Feb 28, 2011

Romance is like Peanut Butter (some like it crunchy, some like it smooth.)

by Nikki Logan

Purists would say the best romance is one that simply focuses on the romantic relationship of the characters involved; that their developing love story is ample to centre a book on, that you don’t need the distraction of other elements.

Others would disagree. They look for more crunch in their romance habit.

The emergence of sub-genres in romance points very clearly to a great desire across the board for love stories with other stuff going on to support it, to complement it. Sometimes to contrast it. Romantic Suspense layers a strong intrigue arc alongside the romantic one, Paranormal offers such high-stakes fantasy plots to support the romantic story, and Historical (in its many forms) offers such richness of setting and world-building. These are the literary peanut chunks that make it all so much more tasty for some readers.

Me? While I appreciate smooth, I love chunky. I like a book which has a strong romantic thread woven convincingly through a strong story arc. I definitely like something else going on. Not because I have anything against pure romance, just because—for me—I feel like I get value for money with a well-crafted, multi-layered story. And I like to have my cerebral self and my emotional self triggered at the same time.

With contemporary category romance and its super short wordcount it can be a challenge to properly tell the story of two people falling in love within a crunchy ‘something else going on’ plot inside twelve chapters. The risk is that one or the other gets compromised. That’s a very personal balance and two people reading the same book might declare it sitting in very different places on the see-saw.

So the best rule of thumb is to write the book I’d like to read.

My March (AU)/April (US) release ‘Friends to Forever’ has a lot going on. And not everyone has liked it. I have old high-school best-friends coming back together after a decade of not speaking and they’re stuck together over one agonising night in the shallow waters off south-western Australia keeping a stranded whale alive. On top of that the heroine is desperately trying to keep a secret. A big one. She’s living with alcohol addiction and addiction is the one thing in life that the easy-going hero can’t stomach having lived with it his whole life.

Crunchy-plus. And only time will tell whether I’ve got the balance right for most people.

So a question… How do you like your romance peanut butter? Smooth or crunchy? Do you know why? Are there things you don’t like to see in your romance sandwich? If you’ve read F2F already, where did it fall on the see-saw for you?

Feb 27, 2011

Sunday Smooch

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch

Today we have a smooch from The Sentinel Mage, a fantasy novel with romantic elements, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Ju Dimello!

Congratulations, Ju Dimello! Can you please contact Mel at

melteshco (at) yahoo (dot) com (dot) au

and she'll arrange for you to receive an e-copy of Moon Thrall.

Before we go into today's Smooch, I'd like to mention the Christchurch earthquake. Living only a few hundred kilometers from Christchurch, events there are very much in the forefront of my thoughts. For those of you who feel similarly helpless and would like to assist in some way, here's a link to donate to the Red Cross:


If the Red Cross site is overloaded, Oxfam are accepting donations on their behalf (100% of the donation will go to the Red Cross):


And here's a link to the Pet Emergency Earthquake Fund:


And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Sentinel Mage by Emily Gee (me, when I'm not writing Regency romances)...

Her magic may be the only thing that can save a prince-and the Seven Kingdoms.

In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage's blood in his veins. But Prince Harkeld has a bounty on his head-and assassins at his heels.

Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld's side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him.

But the deserts of Masse are more dangerous than the assassins hunting the prince. The curse has woken deadly creatures, and the magic Prince Harkeld loathes may be the only thing standing between him and death.

** Warning: Some Sensual Content **

Harkeld jerked awake, a shout in his throat and a feeling of fire in his blood. His heart galloped in his chest, kicking against his ribs.

‘Nightmare?’ a woman asked alongside him.

Harkeld took a deep, shuddering breath. He turned his head.

Fingers lightly touched his cheek, stroking. ‘It was just a dream.’

‘I know.’ He rolled on his side, reaching for her, drawing her close.

Slender arms came around his neck.

For several minutes he just held her, while the thunderous pace of his pulse slowed and the sensation of fire running through him faded. Then he bent his head and found her mouth. It opened to him shyly.

The kiss was slow, thorough. Heat began to rise in him again. Not flames, this time, but arousal. Harkeld slid his hands down the smoothness of her back and pressed her more closely to him—the softness of her breasts and belly, the tickling curls at her groin. Heat flushed sharply under his skin—and with it, urgency. He nudged her legs apart with his knee. This was what he needed: the warmth and softness of a woman, the uncomplicated pleasure of sex.

She broke their kiss and drew back slightly. ‘Harkeld... I’ve never done this before.’

He knew that voice. With the recognition came an image of her face: gray eyes, black hair, pale skin. Harkeld jerked awake. He stared up at a starry sky. Night air was cold on his face. A body was pressed against his side: Justen. He heard his armsman’s slow breathing.

Tell me I didn’t just dream that.

He scrubbed his face with a hand, squeezing his eyes shut, trying to erase the dream from his mind—the witch’s mouth opening for his kiss, her body pressing so softly and warmly against him. He’d been about to bed her, to bury himself in her. His body still wanted to. Arousal thrummed in his blood.

Not a witch. Never a witch.

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of The Sentinel Mage, please share with us the titles of some of your favourite fantasy novels and why you like them so much.

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from One Night With The Wolf by Anna Hackett will be posted.

Feb 25, 2011

Catwalk Friday - Max (ibillion)


Hi all,

Haylee Kerans is Publishing Executive over at Harlequin Mills & Boon (Australia) and back when we last caught up with her face-to-face she'd just got herself a new kitteh - Max. We thought it was time to check in on Mister Max and see how he is (other than ridiculously good looking)...

Name: Max (aka Maxi-taxi, Maxibillion)

Human Parents: Dan Nash and Haylee Kerans

Likes: DAD!!! Being the centre of attention, no matter the hour.

Dislikes: Being left outside. Old Whiskas tinned food. Birds.

Ambition: To one day catch a bird, or alternatively, to fly (I’ve tried quite a few times – almost there)

Sociable or aloof?: Sociable… almost to the point of getting a reputation, if you know what I mean

Favourite Passtime: Chewing on dad’s beard, closely followed by chewing on dad’s head. Basically wrestling with dad in general. Don’t mind getting my hair done.

A man doesn't stay this good looking without a little help
Nightowl or early bird?: Nightowl – I’m not big enough to fight yet, but I don’t mind watching!

Favourite Treat: Whatever Dad is eating, but especially KFC chicken. Ice cream and feta are good too.

Best Friend: Dad. Mumma’s alright if Dad’s not around, but don’t tell her that.

A ginger never changes his spots....

Favourite spot to sleep: At dad’s feet and on my day bed (SO need an upgrade soon. With three levels. And a hammock. And maybe a kitty café.)

What do you like to sharpen your claws on?: Mumma and the couch. The tree and my actual scratching pole are poor replacements

Most embarrassing moment?: I don’t get embarrassed. I’m awesome.

Thanks Max! So awesome to have you here. You've got all the Lovecats in quite a flutter (but not bird-like flutter because we know you don't like birds...).

Feb 23, 2011

Super Super-Editor Victoria

Before we begin, the Lovecats just want acknowledge what a heart-wrenching time this is for Christchurch, for Canterbury and for New Zealand. Our thoughts are very much with everyone affected by this tragedy.

On a different note, we are very fortunate today to have my fabulous Superromance editor, Victoria Curran as our guest blogger. She has come to give us an insight into the editorial process from proposal to published novel, something every writer can benefit from!

Victoria, with proposals, what is the relationship between query letter, chapters and synopsis? Which do you read first?

Unsolicited proposals go through a freelance editor first and when his critique comes in, I check only to see his ultimate recommendation (contract, second read, reject with encouragement, reject—not

suitable for Superromance). Then I read the author’s sample chapters. After that, I read the synopsis to get an understanding of what the author had been trying to do with the chapters (the two don’t always match and that can be quite insightful!). I read the query letter briefly before I dig into the editor’s criticism. He assesses four areas: writing style, characterization, story inconsistencies and contrivances, and plot and conflict.

I know that other lines, such as Special Edition in our New York office, rely on query letters and synopses, without sample chapters, to decide if the author should submit the full—but our line doesn’t put much weight in query letters. We like to see how well the writer did what they set out to do in the opening of their book. If they excelled and the voice is fresh and the story meets our line’s requirement, then we ask for the full manuscript.

Do you know within the first page whether you like the voice? Are you always definite or do you land up with a lot of "maybes"?

I’ve heard editors say they can tell in the first sentence whether they like the voice or not. I’m not quite so skilled! (Although I do appreciate a good opening line.) I can usually tell the level of craft the author has immediately, which three chapters will confirm. But the strongest wordsmiths aren’t always the strongest storytellers, and the synopsis is key to indicating the writer’s grasp of structure and Superromance’s specific needs. I’ve seen charming stories with writing that flows, but there’s not enough romantic tension and unexpected choices, which means the romance falls flat.

Long story short: I end up with a lot of maybes where the writing isn’t the strongest but the story could work, or the writing is gifted but the story’s structure is weak. In these cases, I request a revision to check the author’s ability to grasp the kind of characterization and tension we need in a good Superromance. My favourite moments on the job are when I get a revision from an author that exceeds my expectations.

In the query letter, does the mention of competition wins help?

Sorry, but not with me, I’m afraid! The proof is in the pudding, as it were. I like to know if I’ve personally met the author at a conference pitch and I enjoy reading about the writer (having a web

site is almost a given nowadays), but ultimately it’s all about the execution of the work.

What is your process when it comes to giving authors feedback both on proposals and on fulls? Do you see this stage as clear guidance or a broad set of suggestions for the author?

I write margin notes as I read, which I then write up and e-mail the author—discussion to follow once they’ve had a chance to digest the notes. I like to step back from the work for a day or two after I’ve read a full so I can see the forest through the trees. If I have time, I structure my critique to point out any bigger issues first and then to follow up with the smaller stuff in chronological order.

I don’t necessarily care if an author hasn’t taken my previous suggestions to heart—but I do hope they’ve found a way to make the weak areas work. Ideally, I won’t even remember what I thought was a weak spot because it’s not weak anymore. But if I remember the weak spot—because it leaps out at me again—I keep at the author to find a different alternative than I’d previously suggested, to rethink it.

What are the common pitfalls for authors?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Often a main character’s motives aren’t urgent or active enough and that hero or heroine can seem too passive, not driven toward getting what he or she wants badly enough. This can happen when an obstacle to love only exists in the character’s internalization (they date, think they shouldn’t be dating…maybe because they have a secret the other doesn’t know about and they should really tell them, but they’re not going to quite yet…and then they date again) or when their life is in the pits when the book begins so they have nothing to lose in loving the other character, nowhere to go but up. And that lack of high stakes obstacle can lead to a less-than-exciting read because there’s no active romantic tension. (Much more exciting when both the hero and heroine have something precious they don’t want to lose at any cost, but loving each other might mean they have to lose it.)

Authors are urged to raise the stakes. How can we do this in contemporary romance?

In plotting where characters get to know each other, go out horseback riding or to dinner or to the pub or church fund-raiser, it’s much, much more difficult to reach the level of excitement and high stakes that you can—obviously—when there’s a villain with a gun chasing a heroine, or the hero and heroine are on a sinking ship…. The trick in writing contemporary fiction that’s grounded in reality and character-driven, is to make a scene about cooking dinner together as tense and risk-filled as a gun-to-the-head scene. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s necessary if you want a reader to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next! (And it shouldn’t be “on the nose” writing, where the scene really is about what the scene appears to be about…which vegetables the heroine will chop up for her stew and will the hero offer to set the table. There has to be deeper subtext and goals within a domestic scene, where one character comes away the victor from that dinner and the other comes away the loser.)

Do clichés abound?

I don’t know if it’s possible to write a cliché-free story (how many ways are there to say two people fell in love or one person broke another person’s heart?), and I’m even beginning to wonder what a cliché is anymore.

Simpler writing is often more truthful, more poignant, so “her heart broke” is a cliché that works for me if it flows naturally out of the story. It’s when an author relies too heavily on clichés and what I call “torturing” them to try to create something fresh (for instance, “shards of her broken heart seemed to pierce through her lungs so she couldn’t breathe”), that the cliché calls attention to itself and distracts the reader from the story.

Not sure if this falls under the category of cliché, but in trying to avoid adverbs (which have a bad rep nowadays), authors often write wordier adverbial phrases. “She said sharply” becomes “she said in a sharp tone”. In trying to write “more actively”, authors become convoluted and repetitive. “She felt cold” becomes “A cold wave swept through her middle”.

An editor will clean up clichés in a line edit, but I often point out the most glaring use of them in a revision letter so the author can choose how to clean them up herself without editor interference. But I would hate for a writer to get bogged down and unable to write their story because they’re worried about style. Write the story first, worry about clichés and repetitive phrasing after.

To what extent do you see the book as a collaboration between author and editor, given you know what Super readers are looking for?

It’s definitely a collaboration, but I never think “oh, that’s Zana and my book”— it’s only “Zana’s book” as far as I’m concerned. I have deep respect and admiration for authors’ creation process. All I do is critique and nudge! How easy do I have it???

Have you ever had instances where, despite author's efforts, they simply cannot produce what you feel is a publishable super?

Yes, and it’s a frustrating stage, for both the author and me. No matter how successful an author is within the line, there seems to come a time when a book they propose can’t get to contract. Hopefully we can find a way to work it out in a new proposal. Once a book is contracted, though, the story has been Superromance-approved and we’ve never rejected anything past that stage.

How closely do you like to work with authors at this stage? Do you bounce ideas around together or do you give suggestions and it’s up to the author to run with them?

Some editors are better at brainstorming ideas than others. I need to see words on a page, I’m not good at over-the-phone brainstorming. I’m also much better at editing ideas than generating them…guess that I was born to be an editor. I love to sit with Wanda Ottewell and “what if” back and forth. I find we’re able to let go of the original ideas more easily and see bigger-picture solutions than the author because we’re not as close to it.

The line edits are very exacting. Is it a tightrope walk?

I confess that the line edit stage isn’t much fun…and it’s utterly exhausting. But it’s also immensely satisfying to put the line-by-line work into a story and focus it into lean-and-mean fighting form. Once a line edit is done, that’s when I think, “That’s my favourite book ever”. And then I start the next line edit, cursing and grumbling until it’s over, and then it becomes my new favourite book. Wicked cycle.

The tightrope during a line edit is explaining your changes to the author without beating an author over the head! Saying too much in margin notes can put authors on the defensive. You’re talking about their creation, after all.

What keeps you in the job?

*Honestly? A steady pay cheque! But I also love working with words, always have, and I am devoted to seeing my authors get ahead.

How many novels are you working on right at this moment? How do you juggle them?

I’ve got a full that just came in for Harlequin American Romance; I’ve sent one author revision notes on her first book in a trilogy and have to read and get her notes on the second book soon. I have several unsolicited books to read (three fulls and about 15 partials), and proposals from three of my authors. We work at home one day a week, which is when I usually line edit or read a full. Otherwise, I juggle based on closest deadlines!

What can authors do to make their editors' lives easier?

Keep reading and studying the craft of writing. There are some excellent books out there, including Stephen King’s On Writing and Robert McKee’s Story. And keeping up with what other Superromance authors are writing certainly can’t hurt.

Thank you so much, Victoria, for sharing with us today. The glimpse into your world (the other side of the desk, as it were!) has been fascinating and invaluable.

Victoria will be happy to reply to comments or questions so please post away. However, be aware that, because of the time differences, you may have to wait until tomorrow for a response. Even super-busy editors have to sleep sometimes!

I will be giving away two copies of “Tempting the Negotiator” (Cataromance Reviewers Award 2010) in celebration of having such a great guest to the blog!

PS The photo at the top is Victoria with Beth Andrews, RITA winner.

Feb 21, 2011


Reading: Look Again - Lisa Scottoline

Listening to - The quail as they keep tabs on their chicks and hunt forage for food in my husband's vegetable garden.

listening to - my husband growling at the quail but not chasing them away.

It must be the time of the year for weddings.

We have just been to a family one in Golden Bay at the top of NZ's South Island. A beautiful setting for a beautiful day. Everyone was greatly moved by the couple's vows that they wrote. Both the bride and groom expressed their love for each other very elequently. They certainly reminded us all what romance is all about. Family weddings also have the added bonus of being able to catch up with all those family members I only see occasionally. The cheeky ones who kept asking me if I was getting inspiration for my next book.

And then next weekend we are off to a wedding celebration for a couple who were married in Italy last month - a long way from home for the groom but in the heart of the bride's family.

My close friends, whose son got married, flew to Italy and froze in the northern winter but had a wonderful time over there. Now back in our summer temperatures they are sharing the excitement of this marriage.

Have any of you been to weddings so far this year?

Feb 20, 2011

Sunday Smooch

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Moon Thrall by Mel Teshco, but first...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Erin K!

Congratulations, Erin K! Can you please contact Natalie Anderson at

natalie (at) natalie-anderson (dot) com

and she'll send you a copy of Rebel With A Cause.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Ellora's Cave e-book Moon Thrall by Mel Teshco...

Elyse Wellston e
scapes from her brutal, violent ex-fiancé to a remote cabin in Australia. Fearing for her life, it makes no sense for her to react the way she does on meeting the enigmatic Dane Maddox.

Only when she d
iscovers he is a werewolf and she is his weren—his mate and a werewolf herself—does she begin to understand the hot, sexual yearning within. No longer does she need to act out a desire she doesn’t feel, Dane is everything she wants.

But will her ex end her happiness, her sexual fulfillment, almost before it begins?

Dane lay watching her with drowsy contemplation. “Hi, sleepy head,” he murmured.

“Hi,” she managed, suddenly shy.

He cupped a hand behind her head and tugged her in close for a kiss. “Thank you.” At her obviously bemused look, he added, “For trusting me.”

“You’re welcome.” She snuggled further into his arms, content to stay put. At least for now. “I only wish I could stay like this forever,” she conceded.

He stroked her head. “And why can’t you?”

She twisted in his embrace and looked into his face, feeling all too serious. “That little secret I said I had—”

“Ah.” His jaw hardened fractionally. “Go on.”

“—it was my fiancée. Was. He’s my ex-fiancée now.” She lifted a hand, letting it drop back to her side as she added, “Only, try telling him that. He’s...he’s a very possessive man.”

Dane’s face remained impassive. He reached for her hand, interlacing her fingers with his and examining her bare ring finger.

“I left my engagement ring behind on my pillow.” She chewed her lower lip. “It belongs in my past, not my future.”

The ring had represented a future bound by sacred vows to love, cherish and uphold. Everything her relationship with Caleb wasn’t. The only vow she felt certain Caleb would have kept was the death do us part.

Looking back, it was so hard to believe that Caleb had been such a rock for her after the death of her parents in a car accident. She’d just turned twenty, and though on the outside she’d put on a brave face, inside her world had spun off its axis.

She’d been an only child, with no one to share her grief. Add the mountain of debt that had been left behind, and she’d been only too grateful to allow Caleb—a man her parents had known for years, but seemed somehow to disapprove of—to take the reins. Trouble was, he’d never handed those reins back to her.

It hadn’t taken her long to see his true colors, hadn’t taken long to understand why her parents had felt

such mistrust toward him. She’d lived in terror of him, too scared to leave him, too scared not to. But after the first time he’d hit her, she’d known there was no future with him, known she’d never marry him.

More than once her refusal to wed had sent Caleb right over the edge.

Dane drifted his thumb over her bare finger, “You had no choice but to leave,” he murmured. “You were compelled to find me.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” she said softly.

“You don’t have to understand.” He turned to her fully, pressing soft kisses onto her brow, the tip of her nose, before finally claiming her mouth until she all but melted into his heat. He drew back to add huskily, “Just follow your instincts, trust in them.”

He moved his body full-length over hers, his weight centered on his forearms and his outspread hands either side of her head. “Now shut up and kiss me,” he said huskily.

She smiled as intoxicated delight sizzled through her womb and spread outwards, her mouth capturing the soft heat of his lips this time until she became lost in everything but the moment.

Moon Thrall will be released in North America on March 2nd. To be in the draw to win a copy, answer the following question! (Please note, Moon Thrall is an e-book.)

What is your favourite movie or book where the heroine is escaping an abusive relationship, and into the arms of the loving hero?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from The Sentinel Mage by Emily Gee will be posted!

Feb 18, 2011

Special Guest: Christina Phillips!

Christina Phillips writes hot Roman/Druid historical romance for Berkley Heat. FORBIDDEN, her first in the series, is out now. Her 2nd book, CAPTIVE, has just been released.
Hi Christina, thanks for visiting the Lovecats! Can you give us a brief overview of Captive, and how it is linked to Forbidden?
Hi Mel, thank you for having me on the Lovecats blog today! Here’s a one sentence summary of Captive:
A tortured warrior and rebellious Druid priestess have to overcome their past, put their trust in each other and face their deepest fears if they want to survive the invasion of their lands and the wrath of a spurned goddess.
Captive begins six months after Forbidden ends, and follows Morwyn, who is the best friend of the heroine in Forbidden. At the start of the book Morwyn is suffering from a crisis of faith and leaves the Druid sanctuary on the Isle of Mon to join the rebels fighting the Roman invaders. Unfortunately she’s ambushed, and much to her disgust is rescued by the hero, Bren.
How did the series idea come about?
After I finished writing Forbidden my agent wanted to know what happened to a few of the secondary characters. Up until that point it hadn’t occurred to me to write another book set in that world, but as soon as I started thinking about it I realized there was so much more to explore. So I decided to write Morwyn and Gawain’s book, only to discover that Gawain wasn’t, in fact, Morwyn’s hero at all!
You have two books in the series, are there any more planned?
I do have ideas for a couple more books in the series. I’m a third of the way through the third book, Enslaved, but it all depends on how the market likes Forbidden and Captive as to whether that gets the go-ahead!
How do you compare writing these long-length novels to your shorter novellas with The Wild Rose Press?
Up until I wrote my two short novelettes for The Wild Rose Press, I’d only written full length novels. I’ve always found it easier to write long, rather than short, so in a way it was much more of a challenge for me to write Foretaste of Forever and Touch of a Demon. I love exploring my worlds and for the shorter stories I had to cut right back on the world building because of the word count.
Have you any other characters and stories breathing down your neck, busting to get out?
I sometimes think I’m a very odd anomaly because unlike just about every other writer I know, I don’t have a million characters in my head demanding to have their stories told! What generally happens is either a secondary character or a complete stranger will suddenly leap out at me for one reason or another and then take up residence inside my imagination. So while I might have no idea what their story is, or who their hero or heroine might be, I do know that this character is the one who’s going to haunt me until I do something about it!
A day in the life of Christina?
After Clive Owen gently wakes me from my slumbers, we retire to the spa where Henry Cavill is waiting to massage my aches and pains away. While I’m suffering this (it’s all in the name of research) Colin Firth peels some grapes and Alan Rickman entertains me with his Sheriff of Nottingham persona.
Oh wait, you mean in my real life?
Hmm. That consists of running around like a madwoman trying to get everyone off to school and work, doing the shopping, ignoring the housework and collapsing in front of the computer as quickly as I can. On a good day that’s by 9 am. I then check my mail before starting work, taking a break at 11.30 for lunch then back at it until it’s time for the school run. After that I fit in any promo/blogging/everything-else-that-has-to-be-done in between socializing with the family and wondering what I can burn for dinner tonight.
And finally, what is your writing goal for five years time?
OK, I’m going to think big here J In five years time I’d love to be writing three different series for my publisher, with a backlist of at least ten books, and I’d love to be hitting the USA Today and NYT bestseller lists J
For your chance to win a copy of either FORBIDDEN or CAPTIVE (winner’s choice, open internationally wherever The Book Depository delivers) tell us what you love about a Roman/soldier hero?
Trained in sensuality, a Druid priestess finds herself falling for the wrong man—the warrior who’s taken her prisoner…
Having lost her faith when Roman invaders destroyed life as she knew it, Morwyn took a vow of celibacy to spite her goddess. But before she can join up with the rebels, she's captured by a Gaul mercenary whose animal charms and chiseled body will test her conviction... and make it harder to kill him.
Bren, pledged to the true Briton king, has spent three years undercover in the Roman Legion. So when his own unit attacks and brutalizes a fiery Celtic beauty, he saves her the only way he can - by claiming her as his prisoner. But unlike his men, Bren would never take the woman by force, no matter how obviously she burns for his touch.
As they near Roman headquarters, Morwyn resolves to honor her vow of celibacy - but if the Gaul were to ravage her, could she be blamed for enjoying his body? With just a hint of seduction, sooner or later the Gaul will succumb to his exquisite captive...
Christina’s Website: http://www.christinaphillips.com
Captive Excerpt: (Over 18s Only, Please!)
Forbidden Excerpt: (Over 18s Only, Please!)

Feb 16, 2011

Finding Time

Reading: Rogue by Rachel Vincent

Listening to: The beautiful sound of silence . . . while my baby sleeps!

Watching: Off the Map – new show starring New Zealand’s own Martin Henderson

Making me Smile: My dogs coming inside wet from the rain and being super-excited about it

I’ve always admired mothers who manage to stay at home and care for their children, as well as write multiple books each year. Now, as a first time mother myself, I’m wondering how they do it.

Our new baby is sleeping pretty well compared to others, however dealing with 4-5 hours sleep each night instead of 8+ is tough. So is trying to hold down work as a freelance writer, write books, and get dinner on the table. But at the end of the day, I love what I do, and I wouldn’t want to stop writing for a moment. The tough part is finding balance, to be a great mother, wife and writer.

So for all those fabulous mothers reading this, who are brilliant at juggling their time, what are your secrets and tips? How do you find time for your family and your work, and manage to keep your sanity?

At times it sure feels like a juggling game, but indulging in something I love – writing – sure seems worth it. Even if at times it does seem tough to fit everything in.

Feb 14, 2011

Thrill of the Forbidden

Reading: Baby books
Watching: Time Team
Listening to: Lady Gaga
Making me smile: My early Valentine's gifts

Why is it we always want the things we know we can’t have? Or shouldn’t have? When something is forbidden it just seems to become so much more tempting.

It might be that forbidden person who tempts us no matter how much we tell ourselves to forget them (hasn’t happened to me since I met the love of my life…well except for anytime I see Hugh Jackman on television!).

It might be that food we know we should avoid (chocolate, I’m looking at you.) It might be that reality television show you know you shouldn’t watch but just can’t help yourself (there are too many to name!)

The thrill of the forbidden gave me the story idea for my next Nocturne Bites, One Night with the Wolf. The heroine, Jade is alpha of her wolf pack and to ensure their safety she must marry an aging, powerful alpha. But before she commits herself to a passionless union, she wants one night of pleasure and the only man who tempts her is the one forbidden to her.

Enter the hero, Christian who is an exile from his pack – a wolf with no power, no connections and nothing to offer a woman like Jade. He knows an alpha can’t be linked with an exile. But while both know they can’t have each other, they are tempted to the edge of their control.

So, what guilty little pleasure tempts you? What’s the one thing you know you should steer clear of but just can’t resist? I’ll kick it off and fess up to my Diet Coke addiction – I know it’s bad for me but it tastes oh so good!

One Night with the Wolf from Harlequin Nocturne Bites is available for download March 1st.

Feb 13, 2011

Sunday Smooch

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Rebel With A Cause by Natalie Anderson, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Helen!

Congratulations, Helen! Can you please contact Rachel Bailey at

rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com

and she'll send you a copy of Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Rebel With A Cause by Natalie Anderson...

Office gossip...

It's well known that rugged tycoon Lorenzo Hall comes from the wrong side of the tracks, and that opposites attract... Apparently one glimpse of his pristine new assistant Sophy Braithwaite had Lorenzo itching to undress her - we wonder if she's as prim and proper as she looks! Of course, to Sophy, her smouldering boss should be off-limits, but it's easy to see how Lorenzo's criminally hot body and the dangerous twinkle in his eyes could tempt her to break all the rules...

Tired. That was her problem. Tired and frustrated and overwhelmed. And he wasn’t helping – towering over her like this, tormenting her all the time. She looked straight down to the floor as tears sprang at her eyes. “Forget it.”

“No,” he took her chin in firm fingers and tilted her head back up so he could see her face. A half-swallowed growl sounded. “You’re really upset.”

“My wounded pride will get over it,” she snapped, cross with her stupid weakness. “I don’t care what you think. I’m here to do a job. Now I’m going to get on with it.”

“Not until I apologise.”

“I didn’t think you’d be the type to say sorry.”

“And you think I’m the one making assumptions?” His eyes glinted but the smallest of smiles appeared. “Ok, I don’t say it often. But when I do, I mean it.” He stroked her jaw. “I’m sorry.”

“Its fine,” she shrugged, too crushed to accept it with good grace and determined not to let that smile have its usual disabling effect. “I don’t care what you think about me.”

His smiled deepened just a touch. Okay, so she was protesting too much.

She sighed as a flicker of good humour returned to her. “Don’t get big-headed about it. I care too much what everyone thinks about me.”

“What you think matters to me too.”

Okay, so now his niceness was making it worse. Embarrassed, she shifted. “Look, just forget it.”

“No,” his grip tightened. “I’m going to make it better. I’m going to do it anyway. It’s been on the cards for days. You know that.”

She froze, her body rendered immobile with anticipation overload. All she could do was gaze up at him – drowning in his eyes, yearning for that beautiful mouth to touch her.

And then it did.

A butterfly-light brush of lips on skin – a shade too close to her mouth to be a safe kiss on the cheek. And he lingered too long for it to be safe too.

“Better?” His question almost inaudible, but she heard it, felt it as his lips grazed her as he asked.


The smallest of pauses as they stood – intent hovering. Only a couple of inches separated their bodies, only a millimetre separated their lips. She could feel his heat, and smell his fresh soapy scent. A tremor ran through her as anticipation almost broke her nerve. Suddenly he moved – that merest fraction, the littlest drop to her mouth. His lips were warm, and they clung.

Her eyes closed, her body blanking everything so it could focus only on the touch. His gentleness so unexpected, the rush of sensation pierced through her.

A moan – was it her? The softness, the slowness, the sweetness overwhelmed her. She trembled again and his hands tightened. This wasn’t enough.

And then it was over.

She couldn’t breathe. She saw his eyes zooming in on her. Jet black now. Intense. Beautiful. Time and motion stopped for a moment that felt like infinity. Her every nerve was wired, waiting, wanting. Would he come back – would he kiss her again?

“No,” he said roughly, stepping back. His hands dropped – leaving her suddenly cold. “You were right. I was wrong.” He walked out the door. “I really am sorry.”

Poor Lorenzo gets to feel a whole lot sorrier as his relationship with Sophy grows all the more complicated… To be in the draw to win a signed copy of Rebel With A Cause, just leave a comment below!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Moon Thrall by Mel Teshco will be posted!

Feb 9, 2011

Heat waves and other minor matters...

by Michelle Douglas

Reading: My RITA books

Listening to: ABBA Gold

Watching: the garden un-wilt

Making me smile: the temperature, my health, my car...

On Sunday night the heat wave that held my part of the country in its clenched and taloned grip for seven days finally broke. A heat wave that quite frankly was hateful - temperatures consistently around 40C and the inside of my house not dropping below 30C for the entire week, not even at night, and with humidity levels at around 85%.

To be honest, though, there was very little grumbling to be had because a heat wave is MUCH better than a cyclone Yasi, than the floods that have hit both Qld and Vic, and the bushfire that has destroyed homes in WA. By comparison, my part of NSW has been very lucky.

But this heat wave did get me thinking about the little things I take for granted, because let me tell you, when that cool change came through on Sunday evening I was so happy I could've cried (or spontaneously burst into song, but then that would've made everyone else cry). Every day this week I have relished the gorgeous cool weather.

Towards the end of last year I got a minor infection that I put up with for two weeks before finally going to the doctor (hey, I was busy and the infection was minor and not stopping me from doing stuff and I thought it might just go away - ha!). Two days after I'd started taking the antibiotics I felt on top of the world. I vividly remember walking around my local shopping centre feeling so utterly healthy that I couldn't help smiling blissfully at everyone I passed (no, they didn't send in the men with the white coats).

The first car I ever owned broke down all the time. I made do. My second car leaked whenever it rained, hence, it smelled (quite a lot now that I come to think of it). I got my third car three years ago. It's beautiful. I can no longer see the road through the floor (I'm sure this is a good thing). I can now hear the radio playing because the wind no longer whips around my ears, deafening me. And I have shock absorbers that work. Whenever I drive my car - even after three years - I grin to myself, so pleased that I am now driving this car.

So what about you? Is there some small thing you've recently realised you take for granted? Or, conversely, something that fills you with delight? (Oh, and aren't you just loving this cooler weather!)

Feb 8, 2011

The Sentinel Mage Winner!

Congratulations Jacque Spillman -- my cat chose you as the winner of The Sentinel Mage giveaway!

Jacque, can you please email me on

worldaroundthecorner (at) gmail (dot) com

with your snail mail address and I'll send you your copy.

Thanks everyone who commented yesterday -- my cat had a very hard time picking the winner!

Feb 7, 2011

The Sentinel Mage

by Emily Gee

What I'm reading: The Complete Servant, by Samuel & Sarah Adams (1825)

Watching: Glee

Listening to: Salmonella Dub

Making me smile: The baby sparrows feeding outside my window

The release of my latest fantasy novel, The Sentinel Mage, this month caught me by surprise. I spent endless months plotting and writing it and suddenly -- kaboom -- it's on the shelves and I'm standing there blinking and going What? Already?

The author copies have just arrived and I had that surreal flicking-through-the-pages moment when you see the story that spent so much time in your head actually printed in black and white on the pages of a book.
To me, it always looks very one dimensional compared to the 3D colour version that runs like a movie in my head.

The Sentinel Mage is something a new for me ... not only is it the first book in a trilogy, but it has multiple storylines. I wrote each storyline completely separately, from start to finish, and then combined them into a whole, kind of like plaiting flax. (Is that too kiwi a simile? You know what I mean, right?)

My publisher, Solaris, have created wonderful chapter images to separate out the three storylines.

The wolf and flames image marks the mages and Prince Harkeld's story -- which is the story on the back cover blurb.

(In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage's blood in his veins. But Harkeld has a bounty on his head -- and assassins at his heels.

Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld's side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him. But the deserts of Masse are more dangerous than the assassins hunting the prince. The curse has woken deadly creatures, and the magic Prince Harkeld loathes may be the only thing standing between him and death.)

The sword and crown marks the story of Harkeld's sister, Princess Brigitta, and her armsman, Karel.

Britta and Karel aren't mentioned on the back cover, but I have to confess ... Karel is my favourite character in this book. He's strong, stoic, smart -- and lethal with a sword.

The footprint marks the story of the young orphan, Jaumé, whose story opens the book.

Jaumé is a blacksmith's son, fleeing across a continent ahead of the curse (
the poor kid has bare feet -- hence the footprint).

Two of the storylines are going to collide violently in the second book, and all three will be bloodily entwined by the end of the third book, so my flax weaving is going to get pretty complicated. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

I have one copy of The Sentinel Mage to give away. (That's Innis, the shapeshifter, on the cover, by the way.)

Simply tell me what it is about fantasy novels that you enjoy. The magic, the heroism, the battles, the strange and deadly creatures, the passion...

(The first two chapters of The Sentinel Mage are up on my website, www.emilygee.com, if you'd like a sneak peek!)

Feb 6, 2011

Sunday Smooch

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal by Rachel Bailey, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is -- Clare Scott!

Congratulations, Clare! Can you please contact Natalie Anderson at

natalie (at) natalie-anderson (dot) com

and she'll send you a copy of Walk On The Wild Side.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal by Rachel Bailey...

Truth, Lies and Seduction...

An accident left April Fairchild with no memory, ownership of a multimilliondollar hotel and the nagging sense something wasn't quite right in her life. It also brought her intensely sexy businessman Seth Kentrell, whose late brother had left her the property. Seth believed her a gold digger - and how could April deny it, when she couldn't even remember her name? Now Seth was ready to play hardball to get the hotel back.

But April knew enough to refuse to sign over the property until her memory returned. And if that meant Seth needed to persuade her... well, that was something she could enjoy! At least until the whole truth came out...

[Set up: April Fairchild is a world famous jazz singer and pianist, but she can't remember any of it. Seth has just found and shown her footage of herself playing the piano which has brought back patchy memories of her music. He's taken her to a piano in the hotel's ballroom and for the first time since she lost her memory, April is sitting at a piano, playing.]

When she finished the piece, more music crowded into her mind and she set that free too. Long and smooth. Fun and energetic. Sad and haunting. Some, she simply played; others, she sang the words—whatever felt right. And it all felt right, felt satisfying in a place deep inside that she’d forgotten existed.

As she launched into an Ella Fitzgerald number, she looked up and saw Seth watching her, a burning heat in his eyes. He leaned back against the wall, hands deep in his trouser pockets, legs crossed at the ankles. The pose of a relaxed man. Yet he was far from peaceful. He radiated tension. She’d been vaguely aware that some hotel staff members had drifted in and formed a small crowd for her performance, but she only had eyes for Seth. For all that heat. She wanted it closer. All of it. 

She segued into Fever without thinking much about it and his navy blue eyes burned hotter.

As her fingers touched the final notes of the song and the sound faded, she paused. She and Seth hadn’t broken eye contact for endless minutes and the air crackled with their attraction. The staff burst into claps and cheers for the impromptu concert.

Seth cleared his throat. “Okay, everyone back to work.” The command had the staff moving quickly, but Seth didn’t move a muscle. Her heart hammered at her ribs as the staff shuffled out, some smiling their gratitude to her, one giving her a thumbs up. It seemed to take an eternity, and all the time, Seth’s gaze was locked on her.

The moment the last person left, Seth strode the distance to her, slamming the ballroom door closed on the way past. April watched his progress, hardly daring to breathe. When he reached her, without a word or any preliminaries, he drew her up from the stool and his mouth came down on hers with a fierceness she welcomed with everything inside her. She wound her arms behind his neck, securing him, demanding everything he had to give. 

His lips moved with urgency, his tongue claiming her, wanting her. Had she ever been desired this much? She couldn’t imagine it was possible. The body heat emanating from him soaked through her clothes, down into her bones. Her skin tingled at every point that his hands, mouth or body touched. 

All she could think about was the feel of his broad back beneath her fingers, the curves of his hard muscles, wanting more, more. The clean forest scent of him blended with something darkly alluring, and filled her head. His fingers stabbed through her hair and massaged her skull, and in this moment she belonged to him, wholly and completely.

His hands slid down to her waist and he effortlessly lifted her high, onto the baby grand. Leaning down to preserve contact with his lips, she opened her thighs, and at the same moment that he stepped forward, bunching her long, soft skirt up and pressing against the core of her. She moaned, helpless to do more than kiss and be kissed. 

His mouth moved to the side of her lips, to her cheek, and she took the opportunity to gulp in the air her lungs had been screaming for, but she locked her ankles behind him to make sure the break didn’t become permanent. 

“I can’t stand it,” he murmured next to her ear. “I want you so badly I can’t stand it.”

To be in the draw to win a signed copy of Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal, leave a comment, and perhaps tell us what pieces of music you think April could have played here besides the ones she did. I.e., what song / music is the sexiest? :)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Rebel With A Cause by Natalie Anderson will be posted!

Feb 4, 2011

What is it about lighthouses?

The Cape Byron Lighthouse
Photograph: 4c's Enterprises
When I was a child, my family spent our school holidays at Byron Bay. For those who don't know the spot, it's Australia's most easterly point, with stunning beaches, and, when we used to go it was a relatively unknown piece of paradise. It's become much more popular in recent years, but the beaches are as gorgeous, and the whole bay is still presided over by a grand old lighthouse.

The Cape Byron Lighthouse is not only Australia's most easterly lighthouse, but it's also the country's most powerful. At night we would watch the light go round and round from the sand dunes, and during the day, we could see the tall white tower from the beach.

So, is it just me and the effect of my childhood memories, or do lighthouses hold a special fascination for others too? Perhaps the appeal is symbolic - a guiding light for those in troubled waters.
The Lady Bay Upper Lighthouse
Flagstaff Hill, Warrnambool
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas

Since I've laid bare my love for all things lighthouse, you probably won't be surprised to learn I managed to sneak a lighthouse into a book. In fact, I set an entire book at a fictitious luxury hotel: The Lighthouse Hotel in Connecticut, New England.  In Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal, one of the first things my heroine, April Fairchild, wants to do when she arrives at the hotel, is climb the steps of the lighthouse. April has many traits that have nothing to do with me - eg., she can sing and play the piano beautifully - but that need to climb to the top of the lighthouse is all me. :)

So, what about you? Have you ever visited a lighthouse? Or had a fascination for them? I'm eager to hear about more lighthouses and any memories you  have!