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?

History and Imagination: Living in the Past by Jane Lovering

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Last week on Valentine’s Day we released Living in the Past by Jane Lovering – which is Jane’s first timeslip book and, rather uniquely, is set between the present day and the Bronze Age! On the blog today, Jane talks a little bit about why she decided on this particular time period and the advantages and disadvantages of writing about (not so recent) history … 

I’ve always been fascinated by history – but not recorded history. My particular love is for the history that exists before people started writing stuff down and putting ‘spins’ on it. The history I love is conjectural, where only traces are left we have to imagine what those things were, and what they were for. So, essentially, it’s a history that has already come with its own stories, because we have to fill in so many gaps with our imagination.

This is why I wanted to write a timeslip, featuring a period of history that really doesn’t give us much in the way of definite answers. It’s all traces in the soil, a few artifacts for us to argue over and some tantalising art. We don’t know whether some things were ritual, practical or ‘just because’ and writing a book is one way of saying ‘maybe this is what happened and what these things were for.’ Of course, I don’t know. Just like I’ve imagined midwinter and midsummer gatherings where ‘greater family’ would gather to trade animals and goods. I mean, it seems reasonable, they were going to need new bloodstock from unrelated animals and items that they perhaps didn’t have the means to manufacture. We have very little evidence for this, but it’s the sort of thing that might well have happened, so I’ve just pushed imagination forward a bit!  We’ve got a good idea of what the outside of a Bronze Age house might look like, but no idea what they would have had inside, apart from a hearth, so I’ve dreamed up home-carved furniture and a stack of wood, drying for winter beside the fire, meat hung up to cure in the smoke and a bed covered in woven blankets. I don’t know whether any of these things really did get stored inside, but it seems logical to think that they might.

I fully expect to be overtaken by research in the future. Fifty years ago who would have dreamed of some of the reconstruction and archaeological techniques we have today? Ground penetrating radar, geo-phys in all its glory, microscopes that can tell us what people ate and isotope analysis that can tell us where animals and people were born and raised. It’s amazing stuff.

And romance? Well, love is love and has been through the ages. Humans must have fallen in love back in the Bronze Age, just as they do now. It’s an emotion that’s necessary to human continuation, after all! Would it have been so different four thousand years ago? And as for time-travel, well, maybe that’s just another discovery we are waiting to happen …

Living in the Past is now available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click on the banner below for buying options. 

LIP OUT NOW

For more on Jane Lovering:
Follow her on Twitter: @janelovering
Like her on Facebook: Jane Lovering Author
Check out her website: http://www.janelovering.co.uk/

What Would You Say to Your First Crush? : Can’t Buy Me Love by Jane Lovering

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It’s release day for the paperback edition of Can’t Buy Me Love so it’s only fitting we have the wonderfully funny Jane Lovering on the blog today! In Can’t Buy Me Love, Willow runs into her old university crush Luke – and can hardly believe her luck when, after years of looking straight past her, he finally notices her … and appears to like what he sees. But is it all that it seems?

You’ll have to read the book to find out but, in the meantime, Jane’s chatting about old crushes here today. Tell us about yours! 

Ah, those crushes we all had on the unattainable ‘gorgeous’ man … maybe at school?  Wasn’t there always a sixth-former that all the girls dribbled after? Or at University, like Willow, the heroine of Can’t Buy Me Love, who fancied the one man who always seemed to be utterly self-possessed, the only person who knew what was going on at all times, the centre of attention? Or maybe yours was even later, at work, that drop-dead handsome bloke who’d sometimes give you a cheeky wink and a smile, until you hoped it might turn into something more … then you found out he’d moved to the Manchester office and you’d never see him again?

We’ve all got them.  Men from the past that we dreamed would one day turn around and say ‘forget all these others, you are the one for me!’  Have you ever wondered how it would go if they turned up one day and actually did say that?  Would you still go weak at the knees?  (I suppose it depends on how much time has passed, if he’s now fat, bald, four times divorced and a dad of fifteen, you might not be quite so keen). Or would you tell them that they’d had their chance, you’re happy now and they’re ten years too late…?

Have you ever been tempted to look them up on Facebook?  Of course, we all know Facebook only shows the highly edited snapshots of someone’s life (#feelingblessed #makingmemories, why are there no Facebook hashtags for #feelingbloodyannoyed or #makingamessofdinnerasusual?), but there’s still that temptation to check up on old flames – or even flames that weren’t so much flames as ‘fire at a distance’ – to see whether their lives really did live up to their youthful promise.  Is he still as good looking?  Has he married a model, got two perfect children and moved to a thatched barn conversion in Devon?  Or do we secretly hope that he’s lost his hair and teeth, gained nine stone and has mostly been spending his time on a plastic chair at the local Job Centre?  That will teach him not to have noticed us …

So, would you?  If your old crush turned up, still looking pretty much the same and saying he remembered you and he’d always fancied you?  And, more importantly, would you ever ask him ‘why now?’

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Can’t Buy Me Love by Jane Lovering is now available to buy in paperback. Click the banner above for purchasing options.

For more information on Jane Lovering:
Follow her on Twitter: @janelovering
Like her on Facebook: Jane Lovering Author
Check out her blog: www.janelovering.co.uk 

A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love – are YOU a real-life Katie?

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In celebration of the recent launch of A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love in paperback, we have the lovely Linn B. Halton on the blog, chatting about Katie, the main character of the novel …

On the surface of it, as we glance at other people’s lives it can seem that they have cracked it. They found the key that allowed them to unlock their dreams and create a perfect life. But that’s the type of thought that follows a really bad day, when everything seems to be going wrong – and we’ve all had days like that!

Common sense tells us that beneath the exterior façade that the world sees is all of the same turbulent, emotional stuff that lurks everywhere. It lurks in your life and in mine, and no one is exempt.

Fictional stories about life and love can’t really be told without there being a moral to the tale. And A Little Sugar A Lot of Love is no exception. We all have dreams, but how often do we become side-tracked because life and relationships get in the way? Katie’s bakery shop is her dream come true. Ah, I hear you thinking, Katie should be more focused on her business and making a profit, and less on supporting the people around her. The moral being: chase your dream if you really want it to come true. Well, yes and no.

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I’m not saying that if you have a dream you shouldn’t pursue it with all of the vigour, enthusiasm and energy you can muster. After all, if you do nothing, nothing happens. Most things in life don’t come easy and usually you have to put in a ton of commitment and work before you see any results at all.

No, the moral I’m talking about is something that is often overlooked in that focused mind set to achieve a specific goal. It’s the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’ because how can anyone know what will really make them happy until they actually experience it?

The late astrologer and philosopher, Jonathan Cainer, once said in an interview that nothing he had ever purchased had given him much more than a very brief sense of satisfaction. Therein lies a big truth, in that satisfaction usually comes from the feelings of achievement and self-worth of doing, or creating, something. But the whole point about being careful what you wish for, is that in life there is always a need to be constantly standing back to assess the bigger picture. And that’s because life is all about change. The person you are today is someone who will continue to evolve as each day passes and you gain more life experiences.

Katie is like so many of us in that she is working towards her dream of running a successful bakery, but she also carries some weighty responsibilities for the people she cares most about, which at times becomes draining. There is never time for her to do more than simply get through each day, so she ends up being reactive, rather than pro-active. Life simply happens.

And that is what is at the heart of this story. A reminder that we aren’t responsible for other people’s actions and sometimes we have to accept what isn’t within our power to change. Katie is a nurturer, but sometimes the kindest action of all is one of letting someone go. And as for the dream? Sometimes it has to change because we change and that isn’t a bad thing, but a way of helping us avoid having to be careful what we wish for—

Writing is my dream, but life took me in various directions before I was finally able to sit down at the keyboard and write my heart out. For me the dream is holding a paperback copy of A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love in my hands and seeing it on the bookshelves in stores as I browse. That’s not to say it eclipses my other dreams of being a wife and mother, and having had several very diverse, but satisfying, careers. But this happens to be the ‘me’ time in my life and while I’ve never been busier, I can honestly say it was well worth the wait! Of course, it takes a whole team of people to make it happen and that includes the wonderful readers and reviewers! Achieving a dream is a blessing and I’m counting mine.

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Wishing you well in the pursuit of your dreams …

Linn x

For more information on Linn:

Website/blog: http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Twitter: @LinnBHalton FB: Linn B Halton Author

A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love is now available to purchase in paperback and eBook format. Click HERE for buying options. 

Love Me for a Reason by Angela Britnell

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Hands up those of you with a weakness for a smartly dressed man – yes, I’m talking to you! Nathaniel Dalton, my gorgeous new Choc Lit hero, fits the bill perfectly and he’d be thrilled to hear me say so. When I first “saw” him in his beautiful designer suit, handmade shirt, silk tie and gleaming wingtip shoes I had a little swoon, but when I picked myself off the floor I discovered why appearance meant so much to him and a niggle of sympathy crept in.

When you’ve grown up as the son of hippy goat farmers in rural East Tennessee you either follow the same path or make a one hundred and eighty degree turn in the other direction like Nathaniel. When the story begins he’s achieved most of his goals with a top notch accounting job, a fancy condo in the most sought after part of Nashville and the financial security to help out his eccentric family. When the time is right he’ll select one of the elegant Nashville socialites he routinely dates to be his wife. But we all know what happens to plans don’t we?

In Nathaniel’s case it’s Daisy Penvean. Daisy of the flowing tie-dye clothes and laid back artistic lifestyle, whose iron has been gathering dust forever. Nathaniel shouldn’t be attracted to her but can’t seem to help himself. Daisy hates the fact she fancies a man whose shoes are so shiny she could fix her make up in them. But she can’t help it either.

Outward appearance. It says a lot and yet it’s often the unsaid that means more. Maybe that’s why so many romantic heroes are men in uniform – whether it be military or fireman’s uniforms, or their own version like Nathaniel. It says something about them but leaves a layer of intrigue out there as to whether the man underneath matches the outer persona.

You’ll have to read Love Me for a Reason to discover Nathaniel’s “uniform” secrets and whether he has left the past behind as much as he thinks, or whether he ever really wanted to in the first place.

Love Me for a Reason is now available as an ebook on all platforms. Click on one of the links below to purchase.

Amazon UK   Amazon US  Amazon CA  Amazon AU

For more on Angela, follow her on Twitter @AngelaBritnell

Mother’s Little Helper: Part Four by Clare Chase

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Clare Chase takes up where AnneMarie Brear left off yesterday for the penultimate part of our Mother’s Day Robin Romance. Let’s see how the ‘little mother’ is getting on- and Rob and Lily of course!

Make sure you read right until the end to see the next question for our competition.

To make sense of the story, make sure you read Part One by Berni Stevens HERE, Part Two by Sarah Waights HERE and Part Three by AnneMarie Brear HERE

Lily was fascinated to see the mother cat cleaning the new black kitten, doing all the things a well-trained midwife might, completely by instinct.

She caught Rob looking up at her, his face lit by a smile.

‘It took my breath away too,’ he said, ‘the first time I saw a cat produce a litter.’

Lily crouched down next to him as the mother prepared to deliver a second. ‘I just never expected it would come so naturally.’

Rob nodded. ‘That’s why I told you not to worry. They seldom have any trouble.’

She glanced at him. ‘I’m sorry I interrupted your evening.’

‘It is my job, after all.’ He turned towards her.  ‘Didn’t happen to be great timing, but I’m glad to see this now I’m here. I shouldn’t get blasé about the chance to watch something so special.’ And then he turned to look back at the scene, and his arm brushed hers.

Their eyes met again. ‘Sorry,’ he said.

But he didn’t look that sorry. She felt herself blushing. Gazing at a gorgeous man was one thing, but the unexpected physical contact sent a shiver down her spine.

At that moment, the second kitten arrived, and she used the distraction to get up and go back to the kitchen. He’d said he wanted plenty of coffee, and now might be the time to get it.

Jo took one look at her expression and rolled her eyes. ‘Blimey. I can see the sight of a cat’s afterbirth hasn’t cooled your ardour. You are so cut out to date a vet.’

Lily huffed as she went to fill the kettle. ‘It’s no use talking like that. He loves animals, so he’s glad he’s here, but he’d rather be back at home with the mystery woman. My call clearly came at an awkward moment. He mustn’t find out what I’m thinking, or he might take fright and leave before it’s all over!’

Back in the living room, the mother cat was at work again, tending to a third kitten that had arrived. Lily watched as its siblings snuggled up to try to suckle, whilst being nudged and bumped, due to the other activity in the box.

She re-filled Rob’s mug with coffee.

‘Thanks.’

In no time, it looked as though the mother was ready to deliver yet another kitten.

‘This might well be the last,’ Rob said.

It was only a minute before Lily sensed there was something wrong.  The mother cat was trying, but the next kitten didn’t appear. She watched as a frown traced its way across Rob’s face. He put his coffee down.

‘Might have to check her over,’ he said, reaching inside the box. ‘Have you got something extra to keep the kittens warm whilst I hold her? Be good if it’s clean. If it smells too much of you it might stop them bonding with mum.’

Lily dashed upstairs and grabbed a soft fleecy throw from a cupboard, ignoring Jo’s look of horror from the kitchen doorway as she wrapped it round the damp looking new-borns.

Rob was manipulating the mother cat’s abdomen.

‘What is it?’

‘There’s just one kitten left, but the position of its head’s wrong. If I was in the surgery I’d have the option of a C-section, but we’re just going to have to hope manipulation works. It often does. Or so I’m told.’ He looked at her. ‘I haven’t actually done this before.’

Lily bit her lip as he worked. Half-watching, she tried to make sure the fleece stayed snuggly round the other kittens.

And then suddenly Rob’s expression cleared. ‘I think we might be in business.’ He put the mother cat back in the box, leaving some space between her and the new-borns, and within a minute, a fourth kitten appeared, tiny, but very much alive.

Lily realised there were tears in her eyes, and when Rob looked up, she could see he was battling emotion too.

He shook his head, and turned to her. ‘Not the kind of thing you ever get used to. Thanks for finding that fleece so quickly.’

And then he put his hand on her arm. Maybe it was the fresh emotion, or the fact that it was deliberate this time, but full-scale rockets went off. Hell. She was sure he’d noticed.

And then his mobile went again.

 Aww, can’t get much better than that – newborn kittens and a spark of romance. But who keeps phoning Rob? We’ll reveal all in the final part of our Round Robin by Kathryn Freeman tomorrow! 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you’d like the chance to win a mystery prize in celebration of Mother’s Day, make sure you come back every day until Sunday so you can answer all five questions. You will need to read right until the end of each part to answer. We will give contact details of where to send your answers to on the final day of the Round Robin. Please wait until the end of the story to send in your answers.

The fourth question is: What does Lily fetch from the cupboard to help keep the newborn kittens warm?

 If you enjoyed Clare’s writing, make sure you check out her NEW ‘Death by Choc Lit’ novel, A Stranger’s House, available as a Kindle eBook HERE

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Mother’s Little Helper: Part Two by Sarah Waights

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Yesterday Berni Stevens set the scene with a heavily pregnant cat and a (potentially) handsome vet. Today Sarah Waights picks up the baton for the second part of our Mother’s Day Round Robin!

Make sure you read Berni’s extract first HERE and follow the story right until the end to find out about our competition 🙂 

They settled the little cat into the box where she industriously kneaded the thick layer of towels until they were to her liking before throwing herself onto her side with another plaintive miaow.  The two girls were watching her anxiously when they jumped in unison at the sound of the doorbell.

‘You go,’ said Jo. ‘He’s going to be cross at being called out and it’s your fault.’

Lily was already on her way. She could see him through the frosted glass panel in the front door.  She had a general impression of dark, wavy hair, a black jacket and jeans.  Goodness he was tall.

‘Thanks so much for coming,’ she said breathlessly, as she opened the door. He ignored her, bending down to pick up his bag. ‘Does anyone ever tell you you’re really, really tall,’ she added, nervously.

‘Yes,’ he said, not bothering to meet her eye. ‘Often. Now, where’s this medical emergency of yours.’ He didn’t wait for a reply, but brushed past her in the narrow hallway, before striding towards the open door of the sitting room.

‘Did I interrupt something when I called?’ she added, trotting after him, keen to find out what she was supposed to be apologising for – it was obviously something quite bad.

‘Yes,’ he said again. ‘She’ll get over it.’

‘I’m Lily, by the way.’

‘Rob,’ he replied. ‘And who’s she?’ He cocked a thumb at Jo, who was skulking in the kitchen area, pretending to wash up.

‘The cat’s mother,’ quipped Lily, rather wittily she thought.

‘So she’s paying my bill then?’

‘Erm, well, no …’ stuttered Lily, glancing at Jo apologetically, ‘that would probably be me.’

Rob raised his eyes to heaven, and shook his head. ‘Right, let’s take a look,’ he said hunkering down to the box on the floor and shrugging off his jacket.

Strong thighs, noted Lily, inconsequentially, and broad-chested too – like a rugby player. She wondered who the woman was who would ‘get over it’. A glamorous girlfriend, no doubt.

Despite his obvious exasperation at the girls he examined the little cat gently and efficiently, running his hands over her ribs and peering into her ears.

‘Well, she’s a stray for sure,’ he said. ‘And you’re right about the kittens. Not long now, by the looks of it. She’s a bit underweight,’ he added, ‘and I doubt she’s even a year old. Too young to be a mother.’

‘A teenage mum,’ observed Lily. ‘Poor little scrap. She’s so tiny.’

‘Not fully grown,’ explained Rob. ‘This’ll stunt her growth, she’ll always be small now.’

‘Aaah,’ said Jo, coming out of the kitchen and looking at the cat more sympathetically before going to give her a stroke.

‘She’s got fleas, by the way,’ added Rob.

‘Urgh!’ Jo recoiled. ‘She’s not staying,’ she told Lily.

‘I’ll add a flea treatment to my bill,’ said Rob.

‘In for a penny, in for a pound,’ agreed Lily, getting a bit worried about the preoccupation with money. She was a bit broke at the moment.

‘Would you like a coffee?’ she asked. He looked like he needed something and perhaps she could soften his heart with a chocolate biscuit or two if they had any left.

Well, Rob certainly sounds gorgeous – but also a bit grumpy! Will those chocolate biscuits work to soften his heart? And who was it on the end of that phone? Find out tomorrow when Annemarie Brear takes over. 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you’d like the chance to win a mystery prize in celebration of Mother’s Day, make sure you come back every day until Sunday so you can answer all five questions. You will need to read right until the end of each part to answer. We will give contact details of where to send your answers to on the final day of the Round Robin. Please wait until the end of the story to send in your answers. 

The second question is: As well as being heavily pregnant, what else is the poor cat suffering from?

If you enjoyed Sarah’s writing, why not check out her debut novel, Never Marry a Politician, which is out in paperback on 7th March. Pre-order HERE

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The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Final Part by Sheryl Browne

DAY 5 VRRHappy Valentine’s Day to all our readers and to everyone who has been keeping track of our fabulous Valentine’s Round Robin 🙂 We hope your days are full of wine, chocolate and romance! 

Sheryl Browne is rounding up the story today and, without giving anything away, she does us proud. Thank you to each of the five writers who have taken part – as always, you have outdone yourselves!

So sit back (hopefully with a big, preferably heart-shaped, box of chocolates) and enjoy the last part of this Valentine’s Day story. If you haven’t read the other extracts yet, make sure you do before reading this! And remember to read right until the end to find out about our Valentine’s Day competition 🙂 

Part One by Alison May can be read HERE.

Part Two by Linn B. Halton can be read HERE. 

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry can be read HERE.

Part Four by Angela Britnell can be read HERE.

Oh.’ Sophie lost the smile as they pulled up in front of the hotel.

‘Problem?’ Josh obviously noted her crestfallen expression. ‘It’s just that my roommate has first dibs on the flat tonight. New girlfriend. I think he’s trying to impress her.’ Shaking his head, he rolled his twinkly ocean blue eyes and then looked at her uncertainly. ‘If you’d rather not, though …’

‘Yes! I mean No, no problem.’ Unimpressed though she was by the tactless, “trying to impress her” comment, Sophie plastered her smile back in place. Having only recently moved in, her own flat was still an absolute tip. There was no way she was ready for him to see that. Where else did she think they were going to seal their relationship? The bowling alley, with his obnoxious fangirls cheering him on? Sophie shuddered, quashing a fleeting image of Arlo guffawing and bitchy Evadne and Belinda scoring her points out of ten. ‘It’s a good idea.’ She nodded. Impromptu. Romantic, she thought dreamily. This was special. It meant something. Obviously it meant something to Josh too.

‘I booked us a room.’ Josh whipped his key from the ignition, and promptly pricked her romantic bubble. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, I got you something.’ He turned, leaning over the seat, his mesmerising blue eyes meeting hers, his delicious spicy cologne playing havoc with her senses.

What, Sophie wondered headily. Roses! It had to be. Chocolates! With which they would indulge after … She held her breath, sure she would just burst with happiness at his thoughtfulness.

Oh. She deflated a bit as he produced a bottle of wine.

‘It’s not the best, but not bad,’ he said, waving the bottle in her direction and then shoving his door open and climbing out. ‘Coming?’ he asked, leaning back in to shoot her his confident, megawatt smile.

Sighing inwardly, Sophie reached for her door. At least she’d got the prosecco, she supposed. And at least he’d thought to come around and open her door for her. He was a gentleman. A gorgeous sporty hunk and very nearly a fully qualified solicitor. He was hers.

‘Watch your step. Don’t want to end up in A&E, do we?’ Giving her a mischievous wink, Josh nodded down at her ankle accentuating shoes as she teetered alongside him on the uneven cobblestones. He didn’t take her hand. Sophie swallowed back her disappointment.

‘So, what do you think?’ Josh asked, once they’d found their room, another flash of uncertainty in his eyes as he scanned her face. Another small plus.

It was tiny, shoebox sized. But clean and … serviceable. She didn’t need roses, Sophie told herself firmly. They would make their own romance, sip chilled wine together, make sweet meaningful love together, and then lie satiated in each other’s arms, sharing secrets until the sun rose. How much more romantic could it be?  Josh, she realised, was obviously as nervous as she was. Or possibly not. Turning back to beam him her best grateful smile, she blinked, slightly stunned to find him peeling his shirt off.

Sophie’s smile faltered, as he walked towards her, his tanned biceps glistening, his ocean blue eyes smouldering. ‘Are we getting naked?’ He stopped directly in front of her, his lips a hair’s breadth from hers. His breath was minty, his eyelashes long and lustrous, incongruous with his sun-kissed clutchable hair. Sophie almost wilted, as he pulled her proprietorially to him, her tummy dipping, her head giddy with longing, as he closed his delicious mouth over hers, kissing her hard, deep and  … stopping.

‘Damn.’ He groaned, as his phone beeped in his jeans pocket. ‘Talk about bad timing.’ Leaving Sophie reeling on her vertiginous heels, he pulled away, fished the phone out and read the text. Then, shaking his head, he smiled, keyed in a response and tossed the phone on the bed. ‘Sorry about that,’ he said, turning back to her.

‘No problem,’ she said, actually thinking it was.

‘I’ll just, er …’ Nodding towards the bathroom, he hooked a finger over the low neckline of her dress. ‘You might want to lose that,’ he suggested, smiling … amusedly? … and then sauntering off.

But, short of a bow, she’d dressed entirely to please him, from her lacy knickers to her figure hugging red dress, which actually now felt a bit tarty. Wasn’t he going to unwrap her? Obviously not. Watching him disappear into the bathroom, Sophie huffed over to the bed. Parking herself ungraciously to hitch off her heels, she paused as the phone beeped again. Her eyes travelled towards it. Should she?

What was so flipping urgent anyway? A curry. She realised, her heart sinking, as she read the text: How’d it go? Got to grips with the bowling balls yet? We’re heading over to The Dilshad. Will order for you. Balti or Masala?

About to. Balti, Josh had texted back.

****

‘Bastard.’ Matt surprised her, swinging her flat door wide as she waggled her key in the lock, wrapping an arm around her and steering Sophie gently inside. ‘If I see him soon he won’t be able to walk in a straight line, let alone bowl.’

‘Oh, Matt, it was a disaster! ’ Sophie blubbered, never more grateful for her strong, dependable, caring friend. He’d obviously used the key he’d had when he’d helped her move in and made sure to be here to pick up the pieces, again. ‘But you shouldn’t be here.’ She took the tissue he offered her and blew, not very daintily. ‘What about your date?’

‘I, er, cancelled. This morning. Come on, come on in. I’ve run you a nice scented bath.’

‘But…?’ He’d bought roses. Armfuls. She’d seen him in town, this afternoon. He’d looked a bit down, Sophie remembered. She’d assumed it was something to do with his job at the hospice, but she’d been so full of her own news about her date with despicable Josh she hadn’t asked him. She should have. She glanced up at him. He smiled embarrassedly. Leave it, she told herself, guessing poor Matt had had a disastrous Valentine’s Day too. ‘Thank you,’ she said, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek, and then padding towards her bedroom, ridiculous heels in hand.

He was too sensitive, that was Matt’s trouble. Too caring. Too good-looking for the women he dated to see past the physique. They wanted macho, sporty types, like ‘Joshy’, not sensitive souls like Matt, who preferred to woo women before bedding them. They could have him. And she’d have Matt in a flash, if only she was one of the prettier more popular girls.

Sniffing, she pressed down the door handle, noting the heavenly waft of scented bath oil as she did, and then froze. Not bath oil. She blinked, bewildered. Roses! Everywhere. On the bedside table, on the dressing table, petals on the floor. Matt?

Speechless, panda-eyed, bedraggled, shoeless and short, Sophie turned slowly around to face him. ‘For me?’

Matt laughed. ‘Well, they’re not for me.’

‘But …’ Sophie stared at him, incredulous. ‘Why?’

‘Because I… ‘A flush to his cheeks, Matt stopped. ‘Because you’re beautiful. Sweet and beautiful, and far too good for that conceited pillock. I know you don’t … Probably wouldn’t consider, but …’ Pulling in a huge breath, Matt paused again, then, ‘Would you do me the honour of being my Valentine, Sophie?’

Totally stunned now, Sophie just continued to stare.

‘OK, right.’ Matt coughed, at length, and looked more embarrassed than ever. ‘Well, no problem. I get that you don’t, you know. I’d offer to wash your back,’ he joked, as was Matt’s wont, ‘but …’

‘You’d like to woo me first?’ Sophie found her voice.

A slow smile curved Matt’s mouth, a shy, gorgeous, completely unpretentious smile. ‘If you’ll let me?’ he asked hopefully.

‘Yes!’ Sophie laughed, bewildered. Was it possible? Did she dare hope, after so many heart-breaking disappointments, that her dream of the perfect Valentine’s Day had come true?

Aww, so glad Sophie got the Valentine’s Day she wanted in the end – and Matt sounds gorgeous! We hope everyone reading this gets their perfect Valentine’s Day too 🙂 

COMPETITION TIME!

Now that we’ve reached the last part of the story, it’s time to submit your answers from the last four days, along with one last answer from today for your chance to win a mystery prize! Here’s the question:

Where does the lovely Matt work?

When you’ve read every part of the story and collected together your answers, send all FIVE of them to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner (with five correct answers) will be picked at random. Deadline for entry is Wednesday 17th February and the winner will be announced on Thursday 18th February.

There is also one last chance to win a prize by commenting on this post or on Facebook/Twitter to let us know what you think of the story. The winners of these daily competitions will be announced at the same time as the main competition winner. Good luck!

9781781892350

If you enjoyed Sheryl Browne’s writing, why not give her book, The Rest of My Life, a go? The novel will be out in paperback on April 7th and is available to pre-order HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Four by Angela Britnell

DAY 4 VRR

It’s Angela Britnell’s turn today – let’s see whether she puts Sophie out of her misery! And who could have been on the other end of that phone? 😉 

In order to make sense of today’s extract, have a read of the extracts we’ve released over the last few days. Part One by Alison May is HERE. Part Two by Linn B. Halton is HERE. Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

‘Oh, Soph, don’t tell me he stood you up? Do you want me to come and get you?’

Sophie’s eyes prickled and she ordered herself not to cry. Good old Matt. They’d been best friends since they were five and he’d rescued her from the infant school bully on the playground. She stumbled over trying to explain to him the horrific scenario waiting for her back in the bowling alley. ‘They’re all awful,’ she wailed.

‘What did Josh say when they had a go at you?’ The question hung there and Sophie knew without having to be told exactly what Matt would’ve done. Stood up for her. Told his friends they were out of line. Precisely what the niggling voice in her head had been saying ever since she and Josh arrived and he’d basically thrown her to the sharks.

Her pride kicked back in. Sophie had bored Matt silly with the “will he won’t he” story of her relationship with Josh until she’d about made his ears bleed. Last week when she’d rambled on about her dreams for Valentine’s Day he’d told her to be careful what she wished for because it might happen. Trust Matt to be right. He’d been right about her last boyfriend, Peter, too. And that louse William. As for Greg – he’d correctly nailed him as a lying, unfaithful loser.

‘Oh, he’s …’ Sophie tried to say how great Josh had been but she couldn’t lie. Not to Matt. ‘Just forget I called. You know me. Always the drama queen. I’m overreacting and being daft as usual.’

‘You’re not daft,’ Matt scoffed. ‘You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful …’

Silence. Sophie  struggled to breathe.

‘There you are. Is everything all right?’ Josh appeared by her shoulder, flashing his trademark megawatt smile.

‘Yes, thanks, one of my friends called. I’ll just get rid of … her.’

‘I’ll wait.’ Josh dropped down on the bench next to her and draped his warm arm around her shoulder. His delicious spicy cologne wafted in the air and she nearly swooned.

‘I’ve got to go.’ Sophie murmured down the phone.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll consider myself suitably got rid of. Be careful, Soph.’

She hung up and bit back tears.

‘I told the others we’d had enough of bowling.’ Josh grinned and trailed a finger down her neck, lingering at the low neckline of her dress. ‘I can think of far better ways to spend what’s left of Valentine’s Day.’

 You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful.

Had Matt really said that? Best friend, Matt. The man all her single friends drooled over but who never seemed to find the right woman. That Matt?

‘Sophie, are you listening to me?’ Josh’s smooth voice sneaked back into her awareness and she looked at him. This was what she’d spent all afternoon primping for. Wasn’t it nice that he’d wanted to introduce her to his friends? Okay, so maybe it hadn’t been super thoughtful to do it on Valentine’s day but he was a man and they didn’t make as much of these things as women tended to.

‘Of course. That’s a wonderful idea. Are you sure your friends don’t mind?’

Josh chuckled. ‘No. They encouraged me. I heard something about keeping them safe from flying bowling balls.’

Sophie forced on a smile. She could laugh at herself as well as anyone. Despite a rocky start she refused to let this Valentine’s Day join her list of romantic disasters.

Wine and chocolate

It sounds like there still could be a chance for Sophie to salvage her disastrous Valentine’s Day. Sheryl Browne will round it all off tomorrow with the last extract – and we hope the beginning of your Valentine’s Day is a lot better than the one Sophie’s had so far!

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

Name the three ex boyfriends of Sophie’s that Matt was right about.

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

TWRT 150 x 240

If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, why not pick up a copy of her novella, The Wedding Reject Table? The book has recently been shortlisted for a RNA award and is available to purchase HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

DAY 3 VRR

 

Has Sophie’s Valentine’s Day got any better than when we last left her? Let’s see if Kirsty Ferry has been any kinder! If you haven’t read the first extracts of the story yet, you can read Part One by Alison May HERE and Part Two by Linn B. Halton HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

Sophie shimmied down the alley, the rubber-soled shoes squeaking most inelegantly on the highly polished floor. A couple of the girls – bitchy, bleach-blonde vamps from what she could tell, looked her up and down and sniggered into their spritzers.

‘Nice one, Joshy,’ murmured one of them. She had “Belinda” emblazoned across her T-shirt.

‘Strike, Joshy-lad!’ guffawed  “Arlo”.  ‘Couple of nice bowling balls up top on that one.’

Sophie felt her face flush almost as red as the dratted dress she was squished into.

‘My bad,’ replied Joshy-lad, sitting down perilously close to the other blonde – “Evadne”, apparently. ‘I forgot it was Valentines Day.’

‘Joshy!’ cried Evadne. ‘That’s so naughty. Will you ever forgive him … sorry? Susie? Sarah? I can’t quite remember…’

‘Sophie,’ replied Sophie through gritted teeth. She perched on the edge of the nasty, plastic upholstered seat and blushed again as a small parp of air released from a split in the upholstery material. Typical. Could this day get any worse? Oh how she wished she was in her own lounge, on her own un-parpy sofa, in front of a weepy girly chick-flick, cradling a box of chocolates and slugging back prosecco. Her best friend’s words floated in front of her mind. Be careful what you wish for – it might just happen. Valentine’s Day sucked, big time.

‘Your turn Sophie!’ She looked around as Josh smiled encouragingly at her and nodded towards the pile of balls. It was the walk of shame again – a wiggle and a waddle and a squeak all the way over to the balls, choose a pink one (why the heck not?), followed by a mincing sort of run as she hustled her way up to the line and sort of lurched the ball into the alley.

Sophie swore as it bounced a couple of times and ended up in the gutter.

‘One more go, love!’ shouted Arlo the Idiot. ‘Come on, give us a good show!’

Sophie knew that a ‘good show’ to Arlo would be a rip right up the back of her dress and all her lacy-knickered-ultra-waxed glory being displayed to the crowd.

Losing heart, she picked up another ball (green this time) and threw it deliberately into the alley. What was the point?

‘My bad,’ she said shrugging. ‘Excuse me just a moment, would you?’

She picked up her gorgeous designer bag and squeaked past the peanut gallery, aware of the heavy-lashed looks coming from the girls and the slobbering lust emanating from the men.

‘You okay?’ Josh asked, making to get up.

‘Fine and dandy,’ she lied. ‘It’s okay – I won’t be long. You stay there with your friends. I’m just off to powder my nose.’ She headed away to the loos, Evadne’s voice – or it might have been Belinda’s – following her: ‘Oh, sweetie pie, never mind. She’s just not our type, is she? Here, have a drink. Then you can watch me and see how it’s really done.’

Sophie managed to hold onto her dignity until she was around the corner, then sat down on a bench by a Splat-the-Mole machine and pulled out her mobile. She punched in the first number she could think of, her go-to person, and waited for the call to connect.

‘Oh thank goodness you’re there,’ she said, closing her eyes in relief at the familiar voice. ‘I’m having the absolutely worst Valentine’s Day date in all the rotten history of Valentine’s Day dates …’

 

Wine and chocolate

It just keeps getting worse and worse for poor Sophie! Angela Britnell will reveal who’s on the other end of that phone to tomorrow 😉 

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

What does Sophie sit down next to on the bench when she makes a phone call to a mystery person?

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

The Girl in the Painting

If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, why not pre-order a copy of her new book The Girl in the Painting HERE