Beverley Eikli’s real-life inspiration

So what does running a luxury safari lodge in Botswana and operating the computer Beverley Eikli author pic RDequipment in the back of low-flying survey aircraft have to do with writing novels?

Well, that’s a very good question and at the time I was doing both those jobs, I certainly wasn’t aware of any connection.

However, when you’ve hitched your star to a pilot you’ve met on the other side of the world, the ride’s going to take you places where you have to adapt and seize the adventure on offer, or shrivel away from boredom or lack of usefulness. For me, that meant some unusual jobs in far flung places, working with some very unusual characters…. All filed away for future reference, or perhaps unconsciously finding their way into the stories I wrote in the evenings.

I was a journalist when I first took up a two-month relief management job in the Okavango Delta, so my love of words was already entrenched. My desire to write fiction, however, was still a frustrated one, with a number of dusty manuscripts lying about under beds or on floppy discs.

Grampa on his muleA year earlier I’d found my grandfather’s pictorial diary, so working in Botswana in the early 1990s was a case of the grand-daughter repeating history with a modern take. In 1916 Grampa had been a young district commissioner, surveying the tsetse fly belt in the Okavango – amongst other jobs – whereas by the time I arrived, tourism was one of Botswana’s biggest earners, together with diamonds. (Several years later I worked in Botswana’s high security diamond-mining town, Orapa, but that’s a story for another time.)

Now, newly arrived in the Okavango in Botswana’s lush north, I was in charge of a remote 16-bedded safari camp, accessible for half the year only by light aircraft due to the annual floods which attract vast herds of game from all over southern Africa.DSCN0056

Communications for both grampa and I were challenging, though I enjoyed better food, since my job was to ensure 5-star meals and accommodation for the high-paying, mostly overseas, visitors to the lodge. This I did with the aid of my dog-eared Women’s Weekly Cookbooks, ordering in the fresh ingredients and the meat – ie, the village cow, always delicately referred to as ‘Charlie’ over the two-way radio for the sake of those who might be listening in. Charlie would arrive in a large plastic bin, and generally not in the company of our guests on account of Charlie’s propensity for attracting swarms of frustrated flies.

I could write a book about this wonderful time in my life, the highlight of which was meeting my gorgeous Norwegian bush pilot who flew into camp and literally whisked me off my feet the night before I was due to fly home to Australia.

Instead, I’ll move onto the next unusual job I mentioned in my introduction: as an airborne geophysical survey operator.Bevie with microlight in Botswana

For while catering to the needs of the often rich and sometimes famous guests at Mombo Lodge furnished me with experience of a certain type of clientele, my job as a technician in a male-dominated field, working mostly at 250ft above ground on contracts in remote locations, supplied me with material of a very different sort that I consciously, and unconsciously weave into my novels.

Inspiration comes from unexpected places and the more I think about it, the more I can see that my boss on my first contract, and the man who trained me, was the main inspiration for the mother of my heroine, Adelaide, in my latest release, The Maid of Milan.

When the aforementioned handsome Norwegian bush pilot – now my husband, Eivind – started a year’s contract as a survey pilot in Namibia, I found myself based in Windhoek at a loose end. So when Simon the survey company’s chief technician recruited a lad he’d met in the bar for a job as an airborne geophysical survey operator (working the computer equipment in the back of low-flying aircraft) on the basis that the prospective candidate didn’t throw up on roller-coasters at the funfair, and that he was skinny, I put the case to Simon that I didn’t throw up on the roller coaster either, and that I was just as skinny, so as Simon was still looking for another technician, he need look no further.

Unfortunately Simon was not taken by the idea of hiring me. I didn’t have a technician’s background (though this lad didn’t, either) and there were few, if any, women working in this field at the time. However Simon was ultimately overruled by head office. Management liked the idea that as I weighed only 45kg, which was about half that of their other male technicians, more fuel could be uploaded for each 8+ hour sortie, thus saving the company many thousands of dollars over the year’s contract.

Simon was a loyal company man and having been overruled, he bore his cross bravely. Very like my heroine’s mother, he was determined that his protégé would be given the best training in order not to let management or the crew down.

In hot, humid and turbulent conditions, I could not have had a better motivation for learning how to trouble-shoot if the equipment was playing up, or how to dexterously bring in an oscillating ‘bird’ – the torpedo-like data-gathering equipment suspended below the aircraft. For Simon was a chain smoker, and with no air-conditioning or ventilation in the aircraft, and ash dropping over my hands and into the computer and the thick-pile orange carpeting as he showed me the ropes for eight hour stretches, I was determined to master my tasks and so be alone in the air without Simon and with only the pilot as soon as possible.Over wingtip - Erongo Mountains, Namibia

Simon was just one of the small and colourful crew I worked and lived with for that happy year. Sadly he succumbed to emphysema a few years after this contract but I always appreciated the fact that, like so many of the guys I worked with on these various contracts, even if he made no secret of his reservations in working with me on the basis that I was a woman with limited technical experience, those reservations became irrelevant and forgotten once I’d settled comfortably and successfully into the job.

I’m not a writer who purposefully bases a character on a person but it is interesting to realise that a real-life situation has sometimes had a strong influence, such as Simon’s motivations in getting me up to par, and his methods, which bore similarities to the noble motivations and strong-arm tactics of Mrs Henley, Adelaide’s mother in The Maid of Milan.

Mrs Henley is driven by a higher order to do right, though it goes against the grain. But she’s a woman with a higher calling and she will do her duty. Having been saddled with Adelaide, she goes about doggedly forging what she believes to be the right path for the girl. Her motivation is pure, her methods harsh, and the outcome …unexpected. Many readers see her as a villain but I actually sympathise with her.

And before I really do write an entire book on the serendipitous discovery of real-life characters I know and have worked with, having found their way into my fiction, I’d better stop right there.

The Maid of Milan has been described as a Regency-era ‘Dynasty’ with its love triangle, drug addiction and redemption themes.  It has a happy ending but it’s not so much a conventional romance as a psychological study of the insidious effects of guilt, the mental anguish associated with covering up the past; and discovering how far forgiveness and love can stretch when an entirely new reality is laid bare.MOM_hirespackshot small

Beverley’s latest Choc Lit release is The Maid of Milan, a Regency-era ‘Dynasty’ with its love triangle, drug addiction and manipulation themes.

You can visit her website at: www.beverleyeikli.com and her blog at: http//:www.beverleyeikli.blogspot.com.au or follow her on Twitter: @BeverleyOakley

The Maid of Milan is available in paperback and all major ebook platforms, including Kindle UK, Kindle US and Kindle AUS.

 

 

 

Long Live the Beta Male!

I recently posted a Tweet that went ‘My heroes are not muscular, ripped, Alpha Men. They’re just blokes who fall in love’, and it was suggested that I write this blog post to talk about why I write this kind of hero.  So I shall try my best to explain, without recourse to my not-so-secret crush on Tony Robinson…

I’ve never really been a woman for the thews and biceps, or for the kind of man who wants to ‘save’ a woman, and, for some reason, in Romance Hero Land, these two attributes tend to go together like hot porridge and treacle. In fact, dare I say it, if a big, burly man rode into my life and wanted to rescue me from ‘all this’, he’d find himself limping away solo, with his Stairmaster jammed somewhere uncomfortable.  I much prefer the kind of man who says ‘I can see you need a bit of saving.  Me too.  Shall we help each other along the way?’

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp

While I can suspend disbelief with the best of them (see above comment about Tony Robinson…) I can never quite manage to put myself in the place of the heroine being wooed by the Alpha Male.  Too many of them seem helpless, waiting for the obligatory Big Strong Man to solve their problems and ‘know best’.  And where does that leave the man who really hasn’t got a clue?  Who is floundering around in his life, just as the heroine is floundering in hers?  Men who admit to their vulnerability can be every bit as sexy as the man who has none, in fact their very sincerity and approachability is often what attracts the heroine in the first place.  So Long Live the Beta Male and his sensitivity, and you can keep your abs and pecs – I’ll settle for a relationship of equals every time!

Jane was born in Devon and now lives in Yorkshire. She has five children, four cats and two dogs! She works in a local school and also teaches creative writing. Jane is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has a first class honours degree in creative writing.

Jane writes romantic comedies which are often described  as ‘quirky’.

Her debut Please Don’t Stop the Music won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year and the Best Romantic Comedy Novel award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  

Jane with award copy

Round-Robin Valentine Romance

Happy Valentine’s Day from everyone at Choc Lit!

Five of our fabulous authors have put together a romantic tale – they’ve each contributed to give you one fabulous romance.

Collect all five questions (found at the end of each story section) and send your answers to info@choc-lit.com to be entered into our Valentine’s Day giveaway!

giveaway pic reduced

Part One by Janet Gover

The hearts were everywhere!

The instant Shelly stepped outside her front door, the whole world seemed to be thrusting hearts at her. Roses too. She just knew that she’d be surrounded by pink balloons on the train and forced to watch a procession of red bouquets delivered to work. To everyone but her. Her friends would gleefully display cards and expensive chocolates, proof of a lover’s devotion – or at least existence.

Was there a Valentine’s Day equivalent of ‘Bah Humbug’? If there was, it would be her mantra for the day.

To make matters worse, Shelly had to walk past the florist to get to the train station. For eleven months of the year, she enjoyed seeing his flowers. Sometimes the smell of his displays alone was enough to make her pause in her busy day. But in February, the shop was a mass of Valentine’s Day promotions all specifically designed to remind her she was ALONE.

She would ignore it.  Duck her head and walk past as quickly as she could.

The traffic lights conspired against her, and Shelly found herself waiting at the crossing staring at a sign urging passers-by to send flowers to the love of their life.

She was the love of no one’s life. She had been single for … well, longer than she cared to remember. Ever since … Shelly caught herself in a sigh. Go on, she told herself, be honest. You don’t date because you have found the love of your life. If only he knew it.

She could never tell him, of course. It wasn’t just the workplace thing. It was because she was just Shelly and he was … well … who he was.

Across the road, the florist opened his doors to catch the early morning trade. That’s when the craziest idea stopped Shelly in her tracks. Could she? Should she?

‘What would you think if a woman sent you flowers?’ she blurted out as she entered the shop. ‘If they were delivered to you at work. In front of everyone. Would you be embarrassed?’

He smiled, and his face glowed with good humour. ‘It depends who sent them. If they were from my mum, then yes. If it was you …’

But Shelly had stopped listening. If she didn’t do this now, she’d never do it. ‘What flowers should I send a man who …’ Her voice trailed off as she was overcome with her own fit of embarrassment.

‘Ah,’ the florist said in a gentle voice. ‘Unrequited love. I know it well.’ He turned away quickly to indicate a vast scarlet array on his shelves. ‘Well traditionally, it’s a red rose. Or more than one.’

She wasn’t sure. In fact, she was becoming less sure of this with every passing moment.

‘But, if you want something a bit, well, unique … how about this?’

He reached for a vase holding a single, long stemmed rose. It was creamy white with a faint hint of the palest pink. The petals looked like porcelain. In contrast to the overwhelming sea of red, it was pure and quite lovely.

‘It’s the Michelle Meilland rose,’ the florist said.

‘Oh,’ her heart fluttered. ‘My name is Michelle.’

He looked at her with a pair of sparkling green eyes. ‘In that case, it’s perfect.’

He was right. It was the perfect rose. Maybe, just maybe, it would change everything. She wrote the delivery details on a small white card and handed it to the florist.

His eyebrows rose as he read the name and address.  ‘Okay …’ he said in a slightly shocked voice. ‘I think I will have to deliver this one personally.’

 

Question:

What type of flower does the florist recommend to Shelly?

 Part Two by Kathryn Freeman

Ethan stared in horror at the name on the card and then cast his eyes back to her sweet face.  If that’s who her ideal man was, he had about as much hope of catching her attention as he did catching a ride to the moon.

She cleared her throat. ‘Isn’t this the part where I pay?’

He flushed. It seemed he couldn’t stop impressing her. First he’d blabbed a corny line about her sending him flowers. Now he’d been caught gawking. ‘Err, yes, sorry.’ Quickly he rang up the amount on the till.

As she handed over the money, their fingers briefly touched. His heart hammered and he felt a zing through every cell in his body.

She was looking at the rose.

‘So, umm, do you work there too?’ he asked, acutely aware this was it: his last chance to unleash his wit and charm, heck, at least to find some, before she tucked the change into her purse and he never saw her again. ‘Is that how you met him?’

‘Yes.’ Her curls bobbed around her face as she nodded.

‘I thought so.’ She stared at him questioningly. ‘Oh, I mean, I thought that was where you worked. I see you walking by here every morning, heading in that direction.’ Shut your flipping mouth, Ethan. Now she thinks you’re stalking her.

Thankfully she laughed. ‘Right.’ She was still staring, almost wistfully, at the rose. ‘I’ve never done this before. Do you really think he’ll like it?’

Ethan ran a finger over the soft petals and then looked into her equally soft blue eyes. ‘If he doesn’t, he’s a fool.’ Her eyes widened and her cheeks tinged with pink. He smiled. ‘You look even more like Michelle now.’ Her embarrassment turned to confusion and he couldn’t blame her. How on earth was he going to get out of this one without making a further twit of himself? ‘I mean, you look like the rose. You know, your cheeks are creamy white, but slightly pink …’ Oh God, kill him now.

But she didn’t look horrified, or laugh in his face. She grinned, and his heart danced. ‘I’ve never been told I look like a rose before. Even if it is because my cheeks go red.’

‘No, it’s not just that …’ He ground to a pathetic stop. He didn’t have the words, or the confidence, to say any more. Unlike the man on the card. ‘Well, thanks for coming in. I’ll make sure he gets Michelle this morning.’

As soon as the real Michelle closed the door behind her, Ethan thumped his fist on the bench. What a total muppet. How on earth was he ever going to get the girl, if he couldn’t string two coherent sentences together in her presence?

Sighing deeply, he set about wrapping up the Michelle Rose. Frankly, it didn’t matter that he couldn’t talk to her. Not now he knew who she’d set her heart on.

It just about summed up his life. He now had to deliver an expensive rose to a guy he hated. Worse, the rose he’d have to grit his teeth and politely hand over to the git wasn’t from a faceless passerby. Oh no, it was an expression of love from a girl he, Ethan the flower boy, had a desperate crush on.

Not a good start to the day then.

But on the plus side, at least he now knew her name and where she worked. If only he knew what to do with that.

 Question:

What’s the florist’s name? A) Ewan B) Ethan C) Evan

Part Three by Sue Moorcroft

Shelly used her pass to get into the huge glass and chrome building that housed Jake Starkey Holdings, tip-tapped her way over the black marble of the triple-height foyer and over to the staff lift.

As she pressed the button and waited for the doors to open, she gazed across at the sparkling glass tube that whizzed the executive lift up to the top floor, Jake Starkey’s domain. Jake Starkey who stalked through the building every day at the head of his retinue, dark eyes flashing, stubble hollowing his cheeks. And never looked Shelly’s way.

She’d never been invited up to the top floor but she’d heard about the suite of offices and the roof garden that led directly from Jake Starkey’s lair. According to rumour, he wasn’t always the calm and detached figure who strode into the building every day. Sometimes he burst out of his office and slammed the door behind him to pace the paving of the roof garden, pausing to stroke a petal or tweak off a dying leaf. When, a few minutes later, he returned to whatever meeting he’d abandoned, serenity would return with him and he would deal with the day’s frustrations.

The man liked flowers.

Shelly tapped her toes and tried to reassure herself that she’d done the right thing. He was used to women throwing themselves at him but her approach was subtle and intelligent. He would touch the waxy petals of the rose and wonder about the woman who had sent it, his interest piqued.

And then … Her daydream juddered to a halt. And then what? What then, Shelly? Just how did she propose to get herself up onto the hallowed top floor, into Mr Jake Starkey’s very own office, so that she could casually notice the perfection of the single cream rose and say, ‘Oh! A Michelle Meilland, I think? Fantastic, isn’t it?’ How could he be bowled over that she shared his botanical leanings and by the extraordinary breadth of her knowledge if she was locked away, as usual, in her little cubicle on floor 3?

She would find a way.

Even as the lift doors opened she whirled away, dashing back across the foyer, aware of co-workers jumping aside and raising their eyebrows at her flight. She skidded through the automatic doors and back along to the station, fairly dancing with impatience on the platform until the huge ungainly commuter train hissed to a halt. Clenching her fists through the ten minute journey, bouncing down onto the platform and running back through the barriers, she arrived back at the florist’s shop like a gust of wind, hair coming loose and streaming over her shoulder.

The man behind the counter stared as she slid to a halt.

‘When will it be delivered?’ she gasped. ‘The rose, the Michelle Meilland I paid for earlier and arranged for it to be delivered to—’

‘Yes, I remember.’ But he still looked at her as if she’d turned into an alien in the last half hour. ‘I suppose it would be about eleven o’clock.’

‘Perfect!’ She could have kissed him. Except she couldn’t, obviously, because he wasn’t the right man. But otherwise she might have done. ‘I’ll be waiting for whoever delivers it down in the foyer at eleven o’clock.’

His eyes narrowed. ‘It’ll be me who delivers it. Why do you want to meet?’

She felt a triumphant smile burn across her face. ‘Because when you’re shown up to his office – I’m going up with you.’

 

Question:

On what floor is Jake Starkey’s office?

Part Four by Evonne Wareham

Ten to eleven.

Ethan hurried towards the building, resisting the urge to yank at the tie he’d put on to make the delivery. His sister, Sandra, had laughed when she’d seen him but as she’d agreed to mind the shop while he was gone, she was allowed.

Shelly was waiting in the foyer, apprehension and excitement clear in the tense lines of her body.  Ethan wanted to shout: ‘He’s not worth it!’ Instead he let her whisk him through the entrance procedure with what he hoped was a convincing smile.
A security guard hurried to intercept them as Ethan clipped his visitor’s pass to his jacket. ‘Miss James, you need to get up to the conference room on level 3, now. Mr Starkey is meeting your department there.’ The guard grinned, winking at Shelly. ‘Take your young man with you. He can wait with the receptionist. You can thank him properly for the Valentine after.’

Ethan had no time to explain that he was the delivery guy, not the boyfriend. Shelly was towing him towards the lift. The warmth of her hand, closed around his, drove out every other thought.

‘We don’t need to wangle our way into Mr Starkey’s office.’ Her voice trembled with anticipation as they hurtled upwards. ‘It must be fate.’

The lift doors opened. Two men stood in the otherwise deserted reception area. As Shelly and Ethan stepped out of the lift, one of the men stormed towards it, yelling over his shoulder. ‘Tell the staff yourself, Starkey. I’m not doing it!’

Jake Starkey shrugged and shouldered his way into the conference room. Shelly and Ethan exchanged a confused glance and slid in behind him.

The speech was short.

‘This department is terminated, as of today.’ Starkey looked at his watch. ‘Redundancy and notice payments were transferred to your bank accounts five minutes ago.’

The door banged behind him, leaving a stunned silence.

Twenty seconds to fire forty people.

Men in dark suits shepherded them to the main office. Each desk had an empty box and a brown envelope.

Combative, angry words whirled around – tribunal, legal proceedings. Ethan hoped, fiercely, that these people could challenge Jake Starkey for what he’d just done, but right now he was more concerned with the stricken look on Shelly’s face as she slumped in her chair. Jake Starkey was the most arrogant, egotistical … Ethan took a deep breath. Shouting names inside his head wouldn’t help Shelly. He pointed to the box. Shelly bit her lip.

‘Could you …?’

It didn’t take long to identify and pack Shelly’s possessions. Ethan dropped the rose on top.

They joined the queue of staff, tramping down the back stairs to a side door and a line of waiting taxis. Ethan helped Shelly into one, prompted her to give the driver her address and settled the box beside her. Her head jerked when she saw the rose. ‘Take it away, please. I don’t want it.’ He snatched it up as the taxi revved impatiently. Backing away, he slammed the door.

His last sight was her pale face, paler than the rose in his hand, staring back at him through the window, as the cab pulled away.

Ethan looked down at the bouquet he’d just made up – a dozen perfect yellow roses – friendship, concern, care.

‘Sandra – can you drop this one off on your way home?’  He scribbled down the address he’d recited to himself, over and over, all the way back from this morning’s disaster.

‘Of course.’ Sandra took the carefully wrapped package. ‘They’re lovely, more original than the red ones.’

Ethan nodded, unable to say any more as Sandra bustled around, collecting her coat and bag. At last the shop door clattered closed behind her.

‘And that may have been the stupidest thing you ever did. The last thing she’s going to want is a reminder of today – or you.’ He looked over at the white Michelle rose, standing in a tall vase on the counter. Its head had drooped, so that it was almost touching its stem. He knew exactly how it felt.

But he still couldn’t give up on a tiny glimmer of hope.

Question:  

Ethan makes up a new bouquet towards the end of part four. What colour roses does he choose?

Part Five by Isabella Connor 

In the kitchen, slumped over a mug of coffee, Shelly thought of roses and redundancies, of her lost job and her lost love.

Get a grip, she told herself. Jake Starkey had never been her love. Just an illusion. He didn’t deserve her devotion.

She looked at the bouquet on the counter, next to the empty bottle of Chardonnay. She’d found the flowers outside her door, after she’d ignored four long rings at the doorbell. They were the reason she’d drunk herself into oblivion last night, embarrassed that her mother had sent roses in an attempt to brighten up her Valentine’s Day.

‘Things might get better,’ Jan had clucked on the phone, probably tapping the side of her nose at the same time.

Nice idea, Mum, but it hadn’t made her feel better. Just reminded her she was a failure at relationships.

Jake Starkey had been the focus of her attention for the last four months. The hope, the dreams, the fantasies – they’d kept her going through a long cold winter. She’d not make that mistake again. No more unrequited love …

Unrequited love. She’d heard those words yesterday in the flower shop. The florist – Ethan – had seemed to guess by magic her sad situation. He hadn’t made her feel pathetic, though. Not then, nor after Jake had dropped his bombshell, reducing her daydreams to dust. Ethan had packed up her things and got her safely into a cab, staring through the glass, looking concerned. He had nice green eyes. And a head full of dark curls … You look like the rose …

She hadn’t even thanked him for being so nice.  Well, she’d set that right as soon as she’d showered, and put some make-up on. Now, where had she put that pink pashmina …

 

Shelly entered the flower shop but there was an unknown woman behind the counter.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I was looking for … but he’s not …’ Shelly’s voice trailed off.

‘Ethan’s making a delivery. He’ll be back soon. Can I give him a message?’

‘No, it’s okay.’ About to leave, Shelly caught sight of the white rose in a vase on the counter.  She remembered hissing at Ethan to take it away… ‘Could you tell him thanks for helping me out yesterday. I had a bit of a crisis.’

‘Are you Shelly?’

God, Ethan must have told her about yesterday’s fiasco.

‘I’m so sorry about what happened. Ethan was gutted. He used to work for Jake Starkey. Five years ago. He was made redundant too. That’s when he set up this shop. Decided to be his own boss.’

‘I see.’ It must have been hard for him to be reminded of all that, yet he’d seemed more concerned about how Shelly felt.

‘Did you like the flowers?’

‘Flowers?’

‘The yellow roses. Ethan chose them specially. I tried to deliver them, but you weren’t at home.’

Roses … chosen specially for her … roses on Valentine’s Day …

‘Ethan will kill me for saying this, but I’m his big sister, so I’m allowed – he thinks you’re gorgeous.’

Gorgeous. Shelly was blushing, probably a deeper pink than her scarf. But the woman was smiling which gave her confidence. And a mad kind of courage.

‘I’d like to buy some flowers.’

*

Ethan trudged into the shop. His heart just wasn’t in it today. Thank God Sandra was there. She gave him a big smile. Probably a pity smile.

‘Any customers?’ he asked.

‘One. She bought something. For you.’

Ethan frowned. ‘Me?’

Sandra pointed to a vase on the counter. It had held only the Michelle rose, but now that was surrounded by a dozen yellow ones.

‘Oh my God … was it … did she …?’ His mind was reeling with possibilities, and his mouth was refusing to work properly.

‘She left a card.’

Ethan took it, staring in shock at the writing. The name of a restaurant with a date and time, and the words No more unrequited love.

And for once the leftover Valentine’s Day balloons and pink teddy bears didn’t seem even remotely out of place.

Question:

What colour are Ethan’s eyes?

Happy publication day!

TWCT_KindleHappy publication day to Melanie Hudson! The Wedding Cake Tree is now ready to be snapped on all Amazon sites!

Can a mother’s secret past provide the answers for a daughter’s future? 
Celebrity photographer Grace Buchanan has always known that, one day, she’d swap her manic day job for the peace and quiet of her beloved childhood cottage, St Christopher’s – she just didn’t expect it to be so soon.
At the reading of her mother’s will, she’s shocked to learn that she hardly knew Rosamund at all, and that inheriting St Christopher’s hangs on one big – and very inconvenient – condition: Grace must drop everything for two weeks and travel the country with a mysterious stranger – war-weary Royal Marine, Alasdair Finn.
Caught in a brief but perfect moment in time, Grace and Alasdair walk in Rosamund’s footsteps and read her letters at each breathtaking new place. As Grace slowly uncovers the truth about her mother’s incredible life story, Alasdair and Grace can’t help but question their own futures. Will Rosamund’s madcap scheme go to plan or will events take an unexpected turn?
An emotional, fun-filled and adventurous journey of a lifetime.

Blogger of the Month: Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

 

Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Hi Linda! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am – oh I don’t want to say my age – I am a woman between 25 and 35. I’m of the Swedish speaking minority.  I suck at speaking Finnish, it’s crazy hard. Understanding is much easier. I love books and I always have done. Once when I was about 9 I came from the bookmobile with 30 books. They are my true passion. I used to write too, and enjoyed it, but I never find the time these days.

I live near a town, that is big enough for Finland, but I still have a forest, fields and marshland just outside the door. The sea is close too. So it’s always nice to take a long walk somewhere or go out biking, when it’s not icy and cold.

I love chocolate, cats, TV and movies. That is truly all there is to know about me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

What’s the best thing about living in Finland?

Best thing, hm, well those kind of things that you don’t really appreciate when you’re younger. I love that education is free, even to university level. You get good, healthy free meals in school. Healthcare is good and the tiny sum I pay each year for using it is nothing.

And then those things I did think of when I was younger: no truly dangerous animals (I hate snakes), so I won’t get eaten. The worst natural disaster we have are snow storms, and we are Finns, snow storms are lame. You can be relatively safe where ever you are, and let’s see, we are up high in the list of least corrupt countries. But the best thing is probably the awesome nature (I do wish it was warmer though.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How did you get involved with blogging?

I was finished with university, I had tried two crappy jobs and I was unemployed. I spent a lot of time online writing resumes and so on, and I came across book blogs for the first time. I realised that I would love to do that too. So I did – the beginning was rocky but I never quit and found great friends, and I do love doing it.

How many books do you read a week?

During a working week I try to read 3 books. If I am sick or on holiday I can manage 4-6 because I read and read.

Which book character most resembles you and why?

I’d love to say someone cool, but I really don’t know. I guess no one resembles me. But let’s look at the Bennet sisters: I can be forgotten like Kitty, I can be childish like Lydia, I am nothing like Mary, I can be calm like Jane and I can talk back like Lizzy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Paperbacks or e-books?

I will always love paperbacks the most – I love the look and feel of them. I love to look at my books and for me paper is faster to read.

Austen or Brontë girl?

I am totally going with Austen, I love all her stories and Persuasion the most.

Romance or chocolate?

Sorry romance, chocolate every time! I am quite addicted.

 

 

 

I’M SORRY, COULD YOU SAY THAT AGAIN?

Number one is a jeep. Bananas are cheap. Two totally different sentences to most people. But when my mother-in-law said the first sentence to me (in a queue with my small children waiting to see Father Christmas where gifts were numbered) my rapidly deteriorating hearing interpreted it as the latter. ‘Bananas are cheap?’ I said in an overloud voice which is what happens when you become deaf. Much hilarity all round, although not mine.

Linda Mitchelmore

Linda Mitchelmore

That was the defining moment when I knew I had a serious problem and I’d have to do something about it. I was given (NHS) and bought (at huge expense) various hearing aids. I had hearing test after hearing test, scan after scan. None of the hearing aids were any use whatsoever and specialists couldn’t agree on what had caused my deafness, although viral damage when I was in my thirties seems to be the favourite still.

I spent a decade or so in an increasingly – to me – silent world. So, what to do? With my children now teenagers I went back to work – for a pharmaceutical company and not the bank I had worked for before having my children, where I had manned the telephone. Oh, the irony of it! I also began writing short stories as television/radio/music/theatre/cinema had all become no-go areas for me. I enrolled on a postal short story writing course and then a novel writing course with Writers’ News. I was encouraged to keep going by a wonderfully supportive tutor who, to save her blushes, I will call bella Stella – she knows who she is.

With my confidence that I could write growing I went on a two day writing course. The tutors were wonderful and did their best to help me follow what was going on. Not so one of the other students. ‘How can you possibly become a writer if you can’t hear?’ she asked. ‘You’re an essential sense missing.’ And then, in case I hadn’t understood the first time, she wrote it down for me in upper case …gggrrrrr. I took a deep breath and said, ‘Isn’t creative writing all about imagination?’ I’m certain now that gritted teeth were involved there as well. But inside something was screaming – I’ll show her! And now, 300+ short stories, around 50 or so articles, two full length novels and two novellas later, I rather think I have.

But I couldn’t have done any of that without professional help. A round of applause and three cheers here, please, for the wonderful University Hospital Birmingham and their cochlear implant team. Mr P, Claire and Gemma I love you all. A little bundle of plastic, ceramic, magnets, a sizeable gouge going down the side of my head, a purse that is never without batteries in it (even when there’s little cash!) and my life has been transformed.

Now then, in case anyone is thinking normal (hearing) service gas been resumed, that’s not quite the case. I have zero natural hearing left in either ear and am only implanted on one side – at £40,000+ per op I can’t justify asking for the other side to be done. I still can’t do the music/cinema/theatre scenario and television is only possible with the aid of subtitles to go with the speech I can hear (although not any of the background music etc). I struggle a bit in groups – oh, okay, a lot and I can only hope I nod and smile and say ‘No?’ and ‘Goodness!’ in the right places. But without my implant I know I would never have become a published novelist because much of that today is about the networking and the being seen and heard as we promote our books. Without my implant I’d never have heard my grandchildren say, ‘Read me a story, Grandma.’ But there are pluses and minuses in most things. So, ‘What?’ I hear you ask, ‘is the advantage in being deaf?’ Well, I’m told that when you try to ring the utility services or the bank or the insurance office (amongst others) you get asked to press 1 for this, and 2 for that, and 3 for something else and you have to listen to dreadful tinny music you don’t even like forever. And my grandchildren, when they stop over, quickly learned it was a waste of effort crying and calling for me in the night (because the speech processor has to come off my head to sleep) so it is Granddad who does the night duty… aaaah. And thunderstorms that keep you awake at night – what, pray, are they?

My l life journey might not be the one I envisioned when I had hearing but it’s been an interesting one, nevertheless, and it’s on going. EMMA: There’s No Turning Back (Choc Lit) has just been published in paperback. Lots of promotion stuff is lined up for that. And here’s a picture of a previous promotional event I did with Margaret James and Sophie King.

Linda Mitchelmore, Sophie King and Margaret James

Linda Mitchelmore, Sophie King and Margaret James

About love and penguins.

 

Have you ever been to a wedding where white doves are released in a symbolic gesture by the happy couple. It’s a lovely moment. Very romantic. But I have to say, when it comes to romance and feathers – nothing beats the humble penguin.

Seriously.

 

You can download this fabulous penguin wallpaper from the lovely people at National Geographic - who obviously love penguins too.

You can download this fabulous penguin wallpaper from the lovely people at National Geographic – who obviously love penguins too.

 

Penguins usually live in huge colonies – numbering in the tens of thousands.  In the midst of this seething mass, they form strong monogamous pairs. A bird returning to the beach will instantly find it’s mate and its nest among thousands of almost identical birds. How romantic is that?

And think about the Emperor penguins in the Antarctic. After huddling together to survive the freezing winter, the male bird will cross a hundred kilometres of bare ice to bring food to his mate – or die in the attempt. That’s what I call hero material!

Even James Bond doesn’t look any better in a tux. And best of all, whenever people look at penguins they smile. Go – admit it. You smiled when you looked at the picture, didn’t you?

The reason I wax lyrical about penguins is because there are penguins on the cover of my new book for Choc Lit Lite… and everyone likes a book with penguins on the cover. Particularly when they are holding hands (flippers?) and gazing at the rising sun.

 

Such a lovely cover. Don't the penguins look like they are in love?

Such a lovely cover. Don’t the penguins look like they are in love?

There are penguins in the book too – about 4 million of them.

Bring Me Sunshine is a story about a girl who accidentally travels to the coldest and most remote place on the planet – and as she does, brings light and laughter to a man who has been alone for far too long. And it’s the story of a man who would go to the ends of the earth for the woman he loves.

I think the penguins would probably approve.

 

It’s a publication day!

Fans of flirty Shakespeare modernisations like 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s the Man are in for a real treat today. We have a brand new Choc Lit Lite novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing by Alison May, available for download to your Kindle, and it’s a cracker!

Is something always better than nothing? 

Ben Messina is a certified maths genius and romance sceptic. He and Trix met at university and have been quarreling and quibbling ever since, not least because of Ben’s decision to abandon their relationship in favour of … more maths! Can Trix forget past hurt and help Ben see a life beyond numbers, or is their long history in danger of ending in nothing? 

Charming and sensitive, Claudio Messina, is as different from his brother as it is possible to be and Trix’s best friend, Henrietta, cannot believe her luck when the Italian model of her dreams chooses her. But will Claudio and Henrietta’s pursuit for perfection end in a disaster that will see both of them starting from zero once again? 

This is a fresh and funny retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in the present day.

Follow Alison on Twitter and let her know what you think :)

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Silver spoon or real life?

Graylings image small I loved writing Dangerous Decisions, and almost equally loved researching the Edwardian era. I don’t suppose I’m alone in daydreaming when a small girl that I was in reality a princess, adopted at birth! One of my favourite books and one I would borrow several times from the library was ‘A Coronet for Cathy’ by Gwendoline Courtney, the story of a young school girl who was in reality a duchess. Fiction afficionado – me? Absolutely, and the more romantic the better. DD is set the Golden Age of the Edwardian era, and I was astonished to discover that even among clever men there was the widespread belief that education should be witheld from the female sex as ‘too much thinking causes their wombs to wither’. Or maybe that was yet another ploy to maintain their own superior status. Certainly arrogance – as portrayed by Oliver, and so often in novels written during that time, seemed to be regarded as essential in a hero. I prefer the sensitive and idealistic Nicholas.

Which brings me to my competition question. If you were born during that time and had the choice, would you opt for a silver spoon, or an ordinary family. Pampered and sheltered as Helena was? Or would you prefer, however harsh your background, to at least live in the real world? (Leave a comment and you could win an advance paperback copy of Dangerous Decisions.) As for the 21st century, many say that the rigid class divide portrayed in the Upstairs and Downstairs mentality of Dangerous Decisions, no longer applies. We are, the politicians claim, a ‘classless society’. Mmn, that takes some thinking about. While it is true that massive changes have taken place, subtle social divisions still remain, perhaps they always will.

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What makes a hero?

A good hero is essential to a good romance. Popular wisdom would have it that writers need to be a little bit in love with their hero, and that, ideally, your reader should feel the same. So what do you do if the classic romantic heroes leave you cold, if you feel Mr Darcy would benefit from a slap round the chops with a wet fish, and suspect, therefore, that your taste in heroes might be a little bit off?

 

Well, I started by making my romantic hero a mathematician, because I know that absolutely every girl likes a side order of quadratic equations alongside their tall dark and handsome. But actually, being clever scores definite hero points in my world. It’s why generations of girls, myself included, grew up obsessing over Doctor Who. The idea of a hero who can save the world, not with muscles or guns, but by thinking faster than the bad guy definitely does it for me. Smart is sexy. Come on – I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t kick Professor Brian Cox out of bed for talking about special relativity, can I?

 

Fun is sexy too. I’ll take an average looking boy who’s prepared to be the first one on the dancefloor, over an Adonis who needs to get home early to top up his beauty sleep, every single time. Better a face that’s lived a little, burnt a bit of midnight oil here and there, made a few ill-advised choices, than a perfectly unlined, and utterly uninteresting, mannequin.

 

And last, but far from least, kind is sexy. Spare me from dark brooding heroes with cruelness in their gaze. Cruelty, brooding, arrogance, and moodiness aren’t sexy. They’re tiresome in a hormonal fifteen year old, and kind of beyond the pail in a fully grown man. Ok, so maybe he’s had a bad experience and he’s scared of getting hurt. Well, here’s a newsflash, aren’t we all? And that might excuse a little light moodiness, even a hint of very occasional brooding, but cruelty is a no-no. Kind men treat the people around them, including their heroines, with respect, and it it’s good enough for Aretha, it’s good enough for me too.

 

So lets hear it for the smart, fun, kind guys, be they geeky and shy, weather worn and muscle bound or anywhere in between. You show me a smart, fun, kind man, and, regardless of age or physical beauty, I’ll show you a hero.

Follow Alison on Twitter and visit her blog. Alison’s debut with Choc Lit Lite, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is coming soon …

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