The Story Behind The Story: Taken By Surprise by Nichelle Gregory

The lovely Nichelle Gregory is my guest today on A Hopeful Romantic, and she’s sharing the story behind her sizzling paranormal romance, Taken by Surprise. Welcome, Nichelle!


Every story I’ve ever written has a backstory and Taken By Surprise is no different. This steamy erotic paranormal romance was originally penned for a submission call. I knew my heroine’s name would be Zori from the start. I’d had this name rattling around in my head for awhile to use. The name Zori has always evoked an image of a gorgeous, exotic female in my mind.

When I started working on Taken By Surprise, I knew I needed a unique heroine name that was memorable with a totally feminine feel. Finally, I was working on the right story and the right character for the name!

The Greek translation for Zori is: “Golden Dawn.” Beautiful, no? And so fitting for my wickedly beautiful heroine!

So, I had a name, but what exactly was Zori? I knew my hero would be a werewolf and I needed Zori to be just as fearsome. She had to be a supernatural being, but which one? I wanted to pick a female creature to write about that hadn’t been overly done. I wracked my brain for the perfectly fierce heroine. She had to be tough, yet sexy, scary, yet completely relatable to female readers.

And then it hit me! I would incorporate my love for Greek mythology and select one of my fave mythological creatures to base Zori after! Once I knew what Zori was, the rest of the story flowed. Taken By Surprise was one of those tales that literally wrote itself! The submission call I was crafting this tale for only wanted short stories of 5,000 words or less. Taken By Surprise ended up being just short of 4,000 words.

I was very pleased with how my edgy erotic tale came together. It was the first story in which my heroine actually died in the end! I submitted it and waited to hear if it would be selected for inclusion in the anthology.

Insert a *sigh* here.

My story wasn’t selected. I was a little bummed, okay, a lot bummed, but I’d told myself if my story wasn’t selected, I’d flesh out the rest it. I gave myself a new deadline and challenged myself in expanding the original work.

No longer needing it to be a dark erotic tale, I had to reshape the ending. We can’t have the heroine dying in an erotic romance! I took my time adding in parts, filling in scenes and making the story and characters pop with energy. The finished story ended up being almost 17,000 words and was even better than the original!

Taken By Surprise surprised me! I wasn’t certain I could truly broaden the story without disturbing the feel of it and I definitely didn’t expect it to be as long as it ended up being.

Lesson learned? Don’t let a rejection make you stop believing in your story. Do take another look at it, rework it if necessary, but pass it on to someone else who might just treasure your tale as much as you do!


Zori revels in the control she exerts over the opposite sex; no man has ever challenged her in the bedroom or out…until she meets Greyson. 

She’s beautiful, intelligent and sometimes deadly to the men who enter her bedroom. For Zori, voracious appetites for sex and food reign supreme. She’s never known rejection, romance or love…her life and heart has always been her own. The moment she sets eyes on Greyson, Zori makes it her quest to have him in her bed, but she’s finally met her match. Can two lovers with secrets face the truth and trust their hearts?


“Can I buy you a drink?”

“No, thanks.” Zori barely flicked a glance towards the handsome blond ogling her body as she walked by. Men could be so pathetic. She looked across the sunken dance floor to the bar against the back wall to see her target tilt back a bottle of beer. Her talons scrapped against the smooth floor as she waded through sweaty dancers along the wall to reach the other side of the club. As she approached, he turned around and their eyes met. A zing of anticipation raced through her blood as she moved next to him at the bar.

The thrill of the hunt always excited her.

She leaned against the counter, fully aware of his dark gaze running over her body as she pretended to inspect the bottles of alcohol on display in front of her. With a casual toss of her ebony tresses, she turned her face to see arresting brown eyes staring at her with interest. She moved a little closer to him with a practiced shy smile. “I’m Zori.”

“Greyson.” He offered a slight grin before taking another sip of his drink.
Up close, her guy was taller and bigger than she first estimated which pleased her. She felt sorry for the expensive suit straining to give way to the hard muscles concealed underneath. “Happy Halloween.”

Greyson lifted an eyebrow. “Back at you.”

The sexy smile curving his full lips tempted her to pounce on him right then and there, witnesses be damned.

“Are you here alone?”

He turned his body towards her, his deep voice carrying easily over the loud music.



His eyes moved from her folded wings down over the rest of her body.

Zori smiled, pleased, even though she’d heard enough compliments to last a lifetime. “Dance with me?” She began to move her hips to the seductive rhythmic pull of the DJ’s house mix which was tripling her desire to get him alone.

Greyson looked down at her feathered feet. “Can you dance in those?” His gaze lingered on her sharp claws.

Zori laughed. “C’mon.” She led him to the dance area and was even more impressed to discover he was a great dancer.

He pulled her in tight as she closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of his strong body moving against her own. She wrapped her arms around the thick column of his neck and drew in a tempting whiff of his sexy cologne. Dancing was nirvana. This was the one time she allowed her male partners to take the lead which Greyson did so masterfully. Their bodies swayed and dipped to the music as one and Zori enjoyed every minute of it.

“Can I buy you a drink?” Greyson asked several songs later when both of them were breathless and laughing.


She took his hand as he manoeuvred them back to the bar. He stood out with his good looks and in his fine suit and females noticed him, eyeballed him, to Zori’s annoyance. She flashed one chick who had the audacity to step in the way of his path a venomous look that clearly said: He’s all mine, lady.

And she could hardly wait.


Taken By Surprise is available now with Total E-Bound Publishing!


Buy Link:

Author Bio:

Nichelle Gregory has been in love with books and writing since middle school. A lover of the arts, she enjoys anything that embraces the creative nature within us all. Bringing believable characters to life that thrill and excite her readers is a challenge that continues to push Nichelle. She loves creating stories involving super sexy alpha heroes with divine heroines in magical, exotic, and fantastic scenarios. So, gone on . . . Indulge your secret fetishes and desires in one of my simply sexy stories!   Visit her website and blog


Thanks, Nichelle! As a lover of Greek mythology, and a lover of hot romance, I’d say you have a scorcher on your hands!


The Secret World of The Pet Shop

Less than two weeks now until turn my Pets loose on London! And though I might  have mentioned it once or twice in passing,  The big launch date for The Pet Shop is October 14th, 7:00 pm at Sh! Hoxton. And I won’t be throwing the party alone this year. Maxim Jakubowski will be partying with me as he launches his new erotic novel, Ekaterina and the Night.

Last week, I gave you a tour of tree-hugging, reclusive, richer than God Vincent Evaston’s world. This week it’s time to take a tour of the secret world of The Pet Shop, the place where Pets hang out when they’re not with keepers, and the place where Tino feels most at home.

First Impressions of The Pet Shop

Stella had no idea how long the journey had been nor where to. From the Pet carrier in the back of the van she could see nothing. But when she was helped from the cramped space, she could make out the shape of a large country house, a high brick wall, and lots of trees. The woman, whose name she learned was Audrey, fitted her with a simple leather collar, then snapped a lead into the attached D-ring.

 The Boss Takes Stella to Tino

The Boss led Stella out into the night, back along a narrow pavement, down a steep set of stairs and through a heavy wooden door.

Before she had a chance to get frightened, he flipped on a light switch, and a cavernous room emerged out of the shadow into details she failed to notice. Her whole attention was drawn to the pallet on the floor in the corner where Tino lay naked, blinking hard at the bright invasion on light-deprived pupils. He yawned and stretched and wiped sleep from his eyes. When he saw her, he came to his feet expectantly. As always, it was impossible for her not to notice his lovely penis, already at half mast and rising. He laid a hand against it, not like he was about to masturbate, more like he was taking the reins of a powerful animal.

The Boss chuckled softly. ‘I can almost hear your fear and anger, Stella, and I assure you there’s no need for either. This is where Tino sleeps whenever he’s here. Not sure why he prefers the dungeon to far more plush places a Pet of his status could sleep. Perhaps because he spends so much time down here anyway being punished for bad behaviour, and I assure you, he gets far less than he deserves. He unhooked the leash and nodded toward the big Pet. ‘Go on. If the two of you were magnets it would be easier to keep him from you.’

It was all she could do to keep from crying out his name as he scooped her into his arms. Any further slippage of speech was stopped by Tino’s insistent mouth startling in its familiarity. Her throat tightened and her eyes welled, as he took her face between large hands and kissed her repeatedly, ravenously, as though he would never stop. But when he did, it was because they had both become once again aware that the Boss was still standing there, arms folded across his chest, watching.

Discussing Stella’s Future

They were walking along a path that offered lovely strolls through a woodland of predominantly beech that surrounded the Pet Shop. It offered privacy for the Pet Shop as well as privacy for the Pets who wanted to have a little space away from the group activities. Alan brought Vincent here partly because he knew no one would appreciate it more, but mostly because he wanted to keep their meeting a secret.

It was a lovely day and any other time, Vincent being who he was, would be lost in deep appreciation for the chorus of bird song and the variegated blanket of woodland flowers. Alan knew only too well that his distraction wasn’t a good sign. He figured he might as well press the issue and end the suspense. He forced a chuckle. ‘Anne’s worried that you’ll tell Stella about your relationship to the Pet Shop.’ It was a lie, but he couldn’t very well say what Anne really feared, what he feared.

‘Why would I do that?’

‘Oh, I’m sure you wouldn’t,’ Alan waved away a couple of gnats.  ‘But you’ve got to understand, Anne’s dreamed about opening the North American Pet Shop for a long time. She just doesn’t want anything to go wrong. And frankly, you showing up unexpectedly here of all places makes me a bit nervous too, Vincent.’ There it was, honesty at last, and suddenly Alan felt like the friend he used to be.

Vincent turned to face him, and offered that half-smile that always put people at ease. Well most of the time anyway. He rested a large hand against an ancient beech tree, and in spite of everything, Alan’s cock squirmed in his trousers with other memories more recent, more complicated than watching hawks quarter the fields, but any thought of arousal fled when Vincent spoke. ‘Alan, I know I promised Anne the North American Pet Shop, and that’s a promise I have no intention of breaking, but I don’t want Stella running the Pet Shop here. You’ll have to find someone else.’

Next week I’ll be giving you a peek of the London that Stella shares with Tino.



The Story Behind Jacqueline Applebee’s Anthology, ‘Bisexual Men’

I’m very happy to have one of my favourite people, and an amazing erotic author, the fantastic Jacqueline Applebee, as my guest this week. Jacqi will be telling us the story behind her hot new anthology, ‘Bisexual Men.’ Welcome Jacqui!

I wrote Bisexual Men because simply put, I’d hardly ever read about bisexual men as a subject or a group before.  I could find books full of erotic stories about bisexual women, where the men were strictly heterosexual; even in threesome stories men would never touch each other.  I knew that bisexual men existed, but in the realm of erotic fiction they were rarely seen.  This seemed to reflect the prevalent media image where men are either “gay, straight or lying.”

I’ve been active with various bisexual communities in the U.K for the past eighteen years.  I’ve heard many negative stereotypes and myths about bisexual people, but for some reason, bisexual men really bear the brunt of a lot of hate.  I decided that I could either be depressed by that or I could turn it on its head.

Bisexual Men contains a mixture of stories.  In some tales, bisexual characters are out and proud, but in others coming out is a slow and careful process.  As I wrote this collection, I knew that this was something different, important but still incredibly sexy too.  I’m not ashamed to say that the thought of two or more men together really turns me on!

Gender was something that has interested me for many years. I used to identify as mostly-female, but not totally.  It still took me some time to realise that there are more than two genders out there. One of my stories in this collection, ‘Recognition’ tells of a female to male transman who finds acceptance and satisfying sex at a party, but only when his boyfriend stops treating him like a delicate woman who needs protecting.

Another rarity in erotic fiction is when outwardly-seeming gay men decide to be with women.  ‘Invisible Me’ was inspired by listening to a bisexual man talk about his experiences coming out as gay, and how things changed for him when he started identifying as bisexual several years later.

‘David does BiCon’ is something I’d wanted to write for ages.  BiCon (U.K bisexual convention) is an event that I’ve attended every year since 2007. It is incredible to be in a space where bisexuality is the norm, and where you can attend workshops on subjects as diverse as BDSM for beginners, Bi people in Sci-Fi, and Bisexuals of Colour.  I’ve met a few of my partners at BiCon, and I’ve made a lot of good friends there too.  I think I’ve done a good job of summing up the crazy weekend of fun in this story!

One of the biggest challenges for me was to write so many stories from a male point of view.  I also wanted to have stories where the protagonist was someone other than a young white man. Writing Bisexual Men has been a real learning experience for me.  I think I’ve grown as a result of writing stories very different to my usual style.  I trialled a lot of the stories at BiCon, and I also gave them to a few men of different sexualities to read.  The feedback I’ve received so far has been overwhelmingly positive, which is something I’m really pleased about.  It is my hope that everyone who reads this collection will enjoy it.  I hope they will be more aware of bisexual men as a unique group, and of course, I hope they get turned on too!

 Short blurb for Bisexual Men

Bisexual men are everywhere—haven’t you read about it yet?  These fifteen tales celebrate the sexy adventures by men who really do go both ways.  They love soft feminine curves and hard masculine muscles—as long as the action is hot, nothing will spoil the fun to be had!

Excerpt from Invisible Me:

There are some things I will eternally be grateful to gay men for: rubbering up was never high on my agenda until I attended a sexual health workshop run by the Terrence Higgins Trust years ago.  Of course everyone there thought I was a homosexual until I took off my jacket to reveal a tee-shirt with the slogan, ‘bats for both sides’ on it.  The friendly smiles dried up pretty quickly when I did that, but I was younger then.  I truly didn’t give a shit in those days.

I squeeze out a ribbon of lube from the pump dispenser on the dresser.  I rub myself up and down, spreading the slick fluid over my cock.  Sylvia’s eyes grow wide, dark.  A ribbed condom goes on next with a single flick of my wrist.  I cup my balls, look down, and then gaze up through my eyelashes; a patented move designed to make my lover’s mouth water.  I may be older than most studs, but hey I’ve still got it, and what’s more, I know how to use it too.

I take my time moving to the bed.  Sylvia wraps her long legs around my waist once I get close to her.  I hold her hands, pinning them to the mattress.  I move my hips, teasing her with my cock.  She tries to get it inside her, but I move just so, barely touching her pussy.  Sylvia wrenches one arm from my grip, and then she pulls me to her, kissing me with fierceness so strong that I am surprised.  When she leans back, her lips are swollen, and her face is flushed.  I let go of her other hand.


My lover turns over, positions herself on her hands and knees.  I take in the long planes of her back, the fine hairs that start at her spine, only to disappear into the dark shadows of her arse.  I smell sweat and arousal.  I see her puckered hole twitch and relax.  I step back to the dresser, find a latex glove beneath the pile of condoms in their little silver packets.  I work the glove over my fingers, and then snap it on completely, making Sylvia jump slightly on the bed.  She is beautiful, but she is also the best kind of slut; she spreads her legs wider for me.  The squelch of the lube on my hands makes me shiver.  One finger delves to my lover’s arse, gently pressing until the muscled ring of flesh gives in to me.  I feel, rather than hear Sylvia moan; the tremor moves up my arm.  A second finger joins the first.  My lover pants and shudders beneath me.  My cock is so hard; just one touch could set me off.  I push inside her slippery pussy, feel consumed by this woman.  My fingers are rapidly being squeezed and pressed whilst my cock is sucked and massaged.  I steady myself, thrust in deeper.  I want to make Sylvia scream.

If gay men gave me an appreciation of rubbering up, then lesbian literature gave me all the knowledge I’d need about g-spots.  I know I’m on target when Sylvia’s voice drops an octave.  She thrusts back against me, harder and harder.  She comes shaking, clenching around me.  I carefully remove my fingers from her arse, and then I speed up my thrusts in her pussy.  I squeeze my eyes shut as I come; whisper her name.  We both collapse onto the bed in a sweaty heap.  I hold her as tightly as I dare.

I want to pull out, and then take her up the arse, even if I won’t be hard again for a while.  I want to be rougher with her than she’d let me.  I want to bend down, kiss a shaven head, and run fingers over a flat chest.  I love Sylvia, but I feel the little flame bend and twist inside me.  I don’t want my fire to go out.  I hold the base of the condom, slip out of her, and then I tie a knot in the rubber.  She doesn’t see me as I move.

I don’t stay the night.  I’ve got a presentation at work the next day, and I want to practice my big sell some more.  I can’t concentrate though; nothing makes sense.  I fluff my lines each time I try.  I give up, and go to bed thoroughly pissed off.

I wake up in the middle of the night; my cock is hard, and my mind is racing.  I dig out my old faithful: a gay trucker DVD.  Large muscular men grab arses, pound into sweaty flesh.  The screen is full of sucking, fucking, bad-ass truck drivers.  I haven’t hitchhiked in over fifteen years.  I never met any truckers like those onscreen during my travels, mores’ the pity.  I wank to the sound of digitised groans, and come into a handful of tissues I keep by the sofa.  I finally fall asleep feeling spent and satisfied.

Where to buy Bisexual Men

eXcessica in print. as an ebook

About Jacqueline Applebee

Jacqueline Applebee is a writer who breaks down barriers with smut. Her work has appeared in Best Women’s Erotica, Ultimate Lesbian Erotica, and many other anthologies.  She has written several novels, details of which can be found on her website (

Jacqueline can also be found online on her bisexual blog (, her polyamorous blog (http://howbigisyourheart) and on Twitter (

‘Bats for both sides’ is one of a range of bisexual themed tee shirts available at the Bisexual Index (


Thanks for stopping by, Jacqui! You nearly melted my monitor with this hot excerpt. Hope my Kindle can handle the heat!


At Home with Vincent

I’m getting excited now! It’s almost time to turn my Pets loose on London!  The big launch date for The Pet Shop is October 14th, 7:00 pm at Sh! Hoxton. And I won’t be throwing the party alone this year. Maxim Jakubowski will be partying with me as he launches his new erotic novel, Ekaterina and the Night.

For the next three weeks, I’ll be bringing you a little closer to the world of my Pets, so you can be ready to party with us. I’ll be giving little excerpts and tidbits along with pictures from my research of this transcontinental novel. Since I just got back from Oregon, I’ll start off by giving you a sneak peek at the world of Vincent Evanston, reclusive philanthropist and tree-hugger extraordinaire. Vincent lives in Oregon, and in spite of being richer than God, no one is really sure whether he’s real or just a legend.


The Business Trip

It wasn’t Stella’s first time in the States or the Northwest. She considered it a very good omen that her first trip for Strigida was to such a lovely place. In a lot of ways, the Western part of Oregon was like a primordial England that had been picked up by each of its corners and stretched and tugged and expanded. Then after it had been given a hearty shake to rid it of too many people, it was snapped like a puzzle piece in between Washington and California to glisten in the veil dance of wet Northwest sunlight.


First Encounter with Vincent

‘The clear-cut will grow back on its own given time,’ Bob was saying as he pulled the Land Rover to the edge of the rutted excuse for a logging road and stopped so she could look. ‘Erosion is our main concern here.’ He nodded to the dark patch of heavy forest next to it. Tall conifers drapes in moss and spiked with mistletoe looked like giant, pre-decorated Christmas trees. ‘That patch would have met the same fate had it not been for Vincent Evanston.’

If Bob hadn’t before, he certainly had her full attention now. ‘Vincent Evanston? You know him?’

‘Yep.’ He laughed under his heavy mustache. ‘Always preferred to spend his time with the birds and the beasties rather than with humans. Guess I’m a bit like that too, but then I wasn’t born richer than God like Vincent. He’s a strange one.’

‘Then he lives around here?’

‘Has all his life. Right on the other side of those trees there. Speak of the devil.’ Bob raised the pair of binoculars that permanently hung around his neck, then gave a confident nod. ‘That’s the Birdman there. He spends a lot of time in these woods when he’s home.’

She fumbled with the spare pair of binoculars Vanguard had lent her, giving herself a hearty knock on the nose before she managed to get them focused. Her stomach did a flip-flop, then a pirouette. Even with her unsteady hand and the thud-thud of her heart making the scene tremble in front of her eyes, she knew she was looking at Tino, who was looking right back at her. She caught her breath ‘You’re sure that’s Vincent Evanston?’


Journey to Vincent’s House

This time there was no limo waiting and no driver. But the sexiest blue Jeep she had ever seen was parked waiting for them on the tarmac. The top was off exposing an elegant roll bar and frame to the early evening sun. Vincent helped her into a leather jacket, buckled her into the Jeep, then climbed into the driver’s seat. ‘I wanted you to enjoy the lovely scenery, Stell,’ he said, as he cranked the engine and they headed away from the airport. ‘I seldom use the limo, and besides Pets much prefer fresh air over stuffy old cars, don’t they?’ He spoke like he knew, she thought. And yet of course Vincent Evanston would prefer the great outdoors.

They left the city and headed out over the Coastal Range on a bumpy scenic back road.  Vincent chatted away about the volcanic make-up of the Pacific Northwest, and the unique eco systems that had developed because of the volcanism of the region. And indeed it was fascinating to know that the area was long overdue for an eruption in the Cascades, and that Mt. St. Helen’s eruption in 1980 might have just been the tip of the iceberg.

‘It’s one of the prettiest places on the planet,’ he was saying, as he pulled to the side of the deserted road. ‘And I’m looking forward to showing you some of my favourite parts of it.’


The Lookout

The Lookout, which was what Vincent affectionately called the big cantilevered house that was mostly glass and wood was set high enough to view the Pacific Ocean in one direction while nestling in the arms of the hilly woodland in the other. Once inside, he led her across pale sandstone floors of what was mostly an open planned house, back to a big bedroom with its glassed-in patio that led down to a protected wild garden below. The big high bed looked out over the landscape of conifers and rugged volcanic rocks and gave the distinct feeling of being in a tree house.

Her intake of breath at the view made him blush with pride. ‘My room,’ he said. ‘Our room while you’re here.’ He held her gaze. ‘If you’re good, I’ll let you sleep in the bed with me.’

Now it was her turn to blush.

He nodded to the hardwood floor. ‘Sit down and let me get you undressed. You’ve had an uncomfortably long time in those clothes, and I want to look at you. I would have loved to have made you ride naked in the Jeep. Since I first met you, that thought has given me my share of hard-ons. But alas that might have gotten us arrested. And I don’t intend to spend our time together in jail.’

She sat down on the cool wood of the floor and let him lift her arms over her head and slip the T-shirt up, hands skimming her breasts as he did so.


Vincent’s Passion

‘Their nest is behind that waterfall.’ Vincent nodded to the cascade of water that the little dark bird had just darted through. ‘Dippers often find protected places behind waterfalls to raise their chicks safe from predators. The chicks should be about to fledge any time now. I’d love it if you could see that. It’s so amazing to see them for the first time after knowing they were tucked away all safe and sound just waiting to spread their wings and fly.’

He sat with Stella’s feet across his lap and was busy removing the hiking boots he’d bought for her to check for blisters. ‘You okay, Stel? I know it’s quite a little hike to get up here, but it’s such a lovely place.’

She nodded and wriggled her toes happily. She’d never felt more blissed out.

‘You like it here?’ He asked, knowing she couldn’t answer. The best she could do was smile enthusiastically and rub her bare foot along his thigh.

He curled his fingers around her foot and lifted it to his lips, pressing a kiss to the arch of it. ‘I knew you would. How could you not?’

She lay back on the large rock he had found for them and let the sun’s warmth wash over her. She could feel his eyes on her, and that was warmer than the sunlight. That made her feel deliciously sexy, even more than sexy, it made her feel adored. She knew she was smiling. She could feel it. He watched her when he thought she wasn’t looking, and she watched him. She didn’t care if he was looking or not. She was a Pet. The rules didn’t apply to her. Sometimes that was a good thing.


After the Punishment

The cocktail of feelings rushing through her dwarfed the pain of the spanking. She fucked him with anger and shame and lust and hurt and pain and need and other things she had no name for. And he took it, all of it, and when she passed the point of no return and shuddered as though she would break apart into a thousand tiny pieces, he came in tremors that shook the bed, that shook his body, that shook her to the core, then he pulled her down against his chest and smothered her face and throat and shoulders in breathless hungry kisses.

They never did get around to a real meal, but it didn’t much matter. Sometime in the hours before dawn, she woke to find him standing naked in front of the sliding window and she thought how beautiful he was standing there bathed in moonlight, but the thought barely surfaced above consciousness before she slept again.


Next week I’ll be giving you a peek at Tino’s England and the mysterious grounds of The Pet Shop.


Food Memories with Victoria Blisse

I’m very excited to have the fabulous Victoria Blisse on A Hopeful Romantic today, talking yummy food memories and talking about her hot story, Tasty Italian. Welcome, Victoria!

I love food. I love to cook it and I certainly love to eat it. It’s something we all have to do every single day and eating is an integral part of many special occasions. Some foods we don’t only love because they taste delicious but because that experience reminds of us a special moment in life.

Burnt roast potatoes, oh, I’m sorry, well done roast potatoes reminds me of a Christmas when I was small and my sister was smaller. She was very passionate about potatoes and when a few weeks before the big day she got a potato with a burnt bottom she told our Nanna in no uncertain terms that such sloppiness would not be tolerated on the big day.

We have a photo taken around the table groaning with Christmas food and each of us wearing daft paper hats but with one strange addition. My sister grasping a fork in her hand proudly displaying the evidence. One roast potato with a burnt bottom.

Every year since I was four with very few exceptions I have been to Scarborough on the east coast of England for a holiday. The one thing I look forward to most is a jaconelli’s ice cream. Rich, sweet and creamy the real genius is in making it a lemon top and having a dollop of sharp lemony sorbet on the top of it. One of those ice creams and the scent and sight of the sea is contentment for my soul.

12 years ago I prepared a pavlova. I made the meringue base, whipped the cream and scattered the juicy ruby red raspberries over the top to make it glorious. I made it especially for my boyfriend of the time.  After eating his portion he proposed to me and now we’ve been married for eleven years. Pavlova is one of my most treasured desserts.

I’m pretty sure that the food item in the next excerpt from Tasty Italian will have become a definite food memory for Fiona and I’m sure you’ll be able to work out why!




“You’re a genius.” She smacked her lips. “This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten.”

Roberto beamed. “I knew you were a lovely girl the moment I saw you. You have great taste, mia bella, great taste!”

“So, have you been coming here long?” Carlo asked.

“Not so very long. I only came in for the first time last week.”

“Really? I thought you must have known Roberto all your life or something the way he goes on about you.” Carlo looked genuinely surprised.

“No, no, no. I knew I liked her the moment we met. Roberto gives his love freely, you can tell, you can taste love in my cheesecake and see it in my smile. Fiona is a special lady, Carlo, so look after her, okay?”

“Oh, Roberto.” Fiona giggled. “I’m so glad I gave in to the urge for garlic bread last Friday, you’re lovely.”

Even so, she was rather taken aback. She’d never inspired such instant admiration in a person before and some people might have found him a little bit overwhelming. If she were honest with herself, she’d admit she probably was a little overawed. He wasn’t creepy, though, and it was wonderful to be pampered. She hadn’t felt so cherished for a long time, not since her mum passed away.

“Shall I leave you two alone?” Carlo asked playfully.

“Oh hush, you silly boy, I am old enough to be her papa. She is too beautiful for an old man like me. You, you are more her style.”

“She is too beautiful for me, too but it does not mean I will not try, you know?”

Fiona didn’t know where to look or what to say, so she took a quick mouthful of cheesecake so she wouldn’t have to say anything. Roberto was being his usual extravagant self, but she just wasn’t sure about Carlo. Was he genuinely interested in her or was he just playing along to keep in his boss’s good books?

“You’re embarrassing her, Carlo, do behave will you? You’d never see me being so extravagant with my affection.”

Carlo, Fiona and Roberto all broke into peals of laughter and continued to devour their desserts.

“I can’t eat another mouthful.” Fiona gasped when she’d eaten just over half of what she had on her plate.

“I shall put the leftovers in a box for you to eat later then, love, okay?” Roberto said.

“No, really, you don’t have to, I really shouldn’t.”

“Oh, hush, hush, you take it, you eat it. It’s good for you, keep those curves soft and appealing, okay? No arguments.” He stood and carried her plate away.

Fiona looked at Carlo.

He just shrugged. “Best just to go along with him, it’s easier. Now, I better get on. I’ve enjoyed eating you, I mean, sorry, I mean with you, my English needs work.”

“No problem.” Fiona smiled. “Your English is brilliant and one hundred per cent better than my Italian!”

“Ah, maybe I shall teach you my words and you can teach me yours, yes?” Carlo smiled.

“Sounds good to me, Carlo.” Fiona yawned and delicately covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh, but now I think I need to get home to bed.”

Fiona was sure Carlo’s look resembled a leer for a moment but then he was all smiles and leading her to the door.

“Good-bye Fiona,” Roberto shouted and rushed across the restaurant towards her. “I will see you next week, yes?”

“Yes, certainly. I can’t keep away.”

Bellisimo,” he cried and leant in to kiss Fiona on both cheeks.

She responded in somewhat of a daze as she hadn’t been expecting kisses. “I shall look forward to it. Well, maybe I’ll see you next Friday, Carlo.”

“Oh, you for sure will.” He unlocked the door. “I always work here in the evenings while I live with Roberto. It’s to pay my rent, you see.”

“All right then, I’ll see you next week.”

She shuffled forwards anticipating Carlo opening the door, but he stepped back. They crashed into one another.

“Oh, sorry.” He grabbed Fiona around the tops of her arms. “I’m so clumsy.”

“No, no, it was my fault,” she replied, holding her hands in fists as she fought the urge to reach around his waist and pull him close. “I’m sorry.”

“An accident.” He grinned, then leant forward to kiss one cheek then the other.

Fiona’s skin blossomed with heat with each touch of his lips, her nostrils flared to take in his spicy, male scent and her hands trembled with withheld desire.

“See you next week, Fiona.”

She expected him to pull back away but he didn’t. His gaze focused on her lips and split seconds before he did it she realised he was going to kiss her properly. She would have panicked but she didn’t have the time so she just accepted the press of his lips against hers.

If she had thought she felt hot before she was greatly mistaken. When his lips touched hers she felt as if her body was on fire. She pressed her lips harder against his to ease the burning in her veins but a moment later he pulled back just as she expected the kiss to deepen.

“Bye,” she whispered, her voice hoarse and her throat dry. She thought that maybe Italians did two cheek kisses and a snog as a regular thing.


To read more of Fiona and Carlo’s love story pick up Tasty Italian from Total-E-Bound. One lucky winner could win a copy though. Simply leave a comment about one of your food memories and you’ll be popped into a draw to win a copy of Tasty Italian.

Many thanks to the lovely KD for hosting me here today, I had a great time writing this and I look forward to reading all the food memory comments.

It was a yummy pleasure to have you on my site, Victoria, and you’ve made me VERY hungry! AND anxious to read Tasty Italian.

© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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