Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Three by Morton S Gray

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We hope you all enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day yesterday – but the romance and fun isn’t over! We still have three days of our Valentine’s Round Robin to go – three more days to spend in the village of Thistlethorpe AND three more competitions too!

Today, it’s Morton S Gray‘s turn – and you might remember yesterday that a certain handsome vicar was introduced. Who will be Harriet’s date to the ball now? 

Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too! 

To enjoy this story make sure you read Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE and Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE first. 

Harriet picked out two of her favourite vintage tea cups and placed them on the tray with the tea pot and milk jug. She glanced over at Zack. He had removed his dog collar and undone a couple of buttons on his shirt. As he stretched his shoulders, she glimpsed golden chest hair. Hmm, nice.

Putting the best iced bun, a muffin and a huge slice of chocolate cake on a plate, she carried the tray over to the table and set about making the tea.

‘Milk?’

‘Just a drop please.’

She pushed the sugar bowl over to his side of the table and then sat down carefully, arranging her limbs so as not to brush against Zack’s outstretched jean-clad legs. Did vicars wear jeans? He was sure challenging her stereotypical image of a minister of the church.

For once she found herself tongue-tied, so it was a good job Zack was bursting with questions about the village. He told her he’d already met Vera and been subject to an extensive interrogation about his credentials to take over at the church. Harriet became mesmerised by the flashes in his grey eyes and her tea went cold, as she filled him in about the movers and shakers in Thistlethorpe.

‘You’ve been so helpful, thank you. The problem with moving to a new parish is the immense possibility of putting your foot in things and upsetting parishioners before you’ve even taken a service. Vera terrified me. Shall I see you on Sunday?’

‘Erm …’ Harriett wasn’t a regular churchgoer, more a christening, wedding and funeral type of girl, apart from the annual carol service, although intense staring at the new blond vicar in action might make sitting on the hard, wooden pews more appealing.

She was trying to decide how to reply, whilst simultaneously indulging in a fantasy about joining the flower arranging committee to have Zack admiring her flowers, when the café door bell sounded and her friend, Tammy bounded in accompanied by Paul.

‘Harriet, you’ll never guess … Oh … Ooooh.’

Harriet found herself blushing at her friend’s obvious excitement at finding a new attractive man in the café. She needn’t have worried. Zack was staring at Tammy open-mouthed, desire dripping from every pore. He appeared to be instantly besotted with her friend. Maybe there wasn’t a Mrs Vicar after all.

Harriet sighed. Another man off the list. What with Tony bringing unknown Jamie to the Valentine’s Ball and Zack only having eyes for Tammy, her sister’s promise of a blind date was looking like her only chance of a slow dance on her birthday.

‘What’s this I hear about a Valentine’s Ball?’ She’d forgotten Paul was even there as she’d been too busy watching the interaction between Tammy and Zack. ‘Put me down for a ticket, oh and at least one dance, of course.’ Paul winked. He’d been at school with Tammy and Harriet. It was almost like your brother asking you to dance. Great! Why Paul? Why was it always the ones you didn’t fancy who came on to you?

Paul had recently taken over his father’s business. He was an optician and wore designer specs on his aquiline nose. She realised she’d never seen him without glasses, as he’d worn them even at junior school. In fact, she hadn’t ever studied him at all, he’d just always been around.

Zack stood up and was talking animatedly to Tammy. She introduced the two men as they made their goodbyes and left Harriet sitting alone in the café. Tammy hadn’t even told her why she’d come in and Zack had left his chocolate cake uneaten.

She picked up the plate and tucked into the delicious gooiness, knowing that if she was going to look sylph-like in her dress for the ball, it wasn’t a good idea. In fact, the ball didn’t feel like such a good idea any more. She’d have to watch Tony dancing with Jamie, Tammy with Zack and make do with jiving with Paul or the unknown blind date her sister was supplying, not quite how she imagined the evening going at all.

What could she do to make the Valentine’s Ball her dream event?

Aww, poor Harriet. We really thought Zack might be the one. But anything could happen on the night – and there’s always that blind date! Looking forward to the next instalment by Rhoda Baxetr tomorrow. 

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If you enjoyed Morton’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her stunning debut novel, The Girl on the Beach. Click the image above for purchasing information. 

COMPETITION TIME

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

What slightly ‘unvicarly’ item of clothing is Zack wearing?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton Gray comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

Part Four by Rhoda Baxter is now available to read HERE

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Two by Christina Courtenay

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Happy Valentine’s Day all! We hope you have a lovely day planned with a special person that will involve plenty of chocolates, flowers and pampering. Enjoy! 

Yesterday Kirsty Ferry introduced us to the village of Thistlethorpe and Harriet, who was organising a Valentine’s Ball with a little bit of an ulterior motive in mind! Today Christina Courtenay picks up where Kirsty left off. Will Harriet be successful in her attempts to encourage Tony to the event? Read on to find out …

Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too! 

Remember to read Part One by Kirsty Ferry before starting on this extract. 

Talk about bad timing. Of course it had to be the object of their discussion, Tony himself, and Vera turned to wink at Harriet. Not in a subtle way, but a big comical sort of wink, which the policeman couldn’t fail to see. Harriet felt her cheeks burn. Well, if he didn’t know about her crush before, he certainly did now.

But her mortification didn’t end there. Vera took another sip of her tea and called over to Tony, ‘We were just talking about you. Harriet has something to ask you.’

Well, thanks a bundle. Harriet sent Vera a death glare, but the annoying woman just giggled.

‘Oh?’ Tony’s blue eyes twinkled, but he appeared not to have noticed the wink or any undertones. Or if he had, he was gentleman enough not to let on.

Harriet took a deep breath. What was the worst that could happen, after all? He could say no and that would be that. ‘I’m organising a Valentine’s Ball at the pub and I just wondered if you’d like to join us? Everyone else will be there and you are, after all, part of the village now. I … uhm, thought it might be nice for you to get to know us a bit better.’

Ha! How was that for diplomatic? That should show Vera and hopefully Tony wouldn’t read too much into the invitation.

He nodded. ‘Sounds great, thank you. I’ll have to check whether I’m on duty, of course, but I should be able to pop in at least for a while.’ He hesitated. ‘Actually, I have a visitor coming to stay that weekend. Do you mind if I bring someone?’

Harriet’s heart plummeted. Oh God, she was such an idiot. Of course a man like him would already have a girlfriend. He must have had a life before he came to Thistlethorpe. And he certainly didn’t look like he’d been a monk. Six foot two-ish, broad shoulders, muscles, lots of muscles, and those eyes … She cleared her throat. Yeah, goodbye to that dream then. ‘Of course.’ She managed a smile. ‘As I said, everyone is welcome.’

‘Oh, good. I’m sure Jamie will fit right in.’

Jamie. Unusual name for a girl, but still …

Harriet pulled herself together. She had a job to do. She plastered on an even wider smile. ‘So, what can I get you? The iced buns are on special price today.’

‘Then I’ll have half a dozen, thank you.’

When Tony had paid for his buns and left with another bone-melting smile, Harriet glared at Vera. ‘Don’t. Say. A. Word. Okay?’

Vera held up her hands as if surrendering. She actually looked quite sad, as if she cared about Harriet, but the latter didn’t feel up to discussing her love life. Or lack of it.

She’d have to implement Plan B – getting her sister to bring that blind date she’d been threatening. How bad could he be? Actually, knowing Lil, very …

Vera left, with a tiny wave and a grimace of compassion – at least that’s how Harriet interpreted the face the woman made – and Harriet concentrated on unloading another tray of iced buns into the display counter.

When the bell over the door rang again, heralding another customer, she prepared to act professional. She didn’t have time to mope around. And her life was fine as it was – a great job, a lovely little cottage all to herself, a cat and enough money to do most of the things she wanted. Who needed a man? They were nothing but trouble anyway. With a welcoming smile, she looked up and nearly dropped the tray in her hands. In front of her stood yet another gorgeous male – blond this time, and with eyes like a grey, stormy sky, in his early thirties maybe and … a dog collar. She swallowed a gasp.

‘Er, hello, what would you like?’

Instead of just giving his order, the man held out his hand across the counter and gave her a big grin. ‘Hi, I’m Zack, the new vicar. It’s my first day so I thought I’d celebrate with something nice for tea. Any recommendations?’

‘Er, right. I’m Harriet. Buns. Iced buns or … or maybe a piece of the chocolate cake? The frosting is to die for. I mean …’ She stopped. Did one say things like that to a vicar? A vicar named Zack? It didn’t seem a very ‘vicarly’ sort of name, if there was such a word. And having two handsome men move into the village at the same time was unheard of. Still, she wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. No matter how good-looking Zack was – and although he wasn’t quite as big and brawny as Tony, he seemed to be in pretty good shape and those cheekbones of his were quite simply amazing – she wasn’t falling for him. There was probably a Mrs Vicar. Or if not, he was celibate. She bit her lip and tried to collect herself.

‘Do you know, I think I might just have one of each,’ he said. ‘I don’t suppose you’d care to join me? My treat. It would be nice to get to know my parishioners a bit. But only if you have time. If you’re allowed …’ He tailed off and looked behind her as if he was wondering if she had a horrid boss who was going to come out and tell her off for fraternising with the customers.

Harriet relaxed. There was no harm in talking to the man and business was always slow this time of day. ‘Sure, I’d like that, thanks. As long as you’ll excuse me if anyone comes in to buy something.’ She gestured towards one of the tables. ‘Take a seat and I’ll be with you in a minute.’

As she made the tea, she wondered if one could invite a vicar to a ball?

The plot thickens! And now Zack the vicar has been added to the mix, the possibilities are endless. Come back tomorrow to find out what happens next when one of our debut authors Morton S. Gray takes her turn.

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If you enjoyed Christina’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her most recent book, The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight, which is set in and around the historic Raglan Castle in Wales and has recently been nominated for a RoNA award in the Paranormal/Speculative Romance category. Click the image above for purchasing information. 

COMPETITION TIME

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

How many iced buns does Tony buy?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Christina Courtenay comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

Part Three by Morton S Gray is now available to read HERE

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part One by Kirsty Ferry

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The day has finally arrived and we can’t wait to share this year’s Valentine’s Round Robin with you. As always, the Choc Lit authors involved have excelled themselves :) Hopefully you’ll be spoilt with wine and chocolate tomorrow, but treat yourself with the first part of our story today!

Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too! 

Kirsty Ferry starts us off today … 

The trouble with living in a small village was that everybody knew everybody else’s business. Harriet had discovered this to her cost when she had decided to organise a Valentine’s Ball in the function room of the local pub.

Harriet worked in the local cafe, and as such, everybody knew her prowess with buns, cakes and pots of tea. As she was also quite a chatty person – and her best friend Tammy was a barmaid and was also quite a chatty person – everybody knew that Harriet from the cafe harboured a deep desire for Tony, the new policeman who had just moved into Lilac Cottage. It was generally agreed that Harriet was arranging the Ball in order to entice Tony there. Everybody knew this except, it seemed, Harriet, who stared at Vera, the head of the Women’s Institute as she smiled at her over a sticky bun.

‘Tony is a very nice chap,’ said Vera. ‘I must say, we invited him for an informal meeting with us all two weeks ago. We decided that we needed some advice on staying safe in the village, and he seemed the perfect person to discuss it with us.’ Vera blushed and lowered her eyelids coyly. Harriet felt that in a village such as Thistlethorpe, where the greatest scandal of the twenty-first century had occurred when “someone” stole the star off the village Christmas tree five years ago, advice on personal safety wasn’t exactly a great excuse to get Tony into the Village Hall on a Tuesday evening.

She did wonder, however, whether his lovely blue eyes had crinkled up at the corners when he smiled at the ladies as they went through some basic self-defence moves; and whether his unruly chestnut-coloured hair had been as mussed up as usual—

But her thoughts were interrupted when Vera continued: ‘I do hope you get him to your Ball, Harriet. He’s a lovely boy. Lovely! You could do worse.’

‘My Ball!’ Harriet blushed as scarlet as the glace cherries in her scones. ‘I’m not arranging the Ball to get Tony there!  I mean, if he’d like to come, it would be lovely to see him, but—’ She blushed again. ‘The reason I’m doing this is just so we can all have a bit of fun. I think Christmas seems so far behind us and summer isn’t for months yet, and we need something in between to cheer us all up. Anyway, it’s my birthday as well, so I wanted to do something special for it!’ It was indeed her thirtieth, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to get all her friends together and have champagne and cupcakes and giant heart-shaped balloons. There was nothing nefarious to that at all – nothing.

‘Well, Tammy mentioned your little fancy to Felicity, and Felicity told Moira, and Moira told me and, well, he’s lovely.’ Vera sipped her tea looking smug and Harriet felt sick. It was one thing arranging a party on the pretext of birthdays and champagne and balloons – but in reality, yes; she would have to admit (if push came to shove) that the main reason for the party was, indeed, Tony. But the problem now was clearly going to be issuing him an invitation, without looking completely and utterly desperate. Because he obviously knew how she felt – how cold he not with the Gossip Train in motion – and she had no idea how she could face him without her getting incredibly embarrassed and him, quite possibly, running away screaming in the opposite direction.

‘Vera, I have to say—’ Harriet began; but then she was interrupted by the bell over the door as someone entered the cafe.

A little bit of a cliffhanger there. I wonder who could possibly be coming into the cafe? ;) Find out tomorrow when Christina Courtenay takes up the reins for Part Two!

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If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her books, Some Veil Did Fall and The Girl in the Painting. Click the images above for purchasing information. Kirsty’s new book The Girl in the Photograph will also be out in March, and there’ll be a special Valentine’s cover reveal tomorrow – keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook for that!

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Kirsty’s first book Some Veil Did Fall and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What was the ‘great scandal’ of Thistlethorpe?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kirsty Ferry comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

Part Two by Christina Courtenay is now available to read HERE

The Santa Dash: Part Two by Clare Chase

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Kathryn Freeman started us off with a Santa Dash yesterday, and now Clare Chase is taking us right up to the starting line. And just what will happen with those two rival Santas? Will Ellie have to choose between them? ;)

Remember to read right until the end if you’d like to take part in our competition! In order for the story to make sense, you will need to read Part One by Kathryn Freeman first, which can be found HERE.

The Santa Dash – PART TWO

Ellie felt a blush creep up her neck. Thank goodness her Santa beard was so thick. But the guy’s flattery didn’t entirely distract her. What was his connection with Julian? Suddenly, she realised she’d left an awkward pause in their conversation. ‘What were you doing anyway, running before everyone else had started?’ she said, quickly.

‘Ah!’ His eyes were twinkling again. ‘Yes, sorry about that. I got a bit held up and I didn’t want to miss the start of the race. My phone’s at home and,’ he tapped his wrist, ‘my watch packed up a week ago so I couldn’t check the time. I don’t need to clock watch for work so I haven’t got around to getting it fixed.’

Ellie was about to ask him what he did when an elderly lady with a blue rinse squeezed her way between two especially rotund Santas.

‘Ah there you are, Jamie,’ she said, beaming up at the man Ellie had knocked over. ‘It took me ages to spot you in the crowd. I’m so glad I didn’t make you miss the race. I wanted to thank you again.’

Ellie wondered what ‘Jamie’ was being thanked for, but at that moment, Julian tore himself away from the gaggle of women who’d surrounded him and caught her eye, his handsome features made all the more irresistible by a smile. Within a moment he’d ushered her towards the front of the throng of Santas. ‘Don’t want to get stuck at the back with the stragglers, do we?’ His hand was still on her shoulder as he guided her into the front row of queueing runners. ‘I hope Jamie wasn’t making a nuisance of himself.’ She noticed his jaw was taut now, and his smile had faded. ‘I’d be curious to know what he said about me.’

Ellie felt the warmth of his hand through her Santa suit. It was definitely lingering on her shoulder longer than was necessary. She tried to concentrate on what he was asking. ‘Well, I gathered you’re not the best of friends, but he didn’t seem keen to talk about it.’

Julian’s smile was back. ‘No, well, he wouldn’t. Whatever he told you wouldn’t reflect well on him. Still if he didn’t elaborate, I won’t either.’ He moved his hand from her shoulder and touched what would have been her cheek, but was currently just nylon beard. She squirmed with embarrassment. It really was too unfair that she was finally within a hair’s breadth of him – dressed as a fat, ageing man with glue-on eyebrows. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, as though reading her mind. ‘You carry off facial hair very nicely.’

At that moment, Ellie noticed a woman with cascading auburn locks that shone in the winter sun. She was standing at the edge of the Santa dash course, wearing a mini skirt, suede jacket and long boots. Distressingly, she seemed to be trying to attract Julian’s attention. When the woman caught her eye and gesticulated, Ellie realised she’d have to give in and let him know.

‘I think someone in the crowd’s waving at you,’ she said, nudging him and pointing.

Julian looked round and spotted the glamorous woman. As Ellie watched she was surprised to see him look startled, and then hesitate before responding. It took at least five seconds for him to muster a smile.

‘Melissa!’ He shouted at last. ‘I’d no idea you’d be here.’

‘Mum said you were running. I thought it would be a hoot to come along and see you. Mind you, I imagined it would be much harder to pick you out.  I might have known you’d barge your way to the front though. Why on earth aren’t you wearing a beard?’

Rather than replying, Ellie noticed Julian suddenly seemed preoccupied with the crowd of Santas behind them. His brow was furrowed and his shoulders tensed as he craned round. She followed his gaze, and found she was looking into the eyes of Jamie, three rows behind them. Then, after a second, Julian looked back at the woman called Melissa again.

‘What is it, Julian?’ Ellie asked.

Suddenly his eyes were back on her. ‘Nothing,’ he said.

And at that moment, a man with a loud hailer distracted them both. ‘Marks, set, go!’

Curiouser and curiouser! Of course Clare Chase’s part was going to end with a bit of a mystery! Can’t wait for tomorrow when Jane Lovering will be taking us for the next mile in our Santa Dash … 

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Clare’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, You Think You Know Me … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

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

What is the mystery woman’s name? 

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 Three by Jane Lovering HERE

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

Halloween Round Robin DAY FIVE

 

Happy Halloween everyone! We know you’ll no doubt be busy preparing for trick-or-treaters and pumpkin carving but make sure you take some time out with your morning coffee to read the last part of our Halloween Round Robin and find out what happens to Kalen and Faye. A Jane Lovering finale is not to be missed :) There’s one more competition to enter too!

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order.

Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens

Click HERE to read Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Click HERE to read Part Three by Christina Courtenay

Click HERE to read Part Four by Kirsty Ferry 

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

We danced for what felt like days, but every time I glanced up the moon was still in the same position, as though it had been nailed to the black silk of the sky.

‘The queen wishes to meet our human guest,’ Kalen said, after we’d performed a particularly difficult waltz that had left me out of breath whilst all the other dancers seemed unaffected, almost cat-like in their grace and elegance, and also their air of slightly self-satisfied arrogance. ‘She is intrigued by your presence.’

He took my hand and led me to a dais, surrounded by gauzy curtains which fluttered in an unfelt breeze. Upon the platform sat a woman so beautiful that I immediately felt pathetically unworthy and slightly fat in my laced-up bodice and swirly skirt. Everything about her was perfect. Her hair was glossy black, parted in the middle and rippled with just enough curl to make it not hang like a 1960’s folk singer. Her face could have advertised anything from perfume to expensive cars and she wore a dress that managed to leave everything to the imagination whilst assuming that you didn’t have a very good one. She looked like Faerie Barbie.

‘So.’ And even her voice was perfect, light and amused, accentless. ‘This is the human woman that you rescued from the Dark Court’s attention.’  She rested her chin in her cupped hand and looked at me as though she was going to buy me. ‘Hmmm.’ She made a ‘twirling’ motion in the air with her other hand and Kalen obediently swung me around.  ’I suppose she will do.’ Then her attention focused in on me. ‘Has Kalen provided you with refreshment yet, my dear? Do have a cup of sherbet.’

I wanted to point out that, what with it being Halloween, I’d already had enough sherbet to knock out a ten-year-old, but Kalen was already passing me an ornate silver goblet filled with liquid. It foamed and smelled of all the delicious things I’d ever eaten or drunk. I realised that, with all the dancing and partying and not knowing how much time had elapsed, I was actually really thirsty, and raised the cup to my lips.

A large tartan shopping bag appeared out of nowhere and smacked the goblet from my hand, spilling frothing liquid across the impeccable grass in front of me.

‘Don’t you know that you never eat or drink in Faerie?’ a crotchety voice asked. ‘Honestly, what do they teach them in schools these days?  Well, geography, I suppose. And French. But obviously not how to behave when you’ve been stolen away by the Folk… tch.’

Mrs Alden, wearing what looked suspiciously like a winceyette nightie and ankle-high slippers in purple tartan stood in the middle of the faerie ball, as incongruous as a naked man in Harrods. She’d lowered her wheeled shopping bag, but was still holding it slightly threateningly by its long handle.

The queen looked furious.  She actually hissed at Mrs Arden.

‘Now, now, my lady. You’ll not use this poor child in one of your battles against the Unseelie.’ Mrs Arden gave me A Look. ‘Just because she’s a bit simple and has her head easily turned by a man in tight britches does not give you the right to keep her in Faerie.’  A hand fastened around my wrist. ‘And you, come with me.’

She pulled me away from the floating candles and the music and the laughter.  Away from the magic that had made me feel so special, and back through the wooden door. Instantly we were outside the flats again and I could smell the rubbish bins and the damp compost from my pots. My clothes were back to being jeans and trainers, and I felt a brief pang for the loss of the cobweb dress and silver slippers. Mrs Arden continued to bundle me until we were back inside the building, and then inside her flat, whereupon she pushed me down into an armchair, made a quick phone call that I couldn’t hear, and turned to me.

‘I suppose you told them your name.’  She was shaking her head. ‘Really, child.  You let yourself be elf-struck, and on this night of all nights … well. You were just lucky I was there.’  She reached into the tartan shopper and pulled out another horse-shoe, this one was still bright and had a few nails protruding. Mrs Arden sighed. ‘And at my age I shouldn’t be wrestling with horses, it’s no joke trying to pull these things off, you know, when you’ve got half a tonne of Welsh Cob trying to nibble your nightie.’

I was still stunned.  I just sat, trying to get my head around what had just happened.  The memory of the faerie ball was fading, wisping into dream.

‘I knew what was happening the second you burst in and stole my horseshoe. If you eat or drink in Faerie, they have you, you know.’  Mrs Arden’s voice softened now. ‘They can keep you for two hundred years and do what they want with you. And what they want is rarely pleasant.’ Her voice dropped away, as though she knew. ‘And then they just drop you back where they found you.  All your family dead and gone, never knowing what happened to you.’

There was a knock at the door and she went off to open it to a tall young man with familiar piercing blue eyes, who I was absolutely NOT going to refer to as Kalen No. 3. ‘This is my great great grandson,’ she said.

The young man smiled at me, with absolutely no sense of recognition, but a warm friendliness. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘I’m Mark.’

I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times.  ’And I’m …’ I hesitated.

Mrs Arden twinkled at me. ‘It’s all right,’ she said. ‘Halloween is just about over, and this one is definitely mortal. He’s the spitting image of his great great grandad, though …’ she added softly.

‘I’m Faye,’ I said.  ’From next door.’

Mark nodded. ‘I’ve seen you coming and going, when I’ve been visiting Great Gran. I’m renovating the old hall down the road there, going to turn it into a house … I was going to knock and ask you to come over for a coffee, but …’ he spread his hands, ‘it just never seemed the right time.’

Mrs Arden nodded to herself, as though quietly satisfied. Then she stared at the space above the door where I’d wrenched holes in her architrave. ‘Now, I’ll leave you two alone together to get to know one another … and to get that bloody horseshoe back up where it belongs!’

We were beginning to have our suspicions about ‘Kalen Number 1′, but we’re so glad Mrs Arden stepped in to save the day – and that Faye finally met the ‘right’ Kalen (or Mark!) What a fabulous way to end our Round Robin and to begin the Halloween celebrations! 

Thank you to all of our talented authors for putting the story together. We don’t know how you manage it! And thank you also to everyone who has read the story and commented. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you all have a wonderful Halloween. 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Vampire State of Mind and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

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The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Final Part by Sheryl Browne

DAY 5 VRRHappy Valentine’s Day to all our readers and to everyone who has been keeping track of our fabulous Valentine’s Round Robin :) We hope your days are full of wine, chocolate and romance! 

Sheryl Browne is rounding up the story today and, without giving anything away, she does us proud. Thank you to each of the five writers who have taken part – as always, you have outdone yourselves!

So sit back (hopefully with a big, preferably heart-shaped, box of chocolates) and enjoy the last part of this Valentine’s Day story. If you haven’t read the other extracts yet, make sure you do before reading this! And remember to read right until the end to find out about our Valentine’s Day competition :)  

Part One by Alison May can be read HERE.

Part Two by Linn B. Halton can be read HERE. 

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry can be read HERE.

Part Four by Angela Britnell can be read HERE.

Oh.’ Sophie lost the smile as they pulled up in front of the hotel.

‘Problem?’ Josh obviously noted her crestfallen expression. ‘It’s just that my roommate has first dibs on the flat tonight. New girlfriend. I think he’s trying to impress her.’ Shaking his head, he rolled his twinkly ocean blue eyes and then looked at her uncertainly. ‘If you’d rather not, though …’

‘Yes! I mean No, no problem.’ Unimpressed though she was by the tactless, “trying to impress her” comment, Sophie plastered her smile back in place. Having only recently moved in, her own flat was still an absolute tip. There was no way she was ready for him to see that. Where else did she think they were going to seal their relationship? The bowling alley, with his obnoxious fangirls cheering him on? Sophie shuddered, quashing a fleeting image of Arlo guffawing and bitchy Evadne and Belinda scoring her points out of ten. ‘It’s a good idea.’ She nodded. Impromptu. Romantic, she thought dreamily. This was special. It meant something. Obviously it meant something to Josh too.

‘I booked us a room.’ Josh whipped his key from the ignition, and promptly pricked her romantic bubble. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, I got you something.’ He turned, leaning over the seat, his mesmerising blue eyes meeting hers, his delicious spicy cologne playing havoc with her senses.

What, Sophie wondered headily. Roses! It had to be. Chocolates! With which they would indulge after … She held her breath, sure she would just burst with happiness at his thoughtfulness.

Oh. She deflated a bit as he produced a bottle of wine.

‘It’s not the best, but not bad,’ he said, waving the bottle in her direction and then shoving his door open and climbing out. ‘Coming?’ he asked, leaning back in to shoot her his confident, megawatt smile.

Sighing inwardly, Sophie reached for her door. At least she’d got the prosecco, she supposed. And at least he’d thought to come around and open her door for her. He was a gentleman. A gorgeous sporty hunk and very nearly a fully qualified solicitor. He was hers.

‘Watch your step. Don’t want to end up in A&E, do we?’ Giving her a mischievous wink, Josh nodded down at her ankle accentuating shoes as she teetered alongside him on the uneven cobblestones. He didn’t take her hand. Sophie swallowed back her disappointment.

‘So, what do you think?’ Josh asked, once they’d found their room, another flash of uncertainty in his eyes as he scanned her face. Another small plus.

It was tiny, shoebox sized. But clean and … serviceable. She didn’t need roses, Sophie told herself firmly. They would make their own romance, sip chilled wine together, make sweet meaningful love together, and then lie satiated in each other’s arms, sharing secrets until the sun rose. How much more romantic could it be?  Josh, she realised, was obviously as nervous as she was. Or possibly not. Turning back to beam him her best grateful smile, she blinked, slightly stunned to find him peeling his shirt off.

Sophie’s smile faltered, as he walked towards her, his tanned biceps glistening, his ocean blue eyes smouldering. ‘Are we getting naked?’ He stopped directly in front of her, his lips a hair’s breadth from hers. His breath was minty, his eyelashes long and lustrous, incongruous with his sun-kissed clutchable hair. Sophie almost wilted, as he pulled her proprietorially to him, her tummy dipping, her head giddy with longing, as he closed his delicious mouth over hers, kissing her hard, deep and  … stopping.

‘Damn.’ He groaned, as his phone beeped in his jeans pocket. ‘Talk about bad timing.’ Leaving Sophie reeling on her vertiginous heels, he pulled away, fished the phone out and read the text. Then, shaking his head, he smiled, keyed in a response and tossed the phone on the bed. ‘Sorry about that,’ he said, turning back to her.

‘No problem,’ she said, actually thinking it was.

‘I’ll just, er …’ Nodding towards the bathroom, he hooked a finger over the low neckline of her dress. ‘You might want to lose that,’ he suggested, smiling … amusedly? … and then sauntering off.

But, short of a bow, she’d dressed entirely to please him, from her lacy knickers to her figure hugging red dress, which actually now felt a bit tarty. Wasn’t he going to unwrap her? Obviously not. Watching him disappear into the bathroom, Sophie huffed over to the bed. Parking herself ungraciously to hitch off her heels, she paused as the phone beeped again. Her eyes travelled towards it. Should she?

What was so flipping urgent anyway? A curry. She realised, her heart sinking, as she read the text: How’d it go? Got to grips with the bowling balls yet? We’re heading over to The Dilshad. Will order for you. Balti or Masala?

About to. Balti, Josh had texted back.

****

‘Bastard.’ Matt surprised her, swinging her flat door wide as she waggled her key in the lock, wrapping an arm around her and steering Sophie gently inside. ‘If I see him soon he won’t be able to walk in a straight line, let alone bowl.’

‘Oh, Matt, it was a disaster! ’ Sophie blubbered, never more grateful for her strong, dependable, caring friend. He’d obviously used the key he’d had when he’d helped her move in and made sure to be here to pick up the pieces, again. ‘But you shouldn’t be here.’ She took the tissue he offered her and blew, not very daintily. ‘What about your date?’

‘I, er, cancelled. This morning. Come on, come on in. I’ve run you a nice scented bath.’

‘But…?’ He’d bought roses. Armfuls. She’d seen him in town, this afternoon. He’d looked a bit down, Sophie remembered. She’d assumed it was something to do with his job at the hospice, but she’d been so full of her own news about her date with despicable Josh she hadn’t asked him. She should have. She glanced up at him. He smiled embarrassedly. Leave it, she told herself, guessing poor Matt had had a disastrous Valentine’s Day too. ‘Thank you,’ she said, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek, and then padding towards her bedroom, ridiculous heels in hand.

He was too sensitive, that was Matt’s trouble. Too caring. Too good-looking for the women he dated to see past the physique. They wanted macho, sporty types, like ‘Joshy’, not sensitive souls like Matt, who preferred to woo women before bedding them. They could have him. And she’d have Matt in a flash, if only she was one of the prettier more popular girls.

Sniffing, she pressed down the door handle, noting the heavenly waft of scented bath oil as she did, and then froze. Not bath oil. She blinked, bewildered. Roses! Everywhere. On the bedside table, on the dressing table, petals on the floor. Matt?

Speechless, panda-eyed, bedraggled, shoeless and short, Sophie turned slowly around to face him. ‘For me?’

Matt laughed. ‘Well, they’re not for me.’

‘But …’ Sophie stared at him, incredulous. ‘Why?’

‘Because I… ‘A flush to his cheeks, Matt stopped. ‘Because you’re beautiful. Sweet and beautiful, and far too good for that conceited pillock. I know you don’t … Probably wouldn’t consider, but …’ Pulling in a huge breath, Matt paused again, then, ‘Would you do me the honour of being my Valentine, Sophie?’

Totally stunned now, Sophie just continued to stare.

‘OK, right.’ Matt coughed, at length, and looked more embarrassed than ever. ‘Well, no problem. I get that you don’t, you know. I’d offer to wash your back,’ he joked, as was Matt’s wont, ‘but …’

‘You’d like to woo me first?’ Sophie found her voice.

A slow smile curved Matt’s mouth, a shy, gorgeous, completely unpretentious smile. ‘If you’ll let me?’ he asked hopefully.

‘Yes!’ Sophie laughed, bewildered. Was it possible? Did she dare hope, after so many heart-breaking disappointments, that her dream of the perfect Valentine’s Day had come true?

Aww, so glad Sophie got the Valentine’s Day she wanted in the end – and Matt sounds gorgeous! We hope everyone reading this gets their perfect Valentine’s Day too :)  

COMPETITION TIME!

Now that we’ve reached the last part of the story, it’s time to submit your answers from the last four days, along with one last answer from today for your chance to win a mystery prize! Here’s the question:

Where does the lovely Matt work?

When you’ve read every part of the story and collected together your answers, send all FIVE of them to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner (with five correct answers) will be picked at random. Deadline for entry is Wednesday 17th February and the winner will be announced on Thursday 18th February.

There is also one last chance to win a prize by commenting on this post or on Facebook/Twitter to let us know what you think of the story. The winners of these daily competitions will be announced at the same time as the main competition winner. Good luck!

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If you enjoyed Sheryl Browne’s writing, why not give her book, The Rest of My Life, a go? The novel will be out in paperback on April 7th and is available to pre-order HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Four by Angela Britnell

DAY 4 VRR

It’s Angela Britnell’s turn today – let’s see whether she puts Sophie out of her misery! And who could have been on the other end of that phone? ;)  

In order to make sense of today’s extract, have a read of the extracts we’ve released over the last few days. Part One by Alison May is HERE. Part Two by Linn B. Halton is HERE. Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

‘Oh, Soph, don’t tell me he stood you up? Do you want me to come and get you?’

Sophie’s eyes prickled and she ordered herself not to cry. Good old Matt. They’d been best friends since they were five and he’d rescued her from the infant school bully on the playground. She stumbled over trying to explain to him the horrific scenario waiting for her back in the bowling alley. ‘They’re all awful,’ she wailed.

‘What did Josh say when they had a go at you?’ The question hung there and Sophie knew without having to be told exactly what Matt would’ve done. Stood up for her. Told his friends they were out of line. Precisely what the niggling voice in her head had been saying ever since she and Josh arrived and he’d basically thrown her to the sharks.

Her pride kicked back in. Sophie had bored Matt silly with the “will he won’t he” story of her relationship with Josh until she’d about made his ears bleed. Last week when she’d rambled on about her dreams for Valentine’s Day he’d told her to be careful what she wished for because it might happen. Trust Matt to be right. He’d been right about her last boyfriend, Peter, too. And that louse William. As for Greg – he’d correctly nailed him as a lying, unfaithful loser.

‘Oh, he’s …’ Sophie tried to say how great Josh had been but she couldn’t lie. Not to Matt. ‘Just forget I called. You know me. Always the drama queen. I’m overreacting and being daft as usual.’

‘You’re not daft,’ Matt scoffed. ‘You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful …’

Silence. Sophie  struggled to breathe.

‘There you are. Is everything all right?’ Josh appeared by her shoulder, flashing his trademark megawatt smile.

‘Yes, thanks, one of my friends called. I’ll just get rid of … her.’

‘I’ll wait.’ Josh dropped down on the bench next to her and draped his warm arm around her shoulder. His delicious spicy cologne wafted in the air and she nearly swooned.

‘I’ve got to go.’ Sophie murmured down the phone.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll consider myself suitably got rid of. Be careful, Soph.’

She hung up and bit back tears.

‘I told the others we’d had enough of bowling.’ Josh grinned and trailed a finger down her neck, lingering at the low neckline of her dress. ‘I can think of far better ways to spend what’s left of Valentine’s Day.’

 You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful.

Had Matt really said that? Best friend, Matt. The man all her single friends drooled over but who never seemed to find the right woman. That Matt?

‘Sophie, are you listening to me?’ Josh’s smooth voice sneaked back into her awareness and she looked at him. This was what she’d spent all afternoon primping for. Wasn’t it nice that he’d wanted to introduce her to his friends? Okay, so maybe it hadn’t been super thoughtful to do it on Valentine’s day but he was a man and they didn’t make as much of these things as women tended to.

‘Of course. That’s a wonderful idea. Are you sure your friends don’t mind?’

Josh chuckled. ‘No. They encouraged me. I heard something about keeping them safe from flying bowling balls.’

Sophie forced on a smile. She could laugh at herself as well as anyone. Despite a rocky start she refused to let this Valentine’s Day join her list of romantic disasters.

Wine and chocolate

It sounds like there still could be a chance for Sophie to salvage her disastrous Valentine’s Day. Sheryl Browne will round it all off tomorrow with the last extract – and we hope the beginning of your Valentine’s Day is a lot better than the one Sophie’s had so far!

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

Name the three ex boyfriends of Sophie’s that Matt was right about.

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

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If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, why not pick up a copy of her novella, The Wedding Reject Table? The book has recently been shortlisted for a RNA award and is available to purchase HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

DAY 3 VRR

 

Has Sophie’s Valentine’s Day got any better than when we last left her? Let’s see if Kirsty Ferry has been any kinder! If you haven’t read the first extracts of the story yet, you can read Part One by Alison May HERE and Part Two by Linn B. Halton HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

Sophie shimmied down the alley, the rubber-soled shoes squeaking most inelegantly on the highly polished floor. A couple of the girls – bitchy, bleach-blonde vamps from what she could tell, looked her up and down and sniggered into their spritzers.

‘Nice one, Joshy,’ murmured one of them. She had “Belinda” emblazoned across her T-shirt.

‘Strike, Joshy-lad!’ guffawed  “Arlo”.  ‘Couple of nice bowling balls up top on that one.’

Sophie felt her face flush almost as red as the dratted dress she was squished into.

‘My bad,’ replied Joshy-lad, sitting down perilously close to the other blonde – “Evadne”, apparently. ‘I forgot it was Valentines Day.’

‘Joshy!’ cried Evadne. ‘That’s so naughty. Will you ever forgive him … sorry? Susie? Sarah? I can’t quite remember…’

‘Sophie,’ replied Sophie through gritted teeth. She perched on the edge of the nasty, plastic upholstered seat and blushed again as a small parp of air released from a split in the upholstery material. Typical. Could this day get any worse? Oh how she wished she was in her own lounge, on her own un-parpy sofa, in front of a weepy girly chick-flick, cradling a box of chocolates and slugging back prosecco. Her best friend’s words floated in front of her mind. Be careful what you wish for – it might just happen. Valentine’s Day sucked, big time.

‘Your turn Sophie!’ She looked around as Josh smiled encouragingly at her and nodded towards the pile of balls. It was the walk of shame again – a wiggle and a waddle and a squeak all the way over to the balls, choose a pink one (why the heck not?), followed by a mincing sort of run as she hustled her way up to the line and sort of lurched the ball into the alley.

Sophie swore as it bounced a couple of times and ended up in the gutter.

‘One more go, love!’ shouted Arlo the Idiot. ‘Come on, give us a good show!’

Sophie knew that a ‘good show’ to Arlo would be a rip right up the back of her dress and all her lacy-knickered-ultra-waxed glory being displayed to the crowd.

Losing heart, she picked up another ball (green this time) and threw it deliberately into the alley. What was the point?

‘My bad,’ she said shrugging. ‘Excuse me just a moment, would you?’

She picked up her gorgeous designer bag and squeaked past the peanut gallery, aware of the heavy-lashed looks coming from the girls and the slobbering lust emanating from the men.

‘You okay?’ Josh asked, making to get up.

‘Fine and dandy,’ she lied. ‘It’s okay – I won’t be long. You stay there with your friends. I’m just off to powder my nose.’ She headed away to the loos, Evadne’s voice – or it might have been Belinda’s – following her: ‘Oh, sweetie pie, never mind. She’s just not our type, is she? Here, have a drink. Then you can watch me and see how it’s really done.’

Sophie managed to hold onto her dignity until she was around the corner, then sat down on a bench by a Splat-the-Mole machine and pulled out her mobile. She punched in the first number she could think of, her go-to person, and waited for the call to connect.

‘Oh thank goodness you’re there,’ she said, closing her eyes in relief at the familiar voice. ‘I’m having the absolutely worst Valentine’s Day date in all the rotten history of Valentine’s Day dates …’

 

Wine and chocolate

It just keeps getting worse and worse for poor Sophie! Angela Britnell will reveal who’s on the other end of that phone to tomorrow ;)  

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

What does Sophie sit down next to on the bench when she makes a phone call to a mystery person?

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

The Girl in the Painting

If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, why not pre-order a copy of her new book The Girl in the Painting HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part One by Alison May

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 Alison May kicks off our Valentine’s Day Round Robin in style! Look out for the other four parts of the story coming over the next few days and finishing on the big day itself. Make sure you read each part of the story right until the end so you can take part in our competition for a mystery prize of chocolate and romance ;)  

Sophie Morris had a dream. It was a dream of coming home to find her flat filled with red roses. It was a dream of chocolate and perfume delivered to her desk at work. It was a dream of a mountain of cards on the mat after the postman had been. It was a dream of her perfect Valentine’s Day.

In reality Valentine’s Day had always been a bit of a nightmare. There’d been all the years at school when she’d watched the cards pile up on the desks of the prettier, more popular girls. There’d been one particularly awful year at university when she’d ended the Valentine’s Ball not in the arms of her intended Romeo, but crying in the toilet with half the contents of the punch bowl down her previously white dress.

But this year was going to be different. This year she had her fourth date with Josh Tyler. Josh Tyler. Tall. Blond. Former professional swimmer, and now an almost very nearly fully qualified solicitor. Brawn and brains. Just the sort of man, in fact, that Sophie had been building her Valentine’s fantasies around for years, only Josh was real. She’d first seen him three months ago getting coffee across the road from her office. Two months ago he’d been behind her in the queue and picked up her drink by mistake. By Christmas, they’d been on nodding terms. And a month ago, she’d plucked up the courage to suggest that they ‘take a proper break’ and drink their coffee together.

If you counted that coffee, as Date One, and Sophie did, then tonight was Date Four and Date Four on Valentine’s Day meant, to Sophie’s deeply romance-focused mind, that this was a Proper Relationship.

Her perfect Valentine’s Day was planned down to the last minute. Unfortunately, it did still involve going to work, but that was fine. She had to give her quarterly presentation to the sales team just before lunch, but then, the plan was to take the afternoon off and get herself fully Valentine’s ready. She had appointments for hair, nails, facial eyebrow wax, leg wax, and ahem … well other waxing – she had very definite plans for Date Number Four.

Then she would head home, all newly scrubbed and buffed and get dressed in her brand new Perfect Date Outfit. She’d tried on no less than forty-seven potential outfits in preparation for this date. She’d gone through everything in her wardrobe and her sister’s wardrobe before dragging her sister round the shops until she’d found the perfect little red dress. Short but not too short. Tight but not too tight. It seemed to suck bits of her in and pop other bits of her out again in all sorts of good ways.definite plans for Date Number Four.

And then, taxi into town to meet Josh. He was keeping their destination secret, which was exactly as it should be – a little mystery, Sophie felt, added to the romance. And actually she had a pretty good idea where they were going. She’d spent the last three weeks casually mentioning the new French style bistro that had opened opposite the cathedral, and Josh was a smart boy. She had no doubt he’d have picked up her hints.

So, for the first time in her life, Sophie Morris left for work on Valentine’s Day full of confidence. This year really was going to be her year. This year she was going to finally win at Valentine’s Day. Nothing and nobody was going to spoil her perfect day.

Wine and chocolate

We’re already rooting for Sophie to have her perfect Valentine’s Day … but something tells us it might not go completely to plan! You can now read the other four parts of the story:

Click HERE to read Part Two by Linn B. Halton

Click HERE to read Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

Click HERE to read Part Four by Angela Britnell

Click HERE to read Part Five by Sheryl Browne

And now for our COMPETITION! In order to enter you will need to read each part of the story carefully and answer FIVE questions. Please only enter once all parts of the story have been released and you have answered all the questions. Today’s question is …

Where is Sophie hoping that Josh takes her on Valentine’s Day?

Make sure you note down your answer and come back tomorrow for the second question!

There will also be a prize each day for the best comment so please let us know what you think of the story so far in the comments section below!

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Alison May’s wonderful novel, Midsummer Dreams, is out in paperback on Valentine’s Day. You can pre-order your copy HERE.

 

The Jade Lioness by Christina Courtenay: Release Day and Competition!

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Jade is something that is undeniably Oriental and for me the mere word evokes images of the Far East and exotic settings. It’s been considered precious for millennia and has been used from prehistoric times, first to make tools as it’s such a hard material, then later merely for ornamental purposes. It has great significance for Asian people and is thought to embody many virtues. And no wonder – it’s truly beautiful!

The first time I saw a jade object I was seventeen and visiting Hong Kong with my parents. The shops there were full of jade jewellery – chunky bracelets, delicate rings and pretty necklaces. I loved the colour and feel of it (it’s lovely and cool to the touch) and could totally understand why the Chinese found this material so attractive. As I have green eyes, I immediately felt that this was the perfect accessory for me and I came home with quite a few additions to my jewellery box …

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At the time, I didn’t know that there are actually two types of jade – the minerals nephrite and jadeite – slightly different in colour and hardness, but similar enough that they were thought to be the same thing in the past.  Nephrite comes in many shades from almost white to dark green, as well as reddish, whereas jadeite has more colour variations, even blue, lavender and pink.  In the finest jade, the colour is supposed to be evenly distributed.  Both types are polished to a shiny finish, with nephrite being more resinous while jadeite can have a mirror type shine.

The translucent, emerald-green jadeite is the most sought after variety – the more see-through the better (like the bowl in the photo).  It was traditionally considered a “gem” (and a royal one at that since the Chinese emperors loved it), although it is actually just a stone or rock, and it was more highly prized than gold or silver.  In fact, the Chinese valued it the way Europeans did with gold or diamonds.

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So, when the time came to choose a title for the third instalment in my Japanese trilogy, the word jade sprang to mind and we ended up with The Jade Lioness. I think it captures the essence of the story and I hope the readers will agree!

PrizesToday is paperback publication day for The Jade Lioness, and to celebrate we thought we would give you the chance to win a signed copy of the book plus a little piece of jade – there are two sets up for grabs:  a necklace or a little figurine, together with a lovely Chinese silk pouch for each.  A third runner-up can win the book and a silk lipstick case in jade green.  To be in with a chance, just leave a comment below and tell us what you think about jade and/or the colour green (which is a calming and positive colour I think, signifying spring and rebirth, although sometimes it’s also the colour of poison!).  Does it have any special significance for you?

In the meantime, here’s the blurb for The Jade Lioness:-

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648 Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family’s honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision – can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

The paperback of The Jade Lioness is now available to order on Amazon UK & Amazon US.

Find out more about the author, Christina Courtenay, on her website or follow her on Twitter @PiaCCourtenay.