All I want for Christmas …

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A festive post with a difference written by our author, Sarah Waights. Have you ever wished that getting what you wanted most in life was as simple as writing to Father Christmas? Emma does … 

Dear Father Christmas,

You don’t mind if I call you ‘Father Christmas’ do you? Tell me if I’m wrong but I’m guessing you’re something of a traditionalist. That said, I appreciate ‘Santa’ has been creeping up the popularity ranks for a while now. It’s all ‘Santa baby’ and ‘I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus’… I appreciate singing ‘Father Christmas is coming to town’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Maybe I’m just a late adopter, but I can’t go with ‘Santa’, I really can’t. For me ‘Santa’ sounds like an item of sanitary protection. It evokes pictures of lithe young women roller-skating in unfeasibly tiny shorts, diving into swimming pools displaying unlikely levels of abdominal muscle perfection, or flying kites on the tops of hills, all whilst laughing inanely with their girlfriends and exchanging flirty but empowered looks with handsome young men who are looking on admiringly. Why? Because this is apparently what advertising men think women get up to when they’ve got their period … God knows why. I definitely don’t. So, the point is, say the word ‘Santa’ and feminine hygiene is what pops into my mind – as it probably will into yours from now on too. Sorry about that.

Actually, whilst I’m apologising, let me just come straight out and acknowledge the elephant in the room; you will have noticed I’ve not written to you since I was seven. Twenty years, eh?  How time flies … I appreciate, belatedly, you might have assumed it was because you didn’t fully deliver on my expectations that time. Obviously the tiny tears doll which eats yellow gunk and then dirties its nappy when you squeeze it was bang on, and the extensive list of stocking fillers was broadly fulfilled – no complaints – but I do want to make it absolutely clear that there are no hard feelings about you not coming through with the real, live penguin. To be honest, my geographical knowledge as a seven year old was poor (it isn’t much better now) and I simply thought it would be a case of leaning out of your sleigh and grabbing one in passing. I certainly didn’t expect you to go all the way to the South Pole, which you obviously wouldn’t have had time to do. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t ask for a polar bear.

Talking of hindsight, I imagine we need to cover the issue of whether I’ve been naughty or nice. Are we talking just the last year or the whole couple of decades? I’ll assume the latter but, for brevity, we had better stick to edited highlights. So let’s see … I’ve always tried not to be knowingly cruel (but also see below), I’ve been polite and grateful to my mother, apart from the obligatory teenage years obviously, and broadly I think my friends would say I’m a reasonably nice person.

And now for the last year. Well – they say “you hurt the ones you love” don’t they? And I have. I know I have and I am so desperately sorry, (although I suppose it’s not you I should be apologising to). All I can say is I would do anything for things to be simple again, to wind back the clock and be asking for a doll or a new packet of felt tips because I left the lids off the old ones. But that isn’t how life works. So here goes: The reason I am writing to you now, is because I have to ask for just one, final thing, and after that I promise I will never ask ever again. You see, Father Christmas (or, what the hell, ‘Santa’ if you prefer), the only thing I want – not just for Christmas but for ever and ever is James. And if he were to come down my chimney and back into my life I promise I would love him and cherish him and never let him go until death us do part. He could even watch the football. Sometimes. Potentially in return for emptying the dishwasher occasionally. I’m not unreasonable …

Lots of love

Emma xxx

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Find out more about Sarah’s debut novel, Never Marry a Politician:

@SarahWaights

www.sarahwaights.com

Never Marry a Politician is available on Kindle:

Kindle UK  Kindle US

 

Kiss and Don’t tell (until the end) – why I love romantic mysteries

Clare Chase’s fast-paced and thrilling romantic suspense novel, You Think You Know Me, is out in e-book format today. Read about her love of mysteries and the inspiration behind the novel here on Choc Lit corner. Happy Publication day, Clare! :)

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To me, asking if I’d like mystery mixed with my romance is like asking if I’d like a glass of wine with my chocolate.  Either one alone is wonderful, but if I’m allowed to wolf down both at once, I’m a happy woman. Each genre brings its own tension, intrigue and pulse-racing moments, and a mix of the two is a powerful combination.

I also really like the puzzle element. I love not knowing what hidden motives a character might have, and what secrets lie in their past. If I can’t sleep, I find wondering ‘whodunnit’ in the book I’m reading a lot more fun than counting sheep.

Not knowing who to trust ratchets up the tension for the protagonist too. In my novel, You Think You Know Me, the heroine, Anna, is faced with this dilemma. She feels an immediate and powerful connection with a man she’s just met, but finds within hours that he’s given her a false name. Torn between backing off and allowing him to explain, she gets drawn into a dangerous and unstoppable drama.

Romantic mystery is a classic sub-genre, and I was introduced to it quite young, when I first read Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. I found it unbeatable: a passionate love story tightly interwoven with intrigue and danger.

Evocative settings mean a lot to me too. Du Maurier’s use of wild moorland was perfect. For my own story, set in the run-up to Christmas, the build-up takes place against the fast-moving backdrop of London, but the denouement makes use of the lonely beauty of the Lakes.

Once I’d got bitten by the romantic mystery bug, I lapped up Mary Stewart’s novels. Meanwhile books like Jilly Cooper’s Bella had me turning the pages so fast I ripped them. But the male thriller writers were just as inclined to pepper their stories with romantic intrigue. I remember finding Dick Francis’ novels quite educational on that front, when I first found them on my grandmother’s bookshelves.

Romantic mysteries are also the stuff of Hollywood, of course, from classics like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, (and indeed, Jamaica Inn), to the unfolding relationship between Jason and Marie in The Bourne Identity.

Sometimes the mystery is very much bound up with the romance, and resolving one leads straight on to the happy ever after in the other. But other authors follow relationship hurdles that are separate from the central plot. Nora Roberts, writing as JD Robb, uses this format in her novels about Detective Eve Dallas and her partner Roarke.

Like the books in its umbrella genres, the romantic mystery comes in many forms, but one thing it always promises is escapism and excitement. Wonderful though everyday often life is, I think there’s a huge benefit in that.

Twitter: @ClareChase_ 

Website: www.clarechase.com

Facebook: Clare Chase author page

Buy You Think You Know Me HERE today.

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Check out the awesome book trailer for You Think You Know Me here:

 

Don’t Stop Me Now: The music behind Magic Sometimes Happens …

Margaret James

It’s paperback release day for Magic Sometimes Happens! Today, we have Margaret James on the blog chatting about the music that inspires her writing …

As the mother of two music-mad daughters who were once teenagers (gosh, were they really, it doesn’t seem five minutes since they were fifteen and seventeen respectively), my house used to vibrate to the racket of competing stereo systems and CD players. I sometimes wonder why, like the walls of Jericho when Joshua blew his trumpet, it didn’t come tumbling down.

But I must admit I’m addicted to music, too. While I’m writing, there’s usually music playing somewhere in the house – Classic FM on the radio in the kitchen, more recent stuff on Spotify via my iPad, classic rock or other modern music on my CD player. I’m Freddie Mercury’s greatest fan and Queen does it for me any time. When I’m on a roll with a novel, it’s always a case of Don’t Stop Me Now!

Or, conversely, if I’m having trouble with a book, this rousing stuff from Gladiator helps to wake me and my characters up:

While I’m planning a novel, I need to bring my characters to life in my head, and thinking about what kind of music they like helps me to do that. My most recent novel, Magic Sometimes Happens, features a hero who loves the American classics and a heroine who has never heard of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern or any of those guys. But it turns out my heroine Rosie was listening when my hero Patrick was telling her about his favourites, and later in the story she uses a piece of Gershwin to send him a special message:

Rosie’s tastes are more modern, but none the worse for that. I suspect she and Patrick are closer in their appreciation of great music than either of them might think. I’m sure they’d both love this from Amy Winehouse:

By the way, if you’re wondering about that reference to Joshua and his trumpet – here’s the final song:

Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel and just about everything else, you rocked back then and you always will!

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Magic Sometimes Happens is available as a paperback now from all good online book retailers and book-shops. Click here to buy it today.

Choc Lit Halloween Round Robin: Final Part

 

10455119_10152773259162482_2738666113214067691_nHappy Halloween to all our friends and followers! We hope you’ve enjoyed our spooky Round Robin. Now, courtesy of Berni Stevens, we present to you the sixth and final instalment. Make sure you read right to the end for a special Choc Lit competition and a chance to win three Choc Lit paperbacks of your choice …

A New Love for Halloween: Part Six by Berni Stevens

The tall shadow detached itself with some difficulty from the shrubbery, and began to walk towards Jo. The front door key dropped to the path with a clang as her nerveless fingers lost their hold on it.

‘I’ll get it,’ the shadow stooped to retrieve the key for her.

Amused blue eyes met hers. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Er … huh?’

‘It’s me, Zach.’

So he hadn’t been a dream then? Her world had become decidedly weird ever since she’d opened that cursed spell book.

Jo took her front door key from Zach, muttered her thanks and tried to fit it in the lock with a hand that trembled.

With a deep laugh, Zach put his hand over hers and turned the key.

No blue fire this time, she thought, with an inward sigh of relief. She seriously hoped that part hadn’t been true.

She stepped into her hallway, becoming aware that he still followed.

Turning round, she said, ‘Don’t you have a Halloween party to go to?’

He shut her front door behind him. ‘I think it could be more interesting here.’

A flutter of panic shot through her body at his words. She headed for the kitchen, clutching her bag tightly. All she could think of was the need to keep her mobile phone close.

Gran’s spell book was still on the kitchen table where she’d left it. As she reached her free hand out to pick it up, it suddenly seemed further away.

Zach loomed in the doorway, a sardonic smile on his handsome face.  She wished he’d leave.

‘Did you want something?’ She asked instead. Possibly not the most sensible question under the circumstances.

‘I’d quite like to carry on where we left off the other night,’ he said, moving closer. But hadn’t that all been a dream?

‘Coffee then,’ she said hastily, going towards the kettle.

‘Not exactly.’ His voice sounded close in her ear, and she jumped violently, dropping the kettle onto the work surface.

Gran’s book suddenly flew off the table and smacked into the back of Zach’s head, making him lurch forward, and when Jo side-stepped, he collided with the sink.

‘I think I’d like you to leave,’ said Jo, when a loud knock at the front door made her run from the room with a sense of relief. She flung the door open to see another musketeer – again. Well, actually, it was the first musketeer. But this time, he was surrounded by what looked like a bunch of miniature goblins and witches. There was even a tiny vampire leering toothily up at her.

‘Trick or treat?’ They chorused.

‘I’m sure I can find some treats –come on in,’ she said.

A surge of tiny demonic bodies hurtled down the hall, instinctively finding their way to the kitchen.

‘Come on Argos,’ she said smiling at Dan.

‘That would be Athos, or so I’m told,’ he replied.

The kitchen was empty – except for the squealing children.

Jo reached for the dish of squishy pumpkin and bat-shaped jellies, and handed them to the head goblin.

‘Your friend was just here,’ she said to Dan. ‘The other musketeer.’

My friend?’ Dan looked puzzled. ‘I’m the only musketeer. I know there should be three – well four – but none of my mates would dress up.’

Jo sank into the nearest chair. Could this night get any weirder?

A breeze sighed through the room, even though there were no windows open, and Jo swore she heard a voice whisper, ‘He’s the one.’

A special thank you to all the bloggers who hosted the previous parts of A New Love for Halloween. If you missed a part, or would like to read the story from the beginning, you can find the other extracts here:

27 Oct: Part One by Berni Stevens – Bookaholic Holly

28 Oct: Part Two by Jane Lovering – The Romaniacs

29 Oct: Part Three by Christina Courtenay – Dark Readers

30 Oct: Part Four by Kirsty Ferry – Girls Love to Read

31 Oct: Part Five by Evonne Wareham – Reviewed the Book

 Competition

To win three Choc Lit paperbacks of your choice, answer all 5 questions and email to info@choc-lit.com.

  1) Is Ellie from Dance Until Dawn …

a) a figure skater b) lead singer of a heavy metal group c) a dancer?

 2) Vampire State of Mind and Falling Apart are set in which city?

 3) In The Secret Kiss of Darkness Jago Kerswell is …

a) a highwayman b) an innkeeper and smuggler c) a vampire?

 4) Fill in the blank: Some Veil Did Fall is the first of Kirsty Ferry’s ____ mysteries. Is it:

a) Millais b) Hunt c) Rossetti?

 5) Out of Sight Out of Mind’s heroine Madison Albi is a scientist with a very special power. Is it:

a) mind reading b) time travel c) invisibility?

Out today: An Irish Promise

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Writing duo Liv and Val (a.k.a. Isabella Connor) are celebrating the e-release of An Irish Promise. We asked them to tell us a little bit about their second novel …

It feels quite strange – in a pleasant way – to now refer to our books. Plural. We’ve been incredibly lucky with Beneath an Irish Sky, with most of the feedback being very positive and encouraging. The downside (if it can be called that) is that it makes the publication of Book 2 quite nerve-wracking, wondering if it will fail miserably and we’ll be a writer’s version of St Winifred’s School Choir – one hit wonders.

But…c’est la vie!

An Irish Promise is not a sequel to Beneath an Irish Sky, although there is one character who is in both books. And no, we’re not telling you who it is.  Liv has a competition running on Facebook and Twitter to see if anyone can guess. An Irish Promise is a story about bullying, and the effects on the victim and the bullies – and their families. Our heroine, Rachel, is full of anger and is driven by a desire for revenge. Fortunately – or unfortunately – romance gets in the way, and makes her question the wisdom of continuing with her plan, and at one point after an act of vengeance goes somewhat awry and events make it far more destructive than she’d actually intended, she is uncomfortably aware (excuse use of adverb!)  that it isn’t quite as satisfying as she thought it might be.

We’re looking forward to hearing how An Irish Promise compares to Beneath an Irish Sky. We feel that the story is totally different, but maybe we’re too involved to be objective.

In some ways, An Irish Promise was harder to write because whereas Beneath an Irish Sky is set half in Ireland and half in England, An Irish Promise is set totally in Ireland.  Fingers crossed that we’ve done it justice – Ireland, that is. We’ve avoided filling the novel with loads of ‘to be sures’ and ‘begorrahs’.

The Irish Promise itself refers to the Claddagh – love, loyalty and friendship. It’s surely the kind of gift most girls would want to receive from their man, and Rachel is no exception, but of course love has a habit (especially in novels) of being beset by obstacles. Can you keep a promise that was made before circumstances and events turn your world upside down?  Rachel’s plan for revenge has repercussions that she could never have foreseen. And let’s not forget the other – rather unexpected – suitor waiting in the wings.  Dun dun duuuuuun…

Kindle UK   Kindle US   Kobo   iBooks   Google Play

Magic Sometimes Happens … Happy e-publication day!

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Hooray! Margaret James is back with another feel-good love story. Magic Sometimes Happens is out in all eBook formats today, so relax and enjoy! To celebrate, Margaret’s stopped by to tell us a little bit about her new novel …

While I was planning Magic Sometimes Happens, I knew I wanted to write a story about two very different people who fall in love. Or at least they think they’ve very different. But, as in almost all romantic fiction, they find that although they might come from different backgrounds, have different agendas and live in different countries, in all the most important ways they are the same.

What attracted my heroine, fashion-mad PR consultant and very British Rosie Denham (who also appears in The Wedding Diary as Fanny’s assistant!), to my hero Patrick Riley, a married American college professor who hardly notices what he wears, is the father of two cute but exhausting children, drives a trash-mobile, and whose obsession with his cutting-edge research into thought-to-text technology has effectively destroyed his marriage? Who is not even remotely interested in cardigans, cupcakes or consumer durables?

Let’s ask Rosie’s best friend, Tess:

He’s clever, kind and funny, and he’s damn good-looking, too. You should see him with his children, Rosie, talk about a perfect father – and the kids, they obviously adore him.

Clever, kind, funny, good-looking and a perfect father – how could Rosie possibly resist him? Perhaps she won’t even try?

As for Patrick: a hero should always be prepared to take a few risks, shouldn’t he – with his money (as an academic, Patrick doesn’t have too much of that), with his job, with his own safety, perhaps even with his life? Of course he should! So, when Rosie loses something very precious, something which most people would write off as irrecoverable, Patrick moves several mountains in his determination to make Rosie smile again:

Patrick

I called a friend who had connections with the CIA.

   ‘Yeah, it might be possible,’ he told me, after I explained. ‘I might know a guy who knows a guy. But a private contract – it would cost a bunch of money. We’re talking big bucks here.’

   ‘What, thousands, millions?’

   ‘It would be ten thousand dollars minimum, and in cash.’

   ‘If you let me have some contact details, I’ll go on from there.’

   ‘No, I’ll meet you for a beer some time. I don’t want to put this stuff in emails or tell you on the phone. You never know who’s listening.’

   ‘Maybe we could meet later today?’

   ‘Yeah, I guess,’ he said. ‘It’s been a while. So tell me – you mislaid the secret of eternal life?’

   ‘I want this data found.’

   ‘Okay, okay, but listen up – before you give your money to this guy, you need to know that he won’t offer any guarantees. Also, if he manages to track your data down, he could take his time to hand it over – might be months or even years. The fact is, he might never hand it over, but don’t even start to think you’ll get your money back.’

What has Rosie lost and why is Patrick so anxious to recover it? I hope readers will think it’s worth finding out.

Find out more about Magic Sometimes Happens and Margaret’s other novels:

www.facebook.com/margaret.james.5268

@majanovelist

www.margaretjamesblog.blogspot.co.uk

Magic Sometimes Happens is available on all major eBook platforms:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US   Kobo   iBooks 

 

Welcome Back, Downton!

 

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Currently in the Kobo sale!

Did the first Downton of the season live up to your expectations? Here’s what Margaret Kaine thought …

I began writing my novel, ‘Dangerous Decisions’  because I loved not only the original series of ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’, I am also fascinated by the sheer elegance of the Edwardian Era. By the lovely clothes and great country houses, the impeccable manners, even while being aware that this privileged way of life was only made possible by the toil of others.

And so I was well into my plot when ‘Downton Abbey’ first hit our television screens. Written with authenticity by Julian Fellowes and providing us all with welcome romantic escapism, it drew me like a magnet. Full of well-portrayed and distinctive characters set against a luxurious background, I found it absolutely compelling and its fantastic ratings proved that so did thousands of other viewers.

We all looked forward with impatience for this new series of Downton Abbey to begin, although I was a little wary. With some sadness, I confess to feeling that the last series had rather lost its way.

But last Sunday, within minutes of the opening scenes, I was totally absorbed.

Dame Maggie Smith is, as always, an absolute joy and brilliant as the Dowager Countess. “Principles are like prayers,” she advised at dinner. “Noble, of course, but awkward at a party.’  Delivered in her own inestimable style. Wonderful!

It was like meeting old friends from both above and below stairs. I’ve always had a soft spot for Lady Edith, and her hopeless predicament really touches the heart. Carson is so splendidly superior, Mrs Hughes her sympathetic sensible self, Mrs Patmore eternally frazzled and young Daisy trying to better herself. Although I was surprised when she used the term, ’pig-ignorant’ which I tend to think belongs to a later decade.

It was good to see the social changes of the time beginning to creep in, with the socialist young teacher invited to dine without the knowledge of Lord Grantham, whose disapproval was almost apoplectic. Carson chosen over Lord Grantham by the villagers to head their war memorial committee. The scene when the doctor – invited to luncheon by the Dowager Countess – wasn’t offered cake by her butler was hilarious, yet for the period was totally believable. And Lady Mary actually considering spending a clandestine week with Tom Gillingham, to see if they were sexually suited before marriage! There were many lighter moments, delicious repartee between Mrs Crawley and the Dowager Countess, Molesley and his disastrous hair dye, a brilliant cameo by Anna Chancellor, didn’t we always anticipate that Jimmy would take one risk too far? Encouraged by the odious footman Thomas of course, who seems to have so many hidden agendas it is a wonder he can sleep. And I’m sure we will see more in the future of Mr Bates and his splendid wife, Anna. I thought the Countess seemed a little subdued even before the revelation by her maid. And what is the story there? Intrigue abounds.

I shall definitely be watching next Sunday and no doubt for all the other Sundays in the current season. Because – welcome back, Downton, the magic has returned!

Dangerous Decisions is available now as a paperback and on all eBook platforms.

Kindle   Kindle US   Apple

Recurring dreams and haunted offices: Some Veil Did Fall by Kirsty Ferry

Happy e-publication day to Kirsty Ferry! Her fantastic timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall, is out in all eBook formats today and to celebrate she’s talking spooky happenings on the Choc Lit Corner …

KirstyFerryBlack&White1As my new eBook and debut Choc Lit title Some Veil Did Fall is due to be
released, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the inspiration
for it and some of the spooky goings on that helped me to come up with the idea
for certain parts of the book.

I love writing about the paranormal and ghosts, and I particularly
love the idea of timeslips and parallel lives being led in two different time
frames. Some Veil Did Fall starts with a recurring dream that my heroine, Becky, keeps having, and as the story goes on, the reasons for this become clear.

The fact that Becky dreams about a house and, in particular,
a staircase is based on a recurring dream I used to have when I was younger.
Only I was running into the house, and Becky is running out of the house. I had
all but forgotten this dream until I walked into Belsay Hall, which is in the
care of English Heritage, a few years ago – and discovered that they had opened
up the servants’ staircase. I got one of those ‘Oh my!’ moments when I realised
it was exactly the same staircase as the one I used to dream about and I must
admit I was rather freaked out by it! I remember jotting it down in a notebook  – “Belsay staircase” – thinking how it needed to go into a story one day, and I filed it away for future reference, a bit scared to dwell on it too much.

Then, just over three years ago, I began to work in an office which was in a beautiful terrace of Georgian houses that had all been converted into offices. In order to convert them, the builders had knocked through the houses on each floor, so you can now basically walk the corridors from Number 1 to Number 5 going ‘whooooooo!’ and pretending you’re a ghost walking through the walls. Not recommended if anybody important is about, but quite fun otherwise.

I asked my new manager, only half-joking, if the place was haunted.
Somewhere with such a lot of history had to have something hanging around
there, and I wasn’t disappointed. My manager told me that she had actually seen
a proper ghost on the second floor – a lady dressed as a maid or an old-fashioned nurse. Intrigued by this, we did some research using crystals and divining
rods (in our lunch hour, we weren’t that nefarious!) and discovered the woman’s
name was Elizabeth. We also discovered that, in life, she had cared for people
and she told us she had lived and worked there in the 1860s. Slightly doubtful, I cross-referenced the information on the census for the 1860s, and sure enough a woman called Elizabeth had been a maid there during that time. No other people called Elizabeth appeared in any other censuses for the house.

Once we knew that and told people, lots of colleagues began coming forward with stories – we heard about cleaners finding men in offices dressed in old-fashioned clothes who would suddenly disappear, people drifting up staircases with no legs, laughter
in empty rooms, chairs being piled up in locked rooms, footsteps in corridors
at 6 a.m. when workmen were in on their own and my own experiences which
included  knocks on the door with nobody there, a pole we used for opening the massive sash windows lifting up and then laying down gently on the ground and, best of all, a full-blown argument between two women in the office at eight o’clock in the
morning – and sudden silence with nobody inside the room when I walked in on it.

I loved the place! I started thinking about ghosts living in their parallel timelines and I was especially intrigued by the argument I’d heard. What could be so important to two women that meant they were still arguing about it one hundred and fifty years later? What if they were trying to resolve something and they were both convinced they were right? Who won in the end? And what happened to them both? Finally, what about Elizabeth the maid? Was she involved somehow? In the 1860s?

I don’t want to spoil the story, but you will find something like that hidden in a scene between the pages of Some Veil Did Fall. It’s a small scene – but it just shows that you can get your inspiration from just about anywhere. Even from the office in your day job!

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Leather and Lace: Fool’s Gold by Zana Bell

Happy e-publication day to Zana Bell! Fool’s Gold is released in digital format today. Read on for an insight into the inspirations for her latest novel, as well as a tantalising extract! 

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What is the fascination of love across the classes? The Cinderella trope is, of course, perennially popular. My great-great-great grandfather ran away to Gretna Green with his mother’s maid and I am inordinately proud of my impetuous ancestors. But what about the reversal – the woodcutter and the princess? There’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Go-Between. In Downton Abbey, Lady Sybil married the chauffeur. Yet none of these has the triumphant happily-ever-after we expect from the Cinderella story. Why is that?

Class structures buckled and bent considerably in New Zealand in the 1860s when survival depended less on inherited wealth and considerably more on courage, quick wits and plain good luck. I had a lot of fun in Fool’s Gold in throwing together characters who normally would never have met. Lady Guinevere Stanhope is cast upon her own resources when her father unexpectedly dies and, luckily for her, she is rescued from drowning by Quinn O’Donnell, an Irish doctor turned gold digger. He was raised by priests and has a great loathing for the English aristocracy, but having saved Guinevere, he feels responsible for her until she recovers her strength. Here is a scene where he brings medicine to her in a rackety hotel in a rowdy gold-mining town (think the Wild West in glorious Lord of the Rings scenery):

Guinevere tasted the medicine and made a face.

‘Ugh. What on earth is it?’

The corner of Quinn’s mouth lifted. ‘’Tis the druggist’s own recipe. I checked the ingredients and it’s sound enough, but I did wonder how it would taste.’

 ‘Disgusting.’

‘Ah well, as the priests used to say, it seems it is always the unpalatable things that do us the most good and must be endured virtuously without complaint.’

Guinevere couldn’t help smiling at his ironic tone, though she grimaced again at the next sip. ‘My father was fervently against anything that made one uncomfortable and had no belief in virtue either, saying it was a scourge to unsettle one’s natural desires.’

Quinn took the empty cup from her hands and put it on the table before pulling a chair up and sitting beside the bed. ‘Did he now?’

Perhaps the illness was making her overly sensitive but Guinevere thought she detected a censorious undertone. ‘I don’t mean he wasn’t honourable,’ she said defensively. ‘He was the kindest, most generous of men but he just thought differently from most about actively seeking happiness and enjoyment of life.’

‘Mm.’

‘What do you mean by “mm”?’ Guinevere eyed Quinn. He’d ceased being a handsome interloper in her room and was back to being infuriating. His lips were folded into a flat line of disapproval.

‘Just seems to me ’tis easier to seek happiness and enjoyment when you don’t have to be spending time seeking food, warmth and safety instead.’

‘Well, of course.’

‘There’s no “of course” about it, where I come from.’

‘But that was not my father’s fault. Don’t make it seem as though it was. And don’t sit in judgment of him either when you never met him. Your life has had nothing to do with his.’

‘No, but I know his sort. If one is born into luxury, ten must be born into poverty to support it.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘No? Then just how many servants did you have, Lady Guinevere, to look after you and your father?’

Guinevere was outraged but also thrown. ‘I don’t know,’ she stammered. ‘I’ve never thought about it.’

‘No,’ he agreed. ‘I’m quite sure you haven’t.’

‘Don’t you use that tone on me. How dare you be so condescending.’

‘Don’t be absurd. How can a penniless Irishman condescend to an English lady?’

‘I don’t know but you do!’

For a second they glared at each other but to Guinevere’s surprise, Quinn was the first to break. A rueful smile tugged at his lips and this time it did soften that horrid coolness in his eyes.

‘A fine doctor I am, to be getting my patient’s temperature soaring again. Lady Guinevere, I apologise. I shouldn’t have said anything about your daddy.’

‘Thank you,’ she said gruffly. ‘He was a good man, you know.’

‘I’m sure he was.’

‘He supported lots of artists.’

‘Looked after artists, did he? Ah well, there you go then. And a very fine job he did of it too, I’m sure.’

Guinevere threw him a suspicious sideways glance but his expression was bland. Her eyes narrowed. ‘Mr O’Donnell,’ she began then paused.

‘Lady Guinevere?’ Again, his tone was politely neutral but she did not trust him at all. 

‘You’re laughing at me.’

‘Sure, now would I do that?’

‘Sure, yes you would.’

There was no denying the mischief in his eyes and he laughed. ‘I’m sorry, I truly am. I shouldn’t be teasing you.’

‘No you shouldn’t!’ But Guinevere could feel herself weakening and despite being still very ruffled, she couldn’t help smiling back. ‘You are quite insufferable, you know.’

‘So I’ve been told before – two nights ago, in fact.’

Guinevere laughed. ‘It seems such a long time ago now. I feel like I’ve known you for much longer.’

‘Do you?’ he asked, and as he smiled down into her eyes, there was something in his tone that suddenly made her feel shy. For a second their eyes locked and Guinevere’s heart skipped.

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Can you think of any stories where the woodcutter and princess do get to live happily ever after? Why does their love often seem doomed?

 

 

Megan’s Top 5 Romantic Heroes

If you could only choose five leading men who would you pick? It’s a hard decision! Here’s Megan’s (Reading in the Sunshine) favourite heroes  any of these guys on your list?

MeganMaverick  – Top Gun

So when I think of Top Gun I think of the awesome soundtrack, I think of the planes, even the aviators! But most of all I think of Maverick – cheeky, handsome Maverick who can make women everywhere swoon with just a wink and a smile! Is there anything more handsome than a man in uniform ladies?! And who doesn’t like the thought of Maverick riding to your house on a motorbike in his leather jacket to spend the night romancing you?

Mark Darcy – Bridget Jones

Mark Darcy is a definite romantic hero for me, and I’m sure for many others too! Lovely, lovely Mark Darcy, who folds his underpants and will even fight Daniel Cleaver to prove his love for his leading lady. But above all, I love Mark Darcy because even with Bridget’s big pants, and her embarrassing moments that let’s face it we all have from time to time, he loves her just the way she is!

Jack Dawson – Titanic

Jack Dawson is SUCH a romantic hero without even meaning to be! When he won the tickets to board the Titanic in a lucky poker game, who knew that he’d soon be meeting the LOVE OF HIS LIFE? Jack Dawson is everything you could want in a man – funny, exciting, full of life and daring to take risk after risk to be with his girl. And if that wasn’t enough to melt your heart, the lengths he goes to for his Rose will…“He saved me, in every way that a person can be saved.” SIGH.

Johnny Castle  – Dirty Dancing

Sometimes there is nothing better than a man who can move…and this is where the gorgeous Johnny comes in! I know that when we all watched Dirty Dancing for the first time we all secretly wanted to be Baby, having the opportunity to dance with Johnny, and be swept off of our feet into the lift!

Noah Calhoun  – The Notebook

I can’t talk about romantic heroes without talking about Noah Calhoun. The strength of his love for Allie is BEAUTIFUL , and Noah is the type of man who would do anything for his true love. Noah not only has the kindest heart in the world, but he built Allie the house of her dreams, he likes to go out on a rowing boat for a date and kiss in the rain….swoon!

Thanks so much for stopping by the Choc Lit blog, Megan :) We totally agree!

You can hear more from Megan on her blog and you can follow her on Twitter here.