How do women survive in the mad, bad world of politics and spin?

9781781892770Sarah Waights, author of Never Marry a Politician, talks about the inspiration for her novel, and about the plight of the strong, capable women who are often behind the rise of the world’s most powerful men …

Long before Hillary Clinton decided to stand for the presidency herself there was a joke doing the rounds and it went like this:

Hillary and Bill drive into a gas station. As the attendant is filling their car, Bill says, “Look Hillary, isn’t that the guy you used to date at college?  Just imagine, if you’d married him not me you’d be the wife of a gas station attendant.”

“Nonsense, Bill,” said Hillary, “If I’d married him instead of you, he would be the President of the United States.”

And therein lies the truth that inspired my novel Never Marry a Politician.  Behind every successful man is a very clever woman and the cleverest women of all may well be the ones who wield their power covertly, using their man as a puppet to achieve their own ambitions. Shakespeare was fascinated with the concept; What was Lady Macbeth if not quite literally the power behind the throne? Poor old Macbeth didn’t have an idea in his head other than the ones she put there and – boy – did she have some big ideas. Incidentally, Shakespeare also portrayed her as a raving, hormonal lunatic and ensured she came to a sticky end but – hey ho – feminism had a long way to go back then.

Not that we have come as far as we would like to think, as I peek between my fingers at Hillary Clinton’s current presidential campaign. Despite the social progress that allowed Obama to get into power, there has still never been a female president. In the UK’s political system I watch with horrified fascination as those handpicked female members of our elected parliament – the brightest of the bright – have to run the gauntlet of press and parliamentary preoccupation with their legs, cleavage, shoes and marital status before they are allowed to express a view or table a policy. Even then, the apparatchiks are far more likely to hand them a brief concerning childcare provision than, say, defence policy. I feel even more sorry for the women who – quite by chance – happen to be married to a man who is ambitious for a career in politics. That is what happened to my poor heroine, Emily, who quickly learns that – despite it being the 21st century – her role is to stand meekly in the background gazing at her husband admiringly.

“I do have an opinion of my own,” she protests to her lover, Matt.

“Sure you do,” he replies, “but only when your husband’s advisors have told you what it is.”

The ‘gazing admiringly’ thing, by the way, is one I felt Nancy Reagan did awfully well and that made her an excellent President’s wife.  The UK equivalent would probably be the ‘wife’ of our one and only female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher; her spouse, Dennis, was stalwart, supportive and above criticism. Always. When he died all anyone could remember him doing was chatting amiably about golf and mixing a killer gin and tonic. Could she have done it without him? Personally, I doubt it.

One would like to think that women signing up to the husband’s job to the detriment of her own autonomy was an outdated idea. When I was a child, my father was in the diplomatic corps which involved lots of making polite conversation with his opposite numbers from other countries. My mother’s role – it was made quite clear – was to play the Nancy Reagan to his Ronald, taking the wives out shopping and giving them tea and cake while the men got down to the real business of – well – being diplomatic. But that can’t be how things work now, can it?

I actually think it isn’t.  I think it’s worse.  I have built a career and raised a family in an era where women were not just supposed to ‘have it all’, they had to somehow ‘do it all’ too. Achieving the role of the perfect wife and mother at the same time as having a ball-breakingly successful career is now less of a freedom and more of a moral obligation. We owe it to our mothers and grandmothers who were left entirely without bust support after all that bra-burning so that we – the newly empowered (and exhausted) generation – could rule the world. In the general election in the UK last year, the media was fascinated by the wives of the political leaders. It was clear that, the female vote was being courted. In order to have any respect for the husband, we had to admire the wife. Here, wearing a pinny and churning out perfect cupcakes was key but not, in itself, enough. Instead, the politician’s wives, with their perfect, smiley children in tow, had to bake, smile, be immaculately dressed AND have impressive careers (but no opinions, mind). Two are high-flying lawyers and another is ‘something very clever’ in product development for a really classy stationery design company – phew, nothing controversial about notepads, thank heaven. The high (or low) point of the entire campaign was the week when all the leaders were photographed in their own kitchens, drinking coffee with their wives – cue pages and pages of coverage analysing the political significance of everything from the mugs they were drinking out of to the brand of olive oil sitting next to the stove.  Honestly!  I know… madness.

Actually, the scariest thing I ever did was to marry. Although I knew almost as soon as I met him that I loved my husband-to-be – and that I trusted him – my mind whirled with terror at the thought of how being a wife and having children, would make me vulnerable, financially dependent, that I would somehow lose myself, that I would feel compelled to become a mirror of my husband to justify his protection of me … I needn’t have fretted. My husband has never wanted me to become anything other than a more developed, fulfilled, version of myself. We have taken turns, over the years, to be the breadwinner, raise the children, take time out to follow our dreams (get me! A published novelist no less …) and just be whoever we felt we needed to be. Of course that has meant being supportive to each other, being loyal, being the person who is always on side – even when you’ve made a right royal  tit of yourself – but it has never had to mean turning into a person who exists purely to show our partner in a better light.

And so – just like my poor character Emily, we all struggle on – walking the tightrope of career versus family, spin versus substance, truth versus diplomacy and wine versus waistline. Thank God for the escapism of other people’s stories.

Never Marry a Politician is now available in paperback. Click on one of the links below to purchase.

Amazon UK   Amazon US  Amazon CA

For more on Sarah, follow her on Twitter @SarahWaights

Mother’s Little Helper: Part Two by Sarah Waights

MD RR Part 2

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

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

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

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

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

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

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

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

 

AnnMarie Santa photo

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

 

 

Jan Santa photo

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

 

Angela Britnell - Santa!

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

 

Sheryl Browne Santa!

 

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


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

 

An Irish Promise

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

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

Some Veil Did Fall

Kirsty Ferry - Santa!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The Highwayman's Daughter

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

 

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

 

 

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

 


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

 

 

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

 

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

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

 


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

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Out of Sight Out of Mind

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

 

Nick santa photo

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

All I want for Christmas …

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A festive post with a difference written by our author, Sarah Waights. Have you ever wished that getting what you wanted most in life was as simple as writing to Father Christmas? Emma does … 

Dear Father Christmas,

You don’t mind if I call you ‘Father Christmas’ do you? Tell me if I’m wrong but I’m guessing you’re something of a traditionalist. That said, I appreciate ‘Santa’ has been creeping up the popularity ranks for a while now. It’s all ‘Santa baby’ and ‘I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus’… I appreciate singing ‘Father Christmas is coming to town’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Maybe I’m just a late adopter, but I can’t go with ‘Santa’, I really can’t. For me ‘Santa’ sounds like an item of sanitary protection. It evokes pictures of lithe young women roller-skating in unfeasibly tiny shorts, diving into swimming pools displaying unlikely levels of abdominal muscle perfection, or flying kites on the tops of hills, all whilst laughing inanely with their girlfriends and exchanging flirty but empowered looks with handsome young men who are looking on admiringly. Why? Because this is apparently what advertising men think women get up to when they’ve got their period … God knows why. I definitely don’t. So, the point is, say the word ‘Santa’ and feminine hygiene is what pops into my mind – as it probably will into yours from now on too. Sorry about that.

Actually, whilst I’m apologising, let me just come straight out and acknowledge the elephant in the room; you will have noticed I’ve not written to you since I was seven. Twenty years, eh?  How time flies … I appreciate, belatedly, you might have assumed it was because you didn’t fully deliver on my expectations that time. Obviously the tiny tears doll which eats yellow gunk and then dirties its nappy when you squeeze it was bang on, and the extensive list of stocking fillers was broadly fulfilled – no complaints – but I do want to make it absolutely clear that there are no hard feelings about you not coming through with the real, live penguin. To be honest, my geographical knowledge as a seven year old was poor (it isn’t much better now) and I simply thought it would be a case of leaning out of your sleigh and grabbing one in passing. I certainly didn’t expect you to go all the way to the South Pole, which you obviously wouldn’t have had time to do. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t ask for a polar bear.

Talking of hindsight, I imagine we need to cover the issue of whether I’ve been naughty or nice. Are we talking just the last year or the whole couple of decades? I’ll assume the latter but, for brevity, we had better stick to edited highlights. So let’s see … I’ve always tried not to be knowingly cruel (but also see below), I’ve been polite and grateful to my mother, apart from the obligatory teenage years obviously, and broadly I think my friends would say I’m a reasonably nice person.

And now for the last year. Well – they say “you hurt the ones you love” don’t they? And I have. I know I have and I am so desperately sorry, (although I suppose it’s not you I should be apologising to). All I can say is I would do anything for things to be simple again, to wind back the clock and be asking for a doll or a new packet of felt tips because I left the lids off the old ones. But that isn’t how life works. So here goes: The reason I am writing to you now, is because I have to ask for just one, final thing, and after that I promise I will never ask ever again. You see, Father Christmas (or, what the hell, ‘Santa’ if you prefer), the only thing I want – not just for Christmas but for ever and ever is James. And if he were to come down my chimney and back into my life I promise I would love him and cherish him and never let him go until death us do part. He could even watch the football. Sometimes. Potentially in return for emptying the dishwasher occasionally. I’m not unreasonable …

Lots of love

Emma xxx

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Find out more about Sarah’s debut novel, Never Marry a Politician:

@SarahWaights

www.sarahwaights.com

Never Marry a Politician is available on Kindle:

Kindle UK  Kindle US