Happy Birthday Choc Lit! Part Five by Jane Lovering

We’re nine years old today! And we’re celebrating with a birthday Round Robin written by six of our talented Choc Lit authors. Lynda Stacey left us with a kiss, now it’s Jane Lovering‘s turn. Let’s see what happens next … 

In order to enjoy this story, you’ll need to read it in order, so make sure you read:

Part One by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Two by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Three by Sue McDonagh HERE
Part Four by Lynda Stacey HERE

Also, remember to read right until the end so you can enter the fifth competition of the day! 

The Forgotten Birthday – Part Five

Just before he left, Hugh muttered something in her ear. ‘Page Eleven. Don’t tell anyone.’ And then, with a final ruffle through his beard, he was gone, heading downstairs towards dinner, as Marion came to her door, regally splendid in a gown comprised of equal amounts of taffeta and whalebone.

Dinner was more fun than Lauren could remember having had for some time. With Marion’s warning against Ian clanging in the back of her head, Lauren steered clear of him and tried to throw herself more into the conversation between the others. She discovered that two of the other women and one of the men actually lived not too far from her, and they exchanged email addresses with a tentative idea of forming their own writing group.

Lauren felt a curious tingle inside, a feeling of something bubbling up at the base of her throat, and she stared down at the prawn cocktail starter with narrowed eyes of suspicion, until she realised what it was. It was excitement. She was actually feeling excited for the first time in – how long? An actual, proper emotion that wasn’t unhappiness or boredom or anger! And she looked around her at these people, strangers really, who were chatting to her about their hopes for the future raising glasses of something that certainly wasn’t champagne but it was alcohol with bubbles in. And, if she ignored the fact that Ian kept trying to press his leg suggestively against hers under the table and was just asking for a fork in the thigh, she was having a really good time.

The book that Hugh had given her was weighing her bag down with more than purely the mass of pages it contained. Hugh had been right, the book had been right, she was keeping all her emotions locked away inside her head. That exercise he’d set, Chains, had shown her that she wasn’t as over her sister and husband’s infidelity as she tried to let herself believe. That the two people she’d loved most in the world could do that to her…

Lauren looked around again. The attitude of bonhomie that was spreading in equal measure to the amount of fizzy alcohol being drunk touched something inside her. One of the women, Helen her name was, raised a glass and mouthed ‘Happy Birthday!’ across the table, and Lauren smiled at the realisation that she was having a better time here, with these virtual strangers, than she’d had with her husband during practically the whole of their marriage. That she’d married him more to get away from her family than out of love. That he and her sister hadn’t really done anything to her, she had let their betrayal affect her. And maybe now, thinking how badly they’d both treated her over the years, she could see how they deserved one another. She couldn’t quite wish them a happy future, and would gladly shove pooh through their letterbox any day of the week, but still. She was getting there, buoyed up by the sense of camaraderie and acceptance she was feeling here and now.

It was only when the party was over and she’d gone back to her room, giggly and not-quite sober, that she remembered Hugh’s whisper when he’d given her the book. She turned to Page Eleven with trepidation, and, to her surprise, it wasn’t an inspirational quote. It was a small, badly-spelled note, handwritten, blu-tacked to the page.

Oh Jane. You can’t do that to us when we have to wait another hour to find out what it says on the note! Kathryn Freeman takes over for the last part of our Round Robin. We really hope you’ve been enjoying it so far! 

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you might like to check out her books. You can find details by clicking the images above. 

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate to go with it simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What is Marion’s gown made of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Jane Lovering comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.

History and Imagination: Living in the Past by Jane Lovering

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Last week on Valentine’s Day we released Living in the Past by Jane Lovering – which is Jane’s first timeslip book and, rather uniquely, is set between the present day and the Bronze Age! On the blog today, Jane talks a little bit about why she decided on this particular time period and the advantages and disadvantages of writing about (not so recent) history … 

I’ve always been fascinated by history – but not recorded history. My particular love is for the history that exists before people started writing stuff down and putting ‘spins’ on it. The history I love is conjectural, where only traces are left we have to imagine what those things were, and what they were for. So, essentially, it’s a history that has already come with its own stories, because we have to fill in so many gaps with our imagination.

This is why I wanted to write a timeslip, featuring a period of history that really doesn’t give us much in the way of definite answers. It’s all traces in the soil, a few artifacts for us to argue over and some tantalising art. We don’t know whether some things were ritual, practical or ‘just because’ and writing a book is one way of saying ‘maybe this is what happened and what these things were for.’ Of course, I don’t know. Just like I’ve imagined midwinter and midsummer gatherings where ‘greater family’ would gather to trade animals and goods. I mean, it seems reasonable, they were going to need new bloodstock from unrelated animals and items that they perhaps didn’t have the means to manufacture. We have very little evidence for this, but it’s the sort of thing that might well have happened, so I’ve just pushed imagination forward a bit!  We’ve got a good idea of what the outside of a Bronze Age house might look like, but no idea what they would have had inside, apart from a hearth, so I’ve dreamed up home-carved furniture and a stack of wood, drying for winter beside the fire, meat hung up to cure in the smoke and a bed covered in woven blankets. I don’t know whether any of these things really did get stored inside, but it seems logical to think that they might.

I fully expect to be overtaken by research in the future. Fifty years ago who would have dreamed of some of the reconstruction and archaeological techniques we have today? Ground penetrating radar, geo-phys in all its glory, microscopes that can tell us what people ate and isotope analysis that can tell us where animals and people were born and raised. It’s amazing stuff.

And romance? Well, love is love and has been through the ages. Humans must have fallen in love back in the Bronze Age, just as they do now. It’s an emotion that’s necessary to human continuation, after all! Would it have been so different four thousand years ago? And as for time-travel, well, maybe that’s just another discovery we are waiting to happen …

Living in the Past is now available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click on the banner below for buying options. 

LIP OUT NOW

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

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Final Part by Jane Lovering

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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! However you plan to spend it we hope there is plenty of chocolate to be had … and maybe a little bit of romance too 😉 

Speaking of romance we left the heroine of our Round Robin, Jess, in a little bit of a sad state yesterday when Victoria Cornwall had her turn. Now it’s up to Jane Lovering to finish the story! Fittingly, it’s also publication day for Jane’s new book Living in the Past today – you can find all the details at the end of this post so read on!

If you haven’t caught up with previous parts of the story yet, make sure you read them first:

Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Two by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Three by Angela Britnell HERE
Part Four by Victoria Cornwall HERE 

And, as always, make sure you read right until the end to find out how to enter an exclusive competition! 

A VALENTINE’S WEDDING FAIR – FINAL PART BY JANE LOVERING 

After a few minutes of buttering up his ex wife, Mark came back to Jess and the stall. ‘Sorry, Jess,’ he said, lowering his voice so it was covered by the hubbub in the room, ‘I had to do that. Their insurance covers them against “interference”, and I wanted to make sure they couldn’t claim against us for getting them moved into the sun.’

Jess felt her heart give a tiny upward wobble. ‘You noticed that, then?’

Mark’s smile was decidedly cheeky. ‘Oh, I notice a lot more than you or Harriet give me credit for. Now, let’s get these ruined cakes cut up, clear the table and give your wonderful cake the centre stage. D’you know …’ he looked around the room at the crowded stalls, all wall to wall icing, embroidery and tea cups, like a Women’s Institute fete gone rogue, ‘I think the minimalist look might just give us the edge here.’

He was right. Amid the overdone decorations and overfilled tables, their stall, with just its understated cover, spaced plates of samples and the occasional champagne flute with its inch of bubbles, looked, Jess thought, classy. And, as the building opened for the Fair to begin, it seemed as though a lot of prospective brides agreed.

‘How lovely to have a bit of space to actually look at your cake.’ One very elegant girl, wearing a diamond large enough to be used in an industrial machine, sipped at her sample champagne. ‘So many of these stalls look so … cluttered. A bit desperate.’ She picked up one of the Buntings cards and slipped it inside her classy card holder, then popped it into her Mulberry bag. ‘Several of my friends are engaged, I’ll pass your details on to them.’ And then she was gone, on her Louboutin heels, pausing only to raise an exquisitely plucked eyebrow at the gentle cascade of chocolate that the Bobbins centrepiece had become.

Jess felt almost sorry for Harriet. An eye for detail had given Jess the ability to see things that other people didn’t always notice, and she’d seen the way Armand was looking at Jake. Jake had always had a bit of a ‘reputation’. Her friend had sort-of hinted that he’d slept his way into his current position with anyone who offered. Jess watched Jake and Armand make eye contact, and a conversation consisting entirely of eyebrow-movements begin. Jess looked across to see that Harriet had noticed too, and that her immaculate nails were now tightly embedded in the sleeve of Armand’s jacket. Oh dear. Not the relationship from heaven that Harriet always talked it up to be then. She felt a twinge of pity for Harriet, whose desire for total perfection in all things had driven Mark away – he was more the kind of man for chaos and last-minutes than spreadsheets and countdowns.

Mark brought Jess back with a small nudge against her shoulder. ‘Here.’ She looked up to see him offering her a plate, with only a few of their taster samples left on it, and a glass, containing what looked like a sample-and-a-half. ‘Nearly all our cards have been taken, and there’s only this left. Plus we’ve had loads of enquiries – reckon this has been our best Wedding Fair to date!’ Jess took the glass. Mark was holding one of his own, and he gently touched the two flutes together. ‘Here’s to the future,’ he said, quietly. ‘Yours and mine. Ours.’ And, before they drank, he gave her the smallest kiss on the top of her head, in a moment Jess knew she would remember for a lifetime.

As they sipped their champagne, Jess heard a passing bride comment on the Bobbins stall. ‘Oh look, a chocolate fountain! How very twenty fifteen!’ and she had to hide her smile behind the last morsel of red velvet cake.

Aww, so happy that Jess got together with Mark in the end. They had us worried there for a moment – but as always, the Choc Lit authors pull it out of the bag and create the perfect Valentine’s story. Well done everyone! 

If you enjoyed Jane’s part of the story, you can order her novels from all good book retailers and stockists – and Living in the Past, her new novel, is out today and available on all eBook platforms! Click on the cover images below for more details. 

JL

LIP OUT NOW

COMPETITION TIME!
To be in with a chance of winning a Jane Lovering paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

How does a passing bride describe the melted chocolate cake (which she mistakes for a chocolate fountain!) on the Bobbins’ stall?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 5’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2018 from Choc Lit

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Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays!
Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2017. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit & our new Ruby books with you in 2018.

Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Sarah, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Pia, Paul, Marie, Jessamy & Berni)

And now for some messages from our Choc Lit Santas …

juliet Santa photo Juliet Archer:
“Wishing all of you Choc Lit cheer at Christmas, and some great reads in 2018!”
The Importance of Being Emma
Jan Santa photo Jan Brigden:
“Thank you dear readers for your terrific support this year. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, full of joy, peace and good health (with the odd choccie or two for good measure, of course!) Enjoy the festivities!
As Weekends Go
Angela Britnell - Santa! Angela Britnell:
“Wishing all our wonderful readers a peaceful and happy holiday season and an excess of books and chocolate!”
You're The One That I Want
Valerie Olteanu - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa! Isabella Connor (Liv & Val): 
“Nollaig shona dhaoibh.
Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2018.”
An Irish Promise
Victoria  Cornwall Santas Victoria Cornwall:
Thank you to all those who have read my debut novels this year. I am humbled you chose to read them and very grateful for the support you have shown me. To all Choc Lit readers, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy,  prosperous and healthy New Year. You are all amazing.”
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Christina Courtenay - Santa! Christina Courtenay:
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year! Hope you have time to relax with a good book in front of the fire; chocolate, wine, mince pies or other goodies to hand – enjoy!
Velvet Cloak of Moonlight
Kirsty Ferry - Santa! Kirsty Ferry: 
Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year, all filled with only good things. Lots of love, Kirsty xxx”
A Little Bit of Christmas Magic
Kathryn Freeman - Santa! Kathryn Freeman:
“Christmas greetings to all our lovely readers. I hope Santa brings you both a first and A Second Christmas Wish. And that 2018 will be a fabulous year for you. All it takes is A little Christmas Faith ☺”
A Little Christmas Faith
Morton S Gray - Santa Morton S. Gray:
Wishing all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018. Thank you for supporting The Girl on the Beach this year. Hoping you have a peaceful and fun time whatever you choose to do over the Christmas season. May your troubles find resolution and your dreams come true. Mx
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Liz Harris - Santa Liz Harris: 
“Dear Readers, Thank you for your friendship and support throughout the year.  I hope you’ve all had a truly wonderful year – a year full of happy memories.  Hopefully, 2018 will be an even better year for you.  A happy, healthy 2018 to you and your families – may all of your dreams come true. Love, Liz xx”
Little Girl Lost
Caroline James - Santa Caroline James:
“Warmest wishes to each and every Choc Lit reader, may all your Christmas dreams come true in 2018, Caroline xx”
The Best Boomerville Hotel
Margaret James - Santa Margaret James:
Thank you so much for all the support you’ve given Choc Lit authors this year. We really appreciate your feedback, comments and reviews, so please keep them coming? We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with peace, love, happiness and delicious things to eat. All the Choc Lit and Ruby authors are looking forward to entertaining you in 2018 and in the meantime we’re sending you virtual chocolate and champagne!
Girl in Red Velvet
Marie Laval - Santa Marie Laval:
“A very French Joyeux Noel and all Best Wishes for the New Year!”
Little Pink Taxi
Jane Lovering - Santa! Jane Lovering: 
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported Choc Lit this year, readers, reviewers, bloggers, reading panel, even people who just come to look at our photos and laugh. Let me wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful 2018 to come!”
Christmas at the Little Village School
Hannah Pearl - Santa Hannah Pearl:
“Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018.  I’m so happy to have joined the Choc Lit family this year, and look forward to all of the wonderful stories that the next year will bring from this lovely team.”
Little Black Book
Lynda Stacey Santa - Santa Lynda Stacey:
Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas… along with lots of turkey, sprouts, figgy pudding and mince pies..! (Obviously not on all the same plate) xxxx”
House of Christmas Secrets
Berni Stevens - Santa Berni Stevens:
Wishing you all a fabulous festive time and lots of happy reading! Love Berni xxx
Revenge is Sweet
Christine Stovell - Santa Christine Stovell: 
“Nadolig Llawen!  Wishing you every happiness for Christmas and the New Year.”
Follow a Star
Carol Thomas - Santa Carol Thomas:
“I wish you a merry Christmas filled with festive cheer, and a very happy new year. I can’t wait to share my Ruby Fiction book with you in 2018 – proving that dreams can come true!”
Regret Me Not
Evonne Wareham - Santa Evonne Wareham:
“Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas, and a brilliant New Year, with time to read the books you enjoy most and maybe to find a few new authors too.”
What Happens at Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part One by Jane Lovering

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Readers beware! It’s time for another Halloween Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a wonderfully spooky short story – The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Halloween (with the final part falling on the big day itself!) Come back every day to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes.

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more 😉 

First up is Jane Lovering! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART ONE BY JANE LOVERING

‘Well, here it is. What do you think?’

James pulled the minibus into the deserted car park and waved a hand, indicating the blocky outline of the house, dark and deserted, outlined against the trees. The sun was going down, throwing the shadow of the building across the sheep-nibbled parkland, like the gnomon of an enormous sundial, telling them night was imminent.

‘Spooky.’ Martine gathered her coat around her. ‘I’m scared.’

‘You’re a wimp is what you are.’ Kate opened the back door of the van. ‘We’re a ghost hunting group. We’re here to hunt ghosts, and Maplewood Hall is supposed to be haunted. Why on earth did you join if you’re scared of old buildings miles from anywhere, at night?’

‘To be fair,’ Martine pressed her face to the minibus window, ‘I’m also scared of deer, owls and carp. It’s not just the buildings.’

James, Ollie and Patrick were unloading the equipment onto the grass-studded gravel. ‘You’ll be fine,’ Patrick said, sympathetically. ‘Deer only attack in the mating season, owls will leave you alone if you’re bigger than a mouse, and there won’t be any carp in the house.’ A glance over his shoulder at the hunched half-ruin. ‘I shouldn’t think. They’re a fish, aren’t they, carp?’

Kate lifted a box and jumped down. Slowly and hesitantly, Martine climbed out of the van and stood beside her. ‘They aren’t just a fish,’ she said, ‘they are absolutely enormous fish.’

‘Here, carry that.’ Ollie handed her a big box. ‘We need to get it all into the house before the light goes. There’s no electricity in there, no lights, so we want to get it all set up before we’re blundering around in the dark taking pictures of each other and bumping into the furniture. This is a ghost hunting expedition, not a Laurel and Hardy film.’

Slowly, burdened by wires, battery packs, bundles of equipment and, in one case, a fear of fish, the Littleton and District Paranormal Investigation Unit advanced on Maplewood Hall. They crouched in the remnants of manicured parkland and glorious gardens and looked at the house itself; windows boarded and shuttered against squatters and vandals and the roof partly covered in tarpaulin, which fluttered and flapped in an unfelt breeze.

Martine shivered again. She’d only come because Kate fancied James. She would have been perfectly happy to spend Halloween watching themed television and eating Skittles, but Kate was her best friend and there were some things you just did for your best friend. Although Martine wasn’t sure that riding shotgun on a trip to a known haunted house on the spookiest night of the year, with rain forecast and probable owls, didn’t go far beyond what was expected from friendship. Especially if it meant having to spend time with Kate’s brother, Patrick, too. He was the last person she wanted to see at the moment, but she wouldn’t think about that now.

Ollie and James went on ahead into the house, followed by Kate, who hesitated for a moment in the huge stone doorway. Martine knew that Kate wasn’t as unafraid as she was trying to make out. They’d been at school together, both equally scarred by memorable episodes of the X-Files, but Kate was determined that James was the man for her and would push through any tendencies to scream in the face of moving shadows for him to see her as a potential mate.

Patrick held the door open for Martine. ‘Look. No deer,’ he said, although the interior of the hallway was so dark that there could have been a herd of elk in there and nobody would be able to see them. ‘You will be fine.’

The last rays of the dying sun flickered down past the fluttering tarpaulin above them and illuminated a huge staircase rising out of the hall into a veil of dust-speckled darkness. Doors led off the passageway to left and right, and the corridor stretched beyond the base of the stairs, curving around into the depths of the house to be lost to sight. The tarpaulin flick-flacked distantly but all else was silent, apart from their footsteps, and Patrick, who’d got hiccups.

‘Ol, you go and check down that way,’ James said. ‘Pat, you do the stairs. Kate and I will find the kitchen, that’s supposed to be the main site of any disturbances.’ He gave Kate a sideways look. Martine suspected that James knew very well that Kate fancied him and was going to use this opportunity for a quick grope and a snog.

‘What about me?’ Martine asked uncertainly.

‘You stay there. Secure the doorway, we don’t want anyone to come wandering in and setting equipment off.’ He handed her a box. ‘That’s the gear. We’ll come back and get you once we’ve reccied the place.’

Off everyone trooped, their footsteps sounding more and more distant against the bare floorboards. Martine was alone. Behind her, outside the door, the sun sank and the night pressed against the house. Her eyes adjusted slowly, but there was nothing to see, only the rising vastness of the stairs in front, and the echoey emptiness of the hallway running off in either direction.

Martine grabbed at her coat again. It was cold. The hair at the back of her neck was prickling and she didn’t dare move in case she fell over something. And she was missing EastEnders. With a sigh she opened the box that James had given her and started to make herself useful, stretching fine tape across the doorway to prevent anything human coming into the house. She wasn’t sure how effective it would be, James hadn’t thought to leave her a torch and she was operating mostly by touch. When a soft sound slithered into her ears from the direction of the staircase, she dropped the tape and spun around.

‘Who’s there?’

There was no answer. But Martine could just make out a shape, a pale smudge in the dark, a faint ‘something’ against the wooden panelling. Something that drifted towards her in a silent haze of dust – she drew in her breath to scream, but her yell was stopped by a sudden, louder scream that came from the direction of the haunted kitchen …

A suitably spooky start from Jane Lovering that ended with a scream and a potential ghostly happening. Just what we all want from a Halloween Round Robin!

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options. Jane will have a new Christmas novella out in December – keep your eye on our social feeds for more information, coming soon! 

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Jane Lovering paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Which three things is Martine scared of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 1’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Part Four by Jane Lovering

Birthday Round Robin Pt 4

It’s our eighth birthday today and we’re celebrating with a birthday story written collaboratively by our authors, competitions, prizes and a hefty slice of virtual chocolate cake! We invite you to join us :)  

Lynda Stacey, Kathryn Freeman and Lisa Hill have had their turns and now it’s time for Jane Lovering to step up. Let’s see what happens next! Remember to make sense of the story, you will need to read the parts in order:

Lynda Stacey’s Part One is HERE

Kathryn Freeman’s Part Two is HERE

Lisa Hill’s Part Three is HERE

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

The Birthday Surprise – Part Four by Jane Lovering 

Anna stomped. There was no other word for it, she stomped her way across the driveway, passing groups who threw her puzzled looks that made her cheeks burn like beacons.  How could I?  How could I have been so stupid to think that he would invite me? And does Helen really not think I know a set-up when I see one?

Aware that the heels of possibly the most expensive shoes she’d ever owned were sinking into mud now, Anna stopped.  She was standing by the lake. No, not a lake. A pretentious puddle. Look, he’s even got a rowing boat! Just how pathetically bourgeois Declan is these days! She wondered for a moment how that sweet, shy young man could have turned into the sort of person who would have allowed himself to own a mansion and let her fall for a trick like Helen had played on her …

It was quiet out here.  Anna rubbed her hands over her cheeks, smearing the make up she’d so carefully applied to make her look closer to her dewy-skinned sixteen-year-old self, so that Declan would recognise her, and gave herself a talking-to. Yeah. He fancied me when I was sixteen.  But that was a long time ago, and we’re different people now, and besides, he didn’t even care enough to send a card when mum died, so just how much did he really like me? Or was he disappointed that I didn’t rip my knickers off for him on prom night? She rubbed her face again and let an image of ‘what might have been’ skip across the surface of the lake in front of her – glorious sex with Declan. Teenage pregnancy. Minimum wage jobs, to keep the kids fed and life in a too-small flat … no. It was probably better that they’d parted that night with their illusions and virginities intact.

‘Are you all right?’ The voice came from behind her and she turned slowly round to see Declan standing on the bank above the lake shore.  ‘What’s happened to your face?’  He sounded shocked.

‘Well, fourteen years, for a start! Did you really think I’d look the same as I did on Prom Night? Am I not allowed to have aged?’ Anna took a step back, indignation flaming into her cheeks again. ‘I suppose you still don’t shave and have a poster of the Spooks cast on your wall?’  Another step back as he started to approach down the bank, his shiny evening shoes reflecting the moonlight.

‘I meant … you’ve got black stuff everywhere. You look like a bad Marilyn Manson impersonator.’

The dawning horror as she realised that her mascara must now be equally distributed over her entire face was matched by a slow-creeping cold that told her she’d backed away so far that she was now up to her ankles in the lapping water of the lake.  Anna decided there was nothing else for it, and she gathered her dignity beneath her and stood on it firmly.  ‘If you were a gentleman you wouldn’t have mentioned it. And you wouldn’t have followed me. You’d let me have my moment of misery in peace.’

‘I didn’t know you were having a moment of misery.  Why would you be? Ralph invited you to my party, and you came, next thing you’re dashing off like a Cinderella who’s decided on an early night.  I haven’t even had chance to be rude to you yet.’  Declan came down to the lake shore and reached out an arm.  ‘Would you like a hand getting out of the water, or will you berate me for spoiling your paddle?’

There was nothing else for it.  Anna took the offered hand and found herself tugged up close against Declan.  He still smelled of sandalwood, her subconscious noted. She hoped she’d been wrong about the Spooks poster.

‘Why didn’t …?’ they both started to speak simultaneously, then stopped.

‘You still look good,’ Declan started cautiously again, as though waiting for Anna to shout him down.  ‘Apart from the black stuff, obviously. I heard about your mum, I’m sorry.’

‘Not sorry enough to write, though,’ Anna said, a touch tartly, but with a warm feeling starting to trickle down through her chest.

‘I was a sixteen year old boy! I had no idea what to say, “sorry your mum died, school is going well and we’ve got a new Head of English?” Not really…’ he tailed off.  ‘And I did write, once or twice. But …’ he shrugged.  ‘Why didn’t you give me your email address?’

Anna opened her mouth to answer, but couldn’t.  Why hadn’t she made it easier to get in touch? ‘I think, when mum died and Helen was so little – I had to look after her. Everything else sort of went out of my head.’

Declan gave her a smile. It was the smile she’d remembered most, she thought. A slow, cautious sort of smile that lit up his eyes.  ‘Then maybe we could try again …’ he started to speak, but was interrupted by a flurry of commotion at the top of the bank, and then a breathless Ralph was running towards them, his jacket flapping unbuttoned and his hair awry.

‘You’d better get here, Dec,’ he said, puffing slightly. ‘Magda has turned up with a bunch of blokes and she’s threatening to burn the house down.’

Trust Jane Lovering to leave things on a cliffhanger! Kirsty Ferry has her work cut out for her finishing off this story – but she will be in the next couple of hours. Keep an eye 🙂 We can’t wait to see how it ends! 

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     If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you might like to check out her recent release Can’t Buy Me Love. Click HERE for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Can’t Buy Me Love and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Who does Declan think Anna looks like with mascara all over her face?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Jane Lovering 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 

Choc Lit Mother’s Day Round Robin – Part Two by Jane Lovering

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It’s Jane Lovering‘s turn on our Mother’s Day Round Robin today! Will Jenny’s Mother’s Day lunch be a success or a complete disaster? Let’s see 😉 Remember to read right until the end for a competition. 

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

Part One by Margaret James HERE 

PART TWO BY JANE LOVERING

Sunday dawned, and the heavy skies mirrored the feeling in my stomach. What on earth had I been thinking? Three generations of my family, plus … well, plus Mike, it was almost as though I was willing disaster on myself.  Even the leg of lamb looked vaguely accusing as it lay in its red wine marinade and I found myself patting it reassuringly, as I’d used to pat Lucy’s nappied bottom when she’d cried as a baby. She’d been such a lovely child, all blonde ringlets and a slight look of Felicity Kendall about her, we’d been close through her childhood and even her teenage years had been more spirited attempts to get her up, washed and to school on time than the slammed door slanging matches that my peers all seemed to indulge in.

I gave the lamb another pat and popped it into the oven just as the doorbell rang.  I tidied my hair (in case it was Mike), checked the level on the gin bottle (in case it was my mother) and assumed a suitable air of situational control (in case it was Lucy), then went to answer it.

‘Ah, there you are,’ said my mother, as though she’d been waiting on the step for half an hour. ‘I do hope it’s not going to rain. I left the sheets on the line, you know, they simply don’t smell clean when they’ve been in the tumble drier, do they?’

‘Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum,’ I said, a little weakly.  ‘Come on in, Lucy should be here in a minute and … well, there’s someone else coming who I’d like you to meet.’

Somewhere on the horizon thunder rumbled. I crossed my fingers that the weather wasn’t being metaphorical.

My mother sniffed.  She had a whole series of sniffs, eloquent as a curse at one end of the spectrum and resigned admiration at the other.  Suffice it to say that her ‘disapproval’ sniffs got far more of an airing.  ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Lucy mentioned something about you having A Man.’

I poured her a glass of wine in the kitchen and bustled her through to the dining room, where the table was neatly laid for four.  ‘I haven’t really got him, mum, he’s …’  How to sum up what Mike was to me?  More of a companion, more affectionate, more concerned for my wellbeing than Lucy’s father ever had been? Also considerably better in bed, but I certainly wasn’t going to mention that to my mother … ‘He’s a very nice man,’ I finished, inadequately.

The sniff this time told me that she was reserving judgement.

‘This wine’s bitter,’ she said.  ‘Haven’t you got any gin?’

Just as I reached for the bottle I heard the rattle of hail against the window, mirrored by a rattling sound as Lucy’s car drew into the driveway, it sounded as though something had come loose somewhere underneath.  Probably exactly what she thought about me, I mused, opening the front door so that she could run straight in out of the apocalyptic weather that was breaking above us.  Hailstones clanged and battered off the roofs of the cars, flattened the clumps of daffodils that Mike and I had weeded so assiduously last week and laid a slippery mat on the doorstep.  Lucy hurtled in through the door, like a ghost of who she had been.

‘I hope you’re not taking to gin,’ she said, seeing the bottle in my hand. ‘It’s bad enough with … hello Granny!’

The sniff this time passed judgement on the length of Lucy’s skirt, the shortness of her hair and the redness of her lipstick. ‘That car doesn’t sound right, Lucy,’ she said, despite never having driven in her life and having a knowledge of cars that stopped at ‘four wheels’.  ‘Can’t your father have a look at it for you?’ She hugged Lucy quickly, disentangling herself in favour of the gin I held out.

‘Dad’s too busy these days, I think Megan and Luca keep him occupied,’ Lucy said a little too brightly and I wondered if she’d already asked Jack to take a look at the car. ‘But it’s fine, Granny. Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum.’ She held a bowl of blue hyacinths out like a peace offering.  ‘These are for you.’

I took them and buried my nose in the shell-like flowers, inhaling their sweet smell and hiding my face at the same time.  Hyacinths had always been my favourites. She’d remembered.

‘Never liked those things. Smell like old ladies,’ said my mother, who only ever smelled of Chanel No 5.

The noise of the hail had drowned out any sounds from outside, so when the doorbell rang again it made us all jump.  Mike had arrived.

Now that Mike’s arrived, the fun can really begin (or possibly not!) Let’s see where AnneMarie Brear takes it tomorrow 😉 

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If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, make sure you keep an eye out for a new release, coming soon! Until then, you can check out her existing novels HERE

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning one of Jane’s novels and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What is Jenny’s mum’s drink of choice?

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

Read Part Three by AnneMarie Brear HERE.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017 from Choc Lit

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Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2017. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.

Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Sarah, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy, Paul, Bernie)

And now for some messages from our Choc Lit Santas …

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Santa - Rhoda Baxter Rhoda Baxter: Have a fantastic Christmas and raise a glass to a wonderful year in 2017! May you get lots of joy and chocolate and books.

 

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AnnMarie Santa photoAnneMarie Brear: “As 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers who supported me and my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, this year! Merry Christmas and a safe and happy 2017! ”

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Jan Santa photoJan Brigden: “Thanks for your fabulous support this past year. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and much joy, peace and good health for 2017 (and the occasional choccie or two, of course …) Enjoy the festivities!”

 

9781781892572 Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell: “To all our wonderful Choc Lit readers here’s wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday season and the best of everything for 2017 including all the books you can read and an abundance of chocolate!”

 

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Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne: “Wishing all our lovely readers a very merry Choc Lit filled Christmas. Your support over the year has been wonderful. Thank you! I hope Santa is kind to you and that all your dreams and wishes come true. Cosy up and keep safe everyone!”

 

9781781892596Clare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase“Wishing you a very happy, cosy Christmas and a wonderful 2017!”

 

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Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2017.”

 

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Victoria  Santas2Victoria Cornwall: I hope you have a wonderful, laughter filled, Christmas which will leave you with memories to cherish for years to come.

 

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with everything and everyone you love, including of course loads of chocolate and plenty of time for reading your favourite books! Enjoy!”

 

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Kirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a happy, healthy and wonderful 2017.Hope you wake up on Christmas morning to joy, peace and a Santa Sack full of books, chocolate and your favourite tipple!”

 

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Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Well it’s my first Devon Christmas, helping out at a writing retreat venue in Sheepwash and aiming to get the biggest tree ever! Here’s a xmas joke for you – what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frost-bite! hehe! Have a lovely festive season!”

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Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whetheryou’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

9781781893067Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope you enjoy the festive season. Take time to be with those you love.And don’t forget to treat yourself to something special – you know you deserve it. Thank you for all your support this year, and may 2017 be filled with peace and joy for you and yours.”

 

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Morton SantaMorton S. Gray: “Have a lovely peaceful Christmas and keep dreaming those dreams. Anything is possible in 2017.”

 

 

9781781890714Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Happy Christmas, or Glædelig Jul which is what we say in Denmark. In the face of tumultuous and terrible events across the world wish to remember that Christmas is the time for love and kindness. And reading. Lots of it!”

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Linn's Santas photoLinn B. Halton: “I’ve asked Santa for snow this year – enough to allow us all to wake up to a white Christmas morn, but I’ve also asked that it doesn’t hang around long! If he can’t deliver a brief winter wonderland treat, then I’m sending you all a Christmas hug. I hope that it’s a time of great joy and happiness for one and all.”

9781781893012Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: “2016 will soon be but a distant memory. Hopefully, it’s been a fabulous year for you all, and is leaving behind it nothing but good memories. And, equally hopefully, 2017 will be even better for you, with all the wishes that you wish for yourself coming true. A happy, healthy 2017 to you and your families, dear readers.”

 

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Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing all our readers a happy and peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for reading, reviewing and enjoying our Choc Lit books. In my opinion, it’s the best gift an author can receive. xx”

 

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Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:“A very happy, peaceful and contented Christmas to the friends of Choc Lit all over the world who support us in so many ways – by buying or borrowing our books, blogging, Tweeting, leaving posts on Facebook and reviewing, to name just a few. We appreciate all you do for us and hope to entertain you for a long time to come! Very best wishes for a great festive season and a wonderful 2017.”

 

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Jane Lovering - Santa!Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me!”

 

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Linda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: “Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

9781781892916Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: “Wishing all my wonderful friends and readers, a very happy, safe and peaceful Christmas. xx”

 

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Berni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a happy healthy 2017, and many fabulous hours of reading.”

 

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Christine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: “Wishing you love, kindness and generosity of spirit, not just for Christmas  but throughout the year.”

9781781890752Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2017 to you all!”

 

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Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Good wishes for a happy Christmas, with good food, good company and good books, and some time to read them! I’m aiming to have a fabulous year in 2017 and I wish everyone the same. See you then!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!

 

The Santa Dash: Part Three by Jane Lovering

Round Robin

Clare Chase left us at the starting line of the Santa Dash yesterday – now it’s time to take a run with Jane Lovering for today’s Christmas Round Robin instalment! Who is the mystery woman, and why is Julian acting so shifty? 

Remember to read right until the end if you want to take part in today’s competition. In order to enjoy the story, make sure you read Part One by Kathryn Freeman HERE and Part Two by Clare Chase HERE before you start on Jane’s extract. 

The Santa Dash – Part Three

Suddenly Ellie found herself in a confused melee of red suits and white nylon hair as the more sporty of the dashing Santas took off along the prom. For a moment she lost sight of everyone she knew, found herself spun around by the press of bodies around her, disorientated and even ran a few steps in the wrong direction to the amusement of the watching crowd. Her hat had slipped down over her eyes again and her beard was riding up to meet it, so she could only see the world through a reddish hairy filter and wondered, idly, as she managed to get herself facing the right way, if this was what Hell would look like from inside.  Probably less hirsute, she thought, getting her legs under control and managing a credible jog considering the vast amount of stuffing she’d shoved under her jacket for verisimilitude. Sally had tried to tell her that the Santa Dash wasn’t aiming for absolute Santa-ness, it was the Dash that was important, but Ellie suspected that was just so that Sally could get away with something more figure-hugging, since Julian was going to be there.

Where was Julian?  Ellie peered around the crowd of bobbing hats and beards. Surely he’d be somewhere out in front, after all he regularly played in the hospital rugby team and, judging by his muscles, must also work out.  She puffed a little bit, her padding was working its way around to the back as she ran and the beard was itchy, plus the little black boots that came with the outfit didn’t have very much grip.

‘Good sea air!’

The voice came from next to her and Ellie saw Jamie, recognisable from the way his eyes were gleaming atop the beard.

‘Sorry?’ She was a bit ashamed to find herself puffing more.

‘Nothing like a run in the sea air to clear the tubes.’  He didn’t seem to be even mildly out of breath, jogging along beside her as though this was a gentle stroll.

They ran along together for a moment, buffeted by the faster Santas who, scenting the finish line further along the esplanade, had picked up speed.

‘So,’ Ellie felt duty bound to make conversation, although she had to admit, this was perhaps the most bizarre place she’d ever found herself doing ‘polite chat’, ‘how do you come to know Julian?’

Jamie did a peculiar double-step, at first Ellie thought he’d stumbled, but he turned out to be avoiding a woman pushing a buggy with two small children in.  To Ellie’s surprise, the woman saw Jamie and gave him a big, beaming smile.

‘Oh, it’s you!’ she said, and Jamie slowed down. ‘Sorry! Didn’t mean to be in the way, but Liam was just so excited to see the Santas running …’

Jamie gave her a grin in return. ‘No worries, Gemma,’ he said, and Ellie was only mildly annoyed to notice that he wasn’t even breathing hard. ‘Nice to see you. But I’d better …’ he gestured to the mass of gently heaving red nylon that was surging ahead. ‘Sponsored, you see.’

‘Do you know everyone?’ Ellie panted, hoping her face wasn’t quite as red as her suit yet, but figuring that most of it was concealed by her beard anyway.

‘Not quite. Only the less – how shall I put it – less financially fortunate,’ Jamie turned to her and his eyes were positively gleaming. ‘After all, I don’t know you yet, do I? Coffee, after the run?’

And, without waiting for an answer, he put his head down and began running, overtaking the back markers of the pack and weaving his way through. Ellie watched the white bobble on his hat making its way through the runners.

When she turned her head to try to catch her breath, she saw that Melissa, the gorgeous red-head who’d been talking to Julian, was standing alongside the taped off track. And her eyes were also following Jamie’s running figure, with an expression somewhere between hero-worship and despair.

Ooh, the plot thickens! Join us tomorrow for another instalment from one of our debut authors, Victoria Cornwall!

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, I Don’t Want To Talk About It … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Jane’s extract and answer this question …

Who does Jamie have to sidestep to avoid running into during the Santa Dash? 

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read Part Four by Victoria Cornwall HERE