Susan trained to be a professional opera singer at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, U.K. During this time she was also a member of the BBC Northern Singers, who were broadcast regularly on radio as well as appearing in concerts nationwide. Whilst at college she won the Elsie Paine award for singing on three consecutive occasions and was subsequently granted a scholarship to study opera at Trinity College, London. Susan was then offered a contract with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, where she remained for two years, leaving to present the BBC children's television program, Playschool. During this time Susan also appeared in pantomime and summer season, which led her to develop her own cabaret act. Indulging in her great love of travel, Susan enjoyed a season on the QE2 before, on a second visit to Malta, she met her husband, Steve. Susan gave birth to two of her children, Sara and James, whilst living in Malta, but a move back to the U.K. came when Sara was taken dangerously ill and rushed into hospital by powerboat ambulance during a family holiday to Venice. Susan's first book, Help Me Mummy, I Can't Breathe, was written to share Sara's experience with other parents and received favorable reviews in both The Lancet and Nursing Times. It was also adopted as teaching material at St James' Hospital, Leeds, where the family settled. Susan gave many talks on the subject of coping with asthmatic children, culminating in a talk at Westminster Hall during celebrations of the Asthma Society's Diamond Jubilee. Susan had another little girl, Leonie, and when York University opened its creche, the time seemed right to go back into education. Susan was awarded an MA in music, after which she began teaching full-time. She was appointed a magistrate on the Leeds bench and now sits in Stockport. She wrote three books for educational publisher Hodder & Stoughton, Teach Yourself Singing, Teach Yourself Opera and Teach Yourself Musicals. The next move occurred when Steve's work took him to Cheshire. After dinner at a Pride and Prejudice ball there was a charity auction. One of the lots on offer was ""Spend a Day with an Author,"" donated by Penny Jordan. Steve bought this lot for Susan and the rest is history.... Penny became not just a really great friend, but also a wonderful mentor whose encouragement led Susan to concentrate on writing romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon.
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Under the Italian's Command by Susan Stephens
You could hear a pin drop in the lecture theatre. A fly on the wall might say the man teaching law could only be Italian. One thing was certain. With his striking Latin looks, impeccable tailoring and autocratic stare, Lorenzo Domenico could hold an audience spellbound. Women had stampeded the law school to secure a place in his class and on this first morning they outnumbered the men ten to one. Lorenzo Domenico might be new in town, but he was already a legend.
Lorenzo paced as he spoke, pausing occasionally to shoot an impatient glance at his adoring audience. He wanted to check if they were listening. He intended his standards to be the highest on the faculty. He'd worked hard, and now he expected that same application from his students. He tested them constantly, often in the most unexpected ways. In Lorenzo's opinion anyone who possessed a photographic memory could pass an exam, but could they fathom the intricacies of law and come to the best result for their client? He called it lateral thinking. Some of his students called it unreasonable; they were the ones who didn't make it through the course.
Along with heading up the scholarship programme he had agreed to mentor a pupil barrister at the top flight chambers in the city where he had tenancy. Multitasking was his speciality, intolerance of those who couldn't keep up his only failing--though his adoring Italian mother would have disagreed, and persuaded him he had no failings. Lorenzo smiled. Mama was always right.
Pausing mid-stride, he checked his register. There was someone missing. Instinct made him glance out of the window. He tensed. 'Will you excuse me? That wasn't a question,' he added as a groan of disappointment rose in the lecture theatre. He was already halfway through the door. The student who was late had just slammed her rusty old bike into his pristine Alfa Romeo.
'You cannot wipe it off,' he roared, exiting the outer doors like an avenging angel. He had arrived just in time to see the young woman's pink tongue flick out to wet her finger.
'It's a very small scratch,' she explained, her green eyes rounding with sincerity. 'Oh...' The blood drained from her face. 'Hello...'
He stood motionless, taking in the facts. Whichever way he looked at it, this was bad.
Carly paled as her mind absorbed the information: Carly Tate crashes into the car of her senior tutor Lorenzo Domenico on her first morning in his class. Not only that, she'd just received a letter to say he'd been appointed her pupil master in chambers, plus he chaired the committee for the Unicorn scholarship; the scholarship she had promised her parents. How much better could it get?
No prizes for guessing his thoughts: Oh, no, not her again! Shortly followed by, Do I associate with failure? She could hardly pretend the fiasco last night had escaped his notice. And now this! To distract them both she pointed to the damage on his car. 'You can see how small it is...' But now she looked again the gouge seemed to have grown.
'Small?' he said with a curl of his lip.
No wonder she hadn't recognised him last night. Since arriving in the UK Lorenzo Domenico had barely settled long enough to register a shadow. Winning a no-hoper case in his first month in town had raised his profile to the extent that the clerks who managed his diary were looking at a twelvemonth waiting list. Lorenzo wouldn't be returning home any time soon--or ever, if the rumours were to be believed--so it was time to build bridges.
Fast. 'I'm really sorry about your car--'
'You will be.' He cut her off crisply.
He hadn't been dubbed the scourge of the courts for nothing. What a perfect start to her scholarship hopes! Her fellow pupils had all landed some elderly old duffer who schooled them in an atmosphere of calm and dusty academe, while she had scored Torquemada, Chief Inquisitor. She had been so sure she could deal with a man like Lorenzo Domenico when she had first read the letter, in fact she'd been rather thrilled, but there was a huge gulf between the written word and the man standing in front of her now. And ominously his socks were tartan, suggesting he was poised to dance a jig on the grave of her ambition. But she wasn't going down without a fight. 'I think you'll find that the scratch will polish out--'
'Do not presume to practise your advocacy skills on me, Ms Tate.' His eyes turned cold. 'Take a look at my car.'
'I mean the damage to my car, Ms Tate. Look at that. If you examine it closely you will see that the scratch will not polish out.'She shook her head like a wayward pony, sending shimmering auburn curls flying round her shoulders. He admired the hair, but it distracted him. She was a student and his sole purpose in life was to whip her into shape.
'I can hardly see it,' she protested. Her determination to fight pleased him. He liked a fight.