’d been starving when she sat down.

“Maybe we could take a stroll now,” Andrew suggested. “If you’ve nothing
better to do?”

“Might as well,” she shrugged.

The most romantic view in the world

They sat at a waterfront trattoria and watched a gondola glide along the pink-streaked canal beneath the shimmering sunset.

“The most romantic view in the world,” Andrew said.

“Yes,” she breathed. “For a novel,” she added hastily.

On the way back he held her hand. For safety, nothing more. It was dark and the path was uneven.

“So beautiful,” he said, as they paused at the white marble steps of the hotel. She smiled up at him.

“The building?”

He coughed. “Yes… of course.”

They were standing so close, she could feel his heartbeat. Hers pounded in a matching rhythm.

“Maybe love at first sight isn’t the biggest myth in the world,” he whispered, bending so their lips were just inches apart.

“Maybe the biggest myth is that everyone thinks it doesn’t exist,”
she agreed.

“Until it happens to them,” he said.

And then he kissed her.


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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me