Moonbeams in a Jar: On Location

At the beginning of the week we released Moonbeams in a Jar by Christine Stovell – a sweet novella for dog lovers, travel lovers, romance lovers … and everyone in between! Today Christine joins us on the blog to tell us a little about the once-in-a-lifetime holiday that inspired the story … 

“Take every chance you get in life,” the saying goes, “because some things only happen once.” When my husband, Tom, asked me one summer evening which destination I’d choose if I could hop on a plane the next day and go anywhere in the world, I never expected him to act on my words and surprise me with a trip to Hong Kong. I was so taken aback – and so anxious about whether or not we could afford it – that I was initially quite cross. Like Chloe, the heroine of my novella Moonbeams in a Jar, I’m a bit of a planner, whereas Tom, like my hero, Ryan, is far more spontaneous. Left to me, we might never have seen Hong Kong and then I would have missed out on one of the most thrilling holidays of my life.

I didn’t know then that Hong Kong would feature in my novella, but when Chloe decides to splurge on a big holiday before starting her new job, I realised it would make the perfect place for my couple to explore their feelings for each other… and to learn that love rarely arrives conveniently or according to plan. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of my trip stayed with me and many of those experiences worked their way into Chloe and Ryan’s visit … I’ll leave you to guess which ones!

Shaking my fortune stick at Wong Tai Sin Temple

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Chloe and Ryan’s story begins in Little Spitmarsh, my fictional seaside town where Ryan, a photographer, lives conveniently close to his fiery cousin Tansy who regularly looks after Ryan’s basset hound, Fred. The inspiration for Little Spitmarsh came when Tom and I sailed half way round Britain in a vintage wooden boat in a series of what I only half-jokingly call ‘The Epic Voyages’ which, again, took me way out of my comfort zone. At the time we kept our boat in a small boatyard on the East Anglian coast and had a very happy time there pottering round the backwaters. That’s when the location for Little Spitmarsh really started to take shape and became real to me.

East Anglia

The opening scene for my first Little Spitmarsh novel, Turning the Tide, began when I ‘saw’ a troubled young woman in dungarees walking by the side of a creek and knew I had to tell her story. That was Harry Watling, someone who is more than capable of standing on her own two feet, a girl who isn’t afraid of breaking a fingernail and who doesn’t need a man to change an electric plug for her. From there, a whole cast of characters introduced themselves and continue to wander in and out of my Little Spitmarsh series which can all be read as stand alone stories.

So … when I started writing Moonbeams in a Jar I knew that Little Spitmarsh would be the starting point and that my heroine, Chloe, would go on her dream holiday to Hong Kong. I was a bit surprised when Snowdonia crept into the story, but there was no stopping Ryan, who loves working in difficult, remote terrain and was determined to get some stunning shots of the mountain in its darkest mood. I’m lucky enough to live within striking distance of Snowdonia and have enjoyed many climbs in the hills exploring these rugged peaks and enjoying the magnificent views. It’s never easy, but if the weather turns against you and you’re not prepared – as Ryan discovers – the places of refuge are few and far between. As it turns out, being caught in an horrendous storm on an exposed mountainside is only the start of Ryan’s problems!

Snowdonia in good weather!

Chloe and Ryan’s road to their Happy Ever After takes many twists and turns along the way as Chloe learns to take more chances and Ryan realises that love can’t be put on hold. I hope that Moonbeams in a Jar will give you a flavour of some of the locations they visit along the way and that you will enjoy travelling with them.

Hong Kong at sunset

Moonbeams in a Jar is now available to buy as an eBook on all platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options.

For more information on Christine Stovell:

Follow her on Twitter @chrisstovell 

Like her on Facebook Christine Stovell, Author

Check out her blog www.homethoughtsweekly.blogspot.co.uk

The Purrfect Pet Sitter and my Imaginary Menagerie

This week we released our second Ruby Fiction title – The Purrfect Pet Sitter by Carol Thomas. Today on the blog, Carol introduces us to some of the animals in her own life (and in the book!) and talks about the research she did on running a pet sitting business.

I am delighted that my romantic comedy, The Purrfect Pet Sitter, is now available as an eBook. Getting my publishing contract with Ruby Fiction is a dream come true; the fact it is for a book that enabled me to indulge my love of writing romantic comedy in which you can fall in love with the supporting cast of animals as much as the hero makes it even more special.

Anybody who follows me on social media will know that I am a dog lover with a soft spot for Labradors. I lost my two gorgeous old boys, Benson and Milo, within the last few years and now have a slightly crazy, two-year-old Labrador with a penchant for eating things he shouldn’t (he last went to the vets for swallowing a tea towel, whole!).

With Lisa Blake, the lead character in my novel, being a pet sitter, this gave me the perfect opportunity to incorporate a Labrador into her life. Jack is a wonky-eyed black Lab, the beloved pet of Winnie, the first client to put their faith in Lisa and her new business. He is a cheeky boy and, while not a young dog, when the mood takes him, he can achieve the energy of a puppy and the speed of a whippet – many Labs can.

Jack, who was inspired by my Labrador Milo (a handsome, slightly wonky-eyed boy, with an independent spirit, a variety of quirks and a lot of love to give) features throughout the book. One of my favourite scenes involving him is the opening chapter in which he has slipped his collar. In her search for Jack, Lisa has a chance encounter with a mysterious man in leather, Lisa finds him frustrating whereas Jack seems to have him on side.

Another of my favourite scenes comes when Lisa and Winnie take Jack to church, for a service in honour of St Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals). Writing the scenes in the church was a lot of fun. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that what Jack does to a Yorkshire terrier actually happened. My dog, Benson, was guilty of this misdemeanour in one of his early training classes, in which, being a Labrador, he was much larger than his smaller breed puppy pals.

My insight into the life of a pet sitter came from my daughter. She has been a pet sitter, running her own business for many years. Of course, she is nothing like Lisa Blake; she has certainly never lost a client on her watch. But she was able to provide some great anecdotes, and she allowed me to read her diary, where clients are listed under their pets’ names. It made for a fabulous read and inspired me to come up with names for the three chickens Lisa looks after in my novel. I hope their names will give you a smile, they did me – but then I had been alone in a hotel room writing for thirty-six hours when I came up with them (hmm, you’ll have to let me know what you think)!

I enjoy bringing animals to life in my books; I consider them all part of my very own imaginary menagerie and, as you read The Purrfect Pet Sitter, I hope that you will fall in love with them, as I have.

The Purrfect Pet Sitter is now available to buy as an eBook on all platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options.

For more information on Carol Thomas:

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When a Fictional World Becomes Your Reality

Yesterday Morton S. Gray’s gripping debut novel, The Girl on the Beach, came out in paperback. Today Morton joins us on the blog to chat about the setting of her first novel (which is the same for her upcoming second novel, The Truth Lies Buried) – the fictional town of Borteen – and how a made-up place has started to feel very real to her! 

My debut novel, The Girl on the Beach is set in my fictional seaside town of Borteen. It is amazing how quickly a fictional place can begin to feel completely real. I can walk down the streets and name the shops and their owners, I know what the views are like from various places in the town and surrounding countryside, even how wide the roads are.

When it came to writing Book 2 in the Borteen Secrets Series – The Truth Lies Buried – my editor asked if I had a map of the town, so I drew one and added pictures to show how I envisaged the buildings and various landmarks. It was surprisingly easy to do, because I had walked the streets so often in my head. I intend to tidy this up at some point so that I can let readers see it, but at the moment the map includes some pictures to which I don’t have sharing rights.

My characters are also very real to me. If any of them walked into a café I would recognise them. I know their appearance and demeanour, how they interact as if I was inside of them looking out of their eyes, as well as from observing them through the eyes of other characters. Not only do I know how their facial features change when confronted with the situations I put them into in my books, but I know how they feel too, how their heart rate reacts and the sensations on their skin.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I can put myself inside my story, fictional town and even inside the characters. I realise that makes me sound really odd, but it is how the process of writing works for me. I guess I see my books unfold like films in front of me.

This experience isn’t unique amongst writers, but friends who haven’t had this encounter with a fictional world can look at me a little strangely if I talk about it, especially when I mention that other Borteen residents mentioned in The Girl on the Beach and The Truth Lies Buried are clamouring for their stories to be told too. I guess that means there will be other books in the Borteen Secrets Series!

The Girl on the Beach is now available to purchase in paperback. Click on the banner below for purchasing options. 

Morton’s upcoming novel, The Truth Lies Buried, will be out on 1st May as an eBook. Click on the banner below for pre-order options. 

For more information on Morton S. Gray:

Follow her on Twitter: @MortonSGray
Like her page on Facebook: Morton S. Gray Author
Check out her website: www.mortonsgray.com 

 

From Recipes to Romance

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We’ve recently launched our new Ruby Fiction imprint and with the launch came the release of our first Ruby book – The Best Boomerville Hotel  by Caroline James. To celebrate this exciting occasion we have Caroline on the blog today revealing a little bit about her writing journey AND, if you read right until the end, you might find a rather special competition too! 

Many little girls like to make up stories and even one day write them into a book. It was always my dream but as I grew up, it was one that I never imagined would come true.

I went to an all girl’s grammar school and absolutely hated it. The only classes I took a passing interest in were cookery and English and those because the teachers terrified me. It was a very unhappy time. My working life took a very different direction from the one my parents had planned and instead of taking further education, to their horror, I left home and worked on the south coast, waiting table and washing pots. Eventually, I knew I needed more education and in free time, at college in Bournemouth, I would wander along the beach, staring up at the cliff-side hotels, dreaming of owning my own. That was a dream I knew I could make come true if I worked hard. Writing however, was a dream too far as I never imagined being good enough to put pen to paper.

Fast forward many years.

I got my beautiful hotel. A country house in the Lake District. In fact, I got many things including a great career in the hospitality industry working with some of the best chefs in the business. Food was my life and had given me a good living. But there was still that nagging dream, that unpublished book and an unanswered question – could I write? A story had been in my head for years, based around a hotel. One day I had an epiphany. I would die wondering if I didn’t get my bottom on a chair, fingers on a laptop and brain in gear. And so, I stole every hour that I could from a manic schedule and wrote the story. It took me a year. My elation at having completed my first manuscript soon evaporated as no one was interested and the rejection slips piled high. In desperation, I learnt how to self-publish and was completely gobsmacked when the book went to number three in women’s fiction on Amazon. I’ve never looked back and five books on and five years later, my new book, The Best Boomerville Hotel, is published by lovely Ruby Fiction.

I never thought my recipe writing years would turn to romance writing but I am so thankful that they did.

The Best Boomerville Hotel is now available to purchase in eBook. Click on the banner below for purchasing options. 

BBH OUT NOW

For more information on Caroline James:

Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineJames12
Like her page on Facebook: Caroline James
Check out her website: www.carolinejamesauthor.co.uk

COMPETITION TIME!

And now for a very special competition for a chance to win perhaps the cutest prize we’ve ever had the pleasure of giving away! Meet Boomerville Bertie …
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If you’d like to win Bertie (who comes in his very own branded Boomerville small draw-string bag) then simply answer the following question:

Where is the Best Boomerville Hotel set? 

If you know the answer please email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Boomerville competition’. The deadline for entries is Monday 26th March. 

Good luck!

The story behind The Girl in the Photograph

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Yesterday it was paperback publication day for Kirsty Ferry’s third Rossetti Mysteries book, The Girl in the Photograph, and today Kirsty joins us on the blog to chat a little bit about the historical inspiration for the novel … 

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally see three of the Rossetti Mysteries in paperback. It is absolutely a dream come true, and they all look so utterly stunning together that I can’t help staring at them and, yes, even stroking the covers.

However, a book doesn’t turn into a book without a spark of inspiration, and my inspiration for The Girl in the Photograph was a lady called Julia Margaret Cameron. Cameron was a photographer who lived from 1815 to 1879. She became known for portraits of contemporary celebrities and depictions of Arthurian legends and other wonderful themes so beloved by the Pre Raphaelites that have coloured this trilogy. As the slightly rebellious nineteenth century Pre Raphaelite Movement, founded in 1843 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt (who you may remember from The Girl in the Painting) progressed from poetry, to art, to photography, so my books have followed this path. I also incorporated some later art movements in this book; Dame Laura Knight who was part of the Lamorna group of artists in Cornwall visited Staithes in Yorkshire and was part of their art community for a little while. Laura and the Staithes Group all deserved a spot in my book too.

I decided I wanted to use Cameron and her photography when I discovered a newspaper clipping hidden inside a second hand Pre Raphaelite Tate exhibition catalogue I ordered from Amazon. The clipping fluttered out as I was looking for a picture of Lizzie Siddal, the muse and lover of Rossetti.  It depicted a profile of a mysterious lady who Cameron had photographed, and there was a discussion over who she might have been. There was going to be an exhibition including this picture and the experts all had their opinions on her. I read the extract with a mounting sense of excitement. This, I knew without a doubt, was to be the premise for my next Rossetti book – a beautiful girl in a photograph, a moment in time captured in black and white and attributed to Julia Margaret Cameron. It was easy to know who would ‘star’ in my contemporary thread – it had to be Lissy, Jon’s sister from Some Veil Did Fall. The question was, what is Lissy really like? She spends all her time matchmaking, but she’s hiding some hurt from her past and has quite a brittle veneer – but then in comes Stefano, the one she can’t get over. Can he change her back to the loving girl she really is beneath all the London polish? And my historical couple – well, I couldn’t resist Julian as soon as I started writing about him. He’s a photographer capturing the last days of the Staithes Group of artists, and staying in the Dower House of Sea Scarr Hall, the home of Lady Lorelei Scarsdale. Like Lissy, Lorelei is hiding some secrets and only Julian can get close enough to discover who she really is.

So yes, I loved writing these books (which is why I did a Christmas one as well – there were only ever meant to be three originally!) and loved the way everything just slotted into them from my research and inspiration. I really hope you enjoy reading them just as much.

THGITPGPREORDERThe Girl in the Photograph is now available to purchase on as an eBook and in paperback from all good book retailers. Click on the banner above for buying options. 

For more on Kirsty Ferry:
Follow her on Twitter: @Kirsty_ferry
Like her on Facebook: Kirsty Ferry Author

Ten quirky habits of a romance author

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To celebrate release day for her Choc Lit debut Little Pink Taxi, Marie Laval is sharing her ‘ten quirky habits of a romance author’. But that’s not all. Read right until the end of the post for details of an exclusive competition too! 

Today is the day I waited so long for – the day my romantic comedy Little Pink Taxi is released. I have been talking nonstop to friends, family and colleagues about it, and have been inundated with questions regarding my writing process. How I get my ideas? How do I pick the setting for the story, or choose my characters’ names? Do I have a routine? And so on … So I thought I would try and answer some of them today.

1)   The notepad

This may seem terribly mundane, but the first thing I do when I start a new story is to buy a notepad, but not just any notepad. It has to be a French Clairefontaine exercise book. I am addicted to them, probably because they are smooth and shiny, and remind me of being at school in France. Once I have my new notepad, I carry it in my handbag, and fill it with everything and anything I can think of about the setting, the characters’ background, their feelings and motivations. I jot down random thoughts, dialogues, quotes or even poems and songs.

2)   The map

I absolutely love maps, so the next thing I do after buying a notepad is to purchase a good road map of the area where the story is set. I now have an extensive collection, including maps of Algeria, the Highlands of Scotland, Provence, Paris and Bordeaux, where my next two novels are set. I like to refer to existing landmarks but the actual setting is always fictitious. In Little Pink Taxi, Raventhorn castle and the village of Irlwick are made up, but most of the other places mentioned are real.

 3)   The hero

How strange that I always know exactly what my heroine looks like, but that I need to search the internet and flick through countless adventure, sailing, mountaineering or car racing magazines for inspiration about the hero! This is however time pleasantly spent, and undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of my research. For Marc, my inspiration was Daniel Craig …

4)   The characters’ names

Sometimes names spring into my mind even before I get an idea about the storyline, but in some cases it can take a little longer. Rosalie Heart’s name was an obvious choice as soon as I figured out her personality – kind and bubbly – and her occupation as the driver of a pink taxi. Marc Petersen’s name took a little longer to click. In fact, he was called Magnus at first – a reference to his Danish ancestry – then I decided to make his name sound more French, since he is after all half French too. The names of the hero and heroine have to fit well together, and as Marc and Rosalie sounded like a good match, I was happy with my choice.

5)   The setting

Several years ago there was a television series I liked very much which was called Monarch of the Glen and which featured a beautiful castle called Glenbogle Castle. I loved it so much that I have wanted to set a story in a castle just like it ever since. In my mind, Raventhorn – the fictitious castle in Little Pink Taxi – is identical to Glenbogle castle, and like in the series, there is a loch and a forest, and of course, the dramatic backdrop of Cairngorms.

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A castle that looks similar to Glenbogle.

Unfortunately, having never stayed in a beautiful Scottish castle, I had to rely on research to get a feel for the place. That’s where the Internet is so useful. You can take virtual tours of hotels and stately homes, visit estate agents websites, watch documentaries or use Google Earth. When I have collected lots of photos, I like to create Pinterest board. You can look at the one I made for Little Pink Taxi here.

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Cairngorms National Park

6)   The playlist

I couldn’t write romance without having a soundtrack for my story. Rosalie Heart loves pop music and always sings to her favourite radio station, Happy Baby Radio, when she is driving. Unfortunately she can’t sing and her choice of music drives Marc crazy. So, which songs were in the Little Pink Taxi‘s playlist? Being French, I could have included Joe Le Taxi, but I chose old favourites such as ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt, ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ by Leanne Rimes, Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’, and songs by Sade, The Lighthouse Family and Gabrielle.

7)   The facts

I love research and could happily spend weeks reading articles, books and journals. For Little Pink Taxi, I learnt a lot about Norse mythology, got sidetracked into researching the meaning of tattoos in the Russian mafia (which I didn’t use in the end!), and of course, I read about taxi driving.

8)    The dark moments

There are days when words flow and the characters talk to me, but there are also lots of dark moments when I despair that everything I write is rubbish. When that happens, I go for a walk to clear my head or I talk the problems over with my daughter Clémence at our favourite local café. As she is only twelve, she is far too young to read my books, but talking to her usually does the trick and helps me find solutions to the problems. That’s why Little Pink Taxi is especially dedicated to her!

9)   The gift

When I come to the end of a novel I buy myself something that reminds me of the story or the characters, and this time I treated myself with a lovely scarf and tweed handbag from a Scottish brand – both pink, of course!

10) The inspirational quotes

And lastly, in times of doubt or when I have so much on I don’t know how on earth I’ll manage, I remember my mother telling me to stop moaning and ‘Take the bull by the horns’. My own favourite inspirational quote is from French author Paul Valery: ‘The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.’

Little Pink Taxi is out now and available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options. 

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COMPETITION TIME! 

To celebrate the release of Little Pink Taxi, which is set in the Scottish Highlands, Marie Laval is giving away FOUR fabulous tweed corsages from Ness Clothing  to four lucky winners!

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To be in with a chance of winning, simply make sure you have read the above blog post carefully and then answer these four questions. Enter by sending your answers to info@choc-lit.co.uk:

1. What nationality is Marc Petersen (the hero from Little Pink Taxi)?
2. What real-life castle was the inspiration for Raventhorn Castle in the book?
3. Which TV series inspired Marie Laval to write Little Pink Taxi?
4. What is the name of Rosalie Heart’s favourite radio station?

About the Author:

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for a number of years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her native France very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!

You can get in touch with Marie on Facebook and Twitter, and why not check the beautiful photos of Scotland and Denmark on the special Little Pink Taxi Page on Pinterest?

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.

A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Part Four by Victoria Cornwall

ValentinesRR4

Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day commence! It’s time for another Valentine’s Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a super sweet short story – A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (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 surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

Victoria Cornwall has written a fabulous penultimate part today – but, before reading this extract, make sure you’ve caught up with Parts 1-3 of the story. 

Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Two by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Three by Angela Britnell 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 – PART FOUR BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

Jess opened the fourth box. She breathed a sigh of relief. Her piece de resistance, a cake decorated with ivory lace icing, had survived, unlike her other creations which reminded her of last night’s news footage reporting the aftermath of a tornado in Nebraska. Jake arrived and she shot him an irritable glance.

‘What were you thinking, Jake?’ she said under her breath when Mark had left. How Jake got the Event’s Manager’s job she would never know. She suspected it had something to do with his habit of doctoring his CV.

Jake held up his hands in mock surrender. ‘I swear I wasn’t looking at her cleavage.’

Jess rolled her eyes. ‘I didn’t mean that, I mean putting Mark’s ex-wife’s stand next to ours. Today is turning into a disaster.  I haven’t even hung up all the bunting yet.’ Jake reached for a red sugared heart. Jess slapped his hand away. ‘This mess is your fault, Jake. If you hadn’t had your eyes glued to Harriet’s cleavage …’

Jake nodded knowingly. ‘I knew it was about the cleavage. It was difficult to avoid, Jess.’

A devious thought struck her, ‘I’ll forgive you, but only if you do me a favour.’

Jake eyed her warily, ‘What are you up to?’

‘Nothing much. I just want you to use your position as Events Manager to ask Harriet to move the stand for her chocolate cake a bit more to the left. It will give us more room.’ The sun will catch it nicely there, thought Jess. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the chocolate covering to melt.

Jake walked over to talk to Harriet and Jess returned to her boxes to see what she could salvage. Her first task was to set up the only cake that had survived. She had to admit, it was one of her best. She stood back to admire it. She had hoped to impress Mark. As if on cue, Mark reappeared carrying a box of wine.

‘I’ve had an idea,’ he said, opening a bottle and flashing her one of his sexy smiles. ‘We can give out free drinks and taster samples. If we slice up the broken cakes, no one will know what a mess they look now.’

It was a brilliant idea. Jess felt the urge to hug him. In fact she had the urge to hug him quite often these days, but had always resisted … until now. She was about to fling herself at him, when he turned round with the sharp end of a knife pointing at her. It killed the moment.

‘Here.’ He held the knife out to her. ‘You start cutting and I’ll get the plates.’

Deflated, Jess took the knife from him. She helped herself to a very large glass of wine as she began to slice up a squashed cupcake. She glanced over at Harriet’s chocolate cake. Either the wine was more potent than she had expected and it was distorting her vision or the top tier was already beginning to slide. She hoped it was the latter.

Unfortunately, Mark had noticed too.  He rushed over to rescue Harriet and arrived just as the top tier slid slowly forward and onto her dress. Jess downed another glass of wine as she watched Mark fuss around Harriet. She wasn’t sure what upset her most, that they appeared to be enjoying each other’s company or they were doing it amidst her favourite chocolate recipe. Could the day get any worse?

Oh no – poor Jess! And there’s only one more part of the story left for her to get her happily ever after. Let’s hope Jane Lovering is kind to her tomorrow … it is Valentine’s Day after all 😉 

If you enjoyed Victoria’s part of the story, you can find her novels on all eBook platforms – and The Thief’s Daughter is also out in paperback and can be ordered through your local book shop! Click on the cover images below for more details. 

Image of both books

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What happens to Harriet’s chocolate cake? 

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 4’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.

A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Part Three by Angela Britnell

ValentinesRR3

Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day commence! It’s time for another Valentine’s Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a super sweet short story – A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (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 surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

Before the weekend Kirsty Ferry and Morton S. Gray set the scene and left us in the midst of drama (Read Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE  and Part Two by Morton S. Gray HERE). Where will Angela Britnell take us today? Read on to find out … 

A VALENTINE’S WEDDING FAIR – PART THREE BY ANGELA BRITNELL 

‘Oh, Mark how terrible! All your beautiful cakes are ruined. I’m dreadfully sorry.’

Jess ordered herself not to be a witch for thinking that if Harriet’s fake eyelashes fluttered any faster they’d take flight. Mark stood with his mouth gaping, sympathy for his ex-wife oozing from every pore and she itched to smack some sense into him. Seriously?

‘We’re mortified aren’t we, Armand? We’ll help you get all this cleaned up.’

‘But, chérie—’

Harriet rested one elegant hand, showing off her manicured blood-red talons, on Mark’s shoulder. Jess’s self-control strained with the effort of not swatting it away. ‘Being business competitors is one thing but it’s nothing personal.’

Jess snorted in disgust and the other woman’s mask slipped briefly before the practised smile returned. No one else noticed. Stamping her foot would be juvenile but Jess might as well be one of the blobs of pink icing oozing out of the upturned boxes for all the notice anyone was paying her.

‘Don’t worry.’ Mark’s soothing tone irked her. ‘I’ve got my secret weapon here.’ Jess’s back received a friendly pat. ‘She’ll work her usual miracles. You take care of your own display. We’re good aren’t we, JJ? Accidents happen.’

She grunted something he could take as agreement and Harriet’s smirk deepened. Before the ill-fated wedding Mark’s new fiancé buttonholed Jess and spelled things out in no uncertain terms.

You’re in love with Mark. I recognise it but he doesn’t because he’s a man and they never see the sweet, loyal girls who’re always there as anything more than a vaguely female version of their mates. I’ll make something of him that you never could. Stick to making cakes and keep your puppy dog eyes to yourself.

‘Armand, let’s get ready to amaze our customers.’ Harriet’s gaze swept over Jess’s faded pink vintage floral dress. ‘The whole shabby chic thing works well on you, dear.’

The sly dig reminded her of Pippa Warrington at primary school who pretended to admire Jess’s newly chopped off hair, courtesy of her older brother’s attempt to emulate Vidal Sassoon, while tossing her own enviously perky blonde ponytail.

‘You all right, JJ?’ Concern laced Mark’s deep voice and Jess forced on her friend/efficient employee smile. ‘We’ll make this work.’

‘Of course we will. Let’s see how bad the damage is.’ She lifted the first box onto the table and prised off the lid, unable to suppress a sharp intake of breath.

‘You spent hours on those.’ The miniature fairy cakes were a smashed mess and all the spare icing and decorations they’d brought along couldn’t save them. ‘She manages to spoil everything doesn’t she?’

In spite of the cake disaster Jess’s heart did a little flip. Maybe Mark wasn’t a lost cause where it came to Harriet after all. A ring of steel settled around her spine. She’d overcome far worse than this in her life including a childhood spent in care and a dangerous drift along a bad path until baking saved her. ‘Only if we let her and we won’t.’ Mark’s expression softened and he rested his big competent hands on her shoulders. For a wonderful moment Jess was only aware of his deep brown eyes and warm smile.

‘The pièce de résistance. The star of the whole wedding show.’ Harriet’s gloating voice pierced Jess’s happy glow.

As she jerked around Mark’s fingers dug in, willing her not to grab his ex-wife by the throat.

The magnificent chocolate cake complete with cascading creamy white icing roses was a work of art. Jess’s own prized recipe in its full glory. She met the challenge in Harriet’s gaze. For some reason the other woman wasn’t giving up her claim on Mark anytime soon. Bring it on. You don’t know who you’re tangling with but you’re about to find out.

Well if Harriet didn’t annoy you already, Angela Britnell has certainly exposed her truly manipulative and scheming side. Poor Jess! We hope she gets the ending she deserves but there are still two parts to go, with Victoria Cornwall adding her part tomorrow. Anything could happen!

If you enjoyed Angela’s part of the story, you can find her novels and novellas on all eBook platforms.Click on the cover images below for more details. Also make sure you keep an eye out as we’ll be revealing further details about an exciting new release from Angela Britnell very soon!

AB

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What is Jess wearing to the Fair?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 3’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.