Birthday Celebrations: Part Five by Rhoda Baxter


Choc Lit is 5 today! We’d like to say a HUGE thank you to our wonderful authors who write the best romance out there!  We’d also like to thank our dedicated Tasting Panel, who continue to select the best stories of the bunch. Our 10 awards are in recognition of their excellent taste and the many hours of reading they do for us all. And last, but by no means least, we want to thank our fabulous readers and book bloggers – without your continued cheerleading and love for Choc Lit novels we would not be here. Enjoy the last instalment of the story!

Kate had never seen Meg so hysterical as when she heard the news. It was almost as though something had snapped her inner cool. She collapsed in a tearful heap. Stunned herself, Kate lowered herself onto the arm of Meg’s chair and watched as the news anchor described how the plane was returning to England because almost everyone on board – including the pilot – had succumbed to an infection ‘caused by a contaminated batch of vol au vents.’ The logo of the catering company Kate had used flashed up on screen.

Marcus and Kate looked at each other, both going pale. ‘We had those…’ Marcus said.

And suddenly Kate was furious. Her brother could be seriously ill and she needed someone to blame. Megs gave a wail. ‘Oh Mark! My Mark.’

‘Megs,’ Kate snapped. ‘Pull yourself together. I didn’t know you cared so much about Mark. He’s MY brother, not yours.’

‘But I l…love him!’ Meg wailed. ‘I’ve just never had the chance to tell him and now I never will!’

That pulled Kate up short. What? Meg? In love with her brother? Oh.

Another glance at the screen and the anger was back. She would have to worry about Mark and Meg later. Right now, she had a catering company to shout at.

As soon as she gave her name, the woman on the phone launched into an apology and an explanation about how the diamond story was a ruse. ‘We don’t think that batch is contaminated, but we can’t be sure—’

Kate’s voice sank to a hiss. ‘Not only have you poisoned an entire flight, you’ve poisoned me as well.’

‘It’s only a tummy bug, Miss Walton. Have you…eaten the vol au vents?’

‘Yes. I have. And so has my… er… friend.’

‘Are you experiencing any… amorous feelings?’

She glanced at Marcus. He smiled and her stomach did a little flip. Amorous feelings? ‘Well…’

‘That happens immediately. Then within about 30 minutes, there will be…um… gastrointestinal issues.’

30 minutes. It had been at least an hour. Kate took a deep breath. Apart from a small tug of excitement whenever she looked at Marcus, her stomach seemed to be fine. ‘No, no stomach problems.’

‘Are you sure? They’re usually quite severe…’

‘No, I’m fine.’

The woman let out a sigh of relief. ‘Oh thank goodness for that. Listen, Miss Walton, we would advise that you don’t eat any of the food we supplied, just in case. We will, of course, refund you in full.’

Once she’d hung up, Kate rubbed her eyes. She needed a moment to make sense of all the information.

 ‘Oh my god! Mark!’ Meg’s shriek made Kate rush back to the TV where Mark’s photo, clearly taken from his passport, was on screen. Underneath, the scroll said: ‘Have a go hero’.

As Meg burst into tears again, Marcus passed her the tissues. ‘Your brother’s a hero,’ he said. ‘He and the steward are bringing the plane home.’

Once they knew where the plane was going to land, Marcus drove them to the airport in the cake delivery van. With a bit of pushing and shoving Kate and Meg managed to get to the front of the waiting crowd just as the camera flashes of the waiting journalists went off. There, in the middle of the melee, looking shaken, but otherwise perfectly well, was Mark.

‘Mark!’ Kate ducked under the barrier to get to her brother, but Meg beat her to him. She flung her arms around Mark and buried her face in his shoulder. A rather stunned looking Mark wrapped his arms around her.

‘Mark,’ said Kate.

Mark opened one arm and gathered Kate to him as well. ‘You idiot,’ she muttered into his ear, ‘the lengths you go to to avoid my party.’

But Mark was too busy looking at Meg to answer.

‘It was awful,’ said Mark, as they finally walked back to the van.

‘Must have been terrifying, piloting a plane,’ said Kate.

‘Oh no, that bit was okay. They gave me very clear instructions. No, it was after we landed. When we had to go back into the cabin to let the ambulance crew in. The plane was full and there were only so many loos…’ Mark paled. ‘That’s a sight I’m never going to unsee.’ He shook his head. ‘I may need therapy.’

There wasn’t enough room for everyone in the front of the van, so Meg and Mark bundled into the back.

‘I’ll drive very carefully,’ said Marcus. ‘If we get stopped pretend you’re made of cake.’

They pulled up outside the house. Kate looked at the window, where one banner she’d forgotten to take down still said ‘Happy Birthday’. She suddenly felt weary.

Marcus squeezed her shoulder. ‘You okay?’ When she nodded, he said: ‘Let’s go let those two out the back.’

But when they opened the door, Meg and Mark were wrapped tightly round each other, their faces apparently glued together. Marcus quietly shut the door again. ‘I don’t think they want to be disturbed.’ He grinned. ‘It’s a good job your brother didn’t eat the vol au vents. Mind you, what are the chances of the catering company losing a diamond and getting bacterial contamination in the same set of vol au vents.’

‘Ah, about that. They didn’t really lose the diamond.’ Kate briefly explained.

It took a moment for the implications to settle in. Marcus’s face fell. ‘So I don’t have to stay here overnight then.’

He wanted to stay. Kate felt the heat rising in her cheeks. ‘Well, not unless you want to.’

Marcus took a step closer to her. ‘Oh, I do,’ he said. ‘I really do.’

His lips met hers and forgot all about being tired as she abandoned herself to the delicious warmth of his arms pulling her closer.  When they finally drew apart he said, ‘I must admit, I’m a little sad that I’m not carrying a huge gemstone in my guts any more.’

Kate laughed and laid her head against his chest. ‘Don’t worry. To me you’ll always be a real diamond.’

The End

Rhoda Baxter writes contemporary romantic comedies. Her father’s engineering skills Rhoda Baxter author shotwere in international demand, so her childhood was split between the UK, the Pacific island of Yap, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Rhoda studied at the University of Oxford and holds a DPhil in microbiology. When chosing a pen name, she got nostalgic about the bacteria she used to study, (Rhodobacter species) and named herself Rhoda Baxter after them. Now her day job involves protecting and commercialising Intellectual Property generated by University research. This allows her to stay in touch with cutting edge scientific research without having to spend long hours in the lab.

Rhoda is married and has 2 children. They live together in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Her novels include Girl on the Run and Doctor January.

Competition – NOW CLOSED!

If you haven’t already entered our free prize draw to win any 5 Choc Lit novels, including advance 2014 books, enter now! Simply answer the following question:

In part one of the story, how many balloons has Kate blown up for her brother’s birthday party? Send your answer to info@choc-lit.com with ‘Birthday Competition’ as the subject line.

Alison May’s Top 5 Shakespearean Heroines

The Cobbe portrait

The Cobbe portrait

It’s Shakespeare’s 450th birthday! And in honour of the occasion I’m getting all Shakespearean and nominating my favourite heroines and heroes who have sprung forth from the Bard’s quill. Today it’s the turn of the ladies.

Cue the Top of the Pops style countdown music…

5. Katherina, The Taming of The Shrew

Ok, so to modern eyes there’s an awful lot that’s wrong with The Taming of the Shrew. Essentially it’s a story about domestic abuse which ultimately breaks the spirit of the main character, but that’s not to say that we don’t love that main character. It’s the fact that we love her so much that makes her humiliation so hard to watch. Katherina is outspoken, bolshy and engaged in a ferocious bout of sibling rivalry with her sister. She’s not a ‘nice’ heroine but she grabs the audience by the throat and shakes them, and she’s inspired a Hollywood teen flick and a classic musical. Straight into my top 5 for Katherina.

4. Hermione, The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale deserves an honourable mention in any rundown of Shakespeare plays, mainly because it includes the epic stage direction ‘Exit stage left pursued by bear.’ But this is my top heroines, not my top stage directions, so let’s get back to Hermione. She’s a wronged woman. Accused by her husband, the King, of infidelity, she’s thrown out of the palace and her child is dispatched into the wilderness. Hermione doesn’t let this get her down. She bides her time, and reappears years later, pretending to be a statue of herself. The King repents; the lost child reappears; and Hermione reveals herself to be alive rather than made of marble, simultaneously securing one of the least plausible happy endings anywhere in literature, and inspiring generations of fake statue street performers. Kudos to Hermione.

3. Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Helena is a heroine for any girl who’s ever felt that they were destined to always be the sidekick. For all of us who’ve ever thought we were just the plain friend who was never going to get the guy, Helena is the one to watch. Obviously she ends up blissfully in love with her man, with only a tiny bit assistance from fairies and magic potions, and she also gets to participate in one of the best cat fights ever written, where she describes her rival with the classic line ‘And though she be but little, she is fierce.’ It turns out that, once she gets going, quiet, compliant, sidekick Helena can be pretty fierce too.

2. Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

Oh Juliet. Poor unfortunate Juliet. You’ve made it to number two on this list for your appealing mix of impulsiveness, passion and quite a sensible head. Although when I say ‘sensible head’ that’s only really in comparison with Romeo, who is all passion and impulse with hardly a moment’s thought. Anyway, for passion, pure romance and taking a chance on love Juliet makes it into my top five. If she’d only had the good sense to think a little bit harder about the practicalities of the whole ‘faking her own death’ plan, she might have made it all the way to the number one.

1. Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing

No competition for the top spot in my list. For me Beatrice is the funniest, cleverest, and most passionate of all Shakespeare’s heroines. She’s a brilliantly loyal friend, and a very modern woman. She advises her cousin not simply to marry in line with her father’s wishes, but to find a husband who pleases her, and she out and out rejects the idea of getting married herself, which makes her confusion and horror when she realises that she is actually completely, utterly, irredeemably in love with Benedick all the more endearing.

So that’s my top five heroines. Come back on Friday when I’ll be running through Shakespeare’s top leading men.

SN_Kindle75dpi

“I think this is a marvellous updated retelling of [Much Ado About Nothing] … fresh and modern.” – Dear Author

Sweet Nothing by Alison May is available on Kindle.

Happy Birthday, Jane! by Juliet Archer

austenbdaysoireepicture-1Today’s a very special occasion – Jane Austen’s Birthday Soirée! Around the worldwide web, 31 Austen enthusiasts are celebrating her 236th birthday and showering her with cards, gifts and letters. We’re also showering you, dear readers, with giveaways.

I’ve written a letter to Jane, and I’m giving away a signed copy of The Importance of Being Emma and a signed copy of Persuade Me – open worldwide.

Dear Jane,

When you described your books as your children, did you ever imagine that they would be the start of an ever-expanding dynasty of prequels, sequels, modernisations, mash-ups and other ‘what-ifs’?

Two hundred years after your ‘eldest’ was first published, you have thousands of ‘descendants’ inhabiting every continent. Although the world you knew has undergone huge changes, your stories, characters and humour are timeless. You understood all the magic ingredients of comedy romance long before anyone else did.

Thank you for believing in your writing and persevering to get published. Little did you know how many readers would enjoy your work.

Happy Birthday!

Love,

Juliet Archer

To win a prize, leave a reply to the question below, giving your email address and indicating whether you’d like a copy of The Importance of Being Emma or Persuade Me. Giveaway closes at midnight on 23rd December.

Question: if a lost Austen novel was discovered, what do you think its title would be?

I’d like to thank the ladies who thought of this Soirée and organised it so beautifully – Maria Grazia – My Jane Austen Book Club and Katherine Cox – November’s Autumn (who also did the fabulous images). Finally, here’s the full list of participants and giveaways – feel free to drop by:

1. Sharon Lathan  Blog: Sharon Lathan Giveaway : Miss Darcy Falls in Love

2. Emily SnyderBlog: O! Beauty Unattempted Giveaway: Letters of Love & Deception

3. Laurel Ann Nattress Blog: Austenprose Giveaway: signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

4. C. Allyn Pierson Blog: SemiTrue Stories Giveaway: Mr Darcy Little Sister (open worldwide)

5. Cindy Jones   Blog: First Draft Giveaway: a signed copy of “My Jane Austen Summer” and a package of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea by Bingley’s, Ltd.

6. Farida Mestek   Blog: Regency stories set against the backdrop of Regency England Giveaway: I was Jane Austen Best Friend by Cora Harrison

7. Marilyn Brant    Blog: Brant Flakes Giveaway : A canvas ACCORDING TO JANE tote bag and a pair of A SUMMER IN EUROPE luggage tags.

8. Prue Batten  Blog: Mesmered’s Blog Giveaway : Anna Elliot’s “Georgiana Darcy” (Kindle book)

9. Erin Blakemore Blog: The Heroine’s Bookshelf Giveaway : a set of Potter-Style Pride and Prejudice notecards

10. Velvet    Blog: vvb32 reads Giveaway: Jane Austen’s Little Instruction Book (Charming Petites) By Jane Austen Edited by Sophia Bedford-Pierce, Illustrated by Mullen &

Katz, Introduction by Barbara Paulding

11. Karen Doornebos  Blog: The Fiction vs. Reality Smackdown Giveaway: 2 Jane Austen Candles and 2 signed DNMD books plus drink coasters and tea!

12. Regina Jeffers ReginaJeffers’s Blog Giveaway: An autographed copy of “Christmas at Pemberley “

13. Alyssa Goodnight    Blog: Alyssa Goodnight Giveaway: Jane Austen Action figure

14: Deb  Blog: Jane Austen in Vermont Giveaway: JASNA 2012 calendars from the Wisconsin JASNA Region

15: Laura Hile,  Susan Kaye, Pamela Aidan, and Barbara Cornthwaite Blog: Jane Started It! Giveaway:

· One copy of Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour by Pamela Aidan

· One set of Frederick Wentworth, Captain (Books 1 and 2) by Susan Kaye

· Two copies of Mercy’s Embrace: So Rough a Course (Book 1) by Laura Hile

· George Kinghtley, Gentleman (Books 1 and 2) by Barbara Cornthwaite.

16 . Juliet Archer   Blog: Choc Lit Authors’ Corner Giveaway: a copy of “Persuade Me” and one of “The Importance of Being Emma”

17. Jane Greensmith   Blog: Reading, Writing, Working , Playing Giveaway: a copy of “Intimations of Austen”, and Sense & Sensibility (Marvel Illustrated)

18. Jenny Allworthy Blog : The Jane Austen Film Club Giveaway: a copy of Northanger Abbey DVD starring Felicity Jones and JJ Feild (The winner will choose region 1 or 2 DVD)

19. Sitio Jane Austen    Blog: El Salón de Té de Jane Giveaway: - Spanish edition of Sense and Sensibility for the 200th Anniversary + A DVD package with adaptations of Jane Austen

(It’s only zone 2, but it’s in Spanish and English ) + blu-ray of the BBC’s Emma with Romola Garai

20. Kaitlin Saunders    Blog : Kaitlin Saunders Giveaway: “A Modern Day Persuasion”

21. Becky Rhodehouse     Blog: One Literature Nut Giveaway: selection of Austenesque Reads

22. Patrice Sarath Blog: Patrice Sarath Giveaway: A copy of The Unexpected Miss Bennet

23. Adriana Zardini Site: Jane Austen Brasil Giveaway: DVD – Sense and Sensibility (1995) – English / Portuguese subtitles

24. Jane Odiwe Blog: Jane Austen Sequels Giveaway: a mug with one of Jane Odiwe’s illustrations and a copy of her “Mr Darcy’s Secret”

25. Courtney Webb Stiletto Storytime Giveaway: Noble Satyr by Lucinda Brant (Regency Romance)

26. Jennifer Becton    Blog: Jennifer W. Becton Giveaway: An ebook of the Personages of Pride and Prejudice Collection, which contains all of my Austenesque works: Charlotte Collins, “Maria Lucas,” and Caroline Bingley. The giveaway will be open internationally.

27. Vera Nazarian    Blog: Urban Girl Takes Vermont Giveaway: a copy of Vera Nazarian’s gift hardcover edition of her inspirational calendar and diary, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

28. Abigail Reynolds   Blog: Pemberley Variations Giveaway: a signed copy of “Mr. Darcy’s Undoing”

29. Blog: AustenAuthors Giveaway: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

30. Katherine Cox   November’s Autumn Giveaway :$10 B&N Gift-card (US only)

31. Maria Grazia  My Jane Austen Book Club Giveaway : A selection of Austenesque reads