Girl in Oxford: The Inspiration for Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James

Last week saw the paperback publication day for Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James – a wonderful saga set in 1960’s Britain, specifically Oxford. Today Margaret tells us a little more about the inspiration for her new book and describes the Oxford of the past …

Hello readers! Thank you so much for dropping by – it’s lovely to have you here.

Girl in Red Velvet was inspired by the time I lived in Oxford during the late 1960s onwards. My boyfriend, who was soon to be my husband, was an undergraduate there. So I got to know his friends and in those days anyone could wander in and out of the various colleges, at least during the daytime.

Oxford was a lovely city in the sixties. It’s still lovely, but some hideous modern buildings have replaced a few of the older ones. The pub in which Lily gets drunk for the first and most humiliating time is now a pizza palace, and the once grand department store of Elliston and Cavell is now part of a nationwide chain.

At that stage in my life, I didn’t have any definite ambition to become a novelist, but I must have been soaking everything up because, when I came to write Lily Denham’s story, Oxford seemed the obvious place to set it, and the story unfolded more or less before my eyes.

Lily is a clever girl – much cleverer than me – but she still makes lots of mistakes. On her first day she meets Harry and Max, best friends who decide she’s one of the lads and invite her to go with them on their madcap adventures, stealing punts, almost drowning themselves, and climbing over towering walls into deer parks. Lily isn’t supposed to fall in love with either, let alone both of them. But she does.

It looks as if there can’t be a happy outcome to this situation, and for a while everything looks pretty grim for Lily, and for Harry and Max, too. But time has a way of sorting things out, and at the end of the story all three of them find themselves in the places they never expected …

Girl in Red Velvet is available as an eBook on all platforms and can be ordered as a paperback from all good book retailers. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Margaret
Follow her on Twitter @Majanovelist
Like her on Facebook Margaret James Novelist
Check out her website and blog www.margaretjamesblog.blogspot.com

A New Cornish Tale

Last week we published The Daughter of River Valley, a new book in Victoria Cornwall’s ‘Cornish Tales’ series (which can all be read as stand-alone books!) Today Victoria joins us on the blog to talk about the gorgeous location of her new novel and the experience that inspired the plot…

Each novel has travelled a journey prior to its release and The Daughter of River Valley is no different. The story was inspired by Rocky Valley, a beautiful location in Cornwall, and a head injury I sustained as a teenager which temporarily robbed me of my memory. I had my idyllic setting which was worth fighting for and a budding plotline for the heroine, whose hasty defence of her home robs a stranger of his memory. As you can imagine, the words began to flow thick and fast.

By the following year I had completed the novel and was thrilled when the manuscript was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction. My writing has developed over the years so working with Choc Lit gave me the perfect excuse to revisit the novel and polish it to be the best it can be. I am glad to say that it now has an amazing cover, a new title and is a superior version to the one I wrote all those years ago. As with all the books in my Cornish Tales series, they are linked by family ties, but are stand-alone novels. Beth Jago, the heroine of The Daughter of River Valley, is the niece of the woman who adopted Daniel in The Captain’s Daughter. She is also the direct descendent of Jenna, the heroine of The Thief’s Daughter.

My own memory loss was minor, not complete and lasted no more than a few hours, but it gave me a glimpse of the frustration and confusion of trying to remember something that is simply no longer there to be recalled. My heroine is a caring and determined young woman, but she did not invite the stranger into her home. Which side of her character will come to the fore? Does she send him on his way even though he is gravely ill and at risk of dying, or does she nurse him back to health and help him to discover who he is?

What would you do? Oh, I forgot to mention, he is rather handsome, which in reality should not make a difference … but this is fiction and who can resist a “tortured hero” with a dark past?

The Daughter of River Valley is available from all eBook platforms. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Victoria
Follow her on Twitter @VickieCornwall
Like her on Facebook Victoria Cornwall
Check out her website and blog www.victoriacornwall.com

A Very Special Nashville Hero

Earlier this week we released Angela Britnell’s new novella Here Comes the Best Man – the perfect read for wedding season and warm weather! Today Angela chats a little bit about the hero of the book, Josh Robertson, and by the end of this post we’re sure you’ll be dying to read more about this strong, smouldering but complex Nashville hero 😉

‘Apart from standing up with Chad at his wedding I’m nobody’s best man – trust me.’

There was never supposed to be a sequel to The Wedding Reject Table until Josh Robertson’s stubborn streak came into play. I wrote Here Comes the Best Man because Josh nagged me to tell his story, with no expectations that he’d get a romantic happy ending because it wouldn’t occur to him he deserved such a thing.

Josh is far too aware of what he considers to be his failings. He doesn’t possess his younger brother Chad’s easy charm, he’s been at loggerheads with his father since he was a rebellious teenager and he’s convinced he let down his fellow soldiers during his years in the US Army. His objective is to do his duty by his brother and return to his Colorado retreat as fast as possible.

I started off knowing very little about Josh because the brief appearance he made in The Wedding Reject Table didn’t reveal much but I soon discovered he shared a common trait with the rest of my Nashville book heroes. He’s not an aspiring country music star waiting tables or selling shoes to pay the bills while he longs for his big break. But … and this is a big one… country music still runs through Josh’s blood. To him it’s both a blessing and a curse, the two so intertwined he can’t see the proverbial wood for the trees.

As a baby his mother sang Johnny Cash classics to lull him to sleep and the moment he taught himself to play the guitar Josh fell in love with the incredible power music gave him to express his emotions. All of this tells his father, Big J Robertson, that his oldest son is set on his pre-determined path as the country music equivalent of Prince Charles, the heir to their three generations’ old family guitar business. However Josh in convinced that leaving Nashville and making his own path in life is the only way to be himself but still the music never leaves him alone.

When my story begins the last twenty years have taken a toll on Josh and the first time Louise Giles sets eyes on him she sums Josh up with astonishing accuracy.

‘The superficial resemblance to his younger brother ended at his mesmerising tawny eyes and thick jet-black hair. There was no smooth charming veneer to Josh Robertson, only a dark, hard world-weariness he wore like a heavy winter coat.’

I wanted to help lighten Josh’s load. As the inimitable Audrey tells him ‘We all have our sorrows and regrets. We learn to live with them.’ Of course you’ll have to read Here Comes the Best Man to discover if Louise, Josh’s family and music hand him the key to a future he could only dream of. All of my heroes are special but there’s something about Josh that I hope makes everyone root for him and fall more than a little in love because in the end that’s what truly matters.

Here Comes the Best Man is available from all eBook platforms. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Angela
Follow her on Twitter @AngelaBritnell
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Evonne Wareham: A Crime Writer Trying Her Hand at Romantic Comedy!

Last week we released the fabulous Summer in San Remo by Evonne Wareham in paperback. Evonne normally writes romantic suspense and Summer in San Remo is her first foray into romantic comedy (with a hint of mystery) so today on the blog she talks about that transition – and what we could potentially expect from her in the future 😉

It’s common knowledge that I have criminal tendencies.

That’s in my writing life, I hasten to add. All the disreputable stuff is strictly on the page – I’m far too much of a scaredy-cat to go anywhere near anything nefarious in real life.

I’m not sure exactly what draws me to the dark side, but something does. As my signature writing genre is romantic suspense, this is not too much of a surprise – the thriller and the love story get equal billing in those books, but what happens when a romantic suspense writer turns to writing romantic comedy? You’re ahead of me – romantic comedy, with a dusting of crime.

Summer in San Remo, which has just come out in paperback, is my first venture into the lighter side of romance. Cassie and Jake spar and bicker and kiss and make up, in the tradition of romantic comedy heroines and heroes, while investigating a mystery that takes them – you’ve guessed it again – to the Italian Riviera. It was great fun to write and I like to think that the mystery element adds just a little bit of an edge to the story. It is a mystery, rather than an all-out crime – no dead bodies or truly nasty villains – I save those for the thrillers.

I drew on memories of a fabulous holiday that I spent in San Remo, some years ago, for a glamorous background. The book features locations on both the French and Italian sides of the border, with lots of sunshine, a luxurious villa, parties and masses of food, particularly ice-cream – and shoes – but the mystery is the thing that drives the plot. It’s the reason that Cassie finds herself in San Remo, back with her first ever boyfriend, Jake. When he disappeared to New York twelve years ago she never thought she’d see him again. And, of course, she never wanted to see him again. Of course she didn’t.

Right now she’s putting all her energy and talent into building a successful business, and she really doesn’t need distractions. And Jake seems determined to be one big distraction. Back in the U.K. to take over running the family detective agency for the summer, he’s filthy rich, even more gorgeous, and a complete pain in Cassie’s … neck. Unfortunately he also seems to be the only person who can help her with a job for a new and very enigmatic client …

And then somehow Cassie finds herself agreeing to take a trip to San Remo with him …

I had a really good time writing the book, and I loved spending time with Jake and Cassie – so much so, that I want to write more romantic comedy and I’m intending that Summer in San Remo should be the first of a series. That project is currently proceeding at the pace of a bed of sloths, but like all determined sloths, it will get there in the end.

A series naturally has to have a thread to hold it together and, with Jake involved in running a detective agency, that seemed to be the perfect choice. And a detective agency implies a certain amount of crooked goings on – and here I am back with the crime again.

I really can’t stay away from it.

Summer in San Remo is now available in paperback from all good book retailers and also as an eBook through all eBook sellers. Click on the image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Evonne
Follow her on Twitter @EvonneWareham
Like her on Facebook Evonne Wareham
Check out her blog www.evonneonwednesday.com

 

Arlette’s Story: A Virtual Tour

Yesterday we celebrated the release of Angela Barton’s debut novel from Ruby Fiction, Arlette’s Story, which tells the story of Arlette Blaise; a young woman living in the French countryside during the Occupation of WW2. Today on the blog, Angela takes us on a ‘tour’ of the area that inspired the location and shows us some of the sights Arlette might have seen along with some short extracts from the novel itself to really set the scene …

Hello everyone. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to write a blog post about Arlette’s Story.

When I’m creating a place for my characters to live, I usually imagine somewhere that I know, and rename it. My protagonist, Arlette Blaise, is the daughter of a farmer living in rural France and I knew immediately that she would live a short distance away from this beautiful hilltop village in Charente. It’s called Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and it’s where I now live with my husband, Paul. I re-named the village, Montverre, in Arlette’s Story.

Narrow cobbled roads lead off from each corner, sweet-smelling linden trees perfume the air and small shops sit along its edges. As Arlette’s Story is set during WW2, I’ve changed the items being sold in these shops. I invented a clog maker, a haberdashery and a cobbler’s. Throughout my story, a lot of drama takes place in this square. It’s here that Arlette and her close friend, Francine, watched the Germans march into their village. It’s where she meets an old friend of her late-mother’s, not knowing what a huge role this lady would play in her life. It’s where Arlette witnesses the brutality of war. Seventy-five years ago, the Germans really did take over Aubeterre to live and work. Every morning when I wander down to the boulangerie to buy my baguette, I’m reminded of Arlette and her story.

 “Soldiers marched in rows of six. They were dressed in green field uniforms and wearing metal hats that reminded Arlette of Grandma Blaise’s mixing bowl. They looked almost comical; hardly how she’d expected murderers to look. Their faces were stern and impenetrable, but as they strutted past her position outside the clog maker’s, she noticed a few of the soldiers look furtively to one side. They snatched glances at the gathered villagers and the damp grey buildings that were to become their new homes. Like a drumbeat, the Germans stomped in rhythm, followed by soldiers on horseback.”

This is the church just up the hill from us in Aubeterre. I renamed it and placed it on the edge of the village because I needed there to be a cemetery where Arlette’s mother is buried. Tragically, someone else is laid to rest in my story. 

“A small group of people assembled outside St Pierre’s church, their heads bowed in hushed whispers. The sky was a canvas of blue and white smudges. It had rained overnight and the smell of damp earth and pleasantly pungent flowering raspberries hung in the air alongside the gathered throng’s anticipation.”

Arlette’s Story is also a book about family, friends, every day life, relationships and of course, love. Saul Epstein is my book’s hero. He’s a Jewish medical student who’s been prevented from training by the Nazis. He moved south to Montverre where he’d heard that farmhands were being hired.

“Arlette sat on the wall of the well and lowered the bucket that was fixed to a long chain. It was early evening, the time of day when the flowers’ scent was more potent. The farmyard was tranquil and Klara the dog slept in the shadow of the mulberry tree. Against the wall of the farmhouse leant a fig tree, its trunk looking as if it was slouching with weariness. The wide green foliage tapped repeatedly against the sitting room window in the breeze that blew from the river. At that moment in time, Arlette felt happy. She raised her face to the sinking sun and sighed audibly.

A short time later, the reason for her happiness strode out of the shadows of the barn pushing a squeaking wheelbarrow. Saul. His shirt was rolled up to his elbows and his top few buttons were undone, revealing a tanned and toned chest.”

There are several smaller arcs in Arlette’s Story but the climax takes place at Oradour-sur-Glane. It’s about an hour’s drive from us here, but I needed Arlette to be able to get there by horse and trap in an hour or so. (This is one of the things I love about writing. We can move towns, change names and forge relationships with a few clicks on the keyboard!)

Oradour was a small thriving town that had enjoyed a peaceful seclusion for most of the war. It had wonderful facilities: a tram system, schools, two hotels, a doctor’s surgery, a restaurant, a hairdresser, a butcher and baker. Nearly seven hundred people lived there. You can see some wonderful photographs taken before 10th June 1944 – the day the Nazis arrived on this website: https://www.oradour.info/images/catalog1.htm.

“Cycling at speed, they passed a metal sign welcoming them to Oradour-sur-Glane. With her chest heaving from exertion and her skirts billowing, Arlette was desperate to reach the tranquility of her grandmother’s house. They passed the church with its tall steeple and continued until the road opened up into a village green, bordered by neat railings. Dotted around the open space were mature chestnut trees and wooden poles that were linked by tram wires, looking like long empty washing lines.”

At midday on 10th June 1944, a convoy of trucks drove into Oradour. Two hundred Nazis climbed down and ordered all of the villagers onto the fairground. (A central grassy slope where a fair would visit each summer; although the villagers called it the fairground all year round.)

“Waiting in the centre of the village, Arlette saw townspeople converge from all directions at gunpoint. She was standing on Oradour’s fairground, a gently sloping hill of grass from where she could see in all directions. She watched while the elderly were hauled from their homes and clients were pushed out of the hairdressers with wet hair. The baker joined them, still covered in flour. Teachers led children by the hand and diners streamed out of restaurants. The carpenter was forced to leave his work, also the cobbler, the village cart-wright and the blacksmith. An elderly man struggled beneath the weight of his sick wife in his arms. The Hotel Avril and Hotel Milord’s guests were being ushered from the buildings by Nazis shouting orders.”

The impressive steepled church stands on the edge of the village next to the River Glane. The 10th June 1944 was a Saturday, but children were present from outlying villages because some were rehearsing for their First Holy Communion and others were attending a vaccination programme at school.

On the fairground, the Nazis separated the men from the women and children. The men were taken to several barns spread around the village and the women and children were ordered into the church. 

“Arlette didn’t let go of her grandmother’s hand despite the bumping and jostling from others. They were ordered deeper inside the church. The cool interior was a welcome relief from the fierce heat outside and many women and children settled themselves on the wooden benches. She helped her grandmother to sit on a stool beside the altar but as more women were herded inside, the crowd pushed Arlette a short way from the old lady. Helpless to stop the momentum, she was thrust to the opposite side of the altar.

A cough. A baby’s whimper. A child’s voice calling for maman. But still the women remained calm, their ears straining for any communication or sign of what was going to happen next.

Then it came.

Distant machine gun fire could be heard through the open church door. It continued for a long minute until it slowed. Then just occasional short bursts.

‘What are they firing at?’ someone whispered.

‘Perhaps they’re destroying something.’

‘The men…you don’t suppose…?’”

I will leave what happened next, here. A short summary of words cannot convey the feelings that I, and everyone who visits, are left with after visiting Oradour.

Charles de Gaulle ordered that the town should be left as it had been found after the Germans set fire to it and fled. It remains frozen in time as a reminder of the capability of man’s inhumanity to mankind. After seventy-five years the buildings are crumbling and family items and furniture are rotting and rusting. The first time I visited I felt an overwhelming compulsion to write a story from a survivor’s point of view, and in some small way, to help keep the memory alive. For those who read it, Arlette’s Story will be that reminder.

Here are photographs taken on my latest visit.

A typical street of crumbling houses.

The doctor’s car still stands where he parked it 75 years ago. He came back from his rounds and saw the village on the fairground. He climbed out of his car to see what was happening and was forced to join them by the Germans.

Oradour’s church. The steeple caved in during the fire.

The tramlines are overgrown and rusty.

One family’s Singer sewing machine. The majority of mothers made their children’s clothing. I gave Arlette’s grandmother a sewing machine in my book.

The fairground where hundreds of villages were herded.

Cars parked in the village’s petrol station and mechanic’s garage.

Tiles still decorate a family’s fire surround and a  saucepan still hangs above where once sat a grate.

Arlette’s Story is published by Ruby Fiction and available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more information on Angela Barton:
Follow her on Twitter @AngeBarton
Check out her website: www.angelabarton.net

 

Oh Crumbs and the Green Arrow

Last week we released Oh Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman – a sweet romance set in a biscuit factory! Today Kathryn is on the blog talking about the unlikely inspiration for the hero of the book, Doug Faulkner … 

I can almost see your frown. What on earth does my new book, a love story based in a biscuit company, have to do with a DC Comics superhero?

The truth is, it has a great deal to do with it, because I got the inspiration for the book from the Arrow TV series. I used to watch it because I have sons, and it was something we could all enjoy together. Now they’ve grown out of it, but I haven’t …

What about Oh Crumbs, I hear you ask (or possibly you’re asking why I continue to watch a man in a green hood shoot baddies with a bow and arrow. That will become clear later!). Well, the more I watched Oliver Queen, aka The Green Arrow the more I fell for his character (which was no doubt helped by the actor, Stephen Amell, who portrayed him) and the more I wanted to pinch some of his characteristics for my next book hero. And no, Doug Faulkner doesn’t walk around wearing green leather pants carrying a quiver. He is however quietly spoken, like the Green Arrow, and very considered in what he says. He has the same sense of outward calm, of control. And, similar to Oliver Queen, who is mayor of Star City by day and an arrow-slinging vigilante at night, Doug also has a hidden, unexpected side to him. But you’ll have to read Oh Crumbs to find out what that is.

There was more about the Green Arrow that hooked me in though, and perhaps now my enjoyment of the series will become clearer. You see, in between saving Star City on a weekly basis, The Green Arrow has been having the most wonderful, slow-burning romance with Felicity (played by Emily Bett Rickards); computer genius and brains behind the Green Arrow’s operation. I loved the contrast between his quiet, serious personality and that of Felicity, who’s funny and a total chatterbox. I also loved the way Felicity comes across as an airhead, yet actually it’s she who’s the smart one.

For Oh Crumbs, I wanted to build on this idea. Instead of having Doug and the bubbly Abby saving the world from destruction though, I opted to give them a simpler life. Doug became managing director of a biscuit company (Crumbs). Abby, who gave up her dream of going to university to help bring up her younger sisters, has been working as a PA while undertaking an Open University business degree When she applies for, and surprisingly gets, the job of Doug’s PA, it soon becomes clear that Doug isn’t your usual managing director. And Abby is far from an ordinary PA …

Sound intriguing? You can get your copy of Oh Crumbs today – click on the image below for purchasing options. 

For more on Kathryn:
Follow her on Twitter @KathynFreeman
Like her on Facebook Kathryn Freeman (author)
Vist her website www.kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Moonbeams in a Jar: On Location

At the beginning of the week we released Moonbeams in a Jar by Christine Stovell – a sweet novella for dog lovers, travel lovers, romance lovers … and everyone in between! Today Christine joins us on the blog to tell us a little about the once-in-a-lifetime holiday that inspired the story … 

“Take every chance you get in life,” the saying goes, “because some things only happen once.” When my husband, Tom, asked me one summer evening which destination I’d choose if I could hop on a plane the next day and go anywhere in the world, I never expected him to act on my words and surprise me with a trip to Hong Kong. I was so taken aback – and so anxious about whether or not we could afford it – that I was initially quite cross. Like Chloe, the heroine of my novella Moonbeams in a Jar, I’m a bit of a planner, whereas Tom, like my hero, Ryan, is far more spontaneous. Left to me, we might never have seen Hong Kong and then I would have missed out on one of the most thrilling holidays of my life.

I didn’t know then that Hong Kong would feature in my novella, but when Chloe decides to splurge on a big holiday before starting her new job, I realised it would make the perfect place for my couple to explore their feelings for each other… and to learn that love rarely arrives conveniently or according to plan. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of my trip stayed with me and many of those experiences worked their way into Chloe and Ryan’s visit … I’ll leave you to guess which ones!

Shaking my fortune stick at Wong Tai Sin Temple

HK 013 Star Ferry

Chloe and Ryan’s story begins in Little Spitmarsh, my fictional seaside town where Ryan, a photographer, lives conveniently close to his fiery cousin Tansy who regularly looks after Ryan’s basset hound, Fred. The inspiration for Little Spitmarsh came when Tom and I sailed half way round Britain in a vintage wooden boat in a series of what I only half-jokingly call ‘The Epic Voyages’ which, again, took me way out of my comfort zone. At the time we kept our boat in a small boatyard on the East Anglian coast and had a very happy time there pottering round the backwaters. That’s when the location for Little Spitmarsh really started to take shape and became real to me.

East Anglia

The opening scene for my first Little Spitmarsh novel, Turning the Tide, began when I ‘saw’ a troubled young woman in dungarees walking by the side of a creek and knew I had to tell her story. That was Harry Watling, someone who is more than capable of standing on her own two feet, a girl who isn’t afraid of breaking a fingernail and who doesn’t need a man to change an electric plug for her. From there, a whole cast of characters introduced themselves and continue to wander in and out of my Little Spitmarsh series which can all be read as stand alone stories.

So … when I started writing Moonbeams in a Jar I knew that Little Spitmarsh would be the starting point and that my heroine, Chloe, would go on her dream holiday to Hong Kong. I was a bit surprised when Snowdonia crept into the story, but there was no stopping Ryan, who loves working in difficult, remote terrain and was determined to get some stunning shots of the mountain in its darkest mood. I’m lucky enough to live within striking distance of Snowdonia and have enjoyed many climbs in the hills exploring these rugged peaks and enjoying the magnificent views. It’s never easy, but if the weather turns against you and you’re not prepared – as Ryan discovers – the places of refuge are few and far between. As it turns out, being caught in an horrendous storm on an exposed mountainside is only the start of Ryan’s problems!

Snowdonia in good weather!

Chloe and Ryan’s road to their Happy Ever After takes many twists and turns along the way as Chloe learns to take more chances and Ryan realises that love can’t be put on hold. I hope that Moonbeams in a Jar will give you a flavour of some of the locations they visit along the way and that you will enjoy travelling with them.

Hong Kong at sunset

Moonbeams in a Jar is now available to buy as an eBook on all platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options.

For more information on Christine Stovell:

Follow her on Twitter @chrisstovell 

Like her on Facebook Christine Stovell, Author

Check out her blog www.homethoughtsweekly.blogspot.co.uk

The Purrfect Pet Sitter and my Imaginary Menagerie

This week we released our second Ruby Fiction title – The Purrfect Pet Sitter by Carol Thomas. Today on the blog, Carol introduces us to some of the animals in her own life (and in the book!) and talks about the research she did on running a pet sitting business.

I am delighted that my romantic comedy, The Purrfect Pet Sitter, is now available as an eBook. Getting my publishing contract with Ruby Fiction is a dream come true; the fact it is for a book that enabled me to indulge my love of writing romantic comedy in which you can fall in love with the supporting cast of animals as much as the hero makes it even more special.

Anybody who follows me on social media will know that I am a dog lover with a soft spot for Labradors. I lost my two gorgeous old boys, Benson and Milo, within the last few years and now have a slightly crazy, two-year-old Labrador with a penchant for eating things he shouldn’t (he last went to the vets for swallowing a tea towel, whole!).

With Lisa Blake, the lead character in my novel, being a pet sitter, this gave me the perfect opportunity to incorporate a Labrador into her life. Jack is a wonky-eyed black Lab, the beloved pet of Winnie, the first client to put their faith in Lisa and her new business. He is a cheeky boy and, while not a young dog, when the mood takes him, he can achieve the energy of a puppy and the speed of a whippet – many Labs can.

Jack, who was inspired by my Labrador Milo (a handsome, slightly wonky-eyed boy, with an independent spirit, a variety of quirks and a lot of love to give) features throughout the book. One of my favourite scenes involving him is the opening chapter in which he has slipped his collar. In her search for Jack, Lisa has a chance encounter with a mysterious man in leather, Lisa finds him frustrating whereas Jack seems to have him on side.

Another of my favourite scenes comes when Lisa and Winnie take Jack to church, for a service in honour of St Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals). Writing the scenes in the church was a lot of fun. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that what Jack does to a Yorkshire terrier actually happened. My dog, Benson, was guilty of this misdemeanour in one of his early training classes, in which, being a Labrador, he was much larger than his smaller breed puppy pals.

My insight into the life of a pet sitter came from my daughter. She has been a pet sitter, running her own business for many years. Of course, she is nothing like Lisa Blake; she has certainly never lost a client on her watch. But she was able to provide some great anecdotes, and she allowed me to read her diary, where clients are listed under their pets’ names. It made for a fabulous read and inspired me to come up with names for the three chickens Lisa looks after in my novel. I hope their names will give you a smile, they did me – but then I had been alone in a hotel room writing for thirty-six hours when I came up with them (hmm, you’ll have to let me know what you think)!

I enjoy bringing animals to life in my books; I consider them all part of my very own imaginary menagerie and, as you read The Purrfect Pet Sitter, I hope that you will fall in love with them, as I have.

The Purrfect Pet Sitter is now available to buy as an eBook on all platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options.

For more information on Carol Thomas:

http://carol-thomas.co.uk
http://facebook.com/carolthomasauthor
http://twitter.com/carol_thomas2
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/carol_thomas2/
https://www.instagram.com/carol_thomas2/
http://carol-thomas.co.uk/blog

The story behind The Girl in the Photograph

TGITP_FRONT

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
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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?