Wednesday 29 December 2021

Are you sure it's Wednesday?

Around this time of the year the days get a bit blurred. But I am working, honest. 

The WIP is progressing, slowly - and I have been doing research! Video tours of Monaco and Monte Carlo, on-line snooping around apartments for sale in Bath, to find one for hero Elliot, as he's just invited Masie over for dinner, and also some drinking of oolong tea, which is one of his quirks. 

Christmas and birthdays are a good excuse to treat myself to some posh books from my local Indie bookshop, Griffin Books, in Penarth, who happen to be the bookshop of the month for January for the Crime Writers Association. 

My haul for Christmas was all for research - naturally. 

The South of France book is for the Riviera series - of course - and for the holiday in the South of France I really hope will finally happen this year. The dark skies/star gazing is for something in the future and the book on Ancient Egypt is for the WIP. 

I'm very pleased with them - and useful too. 

Friday 24 December 2021

Christmas Eve

 It worked! 

All that Christmas spirit from my fellow Choc-lit and Ruby authors has converted me. I've dressed my little white tree and the lovely chocolates from my publisher are underneath it. 

I even got the nativity set out - and I haven't done that for a very long time. 

Now all that remains is to wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas. 

Wednesday 22 December 2021

My final Christmas guest.

You know by now that my fellow Choc-lit and Ruby authors have conspired together to convince me - a Christmas sceptic - about the joys of the festive season. So how is that working out? Have the efforts of Ella and Helen, Angela and Berni had an effect? Well, Timmy says they certainly worked for him, and he insisted that I should find his Christmas hat and coat. I must admit he looks very smart in it. Me - maybe we still have a way to go? Today I have a guest author who has made a bit of a speciality of writing festive books for Choc-lit. Kirsty Ferry has a new paperback version of her 2019 e-book for Choc-lit out - Christmas in the Isle of Skye  and she also has a brand new book for Ruby fiction- Christmas of New Beginnings. That's versatility.

Now I have my mug of advent calendar tea - a festive fruit mix of fruit and chocolate called Chocolate Fondu and today's chocolate nibble, a dark chocolate penguin, and am all ready to let Kirsty persuade me.  She's chosen to highlight four topics from the books that are vital parts of Christmas. 

Over to you, Kirsty.

Favourite Festive Films.

In Christmas of New Beginnings, Cerys and Edie try to plan their Christmas lunch around the timings of Edie’s favourite festive films, Holiday Inn and Willy Wonka,’ but it doesn’t bode well when it’s not a fuss-free meal. When it looks like Frosties and milk are on the menu, Lovely Sam swoops in to save the day. My favourite Christmas films are Elf and Muppets’ Christmas Carol. Elf is for when I wrap my presents and the Muppets are for Christmas Eve. It’s a festive feel-good tradition!

Quirky Christmas Gifts

In Christmas of New Beginnings, Cerys owns a craft shop and tea room, and arranges a village Christmas Craft Fair, and in Christmas on the Isle of Skye, Ivy has her little jewellery business in Glastonbury, and Zac has his in Skye. It’s all the more important to buy artisan or to buy from small businesses this year – I absolutely love quirky Christmas craft fairs…helped along the stalls by a good glug of artisan mulled wine and a home-made mince pie, of course.

Seeing Friends and Family

So, so important after the non-Christmas of 2020. In both my books, there is a strong sense of family and friendship, and no mention of That Christmas or That Year. I’m hopeful that this year my family can, once again, go to our Christmas Eve Carol Concert at church with our friends, and that we’ll have my parents over for coffee and mince pies on Christmas Day afternoon, after going to their house for coffee and mince pies on Christmas Morning.

Respecting other’s beliefs and being kind

A weird one, perhaps, but in Christmas on the Isle of Skye, Ivy and Zac embrace the winter solstice celebrations in Glastonbury, as well as the traditional Christmas they are used to having. Not everyone will have the same traditions and feelings about Christmas as we ourselves do, so it’s important to remember to respect other people and understand that they might not want a big celebration, but just prefer something on a smaller scale. If it works for the person involved, then know that is absolutely fine.

I think those four are really good choices - sadly I'm not sure we will be able to meet with family and friends in quite the free and easy way we were all hoping, but remembering them is still important. I'm really with Kirsty on the last one - one of the things that I dislike about December is the darkness and the cold and I do have a little celebration for myself for the solstice and light a candle, because it marks the point when we start going forward into the light again. I'm glad that Kirsty has reminded me about this. 

Has she succeeded in winning me round? You'll have to wait until later in the week to find out. I still have that empty tree, remember ...


Kirsty is writing for the first time for Ruby Fiction with Christmas of New Beginnings - but you can still be sure of a captivating story that's available as an e-book and a paperback 

Not all festive wishes come true right away – sometimes it takes five Christmases …

Folk singer Cerys Davies left Wales for the South Downs village of Padcock at Christmas, desperate for a new beginning. And she ends up having plenty of those: opening a new craft shop-tea room, helping set up the village’s first festive craft fair, and, of course, falling desperately in love with Lovely Sam, the owner of the local pub. It’s just too bad he’s firmly in the clutches of Awful Belinda …

Perhaps Cerys has to learn that some new beginnings take a while to … well, begin! But with a bit of patience, some mild espionage, a generous sprinkling of festive magic and a flock of pub-crashing sheep, could her fifth Christmas in Padcock lead to her best new beginning yet?

You can buy the book HERE

Christmas on the Isle of Skye is part of Kirsty's series that includes Spring at Taigh FallonSummer at Carrick Park and Jessie’s Little Bookshop by the Sea.

How far would you go to be with the one you love at Christmas?
The Isle of Skye is a magical place, especially at Christmas, and there’s no place Zac Fallon would rather be. But whilst Zac has everything he needs on Skye, there’s still something missing – and that something is a somebody called Ivy McFarlane.

Ivy used to work with Zac but then spread her wings and moved to Glastonbury. He’s missed her ever since. Now it’s almost Christmas and Zac realises that the Ivy shaped hole in his life is too big to bear. So starts his festive mission to the mainland – but will he be back in time to spend Christmas in Skye? And, more importantly, will Ivy be with him?

You can buy this one HERE

You can follow Kirsty on Twitter @kirsty_ferry


If you are are looking for one more Choc-lit festive read and haven't treated yourself to Marie Laval's 2019 book Bluebell's Christmas Magic yet - that one is now out in paperback too. HERE

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Christmas Guests - Part Two


Well, Helen and Ella did a good job last week helping to convince me that I don't really hate Christmas. I've got as far as getting a tree. Not a fir tree, but I'm sure it will look good when it gets a few baubles on it! Today's tea from the calendar is Frosted Fruit - very nice, but my favourite this week has been Ruby Amaretto. I love the taste of almonds.  Today's chocolate is a penguin! 

This week Angela Britnell and Berni Stevens are the ones convincing me about the joys of the festive season. Angela actually has two book out this Christmas, the paperback version of Christmas at Little Penhaven and the brand new e-book and paperback A Cornish Christmas at Pear Tree Farm. 

Welcome Angela 

Don’t worry, Evonne I’m not going to try to convince you about the merits of everything Christmas because that would be hypocritical of me! I can’t stand hearing ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ in the shops from October onwards and never watch syrupy Christmas films. My Christmas books usually get sent back by my editor the first time around with instructions to make it ‘more Christmassy please’. Having said that I do enjoy celebrating the true meaning of the season and the opportunity to be with family and friends. I’ve picked three things that to me sum up the best parts of Christmas and all of them are celebrated in ‘A Cornish Christmas at Pear Tree Farm.’


Here is an excerpt from the book. It’s Christmas Eve and without giving too much away the service is being held at the farm.

'The vicar took up his place at the front and welcomed everyone to their makeshift gathering before the first notes of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ rang out. Crispin’s deep, rich voice. The pungent smell of the animals. Little children’s excited chatter. The sparkling lights illuminating the barn and reminding her of the star-lit sky on that first Christmas. Everything combined to make Ashley’s eyes sting with happy tears. The brief service flew by and Crispin draped his arm around her shoulders when they stood for the last carol, ‘Silent Night’. A brief hush fell as the song ended then everyone started to talk again.'

The ancient church in the village where I grew up in Cornwall never looks lovelier than on Christmas Eve and here’s a picture of the last time we were there for the service. One picture shows my mother holding her candle and the other is the nativity scene acted by the children.


Like many families we’re scattered around the country and in our case across the Atlantic Ocean too but when we’re able to get together there is nothing more special. It’s particularly meaningful at Christmas. I’d like to share a window into Christmas Day at Pear Tree Farm where Ward is about to propose a toast and he looks back to the previous year.

'Ward stood and tapped his spoon on a glass. ‘Before we eat, I’m gonna tell a quick story. The first time I ate in this room was with Nessa and my folks, I pictured a Christmas tree standing in the corner by the window and all of our families gathered around. I even conjured up a baby in Nessa’s arms with her dark hair and my grey eyes.’

Hearing her brother’s thickening voice made Ashley’s throat tighten with emotion.

‘Today that dream has come true.'


When I was living and working in Denmark back in the early 1980s, where I met my future husband, I’d never heard of the famous German Christmas markets but I was captivated by the first one we went to in Flensburg. The atmosphere was like nothing I’d ever experience before highlighted by the wonderful smell of warm gluhwein and fresh pfeffernusse cookies along with the sight of stalls full of hand-crafted ornaments and gifts. Every year when I decorate our Christmas tree I bring out ornaments bought in those special markets and lose myself in happy memories. Here’s a photograph I found of me enjoying some of the German Christmas treats.

In ‘A Cornish Christmas at Pear Tree Farm’ Ashley instigates a Christmas festival full of the Cornish equivalent of the German markets only with Cornish craft gin and mince pies.

'Despite the emptiness in her heart, Ashley smiled at the scene in front of her. For this first day of “Christmas, Cornish Style” the air carried a suitably festive cold bite, the sky was a stunning clear blue and the sun hadn’t stopped shining. With a little over three weeks to go until Christmas, they’d apparently timed it perfectly to pull in the crowds. It’d been non-stop since they opened at ten this morning, and she was about run ragged trying to make sure the food and craft vendors had everything they needed. She’d heard that things were equally busy down at the farm and most of the visitors she’d spoken to were checking out both venues.'

Here's wishing you a peaceful and warm Christmas, Evonne however you choose to celebrate or not!

Aww! Thanks Angela. I do like the elements of a traditional Christmas and it looks like Christmas Markets are popular - Helen mentioned them too, last week.

I must admit I fell for the cover of Berni Stevens  Christmas book Laughing All the Way on the Jingle Bells Express because it has a train on the cover. I have a thing for trains.  As you might guess - Berni's Christmas  is a bit different. 

Decorating the tree is a very special job in our house. Of course, we have a cat who likes to pull the decorations off the tree, and run off with anything from the decorations box that takes her fancy, so it can often take longer than we planned.

Our decorations are not exactly traditional, sparkly of course, just not traditional. Anyone who’s ever been to the US, will have discovered their various Christmas shops (usually open all year round), and it wasn’t long before I started collecting tree ornaments from the various places we visited. Because we always go to the South-West desert areas of the Four Corners region, there are a lot of Native American tree decorations in our collection, and chilli lights too, bought from the Cameron Trading Post in Arizona. We even have a lot of Day of the Dead ornaments, including some very sparkly skulls!

Sam, our son, brought some lovely tree decorations back from a trip to India, and we have quite a few sparkly bats. (As in the mammals not cricket bats!) Most people know of my love for all things Gothic and Dracula-related, and the bats have really multiplied over the years.

In Laughing All the Way, the passengers on the Jingle Bells Express receive Christmas tree decorations in their crackers, although theirs are more traditional than ours. I don’t believe they received any skulls!

I imagine most families have Christmas traditions, I don’t think we have too many, not set in stone anyway. Apart from my, ‘we must have a REAL Christmas tree’ insistence every year. I know they shed needles everywhere ... even when I buy the Nordic blue spruce which isn’t supposed to shed, but we live in a half-timbered cottage, and there is no way an artificial tree would look very good (although they are getting better). But they don’t smell do they? Our house needs to smell like Christmas ...

I like to do table presents for everyone on Christmas Day – just something small, sometimes silly, and often edible – and we always have crackers ... some of these ideas have crept into my book, as you’d expect, but with more than a little Christmas magic added. There are a lot of Christmas trees in the book too – and yes, they’re all real ones.

My parents used to live in a small Sussex village near Pevensey Castle, in whose grounds the annual Boxing Day tug-of-war contest was usually held. The winners got bottles of wine, but the losers got drenched in the river when the champions pulled them in. It was a good incentive to try very hard to win! There are a lot of ghost stories associated with the area, not least because of Pevensey Marshes, which can look creepy even in the day time during the winter, because of the sea mists rolling in. Unsurprisingly, the Marshes get a brief mention in Laughing All the Way too. There’s not the room here to tell any of the ghost stories ... but I’ll just say that my cousin’s dog slipped his leash one dark evening in December during a walk in the Castle grounds. He took off towards home like a bat out of hell, howling all the way (definitely not laughing!) When my cousin got home, she found him cowering under the dining table, shivering from head to paws. She never knew what he’d seen or heard.

Enjoy the wonderful time of Christmas and I wish you all a happy healthy New Year.

Definitely a creepier kind of Christmas.

And I'm definitely thawing, if that is the right word. The traditional elements of Christmas - carols, nativity plays, decorated trees, do have a special magic. Now I'm wondering what Kirsty and Marie will have to to say next week to finish off the job of convincing me. 

The festive reads from Angela and Berni are available as e-books and paperbacks. Both Angela's books take you back to locations we first met in the summer - Little Penhaven and Pear Tree Farm.

Pairing up at Pear Tree Farm in time for Christmas … Pear Tree Farm in Cornwall, owned by the kind-hearted Nessa Vivian, is known for taking in lost souls, and ex-soldier Crispin Davies is certainly one of those. But the once sleepy caravan park is now a thriving business, and far from the peace and quiet Crispin was craving, he soon finds himself roped into helping out with a short-notice Christmas festival, organised by Nessa’s force-of-nature sister, Lowena. But despite Crispin’s initial reluctance, his involvement in the festival serves to throw him together with Ashley Spencer, an American woman and fellow lost soul, who works at the nearby Tregereth House. Could Lowena’s ambitious scheme result in a more hopeful Christmas and New Year for them both – with a few surprises along the way?

You can buy yourself a copy HERE

Wannabe author Jane Solomon is expecting an uneventful Christmas in her Cornish village of Little Penhaven. But then super fit American gym owner Hal Muir comes to town, and suddenly the holiday season looks set to be far more interesting. Hal is keen on embracing every British tradition on offer, from mince pies to Christmas pub quizzes – and perhaps some festive romance too …

The book is available HERE

You can find Angela on Twitter @AngelaBritnell

And if you fancy a Christmas train ride with Berni 

If you received a mysterious invitation for a fun-filled festive train ride the week before Christmas, would you go?

When teacher Dee Nicholls receives her invitation, she isn’t sure what to make of it. Surely it’s some kind of joke to get her out of bed early on a weekend? Perhaps a clever festive marketing ploy?

But as the Christmas countdown begins, it becomes clear that Dee isn’t the only “Jingle Bells Express” invitee. There are other people out there who have received the same invitation: Tom the intern, Rachel the aspiring writer, Dylan the musician and his dog Muttley – and they’re not the only ones!

Could the unusual festive journey they eventually take together show them all the true meaning of Christmas, and also that happiness is sometimes right in front of you – if you just take the time to look?

Buy the book HERE

Berni is on twitter @Berni_Stevens1

See you next week with the last of my Christmas Guests. 

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Christmas Guests - Part One


This is Timmy, helping me drink
 the Christmas tea selection.

As I explained last week, a few of my fellow Choc-lit and Ruby authors have got together to convince me that I don't really hate Christmas.  I've settled down with today's tea from the advent calendar - its a Rooibos - Movie Night Popcorn - very smooth with a toffee flavour. With another minature Santa from the chocolate calendar I'm looking forward to hearing what Ella and Helen have to say. 

Welcoming Helen Bridgett first - talking about Christmassy things featured in her new book from Ruby Fiction  Christmas at Serenity Bay.

Oh Evonne, how can you not love Christmas!  Here are 3 of my favourite things.

1.      The coast at Christmas

My latest novel – Christmas at Serenity Bay – is set on the glorious Northumberland coast. It is a beautiful place to go for a walk and one of our traditions is to take a long walk before we settle down for Christmas lunch. The sky is always stunning steely blue colour with wispy clouds and the sea is often wild but although you have to wrap up well, it’s simply wonderful. One year, we even had snow on the sand!


2.      Christmas Markets

My main character has no idea what to get her boyfriend for Christmas so sets off on a trip into town where the Christmas lights are sparkling and the market is in full swing. I love the atmosphere when there’s a Christmas market in town and I think we’ll enjoy them all the more this year. Getting together with friends over a glass of mulled wine really does mark the start of festivities for me. In Newcastle, one particular highlight is always Fenwick’s window which every year features a fabulous animation of a famous Christmas story or pantomime.

3.      Feel-good films

In my novel, Serenity Bay is playing host to a production crew who are filming an episode of the cosy crime – Montgomery Murders. I had an absolute blast writing this as it’s exactly the sort of movie I
love to curl up to at Christmas – the cheesier the better! There’s usually a murder mystery or a musical on TV and as soon as the dishes are cleared – I head for the sofa with the dog snuggled on my lap. He’s a chocolate Labrador – like the one featured in Christmas at Serenity Bay and together, we’re as happy as anyone can be!


Hmm. Well I know about the coast at Christmas as I live about five minutes from the beach, so Helen may have a point there, and I do love shopping ... 

Shall we find out what Ella Cook has to say to try to convince me? She actually celebrated Christmas way back in  August in Summer's Christmas. 

So, why do I love Christmas?


It’s definitely something I’ve inherited from my Mum and Grandmothers who adored the season. And as much as I love the parties and food, it’s more the sentiment behind Christmas that I love.

As a child, I remember big Christmas fetes that Mum, Nan and Grandma would help to arrange – selling beautiful crafts and delicious cakes to raise money. And I remember putting together charity boxes and gifts to share with others. And, as cheesy as it sounds, that’s one of the things I love most about this time of year: goodwill to all mankind. 

Being totally honest, the last few weeks have had a lot of stress in them, and it’s been a little harder to find that Christmas sparkle than most years – something I’m sure a lot of people can understand.  

 But… the tree is now up, the wreath is hung, and the lights are twinkling in time to Christmas music. And despite everything, the magic is starting to creep in.

Christmas triggers something in a lot of people – a sense of wonder that transports us back to childhood, and makes it so much easier to believe in magic. It doesn’t matter how busy I’ve been, or what’s going on in life, there’s something about Christmas lights that just makes me smile, and feel a bit better about everything.

People think of others, and are just a little bit kinder when trees are filled with lights and tinsel – and it’s just a little bit easier to believe in magic. I’m always a bit sad come January when we pack away the decorations, and the lovely sentiments of goodwill to mankind seems to melt as fast a snow. So, I try to keep that spark of magic alive within us long after the tree comes down. And that’s what inspired me to write Summer’s Christmas – a story which brings all the magic, hope and love of the festive season firmly into the rest of the year.

 One of the things I do love about Christmas are the lights. I have been known to take a walk after dark just to admire all the decorations my neighbours have put in their windows. It is not to scout out places that I can dispose of the bodies, despite what my 'friends' will tell you! And Ella is right about the spirit of Christmas - it's not just about food and presents. 

Well I think maybe I'm beginning to mellow a bit about this Christmas thing. We'll have to see what Angela and Berni have to say next week.

If you are looking for a festive read - the details of Ella and Helen's books are below. 

A peaceful Christmas in Serenity Bay? Think again!

Chloe Walsh’s skills as location manager for the beautiful seaside village she calls home have come up trumps again, and Serenity Bay is now the setting for cosy crime drama The Montgomery Mysteries, starring amateur sleuth Dominic Montgomery and his crime-solving dog, Agatha.

But Chloe is in a race against time. Filming has to finish before the village Midwinter Festival but schedules are tight – and a mystery saboteur is intent on slowing things down even further. Not only is Chloe facing problems with the shoot, she also has some personal conundrums to solve – a diva actor has commandeered her flat, her mum is having a late mid-life crisis, plus she has no idea what to buy for her Christmas-obsessed boyfriend!

Can Chloe sort out her life and save Christmas for an entire village?

You can find the book to buy HERE

Helen can be found on Twitter at @Helen_Bridgett

Summer’s Christmas is a Christmas/Summer crossover and mash-up where a village must come together to not only raise a child – but maybe save a little girl’s life. Here’s the blurb: 

Summer by name and summer by nature – that’s how people describe Evelyn’s happy, outgoing daughter. Even if her favourite time of year is actually Christmas!

But Summer has gone through more than any eight-year-old ever should, and that’s part of the reason Evelyn is leaving everything behind to return to her childhood home in the village of Broclington; just her, Summer and Summer’s best friend – a Shiba Inu dog called Tilly. 

Unsurprisingly, Evelyn is hesitant to let anyone else in, although local vet Jake Macpearson seems intent on winning her trust.

When Evelyn receives the news that every mother dreads, it’s Jake who comes to the rescue. With the help of the Broclington community, could he be the man to bring festive magic to August, and make all of Evelyn and Summer’s Christmases come at once?

You can find the book to buy HERE

Ella can be found on Twitter at @ellacookwrites


Wednesday 1 December 2021

I Hate Christmas!


That's not quite right. I don't hate Christmas - It's just that unlike some people, it's not really my favourite time of the year - too dark and cold for a start, and you know how I am about warmth and sunshine. As world travel and the bank manager prevent a quick bolt to the Caribbean, I've been looking at ways to celebrate. As you know, authors from Choc-lit and her sister imprint Ruby Fiction are quite good at Christmas books - you might say it's a speciality. And I have written a Christmas book myself, although it was, of course, a Christmas romantic suspense - the result of a challenge from a couple of author friends - and the hero ended up getting kidnapped and nearly murdered. It did have a very traditional snow-bound celebration in the Brecon Beacons in the middle, so it wasn't all bad! 

Anyway, in order to get in the mood for the festivities this year, I've done some preparations. I have two advent calendars - one for tea, from a company called Yawn, and one, of course, for chocolate, from Hotel Chocolat. I've opened the doors for 1 December today. The tea was Black Forest Black Tea - pomegranate, cherry stems, moringa, cocoa beans, cranberry, cornflower and safflower petals (plus the ubiquitous natural flavours) - and very nice too. A very good representation in tea form for the Black Forest gateau, for those of you old enough to remember when that was all the rage. It was loose tea, so I had to find my grandmother's little teapot to make it! The chocolate  was a mini Father Christmas - and he tasted good too.  

I'll update you on what is behind future doors in the posts this month, running up to the big day. I've had a scout around on the contents list for the tea and am particularly looking forward to sampling Ruby Amaretto on 11th, Sleigh Ride Tea Toddy on 14th and  Chocolate Fondue on 22nd, but there are plenty of other interesting ones in between too.   

The other thing I have done is invite some of 'the family' who have Christmas books out this year to come on the blog and tell me a few things from the books that will convince me that I really don't hate Christmas at all. I'm sure they will manage it - they are a talented bunch - and we will all have a some fun with it too. So in the next three weeks I'll be welcoming Kirsty Ferry, Angela Britnell, Marie Laval, Berni Stevens and starting off next week with  Helen Bridgett and Ella Cook, who actually celebrated Christmas in July! 

I hope you will join us and help me get into the Christmas spirit.