books · romance novels · romantic suspense

How conflict can be understated, plus a #FREE romance novella

round robin, helena fairfaxAnother month – and another Round Robin already! This month the topic is “Confrontation creates powerful drama. Use one scene you’ve written (published or not) that shows confrontation between characters with a brief explanation.”

My romantic suspense novella The Scottish Diamond is on a free promotion this weekend (until 24th May 2016) and so I thought it would be perfect to choose a scene from this book.

This scene happens near the end of the story (but it doesn’t give away any of the twists and turns, so don’t worry about spoilers). The Scottish heroine, Lizzie, has a boyfriend called Léon who comes from the European country of Montverrier. Lizzie gradually comes to realise that the men from Léon’s country are not to be trusted…and she begins to wonder how far can she trust him, too. The theme of the novel is “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” and trust and deception play a big part.

In this scene, the conflict is understated but hopefully the reader can tell even from this snippet that the man in the overcoat and the man in the shirt-sleeves are bad guys. As for Léon – Lizzie still has to make her mind up about him.


‘What sort of trick is this?’ I asked.

Léon’s hand was at my elbow, his face grim. ‘Come. We’ve played our part, and you need to get in from the cold. Let’s talk at home.’

The man in the overcoat placed the diamond back in its box and slipped it into his pocket. The group began to make their way on silent feet, back to their van.

‘Come with us, Léon,’ said the one in shirt-sleeves, hanging back. ‘There is room for you and your bike.’ He indicated the open doors of the van and cast me a sympathetic look. ‘And your girlfriend. She looks cold.’

I had no intention of getting in their van with them. ‘I’m warm enough – ’ I began.

At the same time, Léon said coldly, ‘I’ll take care of her.’

The Montverrian gave a slow, soft smile. With a hint of reluctant admiration, he said, ‘You go your own way, as always, Léon.’ He turned to me, his head slightly tilted, his smile turning to one of amusement. ‘And my coat?’

I’d forgotten the coat. I began to take it off – I’d sooner have frozen to death on the road than get in that van with them – but Léon put his arm round my shoulders, and pulled me to him.

‘Lizzie needs the coat.’

Shirt-sleeves flicked a glance between us before raising his hands good-naturedly. ‘Keep the coat,’ he told me. His smile became one of regret. ‘Goodbye, Léon. I’m sorry you won’t join us.’

Léon said absolutely nothing. He held the other man’s gaze, his eyes filled with an arctic chill such as I’d never witnessed in him before. I shivered inside my heavy coat.

The Montverrian raised his hands again, taking a few steps backwards. ‘But no hard feelings,’ he said, still with his smile. ‘I hope our paths will cross again.’ He gave me a pleasant nod. ‘Au revoir, Lizzie.’ And then he climbed into the van. One of the group slid the door shut, the engine roared into life, and we watched the van disappear, until the yellow glow from its headlights had completely vanished in the distance, and I was standing in the dark by the edge of an empty road, alone with a man called Léon Solara. My lover, and a stranger.

helena fairfax, the scottish diamond*

I hope my extract has whetted your appetite to find out more. Conflict doesn’t always have to be about raised voices – there can be a subtle conflict of wills, as in the scene above.

If you’d like to read the rest of The Scottish Diamond, please pick up a free Kindle copy this weekend.

Download links: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Amazon AU

And I’m looking forward to reading the extracts from the other authors in our Round Robin. Please check them out in the links below!

Skye Taylor
Margaret Fieland
Diane Bator
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Fiona McGier
Rachael Kosinski
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Judith Copek
Rhobin Courtright


21 thoughts on “How conflict can be understated, plus a #FREE romance novella

  1. Your excerpt does have a lot of understated conflict. The tension is palpable. And it whetted my appetite for more. Off to download a copy. Thanks Helena.conflict.


  2. With the advent of information technology, gossip travelled round the building even faster than before. So when Sandiman and Mike took the long walk up to the finance office, it just happened to be the time everyone decided to take their tea-break. There were a few smiles and nods, the occasional disapproving frown, but on the whole they felt a cheering wave of tacit support buoying them up. Nobody actually walked with them, but that was life.

    They walked past the passive Miss Partridge like latter-day desperados as she cowered behind her desk, perhaps fearing she’d be infected by some virus of rebellion. They went slowly into Mannering’s office and came to a stop in front of his desk, looking straight at him.

    Mannering had intended to let loose a tirade of carefully cultivated abuse on the petrified underlings he was expecting, but when he saw their eyes, he hesitated. He hadn’t expected to find two men standing in front of him who… who… Damn it! Who didn’t look afraid of him.

    Nevertheless, he was still the finance manager and these two fools had committed a sackable offence.

    “What was the meaning of this memo I received this afternoon?”

    “Mr Mannering,” Sandiman spoke slowly and deliberately, “did you know that the Mitchell Library is the largest public reference library in Europe?”


    “I said …”

    “I heard what you said! No, I was not aware of that fact and it has nothing to do with the present situation. It is, I must also say, the last thing I would expect someone in your position to allow to take place. Where’s Macnab, anyway? Have you not brought him with you?”

    “I’m afraid I don’t quite follow you, Guy. I didn’t allow this to take place.”

    “I’m sorry?”

    “No you’re not, but that’s beside the point. I did not allow this to take place. I did it.”

    “You did it! What the hell for?”

    “Like I said, did you know the Mitchell is the biggest public reference library in Europe?”

    Mannering took a deep breath. “No, I can’t say I was aware of that.”

    “That’s a pity, Guy. Because nowadays it’s a wreck. Because of cuts. Because of people like you making cuts and, up ’til now, because of people like me letting you make cuts.”

    Mannering looked completely flummoxed. For a moment Sandiman almost pitied him, but the moment swiftly passed.

    I’m supposed to have an unsettling gaze, thought Sandiman. Let’s put it to work.

    He skewered Mannering with his eyes. Then he spoke:

    “Let me put it this way. If there were no books, no libraries, there would be no civilisation. When the first clay tablets were shelved in Sumeria five thousand years ago, Man for the first time – the very first time, goddamn it – could pass his hard-earned knowledge on to his son. Because of books. Books. Not CD-Roms, not the internet – books. We’re people of the Book and before books, each generation learnt the facts of life the hard way. Made the same mistakes over and over again. So now, thanks to books, what do we have? Civilisation, culture and science. So how do we say thank you? We elect morons and Morton supporters to high office. They then bequeath the Gallery of Modern Art £3 million and cut the staff at the Mitchell by a third. Brilliant.”

    “I don’t quite…”

    “Yeah I know, Guy. You don’t quite follow me. You don’t quite get it. And you know what? Neither do I. Five thousand years after struggling out of the slime from which we evolved, what have we got in the way of culture? I’ll tell you what we have got. The closest we get to culture is neds pissing in a fountain in Florence – or wherever the World Cup is being held – in the Scottish national dress of football jersey, kilt, black socks and Reebok trainers. A can of lager in one hand and their willies in the other!”

    In the adjoining office, Miss Partridge uttered a faint cry of distress and prayed for a swift coronary to take her away from it all. But it was not to be.

    “John, I don’t think…”

    “I don’t give a damn what you think.” Sandiman continued, cutting him off with relish. “What I really object to is that you just don’t get anything. All the progress from Babylon and Byzantium, built on the words of scholars who died for their beliefs, and you don’t know a damn thing about any of it. The Crusades. The Holy Roman Empire. Augustine and the City of God. Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations. You think it’s just boring old history. You don’t think it has anything to do with the present situation. You think some shiny plastic frisbees networked to a few smart desktops make it all obsolete. Five thousand years of work to put you behind that desk and you’d tear it up tomorrow if you could. You’re a man of the Book just like me, but all the great houses of knowledge – from Alexandria to the Mitchell – they’re all wasted on you. Because you – and all those like you – are blind to anything except buzz words, spreadsheets and memos. You’re here despite books and history, not because of them. In a nutshell, Guy, you’re just fucking ignorant.”

    Mike watched, wide-eyed, wondering if that library curse of his had worked and his boss been possessed by some demon from hell.

    “If you don’t stop this tirade I’ll…”

    “You’ll do what?” said Sandiman. “Take us outside, have us executed and stick our severed heads on the city gates? You know something? You won’t do that. Oh for God’s sake, Mannering, be a man. If you can’t be a man at least be a good manager. And if you can’t even do that, go roger your pet corgi some more and stop pissing us about.

    “And one more thing. I’ll make no more cuts. Not now, not ever. I’ve had enough of mean old men like you, deaf to tunes of glory.”

    Sandiman came to a stop. Mannering just stared at them as they walked back out of his office, past a cringing Miss Partridge and down the corridor. Neither man said anything for a few moments. Then Mike spoke up:

    “Guess that’s our Christmas bonus fucked then.”


    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Dr Bob, I have no objection at all to James’s comment. Actually, I think it’s a great idea for authors to post their own conflict scenes in the comments. I wish I’d asked in my post! And his extract did make me smile :)


    1. James – I love that extract! I really love the idea of a “couple of desperados” talking about the library cuts. Wouldn’t we all just love to act like that in the office some time! Thanks for dropping in and raising a smile!


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