Jun 23, 2017

Celebration time

Launch day is always special and unnerving and scary...we send our 'babies' out into the world after much navel gazing and worrying and second-guessing and editing.

So when Wednesday came around and my book, Something About You launched I was on tenterhooks. This is my second full self-published book so the buck stops with me. I chose the cover, I chose the editor, I wrote the blurb...which is all so very different from working with a traditional publisher. There's no one to hold my hand and no one else to take the blame.


But, I loved writing this book so much. Jenna and Nick are perfect for each other but both have been hurt in the past so they try very, very hard not to fall in love. I also love the setting of Portobello Market, Notting Hill where I lived for a few years--it's a crazy melting pot of cultures and sounds and scents and has a small community feel although it's in a big city.

Here's the blurb:

Will they risk their friendship for a night of unbridled passion?

A broken heart …
Widow Jenna Cassidy-Pearce has had her one love of a lifetime. Now she’s fine being single and focusing on her new floristry business, raising her daughter and spending time with her friends. On top of all that she’s also organizing a very secret wedding for her sister, the wedding-shy wedding planner. Jenna’s life is a whirlwind of busy-but-in-control, and that’s just how she likes it – it keeps the loneliness and the longing at bay. So when old friend Nick Welsh comes back into her life she's not prepared for the onslaught of emotions and unwelcome lust she feels for him.

A damaged soldier …
After surviving bombs and bombshells that damaged his life and destroyed all trust, ex army officer Nick Welsh has returned to London for a quiet life. He definitely does not want to get embroiled in Jenna's chaotic one, but there's something about the spirited redhead with the sparkling blue eyes and complete inability to sit still that makes him keep seeking her out, and there’s a whole lot of chemistry he just can't deny.

The healing power of love
Is he ready to trust again? And can he teach Jenna that everyone deserves another chance at love?
A fun story about family, second chances, old friends and new love.

What are you celebrating this week/month? I'm hoping to share some bubbles with my writing friends this weekend as I send this baby out into the wild (a bit like wetting the baby's head! LOL). What's your preferred way to celebrate? 

Jun 21, 2017

A Roman Love Affair - Annie West

I'm in love - with Rome. It started early, watching Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in 'Roman Holiday' and then there were all those years when I studied the history and culture of the ancient city. But there's nothing quite like spending time there to turn an affection into love!
 
In May this year I was lucky enough to spend a week in Rome. The intention was to do some research for future books, but to take it slow, getting over jetlag ready to attend a readers' festival in Paris. But instead of taking things slow I found myself out and about from early in the morning till late in the evening, revelling in this marvellous city.
 
Here are just a couple of the things that appealed:
 
1. The view from the hotel room. How could you not love that? Added to that was that it was right next to a big park and from the balcony I could hear birdsong.
 
2. Speaking of hotels, there was the rooftop terrace and bar and the chance to watch the sun go down over the city before heading out for dinner.
 
 
3. The unexpected finds when wandering around the city, like a piece of beautifully carved marble, ignored by everyone as too mundane.
 
 
4. When they do spectacular in Rome, they really do spectacular. Here's the ceiling of a corridor in the Vatican that was just stunning.
 
 
5. The food. Sigh. This lemon and saffron risotto that was one of the best lunches I've ever had!
 
 
6. The museums. Yes, I'm a nerd but I loved them. Here's one of my favourite things - a glorious Etruscan terracotta sarcophagus built for a loving couple.
 
 
7. The sheer theatre of the place. Where else would you find a couple of Roman soldiers hanging around the street ready for photo opportunities.
 
 
8. The early evening stroll (passeggiata) and the opportunity to relax at an outdoor cafe and watch the people go by. In case you're wondering, the bright orange drink is an Aperol Spritz, something I've only had in Italy.
 
 
I'm hoping to visit Rome again sometime but meanwhile I have hundreds of photos and a huge store of happy memories. Plus I'll be revisiting the city as I write some future stories.
 
Is there a place you visited on holiday that you can't wait to return to? I'd love to hear!
 
And if you want a touch of Italian goodness, Annie has a new romance out. BOUND TO THE ITALIAN BOSS is (you guessed it) an office romance set, not in Rome but in the beautiful north of Italy. It's the 3rd book in her HOT ITALIAN NIGHTS e-novella series. For more details, visit Annie's website, or you can buy it at the usual places. Here's the link to it at Amazon.
 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XP5VBYK

Jun 19, 2017

Friends to Lovers...

The thing I love about romance novels (other than the sexy bits and swoon-worthy HEAs, of course) is the VARIETY. Seriously, there is a romance novel for all tastes.

Like your romance hot and heavy? Erotic romance has you covered. Want something with a sprinkle of faith? Read an inspirational romance. Don’t care for regular guys? Try paranormal.

Even within the subgenres there a massive choice of styles, voices and tropes. Billionaires (because millionaires are so 2014) and marriages of convenience, cowboys and secret babies, amnesia (pregnesia!), wrong bed, sleeping with the boss…if you like it, there’s a romance novel out there for you.

Today I’m going to share one of my personal favorites: friends to lovers.

There are so many reasons why I love this trope, I guess part of it is that is seems so plausible. How many people fall for their friends? It happens all the time.

Of course, friends to lovers stories can be mixed in with other tropes as well—what if that friend was a rock star? Or was the brother of the heroine’s ex-boyfriend? Yep, see what I mean. Variety!

Here are a few wonderful stories that you should definitely check out if you’re a friend to lovers fan as well:

This is a really cute story that mixes the friends to lovers trope with a fake engagement. Wes and Dani have been BFFs since college but a single awkward kiss gone wrong has put them off ever trying to take their relationship further. When Wes’s sister announces her plans to appoint none other than the ex who left him high and dry a few years ago as her bridesmaid, he decides there’s no way he wants to face that alone.  so he calls in reinforcements from his friend, Dani.

It wouldn’t be a recommendation list without a Sarah Mayberry book. This is another friends to lovers mixed with a fake engagement, but there’s also a whole lot of unrequited love. *swoon*
At the annual Valentine’s Ball Andie allows herself a moment of sheer fantasy to fill out an entry form for the Great Wedding Giveaway. Andie channels years of fantasy and yearning for Heath McGregor onto the page, but she never intends to actually enter the Giveaway. Afterall, they’re not engaged. The form, however, finds its way to into the hands of the judges and shenanigans ensue.

Get yourself a bottle of water – Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson
Friends to lovers works equally well in erotic romance. Here you’ve got friends to lovers with a ménage twist. They totally had me at the tag line: Kassidy is a good girl who wants to be bad. Dag is a bad boy who is very, very good. And Chris? He likes to watch…
This story is filled with lots of steamy scenes but also had real heart and emotion at the core of it.  If you can get past the fact that they have a character named Dag (which means something very unappealing in Australia) then this read is a lot of fun.


Are you a fan of the friends to lover’s trope? Tell me your recommendations below.

Jun 18, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Leah Ashton

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!


Today we have a smooch from Cat-in-the-wild Leah Ashton but first...


... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is WrensRoost!


Can you please contact Ally: ally (at) allyblake (dot) com  to receive your copy of The Wedding Wish.


And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Leah's latest release: Behind the Billionaire's Guarded Heart.


Falling for her mysterious boss…

When Australian heiress April Molyneux is left brokenhearted, she looks for a new start in London. Determined to stand on her own two feet, she finds herself working for the reclusive yet sexy billionaire Hugh Bennell.

Hugh likes his life—and his emotions—uncomplicated, but meeting glamorous April changes everything. Hugh doesn’t do relationships, and April wants to keep the independence she’s worked so hard for. But with these sparks flying…resistance might be futile!

Once a socialite and Instastar, April has dyed her hair and is using the name April Spencer, so Hugh - her boss - has no idea of her fortune or her glamorous past. Hugh's mother was a hoarder, and April's job is to clean out her house which has been left untouched since her death. Hugh has been having a hard time dealing with his mother's hoard, and what it represents to him, but slowly he's been revealing more to April and beginning to trust her. Hugh has just revealed some of his past to April, when he suddenly turns the tables..

  ‘My husband left me,’ she said.
  Silence.
  She’d expected him to recoil. Because surely this wasn’t the conversation Hugh Bennell wanted to have with her?
  Instead, he nodded. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked simply.
  She smiled. Genuinely this time. ‘Yes,’ she said with confidence. ‘Now. Sucked for a bit, though.’
  He smiled too.
  ‘I needed a change. So here I am. Unpacking your boxes and stacking supermarket shelves. Trust me, it’s not as glamorous a mid-life crisis as I’d expected.’
  ‘What happened?’ he asked. Gently.
  ‘We fell out of love,’ she said. ‘Him first, but me too. I just hadn’t realised it. So I’m okay. Not heartbroken or anything. But it was still sad.’
  ‘Not heartbroken?’ he prompted.
  Her gaze had travelled downwards, along his jaw and chin. Now it flew upwards, locking with his.
  ‘What do you think?’ she asked.
  Her gaze was heated. Hot. Deliberately so.
  Nope. Definitely not scared any more.
  ‘No,’ he said, his voice deliciously low. ‘I don’t think you are.’
  And just like that weeks of tension, of attraction, of connection were just—there. No glancing away, no changing the subject, no pretending it didn’t exist.
  It was there. Unequivocally.
  Oh, God.
  His eyes were dark, and intensely focused on her. He’d moved closer again, so that only centimetres separated them, and there was no question about what he wanted to do next.
  He leant closer. Close enough that his breath was hot against her cheek and then her ear.
  ‘I want to kiss you,’ he said, and the low rawness of his voice made her shiver.
  How did he know? April thought. That she needed that? That she needed a moment? That despite the crackling tension between them doubts still tugged at her?
  Could she trust her instincts after what had happened to her marriage? She’d got it all so very wrong. And, even more than that, could she actually kiss another man?
  It had been so long—so very, very long…
  ‘Kiss me,’ she said, because she couldn’t wait another moment.
  Although it turned out she had to.
  His lips were at her ear, and he didn’t move them far. Instead he pressed his mouth to the sensitive skin of her neck, at the edge of her jaw. Suddenly her knees were like jelly, but strong hands at her waist steadied her.
  The sensation of his lips against her neck and his hands against her body was so good, and April’s eyes slid shut as a sigh escaped from her mouth.
  Her fingers untangled themselves from the sleeves of her jumper and reached for Hugh blindly, hitting the solid wall of his stomach and sliding up and around to the breadth of his back.
  Hugh dotted her jaw with kisses that were firm but soft. And glorious. But not even close to enough. More than almost anything, she wanted to turn her head to meet his mouth with hers—but she didn’t. Because, even more than she wanted that, she wanted this anticipation to last for ever. This promise of Hugh’s kiss that, she realised, had been growing from the moment they’d met.
  But he was definitely going to kiss her now – this mysterious man who was so different to anyone she’d ever met - and the wonder of that she wanted to hold onto. Just a few seconds longer.
  By the time his mouth reached hers April felt about as solid as air. His hands pressed her closer, and then her own hands drew his chest against her breasts.
  His mouth was hot against hers, and confident.
  If she’d been tentative, or if her brain had been capable of worrying about her kissing technique or other such nonsense, his assuredness would have erased it all.
  But, as it was, April didn’t feel at all unsure. In fact, Hugh made her feel that this kiss was about as right as anything could get.




April is working two jobs - cleaning out a hoard, and stacking supermarket shelves. What's the worst job you've ever had?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Amy Andrews will be posted!



 Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Jun 14, 2017

A new recipe...

When we road-tripped over Easter, my sister-in-law cooked up this seriously delicious chicken fettuccine dish that was seriously delicious (I was going to delete one set of those “seriously delicious”-es, but I figured the recipe was so good it bore repeating ;-) ). She didn’t use a recipe, just threw things together, and ever since we got home I’ve been trying to recreate it.

And I think I finally have it right! So I thought I’d share it. :-)



Chicken + Other Things with Fettuccine

* Brown 500g of diced chicken in a large frying pan in some olive oil. Remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
* At the same time, put some fettuccine on to boil
* Sauté a small diced green capsicum and a handful of button mushrooms quartered (or halved, depending on their size) in the frying pan along with two or three chopped up cloves of garlic. When the capsicum is soft, add 1/2 cup of white wine (pinot grigio works a treat) and a tablespoon or two of sliced black olives. Return the chicken to the pan and continue to gently cook. Add more wine if needed.
* When fettuccine is cooked, drain and stir in the grated zest and juice of one lemon (use less if you’re not so keen on lemon).
* Add the fettuccine to the chicken mixture, and stir well.
* Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy!

NOTE: the amounts are all subject to taste and preference. I've made it with far less chicken (but the packs at the supermarket are 500gms which I usually use for convenience...and that makes enough for two meals for me and Mr Douglas). A tablespoon of capers added was lovely. I'm sure some ginger would add a nice flavour to the dish too. So this is a fast and loose recipe, which can be adapted depending on what ingredients you have on hand. :-)

Sorry, I don't have a picture of the finished product...but here's a picture from our road trip!

And a picture of my sister's farm

And some sheep...because life is better with sheep. :-)


I expect part of this recipe's original magic was the garden-fresh veggies…and the fact that when one is road tripping, fast food becomes the order of the day. So when you're served something as fresh and tasty as this fettuccine dish, you appreciate it all the more.

But even using supermarket veggies and eating in our usual (generally) healthy way, we still love this dish.

So…what’s been your favourite new recipe so far this year? Do you have one you'd like to share? And tell me, are you tempted to give this one a whirl? :-)

Jun 12, 2017

Byron Writers Festival 2017

As readers of this blog, most of you will know I’m the Chair of the Byron Writers Festival and things are really hotting up for our 21st birthday Festival. 

We have announced some of our writers and commentators including acclaimed Australian novelists Kate Grenville and Hannah Kentcrime writer Michael Robotham; journalists Tony Jones, David Marr and Kate Cole-Adams; satirist John Safran; Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Thiak Adut and co-author of Deng’s biography, journalist Ben Mckelvey; musician and fiction writer Holly Throsby and beloved childrens authors Sally Rippin and Morris Gleitzman.

International guests will include award-winning science writer Dava Sobel whose recent book The Glass Universe (which I'm currently reading) uncovers the hidden history of female astronomers; American biology professor and Pulitzer Prize finalist David George Haskell who puts a stethoscope to natures most magnificent networkers and listens to The Song of Trees; acclaimed UK writer and foreign affairs reporter Christina Lamb whose book Nujeen tells one girl's incredible journey from war-torn Syria in a wheelchair; and celebrated visual artist Venkat Shyam from India. 

We will launch the full program this Wednesday and you can check it out at the Byron Writers Festival website.

The Festival has such relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is held on the beachfront. I’d love to see you all here in Byron for Australia’s most popular regional literary festival.

Jun 11, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Ally Blake

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Ally Blake but first ... the winners of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway are Lesley McIntosh and Lynn M.

Can you please contact annie(at)annie-west.com to receive your prizes.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Ally's first book, THE WEDDING WISH.


Holly is getting married.  Now she just needs a fiancé!
 
Party planner Holly Denison decides that if she is ever going to have the leading role in her own wedding party she's going to take matters into her own hands! 
 
Surely her best friends can fix her up on a few blind dates.  'Sure,' they say.  And that's how Holly meets Jacob Lincoln.  He's gorgeous, rich and successful.  In fact he's perfect marriage material - if only Holly can get Jacob to agree.
 
 
. . . . .
 
The story set up...
 
Holly and Jacob had been set up on a blind date by mutual friends. Only Holly learns that Jacob wasn't informed that he was walking into a blind date until he walked through the front door! Here is the aftermath as they say goodnight...
 
. . . . .

 
 
‘Look - ‘ they both spoke at the same time.  Jacob motioned for Holly to speak first.
‘It’s unlikely we will run into each other often, so, I think it best we just pretend we never met.’
‘Sure,’ Jacob said.  ‘No problem.’
Hmm.  She had expected ‘If you say so’, or even ‘If you insist’.  But, ‘no problem’?  Was she that easily forgettable?
Bothered beyond good sense, she mustered her haughtiest attitude.  ‘No matter what Ben told you, and not that it matters what you think, I am no princess.’
Jacob laughed, his head thrown back as he let out great effusive guffaws.  Holly was shocked into momentary silence.
‘You heard that?’ Jacob finally asked, his eyes sparkling in merriment.
‘Loud and clear.  And I think that was extremely wrong of Ben and rude of you to even joke about such a thing.’
‘Are you done?’
She looked up, surprised at his short tone.
‘Well yes, I thought that quite about covered it - ‘
Jacob leant over and placed a light kiss on her open mouth succeeding in shutting her up.  His hands remained in his pockets and her hands held her gloves in front of her at chest height.  And since his toes were a couple of feet from hers, the only points of contact were their four, warm, amenable lips.
It took the merest moment for the unexpected tenderness of his kiss to wash its magic over her.  On impulse Holly closed her eyes and tilted her head only ever so slightly.  But it was enough.
Jacob took her hint and he leant that little bit closer to explore the warmth and thrill as unexpected yearning lit between them.  And what started as little more than an overly friendly goodnight peck deepened into something very different.  It was delicate.  It was yielding.  It was lovely.
After enjoying a few moments of unchecked ardour, they pulled apart as one.
Holly rocked back on the heels of her feet; luckily the car was there to catch her as she swayed.  Her tongue ran over the back of her teeth and she could taste after dinner mints.  She had not eaten any, but Jacob had. 
. . . . .

Hey guys!  I hope you enjoyed Holly and Jacob's first kiss as much as they did :). I've never actually been on a blind date?  Have you?  Did it end in true love or true disaster??  My favourite answer will win an epub copy of The Wedding Wish.  Cheers, Ally

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Ally Blake will be posted!
 
Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver