Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Part One by Lynda Stacey

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Can you believe Choc Lit have been around for eight years? We’re finding it difficult to believe too! We thought long and hard about the best way to celebrate and decided that a story written collaboratively by our wonderful authors, competitions, prizes and a big slab of (virtual) chocolate cake were the way to go! So here we have Lynda Stacey starting us off with the first part of a special birthday Round Robin story. The other parts will follow on throughout the day, so make sure you keep an eye out! 

And if you read right until the end you might just find a competition to enter too! ;)  

The Birthday Surprise – Part One by Lynda Stacey

Anna sat on the edge of the bed in her dressing gown, tossed her long auburn hair over her shoulder and stared aimlessly at the gilt edged invitation. ‘I don’t get it, why on earth would Declan Doherty invite me to his party?’ She looked over her shoulder at her younger sister, Helen. She was leaning back against her pillows, with her leg in the air, while she painted her toe nails.

‘I don’t know, Anna. He’s probably desperate!’ She sat up higher against the pillows and straightened her leg. ‘Maybe he has no other friends. I mean, come on, how long is it since you saw him? Ten, twenty, thirty years?’ She smiled, pointed her toes and admired the nail polish.

Anna closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Helen was right, as always. The last time she’d seen Declan Doherty, had been at their high school prom. It had been a night of glitz, glamour and excitement, and a night of wearing the most beautiful dress she’d ever owned. It had been long, jade-green and off shoulder, and although she’d only been sixteen years old, she’d felt so very grown up and had beamed with pride when Declan had turned up at her door, ready to escort her to the ball.

She clearly remembered him standing before her in his dark suit, and white shirt. His bright blue eyes had sparkled with excitement, his dimpled cheeks had been tinged with a blush and his dark black hair had been slicked back, making him look much older than his years. He’d taken her hand in his and she’d barely been able to breathe, as they’d walked to the gate, where a taxi stood waiting.

It had been at that moment she’d thought to glance over her shoulder, at her mum, who’d waved from the doorstep with tears of joy in her eyes.

‘Fourteen years,’ Anna finally said as she stood up and flung open the wardrobe doors, ‘It’s been fourteen years. You’d have been just six years old. The same year that our mum died.’ She held back the tears and began flicking through her rail of dresses. ‘And for your information, clever clogs, I have no idea why he’d invite me, or what the hell I’m going to say to him.’ She tried to lighten the mood, ‘I mean, come on, what do you say to the birthday boy when you haven’t seen him for fourteen whole years?’

Helen laughed, ‘You could always reject the invitation. I mean, come on, he could be a real minger by now and you really don’t have to go, do you?’

Anna sighed. She knew that she didn’t have to go. But, something inside her wanted to. She wanted to know how he’d turned out. What he’d done with his life and how he looked. Was he still as cute as he had been? Would he still blush each and every time he looked at her?

‘Do you think he could be gay?’ Helen suddenly chipped in. ‘I mean, he could be, couldn’t he?’

Anna spun around on the spot, ‘Why on earth would you even think that?’

‘Well, he’s coming up to thirty. If he were straight and married, wouldn’t his wife be sending out the invites?’

Anna turned her attention back to the wardrobe and pulled out a black, chiffon, off shoulder dress. It was short, sexy and perfectly cut to show off her long legs and slim figure. ‘What do you think to this one?’ she asked, as Helen nodded.

‘Yeah, it’d do. But, I think the red one’s better,’ she said before turning her attention back to her toes.

Anna held the dress up to herself and stared at her reflection in the full length mirror. ‘I could wear it with the black stilettos.’ She once again she looked over her shoulder and stared at her sister, hoping for a reaction. An explosion of questions had suddenly flown into her mind.

‘Helen, what if he really is married. What if it’s a surprise party? What if his wife sent the invitation?’

Helen tutted and rolled her eyes, ‘Well, first, because it would say the word surprise on the invitation and secondly, think about it, why would his wife send you of all people an invitation?’

Anna flopped down on the bed, laughed and pulled her sister into a hug, ‘And, why little sister, are you always right?’

Helen squirmed, shrugged, and jumped up from the bed. ‘Well, maybe that’s because I took the trouble to look him up on social media. See, it says right there look, single.’ She began to giggle and held her mobile up in the air. But, Anna grabbed at the phone, to clearly see Declan Doherty’s profile, which now showed on the screen in front of her, minus a photograph.

Very intriguing start from Lynda – bet you can’t wait to find out more! And you don’t have to wait too much longer as Kathryn Freeman’s second instalment will be up in the next couple of hours! 

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     If you enjoyed Lynda’s writing, you might like to check out her upcoming paperback, House of Secrets. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning an exclusive advance copy of House of Secrets (well, it is our birthday after all!) and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What colour was the dress that Anna went to her Prom in?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Lynda Stacey comp’ by Tuesday 20th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 21st June.

What Would You Say to Your First Crush? : Can’t Buy Me Love by Jane Lovering

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It’s release day for the paperback edition of Can’t Buy Me Love so it’s only fitting we have the wonderfully funny Jane Lovering on the blog today! In Can’t Buy Me Love, Willow runs into her old university crush Luke – and can hardly believe her luck when, after years of looking straight past her, he finally notices her … and appears to like what he sees. But is it all that it seems?

You’ll have to read the book to find out but, in the meantime, Jane’s chatting about old crushes here today. Tell us about yours! 

Ah, those crushes we all had on the unattainable ‘gorgeous’ man … maybe at school?  Wasn’t there always a sixth-former that all the girls dribbled after? Or at University, like Willow, the heroine of Can’t Buy Me Love, who fancied the one man who always seemed to be utterly self-possessed, the only person who knew what was going on at all times, the centre of attention? Or maybe yours was even later, at work, that drop-dead handsome bloke who’d sometimes give you a cheeky wink and a smile, until you hoped it might turn into something more … then you found out he’d moved to the Manchester office and you’d never see him again?

We’ve all got them.  Men from the past that we dreamed would one day turn around and say ‘forget all these others, you are the one for me!’  Have you ever wondered how it would go if they turned up one day and actually did say that?  Would you still go weak at the knees?  (I suppose it depends on how much time has passed, if he’s now fat, bald, four times divorced and a dad of fifteen, you might not be quite so keen). Or would you tell them that they’d had their chance, you’re happy now and they’re ten years too late…?

Have you ever been tempted to look them up on Facebook?  Of course, we all know Facebook only shows the highly edited snapshots of someone’s life (#feelingblessed #makingmemories, why are there no Facebook hashtags for #feelingbloodyannoyed or #makingamessofdinnerasusual?), but there’s still that temptation to check up on old flames – or even flames that weren’t so much flames as ‘fire at a distance’ – to see whether their lives really did live up to their youthful promise.  Is he still as good looking?  Has he married a model, got two perfect children and moved to a thatched barn conversion in Devon?  Or do we secretly hope that he’s lost his hair and teeth, gained nine stone and has mostly been spending his time on a plastic chair at the local Job Centre?  That will teach him not to have noticed us …

So, would you?  If your old crush turned up, still looking pretty much the same and saying he remembered you and he’d always fancied you?  And, more importantly, would you ever ask him ‘why now?’

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Can’t Buy Me Love by Jane Lovering is now available to buy in paperback. Click the banner above for purchasing options.

For more information on Jane Lovering:
Follow her on Twitter: @janelovering
Like her on Facebook: Jane Lovering Author
Check out her blog: www.janelovering.co.uk 

A Tribute to Wuthering Heights: Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James

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This week has seen the release of Margaret James’s long-awaited new novel – Girl in Red Velvet. The book is set in the sixties and miles away from the Yorkshire moors, but today on the Choc Lit blog, Margaret is talking about its similarities to one of her favourite works of fiction – Wuthering Heights!

This month, I’m delighted to have a new novel published by Choc Lit and to be able to tell you how I came to write it.

I’ve always loved Wuthering Heights, which was one of my favourite books when I was a teenager, and which remained a favourite throughout my twenties, thirties, forties and beyond.

As I have grown older, I have come to admire the novel and its creator even more than I did when I was young, impressionable and often drawn to attractive bad boys like the dangerous and terrifying but (to a starry-eyed teenager, anyway) irresistible Heathcliff.

How did a motherless girl living in a remote village in 19th century Yorkshire come to understand the power of such a horrible man? Who did she meet that inspired the wayward but charismatic Catherine Earnshaw? Did Emily Brontë know a real Edgar Linton, a man who was fatally drawn to the volatile Catherine while knowing all along that she was completely wrong for him? It’s taken me nearly fifty years, but at last I’ve got round to writing my own take on this difficult situation in my fan fiction tribute to one of my favourite classic novelists.

The three main characters in Girl in Red Velvet are just as flawed as those in Wuthering Heights. But nobody lives on the Yorkshire moors. Nobody is as wicked as Heathcliff, as difficult to love as Catherine or as saintly as Edgar Linton. I have given the stories of all three of my central characters – Lily Denham, Harry Gale and Max Farley – what I hope is a resolution that’s satisfying for the reader and also for them.

But, at the same time, I’ve tried to keep it real. I’m not Lily, but she says and does things I and many other women have said and done. She makes mistakes, she takes wrong turnings and she chooses unwisely. When things go wrong for Lily, it’s often because she consciously made a bad decision and then found she had to live with it. But she also tries to do the right thing, even though this is often hard.

As for Max and Harry – unlike Heathcliff and Edgar Linton, who are implacable enemies, Max and Harry are best friends. Then Lily comes between them. It soon looks as if it’s going to be impossible for any of them to find their personal happy-ever-afters. But I’ve tried to suggest a few possibilities. I hope I leave everyone in the places they want and deserve to be – and the reader with a smile on her face!

C-VCiZFXoAIKeB1Girl in Red Velvet is now available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click the banner above for purchasing options.

For more information on Margaret James:
Follow her on Twitter: @majanovelist
Like her on Facebook: Margaret James Novelist
Check out her blog: www.margaretjamesblog.blogspot.co.uk

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – FINAL Part by Angela Britnell

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Well the Easter weekend is almost at an end – but we hope you enjoy your last day off from work and that you’re not feeling too sick from all the Easter eggs! And just as Easter weekends must draw to a close, so too must Easter Round Robins. But luckily for you, you still have the final part of the story by Angela Britnell left to enjoy – and a competition too! 

To enjoy this story, make sure you read the extracts in order:

Part One by Berni Stevens is HERE

Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is HERE

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

Part Four by Morton S. Gray is HERE

The Easter Bunny – Final Part by Angela Britnell

Tilly blinked and struggled to focus.

‘Are you all right?’ A pair of worried blue eyes stared down at her and things began to click into place.

A sparkly egg. A laughing boy. And a rabbit whose face oddly reminded her …

‘We banged heads and I’m afraid you got the worst of it. I wanted to call the doctor but your Aunt—’

‘Told him not to be silly.’ Aunt Elsie’s brusque assertion made Tilly smile.

‘She tried to convince me “magic” gardens cure concussion,’ Dan scoffed.

‘I doubt she phrased it quite that way.’ She tried to placate him. ‘Help me up and let’s get some tea.’

‘Tea!’ Dan’s voice rose. ‘We’ve got a lunatic rabbit. A maniacal dog. A damn Easter egg that I’ll swear is genuine Faberge. And let’s not forget a magical garden where things supposedly disappear and reappear at will.’

‘If you put it that way…’ If Tilly explained the whole story there went her chance with the first lovely man she’d come across in ages.

‘Look what’s in the egg Daddy!’ Josh grinned and brandished a tiny gold key.

Tilly scrambled to her feet and glared at her aunt. ‘Why did you give it to him?’

‘This is our only hope of finding Marvin.’ Elsie gave a triumphant smile.

Any second now Dan expected a man to jump out of the bushes brandishing a camera and saying this was a prank being filmed for a new TV show.

‘Josh, it’s late we need to go.’ He cleared his throat but the lump refused to go away as Tilly’s wide green-eyed gaze landed on him.

‘We can’t go! You told me there was one special prize and I’ve got it.’

Dan’s heart sunk. He’d stupidly read the small print at the bottom of the entry form to his son and Josh never forgot anything.

‘We’ve got to find what it opens, Daddy.’

He caught the two women exchanging secretive glances and Elsie nodded.

‘Stay here.’ Tilly ran towards the house and Dan sank into the nearest chair pulling a frowning Josh into his lap. You’re not the only one who doesn’t understand, Joshie.

Here she comes. Oh, no. If the boy opens that box I’m in trouble. No more Mrs. Marvin and the little Marvins.

Tilly set a small wood box on the ground. ‘Dan, will you put Josh down for a minute please and stand up?’ She linked her hands around the back of his neck and he startled as she brushed her lips over his mouth. A smile crept over his face and for a moment she forgot the Trecarne legend, their audience and everything except the zip of electricity tingling through her body.

‘Yuck, Daddy. Why is she kissing you?’

‘I don’t know but I hope she does it again.’ Dan’s whispered reply reverberated against her skin.

Tilly forced herself to ease away. ‘Now you can open the box, Josh.’ Her voice wobbled, certain they were doing the wrong thing.

‘Oh goodness, Tilly look!’ Elsie yelled. ‘It’s a sign from Marvin. He always loved the rabbits.’

She grabbed Zaph’s collar a second before it registered with her unruly dog that their friendly rabbit, its mate and four tiny baby rabbits stood in a line staring at them. ‘Don’t even think about it, Zaph.’

‘What’s going on?’ Dan asked.

No one kissed like Mrs. Marvin. Her warm soft nose nuzzling his neck made Marv happy. They could keep the Easter Bunny if he could keep Mrs. Marvin, Poppy, Moppy, Fluffy Tail and Paul, the naughtiest new addition to their growing family.

‘Come here, bunnies.’ Josh waved his hands and the key flew into the air before landing with a plop in the fountain.

‘I’ll find it.’ Dan lunged towards the water.

‘Leave it,’ Tilly pleaded.

‘But—’

‘She’s right.’ Elsie’s eyes glistened with unshed tears but her voice remained steady. ‘If Dan doesn’t mind I’ll take young Josh to see the maze.’

Tilly fell a little more in love with him when he didn’t question her aunt. ‘Don’t worry. It’s only three feet tall so we’ll easily spot them.’ They sat on the bench together and Tilly told him about the first Earl of Trecarne who fell in love with a Russian duchess already promised to another man. As a parting gift she gave him the Faberge egg containing a small gold key. ‘For it to work there first must be a kiss between two lovers.’ Her cheeks burned. ‘The key opens the box which then guides you to find what you’re looking for or the reverse whichever it believes you need most.’

‘Marvin?’

‘He wasn’t happy running this place and used to joke about using the key to disappear. I didn’t take him seriously.’

Dan’s eyebrows rose. ‘You don’t really believe …’ He gestured towards the rabbits hopping off into the distance.

Tilly shrugged. ‘Who am I to argue with history? It brought you here.’

‘We came for the egg hunt.’

Tilly couldn’t believe Dan had failed to notice the lack of any other families around today. Maybe because they’d held the official Trecarne egg hunt last week. She angled her face for another wonderful kiss mentally promising the Trecarne version of the Easter Bunny a big bag of carrots.

Wow! What a fabulous and romantic ending to our Easter tale. Somehow they always manage it, don’t they? Well done to our amazing (and ever-imaginative!) Choc Lit authors :)

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If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, you might like to check out her latest novella  – You’re the One That I Want. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What is inside the sparkly egg?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Angela Britnell comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part Four by Morton S Gray

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This year’s Easter Round Robin has certainly kept us guessing! Who knows where Morton S. Gray will take us this Easter Sunday? Let’s find out! Remember to read right until the end for a competition :)

To enjoy this story, make sure you read the extracts in order:

Part One by Berni Stevens is HERE

Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is HERE

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

The Easter Bunny – Part Four by Morton S. Gray

Dan felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Everything had gone very quiet. Too quiet. By rights, he should be able to hear Josh’s excited shouting and the blasted dog, Zaph’s barks, but in the shade of the trees all was completely silent.

Panic gripped his heart.

‘Josh. Josh, where are you? Josh?’

No reply, no sound at all.

Tilly hadn’t kidnapped his son, had she? Oh, help!

He began to move through the trees, scanning left and right, trying to fight down the blind panic and think clearly, trying to catch sight of his son, a blonde-haired woman and a dog. Nothing! How could they have just disappeared?

Unbelievably, ahead he could see a rabbit, sitting next to a sparkly egg. The rabbit made no attempt to run away, which in itself seemed very strange.

It couldn’t be the same rabbit they’d followed, could it?

Dan leaned down to pick up the egg, too late remembering Josh’s tale of rabbit poop.

He wiped the squiggly mass off his fingers on the grass and examined the egg. This wasn’t a crude wooden egg with a number on it, like the others. This looked expensive and could the sparkles be … no, don’t be silly, Dan … impossible. Why would anyone hide such an egg?

The rabbit began to bound off.

‘Hey, you, wait. What have you done with my son?’

He was talking to rabbits now?

Dan followed the rabbit, feeling very stupid, but not knowing what else to do. The trees were thinning ahead. Maybe the rabbit knew something he didn’t. Dan, you’ve gone mad!

Beyond the coppice was a flat lawn in front of a huge mansion. Dan breathed again, as he realised Josh was safe, playing with huge chess pieces on a part of the lawn that had been mown to resemble a chess board. The child didn’t look up.

Tilly, now minus her coat and wearing a blue dress was sitting on a bench next to an elderly woman who looked like a queen. Did she really have a daisy chain on her head?

The rabbit bounded over to the bench.

‘There he is,’ exclaimed the elderly woman.

‘Who?’ asked Tilly. Then, she broke into a broad grin when she caught sight of Dan emerging from the trees.

Dan wanted to shout at Josh for running off, at Tilly for not coming back with his son, but somehow the words stuck in his throat. Magic? They’d mentioned magic and he felt bewitched.

He walked over to the two women, as if he was on automatic pilot, and held out the jewelled egg on his palm.

‘I found this.’

The old lady giggled and took it from him. She nudged Tilly. ‘See, all we need now is a kiss.’

‘I really must apologise, Dan. We should have come straight back to you, but I found Aunt Elsie sitting out here and Josh got excited by the chess set. My aunt’s not supposed to be out on her own after a bad fall last year.’

‘Introduce me, girl and stop treating me like a ninny. I’m perfectly capable of sitting safely in my own garden.’ Even though she looked frail, her voice held authority, as if she was used to being obeyed.

Tilly sighed. ‘Dan meet Aunt Elsie.’

She watched Dan shake hands with her aunt. He had that glazed look that men got when they came into this part of the garden. Tilly had seen it before and could almost believe the tales of magic.

The rabbit was nibbling grass at their feet.

‘See, this is the egg.’ Elsie held it up in front of her eyes. The sunlight glinted off the jewels on its surface.

The rabbit stopped nibbling the grass and froze.

No, no. I don’t want to come back. I like my life. Don’t open the egg. No kisses, right. Stupid sparkly egg.

Suddenly, Tilly’s dog, Zaph ran barking out of the undergrowth at the far side of the garden. Josh yelled as the dog scattered the chess pieces he’d been arranging so carefully. As one, Tilly and Dan bent to scoop up the rabbit. Their heads collided. Dan saw stars. The last sound he heard was the old lady’s laughter.

Oooh, a fabulous penultimate part from Morton S Gray – but how can Angela Britnell possibly end this magical little story? You’ll find out tomorrow in the last part of our Easter Round Robin. Make sure you’re back here for the ending!

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If you enjoyed Morton’s writing, you might like to check out her debut novel  – The Girl on the Beach. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What is Josh doing when Dan finds him?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton Gray comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ FINAL PART BY ANGELA BRITNELL HERE

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

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Happy Easter Saturday all! We hope you’ve been enjoying our Easter Round Robin so far :) Kirsty Ferry is up today and we’re looking forward to seeing where she takes this rather surreal and magical story now. Remember to read right until the end for our daily Easter competition!

To enjoy this story, make sure you read the extracts in order:

Part One by Berni Stevens is HERE

Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is HERE

The Easter Bunny – Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

Tilly soon realised that Zaph wasn’t going to let her go in a different direction. She didn’t really want to stalk Dan (well, she did, but there were rules about that sort of thing) and after several moments of heaving and pulling a huge border collie who clearly enjoyed biscuits too much, Tilly gave in and let Zaph drag her in his wake. As soon as she slackened her grip, the dog raced after Josh until he boinged back on the extendable lead.

‘Daddy, look! The dog’s coming too!’ cried Josh. He stopped and grinned up at Tilly as she caught up. ‘Will he help us, do you think?’

‘Josh!’ Dan scolded. ‘I think – Tilly – is too busy to chat right now. She probably needs to go home or something.’

‘Oh! No – it’s fine,’ replied Tilly. She smiled suddenly. ‘I don’t have far to walk. I live in the big house, you see. This is Zaph’s garden. I think he’s excited to have so many people to play with.’

‘You live here?’ Dan stared at her. ‘Wow. Well, you must be busy, so—’

‘Do you own this house?’ Josh interrupted. ‘All of it?’

Tilly laughed and shook her head. ‘No. My cousin Marvin owns it, but we don’t quite know where he is at the minute.’ Her face shadowed. No need to burden the child with the tale: Marvin had disappeared last year and the police had reached a dead end. This crazy project was a last ditch attempt by her rather eccentric aunt to find her son.

It was Aunt Elsie, the dowager Lady of the House, who believed the most in the legends and the old magic that was supposed to breathe through the wooded glades of the ancestral home. Tilly had loved her childhood playmate, Marvin, and she missed him. She’d been the first of the family to volunteer to come and help when her Aunt had announced her intentions. Poor Aunt Elsie. People said she was soft in the head, but Tilly knew she truly believed the stories in the books in the library and the magic of the gardens would eventually lead her to find Marvin.

‘Oh,’ said Josh. Then he frowned. ‘I do wish Thumper was here.’

Zaph suddenly pulled so much, he yanked the leash out of Tilly’s hand and bounded over to a nearby coppice, woofing like there was no tomorrow, his leash trailing behind him.

‘Zaph!’ yelled Tilly. ‘Oh you stupid hound!’

‘No – he’s found the next egg!’ cried Josh. He broke away from Dan and pelted after the dog.

‘Josh!’ Dan yelled ‘Oh God help me!’ He took off after the boy, and Tilly had no choice but to run after them to try and retrieve her dog.

‘It’s here! It’s here!’  Josh shouted. He dipped down into some daffodils and pulled a blue egg out. He held it aloft triumphantly, then looked down. ‘Thumper! Thumper! I saw his tail!’ he shrieked.

The egg forgotten, Josh dived into the coppice and disappeared as the bushes closed behind him.

‘Josh!’ Dan yelled again. ‘I should just record my voice and play it on a sodding loop!’ He took off after his son and groaned inwardly as his muscles protested and his lungs complained. The coppice had to be uphill, didn’t it? Stupid coppice. Stupid egg hunt. Stupid damn rabbit!

Dan soon realised the woman – Tilly – was easily keeping pace with him. Her golden hair was flying behind her, her green eyes narrowed as she focussed on the coppice.

‘I saw the rabbit too. I saw the bushes move,’ she said. ‘That’ll be why Zaph’s gone after it. Damn dog.’

Dan stopped by a tree and leaned on it, doubling over. ‘Go!’ he said dramatically. ‘Go and get your damn dog, and my child and the damn and blasted rabbit. Good grief!’

‘I’ve got egg number five!’ came a reedy voice from the woods. ‘It’s covered in horrible sparkles though. Yeuch!’

Tilly stopped and turned to Dan, smiling. ‘I didn’t know they’d done a sparkly one. Maybe that was number six, and we’ve missed one. I must say, if that’s the case, it’s a new thing they’ve introduced this year. I remember my cousin had a real hatred of this sparkly Faberge egg my Aunt had locked away in her curiosity cabinet. He used to say—’

‘Thumper just pooped on the egg!’ yelled a delighted Josh. ‘He really did! And his poop looks like—’

‘Josh!’ bellowed Dan. He felt his cheeks flush scarlet and turned to Tilly. ‘I am so sorry.’

‘Do we need one of these?’ Tilly asked, grinning. She whipped a poop bag out of her pocket.

Dan just groaned and put his head in his hands, wishing himself a million miles away.

Stupid sparkly eggs. Since when has an Easter Egg been sparkly? Last time I saw a blinkin’ sparkly egg, I – well now. I can’t quite remember. What did I do? Still. It can take that. Sorry. But when a rabbit’s got to go, a rabbit’s got to go. It’s not even on the official trail, from what I know. Unless they hid seven eggs – like included a bonus egg. Oh heck – that dog’s back as well. Go away, hound! Away! Shoo! Stop sniffing around me – just stop it. Stop it. Just – oh heck. I’m off…

What a fabulous Easter treat! And it’s not over yet – Morton S Gray will delve further into this world of Easter bunnies and magic tomorrow just in time for your Easter Sunday. Make sure you check back then :)

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     If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, you might like to check out the latest novel in her ‘Rossetti Mysteries’ series – The Girl in the Photograph. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What is Tilly’s aunt called?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kirsty Ferry comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ PART FOUR BY MORTON S GRAY HERE

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

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Want to kick off your Easter weekend in the right way? Why not sit down (with an Easter egg or two) and read the second part of our Easter Round Robin by Rhoda Baxter. Yesterday Berni Stevens left us in a little bit of an awkward situation involving a dog and a (talking) bunny. Let’s see where Rhoda takes things!

Remember, if you read right until the end, you might find an Easter competition too ;)  

To enjoy this story, make sure you read Part One by Berni Stevens first HERE.

The Easter Bunny – Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Dan glared at her, and hitched Joshie up a little. ‘Aren’t you going to call it off?’ He nodded towards the dog.

‘All this fuss.’ The woman rolled her eyes. ‘Zaph, come here.’ She slapped her thigh. ‘Heel, boy.’

The dog stopped barking at the rabbit hole and looked reproachfully at her. It slunk back to her side.

‘Good boy.’ She started patting the pockets of the oversized coat she was wearing. ‘I had your lead here somewhere …’

Josh loosened his hold round Dan a little to peer at the dog. ‘It’s okay, Josh,’ said Dan quietly. ‘The dog’s stopped barking now, see.’

‘He scared the rabbit away.’

The woman pulled the lead out of one of the enormous pockets and knelt next to the dog. ‘Oh, they’re used to him. He always chases them, but never, ever catches one,’ she said as she attached the lead to the dog’s collar. ‘You’re not much of a rabbit catcher, are you boy?’ She scratched the dog behind the ears and gave him a kiss.

Dan felt an unexpected pang of envy. Absurd. Still, it had been a long time since anyone had ruffled his hair and kissed him with that much affection. ‘I think it’s safe to get down now, buddy,’ he said to Josh.

Tilly hid her embarrassment by burying her face in Zaph’s fur. She had completely forgotten about the Easter Egg hunt. To be honest, mostly, she forgot what day it was when she was in the library. If it wasn’t for having to take Zaph out a couple of times a day, she’d probably lose track of day and night too.

Just her luck that the first people she ran into were a handsome man and his cynophobic son. She looked at the boy, who was being deposited on the ground by his father. ‘I’m sorry if Zaph scared you,’ she said. ‘He runs around here every day. I forgot it was a public day today, otherwise I’d have had him on his lead.’

The man made a non-committal noise.

‘I’m Tilly, by the way.’ She held out her hand to the little boy first.

He looked surprised, but shook it. ‘I’m Josh. This is my daddy.’

Tilly stood up. Goodness, up close he really was something special. But a member of the public. She had be polite to members of the public. She was sure there had been a rule about that when she’d signed up to work on the project. ‘Pleased to meet you, Josh’s Daddy.’

‘Dan,’ he said. ‘I’m Dan.’ His hand was warm and firm when he shook hers. He had the most amazing blue eyes.

Mustn’t stare. Mustn’t stare. She turned her attention back to Josh. He had the same blue eyes, but it was easier to focus on him. ‘How’s your easter egg hunt going?’

He showed her the card. ‘I’ve found three already. The rabbit there was helping.’

‘Was he now?’ She pretended to look into the rabbit hole.

‘Ah. There was a rabbit we were following,’ said Dan, with a hint of embarrassment. ‘I’m sure it wasn’t the same one each time.’

‘It was Daddy, it was,’ said Josh. ‘He was leading me to the eggs.’

Tilly felt a stab of extra interest. ‘Really?’ Could it be …

‘My son has a very vivid imagination,’ said Dan. He took the boy’s hand. ‘Come on Josh.’

‘Actually,’ said Tilly. ‘There are those who say that these gardens are magical.’

The little boy’s face lit up. ‘Really? Why?’

‘Strange things happen, you know. Things that are lost for years suddenly turn up. Other things disappear.’ Like people. It had been a year to the day since Marv disappeared. That’s what she’d been thinking about when she let Zaph out of the private garden into the main one. That’s why she’d completely failed to register all the bunting that festooned the place. ‘I’m doing some research into the local legends,’ she added.

They walked along following Dan’s map, looking for the next egg.

Oh good, the mutt’s gone. Wonder if it’s safe to come out?

There they go. The woman’s got the dog on a lead. Why does that dog always chase me? It’s not like it’s short of rabbits in this place, but no, it’s always me. I don’t mind the woman though. There’s something about her that’s familiar. Reminds me of someone …

Curiouser and curiouser. Things are starting to get a little bit surreal in our Round Robin and we love it! Can’t wait to see where Kirsty Ferry takes it tomorrow :) Make sure you’re around to read the next part. 

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 If you enjoyed Rhoda’s writing, you might like to check out her latest award-nominated novel – Girl Having a Ball. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What colour are Dan’s eyes?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Rhoda Baxter comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ PART THREE BY KIRSTY FERRY HERE

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part One by Berni Stevens

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Easter is nearly upon us and we hope you’re stocked up on chocolate Easter eggs for the long weekend ahead! We felt you deserved one more little treat in addition to the chocolate – so here’s the first part of a special Easter Round Robin story for you to enjoy :) We have five authors taking part so make sure you come back every day until Monday to read each part of the story!

Today Berni Stevens is starting us off – and if you read right until the end, you might find an Easter competition too ;)  

The Easter Bunny – Part One by Berni Stevens

‘Look – it’s the Easter Bunny!’ Excited squeals followed the shouting.

Hey – do I look like the Easter Bunny to you? Yeah, I get it, I am a rabbit, but I’m nothing to do with Easter. I don’t even like chocolate … But I do like living here. It’s posh. Although it’s better when the place is closed to the public. Now the Easter holidays are here, it means kids – everywhere. And noise. I came outside to get some peace and quiet too. Fat chance.

The small boy edged closer to the rabbit who eyed him warily.

‘Do you know where the eggs are?’ he asked.

The rabbit twitched its nose.

Eggs. It’s always about the eggs. If you want to know where they are, it will cost you in carrots. I don’t come cheap.

A harassed-looking man with an unruly mop of brown hair and sparkly blue eyes grabbed the little boy’s hand before he could get any closer to the rabbit.

‘Leave him alone, Joshie,’ he said. ‘He’s wild.’

Wild? I’m furious. Why does everyone always think I know where the eggs are? Just ’cause I’m a rabbit. Actually I do know where they are, I watched the junior staff hide them this morning. But I’m not telling. Nope. Not. Telling.

The boy and the man walked away, the boy continually looking back over his shoulder at the rabbit.

‘Can I have a rabbit?’

‘We’ll see.’

Josh knew that usually meant no. He sighed.

‘That rabbit’s so pretty.’

Awww cute kid. Okay, I’ll give you a clue to the first egg …

‘He’s following us,’ Josh whispered, tugging on his father’s hand.

‘It’s probably a different rabbit,’ his father, Dan, replied with a smile. ‘There are loads around.’

Nevertheless Dan couldn’t help glancing back every now and again. It did look like the same rabbit following them. He wished he had a bell on a collar he could put around ‘their’ rabbit’s neck. Like that chocolate bunny off the TV. They’d be able to tell then.

‘Daddy, he’s gone,’ said Josh suddenly, sounding quite upset.

‘Gone to get some lunch I should think,’ said Dan, realising that food sounded like a great idea. ‘Are you hungry Josh?’

‘No. I want to find some eggs.’ Josh looked mutinous. ‘Six eggs.’

Six eggs. Dan frowned. Where was the Easter blooming Bunny when you needed him?

As if on cue, a little rabbit scuttled out from the undergrowth ahead, its white cotton-tail bobbing as it ran up the hill.

‘There he is Daddy. Quick!’

Josh started up the hill after the rabbit, with Dan following behind.

‘It might … be … a … different … rabbit,’ puffed Dan. He should probably get back to the gym sometime, he felt seriously unfit.

The rabbit sat underneath a huge, ancient oak tree, watching their progress up the hill. If Dan didn’t know better, he’d say it looked smug.

Josh reached the rabbit first. ‘Hello, Thumper.’

Actually, the name’s Marvin, but you’re a cute kid. Thumper’s fine.

Josh parted the bluebells growing around the foot of the oak tree.

‘Thumper says there’s an egg here,’ he said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Sure enough, after a few seconds, Josh swooped on a brightly coloured wooden egg with the number one painted on it in fluorescent yellow.

‘Here’s one!’

‘Well done Josh. Good work.’

Dan pulled out the Easter Egg Hunt leaflet, ticked the number one on it, and added the location. He watched Josh put the egg back carefully, his round cheeks flushed with excitement.

Who could have guessed how much he’d love hunting for eggs? Although he thought a certain brown rabbit could be most of the attraction.

The rabbit scampered off in another direction with Josh in hot pursuit. Dan did have very long legs, but Josh was only seven years old, and that had to be in his favour. He puffed after his son, feeling relieved when both rabbit and boy came to a halt near the aviary.

Dan’s heart rate had just returned to normal, when Josh held a wooden egg aloft in triumph. He ticked number two on their sheet and watched Josh replace the egg.

The rabbit stayed with them. Everything felt a little surreal.

‘Four more to find,’ announced Josh, eager to be on the move.

You gotta give the little guy kudos. Okay kid – third egg, then I must get back to the Missus. She worries. AAAAGH … DOG!

The rabbit suddenly dived down a burrow, seconds before a border collie skidded to a halt at the entrance. Josh shrieked in terror, and Dan scooped him up in case the dog was dangerous.

‘Zaph! Bad dog!’ A woman’s voice called.

Dan did a double take as the owner of the voice ran over to the dog. Wow. The vision appeared to be in her early thirties, with waist-length corn-coloured hair and eyes the colour of peeled grapes. But she should still be in control of her mutt, no matter how gorgeous she looked.

‘That dog should be on a lead, and muzzled.’ His voice sounded terse.

Muzzled?’ Angry green eyes sparked defiantly up at him. ‘Who died and made you the game-keeper?’

Brilliant start from Berni! And is it just us or is the rabbit stealing the show? ;) Rhoda Baxter will be providing us with Part Two tomorrow – don’t miss it!

9781781892619     If you enjoyed Berni’s writing, you might like to check out the latest novel in her ‘Immortals of London’ vampire series – Revenge is Sweet. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What name does Josh give to the rabbit?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Berni Stevens comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ PART TWO BY RHODA BAXTER HERE

Easter Round-Robin Romance – COMING SOON!

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Well, we weren’t going to let the Easter weekend go by without a Round Robin Romance! Come back next Thursday 13th April when we’ll be sharing the first extract of a five-part story written by some very talented Choc Lit authors. Berni Stevens will start us off, followed by Rhoda Baxter, Kirsty Ferry, Morton S Gray and, last but not least, Angela Britnell. We’ll be giving away books and Easter chocolate each day too!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Final Part of Choc Lit Mother’s Day Round Robin by Morton S. Gray

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A very happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there – we hope you are all thoroughly spoilt today, and that you have the chance to spoil your own mums too :) We’re sure your day will be full of treats but start off with this treat from Morton S. Gray – the final part of our Mother’s Day Round Robin. One final competition at the end too!

To enjoy this story make sure you read the other parts first:

Part One by Margaret James HERE 

Part Two by Jane Lovering HERE

Part Three by AnneMarie Brear HERE

Part Four by Kirsty Ferry HERE

FINAL PART BY MORTON S. GRAY

I found myself enveloped in Mike’s arms. He rubbed circles on my back and I could feel his warmth dissolving my misery and drying my tears.

Lucy and my mother were sitting next to each other on the settee, as I peered over his shoulder. They both looked contrite.

‘So, Lucy, what’s wrong with your car?’ Mike asked. I could tell he was deliberately changing the subject.

‘I don’t know really. It’s just making a strange noise.’

‘What sort of strange noise and can you tell where it’s coming from?’

My mother piped up. ‘It sounded like a steam engine when she arrived.’

‘Something vibrates underneath me.’

With a feather light kiss on my forehead, Mike released me and walked to the window. ‘It’s stopped raining. Let’s leave your mum and gran to open the chocolates and you can start your engine and let me listen to this noise.’

The door had hardly closed when mum rounded on me. ‘He’s nice. You want to hold onto that one. So, useful to have a man who’s handy. He can sort out my garden and I’m sure Lucy will come around. You’ve done your best for her. Don’t ever believe any different. I hope Mike’s good in bed too.’

It was all I could do not to spit out the mouthful of red wine I’d just sipped.

Mum and I went to stare out of the window.

‘I always regretted not finding someone else when your dad died, love. Life is much better shared … I wonder if Mike could recommend me to his dad?’

When I looked askance at her, she said, ‘I met John once. He’s a good-looking man, a waste single. He might like a companion for concerts, or … or bridge, perhaps.’ I could swear she was blushing and her face took on a faraway look as if she was imagining a cosy tête-à-tête with John Philips.

Lucy was behind her steering wheel revving the engine. Mike circled the car, occasionally yelling instructions to my daughter as he peered beneath the car.

She switched off the engine and jumped out, handing a duster to Mike. He launched himself to the ground and put his duster-clad hand under the car. I couldn’t see what was in his hand when he got up. They stood talking earnestly to each other for a few moments. I worried about what Lucy might be saying. Was she warning Mike off? Extolling the virtues of her father?

Lucy got back into her car and started the engine again. The noise appeared to have miraculously disappeared.

Lucy was laughing as she and Mike walked back towards the house.

‘What was it?’ I asked.

‘Just going to wash my hands,’ said Mike, as he disappeared upstairs to the bathroom.

Lucy was beaming. ‘Mike is Liam’s dad.’

‘Liam?’

‘The guy I’ve fancied for ages. Mike says he’ll invite him to have a drink with us at the pub later. The noise was a piece of metal stuck above the exhaust. Mike says it was vibrating and making that awful noise. So, nothing serious or expensive after all, thank goodness.’

She walked over and gave me a brief hug, which I took as an apology for her earlier behaviour. ‘Mike’s nice,’ she whispered.

Mike came back into the room and looked at each of us in turn, a surprised expression on his face. I realised we were all grinning at him.

I shook myself and got up. ‘Right, if Lucy’s car is fixed, I’ll serve lunch. Mike, would you help me in the kitchen?’

He followed me and after a glance into the other room to make sure my mother and Lucy were occupied, he said, ‘Well, how am I doing?’

‘Wonderfully. Although I think you’ve got the role of matchmaker later. Lucy’s after Liam and mum has her eye on your dad.’

Mike came and hugged me from behind, narrowly avoiding launching the steaming lamb joint which I’d just extracted from the oven to the tiles.

‘Hmm … might make for a very complicated family tree when you agree to marry me,’ he laughed.

Maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t that bad after all.

What a truly gorgeous ending! The Choc Lit authors do it every time. We hope you’ve enjoyed our 2017 Mother’s Day Round Robin. Let us know what you think in the comments :) Happy Mother’s Day all!

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If you enjoyed Morton’s writing, check out her debut release The Girl on the Beach which is available to purchase in eBook format from all platforms.

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What was the problem with Lucy’s car?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton Gray comp’ by Monday 27th March. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday 28th March.