Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Christmas Present - Bonus Scene

Happy Almost-New-Year! I love this week of the year, the “found” time between Christmas and New Year’s when life slows down enough for me to sit still and take stock before I turn the last calendar page. I reflect on the blessing of the past year and get excited for what’s to come. I always try to take it off from work so I can savor this time.

During this week of “bonus” time, I also have another special bonus to share! This fall, I polled my mailing list about which romance couple they’d like to check in with over the holidays. I gave everyone a choice of four books from my 2017 list and the winner was Matt and Larissa from Second Chance Cowboy. (By the way, if you’re not on my mailing list, sign up here!)  

t was such a pleasure to revisit this couple! I gave them a happy ending in the published story, of course. But the added scene gave me a chance to think more about their happily-ever-after and what it might look like this Christmas. What a joy to savor a healthy, happy relationship between two people who are in love. So much of writing romance involves writing the conflict, the battle to overcome obstacles so the heroine has a chance to build a happy future. This scene gave me the chance to simply revel in the fun stuff.

I hope you take a peek at it, and if you like it, consider downloading the story to see how this brooding cowboy reunited with his dancer heroine in the first place! Read the bonus scene here.

And if you like my Harlequin Desires, drop by the Harlequin website this month to read a free online read of mine, Christmas with the Rich Rancher. It’s a double bonus of free for readers 😊.

Finally, I'd like to give away an advance copy of my February book, For the Sake of His Heir to one random poster who shares with me... how do you traditionally spend your week between Christmas and New Year's? Do you get some quiet time with the family? Do you like making New Year's resolutions or shopping post Christmas sales? Share with me this week and I'll send one reader a copy of For the Sake of His Heir!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

It's Christmas Eve and I'm sure, like me usually on this frenetic day, you will be up to your elbows in Christmas preparations. However, please take some friendly advice and make sure that you make plenty of time for yourself over Christmas, especially if you are the host.

You see, the trouble with hosting is that you are so concerned with making sure that your guests are having a good time that you run yourself ragged seeing to their every need. One thing I have learned after years and years of hosting is to do as much in advance as you possibly can. Christmas Eve is always a cooking day for me. I precook everything that I can- Yorkshire puddings, desserts- and prep everything else including the vegetables. That way, I get to sit down with a glass of bubbles on Christmas day and join in the fun which I am denied in the kitchen.

This year though, I had to be super organised. All my pre-cooking, present buying and decorating happened weeks ago. You see, with impeccable timing, as you read this I will be on a plane coming home from my Christmas present from Mr H, a lovely trip to Barbados. I land at Heathrow at 7.30am tomorrow and once I get home my lovely son and daughter will hopefully have started making Christmas dinner in my stead. I can't wait! This is the first Christmas in twenty-one years I haven't had to completely host and I hope its the first of many now that my children are adults.

I hope yours is filled with family and friends too...

Happy Holidays!

Virginia Heath's Christmas Regency Romantic Comedy His Mistletoe Wager is out now!

His Mistletoe Wager is out now


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dani Collins: A Year with the Sauveterres

In the next few days, the final book in my Sauveterre Siblings quartet will hit the shelves. I'm very excited for Trella to come out of seclusion and into the light.

It was probably two years ago that I sent a proposal to my editor at Mills & Boon in London, suggesting a mini-series about two sets of identical twins, older brothers and younger sisters. They're a very wealthy, glamorous family. Their father was a French tycoon, their mother is Spanish aristocracy. Think Kardashians on steroids.

I knew there had to be a thread that ran through the series and decided the youngest sibling, Trella, had been kidnapped as a child. Initially, I pitched her story as the second in the series.

My editor had a few suggestions, one being that Trella's story should come last. I agreed with her and started writing. And writing. And writing. I lived with the Sauveterres a long time. With each successive book, I gave Trella more baggage. By the time I got to her story, this poor woman hadn't left the house in years.

That's not quite true, but due to panic attacks and other traumas, she was only beginning to experiment with being in public by impersonating her sister--which is what she is doing when she meets Prince Xavier.

He thinks he slept with her sister, Angelique. In book one, he learns Trella tricked him. Then in successive books, he learns she's pregnant, but she refuses to take his calls. She has reasons. Trella always has reasons. She has been through a lot, but she's not a victim. She's resilient and independent and determined to shape her own future despite her difficult past.

Except she's carrying the next ruler of Elazar. Xavier has to kidnap her to have a conversation with her and insists she marry him to legitimize his heir. It's supposed to be a marriage of convenience, but, well, it turns out they still can't keep their hands off each other. And then more stuff happens, because Trella is nothing if not a drama-magnet.

As I was finishing up this book, the first in the series came out. I've spent all of 2017 anxiously watching and waiting, hoping each of my Sauveterres would find a warm welcome. So far, so good, but Trella is my favourite. (Shh.) I'm scared for her, but I'm excited, too. I hope you like her.

Back cover copy:
Carrying the prince’s secret heir!  
For one night, reclusive heiress Trella Sauveterre throws off the fear-ridden shackles of her childhood abduction—succumbing to a sizzling seduction, she falls unexpectedly pregnant! Deeply uncomfortable in the spotlight, Trella can’t bear a high-profile pregnancy and keeps the identity of her baby’s father hidden… 
Then a tabloid photo of a scorching kiss implicates Crown Prince Xavier of Elazar in the scandal. He’ll do anything to claim his shock child—even kidnapping Trella! Now Xavier must legitimize his son. And it’ll be his pleasure to make Trella his royal bride!

Learn more about Prince's Son of Scandal here.

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with some laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life. Mostly she writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of forty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing. She lives in Christina Lake, BC with her high school sweetheart husband who occasionally coaxes her out of her attic office to visit their grown children.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Hamilton West End: Beating the Hype by Michelle Styles

The adventure started back in August 2016 when my daughter who was visiting friends and relations in the US discovered the Hamilton soundtrack. She then learned that it was coming to London and was determined to go. At this point I became hooked on the soundtrack and agreed it would be a good idea. When the pre-booking opened in January 2017, my daughter gave up her lunch time and secured two seats. The great Styles December London trip was on.
Since January whenever I have hit any set backs, I was told myself – I have Hamilton tickets to look forward to and it is going to be great. 
The hype surrounding the trip and indeed the musical increased as the months went on as my daughter and I worked out what we were going to do. I sort of worried it might not live up to expectations. Could anything  be that good? 
Afternoon tea at the Wolseley (scones under the dome)
The biggest hiccup was waking on Monday morning and discovering the local train was running very late due to adverse weather conditions. Cue defrosting two cars very quickly and then driving to the station with a half-frozen windscreen which did not thaw until halfway through the journey (about the same time I started to feel my fingers).  I was not about to miss my shot. We  are arrived with a few minutes to spare. My daughter who is supremely organised had managed to bag first class seats during a sale in August so we had breakfast as the train sped through the snow landscape.
London in the snow was magical and felt like being in Christmas romance novel. My editor did a historical walking tour of Borough on the way to lunch. I got to see a coaching inn in the snow and could easily imagine what it would look like with stage coaches. We found part of a Tudor building when searching  for the remains of the Marshalsea prison where Dickens’s father was imprisoned.  Lunch with my editor was everything an author’s lunch should be and included a tour of the offices, complete with a sunset (I decided to live in the moment and not take a bad photo).
The next day included a 6 hour visit to the V&A museum (Winnie the Pooh, dresses and period rooms all featured) and afternoon tea at the Woleseley before Hamilton.
The set of Hamilton before the show started from our seats
Hamilton does live up to its hype. The pre-show atmosphere buzzed. In part because they had run out of programmes (arrived at the interval), theatre-goers spoke to each other – mostly to apologize in advance if they screamed too much. Everyone there was a fan of the show. One lady whom I later realized was Edwina Currie (a former British politician) confessed she had already booked more tickets as she knew she would love the show. She had taken the same approach as my daughter – follow the instructions, give up a lunch time and book in advance.  
The staff behind the bar coughed that the reason for plastic glasses was that the dishwashers were not yet installed (they are still refurbishing the theatre during the day). The wine was very good, no matter what sort of glass it was  in.
The show excelled. The soundtrack is basically the show (so more opera than a play with songs) BUT it is how the actors present it And the sheer energy behind the live performance. I suspect London is the only place George III gets a bigger than George Washington, the first time he appears. The actors appeared to feed off the buzz in the theatre and really responded. The stand out actors in a stellar cast were Jameal Westman who plays Alexander Hamilton and makes the part his own (first production he has starred in and is utter mixed-race hero inspiration material – The Times proclaimed a star is born and I can see why), Rachelle Ann Go who played Eliza  and who has a voice which does not quit and Giles Terara who played Aaron Burr and held the whole thing together. The experience is why people go to live theatre. Totally unforgettable. I was completely blown away. The standing ovation at the end went on until they turned on the lights.

If you can go see Hamilton, do – particularly in London.  The libretto is very clever and it bears listening to the soundtrack several times before you go. I suspect it will be seen in time for a revolution in musical theatre. For me, this was one time the show more than exceeded its considerable hype. Just book tickets in advance and go as then you have the added bonus of being able to think --ah but I have Hamilton tickets and it is going to be a great night.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin and Mills & Boon historical. Her next book will be published in March 2018 The Warrior's Viking Bride. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christina Hollis: Hello Winter, Goodbye Whole Foods...

Alex's first taste of snow, with me in the distance.
We're snowed in at the moment, half a mile from the nearest road. We’ll have dug our way out to civilisation by the time you read this, but the threat of power cuts here in rural Gloucestershire is constant in winter. It pays to stock up with the basics in late autumn, as it only takes an inch of snow to make the steep and winding country lane leading to Tottering Towers impassable.

My post today is seasonal, and sad. One of the places where we used to shop at Christmas has closed down, and around eighty people have lost their jobs. Whole Foods Market only had a couple of stores in this country outside of London. A few days ago their    “local” (it was about twenty-five miles away from us) outlet shut down.

It was far too expensive for us to shop there regularly, but for the occasional lunch and impulse-buying session it was a real treat. The last time I visited, just before it closed, I picked up all the fruits, nuts and spices for our Christmas cakes, puddings and treats.  Although the store was situated in a weird place, it always seemed to be busy, and it employed a lot of people. Goodbye, WFM. You’ll be missed.

To mark its passing, here's my version of a favourite Christmas song...

On the first day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
My lunch in a little brown tray
On the second day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Sauerkraut and kimchi
On the third day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Three local cheeses
On the fourth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Four rocky roads
On the fifth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Five sourdough loaves!
On the Sixth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Six spotted Quails’ Eggs
On the Seventh day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Seven types of muesli
On the Eighth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Half a pound of nutmegs
On the ninth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Nine vegan salads
On the tenth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Ten scoops of spices
On the Eleventh day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Eleven sorts of tea bag
On the twelfth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market…
… didn’t sell me anything. 
All that’s left is a great big sign saying “Goodbye Forever”.

See you next year!
What’s your favourite place to shop when you’re in the mood for some guilty pleasure?

Be the first to see cover of my next non-fiction book, Women’s Lives in Bristolwhich combines family history with centenary celebration by emailing “subscribe” to christinahollis(at)hotmail(dot) ahead of the big reveal in my end-of-year newsletter!

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written six historical novels, eighteen contemporary novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, gardening, walking her dog, or beekeeping.

Catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at  worldwide.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Have A Holly Jolly....

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Chanukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Happy New Year...Enjoy whatever holiday you're celebrating!

Oh, I love the,, Holidays!
I think that shows in my books.  It turns out that I've written a lot of Holiday romances.  Even in books that aren't precisely holiday romances, there can be a scene or two that focuses on celebrations.

Why?  It's not just my name!

I love writing holiday stories because of my family, friends and the fact they represent glee!  If you follow me on social media you know how much I love glee!  There's something about getting together with people you love and spending time.

This year, the holidays are going to be a bit different here.  We're not getting a tree.  We had a flood in the basement and everything from my family room down there is in the living room up here.  Tomorrow the plumber is coming to install a new back-flow preventer.  Then Monday, the flooring guy is coming to install a tile floor (after ripping up wet carpet, I'm not putting that down again). He's hoping to be done by midweek.  Less than a week before Christmas.  So no tree.

But to be honest, that doesn't dim my Hollyday spirit.  And my kids are part of the reason why.  We all agreed as a family to forgo exchanging presents and are instead donating the money we would have spent to an orphanage.  As every one of my kids said they had everything they needed and gave gleefully gave up their gifts to give to others...well, I don't need a tree.  I don't need anything like that.  My kids are more of a shiny symbol of the season than any tree could be.

Yes.  I love the holidays and have written a lot of holiday stories.  And my family is one of the biggest reasons I believe in and write about the holiday spirit!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be filled with family, friends and the holiday spirit!


Check out some of my HollyDay Stories:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas - covers and giveaways

Last time I posted,I was talking about the arrival of the new copies of   my next book -
 A Proposal to Secure His Vengeance - which is out in January 2018.   January 16th to be precise.  It seems so close now, thankfully - especially when  it has been such a difficult year .  One in which I  had times of wondering if I'd  ever hold a  brand new book  that I'd written  in my hands  ever again.

So it's a delight to know that this new title will be coming out and will be  on the shelves in the new year.

It will be  an interesting time as well because, as many of you may already know, the UK  section of  Harlequin  - Harlequin Mills and Boon -  will be having a new makeover  and launching it in the new year.   The new look is very different - and will create a lot of interest in the  books, I'm sure.

Here's  the sign  that Mills and Boon are using  to mark the start of the makeover.    And here   is the new logo that  will be used from January onwards.

The changes are interesting - and I'll be talking  about them more on my own blog and my Facebook page as the details are released  - and my own  'new look' book appears   in more places.

Perhaps the first thing that people will notice - and the thing that so many  readers have already mentioned to me is that  in the new logo, that traditional symbol of  Romance - the rose of romance  - is now missing from the logo. Instead, the new look includes 'the heart of romance'.

Can you see it ?  Some people haven't been able to spot it - so take a look at that ampersand - &  - between the words Mills  & Boon.  It's not the traditional  & but it's a heart lying on its side with  a line (an arrow? ) through it.

So obviously  - with the new  look covers coming in, the new logo, the new colours - wait and see, there! -  I've been wondering about  the sort of cover design s that make readers want to grab a book  and take it home.

In America, the Harlequin Presents cover has been much the same, almost unchanged, for years and years, and when my  UK cover will be very different  ( think I'd better emphasise that  -very - different ) the one that my lovely American readers  will see will be much the same.  I showed it  last month  - and here I'll include it again.
So  - what about that question I asked you?  What sort of a cover makes you want to grab a book and take it home with you? Do you like that fact that the Presents cover has been around so much it's now described as 'iconic' - or would you like to see a new version?

Later in the month, over on my own blog I'll be looking at some of my older covers - the successful  ones and the - not so great ones!

And as I look at the different covers and other things about books, I'll be offering a book a day  as a giveaway in the lead up to Christmas.

So I'd love to see your comments - and to know what covers you like and the ones you don't. And Charlie the Maine  Coon  of his little sister Ruby will pick a winner from the comments - to win a signed copy of one of my backlist books  this month.

I hope everyone is  enjoying the lead up to Christmas  or whatever festival you're celebrating around this time. I hope the holidays are full of love and happiness and real joy for you all - and most of all, I wish for peace for everyone amongst families and countries so that we can all enjoy this special time.

Next year I'll be back to celebrate the publication of A Proposal To Secure His Vengeance.   But in the mean time I'll be running other 12 Days of Christmas giveaways  over on my personal blog  and on my Facebook page    so perhaps I'll see you there  - and maybe Ruby  or Charlie will pick your name as one of my  12 Days  winners.

Happy  Christmas - and Happy Holidays  to everyone. See you in 2018!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Sunny Christmas wishes – Kandy Shepherd

I know it’s a cliché to say “I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas already”–but I really can’t! The year seems to have zoomed by. Fortunately I just finished a story for Harlequin Romance (to be published next July) so can now turn my mind to all things Christmas. For me, this doesn’t just involve putting up the tree, shopping, and wrapping and cooking but also a huge clean up of the house!

In Australia where we live that means thoughts of a summer Christmas. But even though it is likely to be hot, we Aussies tend to gather for a “traditional” Christmas meal based on a northern hemisphere winter Christmas. My family have a predominantly English background so that means a hot meal and lots of baked goods! I don’t care much for the rich cakes and puddings made from dried fruits but I’m very partial to shortbread.

Wherever you are in the world I’d like to wish Tote Bags ’n’ Blogs readers a very Merry Christmas and for those who don’t celebrate a very happy holiday season. And a big thank you to Lee for having me as a regular blogger.

I don’t have a Christmas book out this year but my 2016 Christmas novella Millionaire Under the Mistletoe is still available at e-retailers for just $0.99. 

Harlequin is also offering a festive season boxed set for just $US1.99 at e-retailers that includes my GiftWrapped in Her Wedding Dress which is a Christmas story I really loved writing!

And of course next year you can meet my gorgeous Greek tycoon hero Cristos in my February 2018 release Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon available in the UK and Australia in January and the US in February.

See you all next year!  


 Kandy Shepherd is a multi-published, award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives on a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her family and a menagerie of four-legged friends.

Visit Kandy at her website

Connect with Kandy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram