Mar 27, 2015

What are you reading...?

Being part of a book club that meets once a month means I get to read lots of non romance books intermingled with my daily fix of romance.

Here's what I've been reading this month:


The Woman Who Stole My Life is Marian Keyes' newest release. It's a story about a beauty therapist who becomes an overnight sensation with a book she *wrote* while in hospital, completely paralysed with a rare disease called Guillan- Barre syndrome. And about how the syndrome and the success change her life completely.

The book is written the way a lot of books seem to be written these days...out of chronological order. We flick back and forth between the past and the present, and while this isn't too difficult to follow you do have to keep reminding yourself where you are.

I think I've read all of Keyes' books and loved her earlier works with a passion; one of the first 'chick lit' authors, her stories were always littered with emotion and humour. This one lacks a lot of the humour, but has lots of emotion and those endearing Irish accents....


The Girl On The Train had me up at night desperate to finish it. It's a psychological thriller (not something I usually read) written from three women's POV.

Rachel, the main protagonist, travels on the commuter train to London every morning and every evening and stares out of the window watching the world go by. The train always stops at a junction next to a row of houses and she has made up stories in her head about the lives of one of the couples there. (not sure if this makes me weird, but I do that a lot ;-)). One day she sees something that she knows is wrong and detrimental to the couple's lives...

Again this book is written in the past and the present..so we have three women and different timelines, so it did get a little confusing- but the scenes are all headed with the name of the character so it's not too onerous! This story was a little like Gone Girl, in that the narrators seemed unreliable in their recounting of events, and they weren't particularly likeable..but it was an awesome read!!


US by David Nicholls, author of One Day. This book made me laugh and cry so hard! The story follows the hapless scientist Douglas who is getting ready for his life to change once his son leaves home and goes to university. He doesn't realise just how much it is going to change until his wife tells him, in the middle of one night, that she is leaving home too. He manages to convince her to go on the Grand Tour of Europe that he has arranged (both wife and son are artists)...and they all embark on a trip that definitely changes all their lives. It is written with such humour and longing and determination that Douglas will keep his family together that you are desperately willing him on. It has tones of The Rosie Project in it too. I loved it.



I see that The Light Between Oceans was published in 2013, so I'm a bit behind the eight ball with this one. I picked it up last night in bed and loved the lyrical language and effortless beautiful descriptions about life on a lighthouse on a deserted coast in Australia in the 1920s. I only managed a few pages (I was tired after watching cricket the night before!)...I'll keep you posted.








Of course, I always have to have my fix of romance books- I have the first in the brand new Sarah Morgan series to start just as soon as I finish The Light Between Oceans, plus the 175 books on my kindle waiting to be finished!








Oh and talking of books...I just got the cover for my Medial romance May release: Tempted By Her Italian Surgeon...what do you think?




What are you reading? Any gems to share?



Mar 25, 2015

Stringing Along

I have a new hobby! (As if I need something else to do.) It’s called string quilting. Have you ever come across it before? Have you done it yourself?

I’ve always fancied trying my hand at quilting, but it was one of those crafts I was putting off until I had time to focus on it. Well, that’s all changed now. My fabric scraps were threatening to take over my work room, so I decided it was time to do something with them. Many were too small to use – or so I thought.

I researched quilting with scraps and discovered string quilting. It involves sewing thin strips of fabric diagonally across a square of fabric until you have a quilt block. I also came across the ‘quilt as you go’ method where a square of fabric is sewn directly onto a square of batting and quilted, then the squares are joined and a backing added to create the finished quilt. I chose to combine the two techniques and sew the strips of fabric - my ‘strings’ - onto a square of batting. It’s worked out well so far.

While researching I found some quilts that used completely random fabrics, all mixed together with no attempt at control at all. That was too much chaos for me, I like a little more restraint, so I came up with a roughly colour-coordinated design with a white strip in the centre of each block which will form a diamond pattern and separate the colours.

I find it very relaxing and a great way to unwind. This is not going to become yet another project that I have to complete within a certain time. It’s comfort sewing, and I’ll work on a square whenever I need a break from everything else.

Here’s part of my first row - two more blocks will be joined on to the row at the right-hand side to complete it. What do you think?





Mar 23, 2015

A New York State of Mind

It seems I have New York on my mind a lot lately. You see I'm tossing up whether or not to go to the Romance Writers of America's national conference in July which is in New York. I really, really, really want to go. But there are financial realities and its a looong way for a few days etc so I'm in two minds....



Of course it doesn't help that my work in progress (WIP) is set in New York. I honestly think this is the universe telling me that I must go to New York, don't you think? It's certainly making it very hard to ignore, anyway!

I've been to New York before in 2011 and I freaking loved it. I expected it to big and dirty and full of graffiti and people who wanted to kill/rob/rape me on every street corner (thank you  Dick Wolfe). But it was absolutely gorgeous! I never thought any city could replace London in my heart but I tell you what - New York came damn close!

Here's some pics -

Click on it to make it larger - you can just see Lady Liberty on the left!

We stayed in a hotel right on Times Square. Man that place buzzes!


I'm very excited about the NYC story I'm working on at the moment. For a start it's a continuity with Kelly Hunter, Heidi Rice and Lucy King. Fabulous writers and absolutely top women. Secondly its New freaking York (see above). Thirdly all the stories are based loosely (very) on fairy tales. It's more the Pogues kind of Fairy Tales of New York rather than Disney princess stuff but still....fairy tales!




The stories follow 4 friends from an upstate girls catholic school ten years after an incident that saw them expelled/suspened/broken up when they were 16. Friendships are rekindled, old hurts are healed and love is fought for and won. Mine is the 4th book. It's set in Brooklyn and is based on Cinderella with a working title of A Barron on Park Avenue.




Faith Sullivan is a good girl from irish catholic stock who's grown up in her family's Irish pub. Rafe Barron (yes, with 2 r's) is a "beer baron" from Australia. She has duties and responsibilities looking after her ailing father and her 4 brothers and the pub. She doesn't have time for hapily ever afters and the one. He needs her pub to launch his new beer into the US market. He doesn't believe in happily ever afters and the one.

Clearly, they're perfect for each other, right?  :-)

Here's my Pinterest page if you want to have a sticky beak at my inspirations for the book. And this is Heidi's. And this is Lucy's. We haven't managed to seduce Kelly to the dark side that is Pinterest yet but she's doing the Ugly Duckling and we all know Kel can write the hell out of anything.

So, you can see why I'm having a hard time trying to get New York off my mind, right?

Is there a place like that for you? One place (town, city, mountain, beach, whatever.... ) that you've been to that you loved so much you'd like to go back to again some day? Or is there a place that you do go back to time and time again precisely because you love it so much?


Mar 22, 2015

Sunday Smooch - The Sheikh's Princess Bride

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!


Today we have a smooch from  Annie West but first 


... the two winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Kaelee.


Can you please contact stefanie (at) stefanie-london (dot) com to receive your copy of THE TYCOON'S STOWAWAY.


And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Annie West's THE SHEIKH'S PRINCESS BRIDE.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheikhs-Princess-Bride-Modern-Desert-ebook/dp/B00QAJD8GI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422054392&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sheikh%27s+princess+bride




http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PFGAKKE
Wanted: royal bride and mother 

For Sheikh Tariq of Al-Sharath, one miserable marriage was enough. With a kingdom to rule, he has no time—or wish—to find a bride, but his children need a mother.  

Could Princess Samira of Jazeer be the answer? Samira has sampled passion, and it left a bad taste. With the knowledge she can't have the children she's always wanted, Samira steps into Tariq's ready-made family. Her only condition? No sex! 

Samira thought royal duties and her love for Tariq's children would fill the hole in her heart, but a craving is building that only the sheikh's touch can cure…

Scene set-up

Tariq has given his new bride, Samira, a wedding gift, a workroom designed specifically to meet her needs. This unexpected and thoughtful gift from the man she's always admired, but vowed to keep at a physical distance, undercuts her caution and her resolve. (And if you want to know why she tries to keep him at a distance you'll have to read the book!)

Smooch  -

Everywhere she looked, in every drawer and corner, was something that pleased her.

Slowly she turned, taking in the careful thought and attention to detail that had gone into making this the ideal workroom.

She blinked hard as she recognised the ancient, slightly saggy lounge chair she’d used for the past four years when she wanted to curl up and sketch. Beside it was a small wooden table inlaid with mother of pearl. It held a sketch pad like the one she always used and a variety of crayons and pencils.

‘Your sister-in-law helped me with the details. She sent through photos of your workshop in Jazeera.’

‘But this is…’ the words stuck in Samira’s throat. ‘This is far, far better. It’s perfect.’ She’d never had a custom made studio. Despite her growing success she’d worked out of a large room she’d adapted in her brother’s palace. But this – it was amazing. And it had been created especially for her.

A wave of excitement crashed over her, making her blood tingle. She itched to get to work here.

Samira pivoted to find Tariq just behind her. She grabbed his hand in both of hers, enthusiasm buoying her.

‘I don’t know how to thank you.’ She shook her head, brim full of emotion. He’d done this for her. No gift had ever been so special, so very right. ‘Words don’t seem enough.’

‘Then don’t use words.’ His glinting eyes challenged her, as if he knew she felt overfull, needing an outlet for the surge of elation and wonder she felt.

Samira’s breath hitched in automatic denial, the shutters she’d so carefully built instantly coming up to guard her from this over-emotional response.

She saw the moment he read the change in her. The moment his gaze altered from challenging to disappointed.

The moment he realised she didn’t have the guts to follow through.

When he saw how scared she was.

In that instant the truth blasted her. She had all the emotions of other women. She felt pain and hope and delight, but she’d spent years bottling them up, hiding them from the world and herself. Because she was scared they’d make her weak.

She’d let Jackson Brent do that to her.

No, she corrected. She’d done it to herself.

Her nostrils flared in disgust and inadvertently she drew in the heady spice aroma of Tariq. It sent a trickle of feminine pleasure coursing through her.

She’d even learned to repress that in the last few years, hadn’t she? She hadn’t been interested in a man, much less turned on by one in four years. She hadn’t let herself.

Suddenly Samira saw herself as Tariq must – wary to the point of being pathetic.

Was she? Or was she merely cautious? Sensible to protect herself?

But there was a difference between being cautious and being a coward. Last night she’d been a coward and the knowledge was bitter on her tongue. All this time she’d told herself she was being strong. But in reality-

Samira let go of Tariq’s hand, instead planting a steadying palm on his hard chest, the other on his shoulder as she rose on tiptoe.

Light flared in those cool eyes, but he didn’t move, merely stood stock still, waiting.

She realised she’d stopped breathing and exhaled then drew in a deep breath redolent of desert spice and hot man. Tariq. His scent enticed. Could he possibly taste as good? Suddenly she had to know.

Samira slipped her hand from his shoulder up to the back of his head, pulling till his mouth was a whisper from hers.

Atavistic warning clawed through her, screaming that she was about to cross a point of no return.

For once need overrode caution. The need to trust herself, just a little. The need for a man’s touch.

Her eyes closed as she pressed her mouth to his. His lips were warm and inviting. She angled her head a little, kissing him again, enjoying his hard body against hers, the pleasure of his mouth touching hers.

Samira’s other hand snaked up to wrap around his neck, holding him tight as she worked tiny kisses along the tantalising seam of his lips. She felt the exhale of his breath through his nostrils, harder than before, and licked where before she’d kissed. He felt so good. This felt so good. If only-

Delicious pleasure hit as he opened his mouth, sucking her tongue inside, drawing her into delight. It was so sudden, so powerfully erotic, that she crumpled at the knees, clinging to his tall frame as his arms wrapped her close.

His mouth worked hers, drawing her to him, delving her depths so she had no option but to surrender that last skerrick of caution.

Samira was captivated. Her whole body came alive in a way she’d never known. Surely no kiss had been like this – a slow kindling that burned bright and satisfying, even as it demanded more and yet more?

She arched, moulding herself inch by inch to that strong body she hadn’t been able to put from her mind. Still her lips clung to his, hungrier now as his grew more urgent and a new fire ignited low in her body. Her hands tightened on him. Ripples of heat traced her skin, eddying at her breasts, her pelvis. At her back and hip where he held her so securely.

Her heart was hammering as she tore her lips away, gasping for air. Yet it wasn’t lack of oxygen that made her withdraw, but shock at how a thank you kiss had turned into something completely different. Gratitude and excitement had turned to curiosity, to pleasure and then, almost, to surrender.

She wanted nothing so much as to kiss him again, to lose herself in him.

Samira shivered, suddenly cold despite the hot pulse of blood under her skin. Fear warred with elation.

Tariq still held her, his gaze hooded, waiting, and her stomach churned.

She swallowed, trying to find her voice and not betray rising panic. ‘That was…’

His mouth tilted a little at one corner. ‘Delightful?’ he mused in a low murmur that trawled through her insides, tying her in knots.

‘Unexpected,’ she gasped.

‘A taste of things to come.’ His smile deepened, his hold tightening just a fraction.

You can grab a copy of 'The Sheikh's Princess Bride' at all the usual places including
Amazon
Barnes and Noble and
The Book Depository

Have you ever had a completely unexpected gift? One that moved you? Or have you perhaps given one to someone else? Leave a response to be in the draw to win a signed copy of 'The Sheikh's Princess Bride'.

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


Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Mar 20, 2015

World Happiness Day!

Someone told me this morning that today was World Happiness Day. Now, I'm not sure if that's right, but I thought it would be fun to talk about what makes me happy right now.

1/ My horses....no surprise there. This is Sharnah and she's just about to have her 30th birthday. She's still as beautiful as ever to me. Horses have as special place in my heart and my life.
  

2/ My boys....more pets (I consider myself quite the petenarian!) Love watching these two boys play together.


3/ My view....this is from the back deck. Today the cows in the paddock next door are grazing lazily. I never get tired of watching them. (And a couple of our horses are in the shot too)

4/ My other view....this is from my office window. I never get tired of this either :)

5/ My books....getting advance copies of a book is simply awesome and still one of my happiest moments.




So, what's making you happy on World Happiness Day?



Mar 16, 2015

Celebrating Great Women

International Women's Day happened a week ago and it got me to thinking about the amazing women in my life. In particular, the women who's had an enormous impact on me: my grandmother.

Growing up, my Nan was this incredible force. She was the kind of grandmother who would always pack lollies in her bag for a day out, was always quick to offer to look after my little sister and I, and she always let us eat dinner in front of the TV. Yeah, we lived it up at Nan's place.

This picture of my Nan comes with me everywhere
She used to tell us stories of how she could add up sums faster than someone using a calculator  and when I didn't believe her she let me challenge her. Spoiler alert, I lost. She used to tell us how she was the only child in her family to get a proper education and her pride in this point always made me want to do well at school.

It occurred to me many years later that she wasn't just proud of being smart, but that she had been able to prove herself worthy in a time where women didn't get many opportunities.

She loved sport and played much of it in her heyday, including having a broken jaw one time form a a hockey ball to the face.

She lived through World Ward II and worked in the Navy. She outlived two husbands, two children and fought til the very end until we were forced to say goodbye seventeen years ago.

She was a survivor.

I wouldn't be who I am today without my Nan. At times she drove me crazy because she always stuck up for my sister when we argued, and she was bossy as all hell. But she taught me many lessons which make up who I am today:

  • If you want something you have to work hard, don't expect anyone to just hand it over to you
  • Don't abuse any positions of power that you may have
  • Being a women does not mean you can't be smart and go after what you want, even if people say you can't do it
She also gave me endless reams of paper, full reign of her typewriter and never said no to a visit to the local library. 

I wouldn't be writing without her. 

Who are the great women who've influenced you? Shout out to your inspirations in the comments below.

Mar 15, 2015

Sunday Smooch by Stefanie London

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!
>


Today we have a smooch from  Stefanie London but first 


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


Can you please contact info  (at) amyandrews (dot) com (dot) au to receive your prize!


And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Tycoon's Stowaway

The one that got away…

Luxury yacht tycoon Brodie Mitchell and dancer Chantal Turner haven’t seen each other since that fateful night when the searing heat between them ignited, devastating everything in its wake. Yet it’s clear that their fire has never dimmed. Eight years ago, their irresistible attraction was forbidden. 

Now, they’re both single and Brodie’s determined to get Chantal out of his system. Even if he can only offer a no-strings fling…

On Brodie’s yacht, exploring their electric chemistry opens Brodie’s eyes to what he really wants – what he’s always wanted: Chantal. This time he’s going to tame his little stowaway…for good!




Scene Set up -  Brodie and Chantal are on his boat and the rest of the Weeping Reef crew have drifted away, leaving them alone. Brodie's decided it's time to get that kiss he always wanted from Chantal.


‘You’re taunting me.’

The unabashed arousal in his voice tore at the last shreds of her sanity, and with each throaty word she came further undone.

It had been so long since she’d been with anyone—so long since she’d experienced any kind of pleasure like this. Just one kiss…just one taste.

She turned, gathering all her energy to say no, but when his hands cupped her face the protest died on her lips. He came down to her with agonising slowness, and rather than crushing his mouth against hers he teased her with a feather-light touch.

‘All that teasing isn’t nice, is it?’

‘I never teased you.’ She frowned, but her body cried out for more.

‘Back then your every step teased me, Chantal. You were the epitome of wanting what I couldn’t have.’

His tongue flicked out against hers, his teeth tugging ever so gently on her lower lip. So close, but not enough. Nowhere near enough.

‘You should have got in first.’

His green eyes glinted, the black of his pupils expanding with each heavy breath. ‘I thought it wasn’t finders keepers?’

‘Sometimes you have to take what you want,’ she whispered.

So he did.

His lips came down on hers as he thrust his hands into the tangled length of her hair, pulling her into place. She offered no resistance, opening to him as one might offer a gift. His scent invaded her, making her head swim and her knees weaken.


One large hand crept around her waist and crushed her to him. The hard length of his arousal pressed against her. Unable to stop herself, she slipped her hands under his shirt, smoothing up the chiselled flesh beneath. The feel of each stone-like ridge shot fire through her as their tongues melded. 

His knee nudged her thighs apart and she gasped as though she were about to come on the spot.



The Tycoon's Stowaway is out now in the UK and Australia, and will be released in the US and Canada in May.

For your chance to win a signed copy of The Tycoon's Stowaway, leave a comment below answering this question:

"Have you ever reunited with an old crush? If so, what happened?"

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