Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WRITERS WEDNESDAY: Heidi Rice talks about Christmas stories! And has an early gift for one commentator!

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)


  1. Favorite Christmas tradition is to have Christmas Breakfast together with my parents, my sister and brother in law and their kids. We then let the kids open their presents. We have lots of fun that morning.

    My favorite Christmas set romance - I'm torn between Chocolate Truffles by Kimberly Kaye Terry and The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber. Family is a key ingredient in both, which is probably why I like them.

  2. Since I lost my parents and older brother Christmas is just another day for me but before that my favorite tradition was the tree decorating where my dad would put the lights on the tree and the rest of us would put on the ornaments. It was a fun time.

  3. I live in a warm climate and when I was six years I wanted to see snow like in the movies and I collected confetti from my mom's office cause it looked similar and on christmas morning I threw it all over the living room. After my mom screamed at the mess, she laughed so hard at my antics. I don't think I lived that down till after new year. As a tradition every christmas morning my mom throws confetti all over living room to start the day even twenty years later it is always the best part of Christmas.

  4. Maria, I love Christmas breakfast in our house too.... My mum always insists on smoked salmon and scrambled egg because my dad used to love it... Luckily his grandsons do too!
    Haven't read either of those stories, will have to check them out.

    Ellen, how terribly sad to hear about your loss, and yes, Christmas always makes these things more acute I think. But so lovely you have such good memories of the day.

    Avi, that made me laugh too... And quite inspired really. Last year we actually had snow at Christmas in the UK and went tobogganing on boxing day! I think we'll be using confetti this year too though!

  5. We have so many Christmas traditions in our house, it's difficult to pick one. I'm worse than the kids when it comes to getting ready for Santa's arrival! I do the decorating, of course, hanging the stockings on the fireplace and covering every inch of the house in festive cheer. But I have to say, I'm lucky and my hubby enjoys making the Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. There's nothing better than the smell of turkey wafting through the house.Especially when you haven't had to lift a finger to cook it :D

  6. Ooh Karina, sounds like the perfect division of labour to me.

    Have to admit we are all piling down to my sister's house in Cambridge this year (rather craftily as her husband is a great cook). Although we all chip in to help with peeling potatoes, trimming sprouts, etc, fueled by lots of champagne and the Motown Christmas album!

  7. Since I met Matt, my christmases have been the best. We spend it with his parents, and we spend time together as a family. MIL and I sometimes go to midnight mass. We do the cooking in the kitchen while the men attempt to put toys together. Its not manic, its a quietish time for us to relax and be together as a family. As a single parent I didnt look forward to christmas, but now it's one of the most looked forward to times of the year. The smells of cinnamon, mincepies, christmas cake and the cold weather, snuggling up under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate watching a dvd with the kids. Fantastic stuff!

  8. We do not have any tradition in our house. More often than not its a free for all. Then after christmas dinner we all go to seperate corners. Me I prefer nothing more than curling up with agood christmas story and being christmas I get left alone for hours. At least until they decide they want feeding again

  9. Oh, Ms Ward, you've made me all warm and glowy inside. Sounds like you've experienced your own romantic Christmas fantasy.

    Ah Ginette, that's pretty impressive that you manage to get time alone at Christmas... It's always a bit manic wherever we are, especially last year when my sister hosted Christmas for the whole family and had 25 people to Christmas lunch and 15 people sleeping in her house. There were wall-to-wall teenagers in the front room! No reading allowed.

  10. Favorite Christmas tradition? Visiting family Christmas afternoon before heading home to eat our turkey that has been cooking while we were out. (Shhhh; don't tell the fire department.)

  11. Wow! That's a neat trick Laney, think I'd probably forget about the turkey though and then end up eating a charcoaled mess.

  12. I put the turkey in the oven at 1:00 pm and we walk out the door immediately. The turkey is in a self-contained unit with water in the bottom of the roasting pan. We get home between 4:30 and 5:30 from visiting family. I turn off the oven and let the roast sit while I boil potatoes, carrots, etc. Supper is on the table within 30 minutes, including the dressing, gravy, and premade dessert.

  13. Well my favorite Christmas tradition takes place on Boxing Day when we go to my sister's place for Christmas dinner. She started this back when her mother in law was in a nursing home and the family would visit with her Christmas Day. Then her 5 kids were getting married and she just carried on with the BD celebration. As the grand kids arrive the number goes up. It's 23 for dinner right now but next year if all goes well there will be another grand kid.

  14. That's impressive Laney, you don't happen to have a background in the military do you? You sound so organised.

    And Kaelee, I love great big Christmas get-togethers too... So nice to see all the kids (ranging in age in our family from 19 to 4) get along so well.

  15. Thank you all for making a comment about your Christmas traditions, I may be adopting a few of them myself!

    After randomly selecting a winner, EllenToo gets the book... So if you want to email me on with your snail mail addy I'll post it asap.

    And happy Christmas one and all!