The story behind The Girl in the Photograph

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Yesterday it was paperback publication day for Kirsty Ferry’s third Rossetti Mysteries book, The Girl in the Photograph, and today Kirsty joins us on the blog to chat a little bit about the historical inspiration for the novel … 

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally see three of the Rossetti Mysteries in paperback. It is absolutely a dream come true, and they all look so utterly stunning together that I can’t help staring at them and, yes, even stroking the covers.

However, a book doesn’t turn into a book without a spark of inspiration, and my inspiration for The Girl in the Photograph was a lady called Julia Margaret Cameron. Cameron was a photographer who lived from 1815 to 1879. She became known for portraits of contemporary celebrities and depictions of Arthurian legends and other wonderful themes so beloved by the Pre Raphaelites that have coloured this trilogy. As the slightly rebellious nineteenth century Pre Raphaelite Movement, founded in 1843 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt (who you may remember from The Girl in the Painting) progressed from poetry, to art, to photography, so my books have followed this path. I also incorporated some later art movements in this book; Dame Laura Knight who was part of the Lamorna group of artists in Cornwall visited Staithes in Yorkshire and was part of their art community for a little while. Laura and the Staithes Group all deserved a spot in my book too.

I decided I wanted to use Cameron and her photography when I discovered a newspaper clipping hidden inside a second hand Pre Raphaelite Tate exhibition catalogue I ordered from Amazon. The clipping fluttered out as I was looking for a picture of Lizzie Siddal, the muse and lover of Rossetti.  It depicted a profile of a mysterious lady who Cameron had photographed, and there was a discussion over who she might have been. There was going to be an exhibition including this picture and the experts all had their opinions on her. I read the extract with a mounting sense of excitement. This, I knew without a doubt, was to be the premise for my next Rossetti book – a beautiful girl in a photograph, a moment in time captured in black and white and attributed to Julia Margaret Cameron. It was easy to know who would ‘star’ in my contemporary thread – it had to be Lissy, Jon’s sister from Some Veil Did Fall. The question was, what is Lissy really like? She spends all her time matchmaking, but she’s hiding some hurt from her past and has quite a brittle veneer – but then in comes Stefano, the one she can’t get over. Can he change her back to the loving girl she really is beneath all the London polish? And my historical couple – well, I couldn’t resist Julian as soon as I started writing about him. He’s a photographer capturing the last days of the Staithes Group of artists, and staying in the Dower House of Sea Scarr Hall, the home of Lady Lorelei Scarsdale. Like Lissy, Lorelei is hiding some secrets and only Julian can get close enough to discover who she really is.

So yes, I loved writing these books (which is why I did a Christmas one as well – there were only ever meant to be three originally!) and loved the way everything just slotted into them from my research and inspiration. I really hope you enjoy reading them just as much.

THGITPGPREORDERThe Girl in the Photograph is now available to purchase on as an eBook and in paperback from all good book retailers. Click on the banner above for buying options. 

For more on Kirsty Ferry:
Follow her on Twitter: @Kirsty_ferry
Like her on Facebook: Kirsty Ferry Author

Ten quirky habits of a romance author

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To celebrate release day for her Choc Lit debut Little Pink Taxi, Marie Laval is sharing her ‘ten quirky habits of a romance author’. But that’s not all. Read right until the end of the post for details of an exclusive competition too! 

Today is the day I waited so long for – the day my romantic comedy Little Pink Taxi is released. I have been talking nonstop to friends, family and colleagues about it, and have been inundated with questions regarding my writing process. How I get my ideas? How do I pick the setting for the story, or choose my characters’ names? Do I have a routine? And so on … So I thought I would try and answer some of them today.

1)   The notepad

This may seem terribly mundane, but the first thing I do when I start a new story is to buy a notepad, but not just any notepad. It has to be a French Clairefontaine exercise book. I am addicted to them, probably because they are smooth and shiny, and remind me of being at school in France. Once I have my new notepad, I carry it in my handbag, and fill it with everything and anything I can think of about the setting, the characters’ background, their feelings and motivations. I jot down random thoughts, dialogues, quotes or even poems and songs.

2)   The map

I absolutely love maps, so the next thing I do after buying a notepad is to purchase a good road map of the area where the story is set. I now have an extensive collection, including maps of Algeria, the Highlands of Scotland, Provence, Paris and Bordeaux, where my next two novels are set. I like to refer to existing landmarks but the actual setting is always fictitious. In Little Pink Taxi, Raventhorn castle and the village of Irlwick are made up, but most of the other places mentioned are real.

 3)   The hero

How strange that I always know exactly what my heroine looks like, but that I need to search the internet and flick through countless adventure, sailing, mountaineering or car racing magazines for inspiration about the hero! This is however time pleasantly spent, and undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of my research. For Marc, my inspiration was Daniel Craig …

4)   The characters’ names

Sometimes names spring into my mind even before I get an idea about the storyline, but in some cases it can take a little longer. Rosalie Heart’s name was an obvious choice as soon as I figured out her personality – kind and bubbly – and her occupation as the driver of a pink taxi. Marc Petersen’s name took a little longer to click. In fact, he was called Magnus at first – a reference to his Danish ancestry – then I decided to make his name sound more French, since he is after all half French too. The names of the hero and heroine have to fit well together, and as Marc and Rosalie sounded like a good match, I was happy with my choice.

5)   The setting

Several years ago there was a television series I liked very much which was called Monarch of the Glen and which featured a beautiful castle called Glenbogle Castle. I loved it so much that I have wanted to set a story in a castle just like it ever since. In my mind, Raventhorn – the fictitious castle in Little Pink Taxi – is identical to Glenbogle castle, and like in the series, there is a loch and a forest, and of course, the dramatic backdrop of Cairngorms.

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A castle that looks similar to Glenbogle.

Unfortunately, having never stayed in a beautiful Scottish castle, I had to rely on research to get a feel for the place. That’s where the Internet is so useful. You can take virtual tours of hotels and stately homes, visit estate agents websites, watch documentaries or use Google Earth. When I have collected lots of photos, I like to create Pinterest board. You can look at the one I made for Little Pink Taxi here.

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Cairngorms National Park

6)   The playlist

I couldn’t write romance without having a soundtrack for my story. Rosalie Heart loves pop music and always sings to her favourite radio station, Happy Baby Radio, when she is driving. Unfortunately she can’t sing and her choice of music drives Marc crazy. So, which songs were in the Little Pink Taxi‘s playlist? Being French, I could have included Joe Le Taxi, but I chose old favourites such as ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt, ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ by Leanne Rimes, Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’, and songs by Sade, The Lighthouse Family and Gabrielle.

7)   The facts

I love research and could happily spend weeks reading articles, books and journals. For Little Pink Taxi, I learnt a lot about Norse mythology, got sidetracked into researching the meaning of tattoos in the Russian mafia (which I didn’t use in the end!), and of course, I read about taxi driving.

8)    The dark moments

There are days when words flow and the characters talk to me, but there are also lots of dark moments when I despair that everything I write is rubbish. When that happens, I go for a walk to clear my head or I talk the problems over with my daughter Clémence at our favourite local café. As she is only twelve, she is far too young to read my books, but talking to her usually does the trick and helps me find solutions to the problems. That’s why Little Pink Taxi is especially dedicated to her!

9)   The gift

When I come to the end of a novel I buy myself something that reminds me of the story or the characters, and this time I treated myself with a lovely scarf and tweed handbag from a Scottish brand – both pink, of course!

10) The inspirational quotes

And lastly, in times of doubt or when I have so much on I don’t know how on earth I’ll manage, I remember my mother telling me to stop moaning and ‘Take the bull by the horns’. My own favourite inspirational quote is from French author Paul Valery: ‘The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.’

Little Pink Taxi is out now and available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options. 

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COMPETITION TIME! 

To celebrate the release of Little Pink Taxi, which is set in the Scottish Highlands, Marie Laval is giving away FOUR fabulous tweed corsages from Ness Clothing  to four lucky winners!

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To be in with a chance of winning, simply make sure you have read the above blog post carefully and then answer these four questions. Enter by sending your answers to info@choc-lit.co.uk:

1. What nationality is Marc Petersen (the hero from Little Pink Taxi)?
2. What real-life castle was the inspiration for Raventhorn Castle in the book?
3. Which TV series inspired Marie Laval to write Little Pink Taxi?
4. What is the name of Rosalie Heart’s favourite radio station?

About the Author:

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for a number of years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her native France very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!

You can get in touch with Marie on Facebook and Twitter, and why not check the beautiful photos of Scotland and Denmark on the special Little Pink Taxi Page on Pinterest?

Lynda Stacey’s Top 10 tips for becoming an author!

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Yesterday we celebrated the paperback release of Tell Me No Secrets by Lynda Stacey and today we have Lynda on the blog sharing her top 10 tips for becoming an author! Aspiring authors, take note! 

When I began writing Tell Me No Secrets, it was a very different book. The whole story was different, it had totally different characters and a whole other plot going on. But the more I wrote, the more Kate Duggan screamed to become the heroine of the book. She just stood out, her personality was huge and after months and months of writing the initial story, I literally deleted it all and brought Kate Duggan forward to take the lead role … and now I’m so happy that I did. The story is now better for the changes and I’m really excited to have this book released as a paperback.

Kate is quite a complex heroine but I love her. Her back story is extensive and we join her at a time in her life when things really should be getting easier … not more difficult. She’s in a relationship with Rob, her fiancé. She’s about to start a new job, the first she’s had since being involved in a massive car accident that not only killed her only brother, but paralysed her sister and left her, Kate with the most horrendous red, puckered scar that had carved itself across her jawline. This whole event has left Kate with OCD, and I found this a really useful tool in the crafting of her character.

And with this in mind, here are my Top 10 tips for becoming an author…!

  1. Read as much as you can. Read widely, and read multiple genres. Look at how other writers construct their books. I’ve read for years and years. You could say I’ve been in training for being an author since I was around 4 years old.
  2. Write about something you are passionate about …!
  3. Don’t be afraid to start again. I’d written around 20,000 words when I decided that Kate Duggan just had to be the main character and no, I don’t regret the deletions.
  4. Stop talking about writing a book … sit down … and write. It isn’t going to write itself.
  5. Don’t show your writing to anyone else until you at least have a beginning, a middle and an end. I can guarantee that by the time you get even close to the end, you’ll have altered parts of the beginning and middle at least three or four times.
  6. Don’t send that first novel off the moment you’ve typed ‘THE END’. My advice is to put it away, start writing something new and come back to it after a couple of months with fresh eyes.
  7. Get a professional critique. I really can’t stress this enough. I had my work critiqued by the lovely Jane Lovering, who was amazing. I can honestly say that her critique gave me all the tips I needed to move my novel forward.
  8. Exercise patience. It takes months for agents or publishers to make decisions. Unfortunately, your work is not the only manuscript on their desk. Take the time to write something else.
  9. Build your social media profile. Follow people on twitter, create a professional author page on Facebook and above all else, keep your tweets/posts professional. Don’t get involved in politics or controversial subjects.
  10. Finally, DON’T ever give up. If you get rejected, write something else and try again. The first novel I ever wrote was rejected … it’s now been rewritten and is the second novel that I had published… Its title: Tell Me No Secrets

About Tell Me No Secrets: 

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Can a secret be worse than a lie?
Every time Kate Duggan looks in a mirror she is confronted by her guilt; a long, red scar reminding her that she was ‘the one to walk away’ from the car accident. Not everyone was so lucky …
On the surface her fiancé Rob is supportive – but the reality is different. He’s controlling, manipulative and, if the phone call Kate overhears is anything to go by, he has a secret. But just how dangerous is that secret?
When Kate begins work at a firm of private investigators, she meets Ben Parker. His strong and silent persona is intriguing but it’s also a cover – because something devastating happened to Ben, something he can’t get over.
As Kate and Ben begin their first assignment, they become close. But, what they don’t realise is how close to home the investigation will bring them, or who will be hurt in the process …

Buying links: 

Amazon UK: https://goo.gl/1c6q9r
Wordery: https://goo.gl/7vj3en

For more on Lynda Stacey:
Follow her on Twitter @LyndaStacey
Like her on Facebook Lynda Stacey Author
Vist her website www.lyndastacey.co.uk

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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