Book Group: The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop by Beth Good – reviewed by Rachael Thomas

My book choice for this month’s read was chosen with the criteria of a short, fun read. As soon as I saw it, I knew this book was the perfect choice and the title drew me in. I love all things chocolate related so The Oddest Little Cho51a0UC+RExL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_colate Shop by Beth Good was just perfect!

The heroine, Clementine, reminded me of Bridget Jones, who I love, so I was more than happy to follow Clementine through her adventures in this book. I laughed at her misfortune and rooted for her to get her man. Dominic is the French owner of the chocolate shop – and he’s totally delicious!

This well written, witty romance is a perfect pick-me-up to enjoy during these dark winter days. I could easily picture the chocolate shop and certainly taste each chocolate. I can’t help wondering how much research went into that part of the story!

I loved the fluffy cat that appeared in the beginning and weaved its way throughout the story, linking beautifully at the end. As for Clementine and Dominic, well they did live happily ever after, but you’ll have to read it to find out how.

The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop by Beth Good.

Next month Helen Phifer will be reviewing her choice of Shallow Waters by DI Hannah Robbins #1

Wednesday Wondering – Life Swap with a Fictional Character

Hello there and welcome to the first Wednesday Wondering of the year. Hope the first two weeks of 2015 have been good to you and, if not, there are still 50 to go so plenty of time for improvement.

How many times have you read a book and recognised yourself in the protagonist? Or perhaps one of the characters says or does things that you’d love to do if you were older/younger/prettier/slimmer/taller/more daring/less self-conscious and so on. What if you could swap lives with that protagonist? How exciting would that be?

With this in mind, my question for The Write Romantics this month is:

If you could leap into any book, current or historical, which character would you like to be and why?

P1060112I’ve read hundreds of books in my time and I have definitely related to characters (particularly Bridget Jones) and I’ve definitely been envious of where other characters get their happy ever after (particularly  classics brought to life on the big or small screen like Emma and Pride & Prejudice) but there is only one occasion in my life where I’ve absolutely wanted to be someone else. So much so that I used to actually write her name in books and on other possessions. The name of the character was Darrell Rivers which will probably bring back memories for so many of you as the protagonist of Enid Blyton’s wonderful Malory Towers series.

I loved Darrell right from the start as a rather sullen judgmental character who made quite a few mistakes right through to the mature, popular individual she became at the end. Talk about a major character arc! I would imagine she went on to be incredibly successful with a wonderful partner and perfect children and never had to diet in her life. So who wouldn’t want to be her!

Here’s what the rest of the WRs said …

Alys says …

photo-1When I started thinking about this I realised that although I’d love to say Elizabeth Bennett if I actually had to live her life I wasn’t sure I could handle Regency plumbing. So it had to be someone post-1900 and then the answer was obvious. You’ve all heard me bang on about Dorothy L Sayers and my love of Lord Peter Wimsey. If I was going to live a character’s life then I’d want to be Harriet Vane, the crime novelist that Lord Peter falls in love with. Harriet has an amazing life. She’s a very successful writer, she studied at Oxford, goes on healthy walking holidays in Devon (where obviously she finds a corpse!) and has dates in glamorous nightspots with Lord Peter. There is just one complication which is that she also gets tried for the murder of her former lover. Obviously she’s not guilty as Lord Peter proves but she spends rather a lot of time in prison and the penalty for murder at that time was hanging so I’d really rather avoid all of that. So if I could take over just before the start of Have His Carcase then that’d be great, thanks!

Lynne says …

It wasn’t till I thought about this post that I realised that many of the heroines of books I’ve enjoyed are tragic heroines!

But there is one who is totally not a tragic figure, more a very lucky person indeed, and this is Elizabeth Bennett, heroine of Pride and Prejudice, who learns during the course of the story to ditch her pride and prejudice and take up with the totally dashing and handsome Darcy who comes complete with a huge and very beautiful home.

Anyone who knows me will know that I love ancient buildings and help run the Gloucestershire group of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings which was started by William Morris. I also had a couple of false starts in the relationship department, it took me a while to find someone who was a worthy partner.

Together they make an irresistible package, handsome and kind man with a ready made property ready to fill with babies, what more could any girl ask for? So, without a doubt, Elizabeth Bennett is my choice!

Jo says …

P1060110I thought about trying to come across as intellectual when answering this question, but then I thought “stuff it, I’ll be honest instead!” I think, at times when I need comfort, there isn’t anything better than returning to the books I read and loved as a child – nothing quite gives me that cosy feeling and sense of home. If I had to have one feeling for the rest of my life, it would be that and so it is one of these characters I have to choose. My dad always read Wind in the Willows to me and I wouldn’t mind being Mole. He’s got a close group of friends and he overcomes his fears but ultimately loves nothing better than his home life. Sounds, good to me.

P1060111I loved Paddington and Winnie the Pooh growing up too and, if I became a bear, I could give up the battle to try and lose weight that I’ve tried to fight (mostly unsuccessfully) for my whole adult life. Plus, who doesn’t love the cover-all-qualities of a duffle coat? However, I think it’s Pooh’s friend, Tigger, I’d most like to be. His boundless energy, capacity for bouncing and, as AA Milne put it, “love for everything” has to be a recipe for happiness, so I’ll take that.

Rachael says …

This is a great wondering, but the question is whether to go for a modern character or a historical one?

School_Gate final jpegIf I were to choose a historical character it would have to be Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, a favourite for many I’m sure. Her constant denial of Mr Darcy throughout the story holds you from the beginning to the end. But what did she really think? Stepping into her shoes would be a fascinating experience. Check out this link.

On the other hand, to choose a modern character, I’d like to leap into Kerry Fisher’s The School Gate Survival Guide, a book we reviewed last year in our book group. I so want to be Maia and sort that no-good-for-nothing husband of hers out. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

Deirdre says …

Friends at Thrush GreenI’ve always thought I’d like to be Miss Read.  Miss Read is the pen-name of Dora Saint, and she appears as a character/narrator in many of her own books which are based largely on her own life experiences.

The stories are set deep in the heart of1950s rural Oxfordshire. Miss Read is headmistress of the village school at Fairacre and lives in the adjoining school house with her cat, Tibby. Despite her friends’ attempts at matchmaking, she has never married (although Dora herself did), but she is no lonely spinster. She leads a busy and fulfilling life among the lively inhabitants of Fairacre and the neighbouring village of Thrush Green, and there’s no shortage of children in her life as generations of them have passed through her capable teaching hands.

Fairacre AffairsMiss Read’s life has its moments of high drama but any troubles she encounters always resolve themselves, and then it’s all about jam-making and jumble-sales, tea at the vicarage, and the yearly round that constitutes country life. Post-war Britain was a peaceful yet celebratory time and the villagers needed little excuse to put out the bunting. As the headmistress, Miss Read is a well-loved and respected figure who plays a key part in village life, but at the end of the day she shuts her door, lights the fire and turns to her many books for company. Yes, I’d definitely like a taste of that.

photo-2Helen P says …

If I could be anyone it would be Bella Swan from Breaking Dawn. Who wouldn’t want Edward or Jacob fighting over them. Plus I’d get to be a vampire, I love vampires. I’d also get to drive a really nice Mercedes and sparkle every time I stepped into the sunlight. What more could a girl ask for 😉

Helen R says …

If I could leap into any book I’d like to leap into The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, as any of the children, Jo, Bessie and Fanny! They had such amazing adventures, even just climbing the tree in the first place. What fun it would be to meet Saucepan Man, Moon-Face, and run from Dame Washalot when she pours water down the tree. I’d love to discover new lands at the top of the tree, forever guessing what we would come up against next.

Sharon says …

FollyfootThis is a tricky one. At first I tried to be sophisticated and thought of all those classics – Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca…then I thought, fascinating as those stories are, would I really want to live the life of Jane, Elizabeth or the second Mrs DeWinter? The truth is, I wouldn’t.

So then I tried to think of characters who I thought had fabulous lives and that proved more difficult than I thought, too. The trouble is, of course, that fictional characters have such rollercoaster lives. The very thing that makes them interesting – all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations that they have to endure – is the very thing that makes me think, no thanks. I have quite enough problems to deal with without going through all theirs.

My initial reaction was, I’d like to be Dora from Monica Dickens’ Follyfoot books. Then I thought, but hang on – Dora was ever-so-slightly over-emotional, highly sensitive, suffered the endless angst of worrying about all those poor ill-treated horses, and seemed to spend most of her time in tears. So I scrapped that and tried to think of someone else. But you know what? I kept coming back to Dora, and I think it’s Dora I would choose finally.

Dora and SteveWhen I was a child, she was my absolute heroine, and I thought she had the perfect life. Really, when I look at it I think she did. Okay, she worried endlessly about the fate of all those horses, but we all have to worry about something and I can’t think of a better thing to worry about. Plus – she was surrounded by horses! And she got to rescue so many of them! And she lived at Follyfoot Farm which seemed like pretty much the perfect home to me. She had an uncle who doted on her and friends who shared her compassion and beliefs – even the tearaway, Ron. And she had Steve! I mean, Steve! Even if he did mysteriously change his name from Paul (I suspect something to do with the television series) he was a bit of a sweetheart wasn’t he? And he loved horses, too, while being calm and rational enough to balance and steady Dora who sometimes let her heart rule her head far too much.

So yes, I’d be Dora from Follyfoot. Not the most sophisticated choice, but I think I’d have a jolly nice life!

We’d love to hear from you. Which character would you be and why? What do you think of our choices? Would you go for one of the ones we’ve chosen?

Thanks for reading.

Jessica xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Who Would You Invite To A Dinner Party?

Hello and welcome to this week’s Wednesday Wondering. It’s my turn to think up some questions and I had no idea just how hard it would be, so I take my hat off to all my fellow write romantics who have already filled this slot. My daughter is home from Uni so I have to thank her for this week’s inspiration as she watches ‘Come Dine With Me’ a lot.

This week I asked – if you could have a dinner party and invite anyone, which five guests either fictional or non fictional would you invite and whether or not anyone has had a dinner party. I’ve never hosted a dinner party in my life because of my terrible cooking but I would love to one day.

My five dinner party guests would include: Marilyn Monroe because I adore her and would love to give her a much needed hug and of course get all the gossip about what it was like being such a great Hollywood star back in the fifties. Next up would be Herman and Lily Munster because they were my childhood heroes and Herman was always good for a giggle. I would have to have Mark Darcy – aka Colin Firth because I’d make him wear one of those horrendous jumpers his mother knits and also because I love him in Bridget Jones when he tells her ‘I like you, just the way you are.’ And because my cooking skills are akin to Bridget’s so he would be able to help out in the kitchen. Last but not least I would invite Bridget herself because I think she would be a great giggle, excellent company and probably drink more wine than me 😉

Helen Phifer xx

I’d love to have a dinner party and invite five people from history present company excepted of course. First up would be Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zepplin, whose fantastic voice and music I love. He’s also done some good stuff solo and has the most huggable looks imaginable. At one point he wanted to become a Rudolf Steiner teacher, I like that cos it suggests he cares for people and isn’t a big show-off. Then Beatrix Potter not only for her amazing animal paintings and stories, but for her work painting plants etc too. She was also one of the first conservationists and major benefactors of the National Trust. I’d also love to invite William Morris, for similar reasons to Beatrix. Thomas Hardy would be there too, because if his wonderful descriptions of Victorian Britain, and his love of nature, tradition and people. Last but not least I’d invite Jesus, cos he is just so cool. Fancy coming across a woman about to be stoned to death and saying, ‘OK, carry on. But only throw if you can be absolutely sure that you’ve never made a mistake in your life’ Then everyone drops their stone and walks away – how neat is that!

Lynne

I’d invite Janet Street-Porter because she makes me laugh, and because her success comes purely from her own gritty determination and I admire her for that, even though she can be outrageously forthright.  I’d get her talking about life in sixties London, which would be so useful as research for my current book! Then I’d have Fay Weldon for her talent and graciousness.  Hopefully I’d pick up some writing tips but mostly I’d love to hear stories of her own young days – she was quite a girl and could certainly give Janet a run for her money.  To mix it all up a bit and provide some boisterous fun, I’d invite cute little Ant and Dec. My last guest would be John Torode but I may have to drag him into the kitchen – to take over the cooking, I mean.  Although he is just a little bit fit…

As for having dinner parties in real life – well, no, we’re far too anti-social!

Deirdre

The five guests whom I would invite to a dinner party would be:

1. Mark Darcy  from the books by Helen Fielding…I would like him to turn up in his best Christmas jumper…I think only Colin Firth has the ability to still look sexy in one of those! I love his quintessentially English dry sense of humour too.

2. Heston Blumenthal – well, how interesting would my dinner be then? He could help with preparations to wow all my guests…perhaps some edible wallpaper or a twist on the 1970’s UK school dinners. He has a cheeky look about him too, like he’s always up to mischief, so the dinner would be a lot of fun.

3. Maeve Binchy – She seemed like such a lovely woman and so well grounded for a lady who was so successful. I’d love to hear more about her life experiences and how they shaped ideas for her novels, and how she felt Ireland helped with the romance of her stories.

4. Rapunzel from the movie, Tangled – I’d love to ask her what she would most like to do with her magic hair! I’d probably need a ten seater table though so that she had the extra chairs to rest her locks 🙂

5. Emma Thompson – It would be so interesting to have this lady at a dinner party. I’d love to hear about her various acting roles, her writing for the big screen and how she manages so many avenues in her career including writing more of the Peter Rabbit series written by Beatrix Potter. She seems to have survived the influences of Hollywood too and I admire that

I have had dinner parties before and I do enjoy them, although more so pre children. These days the kids want to help and it just doesn’t work as well! One of my favourites would be the “fondue” party I had for friends when I lived in the UK. We started with the cheese fondue – lovely swiss cheese, white wine and chunks of bread. We followed it up with dessert which was a chocolate fondue…picture myself and three friends all groaning because it was just too much! The worst part was that I poured the remains of the chocolate fondue (made of chocolate and a lot of cream) into an empty bottle and left it in the kitchen to throw out the next day. I came downstairs with a delicate head and saw how the fat had separated from the rest of the mixture…not a good sight when you know you’ve eaten that the night before!

Helen R x

“When I go to a dinner party I’m always more interested in the conversation than the food so I’ve picked people who I think would be really interesting to talk to.  My guest list would be:

Elizabeth Bennett – I’ve loved Lizzy since I read Pride & Prejudice for O’ level English.  She’s witty and intelligent and not afraid to say what she thinks.

Lord Peter Wimsey  – I’ve confessed my love for Lord Peter on previous Wednesday Wonderings.  There’s a big risk in having him as a guest as he’s a bit of a connoisseur and would definitely have opinions about the wine and the food.  However, he’s also one of those people who’s genuinely interested in others (which is probably what makes him a good detective) so as well as telling great stories he’d be willing to listen.

Joss Whedon – This would be a dream come true for me to be able to sit down and have a conversation with the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  There are so many questions I’d want to ask him that I may be in danger of ignoring my other guests.

Richard the Third – yes, I know not an obvious choice but I’m from York and we have strong feelings about Richard.  Quite how I’m going to steer the conversation around to the murder of the princes in the tower I don’t know.  Maybe I could leave that to Lord Peter. With his lovely manners he’s bound to be able to find a way to tactfully ask how the princes died.

Richard Castle – this is a bit of light hearted one but I have a tiny bit of an addiction to US TV series Castle.  Richard Castle is a bestselling writer who starts working with the NYPD as research for his next book. It’s a bit quirky, the dialogue’s witty and Castle is pretty damned gorgeous.  I’d like to sit next to him please!”

Alex

So as you can see a pretty varied guest list in fact I think the easiest thing to do would be to forget the dinner party and have a big party and invite everyone on the list, although there may be a fight for Mark Darcy 😉

How about you do you host dinner parties and who would you invite if you could invite anyone?

Helen xxr

BRAND NEW SLOT!!!! The Wednesday Wondering – Girls Night Out

The Write Romantics have come up with a new regular slot. It’s called “The Wednesday Wondering” and we’ll post it every … you’ve guessed it … Wednesday!

The idea is that one of us (or one of our wonderful followers) poses a question and as many of us as possible answer it in the posting. The question should ideally have some connection to writing, books or romance but I’m sure we’ll squeeze a few random questions in there from time to time. 

We’d absolutely love any of our followers to post a comment with their answer to The Wednesday Wondering and/or pose us a question for future use. We also hope to come up with a graphic for this. I found a fab one online but I’m concerned about copyright issues so apologies for no picture! 

This week’s question was posed by Write Romantic Julie:

If you could go on a girl’s night out with the female lead from any book, who would it be and why?

 

And here’s our responses, alphabetically by name:

ALEX:

I’d like to go on a night out with Rachel from ‘You Had Me at Hello’ by Mhairi McFarlane (which I’ve recently reviewed on the Recommended Reads Page). Rachel is a good Northern girl from Sheffield. She’s smart and she’s very funny.  As she was engaged to a musician I think she must like music which is great because all of my best nights out have involved seeing a band.  I’m also pretty sure she can hold her drink which will be good as I’m a total lightweight so she can prop me up at the end of the night!

 

JO:

I would choose to go out with Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan from Maeve Binchy’s ‘Circle of Friends’. I loved the book and the writer and I think there was probably quite a lot of Maeve herself in the character of Benny.  Benny is someone I can empathise with, her struggles with body image, the loss of her father and having one of the people closest to you betray you, are all experiences I have shared.  Benny is also incredibly warm-hearted and loyal and would be just great to have as a friend, I am sure.  In fact she reminds me of a friend from my earliest school days, but I won’t name names here to protect the innocent!  I would also like to study Benny’s character, as I think Maeve was a fantastic writer.  If a night out with Benny would help me weave even the tiniest trace of Maeve’s magic into my own writing, it would be one of the most well spent evenings out I’ve ever had – much like the RNA conference evenings, I am hoping!

 

JULIE:

It may be a bit predictable but my answer would be Bridget Jones providing she left the cigarettes at home (sorry – pet peeve) because I like that she’s a bit squidgy round the edges (like me, although I’m a lot squidgy!), not exactly a stunner, a bit neurotic and a damned good laugh. Seems like the sort of woman I wouldn’t feel in awe of or put down by and who can relate to the many male and cooking disasters that have haunted me for years

 

LORRAINE:

Miss Marple, because of her razor sharp mind. And we would have a cream tea, and discuss the latest murder in her village. Then maybe I could help her solve it. This obviously would take us into the evening, due to all the suspects.

 

What would your answer be? Please let us know xx