Sep 3, 2014

Measure for Measure: by Anna Campbell

Today, we've got talented, multi-award winning historical author, Anna Campbell, to visit!  She's here to tell us about one aspect of her research for her latest release!

Over to you, Anna!

Thanks, Sharon. Hiya Love Cats! Thank you for inviting me back here. I love visiting!

Last week, I had a new book out. That’s always an exciting event in Campbellandia, as you can imagine. WHAT A DUKE DARES is the third book in my Sons of Sin series and it details the turbulent romance between childhood friends Camden Sedgemoor, Duke of Rothermere, and Penelope Thorne. 

Speaking of rocky, things literally start out that way. While the majority of the story takes place back in England in stately homes and glittering ballrooms, the beginning of WHAT A DUKE DARES is a road trip. Pen, my intrepid and headstrong heroine, is facing down a band of marauding bandits in a ramshackle inn in the Italian Alps in February when who should turn up to save her but the man she’s spent nine long years trying to forget, Camden Rothermere? Even worse, Cam insists upon escorting her home to England (why doesn’t she want him to? I think you need to read the book to find out!).

I’ve illustrated this blog with photos from my own trip to this spectacular part of the world in 1985 (apologies for the faded colour!). Imagine these high, rugged mountains covered in thick snow and someone trying to cross them with a horse and carriage and you get an idea of Pen’s travel difficulties. My friend and I were in a very nippy little Citroen and it was April, but even then a lot of the high passes were closed and snow and ice frequently made driving dangerous. 

This particular book involved a lot of travel for the characters. People always seemed to be popping off here and there. There was not just the Italian journey, there was a yacht trip from Genoa to England, a trip to Cam’s Derbyshire family seat, and a journey from London to Liverpool. I don’t know about Pen and Cam, but I was ready for a cup of tea and a nice lie-down by the time I got to the end of writing it! 

The problem, for a writer at least, of all this travel is that you need to be careful with your timing. There’s nothing worse when a reader finds themselves ripped from the story because someone travels from London to Edinburgh in a couple of hours when only horse-drawn transport is available. So I needed to work out just how slowly people were likely to travel through the Alps in midwinter (answer: very slowly indeed) and I needed to estimate distances and likely travel times for all the other journeys. Luckily in the Regency, high speed mail coaches published schedules for their routes so working out believable travel times in England is reasonably straightforward. 

But what happens when your characters leave dry land? I’m a very enthusiastic swimmer but boats are beyond my ken apart from the fact that they float (hopefully!) and if you point them in the right direction, they’ll carry you to interesting places. 

I needed approximate timing for Genoa to Folkestone on the Kentish coast under the power of sail alone. So I called on an expert! My talented writer friend Helene Young lives on a yacht so I requested her help in charting a voyage for Cam and Pen on a thoroughbred of a boat, and she came up trumps with a trip of around a fortnight. Just right for my story! That’s Helene in the photo holding her Australian Romantic Book of the Year Award from 2011.  Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

I hope you’ll travel to your nearest bookseller (even if they’re as close as the internet!) and check out Pen and Cam’s tumultuous love story. For all the physical journeys they undertake, their greatest journeys are the shifts their hearts and minds make! Only then can they look forward to happily ever after.

But of course, that’s true about any worthwhile romance novel, isn’t it?

So let’s talk fantasy travel. If you could do a road trip anywhere at all, where would you go? Who would you choose as your traveling companion and why? I’ve got a signed copy of WHAT A DUKE DARES (international) for someone who leaves a comment today. Good luck! 

Where to get WHAT A DUKE DARES:
The Book Depository
Barnes and Noble

Sep 1, 2014

When Readers Become Advisors - Annie West

One of the things I love about writing romance is the feel of community. People who read and/or write romance seem to enjoy being with others who have a similar love for romance. Whether it's online or face to face or even (yes, still) via snail mail, the contact is real and fun and so encouraging.

Over the years I've come to expect other writers to be supportive. Not that I take it for granted, but I know so many fabulous women who write romance, that their enthusiasm and generosity seems normal to me now.

What I didn't expect when I started out was how much I'd get from readers. I love reader feedback on my books. I adore it if someone recommends one of my books to their friends or takes the time to post a review. But in addition to that, I've also learned a stack from readers about things that are invaluable.

Damaso Claims His Heir is a case in point. I decided to write a Brazilian hero, a self-made man who grew up in the slums and turned himself into such a successful entrepreneur that he'd never again be touched by the things that haunted him as a kid, like hunger and danger. Of course, jettisoning his past isn't quite so easy, but that's what makes him so interesting.

Why he had to live in Brazil I don't know. Sometimes these things just lodge in your brain and you know they're right. In this case, it was Brazil, nowhere else. One small issue though - I'd never been there. The closest I'd come was TV docos (and soapies!) and lots of travel books.

So, not only did I need to research a setting and culture in lots of detail, I also needed to make Damaso sound Brazilian. Do I speak Portuguese? No. Did I consider a boxed set of Teach Yourself Portuguese CDs? Yes. But I figured by the time I even understood the pronunciation it would be time to hand in the book.

Fortunately I came across a romance reader whose native tongue is Portuguese. Would she mind advising on language? 'Delighted' came the reply! I suspect she didn't quite realise how many questions an author could ask about the minutiae of a single point... Over the next several months she and I corresponded about swear words and endearments, slang and formal language. I learned a few phrases in Portuguese, which I guarantee I can't pronounce properly - it's a gorgeous language but I can't do it justice.

Without her help I doubt I'd have had the courage to submit this book. I knew that whatever gaps there might be in my research, I had to get the language right. Her advice was crucial. What still amazes me is her willingness to help, even when she was busy with things of her own (funny that) and her patience (this wasn't just a one off query). Her good humour and support throughout were marvellous. It's one thing to call up a foreign consulate and quiz the staff about murder laws and conviction rates in their countries (yes, I've done that). Those staff are there to answer even such bizarre questions. But again and again I've had romance readers put up their hands to advise on things I need - the personal perspective on a particular medical treatment, the intricacies of aristocratic titles in their country, regional food, the state of the roads and travel times in a given area, some everyday detail from their job and yes, more language details.

To all those people who've been an advisor along the way - thank you! Speaking with an expert makes all the difference to a writer who's chained to her desk (sometimes it feels like it) and hasn't experienced what you have. It helps to feel I've tapped into what's real, not just what I've imagined to be real.

Have you ever found your knowledge or experience unexpectedly useful?

In the interests of shameless self-promotion, I'll mention that DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR is out today in Australia, New Zealand and Britain and already available in North America. Here's the back cover copy:

When opposites attract!
Damaso Pires should have known better than to get involved with Marisa, the scandalous Princess of Bengaria.  Yet soon he sees her true beauty and flawless virtue, which touches a place in him he’d thought had been ruthlessly destroyed by his childhood on the streets of Brazil.
But their brief affair becomes permanent when Marisa reveals she’s pregnant.

Damaso knows the sting of illegitimacy and, having fought tooth and nail to claw his way up to the dizzying heights of international success and financial infamy, he won’t let his child slip from his grasp. There’s only one way to claim his heir – and that’s marriage!
Here's a link to read the first chapter.

Aug 31, 2014

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Amy Andrews but first 

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

Can you please contact susannebellamy (at) gmail (dot) com to receive your copy of Engaging the Enemy

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from No More Mr Nice Guy

Amy says - No More Nice Guy has no official blurb or cover just yet and isn't out to September 29th but I couldn't wait to share a snippet of my sexy new Brazen from Entangled Publishing.

I've included a blurb of my own just to give everyone a bit of an idea but the official one will vary when it comes up for pre-order in the next couple of weeks.

Josie Butler is leaving her nice, safe, boring existence in small-town Australia in search of adventure in London. But first she’s spending a couple of weeks with her best friend Sal. Shopping and shoes and Friend’s re-runs – what could possibly go wrong?
One night of too many fruity cocktails and a sex-list later, Josie has her answer. Especially when Mack, Sal’s older brother, discovers the list and thinks it’s hysterical that strait-laced Josie would ever actually go through with it.
Goaded by his disbelief, Josie sets out to prove him wrong with the baddest guy she can find. Only she didn’t bargain on it being Mack. But when Mack shucks off his nice guy image he does it in spectacular fashion and they’re soon blowing through her list and an illustrated sex guide at a rate of knots.
But as Josie’s flight to London looms and their feelings get deeper what started out as a straightforward proposition gets a lot more complicated. 

Scene set-up

Josie and Mack have just had their minds blown by a night of very unexpected sex. Sal, Josie's best friend and Mack's sister is, thankfully, oblivious and carries on the morning after as per usual. She's been on at Mack to buy a new bed for ages (he's currently sleeping on a mattress on the floor) and he finally agrees. Sal tries to convince Josie to go with him.

WARNING -  the passage contains use of the F word. Please don't read if that's likely to offend.


She looked at Josie speculatively. “What are you doing today? I can’t go with him. I have a small-animal clinic that goes for hours.”

Josie looked at Sal, ignoring the rub of Mack’s thigh. “You want me to go with him?”

“He can’t go by himself. He’ll spend a fortune on something no-frills. Utilitarian. You know what he’s like. All about function rather than style. The man’s got no flair.”

“Mmm,” Josie said. Normally, she’d have agreed with Sal. Mack had a long history of buying expensive, practical, ugly things. But one thing she knew for sure after last night— Mack had flair to burn.

Sal pushed the toast toward her. “The man’s been celibate for six months. He needs a little debauchery in his life.”

Who didn’t need a bit of debauchery in their life? Josie was fast becoming a convert. And God knew Sal could compel anyone to do anything with those expressive blue eyes of hers—she really should have been leading a cult. But Josie didn’t want to seem too eager, either. “Mack’s not going to want his bossy little sister’s friend along for the ride.”

“I don’t mind,” he said cheerfully.

Josie glanced at him. Amusement sparked in his olive green gaze, and she narrowed her eyes slightly to warn him. 
“Sal’s right. I could do with a woman’s perspective. You know…for all the debauchery.”

“Atta boy,” Sal said.

Josie rolled her eyes. But inside, a delighted thrill squirmed from her belly to her throat like a firework launched into the night sky. “Okay.”

“Come on down at twelve. I’ll drive.”

Josie was about to add something else inane, in case Sal could see the giddy jig happening inside her, but her friend suddenly swore under her breath as she checked her watch. “Come on, brother dearest,” she said, taking a gulp of  her coffee. “We’re late.” She shoved half a piece of toast in her mouth as she reached for her bag. “It’s a bit hard to justify when we live upstairs.”

Mack stood, and Josie immediately felt the loss of his nearness. The press of his thigh, the rub of his arm. “Right behind you,” he said. “Just gotta grab something from the bedroom.”

Sal nodded absently as she headed for the door. “You and me,” she threw over her shoulder in Josie’s general direction as she turned the knob. “Tonight. Out.”

“Okay. Sure, if you want. I’ll—” But Sal was already disappearing out the door, and as soon as it clicked shut, Mack was stepping between her thighs and placing his hands either side of her, crowding her back.
“You and me.” He lowered his head until he was growling in her ear. “Tonight. Naked in my bed. F***ing. Begging me for more.”

Everything inside Josie turned to putty. Just the bald statement alone had caused a rush of heat and wet between her legs, and she bit down on her lip to stop the whimper as her senses infused with the smell of Mack. Without a doubt, she’d put Oliver Twist to shame tonight.

And then he kissed her. Hard. Uncompromising. Josie held onto his hips and opened to him. Heat and lust and raw primal need slammed into her belly and squeezed hard. She was never going to last until tonight. She wanted to beg right now. Don’t go to work. Stay here. F*** me now.

He pulled away abruptly and took a pace back, which was probably just as well. Josie’s senses reeled as she dragged air into starved lungs. It was gratifying to see him equally breathless.

“See you at noon,” he said.

And walked out the door.


For a chance to win a copy of NMMNG tell me, have you ever kept a secret from a friend that almost killed you? Did that friend ever find out? Were there consequences? 

Amy's promise - although the book isn't out until 29th September, I will ensure the winner receives a digital copy from Amazon on release day! 

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Aug 28, 2014

Cats Who Think They're Dogs

Have you ever met a cat who thinks it's a dog? One who has a few more canine traits than feline?

The cat in The Summer of Jake, Rover, thinks she's a Jack Russell Terrier and I had a whole heap of fun writing her character. But she's not alone!

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, or you just want a chuckle, here's a little introduction to cats who think they're dogs for you:

Here's a little snippet of the moment when Jake first meets Rover at Annalise's apartment:

At that moment, Rover came bounding out from my bedroom, almost barreling over Jake as she jumped up on his leg. I think he faltered more from surprise than her cat-weight. I bent to pick her up, but she was scrabbling her paws to reach the new person.

Jake took a step back. “Is that cat on medication?”

Used to this kind of comment, I just smiled. “Rover thinks she’s a dog. A Jack Russell to be specific.”“Ah.” Jake thought for a moment, then shrugged and reached forward to pat her. “Have you considered therapy?”

For a second, I wondered if he meant the cat or me, but then his eyes twinkled.

“No need. She’s perfectly happy as long as people treat her like a dog.” Rover turned and licked my cheek as if to reinforce my point. “She was dumped at four weeks old outside my grandmother’s house, and Nan took her in.”

“Let me guess, your grandmother had a Jack Russell who adopted the kitten?”

“Her dog Spot completely took over her care. And Nan didn’t like cats, so she treated Rover like a dog. Between the two of them, Rover didn’t stand a chance.” I snuggled my face into her black and white stripy neck, and she relaxed for a few seconds before trying to reach Jake again.

“So why’s she living with you?”

I put Rover down on the ground, and she sniffed the leg of Jake’s jeans. “When Nan died a year ago, Spot had already been gone a little while, so Rover came to live here. I’ll just give her some dog food, and we can start.”

Jake started nodding, then hesitated. “You feed her dog food? Isn’t that taking things a bit far?”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s C-A-T food,” I spelled out. “We just can’t let Rover know that.”

And because I can't resist, here's another cat who thinks she's a dog. :)

I love to hear about unusual animals - tell me the most unusual pet you've had or met. I'll give away a copy of The Summer of Jake to one commenter so they can meet Rover for themselves!

Aug 27, 2014

Letter to Me by Claire Baxter

Louisa and Amy are hard acts to follow, but here we go. This is my letter to my 16-year-old self. 
Dear Me,

Firstly, the boy who took this photo? He’s going to break your heart in two years’ time, so brace yourself. Don’t let him see how much he’s hurt you. In fact, I’d prefer you to get in first and do the dumping, but you won’t because you think you love him. You won’t believe it now, but six months after the big break-up you’ll meet someone who will become much more important and a year later you’ll marry him. Yes, it’s true, and 35 years on you’ll be playing with your grandchildren together. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? You’ll have lots of adventures along the way. You’ll even live in different countries for a while, but the time apart will only make you more determined to be together.

But let’s get back to the 16-year old you. You know that Australian pen-pal you’ve gradually been losing touch with over the last couple of years? The one you’ve been corresponding with since you were seven years old? Write to her. Keep in touch, because in 14 years you will move to Australia. I know that seems incredible, but you will, and wouldn’t it be great to be able to meet up with her?

Now, when your husband suggests moving to Australia, don’t take six months to make up your mind. Seriously, don’t. It will be the best thing you’ll ever do for you and your children, and the sooner you do it, the better. I know you’ll worry about leaving your good friends behind, but the amazing thing is that you will stay in contact with them, at first by letter, but later this amazing thing called the internet will be invented. You’ll be able to type a letter on your computer and it will pop up almost instantly on your friends’ computers on the other side of the world. Oh, that’s right, you don’t know what a computer is, do you? Well, trust me on this, okay?

One more thing – I know I sound bossy, but it’s something that comes with age and experience – start writing stories. You’ve always loved books and dreamed of being a writer. Well, the thing is, you can. Don’t believe that it’s something only other people can do, and don’t put pressure on yourself to get published. That pressure will come later, for now just write and enjoy it.

That friend who told you that you couldn’t sing was wrong. You need to ask yourself which of you passed the choir audition and why you’d let a jealous girl’s comments matter more than the choir leader’s opinion. Don’t avoid singing in public for years because you took that girl’s words to heart. Sing.

Those thunder thighs you think you have? You don’t. You were a chubby child but you grew out of that chubbiness and it will be years before you need to worry about being chubby again. Eat fudge. It will always be one of your favourite things.

You might not believe it now but your life is going to be a wonderful ride that keeps on getting better. It won’t be a smooth ride, but adversity brings its own gifts of strength and compassion. As you set out, I have every confidence in your resilience. Keep your sense of humour, it is your greatest asset.

Claire (the older, wiser, bossier one)

Aug 25, 2014

Letter To Me by Amy Andrews

Inspired by the lovely Louisa's letter to her 16 year old self last Friday, all the LoveCats, interspersed with other posts, will be bringing you their letters over the next few months. And today its my turn.
So here goes....

Dear Me,
Firstly, let me tell you, that you’re going to have a fabulous life filled with amazing opportunities and incredible experiences.

I know at the moment, as you head into your last year of high school, that you’re hedging your bets career-wise. You want to be a nurse but you also want to have a Plan B in case it’s not what you imagined.  Forget Plan B. You’re going to love being a nurse. You’re going to love it from the second you first put on your uniform. You love working with patients, being with patients. Chatting with them, laughing with them and crying with them. Being their advocate and their confidante. You love it so much you make an active decision to not climb up the hierarchy because you never want to lose your connection to patients.

You will never regret that decision.

One day very soon you’re going to open your front door and a guy will be standing there that you know instantly you’re going to marry. Part of me wants to tell you not to open that door. To leave that door for a few more years. You are a young woman in your prime and you have no idea what power you hold in your hands. You should date a little more, flirt a little more, kiss a little more. You should revel in that power a lot more. But you won’t. Because we don’t get to choose the time fate comes knocking and you’re going to be so head-over-heels in love you won’t care about any of the rest.

And that guy is a keeper.

You will make some wonderful friends over the years and you will commit everything to those friendships. Sadly, not all of them will last and that will throw you when it happens. It will be bewildering and it will make you wary of how much of yourself you give in future. But please know that some people come into our lives for a reason and then move on and that’s okay. Your true friends will always be there for you. They will pick you up and commiserate with you when you fall and, more importantly, they will lift you on their shoulders and celebrate with you when you succeed. People say that it’s the friends who stay when the chips are down that count and that’s so very important but it will surprise you to learn that some of those people won’t be as supportive when you find success after many years of hard slog to achieve your dream.

Misery loves company but true friends are there for you come what may.   

Lastly, I want to say – I want you to believe – YOU. ARE. NOT. FAT.  Trust me on this, you’re going to spend an extraordinary amount of time never measuring up in the mirror and please, for the love of God, I beg you, don’t do that. Please see what everyone else sees. The constant critical eye is exhausting and you’ll spend so much time finding fault with your body and being on diets that you’ll never wield that power I mentioned earlier - you’ll never know you had it until it's too late. Please, give yourself a break from that internal negative voice and be kind to yourself.  

You look good, girlfriend! Just enjoy it.

love Me xxx

PS – no matter how much Mum drives you nuts from time to time, treasure every moment with her. You will lose her too soon and nothing will ever be the same again.

Thought I'd share this song with you from Brad Paisley called Letter To Me which always, without fail, makes me cry.

Did you know what you wanted to be at 16?

Aug 24, 2014

Sunday Smooch With Susanne Bellamy.....

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Engaging The Enemy by Susanne Bellamy. 

The winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Cindy Hamilton ..... Congratulations Cindy! 

Please contact Rachel Bailey on rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com to receive your copy of The Nanny Proposition....

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Susanne Bellamy........

One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems. 

 Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.

 But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancĂ©e, and play it convincingly.

 But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer? 

Scene set-up [Andie and Matt are both emotionally invested in the same rundown building in Melbourne’s CBD. Matt has legitimately bought the building currently housing The Shelter which he wants to restore as a gift to his ill mother. Wanting to do the right thing by the women and children living there, he offers Andie an alternative property but their attraction diverts them.] 

“What does this building mean to you?”
When had he moved so close to her? Heat radiated all the way from the tips of her toes to her head. Trapped between his body and the chair, she fought the urge to press into him. She edged away until she backed into the wall.
“A promise is a promise. We were assured the building was ours to create The Shelter but money is more powerful than promises, it seems.”
“So you’re saying your father broke his promise to you by selling me the building when he did?”
She nodded, the betrayal a huge lump in her throat. What was the point in denying it? With an effort, she searched for her voice. “Yes.”
“You’ve done a fine job. And you can get your accreditation on time. It doesn’t have to be in this building. Andie, look at me.”
Reluctantly, she met his gaze.
“Take the Williamstown property. There’s no weakness in accepting a better offer.”
Mesmerised by his voice, her resolve weakened. It would be so easy to accept, so easy to let him have his way.
But is it best for The Shelter?
“Why is it so important that you can’t give us that little extra window of time? Does it really matter if you knock it down next month rather than this month?”
“Knock it down? Now why would you be thinking I’d be knocking it down? Who put that fairy story in your head?”
“You’re not? Then what’s so all fired important?”
“It’s personal.”
“That’s it? You drag my reasons out of me but leave me with it’s personal? That doesn’t cut it with me, Mahoney. Tell me.”
He sighed softly and reached out and ran a knuckle gently down her cheek. “Take my word and take the Williamstown property, Trouble, and leave it be.”
“And then maybe we can explore other more interesting things; like why you blush when you’re near me.”
 “Mr Mahoney—”
He stepped right into her personal space. “Matt. Unless you want me to keep calling you ‘Trouble’?”
She put a hand on his chest. Too close, way too close. Her hand curled around his lapel. Not close enough.
With concentrated effort, she uncurled her fingers and flattened her hand, took a deep breath and pushed him back. “Mr…Matt. I—uh—I, I think you should go now.”
“But we’re having so much fun. Or we will, if you stop over thinking everything.”
“I don’t. I’m not. It’s just—”
His hold on her shoulders tightened and he closed the last inch of space separating them. Warm breath fanned her cheek. Subtle spice and an indefinable scent that she associated only with Mahoney wrapped around her.

               “Just nothing. Why don’t we see where things take us, hey, Trouble?” His mouth descended. Warm lips kissed the corner of her mouth, brushed lightly across hers. Deep in her womb, an unfamiliar longing throbbed. Mahoney’s full and undivided attention shattered the last of her resistance and she leaned into the kiss. Her lips parted beneath his. Nothing was more important than Mahoney’s mouth on hers, his hands on her bare shoulders. She slid her hands up his shoulders, up the column of his neck and into his hair. She rose onto tip-toe and pushed her hips forward. More.

To go into the draw to win a Kindle copy of either Susanne's novella, One Night in Sorrento, or  novel, White Ginger, leave a comment to the following question......

Where would you like to be while sipping your favourite cocktail? 

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