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This Writing Life: Capturing The Castle…

Castle ruins, by Ann Walsh

It’s launch day at last for Heart Of A Hostage, the third book in my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press. To celebrate, I’m joining with some other authors to blog on the theme of holidays.

I was brought up in my grandparents’ house, which was paradise for a child, but a health and safety nightmare. A few weeks ago, BBC Radio 4 serialised Dodie Smith’s “I Capture The Castle”, and I laughed with recognition in lots of places. My own childhood home was damp, dingy and draughty, but until I started school and visited the lovely new houses lived in by other children, I didn’t know any better.

Looking back, I can see my old home was a hopeless money-pit, but in those days it felt magical. There were chimney corners, a scullery, walk-in pantries, an enormous Aga (dating from long before they were trendy), a long-case clock complete with pendulum, stained glass in leaded lights, crackling open fires, gardens straight out of Sleeping Beauty, and even a ghost!

 For a child, my old home ticked all the fairy-tale boxes, especially at Christmas. An enormous, real fir tree would be set up, tall enough to nearly touch the ceiling in the largest room. Every picture in the house had sprigs of holly and ivy perched on top. One year, my father relived his own youth by showing me how to make table decorations, and garlands of evergreens to swag up the bannisters. Bright with holly berries and variegated foliage they all looked lovely, but were so prickly, they didn’t mix well with party balloons!

I remember my childhood Christmases as brightly lit and very hot, because there were always so many visitors. We’d be crammed into whichever room had the best fire going. Chairs were drawn up in a semi-circle around the hearth and we’d drink gallons of tea. My grandparents both signed the pledge as children, and the only alcohol in our house was an elderly bottle of Courvoisier VSOP. It gathered dust for 364 days each year, until it was brought out on Stir-Up Sunday to add a wickedly foreign (yet traditional, which made it okay) flavour to the homemade mincemeat, Christmas cake and Christmas puddings. I swear that bottle of brandy never needed replacing, in all the twenty-two Christmases I lived at home!

By Kris de Curtis

To keep a satisfying blaze going in an open fireplace, you need a good draught, so while we stuffed ourselves with heroic quantities of mince pies, sausage rolls, cheese scones and Christmas cake, our faces got scorched while the mats (no fitted carpets in those days) rose and flapped in currents of cold air rushing into the room from under the doors.

Once our visitors left, all the lights except those on the tree would be turned off, and we’d sit in the firelight until it was time for bed. Then we ran the gauntlet of draughty hall and freezing bathroom, while down in the kitchen our stone hot water bottles were filled with boiling water and swaddled in yards of cloth, like feverish babies.

Buy now at

I used my old home as inspiration for Castle Dukagjini in Heart Of A Hostage, which goes on sale here today. The piano mentioned in Heart Of A Hostage was real, although in real life our model came to a very sticky end. Somebody thought positioning it over dodgy floorboards would stop anyone falling through. They hadn’t realised how heavy that piano was, so I’m sure you can guess the rest!

As it’s Friday, why not sample some other blogs on the theme of holidays? My fellow Wild Rose Press author, Tena Stetler, is joining in the celebrations on her blog with a piece called Christmas Decorating – Not for the Faint of Heart, while Nancy Reece is writing about Home for the Holidays on her site, and Arianne Cassini’s blog is called Three Ways To Beat Holiday Hell With Christmas Cheer. 

Why not drop in to each of them, and say Christina sent you? 🙂

Finally, a prize draw! What are your favourite childhood memories of Christmas? All comments left on this post will be entered in a draw on Friday, 11th December. The winner will receive one copy of each book in the Princes Of Kharova series (His Majesty’s Secret Passion, Her Royal Risk and Heart Of A Hostage), so be sure to let me know what you liked best about the festive season when you were little!

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Giveaways And Prizes—Not To Mention Romance, Royalty, and Rhinovirus…

Gah! No nonsense this week, as I’ve been felled by a bug that’s been doing the rounds of OH’s office. Now I (and the next generation) have been felled by it, too.

It would happen, this week of all weeks. On Friday, the third book in my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press, Heart of A Hostageis released. If you join the Goodreads giveaway before December 2nd, you can be part of the draw for a free signed copy of Heart Of A Hostage.

As part of The Wild Rose Press‘s holiday season, you can get 40% off the ebook versions of the first two books in the Princes Of Kharova series, His Majesty’s Secret Passion and Her Royal Risk, but you’ll have to be quick. This is a time-limited offer!

It’s Advent Sunday today, so in the spirit of the festive season I’ll be holding a draw for subscribers to my newsletter. Sign up to my mailing list here before December 2nd, and you’ll be entered in a draw to win two signed books—a copy of both His Majesty’s Secret Passion and Her Royal Risk, so you can catch up with the romantic excitement in Kharova before Heart Of A Hostage is released on Friday.

In my Christmas newsletter, there’s a competition to win all three of the Princes Of Kharova books in one romantic bundle along with other prizes, so sign up here today!

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Heart Of A Hostage—Three Chances Of Winning A Free Book!
Find out more here 
How would you like to win a copy of my new book? The 4th December sees the launch of my next book, Heart Of A Hostage. To be in with a chance to win an advance copy of the ebook, or one of two signed paperbacks, read on…
Heart Of A Hostage is the third book in my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press. The ruling family of Kharova has already been rocked by abdication, riot and revolt in the first two romantic novels in the series. His Majesty’s Secret Passion was the story of how businesswoman Sara turned King Leo’s life upside down, while he changed her future. Her Royal Risk pitted perfect personal assistant Krisia against career soldier Prince Athan, while Heart Of A Hostage gives  Leo and Athan’s younger sister Princess Maia a chance to shine. You can find out more about all three books at 

I’m running a Goodreads Giveaway for two signed paperback copies of Heart Of A Hostage right now, over at My previous book, Her Royal Risk, ended with rebels disrupting the King of Kharova’s coronation. Princess Maia is taken hostage after the celebrations. Hidden away in the rebel stronghold of Castle Dukagjini, she gets the better of her captor after discovering his terrible secret—and discovers a lot about the nature of independence, too.

You can find out more from The Wild Rose Press.

Meanwhile, here’s a little taster..

She couldn’t pull back. Mihail was crossing more lines than she could count, and his deadly smile was a reminder of exactly how much trouble she was in…

…and there’s a longer extract from Heart Of A Hostage here.
I’m also running a separate draw for readers of this blog. The prize is a pdf copy of Heart Of A Hostage. Just post a comment here, and I’ll announce the winner next Friday, 27th November. 

Good luck!
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Goodreads Giveaway: His Majesty’s Secret Passion… 

I’m running a Goodreads Giveaway this week over at, with the chance to win a free copy of His Majesty’s Secret Passion. That was the book which launched my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press, and you can find out more about it in my blog post  Writing A Series.

The Goodreads giveaway is running ahead of the launch on 4th December of the third book in the Princes Of Kharova series, Heart Of A Hostage. His Majesty’s Secret Passion is the romance between King Leo and Sara, the career girl who captures his heart. Heart Of A Hostage is the story of King Leo’s younger sister, Maia. She’s heading for an arranged marriage into a horrible, money-mad family of social climbers. She must obey her brother the king’s command, but secretly dreams of breaking free to find her independence. There’s no hope of that, short of a miracle…

…and then, on the way back from celebrations for her brother’s coronation, Maia’s car breaks down. She’s stranded in the middle of nowhere, alone, until a strangely familiar figure strides into view. It’s Kharovan royal family’s sworn enemy, gorgeous rebel Mihail.

Here’s an extract from Heart Of A Hostage to whet your appetite… 

“What’s the matter?” His voice was as rough as his stubble.

“I want to go back to my car.”
“Not possible. Sorry.” 
That must top the chart of most insincere apologies, ever.
“My driver and my bodyguard…they’ll be worried.”
“Not about you. They’ve got other things to think about, such as their own skins. I’ve got lookouts posted everywhere. They’re busy taking your vehicles to a place of safety.”
“You mean they’re stealing them.”
“Haven’t you heard the saying ‘all’s fair in love and war’?”
 Maia looked him up and down. There wasn’t any room to hide a weapon in his white tee shirt and tight jeans, so she lifted her chin and tried to calm her breathing.
  “This is neither. You’re a rebel and a thief, Mihail Dukagjini, and I want to go home.”
“No. And I haven’t stolen anything for years.”
He reached out, ready to trail his fingers down her cheek. Maia recoiled. Truffle tensed, and she waited for the  little dog to lunge at her attacker, but he wasn’t going to challenge Mihail. Petrified to have someone stand up to his threats for once, Truffle turned tail and hid. 

To find out more, and to order Heart Of A Hostage ahead of publication, go to 

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Writing A Series: The Princes Of Kharova—How It All Began…

I’m getting really excited! In less than two months Heart Of A Hostage, the third book in my Princes of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press, is published.

I started thinking about the plot of my eighteenth book, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, in the middle of a freezing winter. The sky was grey, and summer was months away. I needed an escape route, and I found it in writing the novel which turned into my twelfth contemporary romance. 

The idea of a powerful man taking on the job of rebuilding a country had been bubbling away in the back of my mind for a long time. Writing is all about living in a story world, and one miserable winter day, I was keen to escape to somewhere hot and sunny. Creating a new romance gave me the chance to do exactly that. I turned up the heating, switched on the white light box, poured myself some freshly squeezed orange juice (pretending I needed ice in it was a bit of a stretch, but I managed!) and dreamed up a luxury spa on a Greek island. King Leo was taking a break while waiting to be crowned, and Sara was a stressed executive in need of rest and relaxation.

I wanted to feel hot sun on my skin, and dig my toes into fine white sand. The only way I could do it was to lose myself in a fantasy. It was a lovely way to forget the dark days of winter. What began as a single idea for an escapist romance turned into a whole series of books.

Leo and Sara’s story became His Majesty’s Secret Passion, the first book in my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press. I wrote the second book, Her Royal Risk, after readers wrote to me wanting to know what happened next. Krisia, the perfect personal assistant, was given the impossible job of working for Leo’s wild younger brother, Athan. Both these books were nominated in The Romance Review’s Readers’ Awards for Winter 2015. Voting is open until the end of October, so you can still register your vote by hitting one (or both) of the nominee badges at the top of this page!

There’s something unusual about the hero and heroine of the third book in my Princes Of Kharova series. Their roles are reversed.  Maia is the sister of the two princes who star in the other books, which of course makes her a princess. Mihail is Public Enemy Number One…

The second in the series…

In Heart of A Hostage, the third book in the Princes Of Kharova series, Leo and Athan’s younger sister discovers not everyone is willing to  let her get her own way in life.  Mihail, head of the Kharovan rebels, takes Maia hostage as she returns from a break. In return, he expects to get a big ransom, but the king of Kharova doesn’t bow to blackmail. 

Maia is a long way from the glittering, story-book princess Mihail fantasized about when they were both teenagers. His hostage becomes the houseguest from hell, but when Maia discovers the secret behind Mihail’s mysterious double life, everything changes in an instant.

Heart of a Hostage will be published by The Wild Rose Press in December, just in time for the Christmas holiday season. Sign up for my newsletter here to get a sneak preview, with the chance to win a free copy of Heart Of A Hostage the moment it’s released.  

Here’s a taste of what you can look forward to….

Mihail walks out of Maia’s past, and into her present. Who is in more trouble—kidnapper or victim?

Princess Maia has it all—including a horrible fiancé chosen for her by the king, and a family bullying her into doing the right thing—but all she wants is her independence. When she falls into the hands of rebel leader, Mihail, she tastes real freedom for the first time. Mihail is a lone wolf, Public Enemy Number One, and heir to a fierce tradition. A dangerous reputation, a castle full of guilty secrets and now rescuing Maia are all woven into his master plan. He can’t lose.
Until his unexpected hostage turns out to be the house guest from hell…