Riva and Harlequin Presents author Heidi Rice offers up an excerpt from her new book On the First Night of Christmas and talks about why she loves writing Christmas stories!
I expect everyone's already groaning now at the thought of me mentioning Christmas when it's still November! Already the tinsel and tacky fairy lights have hit the shops, the Regent Street lights have been switched on and I'm frantically trying to buy everything I need online so I don't have to venture anywhere near the West End in December.
But I have to admit even though I do as much groaning as the next person about all the money spent and time involved in the Festive Season.... I secretly love it! So much so that I've set three of the 12 books I've so far written for Mills and Boon at this time of year. Why? Well, apart from the fact that there's really no more romantic time in the calendar (and I include Valentine's Day, which I find a bit too obvious for my liking!) - I find Christmas is also a great time to really ramp up a good internal conflict. Because Christmas for people who don't have families, or a significant other isn't always as wonderful as it should be, in fact it can be a bit of an ordeal, and with the new year looming it can also be a time of reflection - when people take stock of their lives and are forced to face what might be lacking. And what better time to make your hero and heroine deal with all that, when they're also trying to negotiate all the other delicious relationship conflicts you're about to hurl into their paths.
When I started writing On the First Night of Christmas, I had a very clear idea of who my hero and heroine were.. And both of them had a reason to dread Christmas this year.
My heroine Cassie, a children's book illustrator, is normally a bright, sweet Christmas enthusiast (who is also a bit of a shopaholic - which doesn't hurt). But after breaking up with her fiance earlier in the year, she's dreading waking up on Christmas morning alone for the first time since her mother died. Her ex- was a major mistake and she knows she should never have agreed to marry the guy in the first place - but that isn't making the thought of her empty flat and the absence of presents under the tree any more enchanting. She's on the look-out for a Christmas fling - but one that will come with absolutely no strings attached, because she isn't ready to risk her heart again, just yet.
My hero Jace, on the other hand, had a much darker reason to dislike Christmas. That said, he's a successful, well-adjusted guy who prides himself on having got over the traumas of his childhood. He's not a big fan of the festive season, but he doesn't hate it. He's just not sentimental about it. At all. And he hates shopping. And what he dislikes even more is having to travel over from his new home in New York back to the city which holds a lot of memories he thought he'd forgotten about for good.
So when Cassie gets splashed while window shopping on Oxford Street by some bozo in a Mercedes, she's sure her bad luck is getting worse. Until she jumps in the car to stop said bozo driving off without apologising, and finds the dagnerous bad boy she once had a major crush on in school.... Now all grown up and even more dangerous.
Sparks are soon flying between these two as their sexual chemistry ignites - and with them both having a very good reason to want a little distraction over the festive season, it's not long before they're indulging in a very hot Christmas fling.
But what they both think is going to be a lot of fun, soon turns into a lot more than either of them bargained for. Cassie knows about Jace's past - or enough to realise that he's not quite as well-adjusted as he thinks. While Jace becomes captivated by a woman who introduces him to all the joy and good will that the season has always lacked for him.
Here's a little excerpt, which I adored writing, when Cassie gives Jace a Christmas present on Christmas morning...
Taking the brightly wrapped parcel and card perched on the top, she carried it back to him. ‘Merry Christmas, Jace,’ she said, presenting the gift.
Instead of taking it, he pushed his hands into the pockets of his robe, a puzzled frown creasing his brow. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.
‘It’s a Christmas present,’ she said brightly, holding it up. But his hands stayed buried in his pockets, the confused frown becoming more acute as he stared at the present, as if it were an unexploded bomb.
‘But I told you, I don’t bother with Christmas presents,’ he said, his eyes lifting to hers.
She lowered the present, the flutter in her chest turning to a deep pounding beat as she registered the expression on his face. She’d expected him to be surprised. But she’d persuaded herself that the decision to buy the present was simply to thank him for giving her back that part of herself she’d lost. She had to admit now though, that the decision had also been a little bit of a ploy, to jolt him out of his cynicism about Christmas. What she hadn’t expected however, was the dazed shock in his eyes. Seemed she’d given him a bit more than a jolt.
‘I didn’t get you anything,’ he said, his voice hoarse, his stance stiff.
‘I know,’ she said, emotion gripping her chest at the thought that he would be worried about that. ‘I didn’t expect you to.’ Taking his arm, she lifted his hand out of his pocket, placed the gift in his open palm. ‘It’s just a token, Jace. To say thank you, for everything you’ve given me over the last week.’
‘What have I given you?’ he said, the dry note of suspicion strangely defensive.
‘Lots of really amazing sex,’ she said lightly, but as she saw his stance relax a little she realised he’d given her so much more than that.
Being with him had been exciting and exhilarating, it had liberated her from the mistakes of her past relationships. Instead of worrying about the future, and where things were leading, with him she’d been able to stay in the moment, to enjoy their relationship for what it was with none of the weight of responsibility. And she’d had fun. More fun than she’d ever had before. Christmas had been something she’d been dreading this year, because she was going to be alone on Christmas morning, which would have reminded her a bit too forcefully of her first Christmas without her mother.
The rush of tenderness from the day before intensified. She knew she couldn’t tell him any of that. Because it would alter their fling in a way neither of them wanted. But giving him the present seemed like the perfect way to say it without words.
Awww!! So now you know why I love to write Christmas Stories...
And just to prove how much I love Christmas too, I'm giving away a copy of this
book to one lucky commentator. So go on, tell me about your favourite Christmas
tradition, or your favourite Christmas-set romance. After all it is the Season
to be Tempted!
On the First Night of Christmas is currently available in the
US (as a Harlequin Presents Extra), in the UK (as a Riva) and in Australia (as a Mills and Boon Sexy). Heidi loves to hear from readers through her website,
her blog, her Facebook page or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice)