Terri, one of the girls from our small (but select!) writing group invited the other member, Tessa, and me to her Christmas party. Terri lives in an Edwardian mansion in Royal Tunbridge Wells which she and her husband have practically had gutted, to get both the exterior and the interior looking as handsome as the day it was built. Actually, more so, with its mod cons and Terri’s decorating flair.
Terri came to the door looking ravishing in a shiny black-sequined dress with plunging decolletage, showing off her curves to perfection. ‘You’re last,’ she said, as she took my coat and stood while I changed into party shoes. ‘We’re waiting for you so we can eat.’
I looked at my watch. Getting on for eight-thirty. ‘I thought it would just be a drink and nibbles and wouldn’t matter when I arrived.’
‘No, no, it’s a sit-down, so we can have proper conversation.’ She looked at me quite sternly. ‘You haven’t eaten, have you?’
Thank goodness, I hadn’t. Unless you count half a small avocado and a bit of cheese and cracker. She led me into the kitchen where catering-sized casseroles were bubbling away with something which smelt really good and spicy. ‘Vegetable curry,’ Terri answered my unspoken question. I licked my lips in anticipation.
With a glass of Harrods’ champagne in my hand I wandered through the house, as ex-estate agents can’t help doing. Everywhere was decorated just like you see in the ‘country living’ magazines: candles flickered over a Merry Christmas banner as you stepped into the cavernous reception hall; swags of greenery floated across the mantelpieces of several fireplaces and followed the curved banister to the first floor, and a ceiling-sweeping tree stood in the library, dressed in golden birds and white baubles, and a thousand glittering lights. The two candlelit dining tables beckoned me to grab my tray, choose my food, and sit down and relax amongst convivial guests.
Inevitably, Tessa and I sat next to each other and talked about our writing. She’s a published romantic novelist and professional editor, so she always has updated news of what’s going on in the publishing world. Soon some of the other women at the table were drawn into the conversation. Then one of the husbands, an Aussie, had quite an in-depth discussion with us about the difference between men’s and women’s reading matter, and the reasons why. Apparently, men like to cut to the chase in a perfectly logical and linear way (natch!), and women emote over relationships and go off at tangents, thereby affecting their choice of books. Strangely enough, he didn’t come across as chauvinistic, but was telling it as he saw it and was keen to hear whether we agreed. I was surprised he was so interested in the subject, but we later learned his father was a published poet, and he’d even written a few himself. He certainly came out with some ideas and opinions which are sure to find their way into the personalities of my future male characters, especially the alpha heroes!
It was good to know the other non-writing guests were interested in the process and impressed with all the work involved, both during and after the book is finished. They weren’t aware that the writing is one of the easiest bits of the process. The hard work, I explained, is when you think you’re finished. That’s when it’s just about to start.
‘May I top your glass up with more bubbly?’ Terri’s husband asked me, and did so without waiting for a reply. Now that’s what I call a real alpha hero!