Hero Material

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We’ve recently released the long-awaited Summer in San Remo by Evonne Wareham, which is the perfect fun and sunny read for this time of year! One of the many intriguing aspects of the book is the rather gorgeous hero Jake and Evonne is chatting a little bit about him on the blog today. You’ll definitely want to meet him by the end!

There was a debate here on the Choc Lit blog a while ago about the appeal of writing the Beta hero. My fellow authors who specialise in them made an excellent case – I wouldn’t expect anything less – and I can understand the appeal of a cute Beta in certain circumstances, but he’s not really the hero for me. Some of that may be because I like to write romantic suspense and with the situations I throw at my characters, you need an Alpha to get them out again – handy with fists, guns, cars. Maybe he’s not so good at sorting the recycling, but then it’s not that sort of book. I’m not sure where the fascination came from – possibly too many hours in my misspent youth watching TV shows like The Professionals and The A Team? Am I a closet adrenaline junkie who wouldn’t dream of getting her hands dirty in real life, but is quite happy to inflict it on her heroine – who is capable and independent and up to the challenge, but clear-sighted enough to know when to accept help from an expert? I’ve really no idea, but that’s the sort of guy I like to write and I’m stuck with him.

Except … now there is Summer in San Remo. I haven’t given up on writing romantic suspense, but this book is a departure from my usual style. It’s the start, I hope, of a series of summer sunshine reads. It’s a romantic comedy, with a very light dusting of crime and mystery, so the new hero on the block is not quite like the others. Jake – well, when the book opens, Jake is … disgustingly rich, gorgeously good-looking, mega confident … and if we’re being truthful, a bit of a jerk. (Heroine Cassie is nodding furiously in the background here.) He’s very, very sure of himself, but all that is set to change when he goes sleuthing with Cassie on the Riviera. It’s not the kind of book where he’s called on to rescue Cassie from anything too life-threatening – thinking about it, at the start he’d probably pay for her to have a body guard, rather than doing the job himself. But he is protective of her, although it takes a while for him to realise it. I had a lot of fun creeping up on him and getting him more and more enmeshed in loving Cassie, and changing in the process. He likes to be in control, which made it all the more fun getting him out of his comfort zone. Cassie gives him an excellent run for his money until finally the penny drops for both of them …

Is Jake an Alpha? Most definitely, although all his triumphs have been in the board room, not on the mean streets. He’s the hero for the job in hand, which is dealing with a mystery, not catching a killer.

I like to unsettle my Alphas by getting them into a relationship they have never experienced before. On that one, Jake is no different – he’s never been in love before. Or has he?

 Really, he’s only got himself to blame for the mess he’s in …

Summer in San Remo is available as an eBook on all platforms. For buying options click HERE.

For more on the author, you can follow her on Twitter @EvonneWareham

Or check out her blog: www.evonneonwednesday.blogspot.co.uk

The Perfect Christmas Kiss

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Today sees the release of Alison May’s Christmas Kisses; a collection of gorgeous festive stories about three girls searching for ‘the perfect Christmas kiss’. But does that ‘perfect’ kiss even exist? Alison asks that exact question in today’s blog post … 

The idea of writing a post about ‘The Perfect Christmas Kiss’ seemed such a good idea as an abstract concept when I agreed to it a week before I had to actually sit down and write anything. It’s such a beautiful romantic idea – surely everyone has an idea of their perfect mistletoe-moment?

You might have a fantasy of meeting your flawless long-distance lover at the top of the Empire State Building as the bells chime to ring in Christmas Day. Or you might prefer a more traditional English Christmas scene – maybe with snow falling over a village green outside a beautiful old stone church, everyone wrapped up in hats and scarves and the love of your life with a sprig of mistletoe and a certain twinkle in his or her eye? Or perhaps you’re not a lover of Christmas and would prefer to be whisked away to a sunkissed beach to forget the festive season altogether and indulge in a little holiday romance whilst you’re there?

But here’s the problem – all of those ideas sound lovely in practice but they’re fantasy, aren’t they? And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fantasy, but trying to translate fantasy into real-life is a surefire recipe for anti-climax and disappointment. That sunkissed beach sounds lovely, but actually having a frolic on it is just going to lead to sand in your pants and a sunburn in places that the sun really isn’t supposed to shine. The meeting at the top of the Empire State Building is such a romantic idea, but once you actually get there you’ll be sharing the viewing platform with every other lovelorn hopeful in New York city, and there’s nothing worse than having to form a queue every time a eligible-looking singleton appears on the off-chance that they might be the one for you. Even the snow-covered English village sounds frankly off-puttingly chilly, and realistically, you’re going to have a streaming nose and chattering teeth if you stay out trying to canoodle for too long.

So here’s my suggestion for the perfect Christmas Kiss – don’t plan it. Perfect moments are something that happens, not something that can be prepared. You know how nights out where you swear that you’re just going to have one drink and then end up crawling home at 3am are always more fun than big nights that take weeks to plan? Well I think perfect Christmas kisses might fall into the same category. Whatever you think perfection is going to look like, that’s almost certainly not how it would actually turn out. Perfection, where is exists at all, exists in the surprising and the unexpected, in the spontaneous and the organic, rather in those things that have been meticulously planned and preconceived. That’s something that each of the heroines in Christmas Kisses has to learn in their own different way. Perfect is never really what you think it’s going to be. Sometimes you have to open your mind and enjoy the moment that you’re in right now, whether it looks like you expected or not.

Christmas Kisses is now available to purchase in paperback from all good book stockists and retailers. Click HERE to order from Amazon. 

For more information on Alison, follow her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay.

Happy New Year and Happy Publication Day to Linda Mitchelmore!

The Christmas and New Year celebrations may be over but at least there’s still a year of Choc Lit novels ahead of you! Linda Mitchelmore is our first release of the year with Emma and Her Daughter (part three of her ‘Emma’ series) which is out TODAY! To celebrate, she talks new year’s resolutions on the Choc Lit corner  …

dscn03881It’s been a long, long time since I wrote a list of New Year Resolutions. I’ve been there, done that, failed miserably – were it a mark-able exercise I’d have got a D- every single time. Every January the first the list would be the same:-

  1. Lose weight
  2. Drink less wine (and everything else with an alcohol content)
  3. Exercise more
  4. Watch less TV
  5. Say ‘No!’ to things I really, really don’t want to do but which I feel I should
  6. Try a new experience – kayaking, Salsa dancing, playing chess – every month

Yawn, yawn, yawn. All very worthy but dull, dull, dull. When I became a writer there were other worthy things added to my list.

  1. Write 1000 (substitute number of choice) words every day
  2. Grow thicker skin to cope with rejection
  3. Send something out to a magazine/newspaper/agent/publisher every week
  4. Try writing in a genre that isn’t your preferred scenario

ARE YOU STILL AWAKE???? It’s all a bit mind-numbing, isn’t it? Doomed before we start. Why do we persevere? What’s the point? It’s like wearing sack cloth and ashes 24/7 and there are nicer things to wear than sacks.

If you’re going to make a list of resolutions you just know you’re unlikely to achieve then why not write something you KNOW you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving? You’ve already accepted failure, haven’t you? A bit of a spoof on it all. A little dalliance with fantasy. The list could go something like this:-

  1. Next time Liam Neeson (substitute celeb pash of choice) rings up and asks you over to his, telling you to bring nothing but your lovely self and a toothbrush, say ‘Yes!’ and go.
  2. Sell every single thing you own that’s portable and buy diamonds with the proceeds
  3. Wear nothing in bed/when gardening/to the supermarket but above diamonds
  4. Ring the BBC and tell them you’re offering them first refusal on the rights to make a mini series of your novel
  5. Ring the BBC again to thank them for their acceptance and say you will do the scriptwriting, or else!
  6. Get an alligator for a …

You get my drift. But hang on … do I feel a novel coming on? How many words

A day was it I said, I’d do? Bye for now. Toodlepip …

Emma and her Daughter by Linda Mitchelmore CMYKFind out more about Emma and her Daughter and Linda’s other novels:

Linda’s Facebook

Linda’s Twitter: @LindaMitchelmor

Linda’s blog: Linda Short Stories

Emma and Her Daughter is available on Kindle:

Kindle Uk   Kindle US 

Recurring dreams and haunted offices: Some Veil Did Fall by Kirsty Ferry

Happy e-publication day to Kirsty Ferry! Her fantastic timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall, is out in all eBook formats today and to celebrate she’s talking spooky happenings on the Choc Lit Corner …

KirstyFerryBlack&White1As my new eBook and debut Choc Lit title Some Veil Did Fall is due to be
released, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the inspiration
for it and some of the spooky goings on that helped me to come up with the idea
for certain parts of the book.

I love writing about the paranormal and ghosts, and I particularly
love the idea of timeslips and parallel lives being led in two different time
frames. Some Veil Did Fall starts with a recurring dream that my heroine, Becky, keeps having, and as the story goes on, the reasons for this become clear.

The fact that Becky dreams about a house and, in particular,
a staircase is based on a recurring dream I used to have when I was younger.
Only I was running into the house, and Becky is running out of the house. I had
all but forgotten this dream until I walked into Belsay Hall, which is in the
care of English Heritage, a few years ago – and discovered that they had opened
up the servants’ staircase. I got one of those ‘Oh my!’ moments when I realised
it was exactly the same staircase as the one I used to dream about and I must
admit I was rather freaked out by it! I remember jotting it down in a notebook  – “Belsay staircase” – thinking how it needed to go into a story one day, and I filed it away for future reference, a bit scared to dwell on it too much.

Then, just over three years ago, I began to work in an office which was in a beautiful terrace of Georgian houses that had all been converted into offices. In order to convert them, the builders had knocked through the houses on each floor, so you can now basically walk the corridors from Number 1 to Number 5 going ‘whooooooo!’ and pretending you’re a ghost walking through the walls. Not recommended if anybody important is about, but quite fun otherwise.

I asked my new manager, only half-joking, if the place was haunted.
Somewhere with such a lot of history had to have something hanging around
there, and I wasn’t disappointed. My manager told me that she had actually seen
a proper ghost on the second floor – a lady dressed as a maid or an old-fashioned nurse. Intrigued by this, we did some research using crystals and divining
rods (in our lunch hour, we weren’t that nefarious!) and discovered the woman’s
name was Elizabeth. We also discovered that, in life, she had cared for people
and she told us she had lived and worked there in the 1860s. Slightly doubtful, I cross-referenced the information on the census for the 1860s, and sure enough a woman called Elizabeth had been a maid there during that time. No other people called Elizabeth appeared in any other censuses for the house.

Once we knew that and told people, lots of colleagues began coming forward with stories – we heard about cleaners finding men in offices dressed in old-fashioned clothes who would suddenly disappear, people drifting up staircases with no legs, laughter
in empty rooms, chairs being piled up in locked rooms, footsteps in corridors
at 6 a.m. when workmen were in on their own and my own experiences which
included  knocks on the door with nobody there, a pole we used for opening the massive sash windows lifting up and then laying down gently on the ground and, best of all, a full-blown argument between two women in the office at eight o’clock in the
morning – and sudden silence with nobody inside the room when I walked in on it.

I loved the place! I started thinking about ghosts living in their parallel timelines and I was especially intrigued by the argument I’d heard. What could be so important to two women that meant they were still arguing about it one hundred and fifty years later? What if they were trying to resolve something and they were both convinced they were right? Who won in the end? And what happened to them both? Finally, what about Elizabeth the maid? Was she involved somehow? In the 1860s?

I don’t want to spoil the story, but you will find something like that hidden in a scene between the pages of Some Veil Did Fall. It’s a small scene – but it just shows that you can get your inspiration from just about anywhere. Even from the office in your day job!

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Leather and Lace: Fool’s Gold by Zana Bell

Happy e-publication day to Zana Bell! Fool’s Gold is released in digital format today. Read on for an insight into the inspirations for her latest novel, as well as a tantalising extract! 

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What is the fascination of love across the classes? The Cinderella trope is, of course, perennially popular. My great-great-great grandfather ran away to Gretna Green with his mother’s maid and I am inordinately proud of my impetuous ancestors. But what about the reversal – the woodcutter and the princess? There’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Go-Between. In Downton Abbey, Lady Sybil married the chauffeur. Yet none of these has the triumphant happily-ever-after we expect from the Cinderella story. Why is that?

Class structures buckled and bent considerably in New Zealand in the 1860s when survival depended less on inherited wealth and considerably more on courage, quick wits and plain good luck. I had a lot of fun in Fool’s Gold in throwing together characters who normally would never have met. Lady Guinevere Stanhope is cast upon her own resources when her father unexpectedly dies and, luckily for her, she is rescued from drowning by Quinn O’Donnell, an Irish doctor turned gold digger. He was raised by priests and has a great loathing for the English aristocracy, but having saved Guinevere, he feels responsible for her until she recovers her strength. Here is a scene where he brings medicine to her in a rackety hotel in a rowdy gold-mining town (think the Wild West in glorious Lord of the Rings scenery):

Guinevere tasted the medicine and made a face.

‘Ugh. What on earth is it?’

The corner of Quinn’s mouth lifted. ‘’Tis the druggist’s own recipe. I checked the ingredients and it’s sound enough, but I did wonder how it would taste.’

 ‘Disgusting.’

‘Ah well, as the priests used to say, it seems it is always the unpalatable things that do us the most good and must be endured virtuously without complaint.’

Guinevere couldn’t help smiling at his ironic tone, though she grimaced again at the next sip. ‘My father was fervently against anything that made one uncomfortable and had no belief in virtue either, saying it was a scourge to unsettle one’s natural desires.’

Quinn took the empty cup from her hands and put it on the table before pulling a chair up and sitting beside the bed. ‘Did he now?’

Perhaps the illness was making her overly sensitive but Guinevere thought she detected a censorious undertone. ‘I don’t mean he wasn’t honourable,’ she said defensively. ‘He was the kindest, most generous of men but he just thought differently from most about actively seeking happiness and enjoyment of life.’

‘Mm.’

‘What do you mean by “mm”?’ Guinevere eyed Quinn. He’d ceased being a handsome interloper in her room and was back to being infuriating. His lips were folded into a flat line of disapproval.

‘Just seems to me ’tis easier to seek happiness and enjoyment when you don’t have to be spending time seeking food, warmth and safety instead.’

‘Well, of course.’

‘There’s no “of course” about it, where I come from.’

‘But that was not my father’s fault. Don’t make it seem as though it was. And don’t sit in judgment of him either when you never met him. Your life has had nothing to do with his.’

‘No, but I know his sort. If one is born into luxury, ten must be born into poverty to support it.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘No? Then just how many servants did you have, Lady Guinevere, to look after you and your father?’

Guinevere was outraged but also thrown. ‘I don’t know,’ she stammered. ‘I’ve never thought about it.’

‘No,’ he agreed. ‘I’m quite sure you haven’t.’

‘Don’t you use that tone on me. How dare you be so condescending.’

‘Don’t be absurd. How can a penniless Irishman condescend to an English lady?’

‘I don’t know but you do!’

For a second they glared at each other but to Guinevere’s surprise, Quinn was the first to break. A rueful smile tugged at his lips and this time it did soften that horrid coolness in his eyes.

‘A fine doctor I am, to be getting my patient’s temperature soaring again. Lady Guinevere, I apologise. I shouldn’t have said anything about your daddy.’

‘Thank you,’ she said gruffly. ‘He was a good man, you know.’

‘I’m sure he was.’

‘He supported lots of artists.’

‘Looked after artists, did he? Ah well, there you go then. And a very fine job he did of it too, I’m sure.’

Guinevere threw him a suspicious sideways glance but his expression was bland. Her eyes narrowed. ‘Mr O’Donnell,’ she began then paused.

‘Lady Guinevere?’ Again, his tone was politely neutral but she did not trust him at all. 

‘You’re laughing at me.’

‘Sure, now would I do that?’

‘Sure, yes you would.’

There was no denying the mischief in his eyes and he laughed. ‘I’m sorry, I truly am. I shouldn’t be teasing you.’

‘No you shouldn’t!’ But Guinevere could feel herself weakening and despite being still very ruffled, she couldn’t help smiling back. ‘You are quite insufferable, you know.’

‘So I’ve been told before – two nights ago, in fact.’

Guinevere laughed. ‘It seems such a long time ago now. I feel like I’ve known you for much longer.’

‘Do you?’ he asked, and as he smiled down into her eyes, there was something in his tone that suddenly made her feel shy. For a second their eyes locked and Guinevere’s heart skipped.

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Can you think of any stories where the woodcutter and princess do get to live happily ever after? Why does their love often seem doomed?

 

 

The Heart of the Story

Happy publication day to Angela Britnell!  Angela’s stopped by to tell us a bit more about her new novel, Celtic Love Knot.

Storytelling is at the heart of my new contemporary romance ‘Celtic Love Knot.’ Olivia Harding, a Celtic mythology professor from Nashville, Tennessee has built up a stellar academic career around her fascination with ancient stories and how they’ve developed over the years to become part of the culture. But for my hero, Lanyon Tremayne, one particular story has defined his life leaving him isolated and withdrawn. He’s carried the burden of blame for his brother’s death for so long it’s become part of who he is, and without breaking a promise, something he’s vowed never to do, his life is unlikely ever to change.

Olivia travels to Cornwall because her particular love is the legends of the Cornish giants, especially Bolster who is reputed to have terrorised the small village of St. Agnes. The Tremayne family have lived in that area for generations and Lanyon initially has a sceptical view of Olivia’s chosen career, mocking her when they first meet.

‘Next thing you’ll tell me you believe in Piskies and Knockers.’

Because Lanyon is tighter than a clam where it comes to revealing anything meaningful Olivia jumps to negative conclusions about him. It’s only when she’s talking about the story of the local giant, Bolster, to a young boy and his mother that she begins to wonder if she’s misjudged him.

‘Thank the nice lady for telling you the story,’ she urged.

‘It’s not a story, it’s real.’ He fixed Olivia with his sharp blue eyes, ‘isn’t it?’

She hesitated, trying to find the balance between the complete truth and an outright lie. ‘Well, we’re not sure. You know sometimes you tell your friend a story and he passes it on to someone else and the story changes?’ Kenvor nodded, looking very serious. ‘No one has ever proved it’s not true.’

‘Good,’ he tugged on his mother’s hand. ‘Come on, Mum, let’s go. Thanks.’

They left and Olivia rested her back against the cool rock for a few seconds. Did the same thing happen to Lanyon? Had the car crash story taken on a life of its own until it became ‘the truth’? For someone who was an expert in research and sorting out fact from faction she’d done a lousy job with Lanyon.

The stories Olivia and Lanyon tentatively begin to exchange shape their relationship, the same as they do with every couple – along with the age old questions of how honest to be, when to talk and when to hold back. On the surface he’s the one with the most to gain by opening up, but Olivia is burdened by her own family secrets and isn’t about to let them go easily.

As the Bolster Festival approaches, the main reason for Olivia being in Cornwall, and their stories weave closer together my characters both have life-changing decisions to make.

Can two tangled lives make a love knot?

Only the storyteller knows the answer …

Available on Kindle UK and Kindle US 

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