Don’t Tell The Bride: special edition

Hold onto your hats, this…is Don’t Tell The Bride: The Untied Kingdom edition! This is the show where the groom gets the whole wedding budget, and the bride gets no say in how it’s spent.

Tonight, the pressure’s on for ex army major Will Harker, as he attempts to organise the perfect day for his bride to be Eve. For this couple, it all started when he saved her from drowning in the Thames after a paragliding accident.

“I thought she was an alien. Just dropped out of the sky with one giant wing.”

“But you still swam in after me. I could’ve been from the planet Zog.”

“We’ll, I didn’t see no bugger else doing it.”

“Oh, cheers. There’s romance for you!”

The Untied KingdomGoing out with a soldier was an alien idea to Eve, too. “He is about ninety percent scar tissue. And it’s catching. I’d never been shot at until I met him. You’re such a dangerous man, Harker!”

And will the wedding he plans be just as risky?

“Oh God. He’ll probably hold the reception in the NAAFI.”

Day one, and Harker is searching for a venue. “Can’t be in a church. Been married before. The local register office looks like a barracks I was once in that smelled of feet. Maybe not there.”

Eve has slightly higher aspirations for her dream venue. “A stately home, you know, high ceilings and antiques and sprung ballroom floors. Don’t reckon I’ll get that, though. His ex lived in a house like that. He wasn’t a fan.”

His choice of catering probably isn’t going to go over well, either. “How much? No. Food can’t cost that much. You must be bloody joking. I’ll get the pub to put some sandwiches on.”

As one fifth of the pop sensation Grrl Power, Eve got used to wearing some top designer labels. Her dream wedding dress has always been something, “Elegant. Simple. Nothing huge or frou-frou. I’ve been to some celebrity weddings where the bride looked like she was wearing a birdcage and a net curtain. That’s not for me!”

But while Eve is relaxed about her dress, the thought terrifies Harker. “There’s a wedding shop on the high street. Scares the life out of me. I’d rather get shot. I honestly would. But there’s no getting round it, is there? She can’t get married in her pyjamas. It’s an important thing, I don’t want her to think I don’t realise that. She wants a proper wedding dress. Something with, you know, frills. Lace. One of them cage type things to hold the skirt out. Yeah.”

It’s the end of week one, and Harker has got a register office that looks like an army barracks, a pub, and a dress that’s part birdcage. It must be time for the stag!

“The what? What do I want a stag for? We’re having chicken at the…oh, you mean the party. Yeah…pub, I think. That’s that sorted. What’s next?”

Er…he really is going to just go to the pub. Let’s move on, shall we? Next he needs to pick out bridesmaid dresses. “Some woman on the radio asked Eve if she was getting her bandmates back together as bridesmaids. I’d tell you what her reply was, but I’ve been told you can’t swear on telly this time of night.”

Meanwhile, Eve is about to get the first piece of news about her own wedding. “I can’t believe I have to be sent an invitation to my own wedding. That’s wrong in about…five different ways. And…oh. So is this invite. I’d say he did it in five minutes on the computer, but he doesn’t know how to use a computer.”

But he knows someone who does. “Got a mate to do ’em with a, what d’you call it, laptop. Ridiculous, what stationery companies charge, just for a bit of paper and some fancy writing.” True enough, but there does seem to be one person he’s forgotten to invite. “What, her mother? Oh aye, that’d be perfect. Ever seen a mother of the bride punched by her own daughter?”

Now there’s one week to go, and Harker is a bit dubious about one part of his wedding prep. “She told me to get a haircut. I bloody hate getting haircuts. Look, if some bugger’s coming at my head with a blade, I’m basically going to shoot him. I don’t reckon hairdressers like that.”

It’s the day before the wedding, and Eve finally gets to see what Harker has picked out for her to wear. “Oh, you’re KIDDING me. I look like a loo roll holder!”

After weeks of preparation, the big day is finally here, and Harker is finally getting the hang of romance. “The thing is, all this girlie stuff, I completely hate it. But Eve doesn’t, and she’s the point of it all, isn’t she? It’s to make her happy. I’d do anything for her. To be honest, I’d wear the damn wedding dress if it made her happy. I, er, really hope it doesn’t come to that, though.”

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RoNAs – Result!

Monday was the Big Day – the annual RNA Awards now called the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) – and as you may have heard already once or twice (or maybe more?), Choc Lit had a triumphant afternoon!

Kate, Christina and Jane

Kate, Christina and Jane

Jane Lovering won the Romantic Comedy category with Please Don’t Stop the Music, Christina Courtenay won the Historical Romantic novel category with Highland Storms and Kate Johnson only just missed out in the Contemporary novel category with her wonderful The Untied Kingdom.  As she lost to Katie Fforde, the RNA’s lovely President, we didn’t mind too much, and two out of three is a pretty good ratio any day!  And as Peter James, the chairman of the Crimewriters’ Association said before he handed out the prizes, all the shortlistees were winners – we totally agree with that.

Rather than boring you with endless trumpet-blowing though, we thought we’d give you Jane’s, Christina’s and Kate’s take on some other aspects of the awards ceremony.  Here is what they had to say and please let us know if you agree with them:-

awjane-with-awardsmallThere were some fabulous outfits on display, which was your favourite?

Jane – Well I was lusting ever so slightly over Katie Fforde’s full-length coat/dress thing.  I’d have looked like a bag of elderly onions in it, but she looked gorgeous.

Kate – There were so many lovely outfits, it’s hard to choose! Christina’s own lovely mauve jacket and boots – ooh, those gorgeous boots! – probably take the prize for me. Marina Fiorato gets Best Hair, Katie Fforde wins Best Cape, and of course our host, Jane Wenham Jones, for her platinum frock, gets Best Dress.

Christina – I was very taken with Jean Fullerton’s emerald green suit as I love bright colours, but I also coveted Liz Fenwick’s fabulous purple jacket.

awchristina-with-awardsmallAnd then there are the shoes – not counting your own, which ones did you wish you’d been wearing?

Jane – Um.  Is it wrong of me to say that I wasn’t looking at people’s feet?  Although, Christina, I did notice your rather lovely lilac boots…

Kate – I’m not sucking up here, but when I invited my mum her first thought was which shoes to wear. I covet her gold sandals terribly; it’s probably just as well we don’t take the same size!

Christina – My feet wished they’d been wearing Jane’s boots, but Bex Leith’s black shoes were wonderful so I’d probably have thrown caution to the wind and picked those.

The ‘bubbly’ was flowing, do you prefer it pink or normal?

Jane – As long as it keeps flowing I am really not bothered. Give it fizz and keep it coming!

Kate – Well, if there’s bubbly going I’m not picky about the colour. Although I will say that the first time I tasted Bollinger was the first time I “got” champagne!

Christina – Neither – hate the stuff!  Unless you put peach juice or Kir in to make it ultra sweet.

Which was your favourite canape?

Jane – I didn’t eat any.  I was too terrified and then too shocked.  And ever so slightly too busy drinking…

Kate – I’m not large on the canapés, being that it’s often hard to tell whats in them (I don’t eat meat or shellfish). But the salmon ones were nice. And matched the champagne.

Christina – Salmon, definitely, although I was in such a state of shock I can’t actually tell you what the others were!

awardauthorssmallMost amusing comment of the afternoon (either in a speech or normal conversation)?

Jane – Hazel Osmond and I had a discussion about weeing in handbags in extremis. It amused us and probably disgusted onlookers, particularly when I did the actions.  Not the real actions, I hasten to add.  Although it was a long way to the toilets and I feel that no-one would have blamed me.  Except Hazel, obviously.

Kate – Should I drop Jane in it for her split crotch/handbag comments? [Looks like she’d done it herself, Kate!] No, okay. I heard someone say that the Ladies bathroom was bigger than the Blue Banana. (It was. It really was.)

Christina – The whole of Peter James’s speech was great, but I can’t recall the specifics – fortunately Emma Lee Potter has mentioned it on her blog.

Finally, we heard Kate’s hero Harker mentioned quite a few times during the event (in fact, if there had been a ‘best hero’ award, we reckon he would have won it hands down!) – who was your favourite hero out of the ones in the shortlisted books?  (If you can’t choose, we’ll allow you two)

Jane –Nope, sorry, I refuse to acknowledge that any hero exists except for Harker.  Apart from maybe Gus, from Katie Fforde’s Summer of Love.  He’s cute too.  And my Ben… in fact, all of them are pretty phwoooaaar-worthy, now I come to think of it.

Kate – Aw, yes, Harker is grumpy he didn’t win anything. He’s not used to losing: where he comes from you win, or you die. I do recall Jan Jones’ Hugo from The Kydd Inheritance being rather heroic when it came to highwaymen, and of course, the lovely Brice Kinross in all his intelligent, brave, kind and handsome glory. Now … which book was he from, Christina?

Christina – Apart from Harker?  Well, Ben in Please Don’t Stop the Music is definitely my kind of guy – former rock star, slightly moody, handsome in a grungy kind of way.  And I loved Riccardo in Marina Fiorato’s Daughter of Siena – wow, gorgeous Italian with an amazing sense of honour, and also very kind and considerate!

So there you have it, our brief take on the RoNAs.  Now comes a nail-biting wait to see who of the five category winners will take home the overall “Romantic Novel of the Year” title – if you’d like to help vote for any of them, please go to the Awards Website.

Kate Johnson’s incredibly exciting Christmas present

Up until now, my most exciting ever present was a pair of kittens (to clarify, they didn’t come in a box; I got a card saying We Owe You One Cat from my parents. I bargained them up to two). Now, no disrespect to said kittens, but I think they might have a challenger.

I’ve just been sent the cover for The Untied Kingdom. Behold!

The Untied Kingdom cover

It’s absolutely perfect, from the tattered flag to the bleak landscape. I love the light and dark, and the detailing around the title. And I really love that the couple are shown in silhouette, so you’re not coloured by anyone else’s vision of how they look before you read the book.

And because it’s Christmas, I’ll share a picture of my other best ever present (I didn’t mean it, cats, I love you just as much as the new book cover!).

Sugar & Spike making first contact

What’s the best present you’ve ever received?

Kate Johnson on her new signing

Is this thing on?

Right, okay. Hi everyone, I’m Kate Johnson, and I’m really excited to tell you I’m Choc Lit’s newest signing. My book, The Untied Kingdom, is due out next Spring and will be Choc Lit’s first paranormal title.

So, what’s it about? It’s about a third world country. A country which never became industrialised, or expanded overseas, or ever won a war. A country fighting itself again, and the world can barely be bothered to watch it implode. It’s about a country called England.

The lovely Richard Armitage, who served as inspiration for Harker

The lovely Richard Armitage, who served as inspiration for Harker

Serving in the 75th of Foot in the King’s Army, Major Harker has a lot on his plate. His ex-wife has just drafted her little sister into his company. His sworn enemy is looking for a promotion. The general wants him to undertake some ridiculous mission to capture a computer, which Harker vaguely envisions running wild somewhere in West Yorkshire. And some damn idiot has just flown out of nowhere and nearly drowned herself in the Thames.

She claims to be a popstar called Eve. Harker doesn’t know what a popstar is, although he suspects it’s a fancy foreign word for ‘spy’. Eve knows all about computers, and electricity, and the words to many seditious songs. Eve is dangerous. There’s every possibility she’s mad.

And Harker is falling in love with her.