The final part of our Easter Round Robin by Christina Courtenay

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We really hope you have enjoyed our Easter Round Robin. However, like the Easter weekend, it is now drawing to a close. So, if you still have space left for chocolate, grab what’s left of your Easter stash and find out who Grace chooses in Christina Courtenay’s extract … 

This is the final part of our Round Robin. If you need to catch up the links to the previous extracts are listed here: 

Part One by Jane Lovering

Part Two by Janet Gover

Part Three by Melanie Hudson

Part Four by Sally Malcolm

Grace stopped and turned. The sound of that voice had still made her heart skip a beat only a half an hour earlier, but strangely enough it didn’t now. She frowned and put a hand up to her chest to make absolutely sure. Nope, no fluttering whatsoever. Weird.

She watched as Mac came towards her, looking just a tad embarrassed. That was a turn up for the books too – Mac had always been Mr Confidence personified.

‘Yes?’ she said, wanting this conversation over with now. She was still smarting from his “sort of” comment earlier. How could he even think to describe their former relationship as “sort of” knowing her? That was seriously insulting. Anger she could have coped with – probably deserved – but indifference and lies? No.

‘Uhm, about that time at the hotel …’ Mac didn’t quite meet her eyes, but fiddled with his phone. ‘You, er … haven’t mentioned it to anyone else, have you? The handcuffs and stuff.’

‘No. Why would I?’ She’d been too ashamed of herself to tell anyone. How could she have left someone stuck like that without going back to help him? She’d regretted that rash decision too many times to count.

‘Oh, well good.’ He gave a forced laugh. ‘Seriously bad for my reputation, you know.’

‘Being found handcuffed to a bed? I would have thought that would only have enhanced it.’ All Grace’s friends had lusted after him too back then. They knew a bad boy when they saw one and such games would have been expected of him.

‘Not now.’ He scowled at her. ‘I’m a local councillor these days. Can’t have strange rumours flying about. That wouldn’t be good at all. Not that I’m into anything remotely kinky …’

Grace stared at him and realised that whether he was or not, the ‘bad boy’ had turned into a smarmy git, perfect for the local council. And he sure as hell wasn’t the lost love of her life. Nor was he as perfect as she’d remembered, despite his looks. It was all an act. How had she not seen that before?

‘Well, good luck with that,’ she said, relief bubbling up inside her that she could finally put the ghosts of the past to rest. ‘Rather you than me with the politics and stuff.’

She was just about to turn for her van again when Henry sauntered up behind Mac, grinning widely. It was clear he’d heard this conversation as well but this time she didn’t care.

‘You know what?’ Henry said, his blue eyes sparkling with amusement and something else … mischief? ‘I think the local council deserves to know about your wicked past, Mac. Someone should tell them. Unless …’

Mac’s scowl turned into a ferocious glare. ‘No, they don’t. And what do you mean, “unless”?’

‘Well, remember our conversation earlier? Now if you were to offer a part of this farm to the homeless people without them having to pay you a percentage of their produce, say, that would be a great thing for a local councillor to do, wouldn’t it? The kind of thing a decent guy did. One who owned several farms and businesses and could afford to offer help to those who have less.’ Henry glanced at Grace and winked.

She found herself responding with a smile, liking the way he’d grabbed this chance to turn the tables on Mac. Her former lover obviously deserved it. What kind of selfish bastard tried to make money out of homeless people? Jeez.

Mac spluttered a bit and tried to bluster his way out of giving in, but Henry just smiled until Mac finally snarled, ‘Okay, have it your way. I’ll have a contract drawn up and sent over by tomorrow. Now I have a business to run. Several in fact. And you …’ he pointed at Grace, ‘… get rid of the roaches. I don’t care what it takes.’

He left in his Land Rover with a distinctly exaggerated wheel spin.

Grace and Henry were left looking at each other.

‘So …’ she said.

‘Right,’ he said, at the same time. They both burst out laughing.

‘Sorry if I exploited your past,’ Henry added, glancing at her from under his eyelashes in a shy, but endearing way which made Grace’s insides feel all warm and fuzzy. She told herself to get a grip. Maybe she was hungrier than she’d thought? As if to confirm this, her tummy growled loudly again.

Henry laughed. ‘About The Green Teapot … I don’t suppose you fancy going there now for some brunch? Sounds like you need a bit of sustenance.’

Grace felt her cheeks heat up. ‘Sorry, my stomach has no manners.’ She gestured towards her messy hair and the PVC outfit she was still wearing. ‘But I’m not exactly dressed for eating in a posh tea shop. Maybe another time?’

‘Okay, no worries.’ Henry’s smile faded. ‘I know I’m not much of a date compared to Mr Local Councillor. I’ll see you around.’

He headed back towards the house, but Grace found herself running after him, grabbing his arm. ‘No, wait! I really did mean I’d like to go there with you another time. It wasn’t a polite brush-off, honest.’

‘Oh.’ The blue eyes regained their earlier sparkle. ‘Really?’

Grace nodded. ‘Really. It was just that I didn’t think you’d want to be seen anywhere with anyone who looked like this. Or smelled of non-eco-friendly chemicals.’ She smiled to show she was teasing him this time.

‘You look lovely. I’ll go anywhere with you, any time. And as for the chemicals, I could suggest a few “green” alternatives if you like?’

Grace only registered the first part of what he’d said. ‘I do? You … you would?’ The warm and fuzzy feeling returned with a vengeance, and her heart started beating furiously.

‘Yes, absolutely – PVC and all. But first, can I kiss you, please? Because I really don’t think I can wait another second.’

Grace didn’t have a problem with that and as she melted into Henry’s surprisingly strong arms she decided that those tweeting birds in the hedgerows had a point after all – spring was wonderful!

 Aww, we think Grace ended up with the right guy – don’t you? Let us know what you think! 

If you enjoyed Christina’s writing today, you can order a copy of her new paperback release, The Soft Whisper of Dreams, here. You can also follow Christina on Twitter here

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Happy Easter! Get ready for part four of our Easter Round Robin by Sally Malcolm …

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Happy Easter Sunday everyone! We hope that the Easter Bunny has been kind to you all :)  

Yesterday’s extract by Melanie Hudson took us in a slightly different direction than we expected. What twists and turns will Sally Malcolm have in store for us today? Let’s find out  … 

This is part FOUR of our Easter Round Robin. You can find part one HERE, part two HERE and part three HERE.

 

‘So, you’ve met before, then?’

It wasn’t until he spoke that Grace remembered the other guy was still in the room.  Staring through her unruly hair she saw an ordinary, scruffy-looking stranger holding a plate of limp cake.  ‘Um …’ she stammered, just as Mac said, ‘Sort of.’

Sort of?

Running a perfect hand through his hair Mac threw a quick glance at the door.  ‘Uh, sorry, I think I forgot something.’

The other man cocked an eyebrow.  ‘Your manners?’

‘Phone,’ Mac said, patting his pockets in a performance worthy of an Oscar.  ‘I’ll be right back.  Must have left it in the Land Rover.’

And then he was gone.  Grace thought she probably deserved that, given the way they’d parted.  Nonetheless she’d spent years, eight of them, dwelling on that perfect face and it was difficult to see him running for the hills at the very sight of her.  Not that she blamed him, but this wasn’t quite the reunion she’d imagined.  And she’d imagined it a lot.

The kitchen door closed with a bump, leaving her alone with the stranger.  It was difficult to know what to say to a man who’d just heard her apologise for leaving his friend cuffed to a hotel bed.  ‘Um …’ Grace shifted uncomfortably, braced for merciless teasing. ‘That probably sounded a little … odd.’

He just lifted his eyebrow again and said, ‘Yep, a little.’  It was rather an expressive eyebrow, she thought, especially combined with his twinkling blue eyes.  Not that she liked blue eyes; she preferred smouldering dark ones.  Like Mac’s.

‘I’m Henry,’ the stranger said and held out the plate.  ‘Cake?’

Surprised, Grace just waved her gloved hands at him and said, ‘I can’t really.’

‘Why? Don’t they come off?’

‘Of course they come off.  I was being polite.’

Amusement danced across his ordinary features.  ‘Polite about what?’

‘About not eating shop-bought cakes,’ she said, ‘since you ask.  They taste funny.  Too many additives.’

This time both his eyebrows shot up and his eyes were bright with laughter.  ‘Says the woman who makes a living out of industrial pesticide?’

‘Hey, I’m trying to kill the roaches,’ she said, in case he was stupid.  ‘I’d rather not do the same to myself.’  She took a closer look at the unappetising cake.  ‘Although, I suppose I could always try using this as an organic alternative.  It looks pretty lethal.’

‘Nothing organic about this, I’m afraid.’  Henry set the plate down on the table. ‘You know the best place around here for really good cake?  Its—’

‘The Green Teapot.’

‘You know it?’

Grace rolled her eyes.  ‘No, I just randomly made up the name.’

This time when he grinned it did something to his ordinary face that was quite extraordinary and it lit up like a summer morning.  ‘Funny,’ he said, levelling a finger at her. ‘You’re funny.’  Then he shook his head and looked away like he was embarrassed.

Grace wasn’t quite sure why but her stomach gave an unexpected flutter in response.  Maybe it was the effect of seeing Mac again?  Or maybe she shouldn’t have skipped breakfast.  Right on cue, her tummy growled.  ‘I should go,’ she said, pressing a hand to her stomach.  ‘My work here is done.’

‘Death and destruction delivered to all the innocent beasties?’

‘They’re pests.’

‘They’re still part of the ecosystem …’

She laughed.  ‘You’re not some kind of crazy eco-warrior, are you?’

The arch look he returned made her cheeks burn.

‘Oh,’ she said.  ‘Really?  Sorry.  I mean …’  She cleared her throat.  ‘Each to his own?’

Henry didn’t respond.  He was looking at her oddly, his head tilted to one side.  For some reason she noticed that his hair – an unremarkable shade of brown – fell in scruffy curls around his ears.  ‘Okay,’ he said, as if he’d made up his mind about her.  He nodded to himself.  ‘Okay.  Well …  it was interesting meeting you, Grace.’

Interesting?  She wasn’t sure she liked the sound of ‘interesting’ but she pulled off her protective gloves and held out her hand to show that there were no hard feelings, even if he was an eco-warrior.  ‘Interesting meeting you too, Henry.  And if you ever need any pests controlled, you’ll know who to call.’

‘Right, well maybe not that,’ he said with a smile, but he shook her hand anyway. His fingers felt warm and strong and just a little rough.  Not perfect, but – Grace couldn’t deny it – rather nice.

‘So I’ll go then,’ she said when their handshake had lasted a couple of beats longer than strictly necessary.

‘Yes.  Right.’  Henry dropped her hand like he’d just noticed he was still holding it and pushed his fingers through his hair instead, leaving it even more dishevelled.  ‘Bye then.’

Resisting the inexplicable urge to look over her shoulder as she left, Grace gathered her gear and headed for the door.  The harsh spring sunshine blinded her as she stepped outside and she almost didn’t notice Mac sitting inside his pristine Land Rover, tapping away on his phone.  She watched him for a moment, remembering that elegant profile, the fall of his dark hair, but he didn’t look up and she decided it was best to just leave.

She was already halfway to her battered van when someone came running up behind her.  ‘Grace?’ a voice called. ‘Hang on a second …’

Oooh, little bit of a cliffhanger there from Sally Malcolm! Who do we think Grace is going to end up with? Henry or Mac? We’ll find out tomorrow in the final part of our Round Robin by Christina Courtenay. Make sure you drop by the blog to read it!

If swashbuckling pirate tales are more your scene, check out Sally Malcolm’s debut Choc Lit novel, The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk, available now on Amazon Kindle. 

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Melanie Hudson joins in with the third part of our Easter Round Robin!

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When we left Grace yesterday, things were really getting interesting with a gorgeous mystery man from her past. Will we find out who he is today? Or is there a twist in the tale of this Round Robin? Sit back and enjoy some Easter chocolate whilst you find out. Melanie Hudson takes over!

This is part THREE of our Easter Round Robin. You can find part one HERE and part two HERE

Henry (Mac’s eco-warrior friend who was trying – and failing – to persuade Mac that his idea to offer a percentage of the farm to homeless people who would live in third-hand yurts and pay an exorbitant tithe to him might be a bit … exploitative) glanced at his friend and noticed he had suddenly developed a definite glimmer in his eye. Grace, meanwhile, had risen to her full height of five feet two inches – red-faced and in a cloud of chemicals – and was blabbering something about being a genuine rodent exterminator and not a mad stalker in rubber looking for a re-run of that one night in 2007 when they had wandered into Agent Provocateur.

It wasn’t too much of a leap, then, for Henry to jump to the natural conclusion that the two people standing in front of him had “a past”. This was a real shame because, from the moment Grace had banged her head on the Lazy Susan above the Aga and a pair of Mac’s half-dry designer underpants had fallen on her head, Henry had fallen madly in love – and it wasn’t just because of the rubber, either.

Henry decided to make the tea and listened in bemused silence to several minutes of the bizarre conversation that ping-ponged around the kitchen, including the initial pleasantry from Mac of, ‘Well, of all the women in the world I could have found crawling around on all fours on my kitchen floor in rubber, it had to be you’ – which Henry found a little harsh, especially as Grace wasn’t actually dressed in rubber, but PVC, which was, from a molecular point of view, a different thing altogether.

In the course of the conversation Henry also discovered that Grace had the adorable habit of gesticulating wildly with her arms (arms that remained clad wrist to armpit in PVC) and that she had also absolutely not meant to abandon Mac in that dodgy hotel in Brighton the year they had both flunked out of agricultural college, but had genuinely nipped out of the hotel room to buy a hacksaw, only to become engulfed in a mad panic that their relationship was getting out of hand. According to the rest of the long-winded and confusing narrative, she had hot-footed it out of B&Q there and then and hitched a lift back to Richmond, instead. And yes, she added, it was unfortunate that she had lost the key to the cuffs – and she seemed genuinely mortified at the revelation that the fire service had had to be called – but still, it was a long time ago and, more importantly, how was his dear mother – ‘Joan, is it?’ (it was Jean, and she was dead) and were the cockroaches only confined to the kitchen?

Henry was only half-listening after this point. He didn’t want to hear anything that might destroy the image of perfection he had attributed to the tiny, angelic soul that stood before him – albeit a murdering, chemical-wielding, non-eco-friendly angelic soul. Instead, he busied himself trying find his reading glasses (which he could have sworn were in one of his coat pockets – the damn waxed jacket had about twenty) so that he could read the sell-by date on the box of a Victoria sponge cake he had found at the back of Mac’s biscuit cupboard.

Just at the moment when the tea had been poured, the last trace of the chemical fog had finally dispersed out of the kitchen window and Grace had finished a sentence that began, ‘So anyway, if they’ve got into the cavity wall, you’re buggered,’ the three of them found themselves engulfed in something even more pungent than cockroach powder – awkward silence.

‘So,’ Henry began, handing out tea with one hand and a plate of perfectly divided Victoria sponge with the other, ‘you’ve met before, then?’

 Well, that was unexpected! What part will Henry play in the rest of the story? Sally Malcolm will reveal all tomorrow :)  

If you enjoyed Melanie Hudson’s writing today, you will definitely want to check out her novel, The Wedding Cake Tree, which will be out in paperback on 7th April. 

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Enjoy Good Friday and the second part of our Easter Round Robin!

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Happy Good Friday! We hope you enjoyed the first part of our Easter Round Robin by Jane Lovering (you can read it again HERE). Today, it’s Janet Gover’s turn. Has she helped Grace out of the very awkward situation she was in yesterday? 

Grace had to make a choice.

Should she stay in her hiding place and just hope HE left without seeing her? Then she could slink away and escape. Slink away – that sounded like a beaten dog. It felt like she was doing that far too often these days. That wasn’t an image she liked. Okay – next option.

She could reveal herself. She had every right to be here. In fact, someone had asked her to come and rescue them from their plague of Blatella Germanica. In her head, she saw herself leaping out from behind the fridge like some deranged rubber-clad superhero. It wasn’t a pretty sight. And when accompanied by eye-watering chemical smells … Definitely not the impression she wanted to make. There had to be another alternative.

‘Hello.’

Great. Caught cowering between the fridge and the Aga and surrounded by dead cockroaches. Was that worse than slinking out like a beaten dog? Probably.

There was nothing for it but to stand up. Except … She grunted with pain as her knees protested at the amount of time she’d spent crouched in her hiding place.

So she was now a grunting, rubber-clad, chemical-scented deranged superhero. Could things get any worse?

‘Can I help?’ A hand was extended towards her. She couldn’t help but notice the total lack of a ring on his third finger.

He’d always had beautiful hands. The sort of hands that could belong to a surgeon or a concert pianist. But those long slender fingers weren’t effeminate or delicate. They knew exactly what to do with a power tool … or the body of a girl who was naive and innocent.

It would be a sacrilege to put her chemical stained rubber glove into that beautiful hand – but she did it anyway. It was that or remain crouched behind the Aga until her knees seized permanently and they had to call in the fire brigade to extricate her.

He began to pull her upright with enough strength to compensate for her decidedly shaky knees.

The trousers above the ever-so-slightly mud-spattered Wellingtons were clean, with a razor sharp crease. The belt around the narrow hips looked expensive, with its understated shiny silver buckle. The shirt underneath what was obviously a tailor made jacket was pale pink, crisply ironed, and showed no sign of either mud or sweat. Who wore a pale pink shirt in a farmyard? And even more perplexing, how did anyone come out of a farmyard that clean?

The answer was simple. Someone who was perfect. Perfect in every way.

She raised her eyes to look at his face. Still drop-down-dead gorgeous. His dark hair was cut shorter than she remembered, and it looked like he hadn’t shaved that morning. The hint of stubble was terribly fashionable and suited him, damn it. His long straight nose was twitching slightly at the wave of cockroach killing fumes that had preceded her. His eyes were on her feet, slowly working up her rubber-clad form. At last they reached her face.

Grace braced herself. Maybe he wouldn’t recognise her. She was a very different woman to the girl she had once been. The girl he had known. Maybe she would escape after all.

A small frown creased his perfectly smooth forehead. He reached forward and carefully removed her baseball cap.

Waves of unruly, unwashed, unbrushed blonde hair cascaded down to her shoulders like the tangled string from an old mop.

His lovely dark brown eyes widened.

‘Oh my God! Grace?’

Who could this gorgeous stranger from Grace’s past be? Perhaps you’ll find out tomorrow ;)  

Janet Gover’s new book, The Wild One, is available to buy NOW on all the eBook platforms. You can follow Janet on Twitter here

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Happy Easter from Choc Lit (and welcome to the first part of our Round Robin)!

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Hello and welcome to the first part of our Easter Round Robin! Every day over the Easter break we will be posting an extract of a story written by a Choc Lit author, with the first part being today and the last part on Easter Monday. Make sure you come back to the blog daily to see what happens next. 

Kicking us off today is Jane Lovering with a very seasonal extract … which also involves cockroaches!  

Grace had never liked Spring. There was something about all the birds tweeting in the hedges, advertising their availability for a mate, that made her think about those internet dating sites she’d signed up to and totally failed to get anywhere with. She wondered if the sparrows ever had to suffer the birdie-equivalent of men who took you to dinner twice and then expected to move in, or vanished, never to be heard from again. Watching a particularly persistent blackbird, she had to conclude that, yes, they probably did.

Her friends were all terribly encouraging, of course.  “Give it another go,” they all said, from their cosy, settled places on the sofas next to their comfortable other halves. “There’s someone for everyone out there.” Grace pulled a wry face every time she heard that.  Maybe, then, she wasn’t “everyone”. Or maybe men didn’t find a woman who ran a pest-extermination business and spent most of her working days in waist-high waders carrying metal traps and enough lethal pharmaceuticals to eradicate a small country, to be possible dating material?

Grace started her van and began the long drive out to her latest call; a farm twenty miles away, which had apparently had an influx of cockroaches.

The farmer wasn’t in. This wasn’t completely unheard of, Grace had been to many call-outs in rural areas where she’d been left to get on with whatever the job in hand required without any input at all from anyone else, and no sign of another human being, apart from occasional glimpses of someone in overalls doing something determined with a grain silo on the other side of a yard.  So today was no different.  She pulled on her protective clothing, pushed open the unlocked farmhouse door, and began her usual assessment of the pest situation on her hands and knees around the kitchen.  She’d just got herself wedged into a promising corner between an Aga and a double-sized fridge, where several slower-moving than average cockroaches had become subjected to her Spring-fuelled wrath, when a door opened in another corner of the room and she heard several men come in.

‘I dunno, Mac,’ one was saying as booted feet walked past her.  ‘I’m not convinced.’

‘I’ve got to do something.’ Another voice, this one belonging to the full-length Wellingtons, lightly splattered with mud, that were standing just in front of Grace’s corner.  When she raised her eyes from the floor, she could see that these boots led to beige trousers and then on up to a jacket.  She couldn’t see higher up, but there was something about the voice that was horribly familiar.

Grace drew herself further back into her corner, barricading herself almost subconsciously from the speaker, with two bags of cockroach bait.  Surely it couldn’t be.  No.

‘The farm isn’t making any money.’  The voice spoke again, and this time … Grace felt herself going red and hot … there couldn’t be any doubt.  It was him.  HIM.  And here she was, crouched in a corner wearing neck to ankle rubber, and gloves that wouldn’t have been out of place on an episode of a vet programme, her blonde hair under a baseball cap and her hands full of chemicals. The world could, at least, have been kind and allowed her to meet HIM again when she was wearing a designer dress, Louboutins and knock ‘em dead perfume.

But no. The world, it appeared, was going to force Grace to confront the lost love of her life, whilst looking like an advert for kinky sex.

How is Grace going to manoeuvre herself out from this tight spot? Find out tomorrow when it will be Janet Gover taking over for the second part of our Round Robin :)  

Jane’s latest book, How I Wonder What You Are, is available in Kindle, Kobo, Google Play & iBook format. It will be published in paperback on May 7th. Click HERE for buying options.

You can follow Jane on Twitter HERE

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The Soft Whisper of Dreams: Getting away from it all

Christina Courtenay’s novel The Soft Whisper of Dreams (sequel to The Secret Kiss of Darkness) is now available in paperback. In this blog Christina talks stately homes and escaping to the country…

ChristinaCourtenayBooksAug12RD-e1382742229329The lovely Choc Lit team ran a competition last week where readers were asked ‘where is your favourite place to go to get away from it all and why?’

In The Soft Whisper of Dreams, the heroine Maddie travels to Devon to stay with friends, which sounds like a great way of getting away from all her worries.  For me this was sort of wish-fulfillment as well since Maddie’s friends live in what I can only describe as a stately home and that would be my idea of a perfect getaway location (at least for shorter holidays – for longer ones I’d go to Japan)!

There’s something very special about stately homes and I feel very lucky to live in a country where there are hundreds (if not thousands?) of them.  I can never enter one without starting to imagine scenarios from the past or daydream about owning such a house myself.  It’s like being inside a fairy tale – all I’m missing is the silk gown and Prince Charming.

Saltram House, Plymouth (Wikimedia Commons image)

Saltram House, Plymouth (Wikimedia Commons image)

The house in The Soft Whisper of Dreams (and the prequel The Secret Kiss of Darkness) was based on several visits I made to Saltram House, which is just outside Plymouth in Devon. I’m not sure why this house in particular caught my imagination, but it’s definitely my favourite one so far.  It’s very grand, but at the same time feels inviting and not overpowering somehow.  The rooms are big, but not too big, with magnificent plaster ceilings, huge windows and gorgeous furniture. And the very best one is the library – my dream room!  Lined with bookshelves full to bursting, comfortable chairs to sit and read in, plus several desks and a gaming table among other things, it’s the sort of room you just can’t resist.

Then all you need is the perfect hero – in this case Alex Marcombe, the archetypal ‘bad boy’ trying to reform himself. I think we’ve discussed ‘bad boys’ here before and I know some of you would find it hard to live with one, but to me that doesn’t spoil the attraction. There’s always the chance that you could be the one woman who can tame him and who can resist such a challenge? My heroine can’t anyway.

SWOD_hirespackshot RGB-150dpi copyFind out more about The Soft Whisper of Dreams:

Christina’s Twitter: @PiaCCourtenay

Christina’s Website: Christina Courtenay

Christina’s Facebook: Christina Courtenay Author Page

The Soft Whisper of Dreams is available from all good book retailers:

Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon AU  Amazon CA

Dressed to Kill – pirates, fashion and rebellion

Sally Malcolm’s Choc Lit debut, The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk, was released on Valentine’s Day. Here she talks a little bit about the background and research to the pirate theme of her new book …

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“I should like to meet a pirate,” says Elizabeth Swann at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean.  And who can argue with her? From Treasure Island to TV’s Black Sails, we have an enduring fascination with devil-may-care pirates.

But is the roguish buccaneer, thumbing his nose at society with a glint in his eye, just a Hollywood myth?  Real pirates, after all, were ruthless thieves and dangerous cutthroats.  You probably wouldn’t want to meet one.

Well, no. You might not want to meet one (he might not smell very good!) but if pirates had been no more than commonplace thieves I doubt we’d still be telling their stories. Yes, pirates were criminals and, yes, they were violent. But they represented something important that still resonates today.

From Elizabethan Sea Dogs to Caribbean Buccaneers, pirates threatened not only the wealth of the ruling classes but their authority.  Refusing to be bound by convention, pirates turned the social order on its head.  And this is never more apparent than in the clothes they wore.

The stereotype of the flamboyant pirate captain in his brocade coat, scarlet sash, and feathered hat is more than just a cliché.  In fact, it was a deliberate challenge to social convention.  As early as the 1300s, Sumptuary Laws were passed in England and France.  These laws dictated the clothing people were permitted to wear according to their rank.  Silk, velvet, brocade, taffeta and lace were all forbidden to commoners.  So was any fabric of scarlet, purple, gold or silver.  Gemstones and pearls, naturally, were also banned.  Such finery was reserved for the aristocracy; their clothing denoted their status.

So when a pirate ship took a prize, the crew often pilfered the fancy clothes from their victims and relished parading in the finery society forbade them to wear.  In fact one of the most notorious Buccaneers, ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, was named for the brightly coloured calico shirts he wore.

But, shocking as it was for low-born men to wear the colours and fabrics of the aristocracy, this was only a symbol of their rejection of society’s rules.  There were other, more significant instances.  Where else but in a pirate crew could seventeenth century women openly wear men’s clothes and be accepted as equals?  There is ample historical evidence that two famous female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Reid, not only dressed in men’s clothes but also fought alongside their crewmates in battle.  So highly respected were they that many of the crew deferred to them instead of their captain – ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham himself.

Pirates have always stood for social rebellion, but they were political rebels too.  The Articles of Agreement each pirate signed when joining a crew gave everyone a vote in electing their captain, provided for a fair share of prizes taken, established rules about the resolution of disputes, and even provided pensions for those injured in battle.  Compared to the feudal societies on land, pirate crews – and pirate colonies such as Libertalia in Madagascar, on which Ile Sainte Anne is loosely based – were some of the first experiments in creating communities in which their members had a say in how they were governed.

Living on the very edge of society, and on the very edge of the map, pirates could rewrite the rules by which they lived.  Yes, they were violent and dangerous, but their legends endure because their rebellion against a rigid and unfair society struck a chord that still reverberates in the twenty-first century.

There’s a little bit of pirate in most of us, after all.

9781781892176Find out more about The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk:

Sally’s Twitter: @Sally_Malcolm

Sally’s blog: My Scribblings

The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk is available on Kindle:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US 

Happy New Year and Happy Publication Day to Linda Mitchelmore!

The Christmas and New Year celebrations may be over but at least there’s still a year of Choc Lit novels ahead of you! Linda Mitchelmore is our first release of the year with Emma and Her Daughter (part three of her ‘Emma’ series) which is out TODAY! To celebrate, she talks new year’s resolutions on the Choc Lit corner  …

dscn03881It’s been a long, long time since I wrote a list of New Year Resolutions. I’ve been there, done that, failed miserably – were it a mark-able exercise I’d have got a D- every single time. Every January the first the list would be the same:-

  1. Lose weight
  2. Drink less wine (and everything else with an alcohol content)
  3. Exercise more
  4. Watch less TV
  5. Say ‘No!’ to things I really, really don’t want to do but which I feel I should
  6. Try a new experience – kayaking, Salsa dancing, playing chess – every month

Yawn, yawn, yawn. All very worthy but dull, dull, dull. When I became a writer there were other worthy things added to my list.

  1. Write 1000 (substitute number of choice) words every day
  2. Grow thicker skin to cope with rejection
  3. Send something out to a magazine/newspaper/agent/publisher every week
  4. Try writing in a genre that isn’t your preferred scenario

ARE YOU STILL AWAKE???? It’s all a bit mind-numbing, isn’t it? Doomed before we start. Why do we persevere? What’s the point? It’s like wearing sack cloth and ashes 24/7 and there are nicer things to wear than sacks.

If you’re going to make a list of resolutions you just know you’re unlikely to achieve then why not write something you KNOW you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving? You’ve already accepted failure, haven’t you? A bit of a spoof on it all. A little dalliance with fantasy. The list could go something like this:-

  1. Next time Liam Neeson (substitute celeb pash of choice) rings up and asks you over to his, telling you to bring nothing but your lovely self and a toothbrush, say ‘Yes!’ and go.
  2. Sell every single thing you own that’s portable and buy diamonds with the proceeds
  3. Wear nothing in bed/when gardening/to the supermarket but above diamonds
  4. Ring the BBC and tell them you’re offering them first refusal on the rights to make a mini series of your novel
  5. Ring the BBC again to thank them for their acceptance and say you will do the scriptwriting, or else!
  6. Get an alligator for a …

You get my drift. But hang on … do I feel a novel coming on? How many words

A day was it I said, I’d do? Bye for now. Toodlepip …

Emma and her Daughter by Linda Mitchelmore CMYKFind out more about Emma and her Daughter and Linda’s other novels:

Linda’s Facebook

Linda’s Twitter: @LindaMitchelmor

Linda’s blog: Linda Short Stories

Emma and Her Daughter is available on Kindle:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US 

Merry Christmas from the Choc Lit Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Wishing all the readers, reviewers, Tasting panel members and bloggers who have supported us this year a very Merry Christmas! We look forward to sharing our 2015 releases with you all soon :) In the meantime, here are some festive messages from some of the Choc Lit Santa clauses alongside a reminder of some of those beautiful 2014 covers …

Doctor January by Rhoda BaxterSanta - Rhoda BaxterRhoda Baxter:
“Have a wonderful Christmas with lots of chocolate. May 2015 be full of laughter and more chocolate.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell:
“Sending a virtual splash of Kiwi sunshine and ice cream Christmas pudding to all our readers.”

 

S&S_thumbnail 150 x 240

Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell:
“Merry Christmas from Nashville! I hope everyone’s Christmas stockings are full of great Choc-Lit books and plenty of good chocolate.”

Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne:
“Christmas, the perfect time to curl up with mulled wine and Choc Lit. Have a lovely Christmas everyone. I hope all your dreams and wishes come true.”


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase:
“Wishing you a warm, bright and merry Christmas, and a very happy new year.”

 

An Irish Promise

Liv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaIsabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. “Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2015.

 

Monsoon Mists

Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay:
God Jul – I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year!  Hope you have lots of time over the holidays to relax and read!”


Some Veil Did FallKirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry:
“Have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year. And eat lots of chocolate, obviously! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

Do Opposites Attract by Kathryn Freeman Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman:
“I hope Father Christmas brings all our lovely readers a sack full of books – and a stocking full of chocolate. Happy Christmas and very best wishes for 2015.”

Flight to Coorah Creek

Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope your Christmas is filled with the people you care most about. And that all the presents under your tree are book shaped (except for the ones that are the shape of chocolate or possibly Champagne.)”

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland:
God Jul og Godt Nytår, which is the traditional Christmas greeting in Denmark where I come from!

 


Liz Harris - Santa!A Western HeartLiz Harris:
Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson:

“Merry Christmas!”

 

 

Cross Stitch

Amanda James:Amanda James - Santa!
“Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year!  Here’s to a 2015 full of great stories.”

 

Follow Me Follow YouLaura E James - Santa!Laura E.James:
“Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015, filled with love, laughter and literature.”

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:
“A very happy Christmas to everyone. May magic often happen and 2015 be good to you all in every way.”


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson:
“The weather outside is frightful, but our books are so delightful! Here’s wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine:
“Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones, with lots of books under the tree and even some time to read one! Enjoy!”

 

How I Wonder What You Are

Jane Lovering - Santa!Jane Lovering:
So many books, so little time! Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas.”

 

Cora's Christmas KissAlison May - Santa!Alison May:
“Happy Christmas. I hope your festive season is filled with love, chocolate, books and merriment.”

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore:
“Wishing all my readers – past, present, and future – a wonderful Christmas. May there be love and warmth in your home, food on your table, a glass of something to lift the spirits, joy in your heart, and a quiet corner to sit and read a good novel.”

The Wedding Proposal

Sue Moorcroft - Santa!Sue Moorcroft:
“I hope that you have a joyful and peaceful Christmas … with time to read!”

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens:
“Wishing you all a magical Christmas and a wonderful 2015. Happy reading!”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell:
Nadolig Llawen!  Merry Christmas from west Wales!”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter:
“Have the most wonderful Xmas and may your 2015 be chock-a-full of happiness.”

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “2014 will always have happy memories as ‘the year I published my first novel’ thanks to the lovely Choc Lit readers’ panel who were kind enough to like it.  I hope that all you Choc Lit readers have had an equally brilliant year, that Santa brings you everything on your list and that you have a happy 2015 with LOTS of reading and LOTS of chocolate. X”

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham:
“I hope everyone manages to find some time over the holiday to curl up with a good book. Happy Christmas!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!