Alison May’s top 5 Shakespearean Heroes

On Wednesday I ran down my top five Shakespearean heroines. Today it’s the turn of the heroes. Let’s hear it for the boys.

Cue another round of Top of the Pops countdown music…

5. Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet

Mercutio is the cool, impulsive best friend we’d all love to have. The guy who always knows where the best party is and is always at the centre of the action. Now, admittedly, his need to be at the centre of the action does get him a tiny bit killed, but up until then he’s been spectacular. Louder, funnier and more outrageous than anyone else in the play, and to his credit he keeps joking to the end, managing to squeeze out a play on words about being ‘grave’ with his last breath. For commitment to punning alone, Mercutio is number five.

4. Berowne, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost is a silly little play where a group of men decide to forgo female company for  year and live in a state of abstemious study. Obviously, that plan goes pear shaped pretty fast when a passing Princess and her ladies-in-waiting rock up at their door. Despite the daft plot, and the fact that the suspected sequel has been lost to history so the play ends disconcertingly abruptly, Berowne, is still a great character. He’s funny and clever, and about a zillion times more realistic than any of his mates about the chances of the whole ‘abstaining from female company’ thing working out. Promising to stay away from women he declares is ‘flat treason ‘gainst the kingly state of youth.’

3. Macduff, Macbeth

Macbeth is Shakespeare at his most haunting and grisly. It has murder, ghosts, bloody daggers, insanity, witches, and a denouement that depends on your main character’s head being paraded across the stage on a pole. But at the centre of that denouement we also have Macduff. Macduff is the moral centre of the play – he’s the sane man alongside Macbeth’s madness, the good man in a sea of depravity. And when it comes to the crucial moment, he’s the man who does what has to be done and kills Macbeth, avenging his family (who Macbeth had killed) and returning the rightful heir to the throne. Hurrah! Cue the head on the pole, and everyone living happily ever after. All thanks to Macduff.

2. Don Pedro, Much Ado About Nothing

Ok, so Much Ado is by far my favourite play, so it might be a bit of a surprise not to see Benedick at the top of this list, and I do love Benedick, but, for me, the unsung hero of the play is the Prince, Don Pedro. It’s Don Pedro who helps Claudio woo the beautiful Hero. It’s Don Pedro who conspires to get Beatrice and Benedick to admit their feelings for one another, and it’s Don Pedro who ends up alone. His selflessness is only underlined by the hint that he’s more than a little bit in love with Beatrice himself. For services to friendship and the cause of true love, Don Pedro, we salute you.

1. Antipholus of Syracuse, The Comedy of Errors

So picture the scene. You’re new in town. You don’t know anyone apart from the trusty man servant you brought with you. Then your man servant denies knowing you, and perfect strangers start berating you for not paying money owed or delivering goods purchased. Before you’ve had chance to wrap your brain around any of that, a woman, who seems pretty damn sure she’s your wife, accosts you and accuses you of running around with a mistress. It would be enough to mess with anyone’s head, and it’s pretty much what happens to Antipholus of Syracuse within the first half hour of The Comedy of Errors. By the end of the play he’s got a new girlfriend, a twin brother, a shipwrecked father and a long lost mother who’s now a nun to contend with as well. For holding onto some shreds of sanity in the face of extreme plotting, Antipholus is my personal favourite of Shakespeare’s heroes.

And now it’s over to you. Who have I missed out?

 

Follow Alison on Twitter and visit her blog.

Alison May was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish once. That ended badly.
Alison has studied History and Creative Writing, and has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and a freelance trainer, before settling on ‘making up stories’ as an entirely acceptable grown-up career plan.
Alison is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012. She writes contemporary romantic comedies, and short stories.

Follow Alison on Twitter and snap up Sweet Nothing on Kindle.

Long Live the Beta Male!

I recently posted a Tweet that went ‘My heroes are not muscular, ripped, Alpha Men. They’re just blokes who fall in love’, and it was suggested that I write this blog post to talk about why I write this kind of hero.  So I shall try my best to explain, without recourse to my not-so-secret crush on Tony Robinson…

I’ve never really been a woman for the thews and biceps, or for the kind of man who wants to ‘save’ a woman, and, for some reason, in Romance Hero Land, these two attributes tend to go together like hot porridge and treacle. In fact, dare I say it, if a big, burly man rode into my life and wanted to rescue me from ‘all this’, he’d find himself limping away solo, with his Stairmaster jammed somewhere uncomfortable.  I much prefer the kind of man who says ‘I can see you need a bit of saving.  Me too.  Shall we help each other along the way?’

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp

While I can suspend disbelief with the best of them (see above comment about Tony Robinson…) I can never quite manage to put myself in the place of the heroine being wooed by the Alpha Male.  Too many of them seem helpless, waiting for the obligatory Big Strong Man to solve their problems and ‘know best’.  And where does that leave the man who really hasn’t got a clue?  Who is floundering around in his life, just as the heroine is floundering in hers?  Men who admit to their vulnerability can be every bit as sexy as the man who has none, in fact their very sincerity and approachability is often what attracts the heroine in the first place.  So Long Live the Beta Male and his sensitivity, and you can keep your abs and pecs – I’ll settle for a relationship of equals every time!

Jane was born in Devon and now lives in Yorkshire. She has five children, four cats and two dogs! She works in a local school and also teaches creative writing. Jane is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has a first class honours degree in creative writing.

Jane writes romantic comedies which are often described  as ‘quirky’.

Her debut Please Don’t Stop the Music won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year and the Best Romantic Comedy Novel award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  

Jane with award copy

What makes a hero?

A good hero is essential to a good romance. Popular wisdom would have it that writers need to be a little bit in love with their hero, and that, ideally, your reader should feel the same. So what do you do if the classic romantic heroes leave you cold, if you feel Mr Darcy would benefit from a slap round the chops with a wet fish, and suspect, therefore, that your taste in heroes might be a little bit off?

 

Well, I started by making my romantic hero a mathematician, because I know that absolutely every girl likes a side order of quadratic equations alongside their tall dark and handsome. But actually, being clever scores definite hero points in my world. It’s why generations of girls, myself included, grew up obsessing over Doctor Who. The idea of a hero who can save the world, not with muscles or guns, but by thinking faster than the bad guy definitely does it for me. Smart is sexy. Come on – I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t kick Professor Brian Cox out of bed for talking about special relativity, can I?

 

Fun is sexy too. I’ll take an average looking boy who’s prepared to be the first one on the dancefloor, over an Adonis who needs to get home early to top up his beauty sleep, every single time. Better a face that’s lived a little, burnt a bit of midnight oil here and there, made a few ill-advised choices, than a perfectly unlined, and utterly uninteresting, mannequin.

 

And last, but far from least, kind is sexy. Spare me from dark brooding heroes with cruelness in their gaze. Cruelty, brooding, arrogance, and moodiness aren’t sexy. They’re tiresome in a hormonal fifteen year old, and kind of beyond the pail in a fully grown man. Ok, so maybe he’s had a bad experience and he’s scared of getting hurt. Well, here’s a newsflash, aren’t we all? And that might excuse a little light moodiness, even a hint of very occasional brooding, but cruelty is a no-no. Kind men treat the people around them, including their heroines, with respect, and it it’s good enough for Aretha, it’s good enough for me too.

 

So lets hear it for the smart, fun, kind guys, be they geeky and shy, weather worn and muscle bound or anywhere in between. You show me a smart, fun, kind man, and, regardless of age or physical beauty, I’ll show you a hero.

Follow Alison on Twitter and visit her blog. Alison’s debut with Choc Lit Lite, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is coming soon …

Alison May_high res

Sue Moorcroft interviews her latest hero, Jed Cassius.

As Is This Love? has just been released as an ebook (on Kindle and all other ebook platforms) and in paperback, I’ve decided to interview its unusual hero, Jed. Tamara had a crush on him when she was ten and he was fourteen (and hardly knew she existed) and although the adult Jed is not at all how Tamara Rix would have expected him to turn out, that attraction lingers …

 

I thought it would be fun to find out what she sees in him.IT_packshot copy.jpg

 

Q So, Jed, what brought you back to Middledip? You left when you were fourteen.

 

A I wanted to come back straight away, but I didn’t know how. Dad moved the family away and then he and Mum split up. I stayed with Mum and she wanted to stay with her new job, so I felt stuck.

 

Two things brought me back as an adult. One was my boss, Mr H. He was looking for somewhere secluded in the country, where he could feel safe, after a couple of nasty experiences, either directly or indirectly connected to his personal wealth. When I was looking for suitable properties I saw that Lie Low was on the market. It was just outside Middledip and I knew it slightly from when I was a kid. It was just right. The other thing that brought be back was the Rix family. I had a teenage thing going with the eldest daughter, Lyddie, before I left. Then she was hurt in a hit-and-run accident. Someone told me who was driving the car, so I had to go back and tell the family. Not a task I enjoyed.

 

Q What had changed in your absence?

 

A Tamara and Lyddie! Lyddie acquired head injury in the accident. It’s heartbreaking to see that she needs more care than most adults and that she’s irrevocably lost the future that she was entitled to.

 

And Tamara … wow. When I left the village she was a stick drawing. Now she’s all grown up. The first time I saw her again, I lost the power of speech. She was so bright and clean and healthy. She sort of vibrated into the room.

 

Q What about your life? What happened while you were away?

 

A [Several seconds of silence.] It was all quite unexpected. I didn’t react well when Mum and Dad split up. I was just sixteen and my stepbrother, Manny, was living in an unconventional way. I went and joined him. I suppose you could say I dropped out of society for a while. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It’s a hard and uncomfortable existence and it’s not easy to find a way back to what most people would term normal life.

 

Q Intriguing! So how did you get back to normality?

 

A In a surprise move, Manny joined the army. It made me reassess things. I fell into a full-time job and there was someone in that organisation who let me work my way up to my present position.

 

Q Who was that?

 

A My employer.

 

Q Who is he?

 

A A businessman.

 

Q What was the job?

 

A Making his life run smoothly.

 

Q OK. I’ll come at things a different way. What did you learn from your past?

 

A To take care of myself, to deal with situations decisively and never take for granted a comfortable bed or a hot bath.

 

Q You don’t seem keen to talk about it. I’ll ask you about something else. What do you think of Tamara Rix?

 

A Tamara, wow. She’s so incredibly hot. She has a lot of qualities that have caught my attention. She’s intelligent, compassionate, stunning and has integrity. Integrity that gets in the way, sometimes. She’s a yoga instructor, you know? I had always thought yoga was exercise for wussies but she’s as toned as a panther.

 

She’s very giving to those she loves, like her sister.

 

Q And you?

 

A Me …? She can’t make her mind up about me.

Liz Harris holding out for a real hero…

I can’t think of any real-life hero in any romantic novel I’ve read. And I include Pride & Prejudice in this. Romantic novel heroes tend to be the stuff of pure (or impure, maybe?) escapism.

By ‘real-life’, I mean someone you’d want to spend time with off the page. Mr. Darcy is fanciable because we see him through Lizzy’s eyes, and we like Lizzy. And he isn’t short of a bob or two, which always helps. In reality, though, he’d be a crushing bore if he was sitting next to you at a dinner table. As for Heathcliff – even worse! What on earth would you talk to him about? Yes, you do have to talk in between the other!

So for a fictional real-life hero, I chose Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. gregory-peck1

Widower Atticus was the father of Jean Louise, known as Scout, who was six at the start of the novel, which spans three years during the Great Depression, and her older brother, Jem. The story deals with rape and racial inequality in a southern state of the US – no, not a laugh a minute, I’m afraid.

Showing true bravery – a must for any real hero – Atticus takes on a case that no other lawyer will take: he defends a black man accused of raping a white woman.

Emotional moment. Atticus doesn’t want his children at the trial, so Scout and Jem watch secretly from the balcony. With the accused man predictably found guilty despite his obvious innocence, Atticus starts to leave the courtroom, now empty of all but those in the balcony.

Crouching low in the balcony, Scout watches her father start on his ‘lonely walk down the aisle.’ Nudged by the Reverend, she looks around her and sees that all ‘the Negroes were getting to their feet…

‘Miss Jean Louise, stand up,’ the Reverend said. ‘Your father’s passin’.’

I’ll also never forget the dog incident. A rabid dog is coming down the empty street towards Atticus and the sheriff, and the sheriff takes aim with his rifle. Then he lowers the rifle and hands it to Atticus. Scout and Jem ‘nearly fainted’ – they’d never seen their father touch a gun. Atticus gets the dog between the eye, and the children learn that their father was known as ‘the deadest shot in Maycomb County.’ He just wasn’t a man who needed to brag about his talent.

To Kill a MockingbirdDespite being a caring, if somewhat detached, father, an intelligent man who’s brave enough to defy a racist town, and the best around with a gun, Atticus Finch feels like a real person, not a fictional hero who wouldn’t be such off the page.

So why can’t I think of someone equally real and heroic in a romance novel? A ‘real’ person you’d simply love to sit next to at the dinner table?

Can you help me out with any suggestions?

Christina’s Wednesday Hottie

robertdowneyjr2I’m amazed he hasn’t been a Wednesday Hottie already, so I thought I’d rectify that – this week I nominate Robert Downey Jr.

sherlock-holmes-robert-downey-jrHaving just seen him in the second Sherlock Holmes film and watched him (for the umpteenth time) in Iron Man I and II over Christmas, I can only say he’s superb in every role.  He exudes charisma and is perfect as a smart-ass genius of any time period so I’m hoping for lots of sequels.  Can’t wait to see him in Avengers in May!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 8

choclit-logoxmassmaller1♫ “On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love brought to me – a chocolate recipe!”

We’ve all eaten our fill of turkey with all the trimmings (especially sprouts in the case of Jane and Christina) and we’re in the mood for something different – sweet rather than savoury. And what could be better than chocolate? As we’re all choco-holics, we’ve put together some of our favourite recipes involving chocolate (and a few heroes courtesy of Sue) to share and we hope you’ll find something here to tempt you – bon appétit!

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

SueSue’s Rocky Road – Ask Viggo Mortensen to crush a packet of dark chocolate Hob Nobs and tip them into a large bowl for you. Daniel Craig can add a packet of small marshmallows. Give Jenson Button a large slab of Cadbury’s Bourneville chocolate to melt slowly over a pan of boiling water. You can stir in a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup. Let Jenson put his hand over yours to stir, because that chocolate can be heavy stuff. Take one Colin Farrell and ask him to stir the chocolate/syrup into the Hob Nobs and marshmallows. As Robert Downey Jnr isn’t busy, he can grease a baking tray. In fact, he can probably afford to buy you one of those silicon ones that doesn’t take much washing up. If Jared Leto will pour the mixture into the tray and smooth it, let him lick the spoon. To cool your consequent hot flush, put the tray into the fridge for a few hours until set. Mark the slab into squares with a sharp knife. Then eat it. Don’t share it with anyone. It’s yours. (Oh. You can share it with me, if you want.)

Kate – This is what we actually have for dessert on Christmas Day (after all of us confessed that we’re not really that excited about Christmas pudding). You whip together single and double cream, and layer that alternately with a mixture of drinking chocolate powder, instant coffee granules, Demerara sugar, and breadcrumbs. It sounds bizarre but it’s delicious!

HenrietteEasy Chocolate and Orange Cake(Ingredients) 4.5oz/125g self-raising flour, 1 tab golden syrup, half an oz/12g cocoa, 1 teasp baking powder, 4oz/100g soft margarine, 3oz/75g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 2oz/50g grated or chopped plain chocolate or chocolate chips, grated rind and juice of 1 orange (about 4 tab).  (Method) Line and grease a 7inch/18cm round cake tin.  Set the oven at 160°C or Gas Mark 3 (less for fan-assisted ovens), making sure the oven shelf is above centre.  Mix all the ingredients together (baking powder last) and put the mixture in the cake tin, levelling the top.  Bake for 45 minutes until springy to the touch and shrunken away from the sides.  Leave to cool, then serve plain or iced with chocolate glacé icing and either orange/brown Smarties, white chocolate buttons or miniature Easter eggs (for Easter only).  Add

Jenson Button

Jenson Button

Chocolate Glacé Icing – Dissolve 2 teasp cocoa with 2 teasp boiling water, then mix in enough icing sugar (about 4 tab) to make a thick but spreadable icing.  Imagine being in the kitchen with Heston Blumenthal when making this yummy cake!

ChristinaChocolate Mousse (Warning – seriously calorific!!) Melt 150grams of dark cooking chocolate in a bain Marie. Mix in 3 egg yolks, one at a time and whisk briefly with an electric whisk. Whip 300ml of double cream in a separate bowl until fairly hard, then add the chocolate mixture. Portion out into pretty glasses and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Margaret – A Christmas tradition when my children were little (that is, not more interested in lurking in their malodorous pits or on street corners learning to smoke than being indoors with Mum and Dad) was making Millionaire’s Shortbread – Cheat’s Version. This is how you do it. Open a packet of shortbread biscuits. Melt some fudge in a saucepan. Melt some milk (or, if you want a more sophisticated product, plain) chocolate in a basin over hot water. Spread melted fudge over shortbread. Allow it to set again – a minute or two. Spread melted chocolate over fudge. Fail to wait until completely set before eating greedily. As for a millionaire to help eat it and get chocolate and fudge all over his chin – what about George Clooney, he must be worth a few dollars?

George Clooney

George Clooney

Chris – An easy chocolate recipe that’s fruity (so extra good for you!) and made for sharing - Chocolate Fondue with Fruit(Ingredients) 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, 3 fl.oz whipping cream, 3 tablespoons Penderyn Welsh whisky (in honour of my latest hero, Gethin – but you can adapt this to suit your hero!), selection of fruit cut into bite-sized pieces. (Method) Melt the chocolate and whipping cream in the microwave on medium for 2 to 3 minutes or in a saucepan on the stove at medium low heat. Blend until smooth. Stir in the whisky. If you don’t want to use liqueur, just use an extra 3 tablespoons of the cream. Transfer the mixture to a fondue pot and keep warm. Serve with fruit platter.

LindaChocolate BrowniesI know there are as many chocolate brownie recipes as there are Americans but this one always works for me. (Ingredients) 400 g of very dark chocolate, 325 g of unsalted butter, 6 whole eggs plus one yolk, 300 g golden caster sugar, 50 g cocoa powder (Green & Black’s is best!), 50 g plain flour. (Method) Heat oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas4. Butter and base-line a 20 cm swuare baking tin with baking parchment. Gently melt dark chocolate and butter together in a bowl over hot water until smoothe then cool a little. Whisk eggs, yolks and caster sugar together until pale. Fold the melted chocolate into the the eggs. Sieve cocoa powder with the flour and then fold everything together unti it is evenly mixed. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes until slightly risen at the edges. Allow to cook completely in the tin. Cut into 12 and indulge yourself – you should have a thin, crisp crust and a rich, gooey centre. I think pricking it while warm and drizzling a table-spoon of brandy over – for adults only – works well!

JaneTake one large bar of any kind of chocolate. Add a large dash of peace and quiet, a big bed (electric blanket optional), and a gorgeous, smouldering hot man. Send the man to make you a cup of tea. Eat the chocolate.

LizA super Devil’s Food Cake recipe, luscious, it literally melts in your mouth and leaves you wanting more. Yummy. Links up with description of loads of heroes – the reference to Devil in the title of the cake connects to the idea of a bad boy, and what woman doesn’t like a bad boy – the idea, at least; not too sure about the reality! (Ingredients) 7oz (200g) self-raising flour, 10oz (275g) castor sugar, 1 and a quarter level teasps. bicarbonate of soda, 1 level teasp. salt, 2oz (50g) cocoa powder, 4oz (125g) butter, 8fl.oz. (225ml) milk, 2 large eggs, 1 teasp. vanilla essence, grated plain chocolate (optional – for decoration). (Method) Preheat oven 180c (non fan oven), 160c (fan oven), 350F, Gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm (8”) sandwich tins, the paper allowing for a depth of 2cm (5”), or square tins, depending upon the shape you want. (I grease the paper as well as the tin.) Beat the butter till fluffy. Add the flour, sugar, bicarb, salt and cocoa powder. Add milk. Beat for 2 mins, or longer, if you wish. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Beat well again. Divide mixture Divide into the lined tins. Bake 40 mins, until firm. If you think the top is browning too quickly, put a piece of greaseproof paper on the top before the end of the cooking time. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn on to a rack to finish cooling. When cool, sandwich with icing and cover with icing. Chocolate Icing – 6oz sieved icing sugar, 2oz cocoa butter, 3oz butter, 4 tablesps. Water, 4oz castor sugar. Sift icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure butter, water and castor sugar into a saucepan. Stir over low heat until butter has melted and sugar dissolved, then bring just to the boil. Pour into the centre of sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder. Mix to a smooth icing. Allow to cool until it is thick enough to spread. Sandwich and cover cake with icing. Leave to get firm.

Now as we don’t think we’ll have to try very hard to persuade you to make one of these chocolate delights, what could be better than a copy of Juliet Archer’s lovely novel Persuade Me to go with whatever you’ve made? Simply leave a comment telling us about your favourite chocolate dish or recipe, and you could be our winner! (Competition ends midnight on New Year’s Eve)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 6

choclit-logoxmassmallerAt last we come to our favourite topic – the top ten heroes we’d like to find in our Christmas stockings tomorrow! Well, actually, we’ve added a couple of extra ones as (a) there are eleven of us and (b) we couldn’t possibly ask Juliet to choose between the two Mr Darcy’s. We’re pretty sure you won’t object to some bonus ones, are we right?

Without further ado, here they are – enjoy!

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Henriette – My stocking hero for this Christmas has to be the American actor Matthew McConaughey, star of films such as The Wedding Planner, Sahara and A Time to Kill.  I just lurve his heavy Texas drawl and his habit of taking his shirt off.  The guy has a chest to die for.

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Juliet – Definitely a Darcy, in any shape or form! Either of these will do nicely.

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage

Kate – I’ve asked for Richard Armitage for Christmas for three years now and still don’t have him. It’s very disappointing.

James McAvoy

James McAvoy

Margaret – I’d like James McAvoy. I’ll let you have him back soon, Mrs McAvoy, I promise. Of course I’m not keeping my fingers firmly crossed behind my back, what a suspicious mind you have!

Anthony Calf

Anthony Calf

Evonne -  This was a very difficult choice, but in the end I opted for Anthony Calf – one of my many favourite actors. He has a lovely smile.

Colin Farrel

Colin Farrel

SueColin Farrell!

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

ChrisI’d like Harrison Ford, circa 1985, for that amazing scene in the film Witness when he and the heroine Kelly McGillis dance to Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’. There’s nothing explicit, the hero and heroine barely touch, but the looks they exchange just sizzle with longing. (YouTube link here)

Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck

Linda – Gregory Peck, to add a bit of style and class to my life – he was sublime in Roman Holiday!

David Mitchell

David Mitchell

JaneDavid Mitchell – gorgeous eyes!

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Liz – I give in – I know that someone else will have bagged the gorgeous Richard Armitage, so I shall go for a second choice – Ryan Gosling, after seeing The Ides of March.  You could not take your eyes off him – not even when George Clooney was around, and that’s quite something!

Jared Leto

Jared Leto

Christina – Jared Leto. Sorry to be so predictable, but I really don’t think anyone else even comes close!

So there you have it, our favourite heroes for this year – hope you agreed with our choices? If not, who would you pick? Send us your suggestions and the one we agree with the most will win a copy of Sue Moorcroft’s Love & Freedom, which features a drop-dead gorgeous guy who’d probably beat all of the above if only he was real! (competition ends at midnight on New Year’s Eve).


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 1

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas is almost here, so for the next twelve days we thought we’d have our own special Christmas celebrations here in the Choc Lit Authors’ Corner. We’ll be discussing everything to do with the festive season (our Top Ten heroes for this year being our favourite topic of course) so please come back every day until New Year’s Eve to see what we’re up to. And don’t miss the special giveaways – every second day you’ll have the chance to win something to add to your own stocking, starting today with Chris Stovell’s lovely novel Turning the Tide!

To get you all into the Christmas spirit, here’s what our authors had to say when asked “When does Christmas really start for you?”

JaneI’d like to say that it starts in June, when I buy my first Christmas presents, but the reality doesn’t really kick in until the shops close on Christmas Eve and I’m forcibly shunted out onto the pavement surrounded by plastic carriers, but minus the three bags of sprouts I went in for!

Kate – December. Well, I try to make it December. And then I panic I’ve run out of time. I didn’t buy my first presents until the last week of November, and I’ll probably be halfway through December when I put the tree up. Actually… That’s when it starts for me. When I put the tree up!

Margaret – When Mum and I make the puddings – in November, on Stir Up Sunday, which was 20 November this year (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stir-up_Sunday )

clxmasadvent1Christina – For me, it always starts on the first day of Advent (fourth Sunday before Christmas) because that’s when I get my Advent candles out and light the first one. This is a Swedish tradition and a lovely way to begin the countdown to Christmas I think!

EvonneIdeally when I’m boarding the train, boat or plane that will take me somewhere sunny until it is all over. But as that is not going to happen, the concert of nine lessons and carols on the radio on Xmas Eve.

Chris – When I start playing Christmas music. ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’, from Handel’s Messiah and ‘Gloria in Excelsis’ from Vivaldi’s Gloria are synonymous with Christmas morning. Then I like to wheel out the cheesy old crooners like Dean Martin singing, ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow’!

Linda complete with Christmas tree earrings and this year's cache of prezzies

Linda complete with Christmas tree earrings and this year's cache of prezzies

LindaThe gun to the side of my head to seriously get into Christmas starts when my dear friend, Cee, rings up suggesting possible dates for us to meet for a pre-Christmas lunch and exchange of prezzies. This call usually comes in early December and means I have to think about presents, go out and buy them, wrap them. And that’s when the magic of Christmas starts for me – the thinking of that one person for whom I’m buying or wrapping the present at the time I’m doing it. Without Cee and that early call I’d be rushing around like a headless chicken on Christmas Eve. Cee lives in North Devon and I live in the south of the county so we meet half way for lunch. I always wear my Christmas tree earrings and Cee wears enough flashing brooches to illuminate Wookey Hole – huge fun and it gets us in the spirit, especially if the weather is grotty on our journeys to the meet-up.

Liz – It starts the moment that I finish writing my Christmas cards – that’s a real bore, and the second it’s done – which this year was on 15th December – I treat myself to some chocolate and let Christmas begin.

JulietGetting the Christmas tree. We go to a local farm which is run by friends, so it’s one of the least stressful Christmas shopping trips! Normally it’s the weekend before Christmas, but this year we were early – so Christmas will probably seem longer than usual!

Henriette – In my home we celebrate Christmas on the 24th, and for me it truly starts in the afternoon on that day when we bring in the tree and decorate it, accompanied by my favourite piece of Christmas music, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. That sets the festive mood before dinner.

Well, it seems Christmas has well and truly started now for all of us – how about you? When do you think it all begins? Do you agree with any of us? The best comment will win you a copy of Turning the Tide by Chris Stovell (competition ends midnight on Christmas Day).

Please come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you about our favourite Christmas traditions (some more “traditional” than others)!


Christina’s Wednesday Hottie

bradIt may be a bit cliched, but I don’t think any line-up of Wednesday Hotties (or any other hotties for that matter) would be complete without this guy – Brad Pitt.

bradpitt5He stole the show in Thelma & Louise and he’s gone on stealing it ever since whatever movie he appears in.  He made me watch a vampire film (Interview with a Vampire) long before they were fashionable, he was the only reason to watch Legends of the Fall and I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched him as Achilles in Troy.

He’s not afraid to play strange roles either, but whatever he does, he’s good at it and he lights up the screen for me.

bradpitt