Published by Sphere on October 6th 2014
Genres: Chicklit, Christmas, Love & Romance
Amazon UK, Amazon US
At thirty, Claudia’s life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life – and Christmas – alone. Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It’s also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing’s for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different . . . This is the story of Claudia and her twelve dates of Christmas. Hilarious, uplifting and romantic, it’s a story about losing love, finding love, and discovering what’s been there all along. Expect Christmas sparkle, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance and a lot of very funny moments in The Twelve Dates of Christmas.
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Claudia’s underwear was evil and it was going to ruin everything. She fanned herself, one eye on the clock. She would not cry over a stupid cheap corset she’d got off the internet, even if it was completely locked to her body, upside down, and she had to leave in three minutes’ time for her first really posh date in years.
‘Get – off – me.’ She gripped the material and pulled down with all her might, but it wouldn’t budge.
Online, the corset had looked far more Agent Provocateur than Moulin Rouge fancy dress, but it would still be a treat for Seth at the end of their enchanting evening. Only when she’d done it all the way up the front to find her bosoms still page-three-free did she realise her error. Then it wouldn’t undo. The damned hook-and-eyes had become ensnared in the fabric and the more she pulled and tugged the more it gripped hold of her.
Tonight had to go well. If everything was perfect and romantic they could do this more often and things wouldn’t seem so . . . flat. Their relationship was fine, but watching other people’s lives on TV together every night and cooking the same old dinners in their PJs was making Claudia worry life was passing them by. She was not going to be stuck in a rut at thirty, so it was time to do something about it.
She heard his footsteps coming towards their bedroom.
‘What?’ Seth called through the door. ‘We’ve got to go.’
This corset would not derail their big night. With a shot of strength to rival the Incredible Hulk, Claudia struggled, tore and ripped the corset off her body, releasing her pink skin. Panting, she allowed herself a five-second victory dance before grabbing the first undies that came to hand.
‘Just wait there a minute.’ She sat down in front of her dresser and twisted a handful of diamantés into her dark hair, then ripped the cellophane wrapper off a second packet and went to town with them, too. You can’t have too many sparkles at Christmas. She pouted flirtatiously at her reflection. This was the first time she’d ever worn red lipstick and she thought it worked – hopefully it was more Taylor Swift than Joan Collins. Leaning into the mirror, she bared her teeth. The whitening toothpaste was definitely making a difference. ‘You’re a FOX – oops,’ she whispered, dabbing the spit from over-pronouncing the word ‘fox’ off the mirror.
She pulled on her brand new dress. Scarlet, no less. Tonight she would be dazzling and witty, and Seth would see her as his beautiful girlfriend – and not his glorified room-mate – once more.
‘I’m ready. No – wait,’ she smiled to herself. ‘This is our first date: you have to pick me up.’ Why she was mimicking Katharine Hepburn’s accent she had no idea, it just seemed to fit with ‘dazzling and witty’.
There was silence behind the door. ‘What are you on about, “first date”?’
‘Well, our first date in a really long time. It’s special. Knock on the door.’
Claudia heard him sigh, but he banged on the doorframe. ‘Hellooooo, I’m here for our date.’
She flung open the door and grinned. After a moment he looked up from his phone. ‘You look nice. You ready?’
Claudia shimmied like she’d learned in Zumba. It probably didn’t look as hot as she hoped, since she nearly toppled out of her heels. ‘Do you like my dress?’ she prompted. Please like my dress. It’s for you.
‘Yep, it’s nice,’ he said, hitting send on his phone and stuffing it into his suit jacket. ‘Come on then.’
‘It’s red. Like LOVE.’
For crying out loud, Seth, meet me halfway. He couldn’t have sounded more lacklustre if he’d tried. But this evening was about more than a red dress, so she brushed it aside and thought with excitement of their evening to come.
Claudia slipped her arm into his as she tottered out of the flat. It was a cold but clear night, and the strings of Christmas lights across the street blended into the starry sky.
This was the best Christmas present she could ask for, the perfect start to the season. This date, hopefully the first of many, was a new beginning for her and Seth, a rekindling of their romance. She was just brimming with anticipation.
‘I love our first date so far.’ She beamed up at Seth, treating him to her megawatt combo of scarlet lips and Hollywood-white gnashers, Marilyn-style. He looked down at her, amused.
‘What’s with all this “first date” stuff? We go on dates—’
‘Not proper dates; the pub with friends doesn’t count. This is a proper date.’ She blew him a kiss. ‘It’s romantic.’
Seth flung an arm around Claudia’s neck and sighed. ‘All right, fusspot, let’s romance you up. There’s nowhere I feel more romantic than at a bloody ballet!’ He winked and pulled her in close.