Robert Fanshaw's Reflections on Shameless Ambition

Hi, readers!  Today we have Robert Fanshaw with us and he is going to give us his reflections on his recently published romantic suspense book, Shameless Ambition.  

           Marie's post (May 3rd) the relationship between reality and writing made some new connections for me. I believe good writing has an underlying, but sometimes hidden, connection with reality, whatever the story or subject.

My work as a barrister means that I am dealing day to day with clumsy attempts to pin down reality. If something gets as far as going to court, the eventual outcome, the decision of the judge, becomes ‘the truth’. But anyone who has spent a lot of time in court will tell you that the outcome depends more on the balance of forces than the holy grail of what really happened. The little guy or gal doesn’t often win. If they do, it’s because their representatives have woven a convincing story. This is why I find there’s a synergy between my job in the legal system and my work as a writer.

            Like most writers, I do it for love. Psychologists would probably say that Shameless Ambition is a transparent attempt to get more of my wife Caroline’s attention. The legal work funds my real passion, and I am as grateful for that as any humble artist who relies on a sponsor to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. I love all kinds of writing. I’m not a poet, but I get great satisfaction when a poem materialises from somewhere.
            I love the freedom of the blog: no deadline but your own; no rules but your own; no financial transaction involved; not necessarily even any readers. But it is so wonderful when someone is intrigued by the story and asks a question like ‘Is your wife really called Caroline?’ Readers know that events are reordered or condensed, names are changed, and imagination fills in the gaps, but they are also looking for underlying truth in anything they read.
            By the way, the answer is ‘Yes’ because I cannot think of her by any other name, except Bluebell, the name she adopts when her exhibitionist tendencies come to the fore. We went for a walk in the woods near our home in Surrey the other day. There was more than a hint of blue under the greening trees, the bluebells having decided the freeze has passed and it is now safe to reach for the sky.
            A simple walk, but it encapsulated the pleasure and pain of our relationship because, although not a word was spoken about Erik, we both knew that her ‘stage name’ came from an affair she re-kindled not long before we were married. She met an old flame and they made love amongst the bluebells. I found out. She said it didn’t mean anything but I was jealous just the same and the mere mention of Erik’s name is enough to put me in a bad mood. Unfortunately he won a prestigious prize with a series of paintings based on the photo sketches he made of Caroline.
            But the tone of Shameless Ambition is not, I hope, jealous. Caroline and I have a modern marriage and work on our boundaries all the time. I try to put that across in the book. Things might hurt, we might be embarrassed by our own behaviour, but you have to learn and move on. There’s no point in throwing the Botticelli Venus out with the gilded frame. Yes, Caroline really does have long red hair like on the cover of the book.
            And without giving too much away, I do have my moments of triumph in the book. Caroline’s involvement with a plot to influence a key committee in the European Central Bank required some investigative work on my part. I was able to put my legal training to good use.
            Returning to the issue of underlying truth, it has been said to me that some of the events described in the book are far-fetched. I think those people cannot have been reading the newspapers because the reported behaviour of some bankers, politicians, and business leaders over the years leading up to the current economic turmoil in Europe makes one shake one’s head in disbelief. My account is moderate in comparison.
            Marie describes in her post (May 3rd) the joy of writing. I recognise that joy, and for me, it’s also therapeutic. Is it an escape from reality or an escape into reality? No reason why it can’t be both, simultaneously. There are times waiting in airports or sleepless at night when it’s great to escape into another reality. My goal as a writer is to make that journey into another reality as easy as possible for the reader. I don’t want anything to jar. I want things to happen at the right speed. I try to give the minimum amount of descriptive detail consistent with teleporting the reader to another place. I want the characters to surprise, engage, and entertain the reader as much as they do me. But keep your hands off Caroline, please.

Robert has treated us to a blurb and an extract from Shameless Ambition.


High-flying executive Caroline and barrister Robert have been married for three years, and the demands of work have left little time for their relationship. Caroline is angling for a promotion, which will mean spending more time away in Germany. On a management development course in Spain, Caroline is tempted into indiscretions with some of her colleagues, a fact that is noticed by course leader and former chief executive Melody Bigger.

Melody sees in Caroline aspects of her younger self and a barely suppressed exhibitionism. She draws Caroline into a plot to put pressure on Von Wolfswinkle, the German delegate to the European Central Bank. His opposition to Eurobonds is causing hardship across southern Europe, and Caroline is inveigled into a peculiar relationship with Von Wolfswinkle based on his voyeurism and her exhibitionism. Melody wants Caroline to influence the banker’s recommendations to the forthcoming European economic summit.

As Caroline is drawn into a seedy world of private parties for bankers and politicians, she soon realises she has damaged her reputation and her marriage. How will she ever be able to face her colleagues and her husband again?


Caroline and work colleague Clive have been partnered in an orienteering exercise designed to develop leadership skills. Unfortunately they get lost by a mountain stream…

Clive inspected his bleeding hand. “You may as well take them off. A few minutes on one of these rocks and they’ll be dry again. And in any case, if it’s not impolite of me to notice, the water has made them transparent.”
“I’m glad to see you’re living up to your reputation, Clive.” Nonetheless, she wriggled out of the wet underwear, and he did the same with his shorts.
“Well it’s not as if I haven’t had the pleasure of observing your features before.”
“What features?”
“Last night, in the pool. I sent you a message complimenting you on the performance. Don’t you check your emails?”
Caroline shut her eyes in the hope of shutting out this new piece of information. She decided denial was the best policy.
“Clive, you are an utter pervert. What have you been imagining?”
“I will show you exactly what I have been imagining.” He delved into the rucksack for his notepad and whizzed his fingers across the screen a few times. He passed her the pad and she was mortified to see a crystal clear video clip of a naked woman pointing her ring finger at the camera and then using the finger to good effect.
“The resolution on these new pads is amazing. And the camera even has a zoom.” He demonstrated the camera’s features with a close-up of Caroline’s face at the moment of abandon.
“You will delete this – this minute – or it’s going in the pool.” He tried to grab it off her but she held the pad out of reach.
“Caroline. What are you suggesting? I would never show this to anyone but you. It’s solely for my own private use.”
“You heard me – in the pool. Tell me how to delete it.”
He showed her how to get the toolbar up and how to send the film to the bin.
“And now tell me how to empty the bin.”
“Oh Caroline, don’t be such a spoilsport. You’re just denying an important, lovely part of yourself.”
“No, I’m not. I’m trying to protect my reputation from two billion creeps like you.”
“Okay, okay, collapse that screen – there’s the bin icon. Press delete again. Gone.”
Clive put the electronic pad back in the rucksack and leaned across Caroline, unnecessarily she thought, to sit the bag upright in the shade of rock. Did he deliberately brush against her breast?
“I really admire you, Caroline. Not just because you’re lying there naked. I love the way you deal with Ivan at the monthly meetings. You’re always so well prepared. He makes the rest of us look stupid but you seem to have anticipated the tricky questions he’s going to ask.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Caroline smiled. She knew what Clive was like. But it was nice that someone noticed how much attention she paid to the monthly figures.
Clive turned towards her and propped himself up on his elbow. “You know, we would make a really good team. I’ve got this plan. In a couple of years’ time when the market for self-care has developed a bit, I’m going to set up my own company – our company if you like. Medical devices at home, aimed at the mass market of hypochondriacs who think they’re ill or are just about to be. I know I could make it work if I had someone like you to keep the cash flow tight and disciplined.”
Caroline continued to look up at the blue sky, feigning indifference. But she was enjoying the attention. It was so rare for anybody to be nice to her at work; usually it was moan, moan, moan.
Not discouraged, Clive placed a hand on her knee. “Just think about it for me, Caroline. These big companies just chew you up and spit you out. We would be free to do our own thing.” The hand moved up and stroked the inside of her thigh.
“Get off, Clive. I’m not that easy.”
“I know you’re not, Caroline. I’m just trying to give you what you want.”
“What I want? How do you know what I want?”
“Well – sex outdoors. You’re obviously an exhibitionist.”
“No I am not.”
“I bet you were Head Girl at school.”
“Yes, I was actually.”
“And you had the lead part in all the school plays?”
“No, not in every school play, once I was the director.”

Guest Blogger Bio 


Robert is a barrister who specialises in commercial law. He began writing articles for law magazines but then discovered more interesting material in the world of business inhabited by his wife, Caroline. What started as a blog when his wife was away on business trips became the ongoing story of the dilemma faced by many working couples today – how to balance the competing demands of work, marriage, and supporting a football team.

Now in his mid-thirties, Robert lives in Surrey, England.

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