Piatkus editors Donna and Lucy were overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of entries submitted for the Piatkus Valentine's Day Writing Competition, which opened on the 14th January and closed on the 14th February. Tasked with reimagining their favourite fairy tales, a homage to the great premise of Eloisa James' Regency romance novels including The Duke is Mine, Piatkus readers showed themselves to share fertile imaginations, creativity and flair with our romance authors.
Still, tough decisions had to be made, and in the end they came up with a winner and two runners up, who will receive a package containing Piatkus' ultimate Valentine's Day reading matter:
Winner: Claudia of the Bones by Cate Castania
(inspired by The Goosegirl at the Well from Grimm's Fairy Tales)
Sir Kimberbrooke Smythe was a rich widower who doted upon his three daughters, especially the youngest, Claudia. The day she turned eighteen, he held a banquet in her honour, inviting the 'Who’s Who' of the London business world, but neglecting to invite the rather annoying young man Claudia had taken up with lately. What was his name again? Alex? A penniless archaeology student, of all unsuitable things.
The highlight of the banquet was a surprise announcement by the host that he would be dividing his empire between his daughters and retiring to his country estate. All he required in return was that each girl should say what she found most endearing about him. His eldest sprang up and declared: “I adore everything about you, from your power to your patrician looks. How can I choose?” The middle daughter said: “With you as a father, I have nothing to fear in the world.”
Sir Kim turned expectantly to Claudia. She looked past the arrogant set of his jaw and into his heart. “I love your sadness,” she said softly. Enraged at having been humiliated by his own daughter in front of everyone who matters, Sir Kim threw her out in the street, commanding her never to darken his door again.
Pawning her birthday Rolex, Claudia bought a plane ticket to Ankara and took a bus ride to Potbelly Hill, where a Stone Age temple was slowly revealing its contours under the patient brushstrokes of a team of volunteers. Thus began three years of wandering from one dig to another. She worked in return for bed and board and no questions asked. She came to find a sort of peace: ancient bones can’t make one weep.
Alex, believing himself jilted for some rich boy, threw himself into his studies and took his doctorate summa cum laude. A strange restlessness then seized him and he set about wandering the planet from dig to dig himself, searching for he-knew-not-what.
When he stepped out of the jeep into the blazing Australian sunshine at Dinosaur Cove, a young woman handed him a cold beer. Her face was hidden below a floppy hat and she said nothing, merely gestured him towards the administration hut. The liquid grace of her limbs as she walked away sparked a flash of recognition that made his heart leap, but before he could make up his mind to pursue her, she had disappeared. He signed up as a volunteer, and the thought that he might see her again slowly expanded in his mind until there was room for little else.
Empty weeks then passed, but his hope endured. One day, as he was escaping the midday sun beneath a eucalyptus tree, she came walking out of the shimmering heat towards him. Her dress was the colour of spring grass. She folded herself down beside him and took his hand in hers. With this simple gesture, grief took its leave of them, graciously ceding its place to happiness.
Runner up: Fields Of Gold By Vivienne Dacosta
(inspired by The Angel by Hans Christian Anderson)
Ivy stepped wearily down from the bus, she caught her breath at the view she had waited so long to see again, now spread before her.
The golden fields of daffodils.
Just as she remembered.
Nothing had changed.
She was finally home.
Raising her hand to shield her eyes from the glistening sun, she could just make out a familiar figure laden with a basket, half-full of daffodils.
Hearing her footsteps, the figure turned, smiling, dropping her basket on the dusty pathway. She embraced her granddaughter as if the years of absence were only moments in time.
'Nanna, it has been too long. You look so well now.'
Her grandmother chuckled, a glint of knowing in her eye. ‘I feel more alive now than I ever did.'
Gently she touched her granddaughter's cheek. ‘It seems that you need a good rest here to improve your pasty complexion. A few weeks here and you will be as right as rain.'
Ivy smiled weakly. The past few months had taken their toll on her body, but now the pain had stopped; she knew her grandmother would be able to make her feel better again, like when she was a child. Coming back had been the right decision.
Her grandmother bent down with ease. ‘Will you help me pick some daffodils? For old times’ sake.' Ivy smiled. There was nothing she would rather do and she had all the time in the world now. Kneeling down next to her grandmother she began to pick them. With each one she picked, a memory burst and bloomed into her mind; each flower opening its petals to her past.
She found a lonely daffodil lying beside her, still attached to its bulb. 'Should we take this one back and replant it in a pot?'
Her grandmother grinned. 'Just like you did when I was so poorly, do you remember? You would come in and water it every day hoping it would help me get better.'
Ivy beamed at the memory. ‘Just before you went on that long holiday that Mum said would make you well again.'
The basket now overflowing, they both stood up, each catching a glimpse of the procession of black cars passing at the end of the pathway.
Noticing the tears, her grandmother wiped them as they fell on to Ivy's cheek.
'Now don't fret child, everything will be fine. Let's head to the house, your grandfather can't wait to see you. And old Patch has been running round in circles, I am sure he knew you were coming.'
'Patch is still around! Nothing has changed. It really is just how I remembered it.'
Hand in hand, they strolled beside the glistening fields of golden daffodils.
'Will heaven be just like this?'
Her grandmother squeezed her hand, ‘Ivy, sweetie, this is heaven. I just walked up to meet you and bring you home.'
They hugged as old Patch came scampering up the pathway, his own death a long and distant memory.
Runner Up: A Valuable Proposition by Jenny Bateman-Irish (inspired by Rumplestiltskin)
Donna, known to her mates as ‘Sparra’, ran down the stairwell of the grotty, East London council estate where she lived with her Dad, a taxi driver. She was meeting Chris, one of his stock broker clients, in a West End bar.
‘She’s a right corker my Sparra, you’ll love her. She’s looking for a job in the City. Perhaps you can give her a trial?’ her Dad suggested, when Chris mentioned he was looking for a PA. ‘Maybe’ Chris replied. 'She’d have to be pretty on the ball. Has she got any experience?’ ‘Naturally’, her Dad boasted. ‘She even does a bit of trading on the side’. ‘You’re joking?!’ Chris replied. ‘Well, if she can make me money too, I‘d love to take her on’.
‘I can’t lose this account, just make Chris happy’ said her Dad later, as he shoved her out the door. Donna had no idea about trading, let alone with America. She was petrified when Chris introduced her to his empty office, placed her in front of a computer, and said ‘You’ve got three nights. Show me what you’ve got’. Donna, barely able to manage Powerpoint, put her head on the desk and sobbed.
She looked up later to find an ugly, little man, holding a mop and a pail, leering at her. ‘You really want this job, huh? I can help you. I follow all the traders. Give me your watch and I’ll show you how it’s done.’ He started to work the markets. She slid off her fake Rolex, placing it on the desk. The second night, the caretaker wanted her iPhone. The third, he asked for ‘one night of passion when your new boss goes to New York’. Donna was shocked, but agreed. Having made impressive earnings, Chris quickly offered her a job.
Three weeks later, Donna had learned the basics from the other PAs and Chris flew to Manhattan. ‘I want my night of passion, Sparra’, whispered the caretaker.
‘You can’t be serious’ she exclaimed.
‘Give me my night of passion, or I’ll tell your boss how crap you really are. You owe me.’
‘No way’ said a desperate Donna. ‘I need this job. You can have my first pay cheque, but I’m not sleeping with you.’
‘Then, you’ve got three days to find the password to Chris’s computer and delete the e-mail I sent him. I knew you’d go back on our deal’.
‘Oh God’ thought Donna. ‘How am I going to guess that?’ She spent the weekend entering passwords in vain.
Monday morning, Donna spilled the beans to the other PAs. Miraculously, when Carole, the work-experience girl, went out to get coffees, she overheard the caretaker telling the postman ‘She’s far too thick. Probably never even heard of Rumplestiltskin’. Donna was saved.
Rushing to delete the e-mail, she greeted Chris with a smile. The furious caretaker, heading for the exit, tripped over his bucket, tumbled down a flight of stairs and broke his leg. Never to return again.
Many congratulations to all three!
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