Thursday, December 31, 2015

My favourite 2015 reads

2015 was an interesting year for me. I joined the book blogging community and had a blast. I met a great bunch of people, was invited to exciting events (and sadly enough couldn't attend). I got to help design TCR new look + bookmark and M's newest blog header.
Then I started back at university and I was forced to take a small break but my love for books and this amazing community was still there.
But most of all 2015 was filled with books! Looking back over the year these 5 books (in no particular order) have stuck with me.


1. Tied Up With Love (review)
 
‘We’re from KMW. Do exactly as you’re told and you won’t get hurt...' 
Being grabbed off the street, blind folded, tied up and thrown into a van was not what Izzy expected to happen when she stepped out the door that morning. But when an accidental kidnapping at the hands of the sexy Ethan Chase and his 'Kidnap My Wife' sexual fantasy business leads to just that, Izzy seizes the chance to turn her misfortune into a brilliant new job opportunity… 
Since then, life has been one big tangle of new client meetings, fake kidnapping pick-ups, and handling the temperamental, but drop dead gorgeous 'bad boy' Mr Chase. But, as liberating as being tied up in Ethan's life is, Izzy knows the time is fast approaching when she must make some decisions and take charge of her future. The only question is: will Ethan allow himself to be a part of it?
TUWL is great and I would recommend it to anyone with a love for sexy books with great characters.


2. The Day We Disappeared (review)
 
Annie has a secret. But if she's not going to tell, we won't either. It's a heart-breaking secret she wishes she didn't have - yet Annie isn't broken, not quite yet. Especially now there's someone out there who seems determined to fix her. 
Kate has run away. But she's not going to tell us why - that would defeat the point of running, wouldn't it? It's proving difficult to reinvent herself, however, with one person always on her mind. 
Scratch beneath the surface and nobody is really who they seem. Even Annie and Kate, two old friends, aren't entirely sure who they are any more. Perhaps you can work it out, before their pasts catch up with them for good . . .

A gripping and unpredictable story of two young women running from their pasts. We defy you to guess the twist . . .

Source: Goodreads
The Day We Disappeared deserves every single bit of praise and even more than that!


3. The Piano Man Project (review)
 
Finding love isn’t always black and white… 
You: kind, piano-playing sex godMe: hopelessly romantic charity shop manager 
Honeysuckle Jones has a problem, and her best friends Nell and Tash are on a mission to help her solve it. She needs a man – a caring, intelligent, funny man. But most importantly, a man who’s good with his hands… 
Luckily Honey’s new neighbour – moody, antisocial ex-chef Hal – fails on almost every count. Even though the chemistry between them is electric, he’s obviously wrong for her in every way. 
But when Honey discovers the devastating reason for his moods she decides to give him another chance. And discovers that the best songs aren’t always in tune… 
Source: Goodreads

The only thing this book is guilty of is pulling me away from social engagements just so I could finish it.


4. Snowflakes on Silver Cove (review)
 
Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself… 
Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance. 
As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George. 
But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas? 
Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage also out now.  
Source: Goodreads

Snowflakes on Silver Cove was a story that made me wish I could be a fictional character in this story myself!


5. The Night Circus (review)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Source: http://erinmorgenstern.com/writing/the-night-circus/
The Night Circus is as amazing as the circus it describes and you'll find yourself reluctant to leave and eager for more.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: This is Where it Ends

4,5 stars for This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijmkamp.

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 
10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 
10:03 The auditorium doors won't open. 
10:05 Someone starts shooting.
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival
Source: Goodreads


I was kindly given a copy through Netgalley with many thanks to the publisher and author.

This was the kind of book that made me stare into the distance and try to make sense of everything I was feeling upon finishing it. 
This is where it ends is about a school shooting and makes you experience it from four different point of views all involving around one person: the boy with the gun.

I like that Nijmkamp chose to portray him not as just the monster he is supposed to be but simply as a human being. As a reader we are given an insight in the person who everyone wants to know about.
As an outsider it's easy be prejudiced about 'the shooter' because he's the obvious monster.

This story is honest and true. It reminds  you of the fact that there is never one truth.
The truth is the boy with the gun is:
- A monster
- A killer
- A friend
- A brother
- A boyfriend
- A caretaker
- A lost soul
- All of the above

It was a fast-paced read with enough tension and interesting stories to keep you gripped from beginning to end. It's a story that makes you stand still and think about things in a new light; Re-evaluate your own life and your relationships with other people. It's a story that makes you pause and stare into the distance while you think 'Wow'.

A Brilliantly heart-breaking and exhilarating read.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

External Giveaway: This is Where it Ends


Sourcebooks is hosting another Giveaway/Promo for 'This is The End'. Sadly Sourcebooks is only focusing on US/CAN readers. However, people from the rest of the world, don't cry just yet! 
Marieke Nijmkamp is our international saving angel and has decided to host an international giveaway herself. Check out both giveaways below or here.

US/CAN READERS:

Between now and the book’s on-sale date Sourcebooks is giving away custom "TIME WAS OURS" lanyards, and the chance for one lucky person to win a Polaroid Digital Instant Print Camera!

There are two ways to enter the giveaway:

1 - If you pre-order a copy of This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, submit your name, mailing address, email address, and order confirmation number via the Rafflecopter widget provided here, OR email publicity@sourcebooks.com.

2 - If you have not pre-ordered a copy of This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, you may enter the giveaway by printing your name, mailing address, email address and the phrase "This Is Where It Ends" on a standard-size postcard and send to: Publicity, c/o Sourcebooks, Inc., 1935 Brookdale Rd., #139, Naperville, IL 60563.

What’s more, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a super awesome Grand Prize: a Polaroid Z2300 10MPDigital Instant Print Camera. I’m especially fond of this grand prize, because I wrote This Is Where It Ends to be a snapshot of life, and this is such an awesome way to celebrate! So hop over to the Tumblr and enter now!


Sourcebooks

www.sourcebooks.com

INTERNATIONAL READERS:

Unfortunately you cannot enter the above giveaway, but I have an alternative! If you pre-order your copy of This Is Where It Ends and send me an email at mariekewrites-at-gmail-dot-com with the subject “pre-order campaign” with your name & address, I will do two things:

1 - I will send a special This Is Where It Ends postcard to the first 10 people to email me with their pre-order, and another 15 randomly selected. That postcard will contain one This Is Where It Ends secret — a song from the playlist, background information about one of the characters, something that you cannot know unless you live in my brain (or read the annotated ARC).
2 - I will enter all of you into a random drawing for my very last annotated ARC of This Is Where It Ends. After that, I will be all out of ARCs, so this is your last chance to get your hands on one of them!


SPECIAL OFFER
If you want to get a SIGNED copy of This Is Where It Ends, pre-order your copy at Books of Wonder! Not only will I sign copies there on release day, but you’ll also be supporting a magnificent bookstore <3


Pre-order now!

Get your copy of This Is Where It Ends at any of the following places:
Sourcebooks 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

NaNoWriMo: my favourite month of the year

November is over and for the third consecutive year that generally means that I am sleep deprived, my fingers and eyes are hurting, my brain is fried and for the first time in 30 days I don't know what to do with myself in a fee moment. These are the common symptoms a writer has after finishing NaNoWrimo and writing 50.000 (or more) words in one month.
And even with those withdrawal symptoms, NaNoWriMo is my favourite month of the year.

For the third year in a row, I am counting down halfway October to the start of this monthly adventure. You can feel the tension hanging in the air. Fellow nano participants are starting to buzz with anticipation. You get to decide whether you want to prepare your story before the month starts or if you're going to start on the 1st November without a plan. The Nano offices are turning their heat up and everyone is crossing off the days until that first day. Ready? Set. GO!

And that first day is glorious. You're filled with fresh ideas or are finally freed from the boundaries you felt before. You finally get to write like mad without worrying too much about where you're going and finally able to focus on where the characters are going.
You feel inspired and are determined to get those first 1.667 words down and proof to the entire world that you will be able to tackle this month down like a pro. You're typing like a mad man and reach that first word goal in no time.
But after a while you might falter a little bit and self doubt starts to creep up on you. The smallest distraction is enough to pull you away from behind your computer. You start to appreciate the little things in life, like the way a dust particle can float around in the sunlight.
And then you reach that point where you're completely stuck. Your story won't move an inch forward, you feel frustrated with your characters and time keeps moving on while your word count remains unmoved. You feel tempted to type 'cat' a thousand times just to reach that word goal of the day. You start to get desperate as you might even have to catch up with your word count and you wonder if it's possible in the slightest. You might start banging your head against the desk in frustration or hang upside down in annoyance, but at least it causes an improved blood flow to your brains.
But then after forcing yourself to keep going you are rewarded with that moment where the puzzle pieces start to fall into place and you can tell that the end is near. The light at the tunnel is getting brighter and you are more than ever determined to win this thing. The end of the month is coming closer and you can see that finish line. You crack your fingers and prepare for the last stretch, knowing the end is near.
And then it's there. The purple winner's bar. You have made it and you can finally go back to your normal sleeping pattern and start replying to all the friends you've neglected for a month. You can get back to your regular life, even if it is slightly less interesting than your characters' lives.
However, you have made it and you deserve one hell of a high five as a congratulation!
(doesn't matter if you're still locked up inside, 
not wanting to face the real life yet.)



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: Bella's Christmas Bake Off

3 Christmas baubles for Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson
Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.  
But this year things are going to be different.  
For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.  
Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…  
After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…  
A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of ChristmasSource: Goodreads

I was kindly given a copy through Netgalley, with many thanks to the author and publisher.

Bella's Christmas Bake Off is about two old friend reuniting after Amy found out that Bella has been using some of their childhood memories for her own benefit, she finds a way to reconnect with Bella to set things right. The two woman won't realise how much they have in common with each other until they finally are honest with each other again.
Can Christmas heal old wounds and cause the bond between these two people to grow again?

This story has some really strong and very Christmassy topics which it creates a story around. Over all I enjoyed reading this book but I did struggle to feel the Christmas spirit. Not that I expect every Christmas book to overload me with the need of drinking hot chocolate, putting the tree up begin November and start baking mince pies (or maybe I do want a book to do that to me...., let's be honest). But with a cover and a title like this, I expected to be overwhelmed by the Christmas soul and spirit, which I felt wasn't as much. And again, I'm not saying that's a band thing, I think I had some different expectations about this book.
However Amy and Bella have a nice relationship and I liked the characters throughout the story.

Personally I found it quite predictable and there was no surprise element to it as I managed to predict most 'plot twists' pages before it got revealed. As a reader I still like to be surprised by the unexpected revelation or twist and I felt like this lacked a little bit.

A Christmas story about friendship, family and appreciating good food.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The One Where I Hope for a Rejection.

It's been a while since I talked about that little book I've been writing.
The last time I made a blog post about this baby of mine I still had a long way of editing to go.
I was lucky enough to find my own fairy godmother and she offered to read through the document and give me some honest feedback and pointers. With that help I managed to make a few more critical changes and finally felt like all the puzzle pieces had fallen in its place.

So for the first time I felt like I could dare taking the step towards putting my file up for submission.
Only the timing wasn't all that perfect. Right after I finished editing, I started an internship for university and had some crazy busy work hours. I was forced to put everything on hold in order to make sure I would pass. This internship was one out of two (the second one is starting the coming week), so I'm still on a blogging low until January.
Anyway, I found some time to eventually ready my document for submission and braved that scary first step.
For someone who has been writing within the safe environment of her own room and has barely shared her stories for the past 2 years, this was a rather scary step. I used to share my stories with others but it has become more and more a thing for myself. Making that submission was nerve-wracking, it took me almost all day because I was freaking out over every little step I had to go through.

But then I finally pressed that submit button and let it sink in.

They said it would take between 3-5 weeks before I would get a reply, so that's when the real misery began. I was constantly refreshing my inbox in that first week (even tough I knew it would be at least 3 weeks) and then I started refreshing even more once I reached that 3 week mark.
It was a good thing that I had my internship so I had something to keep me busy because as the weeks passed I still hadn't gotten a reply and with every passing day, or every passing week, I started to become more desperate.
The week 5 mark passed and I still hadn't heard anything. It's been 7 weeks now and still nothing. I have reached that point now where I would be okay if they had rejected my story. But if that's the case then I would like them to let me know in some automatic generated e-mail explaining me that they rejected it.
That way I can finally stop secretly hoping and wondering if maybe something went wrong with the submission.
So, I look to you publishing world and ask to please send me a rejection mail if you are not interested!

Unless, obviously, you did like it. Then please jump in my arms and declare your undying love for my novel.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Favourite 10 Writing Gadgets

The month of NaNoWriMo is upon us again and before I create a post in which I talk about this year's experience. I thought I'd share some of my top 10 writing gadgets that I use not only to overcome the NaNoWriMo month but some of which I also use on a daily basis as I work on my stories.



1. A good writing program.
I use a combination of Word and Scrivener.
For most of the writing I have done in the past 10 years I have always used Word as my n°1 writing program. It's probably one of the most widely and commonly used programs and is easy to use on top of it. Currently I am using Word to write my entire NaNo month in and am copy pasting the Chapters/Scenes/Sections into Scrivener afterwards. It makes it a little easier to have a clear view on my word count.
Whereas with Scrivener, I only found out about that after my first year of Nano. But since then I am absolutely smitten with it. It's a writing tool that allows me to not only section my story in an easy way but has some extra features that have really improved my writing experience.
It's a little difficult to find your way within the program but once I had it figured out, it has served me well and I can't imagine not using it anymore.
It allows me to have everything I need to write my novel within reach: my manuscript, my character maps and outlines, locations I want to include, and even a map solely dedicated to my research (a map filled with images, music, etc.). It has simply become the representation of what this story looked like inside my brain.

(okay, my own scrivener file is far from this long yet, but you get the idea)

2. Notebooks
This digital age is great but my best ideas often come to me whenever I'm not near my computer.
My bed, the bus, the train (basically all public transport), in a shopping center, during work, in public,....
It is then that a notebook is exactly what you need, even if it's just to quickly write down the general outline. I have filled plenty of notebooks over the years and always try to make sure that I have one in at least every bag that I use. Sure, I could use my phone but I'm often quicker with writing it down in a notebook than I am when typing away on my phone.
Notebooks is the way to go!

3. Music
For the last WIPs I have been writing, I have created playlists on Spotify. These playlists hold songs that I want to include my story or inspire a certain scene.
This current story was all the result of listening to one song. It completely enrolled in front of me as I listened to that one particular song.
Some people can't stand noise when they are working but I have found that I work much better if I have something that inspires me. It's also great to create a certain mood or emotion within yourself that you need for a certain scene.
So music is a definite must-have for me and I've already mentioned Spotify but another one that I turn to often is 8tracks.

4. Awesome mugs that hold my fuel
Let's face it. It's impossible to survive your writing lock-down without a nice cup of (fill in at your own liking). Personally I'm a hot chocolate type of girl. I'll drink tea too but would rarely touch the coffee. It only seems logical that this cup of humanity is provided in a beautiful mug. One of my favourite ones and quite appropriate for the occasion is the one from Blossom Books.

5. Cheat sheets
Sometimes a good cheat sheet is exactly what you need. Whether it's to inspire your emotion descriptions or to upgrade your word variation, they are one of my favourite things to use.
Especially as a non-native English writer I can really appreciate a cheat sheet that informs me about word synonyms etc.
I have my personal collection of cheat sheets in a separate page on my Tumblr page and regularly find myself going there.


6. Timeline
The novel I'm currently writing involves a collection of recent events and flashbacks and I have found that a timeline has really helped me with keeping track of what's happened so far. It also allowed me to have a better insight in which ages my characters has around a certain time and helped in deciding which flashback should go where.
Currently using: Timeline

7. Noise
In close relation to music are the noise generating websites.
Two of my favourites are:
http://www.noisli.com/: which generates noises from a forest noises to a coffeeshop and even allows you to combine several sounds together.
http://coffitivity.com/: Is Starbucks your favourite place to write? Now you can create the same noises from your computer ^^


8. Rewards
A little reward for the good progress your making is an absolute must! I like to reward myself with food (what a shocker, I know) or by playing a quick game.
However if you prefer not to distract yourself with physical rewards and prefer to continue writing until the day is over. I might just have the thing for you.
I used this website two years ago whenever I was approaching a scene I was dreading or was stuck in a scene and didn't want to get back to it. 'Written Kitten' is the place to go for the cat loving author! You get a new kitten picture whenever you have written a certain amount of words. It's absolutely adorable and a much more peaceful alternative than 'Write or Die'.

(let's face it, who wouldn't want to be rewarded with a kitten?)


9. The Internet
As much as they are a source of procrastination they also offer a great source of motivation (and information). Especially during the time of nanowrimo, Tumblr and Twitter are great places to find writing prompts, helpful resources and writing buddies.
Though I haven't been on Tumblr in a very long time, in the last few years that I participated in nano, I have created a page dedicated to great writing posts that I have found on Tumblr.

10. Life
The outside world is a constant source of inspiration. It's a great place to do some people watching and even practice the ways you describe people/actions/etc.
It also helps to go outside and get some fresh air every once and a while, especially when you've been locked up inside for the entire month of November.


Do you have any writing gadgets, any of these that you use?
I'm really curious to hear from you and what you like!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: Snowflakes on Silver Cove

5 twinkling stars (I absolutely loved it) for Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself… 
Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance. 
As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George. 
But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas? 
Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage also out now.  
Source: Goodreads

I was kindly given a copy through Netgalley, with many thanks to the publisher. And thanks to Holly for including me in the blog tour.

I tend to waffle a lot whenever I read a brilliant book and fail to do it justice in a review. And this is one of those occasions! 
She's done it again. Holly is slowly but steadily becoming my favourite women's fiction author. Her stories are always filled with a little bit of magic and lots and lots of strong relationships that make you all warm and fuzzy inside.

We're back in White Cliff Bay and this time we aren't treated to one love story but two! (I know!)
We first meet George and Libby, best friends from the moment they met 6 months ago. George has been in love with the quirky Libby ever since, if only she thought of him that way!
But as Libby struggles with writing her current novel and her departure date out of WCB is slowly approaching, she finds herself reluctant to leave and she has the feeling that George is a big part of it.

When they get a new neighbour, George sees this as the perfect opportunity to forget all about his feelings for Libby and ask out this stranger. Only, he's been alone for so long that he isn't sure anymore if he's got what it takes to charm a girl. Libby agrees on helping him out by going on practice dates with him and giving him useful tips.
Libby finds that not only is she enjoying these dates, they're also firing her creativity, and starts feeling things she hasn't felt in a long time.

As time goes too fast, and Libby's departure date is fast approaching, there's only one question that really needs answering: What's the point in practising taking out another person, when the one that you want is sitting right in front of you?
Libby and George will soon find out.

I did tell you about a second love story developing in this lovely book. But you know what, I'm not going to give away everything. I'll leave that one up to you to discover ^^

The WCB series have become the perfect Christmas reads and dare I say that I enjoyed Snowflakes on Silver Cove even more than I have enjoyed Christmas at Lilac Cottage? :O  I can hardly believe it myself! But Holly didn't disappoint. She gave us characters that you loved from the first page up until the last one. This combined with a lot of sexual tension and plenty of sweet and wonderful moments, it's been an absolute delightful experience to read.

The fact that I couldn't stop giggling throughout the first two chapters is saying something. And in truth, the rest of the story had me smiling like an absolute loon too. There's nothing about this story I can think of that I didn't like and that's saying something.
I also totally squealed in delight when my old friends Penny and Henry made an appearance!

I envy Holly's talent so much and aside from being one of the sweetest people out there, she is an enormously talented writer who I wish I could steal some fairy dust from. She simply masters the skills that make a brilliant author.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove was a story that made me wish I could be a fictional character in this story myself!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reader Problems Tag

I saw Simona do the Reader Prolems Tag (original source) and felt like doing it myself. So here we are. Today I'll be running around at the Antwerp Bookfair so it seems very fitting to do this book tag today ^^

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?
I would probably make a TBR jar. Though deep down, I know there are certain books I'd always prefer to read over others, so I would pick out those first and then move on to the ones I lost a bit of excitement over.
Or I could totally switch it up and actually pick the books at the bottom of my TBR pile as they are the ones I've had the longest.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?
I commit. I know people say that you shouldn't waste your time with books that aren't for you, but I always feel like I should give it a go and always hope that it might turn around and all of a sudden amaze me. Luckily enough I haven't been in this situation all too much yet, but on a few occasions I was very disappointed and was relieved to have it over with.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?
Too bad. I probably wouldn't be able to catch up then. I'm always in competition with myself, so when I set a Goodreads challenge, I want to reach it, resulting in me usually being ahead rather than behind.
Not that I'd mind not reaching it, I'd just set the same goal for the next year and give it another go.
(In general my GR challenge is a number either higher than the previous year, or the amount of books I'd like to lessen my TBR pile with. I always tend to exceed that goal and edit my challenge several times a year as I keep challenging myself)

4. The covers of a series you love do. not. match. How do you cope?
I'll cope, it wouldn't be easy but I'd cope. I'd moan every time I'd see it, or every time I'd talk to someone about it, but I'd cope. (I think we've established that I wouldn't cope)

5. Every one and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
My friend Jenny and I usually are on the same page with a lot of books. And even then she's always willing to listen to me moan about it, even if she does like it.

6. You’re reading a book and you are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
It also depends on whether it's one glistening tear on the cheek or a full blown blubbering mess. But I'd probably stop reading until I'm in the safety of my room.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book?
I usually don't. If an author is good at what he does then they should always manage to give information about the previous book in the sequel. It doesn't have to be detailed but it should be clear enough so that people can still follow. After all, there's always the odd chance that a new reader reads the sequel first and then the reader still has to be able to follow. It's what makes a good author a brilliant one.

8. You do not want anyone. ANYONE. borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?
Only I do want people to borrow mine (people I trust!). Books are there to be read. They might look pretty on the shelf but they are made to be read. I live to share my books with my friends. I'll gladly recommend something for them (cough: force them) to read something I have absolutely adored reading. I do keep a list of who has borrowed which books because I NEED them back asap!

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?
I pick a book from my favourite author or one I've been looking forward to read for a while (before my reading slump) and sit myself down to take some time to read it.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
ALL OF THEM!
Well, it depends on my budget, but chances are that I've already pre-ordered them.



Friday, October 30, 2015

Chapter Reveal: Snowflakes on Silver Cove Ch1


It's publication day today and it's a real beauty!! Holly Martin is giving us the White Cliff Bay series this Christmas and today book 1 is published!
I sure hope you have all pre-ordered it and are ready to be pulled into the charming town that's White Cliff Bay and the story of George and Libby, and some other surprising characters.


Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?

Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage also out now.
Source: goodreads

I am lucky enough to be part of this series' blog tour and will be posting my review of Snowflakes on Silver Cove on November 12, I would love it if you could come and have a look by then.


But for those of you who can't wait any longer and want to find out what this story is all about, wait no longer! The lovely Holly is sharing her first chapter and I get to share it with you!!
So without postponing any longer, Have a look at the first chapter of the newest by Holly Martin;

Snowflakes on Silver Cove.
Chapter 1
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang.
‘Oh!’
SqueakSqueakBang.
‘Oh!’
SqueakSqueakBang.
‘OH!’
SqueakSqueakBang.
‘OH!’
SqueakSqueakBang.
‘OH GOD!’
BangBang.
‘OH GOD!’
BangBangBangBang.
‘OHHHHHH!’
Every morning, without fail, Libby had been woken in the same way. Every morning since three weeks earlier, when the newlyweds, Rosie and Alex, had moved into the flat above her. Then Alex would race out to work, clearly late and with a huge grin on his face. At six Alex would arrive home and two minutes later the same noises would be heard again, occasionally peppered with ‘Harder Alex, harder,’ or ‘Rosie, God I love you.’
Weekends were worse. They’d do it all day. And as today was Sunday Libby was expecting an encore any time soon.
Urgh. Libby decided she hated newlyweds. Only a few more weeks and she would be gone and she wouldn’t have to be woken by the horny alarm clock any more.
She padded through to the kitchen and switched on the dancing Santa who twisted and jived to some seventies Christmas tune. He made her smile. Her best friend George had given it to her because he didn’t think her tiny tree that sat and twinkled feebly in the corner of her flat was enough in terms of decorations to celebrate Christmas. A singing reindeer, a dancing tree and a serenading snowman had also found their way into her flat in the last few weeks. He had tried to persuade her to take a four-foot-high inflatable musical snow globe the day before, but she drew the line at inflatables. George, it seemed, didn’t have this issue.
As Santa launched into another song, she made two rounds of bacon sandwiches and two mugs of tea. Loading the whole lot onto a tray, she took it over to the table by the lounge window and looked out on the glorious view.
It was that view that had made her move to White Cliff Bay in the first place. She had spent years travelling the world but, although she had sworn she would never stay in the UK again, White Cliff Bay had appealed to her in more ways than any other place had. Today the sea mirrored the first time she had seen it, the weak winter sun glistening on the water in front of her as if jewels were buried beneath the waves. Light snow had fallen overnight, dusting Silver Cove beach with a sprinkling of talcum powder. She leaned her hand on the window and closed her eyes, trying to capture the image in her mind. She would miss this place when she left.
Reluctantly she turned from the view and went to the fridge, reaching for the ketchup. It was obligatory to cover the bacon in a thick layer of it. Then she remembered she had finished the bottle the night before.
Stepping over the newspapers on her front doorstep, she walked across the hallway. Without knocking, she let herself into the flat opposite. She stopped when she walked into the lounge; impossibly it looked even more crammed with Christmas decorations than the last time she had seen it. It wasn’t just the large tree that nearly blocked out the whole window, the room was filled with almost a whole herd of life-size reindeer, a seven-foot inflatable snowman, tinsel, garlands and an army of dancing, singing Christmas characters along with the garish snow globe she had rejected. Christmas music filled the flat as she moved to the festively strewn kitchen and went straight to the fridge to get the ketchup, then followed the sound of music to the bedroom.
There was George Donaldson, topless, dancing round the bedroom with a six-foot inflatable candy cane as his dance partner. She smiled, affection for him filling her heart. He was miles away from the alpha males she wrote about in her books and maybe that’s what she liked about him. There was nothing mean and moody about George Donaldson, he made her laugh a lot. His hair was a messy mop of black curly hair that jiggled as he moved, his body was tanned from days out on the beach. He didn’t have the cut abs and six-packs her heroes always had, but he had a wonderful body with strong arms that gave the best hugs in the world, making her feel safe and adored. She would miss him more than anything once she had gone. She giggled as George took his partner in his arms and moved in to kiss her.
She must have made more noise than she thought, as he abruptly let go of the candy cane, looking guilty and embarrassed.
‘Libby Joseph! Does a man not have any privacy any more, did you not knock?’
‘Of course not. Now did you want your breakfast or not?’
‘Ah Libby, you will make someone a goodly wife one day.’ He walked past her, planting a big wet kiss on her forehead, grabbed a paper bag by his door and then stopped to scoop up the newspapers on her front doorstep before sitting down at her table, his mug of tea in his hand.
Libby sat down opposite him, smothering her bacon sandwich in ketchup, and then tucked in. George flicked through the paper for a while before turning his attention to his own breakfast.
‘So,’ he said, through a mouthful of sandwich, ‘newlyweds wake you up again?’
She rolled her eyes and nodded. He smiled sympathetically and turned his attention back to the paper. They sat in silence as they ate. There was no need to make polite conversation; George was her best friend. They could sit like this for hours without feeling the need to force a conversation. Other times they would talk non-stop, only drawing breath to eat some of the delicious food that he cooked for them. And her bacon sandwiches were amazing, if she did say so herself, although it was pretty much the only decent thing she could cook. In the first few weeks of their friendship, she had invited George to take part in several dried-out pasta dishes, numerous cremated roast dinners with unrecognisable meat and, once, some homemade soup that looked and tasted like vomit. After that, they had mutually agreed that he should do most of the cooking.
 She looked across at George and found it hard to believe she had only met him for the first time six months before, the day when she was moving into the tiny block of flats. She had known instantly he was gay. As he came rushing out the flat to help her with her boxes, dressed in a garish pink t-shirt, she had done that thing that all single women do when they meet a nice-looking bloke for the first time. Wedding ring? No. Straight? Definitely not.
And knowing he wasn’t a potential boyfriend and that she didn’t have to try to impress him eased the transition into their friendship very quickly. He was loud, funny, kind and sweet. Over the first few days, as she had got to know him, she became convinced that her suspicions about his sexuality had been right. He had a huge collection of musicals, like Grease, Joseph and The Sound of Music. And instead of a collection of boy movies like Die Hard or Pulp Fiction, he had a vast repertoire of old classics such as Some Like it Hot, Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch and Operation Petticoat, dividing his love of Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant almost equally. His dubious taste in music did nothing to change her mind.
She remembered the conversation they’d had about his sexuality very vividly. They had known each other for about five weeks and had almost been inseparable since she had moved in. Over dinner one night he had quizzed her about past boyfriends. After a thorough grilling she’d turned the tables on him.
‘So are you seeing anyone at the moment?’ she’d asked, biting into the delicious lasagne he had cooked for them.
‘Nah, perpetually single me.’ He’d laughed.
She nodded. ‘I guess it’s tricky though, what with White Cliff Bay being such a tiny town.’
‘Well yes, and most of the residents of White Cliff Bay are over the age of fifty.’
‘No, I mean that there isn’t much opportunity to meet the right sort of person round here, you should try Brighton, that’s got a great nightlife.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘The gay capital of Britain?’
‘Exactly, there aren’t exactly a lot of gay bars round here, I bet there aren’t even any in Apple Hill.’
He had frowned in confusion but she had blindly carried on.
‘Oooh, my cover designer lives in Brighton, he’s gorgeous, hung like a horse apparently, or so says his ex-boyfriend. I could give you his number, get him to take you out to all the best gay clubs, show you a good time.’ She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
George choked on his lasagne and when he didn’t look like stopping, she rushed to get him some water. She returned a few seconds later and passed him the glass.
He had drunk greedily, then put his glass down and eyed her across the table. ‘Libby,’ he’d said firmly, ‘I’m not gay.’
It had been her turn to choke on the lasagne then. ‘You’re not?’
He shook his head.
‘Oh God, George… I’m… I’m so sorry, I thought the clothes, the musicals, the old films…’
‘Well you thought wrong. Bloody hell, just because a bloke isn’t sitting around scratching his testicles and watching rugby…’ he laughed good naturedly. ‘It’s OK, though. You’re forgiven.’
She shook her head, laughing at her own narrow-mindedness, suddenly the laugh dried in her throat.
‘Oh God,’ she gasped, her hands going to her mouth. ‘You’ve seen me naked.’
He smirked. ‘Yes I have.’
‘But…’ she was aware she was now flapping her hands around, ‘I didn’t even think about walking from the shower to my bedroom without any clothes on when you were waiting for me in the lounge. I mean, I just thought you wouldn’t care, wouldn’t even notice.’
‘Oh I noticed all right, I just thought you were a very open person.’
‘Oh God.’ She buried her face in her hands.
He laughed, loudly. ‘It’s your own fault, Libby Joseph, that will teach you for judging a book by its cover.’
She had groaned in embarrassment as he continued to eat his lasagne.
She watched him now as he picked up the last crumbs of his bacon sandwich, and smiled.
‘Oh, I got you something,’ George said, passing over the brown paper bag, before he started singing his own version of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. ‘Ten days before Christmas and my true love gave to me, a mug with a picture of the sea.’
Libby smiled. He had started this twelve days of presents two days before when he had presented her with a Christmas pudding onesie complete with a hood with a holly leaf and huge red berries sewed to the top. The day before he had given her a big bag of rum and raisin fudge when they had been shopping in the town, her favourite sweets in the world. She quickly tore apart the paper and pulled out a mug that must have held at least a pint of tea. It was the tackiest thing she had ever seen. It had a picture of White Cliff Bay on the side but it wasn’t tasteful, it was bright and garish in colour.
‘And look what happens when you pour hot water in it.’ George grabbed her tea and poured it inside. Straight away, lights started to flash all over the mug, including on the oversized lighthouse, and a tinny version of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ drifted from some internal speakers.
Libby laughed. ‘I love it,’ she said, honestly.
‘Now you have something to remember us by,’ he said, glancing over at a few boxes in the hall and for a brief moment his face fell with disappointment before he slapped on a smile. ‘How’s the packing going?’
‘There’s not a lot to be honest. The flat came with its own furniture. There’s a few books and things I’ve acquired over the last few months that I’ll probably take to a charity shop. I don’t really have stuff, I don’t need it. I came with a suitcase of clothes and I’ll probably leave the same way.’
‘That’s a bit sad, isn’t it? To have no belongings other than the clothes on your back.’
Libby shrugged, happily. ‘Happiness doesn’t come from the things you own, it comes from experiences, the things you do, the places you go to, the people you meet. That’s what fills your life, not material possessions.’
‘And you’ve never been tempted to stay in all those beautiful places you’ve visited, you’ve never once found somewhere you could call home?’
She smiled. ‘It doesn’t work like that for me. I have to travel for work. Being an author means doing lots of research. Wherever my story is set I always immerse myself in that place, eat, drink, sleep, breathe it until the story is finished and I move on to the next place. I’ve always worked like that, I probably always will.’
Suddenly a noise from above them disturbed their conversation.
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakBang.
They both looked up.
‘Twice!?’ she muttered. ‘Seriously? Do they not have a TV in their flat?’
SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakbang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang.
‘Oh!’
 SqueakSqueakBang.
‘Oh!’
George chuckled. ‘They really are loud, aren’t they?’
She pulled a face.
‘Well come on, Lib, we can give them a run for their money.’ He stood up and pulled her towards her bedroom. Leaving her by the doorway he leaped onto her bed, jumping up and down on it like a trampoline. The bed made a satisfying squeaking sound and the headboard banged obligingly against the wall.
She laughed at him. ‘Oh George,’ she moaned loudly, from the doorway.
‘How long do you think my penis is?’ he hissed. ‘Get over here.’
She ditched her dressing gown and walked over to the bed.
‘Christ, Lib, we’re only pretending, you don’t have to get undressed.’ He stopped bouncing long enough to help her up onto the bed. They both started bouncing again.
‘Oh George,’ she shouted, ‘that feels so goooood.’
‘Oh Libby,’ he groaned.
‘George, harder George. Oh God that’s it George. GEORGE! Faster George.’
‘Libby, Libby, OH Libby.’ He started jumping faster.
‘Spank me George, spank me.’
He spluttered with laughter.
‘Oh.’
‘OH.’
‘Oh God.’
‘OH.’
‘OHHHHHHHHH,’ moaned George, finally falling onto the bed exhausted. She fell down next to him.
‘Oh George,’ she called loudly, ‘that was the best sex ever. You’re amazing, big boy.’
‘Why thank you, Miss Joseph, glad you enjoyed it.’
‘No, you’re supposed to say something nice about me.’
‘Oh sorry, erm…’ He thought carefully. ‘Libby’ he said loudly, ‘you have great tits.’
‘Is that it?’
‘Well it’s true, you do.’
‘Pervert.’ She smirked. ‘I just said that was the best sex ever and all you can say is that I’ve got nice tits? Surely you can do better than that?’
He rolled his eyes. ‘Libby,’ he moaned loudly, ‘and Candy my beauty, that was the best threesome I’ve ever had.’
She could barely talk for laughing. ‘Great, now I’m some kind of sex-crazed porn star, excellent.’
‘Glad to be of service.’
‘And if they knew that Candy was that mannequin in your bedroom, they would be worried.’
He chuckled.
They lay in silence for a while to see if there was any reaction from the newlyweds. But there was none. Clearly they had been outdone.
Libby rolled onto her side, propping herself on her elbow to look at him. She smiled at the self-satisfied look on his face, as if they really had just had sex.
‘Fancy a walk?’ she said.
‘Yeah of course.’
‘Well get out my bedroom then so I can get dressed.’
‘Aw, am I never going to get a repeat performance of your nudity?’ he said as he walked out.
‘Nope never.’ She laughed as she closed the door behind him.
‘That’s a shame,’ George said to the closed door, ‘because I really rather enjoyed it.’
*
Despite it being the middle of winter, the sun was making a desperate attempt to warm up the windy shore. Great gusts tore at their clothes and whipped their hair around them as they walked along the almost deserted beach nestled in Silver Cove. The only other person on there was Seb, throwing a ball into the surf for his beloved fat retriever Jack to collect. He waved at them as they walked.
George loved White Cliff Bay, with its tiny thatched cottages, the bigger townhouses, and the great Bubble and Froth, Seb’s pub, with the best-tasting ale in the world. He especially loved the quieter part of Silver Cove where he and Libby lived. It literally consisted of one straight road with houses on one side looking out on to the sea. There was a pub, a small shop and that was it. A five-minute walk up the hill and over the headland led to the main town of White Cliff Bay with all the local amenities.
He and Libby crunched over the pebbles towards one of the many rock pools that had formed on the beach. She crouched down and carefully lifted one of the big rocks to see what was under it. A small pearly grey hermit crab scurried out in protest at being disturbed and a pale yellow starfish, its legs struck out at odd angles to its body, pulsated against the mossy rock face.
‘I do love the starfish. They’re so beautiful, like a little bit of magic washed up on the beach.’ She put the rock down gently, and picked up another one.
He watched her with a smile, her dark hair streaming behind her like a banner, her large green eyes filled with a continual wonder at the varied sea life that ended up on Silver Cove beach every day.
‘If you like starfish, you’ll love the sunstar, now they’re beautiful. I’ll have to take you scuba diving one day, Lib, there’s so much more beauty out there under the waves.’
She stood up. ‘I’d love that. Would we find seahorses? I’d love to see one.’
‘I doubt it – there are some breeds that live round Britain, but they’re so shy and timid I doubt we would spot any. But there’s loads of other things we would see, the visibility round here is quite spectacular.’
‘But doesn’t it take ages to learn?’
‘I can teach you the basics, and I’d look after you. Besides, we wouldn’t be going that deep, only six or eight metres, so if anything went wrong you could just come straight back up.’
‘That would be so exciting, do you have the gear?’
‘No but a mate of mine runs a dive shop in White Cliff Bay, he’d lend me what we need.’
‘Be a bit cold though, would we wear wetsuits?’
‘Are you kidding, in these waters? We would die. It’d have to be a drysuit, and a thermal undersuit and your clothes under that.’
She laughed. ‘I’d look like a Michelin Man.’
‘Yeah. It’ll be better in the spring, warmer and the visibility is nicer too. If you stay until then I promise to take you.’
‘Maybe I can come back and visit you when it’s warmer.’
‘That would be great,’ George said, knowing in his heart that once she left at the end of the year he’d never see her again. They never spoke about that though. She insisted that they would stay in touch, but there were no friends in her life, no one she spoke to from her travels. When he had put his number in her phone all those months before he had been stunned to see her contacts list consisted of her agent and her publisher. It was easier to pretend they would still be friends than confront it, it was easier to ignore that when she left it would completely and utterly break his heart.
He carried on with the façade. ‘You have to spit in the mask to stop it from steaming up too.’
Her face fell. ‘Spit in my mask?’
He wiped a tiny splash of muddy water off her face, then quickly stuffed his hands in his pockets as he walked away from her. ‘Yeah, and no matter if you get the best-fitting mask in the world, you always get a bit of water that seeps through, which means when you take the mask off you’ll be left with a snotty residue across your face.’
She caught up with him, picking up a good-shaped pebble for skimming. ‘I get the feeling scuba diving isn’t the sexiest sport then?’
‘No definitely not, still keen?’ He turned to face her.
‘Absolutely.’
He loved that about Libby: her spirit of adventure, her boundless energy. In fact he loved every little thing about her, and had been completely in love with her ever since he first set eyes on her.
Unrequited love, he was quite the expert. As it turned out even his ex-wife hadn’t loved him.
Libby, of course, had no idea about his inappropriate feelings for her, how he loved her with everything he had.
He glanced over at her, her smile lighting up her face, her eyes reflecting the colour of the sea. It was about time he got over Libby. She just didn’t see him that way. Nothing was ever going to happen there, she was leaving in just over two weeks. By the end of the year he was determined he would be over this silly little crush and he could watch her leave without her ripping out his heart on the way out.
*
They walked back towards the flats, a large old house that had long ago been converted into four separate apartments and given the rather original name of ‘Sea View Court’.
George spotted a small van parked up outside. An older man was lifting a box out the back.
‘Giselle?’ the man called. ‘Giselle? Where do you want this one to go?’
A blonde girl ran down the steps wearing leggings, which showed off her wonderful long legs, and a tiny knitted jumper, which showed off her tiny waist. George swallowed. Her hair was cut short with a long fringe that swept over her eyes, but it gleamed in the sun, like gold. Her eyes were huge, an amazing intense blue. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He knew without a doubt this was the woman he was going to marry. The easiest, quickest way to fall out of love with one unobtainable woman was fall in love with another.
‘Oh thanks, Dad,’ the blonde vision said, ‘just put it in the lounge. I’ll sort it out once it’s all in.’
‘Hey, do you want some help?’ George asked, quickly leaving Libby’s side.
‘Oh, that’d be great, thanks.’ Giselle broke into a heart-stopping smile.
‘I’m George.’ He held out his hand. ‘I live at number two.’
‘I’m Giselle, and I’m on top of you.’ She tucked a strand of golden silk behind her ear. ‘I’m moving into number four.’
He ignored the innuendo for the sake of future relations. ‘Excellent.’ He took the hand that was now extended towards him and shook it warmly, just as Libby arrived at the back of the van.
‘Hi, I’m Libby, I live at number one, here let me take those,’ she said indicating the pile of books tucked under Giselle’s arm and he watched her take them, and then she was gone. He wondered what they looked like standing there, him and Giselle, smiling at each other awkwardly. Well, Giselle was smiling awkwardly, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. A Cheshire cat on Ecstasy.
For the next half an hour, they worked diligently between them to get all of Giselle’s stuff into her flat on the second floor. There wasn’t a lot, but what there was, he noticed, was very tasteful. There was also a lot of weird cooking paraphernalia which Libby found out was used for making different kinds of sweets for her online business.
Eventually, the van was empty and Giselle’s dad left.
‘Thank you so much,’ Giselle said warmly, ‘you’ve both been very kind. But now, well, I guess I better go and unpack. I’ll see you around.’
She disappeared up the stairs and George stared after her in wonderment. He heard her flat door close and then quickly bundled Libby into her flat.
‘George, what are you doing?’
‘Oh Lib, she’s beautiful.’ He leaned against the inside of the door and sank to the floor.
‘Yes she is, very.’
‘Libby, I think I’m in love.’
She sat down next to him and gave him a playful nudge. ‘Then go and ask her out.’
‘Are you mad, have you seen me?’
She frowned. ‘George, you’re lovely.’
‘Lovely is a polite way of saying fat.’ He absently patted his belly.
‘No, it’s not, you’re lovely and funny and incredibly attractive, ask her out.’
‘No, I need to lose some weight first, and get a haircut, maybe some new clothes.’
‘But then you won’t be you any more. This is you, and you’re perfect the way you are, anything else will just be a disguise. If she’s going to fall in love with you, she needs to fall in love with the real you. You above anyone else should know the pitfalls of false advertising.’
Writing radio adverts for a living, George knew how to sell chocolate to the Easter bunny, if only he himself could be presented in such an appealing way.
‘You’re right, Lib, she should fall in love with the real me.’ He looked down at himself, despondently.
‘Hey! You’re the loveliest, most wonderful, sweetest, kindest person I know; if she can’t see that then she’s blind.’
He kissed her head. ‘Thanks Lib.’
She stood up and pulled him to his feet. ‘Go on then, ask her.’
He paled. ‘Now? No, I can’t ask her now.’
‘Yes you can.’
‘Well what do I say?’
‘You say, “Hi Giselle, I figured you might be tired after all this unpacking, do you fancy coming to the pub for something to eat? The Bubble and Froth does a mean steak and kidney pie.”’
He nodded, yes he could do that. That was easy. Very casual, very simple. He opened the door and walked purposefully up the stairs and caught Libby doing a little giddy victory dance for him before she shut the door.
He climbed to the top of the first flight then hurried back down again, but before he reached the bottom stair he forced himself to turn around. He climbed four stairs this time, stopped, climbed one more stair then ran back to the safety of Libby’s flat.
Her face fell as he came back in. ‘What happened?’
‘Yeah, I couldn’t do it.’
‘George!’
‘Well what if she said no?’
‘What if she didn’t?’
He shrugged. ‘Maybe I’ll leave it a few days, you know, let her settle in.’
‘Maybe you should get in now before someone else swoops in. Why don’t you practise on me?’
‘What?’
‘Close your eyes and ask me out, imagine I’m a beautiful woman.’
George smiled wryly – he really didn’t need to imagine that – but he closed his eyes anyway. He could still see her though, in his mind, looking pretty in her jeans and hoodie, and funky purple boots. She had a quirky style. When she was writing her romance stuff she always had at least one pen in her hair. And though the hoodie she wore today was an old grey one, she had pinned to it the most beautiful emerald sequinned flowered brooch. It matched her eyes exactly. Though this was not helping him to prepare for asking Giselle out.
He opened one eye and looked at her expectant face. When nothing was forthcoming, she rolled her eyes and ushered him out of the flat.
‘Knock on my door and ask me out.’
‘OK, role-play, I like it,’ he grinned, ‘though I’ll get changed first, smarten myself up a bit.’
She shrugged. ‘If it will make you feel more comfortable.’ 
*
As George disappeared back to his flat, Libby switched on her laptop and smiled at the tiny snowman that had been placed next to it since the day before. George was clearly determined to Christmassify her, whether she liked it or not. The computer pinged to life and she opened up her current story, set in a rural seaside town at Christmas. Her publishers had expected it to be handed in months ago but for some reason this story had stagnated on her laptop. She had no desire to finish it and she didn’t know why. She was famous for her romance stories, especially Christmas ones with snow, glitter, handsome heroes and gorgeously cosy love stories, but it was the romance parts she was having trouble with the most.
There was a knock on the door and she went to answer it, ready to be seduced.
George was standing there in a full tuxedo with black tie, and gleaming cufflinks. She nearly laughed except he looked so vulnerable.
He cleared his throat, straightened his shoulders, fixed her with a sultry stare. ‘Hey little lady, fancy getting out of this hellhole and hitting some gin joints with me?’
She suppressed a laugh, but he had already seen the smirk.
‘Too cheesy?’
‘Very cheesy. Humphrey Bogart?’
‘No, that was all me.’
‘You’re overthinking it.’
‘What about the suit?’
‘You look fantastic, really suave, really sexy, but a tiny bit overdressed for a pint down the Bubble.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘Sexy, eh?’
She smiled. ‘Yes, if we were going to Royal Ascot together, I’d be proud to have you on my arm.’
‘Right, I’ll remember that next time I get offered free tickets for Royal Ascot. You can be my date.’
‘Definitely, though you should know I’m a terrible loser and a really bad gambler.’
‘I’ll hold the purse strings that day then.’
She nodded. ‘Probably wise.’
‘Shall I try on something else?’
‘Yes, please do.’
‘Good, this collar is killing me.’
‘I’m impressed that you can do up a bow tie though, it’s not something many people can do.’
He took it off to show her it was a clip-on. She laughed, as she closed the door.
She walked back to the computer, her fingers hovering over a rather bland description of the sea. It wasn’t just romance scenes that were taking a battering, all of her latest writing lacked sparkle. Because she had no enthusiasm for the romance, the rest of it hung limp and flaccid on the pages too.
There was another knock on the door just as she was poised to write something descriptive and wintery about the trees that lined the beach.
This time George was dressed in a black suit, with a black shirt and tie.
‘Going to a funeral?’
‘Right of course,’ he said, looking a little apologetic.
‘How about something that shows your sporty side?’
‘Right, OK.’ He trudged off.
She closed the door again – not that it normally stopped George, but making him knock was all part of the role-play.
She went back to the computer, looked over the last paragraph she had written and sighed.
Another knock on her door. She doubled over with laughter when she opened it.
‘What?’ mumbled George, though she could see that he was trying not to laugh as well. He was dressed in a skin-tight wetsuit which accentuated every gorgeous curve of his strong body, with a mask and snorkel in his mouth and flippers on his feet.
‘George, it’s perfect,’ she said, clapping her hands together, trying really hard to keep her eyes above his waist. ‘Now let me see you manage the stairs in those things.’
He waddled carefully to the foot of the stairs and carefully placed his left flipper sideways on the step. With great effort he managed to put his right flipper sideways on the next one up, looking like a very bizarrely dressed Charlie Chaplin.
It was at this moment, as he struggled to move his left flipper up onto the third stair, that Giselle came running down the stairs towards him.