Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kate’s 25th party, guest blogger #11 – India Grey

My next guest is a relatively new friend – and she’s also a brand new M&B author who just happens to be my shelfmate this month. (The Italian’s Defiant Mistress is a superb debut. I have a copy which I’ve been secretly reading under my desk when people think I’m working. I lurrrve Italian men, and Raphael is particularly gorgeous. The word ‘exquisite’ comes to mind.) And I owe Kate Walker a big thank you otherwise it would’ve been a lot longer until we’d met. (And I would have been terrified of said guest because, as you’ll see in her photograph, she also happens to be stunningly beautiful. I think she must have a picture in her attic. I mean, look at her surname. And even her first name is almost an anagram of… Well. Teasing apart, unlike her almost-namesake, she isn’t just beautiful, she has a really lovely personality and it’s impossible not to like her.) Anyway, without further ado, I’m delighted to introduce you to India Grey.

Hi... My name’s India Grey and I’m a chocolate addict.

Chocolate has to be one of the greatest inventions of all time. Chocolate is what you reach for when you’re tired, when you’re sad, when you want to comfort, celebrate or seduce, and I like to think I’m something of an expert on it (chocolate that is, not seduction, at which I’m hopeless.) After all, get this – I have emerged with full marks every time in a blind taste test between Dairy Milk, Galaxy, Green & Black’s, and a supermarket own-brand!*

*(Am I making this sound like it was some kind of official thing? Oh dear me, no. This was just something I persuaded my husband to conduct, to prove once and for all that although I may be a dismal failure in many areas of life—like checking bank statements and remembering to put the bins out—when it comes to chocolate expertise I reign supreme.)

Anyway, the point is, I’m tireless in my quest to sample and explore, and I thought I’d tried it all...

And then I met Kate.
Well, I say I met her, but at this stage that isn’t strictly true. I got to know her via the wonderful medium of email as she took on the task of organising a joint present for the lovely Kate Walker’s 50th book party, and we quickly discovered we shared many passions. Music being one, dark, brooding men another, and... oh yes... chocolate.
So, how excited was I the day that I received in the post a signed copy of In the Gardener’s Bed (containing dark, lovely Will Daines) and, along with it some small gold foil-wrapped squares? They looked deceptively ordinary, and I absent-mindedly unwrapped one as I devoured the first few pages of Kate’s book...
Total sensory overload.

(And the chocolate was pretty sensational too...)

This was my first introduction to Kate Hardy’s famous ‘better-than-sex’ gianduja from Hotel Chocolat, as featured in the London City General trilogy and mentioned fairly regularly in her blog. Tasting is believing, and from the first bite I was hooked. I’m quite sure it’s blessing in disguise that there isn’t a branch of Hotel Chocolat near me (if it is, it’s a very, very good disguise; so good in fact that most of the time I mistake this blessing for a complete tragedy) or I would be maybe the first newly signed Mills & Boon author to spend an advance cheque entirely on calories.

A few weeks of enforced abstinence later my birthday came around, and brought with it a package bearing Kate’s now-familiar handwriting. Inside was the most gorgeous box of Hotel Chocolat handmade chocolates – an assortment of ganaches and pralines and Florentines – all of them surprising, different, delicious. And just as wonderful as the chocolates themselves was the fact that they’d been sent by this lovely person whom I’d never even met, but whose kindness and warmth stretched all the way across the country and made my day. (She does that a lot, in fact!)

I’d been a fan of Kate’s for a long time before I became a friend, and reluctantly finishing the last of those chocolates (at lunchtime, at my computer, alone in the house just to make sure there would be no unpleasant issues about having to share it....) I concluded that you get the same qualities in a Kate Hardy book as you do in a good box of chocolates. (I think Forrest Gump said something along the same lines, although since he hadn’t been lucky enough to discover Kate Hardy’s books the comment was more general.) They’re both life-enhancing, mood-lifting, stress-soothing and utterly addictive. Both take the same basic ingredients (be it cocoa beans and cream, or a man and a woman with a sizzling attraction to each other) and manage to combine them in ways that are endlessly varied and unexpected, always delicious. But there are a couple of ways in which Kate’s books have the edge over the dark stuff....

  1. They’re calorie-free

  2. They’re great to share with friends!

GIVEAWAY: As a tribute to Kate’s own generosity, I’m offering some genuine Hotel Chocolat gorgeousness, along with a signed copy of my first book, to a randomly selected poster. (Oh yes... I discovered Hotel Chocolat have an online shop! Hurrah!!)

GIVEAWAY QUESTION: What’s your favourite chocolate, or your best chocolate-related memory?


Diane said...

I do love chocolate, so long as it's milk. Or white. White chocolate is definitely the best. And, of course, organic is definitely the best too. I also love those KP dipper things - the white chocolate ones preferably.

However, I don't like dark chocolate and I don't like chocolate flavoured anything - chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate custard, chocolate mousse, chocolate trifle ...

Favourite chocolate related memory? Christmas 2005 was my worst Christmas ever. My marriage was over and I was spending Christmas day alone for the first time in my life. And the day we broke up from work, the chocolate fairy delivered a box of Cadbury's Dairy Milk to my desk. A BIG box. I found out who it was and he's now one of my best mates. A soulmate. It's about time he left his bird and became my proppa mate ...!

Ray-Anne said...

Hi India. Difficult one but here goes. I love good food and one Christmas a few years ago, my other half arranged for a wonderful London art gallery trip followed by a meal in a famous city restaurant. The dessert was hot coconut souffle - and when it arrived, the head waiter ceremoniously POURED HOT CHOCOLATE SAUCE INTO THE CENTRE OF THE HOT COCONUT SOUFFLE.
I have never eaten a more delicous dessert in life. Which is saying something.
On a more mundane level, Green and Blacks whole almonds takes some beating when the inspiration is lacking. All the best, Ray-Anne

KimW said...

Welcome, India! What a nice story. I love chocolate. Oh, and Italian men, too. Both are yummy! I try to not have chocolate in my house so often because I can't control myself. I love all kinds.

My favorite memory is when my husband took me to a fondue restaurant for our 15th anniversary. The dinner was so good and we sat and ate in a nice romantic cozy booth. For dessert we had bananas, apples, marshmallows and strawberries and a nice warm full pot of chocolate sauce. I sat there for a hour dipping and eating, dipping and eating. It was sooooo good.

Kate Hardy said...

It's hard to pick just one chocolate-related memory. (There are a lot of them... including last night, when DH bought me some G&B chocolate to cheer me up. Lovely thought but am not touching anything more solid than yoghurt or soup right now!)

So I'll tell you a weird thing instead: I adore ice cream and I adore chocolate, but I *loathe* chocolate ice cream. Not keen on chocolate puds, either (except a white chocolate mousse - which I wouldn't dare make nowadays because of the saturated fat content! The recipe is on my website, though...)

Kate Hardy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
India said...

Ahh-- this is wonderful! Being amongst fellow chocoholics is just like group therapy!!

And I'm loving all these stories, thanks so much for sharing them... They all serve as absolute proof that chocolate and romance are inextricably linked!

(am dashing now, but will come back later!)

CrystalG said...

I love chocolate. My favorite would be milk chocolate.
My favorite chocolate memory is from preschool. My teacher would reward a student with a scoop of M & M's if they were the first to get a correct answer for a question. Every time I open a bag of M & M's and smell them I remember circle time during preschool and getting that special treat.

AA said...

Well India I have to agree with Kate - you are positively gorgeous. You look like a dark-haired english version of Ally Blake. Who is also utterly gorgeous. And I will go out and get your book asap.

Okay - can I admit that whilst I like chocolate and if its in my house I must eat it (because I have no self control and my aforementioned survivalist genes demand that I do),its not something I would crawl over broken glass for or have to eat if it was my last day alive.
Caramel is a different story. And honeycomb. And nougat.
All which happen to taste exceptionally nice with choclate.

cas2ajs said...

White chocolate - yes! My favorite chocolates were handmade at a local candy store that has just closed within the last year. They were called marshmallow pecan squares. They were basically a marshmallow dipped in a chocolate-pecan confection. I treated myself to them only a couple times of year and only purchased a half-pound at a time because I couldn't stop at eating just one.


Lynne Marshall said...

I am currently doing the South Beach diet in preparation for a national conference coming up next week. I've been on it for three weeks and yesterday, for dessert, I got to make chocolate covered strawberries!!!!! It had to be dark or bittersweet chocolate, and could only be two squares melted with 1/2 tablespoon of cream with a dash of almond extract, but I don't recall tasting anything so wonderful in my life! Man, have I missed chocolate.

Okay, I admit to sneaking one of the bittersweet chocolate squares and eating it straight while I waited for the berries dipped in chocolate to firm up in my fridge. I also licked the bowl clean when I was through melting the choco. LOL

Donna Alward said...

I'm a dark chocolate girl.

My favourite chocolate is Bernard Callebaut which is made locally and SOOO good. I never liked "filled" chocolates until I tasted one of their creams. It's perfect heaven.

Don't even get me started on the truffles.

I have a short memory at times so I'll just say I had some when we went to Banff on Monday as there is a Callebaut shop on Banff Avenue. It wouldn't surprise me if a box of them made it into my suitcase for September to sweeten up my editors! :-)

Shirley said...

Chocolate? Now we're talking!

I love chocolate. All chocolate. My favourite is dark chocolate, but hey, I love milk and white, too. I love chocolate puddings, chocolate cakes, chocolate ice cream - anything except hot chocolate (I can't drink that).

A favourite? At the moment, I love Hotel Chocolat's Pink Champagne Truffles. I only have to look at them and I feel pampered (and fat).

India said...

I'm feeling a major craving coming on just reading all of this!

Crystal-- what a lovely memory. I'll think of you every time I eat M&Ms now (hmmm... which makes me think I want some now...)

aa-- thanks for your lovely compliments (and kate's too!)I'm afraid they're totally undeserved, but I'm v happy nonetheless! I love your theory on 'survivalist genes!'-- must tell my husband that!

Cheryl-- I'm gutted that the shop closed down. How could they do that when they made such gorgeous-sounding chocolate? Have they no consideration??!! (maybe Lynne will have a go at making some-- she sounds like a great chocolate chef. That recipe is definitely one I'm trying!)

Donna-- I so wish I was one of your editors! You're absolutely right though. A bit of chocolate love will go a loooong way if you ever need an extension on a deadline...( I wonder if this Bernard Callebaut has an online shop too?)

Shirley, you are so a girl after my own heart! I haven't tried the pink champagne truffles, but now I'm thinking I really must. After all, what could be more romantic?

Can't tell you how much I'm enjoying reading these comments. I feel like I've come home!

Katie S said...

Hmmm chocolate, yum!
Chocolate in New Zealand just doesn't taste the same as British chocolate! Supposedly they put something extra in it to stop it melting and it makes it taste strange (still ok but not as good as back home!). After 2 years in NZ I would be devastated if I hadn't had any British chocolcate! But I'm really lucky because every now and again I get a jiffy bag in the mail from my Mum with a curly wurly, sometimes some dairy milk, sometimes some galaxy and once she sent me malteasers - yum! It's lovely to get a surprise from my Mum and fantastic to get chocolate!

India said...

Katie-- two words....


(aren't mums wonderful, though!)

Kate Hardy said...

Lovely, scrummy posts today. Very inspiring.

India - what Amy and I say is true.

(The deleted comment was me, btw - it posted twice.)

I used to prefer white chocolate but nowadays I have to confess it's any chocolate (though preferably Hotel Chocolat.

Actually, I do have a memory: the birthday when my best local mate gave me a shoebox filled to the brim with every type of white chocolate she could find, from bars to buttons to chocolate mice... (The same friend who bought me some of Ghirardelli's white chocolate earthquake rubble back from her honeymoon in San Fransisco - scrumptious. And no, neither of these gifts lasted very long, but I was walking round with a huge smile for days.)

Kate Hardy said...

Lovely, scrummy posts today. Very inspiring.

India - what Amy and I say is true.

(The deleted comment was me, btw - it posted twice.)

I used to prefer white chocolate but nowadays I have to confess it's any chocolate (though preferably Hotel Chocolat.

Actually, I do have a memory: the birthday when my best local mate gave me a shoebox filled to the brim with every type of white chocolate she could find, from bars to buttons to chocolate mice... (The same friend who bought me some of Ghirardelli's white chocolate earthquake rubble back from her honeymoon in San Fransisco - scrumptious. And no, neither of these gifts lasted very long, but I was walking round with a huge smile for days.)

Rachelle said...

while i always loved chocolate, i've been more of an ice-cream-a-holic. It's just this year that I've been converted. It happened after I had an upset stomach and went to the restroom almost 7 times in just 3 hours then had to hobble off to bed because i felt sick. I've never eaten ice cream since. And now I have a new addiction, Mrs. Fiddles' dark chocolate which comes in gorgeous red heart packaging!

Maureen said...

My favorite chocolate has to be Godive.

Donna Alward said...

India- just for you!