The Soft Whisper of Dreams: Getting away from it all

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

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

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

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

Saltram House, Plymouth (Wikimedia Commons image)

Saltram House, Plymouth (Wikimedia Commons image)

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

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

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

Christina’s Twitter: @PiaCCourtenay

Christina’s Website: Christina Courtenay

Christina’s Facebook: Christina Courtenay Author Page

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

Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon AU  Amazon CA

Dressed to Kill – pirates, fashion and rebellion

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

Sally-Malcolm---pic 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sally’s Twitter: @Sally_Malcolm

Sally’s blog: My Scribblings

The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk is available on Kindle:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US 

Happy New Year and Happy Publication Day to Linda Mitchelmore!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda’s Facebook

Linda’s Twitter: @LindaMitchelmor

Linda’s blog: Linda Short Stories

Emma and Her Daughter is available on Kindle:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US 

Merry Christmas from the Choc Lit Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

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

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

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

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

 

S&S_thumbnail 150 x 240

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

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


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

 

An Irish Promise

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

 

Monsoon Mists

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


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

 

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

Flight to Coorah Creek

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

The Highwayman's Daughter

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

 


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


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson:

“Merry Christmas!”

 

 

Cross Stitch

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

 

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

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

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


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


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

 

How I Wonder What You Are

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

 

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

 

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

The Wedding Proposal

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Out of Sight Out of Mind

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

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

All I want for Christmas …

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

Dear Father Christmas,

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

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

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

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

Lots of love

Emma xxx

Never Marry a Politician 150 dpi

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

@SarahWaights

www.sarahwaights.com

Never Marry a Politician is available on Kindle:

Kindle UK  Kindle US

 

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

Margaret James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MSH_hirespackshot revised

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

Choc Lit Halloween Round Robin: Final Part

 

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

A New Love for Halloween: Part Six by Berni Stevens

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

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

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

‘Er … huh?’

‘It’s me, Zach.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Trick or treat?’ They chorused.

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

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

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

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

The kitchen was empty – except for the squealing children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 Oct: Part One by Berni Stevens – Bookaholic Holly

28 Oct: Part Two by Jane Lovering – The Romaniacs

29 Oct: Part Three by Christina Courtenay – Dark Readers

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

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

 Competition

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

  1) Is Ellie from Dance Until Dawn …

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

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

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

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

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

a) Millais b) Hunt c) Rossetti?

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

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

Magic Sometimes Happens … Happy e-publication day!

9781781891773

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

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

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

Let’s ask Rosie’s best friend, Tess:

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

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

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

Patrick

I called a friend who had connections with the CIA.

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

   ‘What, thousands, millions?’

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

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

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

   ‘Maybe we could meet later today?’

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

   ‘I want this data found.’

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

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

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

www.facebook.com/margaret.james.5268

@majanovelist

www.margaretjamesblog.blogspot.co.uk

Magic Sometimes Happens is available on all major eBook platforms:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US   Kobo   iBooks 

 

Welcome Back, Downton!

 

DD_packshot copy.jpg

Currently in the Kobo sale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Megan’s Top 5 Romantic Heroes

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

MeganMaverick  – Top Gun

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

Mark Darcy – Bridget Jones

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

Jack Dawson – Titanic

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

Johnny Castle  – Dirty Dancing

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

Noah Calhoun  – The Notebook

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

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

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