Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from the Choc Lit Team and our Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2015. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.
Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy) 

And now a message from our Choc Lit Santas: :)

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juliet Santa photoJuliet Archer:  ”As Jane Austen said in Emma, published 200 years ago this month: ‘This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.’ I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, with lots of ‘friendly meetings’ and as little as possible of ‘the worst weather’.”

Santa - Rhoda BaxterPLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiRhoda Baxter: “Wish you all a fab holiday season with lots of chocolate, cake and nice warming books to read. See you next year.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell: Meri Kirihimete (Maori) everyone and many best wishes from New Zealand. May you all have a wonderful festive season. ”

 

AnnMarie Santa photo

AnneMarie Brear: “Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, (a perfect time to read good books) and a safe and healthy 2016!”

 

 

Jan Santa photo

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Jan Brigden: “Wishing everyone a joyful, peaceful, healthy Christmas & New Year, with much festive good cheer, happy reading (and chocolate goodies aplenty!). Enjoy!”

 

Angela Britnell - Santa!

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Angela Britnell: “Wishing all of our Choc Lit readers a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year filled with good books!”

 

Sheryl Browne Santa!

 

9781781892350Sheryl Browne: Christmas time, mistletoe and wine … If you fancy a gorgeous hero to complete the scene, dip into scrummy Choc Lit book. Perfection. Have a lovely Christmas everyone!


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, full of warmth and good cheer, followed by a very happy 2016.”

 

An Irish Promise

Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val):  Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2016.”

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: “I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a peaceful, relaxing holiday hopefully with lots of time for reading! Thank you all for your support this year and here’s to a fantastic year in 2016!  Christina xxx”

Some Veil Did Fall

Kirsty Ferry - Santa!

Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy 2016. I hope you enjoy a festive season filled with cake, chocolate and a multitude of good books! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

9781781892206Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Wishing you sleighbells and snowflakes, mince pies andmulled wine, silent nights and holly-days, myrrh and magic moments, tinselled tots and festive pets, plus perfect peace, Christmas cheer – and to all a good night!”

 

9781781892466 Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whether you’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

Janet Gover - Santa!9781781892688Janet Gover: “May Christmas be a time of joy for you and yours – and I hope 2016 will be a wonderful year filled with love and laughter.”

 

 

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2016 be filled with love, laughter and good books to read.”

 

Linn's Santas photo

Linn B. Halton: Wishing everyone peace, love and happiness this Christmas time, and a wonderful start to 2016! Linn x

 

 

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Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: ”Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”

 


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson: 
“Wishing you love, light and oodles of laughter this Christmas.”

 

 

9781781892701Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a 2016 that’s overflowing with good health and great books.”

 

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James: “Merry Christmas, readers and writers, and may 2016 be a wonderful year for you all.”

 


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson: “I’d like to wish everyone a very happy festive season and offer my best wishes for the new year.”

 


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine: “I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas whether you are spending it with family or friends, or have chosen to be on your own surrounded by chocolates, wine and good books. May I wish you both good health and happiness throughout 2016.”

 

Jane Lovering - Santa!9781781892817Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me! JANE X”

 

9781781892176Sally santa photoSally Malcolm: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, and a New Yearfull of adventure!”

 

 

Alison May - Santa!9781781892947Alison May: “May your festive season be joyful and filled with books, chocolate and all good things. Happy Christmas one and all.”

 

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: “Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”May your Christmas sparkle with happiness, surprises and above all else, good health. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2016  xx”

 

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing everyone a Perfectly Paranormal Christmas and a peaceful New Year! Happy reading! Love Berni xxx”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas one and all. Here’s wishing you everything you would wish for yourself.”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2016 to you all!”

 

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “Wishing all Choc Lit readers a fabulous Christmas and as much romance and chocolate as you can handle in the year to come.”

 

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Happy Christmas – Nadolig Llawen – and health, happiness and lots of good books for everyone in 2016.”

 

Nick santa photo

Nicky Wells:  ”Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gutes Neues! ~That’s “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” in my native German, and I’d like to wish you both of those with all myheart. May your Christmas sparkle and may your 2016 be filled with love, laughter and happiness. Xx”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

Don’t Tell The Bride: special edition

Hold onto your hats, this…is Don’t Tell The Bride: The Untied Kingdom edition! This is the show where the groom gets the whole wedding budget, and the bride gets no say in how it’s spent.

Tonight, the pressure’s on for ex army major Will Harker, as he attempts to organise the perfect day for his bride to be Eve. For this couple, it all started when he saved her from drowning in the Thames after a paragliding accident.

“I thought she was an alien. Just dropped out of the sky with one giant wing.”

“But you still swam in after me. I could’ve been from the planet Zog.”

“We’ll, I didn’t see no bugger else doing it.”

“Oh, cheers. There’s romance for you!”

The Untied KingdomGoing out with a soldier was an alien idea to Eve, too. “He is about ninety percent scar tissue. And it’s catching. I’d never been shot at until I met him. You’re such a dangerous man, Harker!”

And will the wedding he plans be just as risky?

“Oh God. He’ll probably hold the reception in the NAAFI.”

Day one, and Harker is searching for a venue. “Can’t be in a church. Been married before. The local register office looks like a barracks I was once in that smelled of feet. Maybe not there.”

Eve has slightly higher aspirations for her dream venue. “A stately home, you know, high ceilings and antiques and sprung ballroom floors. Don’t reckon I’ll get that, though. His ex lived in a house like that. He wasn’t a fan.”

His choice of catering probably isn’t going to go over well, either. “How much? No. Food can’t cost that much. You must be bloody joking. I’ll get the pub to put some sandwiches on.”

As one fifth of the pop sensation Grrl Power, Eve got used to wearing some top designer labels. Her dream wedding dress has always been something, “Elegant. Simple. Nothing huge or frou-frou. I’ve been to some celebrity weddings where the bride looked like she was wearing a birdcage and a net curtain. That’s not for me!”

But while Eve is relaxed about her dress, the thought terrifies Harker. “There’s a wedding shop on the high street. Scares the life out of me. I’d rather get shot. I honestly would. But there’s no getting round it, is there? She can’t get married in her pyjamas. It’s an important thing, I don’t want her to think I don’t realise that. She wants a proper wedding dress. Something with, you know, frills. Lace. One of them cage type things to hold the skirt out. Yeah.”

It’s the end of week one, and Harker has got a register office that looks like an army barracks, a pub, and a dress that’s part birdcage. It must be time for the stag!

“The what? What do I want a stag for? We’re having chicken at the…oh, you mean the party. Yeah…pub, I think. That’s that sorted. What’s next?”

Er…he really is going to just go to the pub. Let’s move on, shall we? Next he needs to pick out bridesmaid dresses. “Some woman on the radio asked Eve if she was getting her bandmates back together as bridesmaids. I’d tell you what her reply was, but I’ve been told you can’t swear on telly this time of night.”

Meanwhile, Eve is about to get the first piece of news about her own wedding. “I can’t believe I have to be sent an invitation to my own wedding. That’s wrong in about…five different ways. And…oh. So is this invite. I’d say he did it in five minutes on the computer, but he doesn’t know how to use a computer.”

But he knows someone who does. “Got a mate to do ‘em with a, what d’you call it, laptop. Ridiculous, what stationery companies charge, just for a bit of paper and some fancy writing.” True enough, but there does seem to be one person he’s forgotten to invite. “What, her mother? Oh aye, that’d be perfect. Ever seen a mother of the bride punched by her own daughter?”

Now there’s one week to go, and Harker is a bit dubious about one part of his wedding prep. “She told me to get a haircut. I bloody hate getting haircuts. Look, if some bugger’s coming at my head with a blade, I’m basically going to shoot him. I don’t reckon hairdressers like that.”

It’s the day before the wedding, and Eve finally gets to see what Harker has picked out for her to wear. “Oh, you’re KIDDING me. I look like a loo roll holder!”

After weeks of preparation, the big day is finally here, and Harker is finally getting the hang of romance. “The thing is, all this girlie stuff, I completely hate it. But Eve doesn’t, and she’s the point of it all, isn’t she? It’s to make her happy. I’d do anything for her. To be honest, I’d wear the damn wedding dress if it made her happy. I, er, really hope it doesn’t come to that, though.”

© Photographer <a href=

Kate’s Interview with a heroine

So today, I’ve been chatting with the heroine of my next book, Impossible Things:

What is your name?

Interesting question. I’ve been called Agnes and Jorrie and Little Witch, but I think I’m called Ishtaer. Apparently that’s too short, however, and lots of words I don’t understand have to be added to it to make a proper name. That’s what Lord Krull says.

Lord Krull?

Oh, you’ve heard of him. Even I’d heard of him, and I didn’t remember my own name. Scourge of the seas, terror of the Empire, the most feared pirate and warlord in the world? I thought he was the devil when I first met him. But then he rescued me and made me well and told me to call him Kael. I think he’s being kind. It’s very confusing.

There’s a rumour going round you’re his…well, you know, that you and he…

Oh. Yes. I’ve tried denying it but that just seems to make people believe it all the more. I’ve tried telling people that I’m not interested in Lord Krull or any other man, and I’m convinced I’m the last woman in the Empire he could ever desire, but no one believes me. So I’ll just say we shared a cabin on the voyage over the Great Sea and let people hear what they want to.

Riiiight. So is it true that you’re the first female Warrior in history? And that you’re the first person ever who’s been Chosen by the Gods not once or even twice, but three times? And that you can talk to ghosts?

I suppose I’m just full of impossible things.

RoNAs – Result!

Monday was the Big Day – the annual RNA Awards now called the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) – and as you may have heard already once or twice (or maybe more?), Choc Lit had a triumphant afternoon!

Kate, Christina and Jane

Kate, Christina and Jane

Jane Lovering won the Romantic Comedy category with Please Don’t Stop the Music, Christina Courtenay won the Historical Romantic novel category with Highland Storms and Kate Johnson only just missed out in the Contemporary novel category with her wonderful The Untied Kingdom.  As she lost to Katie Fforde, the RNA’s lovely President, we didn’t mind too much, and two out of three is a pretty good ratio any day!  And as Peter James, the chairman of the Crimewriters’ Association said before he handed out the prizes, all the shortlistees were winners – we totally agree with that.

Rather than boring you with endless trumpet-blowing though, we thought we’d give you Jane’s, Christina’s and Kate’s take on some other aspects of the awards ceremony.  Here is what they had to say and please let us know if you agree with them:-

awjane-with-awardsmallThere were some fabulous outfits on display, which was your favourite?

Jane – Well I was lusting ever so slightly over Katie Fforde’s full-length coat/dress thing.  I’d have looked like a bag of elderly onions in it, but she looked gorgeous.

Kate – There were so many lovely outfits, it’s hard to choose! Christina’s own lovely mauve jacket and boots – ooh, those gorgeous boots! – probably take the prize for me. Marina Fiorato gets Best Hair, Katie Fforde wins Best Cape, and of course our host, Jane Wenham Jones, for her platinum frock, gets Best Dress.

Christina – I was very taken with Jean Fullerton’s emerald green suit as I love bright colours, but I also coveted Liz Fenwick’s fabulous purple jacket.

awchristina-with-awardsmallAnd then there are the shoes – not counting your own, which ones did you wish you’d been wearing?

Jane – Um.  Is it wrong of me to say that I wasn’t looking at people’s feet?  Although, Christina, I did notice your rather lovely lilac boots…

Kate – I’m not sucking up here, but when I invited my mum her first thought was which shoes to wear. I covet her gold sandals terribly; it’s probably just as well we don’t take the same size!

Christina – My feet wished they’d been wearing Jane’s boots, but Bex Leith’s black shoes were wonderful so I’d probably have thrown caution to the wind and picked those.

The ‘bubbly’ was flowing, do you prefer it pink or normal?

Jane – As long as it keeps flowing I am really not bothered. Give it fizz and keep it coming!

Kate – Well, if there’s bubbly going I’m not picky about the colour. Although I will say that the first time I tasted Bollinger was the first time I “got” champagne!

Christina – Neither – hate the stuff!  Unless you put peach juice or Kir in to make it ultra sweet.

Which was your favourite canape?

Jane – I didn’t eat any.  I was too terrified and then too shocked.  And ever so slightly too busy drinking…

Kate – I’m not large on the canapés, being that it’s often hard to tell whats in them (I don’t eat meat or shellfish). But the salmon ones were nice. And matched the champagne.

Christina – Salmon, definitely, although I was in such a state of shock I can’t actually tell you what the others were!

awardauthorssmallMost amusing comment of the afternoon (either in a speech or normal conversation)?

Jane – Hazel Osmond and I had a discussion about weeing in handbags in extremis. It amused us and probably disgusted onlookers, particularly when I did the actions.  Not the real actions, I hasten to add.  Although it was a long way to the toilets and I feel that no-one would have blamed me.  Except Hazel, obviously.

Kate – Should I drop Jane in it for her split crotch/handbag comments? [Looks like she'd done it herself, Kate!] No, okay. I heard someone say that the Ladies bathroom was bigger than the Blue Banana. (It was. It really was.)

Christina – The whole of Peter James’s speech was great, but I can’t recall the specifics – fortunately Emma Lee Potter has mentioned it on her blog.

Finally, we heard Kate’s hero Harker mentioned quite a few times during the event (in fact, if there had been a ‘best hero’ award, we reckon he would have won it hands down!) – who was your favourite hero out of the ones in the shortlisted books?  (If you can’t choose, we’ll allow you two)

Jane –Nope, sorry, I refuse to acknowledge that any hero exists except for Harker.  Apart from maybe Gus, from Katie Fforde’s Summer of Love.  He’s cute too.  And my Ben… in fact, all of them are pretty phwoooaaar-worthy, now I come to think of it.

Kate - Aw, yes, Harker is grumpy he didn’t win anything. He’s not used to losing: where he comes from you win, or you die. I do recall Jan Jones’ Hugo from The Kydd Inheritance being rather heroic when it came to highwaymen, and of course, the lovely Brice Kinross in all his intelligent, brave, kind and handsome glory. Now … which book was he from, Christina?

Christina – Apart from Harker?  Well, Ben in Please Don’t Stop the Music is definitely my kind of guy – former rock star, slightly moody, handsome in a grungy kind of way.  And I loved Riccardo in Marina Fiorato’s Daughter of Siena – wow, gorgeous Italian with an amazing sense of honour, and also very kind and considerate!

So there you have it, our brief take on the RoNAs.  Now comes a nail-biting wait to see who of the five category winners will take home the overall “Romantic Novel of the Year” title – if you’d like to help vote for any of them, please go to the Awards Website.

Kate’s Wednesday hottie

Have we mentioned Aidan Turner yet? No? Why on earth not!

Let me give a brief description. He’s tall, he’s fit, he’s funny, he doesn’t seem to mind getting his kit off, he has gorgeous chocolate-drop eyes, and he’s Irish.

I first saw him in Being Human, as the century-old rockstar-like vampire Mitchell, and then in Desperate Romantics as a rockstar-like Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Do we notice a pattern here?

He’s currently in New Zealand, filming The Hobbit. Er, as a dwarf. Well, that should be interesting!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 12

choclit-logoxmassmaller3We have reached the final day of our special Christmas blog series and we hope you’ve enjoyed our posts! Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and most of us are hoping to have a wonderful celebration of some kind. So we thought we’d end our ‘twelve days of Christmas’ by telling you about some of our most memorable New Year celebrations over the years – some good, some not quite what they were meant to be …

JaneI fell asleep with my face in a trifle once. But, you know, party … Sometimes, when I get a cold, there are still mandarin orange slices …

clxmaschampagneJuliet – 1999, fireworks, and that once-in-a-lifetime feeling – unless you’re a vampire – of being on the brink of a new millennium!

Chris – Being offered a Choc Lit contract in December 2009 was the realisation of an ambition I’d held since I was a little girl. Raising a glass at midnight on the last day of 2009, knowing that in 2010 I would be a published novelist, was a very special moment indeed!

Linda – Very low key really, 31st December 1999. A family meal with lots to eat and drink and a lot of laughs, stopping up until the early hours. It was what happened afterwards that was magical. My son and I were the only ones left standing and just before dawn we decided to walk down to a local cove and sit on the beach to watch the new century’s dawn. It was heart-stoppingly wonderful as the sun peeped up from the horizon. Someone let off fireworks on the headland and my son stripped to his boxers and went for a swim while I paddled in the shallows in a pancake flat sea. No photo, alas … we didn’t stop to think of that in our last minute decision to try and make a dawn of the millennium memory … shame.

Sue – May I have the funniest? I’d just begun a relationship and we went to a club in a hotel for New Year’s Eve. A lot of people in the club were laughing because there were two men in drag in a drunken stupor on a pool table in one of the outer rooms, and everyone was trooping out to look at them. So we went, too. And one of the guys came round from his drunken stupor and said, ‘Hello, Sue!’ It was Tony and Steve, who I’d been to school with. It wasn’t the impression I’d planned on making on my date …

EvonneThe year I fell in love for the first time, of course. I’m a romantic novelist!!

Margaret – I wonder why it seems right and even desirable to do the conga round the street on New Year’s Eve, but not at any other time of year? I used to live in Berkshire before I moved to Devon, and my next door neighbours always had great New Year’s Eve parties. I don’t remember them in any huge detail – I can’t think why – but the conga-round-the-street part sort of sticks in my memory.

KateMy favourite New Year’s Eve was only last year, when I went to Port Isaac in Cornwall with my family. We spent the evening in the pub by the harbour, drank champagne and nibbled canapés by the open fire, then moseyed down to the beach at midnight to drink wine, watch fireworks, and set off Chinese lanterns. And have a little paddle in the sea, of course!

Christina – Can’t remember the year (late 1970s?), but some school friends of mine were house sitting a small four bedroom house and decided to throw a New Year’s Eve party. Approximately 200 of our fellow students turned up … don’t think there was much left of the house or furnishings afterwards!  (Whenever I see the film 10 Things I Hate About You I think about that party!)

Henriette – One New Year’s Eve I spent with some friends in Copenhagen, and after the bells had rung in the new year, the guests trooped outside to set off fireworks, as tradition has it. But everyone in the street did the same and after a while the air was so thick with white smoke, it was like a cordite-scented pea-souper. It took the whole night for it to clear!

We’d love to hear about some of your most memorable New Year’s Eve parties, so before you start to drink champagne and sing Auld Lang Syne, please leave a comment below for a chance to win Christina Courtenay’s novel Highland Storms!

We wish you a very happy, healthy 2012 with lots of time for reading!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 11

choclit-logoxmassmaller2New Year’s Eve is rapidly approaching and it’s time to party! Champagne is usually a must, but we’ll need some party food or canapés to go with it if we are to stay awake until midnight. Here are some recommendations from the Choc Lit authors:-

JulietPut self in car, adding handbag or at least a credit card. Go to nearest supermarket, preferably M&S or Waitrose. Mix with rest of neighbourhood, who have the same idea. Boil gently while choosing a selection of canapés, then freeze when you get to checkout and see total bill. Add several bottles of wine to improve your mood.

Henriette – Steak with sauce béarnaise, served with oven roasted potato wedges and a spicy rocket salad, with a full-bodied red wine to drink and then fizz for later. Can’t beat it, and the diet … well, there’s always next year.

Kate – My favourite party food is sausage rolls. Yes, I don’t eat meat, but almost since day one I’ve been addicted to Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausage rolls!

Margaret – I always let someone else sort this out. Waitrose does a lovely selection of canapés, dips and desserts!

Evonne – Anything that stays in one piece and does not end up as an inelegant smear down the posh frock gets my vote. Preferably something that can be eaten elegantly and does not leave crumbs around the mouth. I think this is a miracle food, not a canapé.

Chris – Quick, easy, delicious and slightly quirky.  No, not one of our heroes but my canapé recipe. Spread water biscuits (I like the ones with cracked black pepper) with a thin layer of greengage jam, top with blue cheese to taste – I can recommend Carmarthenshire Boksburg Blue!

SueGo to someone else’s house for New Year’s Eve. Seriously. You made all that Rocky Road, didn’t you? And you’ve probably cooked Christmas dinner, Boxing Day dinner, extra bank holiday dinner and a leftover turkey curry lunch for stray family members. Take a bottle of champagne and nobody will care if you haven’t cooked anything. They’ll probably have eaten too much by then, anyway.

clxmascanapeLinda – Not a food at all but a drink – a cocktail … although it will work as a dessert after an Italian meal which would be best served by, or shared with, an Italian … Francesco da Mosto would do it for me – and at least he’d be able to pronounce Sgroppino!

Sgroppino – Put half a shot of vodka, a quarter of a shot of double cream, one and a half shots of Prosecco and 3 scoops of lemon sorbet in a blender, whizz, then serve in a Champagne flute garnished with a lemon twist.

JaneWe don’t do New Year’s parties. We build a huge bonfire in the garden and sit and look at it. Sometimes there are peanuts, but that’s really all I can offer.

Christina – I love savoury canapés, but after a while I need something sweet to finish off with, so this is what I’d suggest – buy small, round shortbread biscuits, place them on a tray and put a tablespoon of whipped cream on each one, then a couple of strawberries, raspberries or blueberries (or one of each?) on top. Makes a small but perfect cream cake!

If you prefer savory, however, take some very dark rye bread, spread with butter and cut into little circles (use a shot glass and just push through the bread, that’s perfect size!), add a thin slice of boiled egg, then a tiny daub of mayonnaise, a little piece of pickled herring (or anchovy if you like those – I don’t!) and a teensy sprig of dill. Makes a lovely mouthful!

So now we’re all set for the party, right? Please come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you more …

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 10

Christmas is often the ideal time to take photos, some of which we treasure as they remind us of loved ones and all the good times. Today we thought we’d share some of our favourite photos (both old and new) with you, and we hope you enjoy our “Christmas Album”!

Do you have any special photos you’d like to share with us? Please e-mail a jpeg to Christina at christinacourtenay@googlemail.com and she’ll post a selection here. Don’t forget to add a caption! The photo we like best will win you a copy of Kate Johnson’s brilliant novel The Untied Kingdom – set in an England where Christmas was very different indeed! (Competition ends midnight on New Year’s Eve)

Kate - Here's my Christmas photo, (as I can't find one of myself, although I know there is one of me and my brother standing to attention besides a badly decorated tinsel tree, but I seem to have lost it ...). It's Sugar, one of my birthday kittens, helping me with the gift wrapping!

Kate - Here's my Christmas photo, (as I can't find one of myself, although I know there is one of me and my brother standing to attention besides a badly decorated tinsel tree, but I seem to have lost it ...). It's Sugar, one of my birthday kittens, helping me with the gift wrapping!

Henriette – I always smile when I look at this picture of my sister and myself (it’s me on the left) baking pebernødder, small Danish cookies the size of round licorice allsorts.  The word translates as “pepper nuts”, but today people use cardamom.  Traditionally they’re placed inside cone-shaped Christmas tree decorations, with strict instructions to any children present not to “eat the tree” until we’ve finished singing and dancing around it.

Henriette – I always smile when I look at this picture of my sister and myself (it’s me on the left) baking pebernødder, small Danish cookies the size of round licorice allsorts. The word translates as “pepper nuts”, but today people use cardamom. Traditionally they’re placed inside cone-shaped Christmas tree decorations, with strict instructions to any children present not to “eat the tree” until we’ve finished singing and dancing around it.

Sue - And here’s one with my dad.  I know it was Christmas because I’m wearing two of my presents.

Sue - And here’s one with my dad. I know it was Christmas because I’m wearing two of my presents.

Sue – I know there is a picture of me on the spacehopper, but can’t find it.  So here’s one of me with another hot favourite present – a book.

Sue – I know there is a picture of me on the spacehopper, but can’t find it. So here’s one of me with another hot favourite present – a book.

Linda - They say you know you're getting older when policemen start to look younger ... well, what about when Father Christmas looks like he's still in nappies - as in this picture!  (My grandson - not sure if he's enjoying the experience of his first Christmas Day or not! Say aaaaahhhhh. )

Linda - They say you know you're getting older when policemen start to look younger ... well, what about when Father Christmas looks like he's still in nappies - as in this picture! (My grandson - not sure if he's enjoying the experience of his first Christmas Day or not! Say aaaaahhhhh. )

Chris - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a brisk walk.  Living on the west Wales coast we’re spoilt for a choice of beautiful locations.  Here’s us on Christmas Day walking at Poppit Sands, Pembs.

Chris - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a brisk walk. Living on the west Wales coast we’re spoilt for a choice of beautiful locations. Here’s us on Christmas Day walking at Poppit Sands, Pembs.

Linda - And here at Preston in Paignton we have a community tree. Said tree donated by Marldon Christmas Tree Farm and all the decorations made by the little ones at Preston Primary. It always makes me smile because we have a fir and a palm side by side!

Linda - And here at Preston in Paignton we have a community tree. Said tree donated by Marldon Christmas Tree Farm and all the decorations made by the little ones at Preston Primary. It always makes me smile because we have a fir and a palm side by side!

Christina – Here are a couple of photos of me, aged three, as St Lucia – all Swedish girls dress up for this on 13th December each year and although I’m sure I loved the attention at first, I seem to have tired of my crown fairly quickly!

Christina – Here are a couple of photos of me, aged three, as St Lucia – all Swedish girls dress up for this on 13th December each year and although I’m sure I loved the attention at first, I seem to have tired of my crown fairly quickly!

lucia2small1

Liz – Here is a photo of a group of super people - the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, who meet monthly.  It was taken just before Christmas last year and sent to the Cotswold Life magazine.  They'd asked us to remove any trace of Christmas as it was to be featured after Christmas - but the smiles on all faces show, I believe, that the Christmas spirit was very present amongst us!

Liz – Here is a photo of a group of super people - the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, who meet monthly. It was taken just before Christmas last year and sent to the Cotswold Life magazine. They'd asked us to remove any trace of Christmas as it was to be featured after Christmas - but the smiles on all faces show, I believe, that the Christmas spirit was very present amongst us!

Jane - Last Christmas – me and my giant icicle.  Best present since the headcollar!

Jane - Last Christmas – me and my giant icicle. Best present since the headcollar!

Margaret – My daughters and my grandson go for the Traditional Healthy Walk on Christmas Day 2008.

Margaret – My daughters and my grandson go for the Traditional Healthy Walk on Christmas Day 2008.

In 2010, however, Devon looked more like the North Pole – deep and crisp and even, and jolly chilly!

In 2010, however, Devon looked more like the North Pole – deep and crisp and even, and jolly chilly!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 9

choclit-logoxmassmallerYesterday we shared some delicious chocolate food recipes with you, but on a cold day, maybe all you need is a hot drink instead? Well, we might be able to help you with that too! Here are some of our “specials” that will warm you right down to your toes:-

MargaretWhy is it that chocolate and brandy go so well together? I guess we’ll never know, but I’m happy to carry on trying to find out. Some Cadbury’s hot chocolate, whisked into a foam and enhanced with some VSOP certainly keeps out the cold.

Sue – Lots of whisky, a spoon of clear honey, a little hot water. If you have a cold, add a Lemsip. Drink in front of a nice fire over a good book.

Chris – A large measure of Talisker, to be taken by the fire. I’ve had this on the deck of a boat on New Year’s Eve too and it’s equally good there.

Linda – Juice of a lemon, same quantity of brandy, a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon in a glass topped up with hot water.  Great if you have a cold.  Even greater on a cold night, wrapped up in bed with a good book!

JaneHalf fill a mug with single cream and half with milk. Add a few squares of good-quality chocolate and microwave gently until the chocolate has melted and the milk is hot. Stir. Top with large marshmallow (must be large, not those prissy little ones) and drink through the resulting sticky mass. Delicious. Unless you have a beard, in which case, leave off the marshmallow …

Henriette – Papa Gyland’s Red Wine Toddy – Fill a mug (or a toddy glass) with red wine to the halfway mark, add the juice of half an orange, then a measure of schnapps or brandy.  Sweeten with sugar to taste, and pour in boiling water.  Stir and serve steaming hot.  If you feel you’re about to come down with a cold, make up my father’s toddy and take yourself to bed immediately.  I promise you, it works.  Probably because no one dares to be ill after that …

clxmashotchocKate – Hot toddy recipes … oh dear I’ve already done mine! Hot chocolate with Baileys in it. It’ll cure whatever’s wrong with you. Including verticality.

LizI’m drinking hot chocolate now.  Recipe: put three heaped teaspoons of Cadbury’s Highlights into a mug, and (if, like me, you have a sweet tooth) either a heaped teaspoon of sugar or two artificial sweeteners.  Add boiling water, and stir.  It’s delicious. That’s the best I can do, I’m afraid!!  I have one mug of my hot chocolate (with sweeteners, not sugar) every afternoon, and I love it.

Christina – And mine is hot chocolate too (non-alcoholic), but a slightly different version. Take one teaspoon of cocoa and six teaspoons of white sugar and stir together in a mug. Add eight to ten teaspoons of double cream (or whipped cream if you have some to hand) and stir this in too. (I would recommend tasting at this point, very decadent!) Pour boiling water over this mixture, stir, and add a little bit of cold full milk to make it instantly drinkable!

Juliet – I’ll stick to wine!

And why not? It definitely keeps you warm! We hope you’re all nice and toasty now!?

What’s your favourite hot drink/toddy?  We’d love some more recipes to add to this collection!  And please come back tomorrow if you’d like to see some of our favourite Christmas photos – plus you’ll have a chance to win another Choc Lit title as well!

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)