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About the author:
Ever thought this while hunting for a new romance book?
• I’d love a sweet romance read with a feisty heroine and a determined hero.
• I want a fun meet-cute story to escape into and enjoy.
• I’m craving a romantic book that has me really rooting for the heroine.
If so, I’m Kate Harriet and I write sweet reads for romance book fans to snuggle up with- starring heroines you’ll want to cheer on.
As an author I have spent more than twenty years writing for the kind of reader who loves a cute romance read, set in small English towns and cosy little villages with just a splash of romance thrown in.
If that’s you then click today to start reading fun romance books and sweet short stories that will leave you smiling from ear to ear.
What inspired you to write your book?
A Christmas Romance with the Earl was inspired by meeting a minor royal when out in a nearby village many years ago, as you do. He seemed strangely… ordinary.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Friday 17th December
A week before Christmas, translucent pellets of sleet tapped against the window panes of PolkaDot Media as Jess Smith tried to ignore the silent phone on her desk.
‘Just focus,’ Jess scolded herself as she typed the finishing touches to the sales copy for Brigadier’s Moustache Pomade.
But how could she concentrate when any minute the phone would hum and she would finally hear the words that would change her life forever?
Her colleague and best friend of ten years, Ashley Evans, peered through her blonde fringe from the opposite laptop. ‘You know a watched phone never rings.’
‘That saying’s meant for pots,’ Jess replied. ‘Besides, Matthew said it was important.’
Her workmate stopped typing and sighed. ‘J, try not to get your hopes up.’
‘You don’t think he’s going to ask me?’
Ashley tilted her head in sympathy. ‘I just don’t want you to be disappointed. Again.’
‘This is different,’ cried Jess. ‘We made a pact. If we both reached thirty and were still single, then we would marry each other.’
‘But you were only eighteen then,’ Ashley sighed. ‘Didn’t you get him an interview here, only for him to back out last minute to work at Smartphone Warehouse?’
‘Matthew’s always been a bit wishy-washy.’
‘Then what makes you think he’ll stick to a decade-old pact?’
‘He’s thirty tomorrow,’ Jess replied. ‘Neither of us are seeing anyone and after all it ‘tis the season.’ But before Ashley could reply, Jess’s phone buzzed. Her heart thundered as she picked up.
‘Meet me for lunch at our café,’ Matthew purred then hung up.
Jess whipped off her tortoiseshell glasses then pulled on a red duffle, cream scarf and matching bobble hat. She grabbed her blue satchel and dashed from her desk. ‘Wish me luck!’
‘Good luck?’ said Ashley with a shrug.
Soon Jess ducked through freezing sleet towards the high street café, Sparrows. Once inside, she clasped numbed fingers around the warm cup of malted chocolate on the wooden table then peered through cloudy windows for Matthew’s slim form.
His workplace was only across the road; why was he always late?
Still, Jess’s heart raced at the thought of him marching towards her through the crowded street on his way to their favourite haunt. His sandy hair slick with melted sleet, those piercing sky-blue eyes and oh, that dimpled smile. She had wanted to kiss those lips from the very first day they met at the school gates of Birling Grove Secondary. But Jess could never quite bring herself to tell her best friend that she had always loved him.
Jess glanced at her watch for the third time, only to be surprised by a soft kiss on her temple. She smiled as Matthew rounded the table to sit opposite, then allowed him to ease the hot chocolate from her fingers to take a generous draught. Matthew grimaced before he slid it aside, then finally held her warm hands in his damp and icy grasp.
‘My Jessie,’ Matthew murmured then lowered his gaze, those pale lashes framing sparkling eyes.
‘What is it?’ she giggled and bit her lip in hope.
‘I have something really important to tell you…’ he began.
‘Yes?’ said Jess, her heart now a hum.
At last Matthew met her gaze.
Oh God. After all those years of sharing meaningful looks over steaming cups of hot malted chocolate, he was finally going to ask her out!
Matthew took a deep breath. ‘I’ve asked Manda to marry me.’
At first his words did not register.
‘What?’ said Jess.
‘You know, Manda,’ he replied. ‘Amanda Huntley from school? We were The Three Musketeers, remember?’
Jess frowned. ‘The Amanda who stole my school skirt during P.E. Amanda?’
Matthew shrugged. ‘Well obviously she’s changed…’
A cold splinter formed in Jess’s heart.
‘I had to go to school in my netball skirt, for a month,’ she hissed.
‘But that was a long time ago.’
Jess withdrew her hands from his.
‘She posted a photo on Instagram wearing my skirt last week, just to prove she could still fit it!’
‘You know Manda’s humour,’ he chuckled.
‘Just say you’re happy for me, Jessica Jane, please?’
Jess stared at him in bewilderment. ‘First of all, no-one calls me that unless they are livid. Second, you are marrying Amanda Huntley of all people?’
Their pact seemed so distant and childish now.
Matthew gave Jess a faraway smile. ‘I know it seems hasty, but I think this is fate.’
Jess’s voice rose to a squeal. ’But why now all of a sudden?’ Were you two even dating?’
He gave a dismissive wave. ‘Sort of,’ Matthew replied. ‘For a month or so before she split up with her ex. I saw my chance and just took it.’
Jess stared at him in disbelief. ‘Haven’t you just…’
‘Oh be happy for me, won’t you, Jessie J?’
And just one day before their pact was due.
The sleet quickened outside.
Jess gulped down the hard knot that had formed in her throat and tried to keep her voice steady. ‘I’m really…happy for you.’
Satisfied, Matthew rose from his chair to plant a wet kiss on her forehead. Jess’s heart sank even further.
She looked up through the first prickle of tears. ‘Where are you going?’
‘Got to dash mate.’
Mate? Mate! That was even worse.
‘Going to ask Mum for a loan to buy Manda a ring. We’re going to hold the mother of all engagement parties Christmas Eve.’
‘This Christmas?’ Jess yelped.
He nodded with a smile. ‘Wish me luck.’
Then Matthew grabbed her malted chocolate and dashed out of the Sparrows café into hard sleet.
When a shell-shocked Jess stumbled back into the office, Ashley took one glance at her, speared a pen into her topknot and leapt up from her desk. She pulled Jess into a staff kitchen decorated with leftover tinsel then slammed its flimsy door. Jess plumped down on a stool by a sleet-freckled window, where the Shard’s spire towered beyond London’s grey cityscape.
‘What on earth happened?’ Ashley cried.
But at that precise moment their colleague Andy burst in, armed with a bunch of tissues and a generous slab of milk chocolate.
‘Not now!’ Ashley yelled. Andy froze wide-eyed then backed in haste through the door.
‘He…’ Jess began, still numb. ‘He’s getting married.’
Ashley frowned in confusion. ‘Who’s getting married?’
‘Matthew,’ Jess yelped. ‘To Amanda, my old school bully.’
Her friend blinked. ‘Wait, the woman who paraded your stolen school skirt on the internet?”
‘Sounds like quite the sweetheart doesn’t she,’ muttered Jess.
‘You cannot be serious…’
‘He says she’s changed,’ Jess managed to mumble.
‘I just don’t understand it,’ cried Ashley. ‘But what’s her problem with you?’
Jess exhaled. ‘On the first day of school Matthew chose to walk home with me instead of her because our houses were closer. Pretty sure she only hates me out of habit.’
‘So when did they even start seeing each other?’
‘Apparently they’ve been dating for a month, while Amanda was still with her ex…’
‘Classy,’ said Ashley then her eyes narrowed. ‘She must be pregnant. Or maybe he’s bankrupt…’
‘No,’ Jess sighed. ‘Apparently he’s just been nursing a long-time crush on my childhood tormentor.’
‘And he never thought to tell you?’ Ashley said.
‘Not even a sausage. Now they’re throwing an engagement party on Christmas Eve.’
‘Good God. I’m so sorry,’ Ashley cried.
Jess’s voice trembled. ‘What am I going to do?’
‘Right,’ said her friend. ‘Have you finished your campaign?’
‘Just need to send the final revisions before the holidays,’ said Jess. ‘I swear if I have to describe one more handlebar moustache grooming kit, I am going to throw myself off the Shard.’
‘Lucky for you the weekend starts tomorrow,’ Ashley said. ‘Go on holiday now. Shut off your phone. Just get out of this place.’
‘I don’t want to run away,’ Jess cried.
‘You’ve had a crush on this man for nearly two decades! And Matt’s so gormless he’ll probably be here every lunchtime before Christmas, asking you for your opinion on wedding rings.’
‘That is so Matthew,’ said Jess. ‘I should’ve told him how I felt.’
Ashley rolled her eyes. ‘You think he doesn’t already know? Probably enjoyed having you gaze at him longingly with those big brown puppy-dog eyes, until he could prize that National Treasure off her poor beleaguered boyfriend.’
The splinter of ice in Jess’s heart shattered and out spilled painful sobs.
Ashley hugged her. ‘Oh J don’t cry.’
At last Jess nodded and wiped her eyes. ‘You’re right. I’m not going to bawl. I’m just going to get away.’
‘Do you have any plans for the holidays?’
Jess shrugged. ‘What I always do when I’m single at Christmas. Stay at Mum and Dad’s farm in Kent.’
‘Good,’ Ashley said. ‘Then I’ll ask Clare if she can extend your holiday right now.‘
Jess dabbed her eyes with spent tissue. ‘If you think the boss will be sympathetic. But I’ll still have to face Matthew when I get back.’
‘A few days being chatted up by a few gorgeous farmhands and soon Matthew Churchill will be history.’
‘I hope not,’ cried Jess between sniffs. ‘Because both of them are my brothers, but thanks for trying Ash.’
‘Well at least you’ll be able to make up some farm-based excuse to avoid the wedding. Like being trampled by a rogue cow, or mown down by a runaway combine harvester.’
‘But he’ll still want me to support him as a friend,’ said Jess. ‘It’s not his fault I read him wrong. He never asked me out.’
Ashley placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. ‘You didn’t read him wrong. That man’s been stringing you along for years by tossing you the occasional breadcrumb. Then the nanosecond commitment draws near, promptly asks the girl he really likes to marry him.’
‘Matthew’s not that calculated,’ cried Jess. ‘You’re being far too harsh.’
‘In Jane Austen’s day we’d call him a rake and have him immediately married off to the silliest sister. Or at least to an accomplished pianist doomed to die of consumption… You see if he doesn’t try to wriggle out of this marriage.’
‘I can’t even think straight right now,’ Jess sobbed.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Ashley. ‘A few miles away from this place and Mr. Churchill will soon be a distant memory.’ And she gave Jess a determined nod.
Jess’s phone began to buzz. She glanced at it wide-eyed. ‘It’s him already!’
‘Don’t answer it. Just let me talk to our esteemed Creative Director about your holiday.’
‘Thank you,’ whispered Jess and her best friend hurried out.
Curious stares followed Jess as she crept back to her desk and submitted the client’s copy.
Then she dropped her modest display of Christmas cards into her blue satchel. The last, from Matthew, had a snowman and snowwoman poised to kiss beneath a sprig of mistletoe.
Merry Xmas from Matthew, it read.
Jess felt the sting of tears, once more.
How on earth did she get this so wrong?