Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Romantic Fiction That Was Paris...

By Benh LIEU SONG (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Although I'd travelled widely in my native England, I was eighteen before I set foot outside of the UK. My first serious boyfriend arranged a romantic week for three in Paris. That's right - three. Now, before you get carried away with ideas of athletic high jinks in the land of the menage a trois, you should know something that I didn't when I signed up for this trip of my (then) short lifetime. I was booked in to share a room with his  mother. She came along to keep an eye on him - not me. It served me right for dating an early manifestation of The Big Bang Theory's Howard Wolowitz!

The Mrs W template and I had a wonderful time sightseeing, doing all the usual touristy things and ganging up on my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. I chalked up another first on that trip when I visited a supermarket - in those days, we didn't have them where I came from. Imagine it! You can tell how long ago it was - Carrefour seemed like a fairy palace. I'd never seen so much stuff for sale in one place before.

It was all a far cry from the Paris I'd been led to expect from Paul Gallico's Flowers For Mrs Harris. I can never hear Humphrey Bogart say "We'll always have Paris..." in Casablanca without remembering my unintentionally hilarious visit, although it did sow the seed that eventually became my Harlequin Historical novel, Lady Rascal. This was originally published back in the 1990's, long before the arrival of ereaders, so I've just brought out an ebook version.  Here's a taste of it -

Finding herself in a Parisian dressmaker's shop, poverty-stricken Madeleine has grabbed the chance to dress up in the glamorous accessories and impractical shoes she has only been able to dream about until now...

 Madeleine suddenly saw something she couldn’t live without a moment longer. Picking up one of the candles, she took three wobbling steps out from behind the safety of the counter. Balancing precariously in front of a long mirror, she took down the wisp of gossamer that hung beside it.
It was a shift of some description, needing only the hem to be finished. But what a shift! Almost transparent, the fine fabric rippled through Madeleine’s gloved fingers like water. It was all she needed to complete her outfit.
In a moment her work dress of coarse brown stuff had been cast aside. It took her a few minutes to work out how to get into the shift, which had no fastenings but pulled on over her head. At last she managed, arranging the folds of fabric about her painfully thin body.
It clung to her like pale mist, flowing with every movement and making graceful her stumbling steps in the borrowed shoes. She was entranced, and so beguiled that the running footsteps outside went unnoticed. Only when a foreign voice called out very close at hand did she jump out of her dream.
Then panic turned her to water. To be found here, dressed like this would be certain death. Like an idiot she had not thought to douse the candles, and now it was too late.
The door flew and a large shadow rippled through the shop towards her.
With a scream Madeleine dropped the candle she held...
I’d love to hear what you think of Lady Rascal, and whether you have ever looked forward to a romantic moment only to have it turn out very differently?  There's a signed copy from my backlist for a comment picked at random.
Christina Hollis has written both Historical fiction and Modern Romance/Presents for Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd. She loves to hear from readers - you can contact her through her website.


  1. I loved the snippet for LADY RASCAL thank you.

    I don't think that any romantic moment has ever turned out exactly as expected.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Mary - I think that's the great thing about romance. Expect the unexpected!

  3. My college boyfriend took me for "a drive". What he really did was drive me 45 minutes away to his friend's auto shop, park on a hoist, tell me he'd be right back, and then had the friend put the car way up in the hoist while I was still in it (and afraid of heights). He was mad because ... uh ... my answer was still no (after 3 months of dating), but the joke was on him because I calmly took my romance book out of my purse and read almost the entire book before he brought the car back down. (It's amazing how you don't think about your surroundings so much when you're captivated by a book!) Needless to say, we broke up that day, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me (the break-up, not the hoist trip).

  4. Like Mary I think a romantic moment is never romantic when you want it to be. The most romantic moments are those you didn't expect.

  5. Hi, Laney, thanks for commenting. What a terrifying story! That's another good reason for cultivating the great habit of reading, so you've always got a book to hand.. You're right that it takes you to another place, and what a relief you found out what that guy was like sooner, rather than later!

  6. Thanks for commenting Stefanie - you're right: sometimes the most romantic times are those little gestures like tea in bed, or an unexpected bunch of flowers. It's the people involved who make a moment romantic.

  7. I know it's late but got my copy of Lady Rascal few two weeks ago Christina, and I so love it, I love the old version of the cover, reminds me of the classic books, Wuthering Heights, Three Musketeers that we used to have. Thanks for the personalize message too, it touched me so much! :)

  8. You're very welcome, Lory - I love sending out prizes, and I'm so glad you like "Lady Rascal"!

  9. Hi Christina! I really enjoyed the blurb about Lady Rascal. I don't think any romantic moment turns out like what we think it will. I remember when my DH and I were on our honeymoon (the first night). We stayed in a motel where there was a drunken party going on next door that had kept me awake for hours. I woke him up and asked him to call the management to complain. He very calmly told me that he had been sleeping through it (thank you very much), and if I wanted to complain to call the front desk myself. Then he promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. Lol! Believe it or not, we have been married for almost 39 years now and still laugh about that night.

  10. thanks for the fun post and giveaway! Ummm... I've got tired brain and I know that I don't have any fun breakup stories to share. But I agree w/ what every one else has said and that romance is more a state of mind than setting ;)

  11. Hi Cathy - thanks for commenting. Your story made me smile - how soon the "Are you awake?" "I am now!" conversation becomes a feature of marriage!

  12. Hi Erin - thanks for commenting. Despite the time printed on my post it's currently 3:20am in the UK and I'm propped in front of the computer full of a cold, so my brain is tired, too! I'm glad you liked my "Lady Rascal" post, and you're right - romance is how you feel about someone and how they make you feel. Everything else is simply added extras.

  13. Thanks again to everyone who commented on my blog - I'm glad you enjoyed the extract from "Lady Rascal".
    Cathy P's name was first out of the draw for a signed book from my backlist. Congratulations, Cathy - drop me a line with your snail mail address to me at christinahollis(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk replacing the words in brackets with @ and . , and I'll get your prize into the post ASAP.

  14. Congratulations, Cathy!

    Pat C.