The Art of Deception – a rom without the com

The location of Umbria in Italy, courtesy of Wikipedia

The location of Umbria in Italy, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Think pretty, resourceful young woman, frequently told by her bitter mother that the people responsible for her father’s death were the Castanien brothers, and you have Jenny  O’Connor.

Think tall, good-looking man with a sense of humour, in need of someone to teach Art classes throughout the summer at his house in Umbria, and you have Max Castanien.

Think what might happen if Italian-speaking Jenny, seeing Max’s advert for an Art teacher, decides to apply for the job, hoping that by getting to know him she’ll be able to learn why he and his brother behaved as badly towards her father as they did, and you have the background to The Art of Deception, a rom without the com.

 

Living and teaching in one of two houses on Max’s property, situated on the slopes leading away from Montefalco, looking across the plain to Bevagna, Jennifer finds herself drawn to Max, but she refuses to face this attraction. She’s only there, she repeatedly tells herself, to lead Max into explaining his past behaviour towards her father. That and nothing else!

As for the members of her Art class, all is not necessarily what it seems to be…

The Art of Deception

I go to Italy every year, to Umbria, the area in which I’ve set The Art of Deception. I always visit Bevagna and Montefalco when I’m there, so when I decided to write a novella for Choc Lit Lite, I instantly thought of setting it in that beautiful part of the world.

My research for the story was the most pleasant kind – wandering through the streets of two small towns that I love, seeing again the glorious views, revisiting their art galleries, museums and places of interest, sitting with a caffè in one of the little streets, watching the world go by. To lift the words of someone else, it doesn’t get much better than that!

But see for yourself how lovely Bevagna is…

 

A view of Bevagna from the other side of the river.

A view of Bevagna from the other side of the river.

Looking beneath a bridge into Bevagna. The ancient wash house is reflected in the water.

Looking beneath a bridge into Bevagna. The ancient wash house is reflected in the water.

A side street in Bevagna

A side street in Bevagna

 

A piazza in Bevagna

 

The Vale of Bevagna

The Vale of Bevagna

A little street leading up to the piazza in Montefalco

A little street leading up to the piazza in Montefalco

 

Ciao!

Publication Day! A Bargain Struck goes out into the world… by Liz Harris

A Bargain Struck

.. well, actually, it went out on kindle a short time ago, just before it was reviewed in the Daily Mail, no less, where it was described as  ‘a vivid portrayal of 1880s mid-West America (which) is another sure hit to add to the burgeoning canon of Choc Lit’s highly readable popular fiction’.

So why the theme – a mail order bride – and why the location – Wyoming 1887?

Not long after The Road Back had been published, I was driving along to meet a friend for lunch, thinking about what I would enjoy writing next, when I heard the words ‘mail order brides’ on the radio. This is a concept that I’ve always found really romantic, and I promptly focused on the programme. It was a report about what was happening in Russia today. Yes, I thought in excitement – that’s my story line!! But not in Russia – Russia’s too cold. By the time I reached my destination, the location of my story-to-be was Wyoming.

Wyoming

Location of Wyoming, the 44th State of the Union

 

And now the answer to ‘why Wyoming’. I knew that in the pioneering days of the American West it wasn’t uncommon for homesteaders and settlers in Wyoming and adjacent States to send for a mail order bride.

There was a man’s work and there was a woman’s work. Men worked on the homestead outside the house, rugged, gleaming and tanned – now stop that, Liz – providing food for the family and protecting them. Women worked in the house, looking after the children, sewing clothes, making preserves of the vegetables that they had tended in the vegetable garden, which was a part of a woman’s work, too.

A man, therefore, needed a wife.

Widower Conn Maguire was no exception. His eight-year old daughter, Bridget, was about to start school and he needed someone to help with the chores she’d been doing since her mother had died a year before. Enter Ellen O’Sullivan.

Widow Ellen O’Sullivan needed a home and a family, and quite by chance – these things do happen, you know – she read the advert placed in a Nebraskan newspaper by Conn Maguire.

Bingo! Conn had a wife. Ellen had husband. They could ride off into the sunset together.

But of course, they didn’t.

Meet Conn Maguire, Liz’s Hero of the Month

Thank Heavens for time travel!! If it hadn’t been for that special ability of mine, I would never have met Conn Maguire, and that doesn’t bear thinking about! But happily I was able to travel in time, and I did.

I took hold of the following photo of present day Wyoming,

Wyoming today

Wyoming, USA

stared hard at it, blinked three times, opened my eyes and found myself with my back to a fence, facing a wooden house.

I was clearly in front of someone’s home, but I hadn’t a clue whose home it was, nor where I was, nor in what year. There were sounds coming from one of the outbuildings behind the house so I headed in that direction. I reached the outbuilding and stepped out of the bright sunlight into the gloom of what was obviously the horses’ barn. The scent of manure and damp straw hit me hard, but I walked further in.

I passed the harness and equipment hanging just inside the entrance, paused and looked around. Is anyone there, I called. There was a sudden movement on the far side of the barn and I turned towards it as a man stepped out of the shadows and into a column of light. He turned and faced me, naked to the waist.

Wow! I inwardly exclaimed. Wow!

I was looking at six foot plus of the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen, and he was coming towards me. His fair hair had been streaked by the sun, and his eyes were of the deepest blue. With his every step, muscles rippled beneath lightly-tanned skin that glowed with the damp of exertion.

My knees felt weak. I smoothed down my hair and cleared my throat.

Me: You’ll think I’m crazy, me being here in your home when I don’t know who you are. Can I ask your name?

Him: It’s Connor Maguire, ma’am. But folks around here call me Conn.

Me: And can you tell me where I am, and what year this is?

Conn: You’re in Wyoming Territory, 1887. We’re in the south of the Territory. This is the homestead staked out by my ma and pa, rest their souls. You’ll have seen the creek out there – that’s Liberty Creek. You’ll find the town of Liberty an hour’s wagon ride to the north of us.

Me: You obviously don’t run a farm like this by yourself, or do you?

Conn: No, ma’am. My foreman, Aaron, works by my side. And I hire hands when I‘ve need of them.

Me: Just a foreman! You’ve no wife! That is, I mean to say, I expect your wife is a great help to you. I’m sorry – did I say something to upset you?

Conn: You couldn’t know that Alice, my wife, passed on a year ago. Bridget and I are still grievin’ for her, and we always will be.

Me: Bridget?

My daughter. She’s about to start school.

Me: How awful for her to lose her mother so young.

Conn: It sure was. She’s done her best to help me by doing the work her ma would have done, but she’s only eight… and soon she’s gonna be at school all day …

Me: I know enough about life in the late 1880s to know that there’s work that a man does and work that a woman does, and actually, as it so happens, I was thinking about getting a job. I’m a dab hand at growing potatoes, so if you need any help …

Conn: I’m mighty grateful to you, ma’am, but your offer’s come too late. My need for help became pressing, and I took action. I’ve just been checking the harness for the wagon horses, and I’ll be leaving for Baggs in the morning to get me a wife.

Me: I could be a dab hand at being a wife, too!

Conn: I’m guessin’ you could, ma’am, but I’ve made a bargain to wed a woman called Ellen O’Sullivan. She’s arriving in Baggs late tomorrow. From what’s she’s said in her letter to me, I reckon she’ll do well as a wife.

Me: But marrying someone you’ve never seen, isn’t that a bit risky?

Conn: I think not. I’m not looking for what I had with Alice – I know I’ll never have that again. Ellen O’Sullivan sounds an honourable woman and from what she’s told me in her letter, she knows how to run a home and what to expect from a man. She’s of child-bearing age, and I want a son. So no, I reckon she’ll do fine.

Me: But what about her appearance? You haven’t seen her. Doesn’t it matter what she looks like?

Conn: Nope. I hope she’s pleasing to the eye, but like I said, I’m not lookin’ to repeat what I had with Alice. Now if you’ll excuse me, ma’am, there’s things I need to do before the morning.

Me: Of course. Well, if things goes wrongOuch! Something’s blown into my eye.

I blinked three times to clear my eyes, and I opened them again. The speck of dust had gone, but so had Conn! I was back in my study, clutching the Wyoming photo in my hand. I want Conn, I wailed, and I stamped my foot. I don’t want to have to wait until September 2013, when A Bargain Struck comes out, to meet him again.  I want to know now what happens to him and his mail order bride. And Ive been blinking furiously ever since …

A Bargain Struck

A Bargain Struck

Goodbye, 2012

The Christmas Dinner is already becoming a distant memory. The tinsel is beginning to look a little sad around the edges, and the chocolates on the tree have all but vanished. The old year is passing, and a new year hovers in the days ahead, waiting to come in.

But the Choc Lit authors aren’t quite ready to welcome in the new year. Sitting back in their comfortable chairs, a box of chocolates on their lap, they’re looking back at 2012…

Kate Johnson, Christina Courtenay, Jane Lovering at the Presentation of the RoNAs.

Kate Johnson, Christina Courtenay, Jane Lovering at the Presentation of the RoNAs.

Christina with Sue Moorcroft at the Festival of Romance

Christina with Sue Moorcroft at the Festival of Romance

… starting with Christina Courtenay: Although I seem to have been working flat out, 2012 was a brilliant year in many ways and the highlights for me were winning the Best Historical Romantic Novel of the year award (RoNA) with Highland Storms in March and then the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in November with The Silent Touch of Shadows. In fact, Choc Lit had a fantastic year which is wonderful for all of us!

Christine Stovell at the wedding of her daughter

Christine Stovell at the wedding of her daughter

Chris Stovell: In the year of the most spectacular Olympics, my two favourite gold medal moments were my eldest daughter’s wedding day in September and the publication of my second, novel Move Over Darling in October.

Luke & Jake

Luke & Jake

Liz Harris: Looking back at the year, my professional highlight was launching The Road Back at Waterstones Oxford, in a room crowded with family and friends, and soon after that, seeing Evie Undercover come out on kindle. What a thrill!

My personal highlight of 2012 was at the wedding of my older son, Luke, in October, when in his thank you speech, he turned to pay tribute to his brother, Jake, his best man. Luke choked up with emotion and couldn’t carry on speaking. They both will have a best friend for the rest of their lives.

Margaret James: The awful summer weather made it easier to stay indoors and write lots of words, rather than sidle off down to the beach or lounge around in the back garden. The sun definitely shone on Choc Lit, though – what a fantastic haul of awards this year!

Sarah Tranter: strangest year ever and full of incredible highs and incredible lows. Not much ‘normality’ in between. The highs – such unbelievable highs – all associated with Choc Lit accepting NSTAI. The lows I won’t bore you with, other than to say that during the summer holidays I was forced to seriously consider the existence of voodoo. But … *clutching the wooden kitchen table* – the year should end on the verge of another incredible high. Thank you Choc Lit! NSTAI is officially published on 7 January :)

Amanda James (aka Mandy): I will always remember 2012, for that was the year that I signed my contract with Choc Lit! I can still feel the incredible excitement, not to say shock when I received the email form Lyn. I have met so many lovely people in the Choc Lit team and feel very lucky. I can hardly wait for next April when I can hold my book for the first time.

James, Sarah and Linda at Linda's launch

James, Sarah and Linda at Linda's launch

Linda Mitchelmore: For me, the most wonderful moment of 2012 was to see just how many friends and family turned up for the launch evening of TO TURN FULL CIRCLE. It had to be the wettest, wildest, June evening on record and yet more than 80 people turned up at The Torbay Bookshop in Paignton to support me. Still got the warm, fuzzy, feeling….:)

And a picture of my son, James, and my daughter, Sarah – my two finest ‘publications’ – looking so pleased for me.

Sue's puppy-in-law, Milo

Sue's puppy-in-law, Milo

Sue Moorcroft: Looking back at the last year, a few things jump out at me. One is how much I’ve enjoyed the company of friends – writing friends, gym bunny friends, new friends and old. Kind of linked to that, I stepped out of my own genre to go to a couple of interesting conferences, Alt Fiction and the Historical Novel Society Conference, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting writers of other genres. Here’s a pic of one of my new friends: my puppy-in-law, Milo.

Zana Bell: I kicked off 2012 with a beautiful ring and an unexpected proposal of marriage from my partner of 25 years! I’m a romance writer, I know my cue.
“Oh wow!” I replied. “I don’t know.”

“What? Are you going to turn me down now after all these years?”
What could I say? I accepted.

Later in the year, I was delighted to have my own proposal to Choc Lit accepted!

Beverley Eikli: Winning Choc-Lit’s ‘Search for An Australian Star’ competition brought me on board as the newest recruit and was a fabulous way to wrap up the year. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

Jane with her Comedy Award

Jane with her Comedy Award

Jane Lovering:What can I say about 2012 other than…fabulous! Winning Romantic Comedy of the Year and then overall Romantic Novel of the Year with Please Don’t Stop the Music, and the birth of my first grandchild have made it an unforgettable year all round. Although I am trying to forget the speech I made…

An Olympic summer

An Olympic summer

Kate Johnson: I could tell you all about my new book and my new niece, both of which were 2012 highlights for me, but I think whenever I see the date 2012 I’m going to think of that extraordinary, unexpected, glorious Olympian summer that seemed to have the whole country, especially sport-hating me, literally jumping for joy.

Margaret Kaine:2012 for me will be remembered as the year when despite the recession and floods, our country was uplifted and inspired. Who could forget the Queen’s Jubilee in the rain and the Olympics and Paralympics with their magnificent opening ceremonies.

Juliet Archer: Thoughts about 2012: A huge year for Choc Lit, and a big thank you to Lyn and team! On the personal front, mixed emotions at being ‘almost’ empty-nesters – our daughter has gone to live nearer her work in London, and our son spends half his time at college in the US.

evonne-being-congratulated-by-christina-courtenay

Evonne being congratulated by Christina Courtenay

Evonne Wareham: The highs for me for 2012 have to be holding my debut novel in my hand, then, a couple of months later, winning the Joan Hessayon award, and holding the RNA New Writers’ silver cup in my hand. A memorable year. Sadly, I have to give the cup back next May – but I have my fingers firmly crossed that I might be handing it on to another Choc-lit debut author. Wouldn’t that be nice?

'Up Close' in WH Smith's at Waterloo Station

'Up Close' in WH Smith's at Waterloo Station

Union Jack tea cosy

Union Jack tea cosy

Henriette Gyland: 2012 has been a year of contrasts for me. I’ve watched in mounting horror as atrocities have been committed in parts of the world, and seen people’s lives devastated by natural disasters and an economy in tatters – while I myself have been juggling two jobs besides writing. The awful summer didn’t help, and I wrecked my knee climbing a Welsh mountain. (Why did I climb it? Because it was there!).

On the other hand, seeing the nation pulling together around a jubilee, the spectacular Olympics and Paralympics, and the prospect of a royal baby has been incredibly life-affirming. Social events have cemented my friendships, my youngest child started high school, and my first novel Up Close was published this December.

Ben

Ben

Liv Thomas – one half of Isabella Connor: 2012 started with the event that would be the most significant in the whole year…it doesn’t seem any time at all since my daughter phoned me in a state of shock to say her pregnancy test had been positive. In the next couple of days, she’d done three more tests and visited the GP, so it was apparent that she was just a tad excited. Being in almost from the very beginning, I thought it would be a long year, but it actually went quite quickly, resulting in the birth of adorable Ben on his due date in October.

Any other time, the outstanding highlight would certainly have been the first email from Choc Lit saying they were interested in my co-written novel, and then the meeting with Lyn – frankly, it still seems very unreal. I’m sure CL will understand that it came a very creditable second.

Val Olteanu – the other half of Isabella Connor:

Darius and Ducks

Darius and Ducks

Darius as a puppy

Darius as a puppy

I’m sad to see 2012 go because it was a golden year for me. The year started with us moving from a cramped apartment into a house with a garden. Then an English Mastiff puppy, Darius, joined our family. Choc Lit signed up “Beneath an Irish Sky”, and I also took a break from work in the summer and had twelve glorious weeks in which to write. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

W is for Wyoming…

… and for me that means A Bargain Struck.

Last week on my personal blog, I showed you the fab cover for A Bargain Struck, to be published by Choc Lit in September 2013.

abs_thumbnail-copy

Several of you asked me last week to tell you a little bit about A Bargain Struck, so that’s what I’m going to do today.

The title is taken from the following sentence written by John Mack Faragher, in Men and Women on the Overland Trail, and this will give you a clue as to what it’s about.

In popular opinion a good marriage was a bargain struck between two strong-willed characters for an equitable and advantageous division of labour.

In Wyoming Territory, 1887, Connor Maguire, a widower with an eight year old daughter who is about to start school, needs someone to do the woman’s work on his homestead, and he advertises for a wife.

Ellen O’Sullivan, a widow living in Omaha, Nebraska, needs to feel part of a home and a family again, and she answers the advertisement.

Naturally, two people thinking of living together as man and wife would be honest and open about themselves in their initial exchange of letters so that there’d be no surprises when they met. Of course, they would.

Set beneath the sweeping wide skies of Wyoming, this is the story of a man and a woman who are brought together through need, not love.

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Introducing … Evie Undercover

Meet Evie Shaw, newest reporter on the gossip magazine Pure Dirt, star of …


Libel lawyer, Tom Hadleigh, must urgently visit the 14th century house he recently brought in Umbria, Italy. Alas, Tom has a little problem: he can’t speak a word of Italian; his Italian surveyor can’t speak a word of English, and his regular interpreter isn’t available to accompany him.

Enter auburn-haired Evie Shaw, ostensibly an agency temp, in reality the newest reporter on the gossip magazine Pure Dirt. Through the manipulation of her editor, Evie, fluent in Italian, is sent to work for Tom as an interpreter.

For Tom, his house will be his sole focus for their week in Italy. Unfortunately for Tom, Evie has a different focus – namely, the exposé she must write about Tom or lose her only offer of a magazine job after months of searching.

But the path for the investigative journalist is seldom smooth, and it certainly never is when the subject in hand is as drop-dead gorgeous as Tom.

Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of Todi

Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of Todi

This isn’t the first novel that I’ve set in Umbria, and I’m sure that it won’t be the last. I go regularly to the area and find it quite inspirational.  Some names may have changed, but Todi exists. A few years ago, a US magazine voted it to be the most perfectly placed medieval hilltop town in Italy, and it well deserves that accolade. Property that has a view of Todi is more expensive for that reason. In the area around Todi, there are a number of small Roman towns.  The fictional Massa Piccola is based on them.  Massa means mountain, and piccola means small.

Lovely though Umbria is, it is to Tuscany that the tourists flock. This means that Umbria is relatively unspoiled by tourism. You can wander through lovely medieval towns and not see a single café offering English Breakfasts or Fish ‘n Chips. It also means that a knowledge of English isn’t widespread, and anyone buying a house there would have to have help with the language if they didn’t speak it. Hence Tom’s need for Evie. But that is only the start of the story …

* * *

Evie Undercover is a rom com published by Choc Lit. It’s now available on kindle. Click here to be taken to Amazon, if you would like to read the first chapter of Evie’s story.

Publication Day – the end of the road. Or is it?

The Road Back is officially published today.

Today, therefore, is the end of the journey that began eleven months ago when Choc Lit told me that my novel was being accepted for publication. From that moment on, I and my novel have been eagerly waiting to reach our destination – Publication Day.

the-road-back-with-endorsement

But is this really the end of the journey? No, of course it isn’t. Quite the reverse. It’s the start of a very exciting new journey, a journey that will take the novel out into the world of readers where it’ll be bought ( I hope) and enjoyed (I fervently hope).

Today on Publication Day, I shall be making public the fact that I have a novel out in paperback, available for people to buy through Amazon and bookshops. I shall be doing this on twitter, on Facebook, on Radio Marlow at 11am, and on BBC Radio Oxford, at 2pm, when I shall be talking to Jo Thoenes.

Today also, I shall be getting things ready to help me say thank you at my book launch next week (Friday, 14th September, Waterstones Oxford, 6.30 to 8pm) to all of the people who have supported me throughout my writing journey. The Road Back and I haven’t got here alone. And tonight, when I raise a glass to Choc Lit, I shall also be raising a glass in gratitude to my family and friends.   Cheers, each and every one of you!

W is for (what else) WYOMING! By Liz Harris

Having very recently unpacked my suitcase on my return from the States, there is only one W that is on my mind, and that is  …… WYOMING.

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The Capitol Building in Cheyenne, a lovely town

The Capitol Building in Cheyenne, a lovely town

So, welcome to a few glimpses of Wyoming, known as the Equality State because it gave rights to women way ahead of the other states, and ahead of most places in the world (1st woman governor, 1st women jurors, 1st State Senator, and so on). Wyoming is the second least densely populated state in the USA (Alaska is the least densely populated), and it is, of course, at the heart of The Wild West.

It was a fantastic research trip/holiday.  I shall always remember the dramatic scenery I saw, the delightful people I met and the great excitement of discovering the elusive answers to questions that had been plaguing me about the life of homesteaders in Wyoming, 1887.

I took my camera with me (naturally), and although I recognise that I’m not a good photographer and that this was not a photographic outing, I thought I would share some moments of the trip with you. There were some lovely buildings.  There were some not so lovely buildings.

An outhouse

An outhouse

Fair enough. The outhouse, which dates from the late 1880s.  It would be used, then eventually filled in and moved to another location.  I’d always wondered how they dealt with such matters.

There is some really beautiful scenery

Driving from Baggs towards the small town of Savery, population 27, set in a lovely area that led up to the Sierra Madre.

Driving from Baggs towards the small town of Savery, population 27, set in a lovely area that led up to the Sierra Madre.

The State abounds with rivers edged with shining white pebbles of various sizes, a scene that I find really attractive.

The State abounds with rivers edged with shining white pebbles of various sizes, a scene that I find really attractive.

We saw row after row of glorious aspen trees as we left Savery and went towards the Sierra Madre.

We saw row after row of glorious aspen trees as we left Savery and went towards the Sierra Madre.

Yellowstone, most of which is in Wyoming, deserves a special space to itself. It isn’t an area to walk through unescorted, though, because of the prevalence of brears – grizzly, brown and black. There are Be Bear Aware signs everywhere.

A view of the Grand Teton Mountains from Jackson Lake, Yellowstone

A view of the Grand Teton Mountains from Jackson Lake, Yellowstone

Yes, Yellowstone again.

Yes, Yellowstone again.

The Grand Teton Mountains almost obscured by haze

The Grand Teton Mountains almost obscured by haze.

among the scenic views, there were different varieties of geysers.

I thought Castle Geyser, next to Old Faithful, more scenic than the better known Old Faithful

I thought Castle Geyser, next to Old Faithful, more scenic than the better known Old Faithful

And there is some not obviously beautiful scenery. Below is a typical vista of Wyoming. I find the aridity very attractive, but I recognise that it’s not to everyone’s taste.

The wide open spaces of Wyoming, and its big skies, were too much for my camera to capture.

The wide open spaces of Wyoming, and its big skies, were too much for my camera to capture.

And this is my husband, Richard

And this is my husband, Richard

All over the State, there were references to its Wild West heritage – in every street of every town, and in the markers and tracks across the State.

Old Trail Town, Cody, comprises houses & shops dating from the 1880s

Old Trail Town, Cody, comprises houses & shops dating from the 1880s

100 miles south of the railroad town, Rawlins, is Baggs, formerly a stage coach stop. My heroine did the Rawlins-Baggs trip by stagecoach; we did it by car.

100 miles south of the railroad town, Rawlins, is Baggs, formerly a stage coach stop. My heroine did the Rawlins-Baggs trip by stagecoach; we did it by car.

Not surprisingly, there were plenty of opportunities for exercise, most of which involved horses.

Getting on to the horse was the best thing of all, though.

Getting on to the horse was the best thing of all, though. We stayed on a working ranch at the foot of The Rockiesand had unlimited riding.

A typical sight

A typical sight

A ride on The Surrey with the Fringe on Top was a must

A ride on The Surrey with the Fringe on Top was a must

It was an amazing way to research a novel, and I feel very lucky to have been able to go and see where the characters in my novel lived their lives.  If anyone else is thinking of going to Wyoming, I’d say Go For It! You won’t rgret it.

Goodbye, Wyoming!

Goodbye, Wyoming!

Au revoir, real world …

This has been a weekend and a half. On Saturday evening, the choir with which my husband sings, the Benson Choral Society, put on one of its three annual concerts in Dorchester Abbey and, as always, the family came out in force to support him.

On Saturday evening, eight of us sat down to the main course, then dashed off to the Abbey for the (brilliant) concert, returning later for pudding, cheese and coffee. We all had breakfast the next morning, then two of the number left. Six of us sat down for Sunday lunch (the venison casserole I mentioned on twitter) and black cherries jubilee. At five o’clock, all of the guests left for London. At five thirty, my husband’s two friends from Cheshire arrived. We sat down to dinner at seven thirty (venison casserole again – on Saturday, I’d made enough for an army). At nine thirty, the friends left for Stansted, taking with them my husband. They’ve gone to Italy.

I staggered downstairs this morning to be greeted by a GINORMOUS pile of washing – bed linen for all the beds in the house, towels, napkins, shirts, you name it. Dealing with it will take a couple of days, if not more. It was a depressing sight as I have so much I want to do, and funnily enough, washing and ironing don’t figure on my wish-to-do list.

Then I opened my mail and my email. Katie Fforde had sent me the page with the Bookseller review of The Road Back; my copy of Romance Matters fell open at the page taken out by Choc Lit, congratulating Jane Lovering and Evonne Wareham for winning the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2012 and The Joan Hessayon Prize, respectively; my copy of The Silent Touch of Shadows, by Christina Courtenay, is at hand as I’m starting to read it today; my email brought details of The Festival of Romance 2012, which takes place in Bedford in November, and in which I and other Choc Lit authors are participating; the programme for the RNA Conference 2012 in Penrith is on my desk nearby.

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Mine is a world full of novels, both reading and writing them, and it’s a BRILLIANT world in which to live. As I sort out the piles of washing, I shall be counting myself lucky that I don’t live in Wyoming, 1887, and as I get down to the ironing, I shall be thinking about Ben Davies (I loved Please Don’t Stop the Music, Jane) and I’ll be wondering what I shall think of the hero I’m about to meet in the pages of The Silent Touch of Shadows.

You don’t need to win the lottery to be lifted out of the mundane into the sublime – all you need to do is to open the page of a good book. Or to find yourself in front of a computer, with the time to write one.

That’s my thought for the day. Plus the fact that I NEVER want to eat venison again!

Homeland: a good ending or bad?

A couple of weeks ago on my blog, I mentioned a play in which the ending had been disappointing, and I then went on to talk about a book where the ending had left me less than satisfied. Today I thought I’d put the spotlight on a TV programme – Homeland, which finished last Sunday.

On Monday morning, the twitterverse was alive with opinions about how satisfactory/unsatisfactory the ending had been. The impression I got was that the majority felt that the ending worked, although a vocal minority felt let down by its inconclusive nature.

Poster of Homeland, courtesy of Wikipedia

Poster of Homeland, courtesy of Wikipedia

The problem for the producers was that they had to leave a sufficient number of unanswered questions for there to be a sequel, and ideally a sequel with the same central characters. The potential profit from a second series was too great for them to let it all end in a single series, even though the Israeli series from which Homeland was taken was completed in one series.

I thought that the TV company got away with it. More than that, I thought they got away with it in style.  Amazingly, I found myself willing Brodie to go through with the mission to blow up the Vice President and the top people in the US government, who’d been so cleverly forced into a single room, but at the same time hoping that he wouldn’t blow them up as that would mean that he died, too, and I liked him.

It was a tribute to the quality of the acting and writing that I felt the two conflicting emotions at the same time.

A happy compromise was found – Brodie detonated the explosive vest, but the detonator didn’t go off. The daughter phoned and the moment passed. A second series could go ahead.

And what a basis from which to start the second series! Two central characters who engage our emotions, but in whom we can’t trust. Has Brodie been turned back into a goodie who’s going to double-cross Abu Nazir? Can we trust Carrie, in the grip of her bi-polar disorder, to see things as they really are? And what about the missing video that Brodie had made to be played after his death? Did he get it back from Walker after he’d killed him, or didn’t he? Did Walker take it, at all, or did someone else take it? Gripping stuff.

Damian Lewis & Clare Danes

Damian Lewis & Clare Danes

The end of the first series left us hanging and raised as many questions as it answered. I went along with that. Others didn’t, I know.

What about you? What did you think of the ending of Homeland?