Jun 24, 2019

The “everything” drawer – Kandy Shepherd

I’m the first to admit I’m not the tidiest person around. I try, I really do try to keep things organised and tidy, to de-clutter, but it’s a constant battle. I relate to the Peanuts character “Pig-Pen”—mess gravitates towards me!

I kept an old magazine for years that showcased actress Jamie Lee Curtis’s house. It was amazing. Everything sorted, placed, regimented. And the awesome Ms Curtis (I’m a big fan) interviewed, saying how good all that tidiness made her feel. I longed to be like her—how wonderful it would be to have my house look like hers. (Instead of fearing what might fall out and crash to the floor when I opened a cupboard door because of all the stuff randomly jammed in there!)

I want to be like Jamie Lee Curtis!

Then the lovely Marie Kondo with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and subsequent television show, struck a chord. There’s a big emphasis on very neat folding. She suggests you discard anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. (Am I surprised to see Jamie Lee Curtis is a supporter of Marie Kondo? She actually says in this article for Time magazine, that if she were to get a tattoo it would say “Spark Joy”!)

Kondo style folding

The message is—decluttering can be life-changing. The few areas of the house I have managed to declutter work so much better and are less stressful to negotiate. It works! (Least said the better about the other areas. And the books. Oh, the books. How difficult it is to get rid of books. Especially when you’ve written them yourself!)

My pantry system needs some refining - but the intention is good!

However, while I am attempting to change my deeply ingrained ways (even my school desk was always untidy!) there is one thing I am adamant about keeping—and that is my beloved “everything drawer”. 

Do you have such a drawer/shelf/box into which every miscellaneous thing that doesn’t have an immediate home is tossed?

I’m bravely sharing my everything drawer with you here. 

Here it is in all its glory - my "everything drawer"!

A quick survey of the top layer of my drawer: take-away menus from restaurants; rubber bands; flyers from tradesmen we might need one day; Band Aids for when it’s too difficult to hunt out the first-aid box; an apple slicer; a sample tile; some anonymous part from the fridge; plugs that don’t seem to fit any of our sinks but must or otherwise why would we have them; a kitchen timer that needs a new battery; spring -flowering bulbs I forgot to plant; string; a cute cat-shaped black board I’ve de-cluttered from the fridge door but still like; appliance instruction manuals that haven’t been put away in folder yet; a device that times boiled eggs; glue. And that’s just the top layer!

When I first lived with my husband he pronounced: “This has got to go!”
“To where?” I asked.
“Files,” he said sternly. “All this stuff put in order where we can find it.”
“Okay,” I said, after an initial feeble protest. After all, I knew where I could find it. In the everything drawer!

After 30 years of living with me, he has wearily and silently conceded some of his hard-fought ground. No bills or invoices are ever allowed in the everything drawer. All the warranties and appliance instructions have their own folder in the everything drawer. Spare light bulbs must be in boxes. Yes, yes and yes. But everything else is randomly tossed in. 

“Where are the spare batteries?” someone will inevitably ask. 
“Do we have any sticky tape?” 
“Aargh! My friend is allergic to cats. Any antihistamines?”
“Look in the everything drawer,” I serenely reply. 
And inevitably what they are looking for is there!

It’s a great system. Maybe I should write a book about it…

Do you have an “everything drawer”? If you are a naturally tidy person, what can I learn from you? Do you declutter? We’d love to see your comments!

Jun 19, 2019

Alpine Style – the things you discover on a research trip! By Annie West

Old houses in Brienz
As some of you know I was recently in Europe for a couple of weeks. I was lucky enough to attend a reader festival in France and also visit some locations I thought would be useful for current and future books. If that sounds like a convenient excuse for travel, I can tell you I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve written that have been inspired by places, people, events, traditions and stories that I’ve come across in my travels. Of course, travel is fun too! J

The book I’m working on is set partly in the Alps. Naturally, since I was in Europe it was a perfect time to explore there, soak up the atmosphere and check a few things. 

Window boxes
But in addition to the very specific things I wanted to find out for my story, of course I discovered a lot more. One of those was the alpine affinity for wood! Not just for buildings but for so much more. It’s used in everything from decorative flower boxes to fancy trim on gorgeous alpine houses, water fountains, fences, signs and statues. Even for fashion! 

In case you can't read German and you're looking for a hotel - look for bears carrying luggage!
Everywhere I looked there was something useful or pretty or downright quirky to admire.

Carvings for each hotel door.
Have a look at these and see what you think. They’re all taken around the small town of Brienz in Switzerland where I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days. It turns out that Brienz is home to a Schule für Holzbildhauerei or school for wood sculpture, so perhaps that explains the amount of wonderful carvings I discovered there.

Sign for the wharf and lakeside cruises
In case you want to go on an elegant stroll to the lookout
Or if you're looking for the beach
Or maybe you want to climb the Rothorn Mountain on foot, or better yet, on the steam cog railway
When you get to the top there'll be someone waiting with an oil can to inspect the steam engine
Jolly life-sized locals by the lake
And for the fashion conscious - wooden bow ties!

Several of the men in my family – father, uncle and grandfather – were good with wood and I have a couple of treasured pieces of inherited wooden furniture. Now I’m thinking I missed out at school when the boys learned woodwork and I didn’t. How about you? Do you like handmade wooden items or do you prefer things more modern and streamlined? 

Jun 16, 2019

Sunday Smooch winner!

We don't have a Sunday Smooch scheduled for today, but the winner of last week's smooch and a copy of A Baby in His In-Tray is Pammie S.
Congratulations, Pammie!!!

Send Michelle an email at michelle (at) michelle-douglas (dot) com to receive your prize.

Jun 12, 2019

I'm in a New York state of mind...

I’m pretty certain this isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone, but I’m starting to get excited about my trip to New York next month (OMG next month!!!).

 I’ve jotted down a few must-see-and-dos:

* I want to visit a rooftop bar and sip something sophisticated while gazing out at the Manhattan skyline
* See the Statue of Liberty
*  Walk in Central Park
*  Catch a Broadway show
*  Walk the High Line
* Spend the day strolling through…well, I don’t really know—Greenwich Village maybe?
* And I have to go to Katz’s Deli of When Harry Met Sally fame (I’ll have what she’s having). Actually, I'm going to have the pastrami on rye. ;-)

But I feel so disorganised. I’m madly writing my next book because I SO want to get the first draft done before I leave, and it’s taking up ALL of my time. I’ve barely started preparing for the trip. Actually that’s not completely true—the flights are booked and the accommodation is booked. But I’m talking about the nitty-gritty planning. I’ve bought a guidebook that I’ve thus far only managed to flick through (see the pic above). I’ve purchased a new toiletry bag because my old one fell apart…

and I’ve bought a most excellent cross body bag that will hold my essentials when I’m out walking the streets of New York.

I’m thinking that’s nowhere near enough preparation, right?

I need help—I need travel tips. I need New York tips.

Here are some things I’ve been told:
  • Take lots of dollar bills for tipping
  • Visit the Met Cloisters
  • Become a member of New York City Library
  • Shop at Century 21
Do you have any other words of wisdom for me? I mean, is there anything specific I should try and buy in New York because I won’t be able to get it anywhere else?

Plus what on earth do I pack to cover sightseeing AND the Romance Writers of America conference? (I mean, when I pack for the Aussie conference I take more for four nights that I take on a five week jaunt to Europe!) Can I get away with just taking three pairs of shoes—two pairs plus the ones I’m wearing? Or should I cover every eventuality?

I know, I sound crazy right? I’ve promised Mr Douglas that I won’t pack the night before in a frenzy of panic. I will be organised (she says, taking a deep breath). Mostly though, I’m just crazy excited.

Jun 10, 2019

Isn't it romantic

Don’t you just love cuddling up in front of a fire? The temperature in Oz has dropped – thank goodness. I’m a gal who loves the cold. Begs the question why I live in a sub-tropical environment where it is hot most of the year. But finally the temperature around Byron Bay has dropped and we’ve been able to light the fire all this past week.

I love everything about having a fire. Collecting the kindling from around the property. Pine cones are especially good to get the fire going.  I love building it just right so it lights up straight away and then stoking it all evening to keep the house toasty. What a joy.

I realised  I haven’t (I don’t think) ever put a fire lighting scene in my books. I must do that.

What about you? Do you have a fire at home? Do you love lighting it and watching the flames dance?

Jun 9, 2019

Sunday Smooch: HOLT Medallion nominee

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Michelle Douglas but first the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is...Jan VanEngen.

Congratulations Jan! Can you please contact Clare: clareconnelly (at) outlook (dot) com to receive your copy of Shock Heir for the King.

 And now for a retro Sunday Smooch from A Baby in His In-Tray -- a finalist in this year's HOLT Medallion!

Taking care of baby

With the boss!

When Liv Gilmour's identical twin sister begs her to take her place for a week to work for business hotshot Lord Sebastian Tyrrell, she can't say no--after all, the boss will be away. Until someone abandons a baby with a note demanding Sebastian take care of it. Suddenly Sebastian's swift return sees Liv up close and personal with the sexy boss...and a baby who needs them both!

Normally I'd give a scene set-up, but in this case I fear it'd give away too many spoilers. So I'll just let the kiss stand on it's own merits. ;-)

The sure pressure of Seb’s lips on Liv’s, the way his fingers cradled her head as if she were made of something fine and precious, completely undid her, crumbling any resistance she might’ve put up.

Resistance? There was no thought of resistance. Kissing Seb was the most exciting, wonderful thing she’d ever done! She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him back with everything she had.

For a moment he seemed to bend under the onslaught of her wholehearted enthusiasm, like a tree in the wind, but he came back with a force that had the potential to fell them both.

‘Seb.’ His name whispered from her lips. She couldn’t help it. She wanted to say his name over and over. She wanted to whisper it to the stars.

Warm lips pressed kisses to her throat, teeth scraping gently across the delicate skin there. Her knees trembled, her legs threatening to buckle beneath her, but his arm slid about her waist to hold her upright…and so very close. She pressed herself even closer. Under her hands, his shoulders flexed—broad and strong. She traced her hands up the strong column of his neck, the stubble on his cheek scraping her palms as she urged his mouth back to hers.

He kissed her so thoroughly, so completely and shockingly explicitly that a fire burst into flaming life and engulfed them both, and all she could do was hold on and try to keep up with him.

Kissing him was like being on a roller coaster. And yet it was like being wrapped in a warm blanket too. It was like flying, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Exotic and forbidden scents should be swirling all around them…as well as the scent of baking bread and sunshine-scented soap. She expected to hear fireworks exploding…alongside birdsong. Kissing Seb was all things exciting…and all things warm and welcoming.

It made no sense, and it made all sense.

She fitted into his arms perfectly, as she’d known she would. And she knew that if they were naked they’d fit even more perfectly. And she wanted that. She craved it with every atom, sinew and fibre. Ecstasy sparked to life wherever he touched…and aches and burnings and yearnings. She pressed herself against him to try and assuage the need engulfing her.

‘God, Eliza.’

It wasn’t his ragged breathing or the hoarseness of his voice that made her freeze. Eliza. She wasn’t Eliza. She wasn’t who he thought she was.

She pushed away from him with all her strength. ‘No!’

The single word rang around the room, dispelling her ludicrous notion of fireworks and birdsong. He released her immediately. ‘Eliza…?’

She’d let him kiss her when he thought she was someone else. She’d kissed him back. What kind of person did that make her?

I adore this book so I'm super excited it has been named a finalist in the HOLT Medallion. To go into the draw to win a signed copy of A Baby in His In-Tray just leave a comment:  Have you ever won anything? I used to dream about winning a holiday to a dream location -- which never happened. But I did win a meat tray last month and that made me ridiculously happy. :-)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Jun 7, 2019

busy-ness and broken bones

You really don't realise how busy your kids are until one of them breaks their arm. Their dominant arm, no less.

Last weekend Miss 11 fractured her distal radius up near her wrist.  A small fracture, but one that requires a cast for 6 weeks nonetheless.

She's doing great! First break. First emergency room trip. She was a trooper. Not a tear shed. Even as the bone was squished back together (for want of the proper language - I wasn't listening at that point, merely holding eye contact and distracting her for all I was worth while she sucked down laughing gas).

Only now we face the next few weeks one-handed.

Cello lessons. Guitar lessons. AFL (Aussie football, how she broke her arm). Volunteering at the canteen of our local footy club each weekend.

She's House Captain for her school sports team and in the next two weeks has to ra ra ra for the Junior School sports days. She's in the Readers Cup team. And Maths Challenge team, both of which are competing this month.

In two weeks she's off to 6th Grade camp. In Canberra. For a week. And she can't tie her shoes.

She's right in the middle of mid-year assessments meaning she has spent this entire week taking exams using her left hand.

Tomorrow she has her high school interview. Since she is applying for an extension program this includes a 45 minute online exam. And two written questions. Again, to be taken using her left hand.

And she has just started her own small business. Hosting Slime Parties. And this thing has taken off like wildfire. We are booked through June and beyond.

And yet, while Mumma Bear has had to switch to another gear - doing all to make sure her kid doesn't miss out, isn't disadvantaged, is a part of all the cool stuff her final year of primary school has to offer - Miss 11 is simply keeping on keeping on.

Writing her exams left-handed without complaint. Making sure she's allowed to attend inter school sport to cheer on her friends. Contacting her AFL coach to ask if she can assist him on game days and at training, to still be a part of the team. Figuring out ways to host her slime parties one-handed by enlisting an assistant for the interim.

To say that I'm gobsmacked by her resilience during this time is an understatement. This kid of mine. Broken, but stronger than I could have imagined.

This is Mumma Bear, proud as punch, signing out.

Jun 5, 2019

Binge Watching: Chernobyl

Okay, friends. This isn't book related and it isn't romance related but it is an 'entertainment' recommendation I have to pass on.

Chernobyl, on Netflix. I've always been interested in Chernobyl. I watched a documentary on it years ago and ever since the idea of this ghost-city has lingered in my mind, tragic, terrifying, strangely compelling.

This six part docu-drama (on Netflix) begins on the night of the Chernobyl explosion. We see a flash in the distance, and the relaxed reactions of the townspeople in nearby Pripyat, many of whom gathered on a bridge to watch the 'beautiful' display in the distance. They had no idea how dangerous it was - how could they? We see the madness that ensued directly after the explosion - the entire first episode is a heart-palpitating exercise in tension and angst. Follow episodes track the urgent efforts to contain the fall-out, all set against the political landscape of the Soviet Union (and the KGB).

This is a story of preventable tragedy and while harrowing, this TV series is also compelling and strangely uplifting. In a weird way that I can't quite put into words. I mean, the human loss is unimaginable, the environmental consequences far-reaching, but there's something to be said for the massive human cooperative effort required to contain the damage, and the very noble sacrifice of the scientists involved. 60,000 civilians were conscripted into the clean up efforts - it was monumental.

There's a poignancy to watching the series. So much effort was put into masterminding a cover-up of the (preventable) cause of Chernobyl, that to have the truth immortalised in shows and documentaries, packaged in a way for all the world to see, seems to hold a certain poetic justice.

It's six episodes. Watch it - you won't regret it. As an added incentive, my fantasy-father-in-law is one of the stars (Stellan Skarsgård, swoon).

Have you binge-watched anything good lately? What's your top recommendation? And have you watched Chernobyl? What did you think?

May 24, 2019


by Bronwyn Jameson

I am a bonafide scaredy-cat. With a bargain basement threshold for pain, both physical and emotional, I am a wimp. There is no denying it.

With that out of the way, I herewith present a non-comprehensive list of things I fear:
  1. Mice. In fact, any small rodent that moves with speed and stealth. Or just sits in the corner twitching its whiskers at me. 
  2. The big three c’s: conflict, confrontation, criticism. (One of my top strengths is HARMONY. Big surprise, huh?)
  3. Having blood taken (I just can’t.) 
  4. Spiders. Sooo. Many. Legs. 
  5. Driving onto railway tracks and getting stuck (a new fear, brought on by last night’s techno-vivid dream.) 
  6. Social media. This used to be my happy place but now…no.  Refer #2. 
  7. Snakes. 
  8. Dentists. Or, more accurately, dentists’ chairs. 
#8 inspired this post, courtesy of last week’s toothache. Why do these always come a’knockin’ on weekends? Or, in this case, on a Friday night? By Monday I was a quivering wreck. I called my dentist, who gave me that day’s emergency slot. No time to reconsider, to dose myself on heavy-duty painkillers and tell myself I could live with the pain.
*Not actually me!

To be honest, my dentist is super-lovely. And kind. She has a knack for distracting me with engaging conversation and before I know it, BAM! I’m in the dreaded (although, really quite comfortable) chair and being handed the sunglasses and asked to open wide. The soothing hand on my shoulder suggests that fear is clearly visible in my posture, my expression, my five-fingernail grip on each chair-arm.

Oh, yes. The terror is real. Even before there is any diagnosis, any prodding, any of that intense cold thingamy used for diagnosis. You know the one? When it hits the sensitive tooth, you lift a foot out of the chair and the dentist says, “Found it!” After some discussion, I left with a prescription for Panadeine Forte and an appointment with an oral surgeon.

I am now minus a tooth, minus the pain, and listening to a voicemail from my dentist checking up on the surgery. She is super-nice but I don’t want to see her again any time soon.

*Not me either!
I mentioned HARMONY as one of my strengths, as per StrengthsFinder. Also in my top 4 are INTELLECTION, INPUT and ANALYTICAL which means I was pathologically obliged to google Most Common Fears. And to read somewhere around 35 different lists. I can report that I do not fear any of these common phobias:
  1. Flying
  2. Thunderstorms 
  3. Dogs 
  4. The dark 
  5. Germs and dirt 
  6. Needles/injections (except when that needle is drawing blood.) 
Do you have any fears or phobias?  Have you recently had to face one?  I hope you didn't end up a quivering wreck like me!

May 22, 2019

To breakfast or not to breakfast — Kandy Shepherd

Are you a breakfast person? I confess I'm not. I don’t wake up feeling hungry, in fact the thought of eating early in the day actually doesn’t appeal at all. It takes my appetite a while to wake up and it isn’t until mid morning that I feel hungry.

But breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper,” the old saying goes.

ACAI bowl is a popular cafe breakfast treat
I have skipped breakfast many, many times over the years. But now my daughter is an accredited, practising dietitian and I have professional scrutiny on my eating habits.

She has convinced me that breakfast is indeed very important as it tells your body that after the night’s fast, you are not going into starvation mode and your metabolism doesn’t need to slow down (no way do I want my metabolism to slow down!) Eating breakfast is a signal to your brain to fuel it—just what I need when I’m writing!

Bacon and eggs, anyone?
My dietitian daughter says she believes there are “breakfast people” and “non-breakfast people”. However she says waking up not hungry can mean you ate a big meal the night before, perhaps late in the evening. Eating dinner earlier in the evening if possible is a better idea. 

She says it’s okay for me to eat my breakfast later in the day when hunger signals—especially as I work from home with easy access to the kitchen. However she stresses this doesn’t apply to adolescents who too easily skip meals when they need to be eating regular healthy meals. She also warns that skipping breakfast at any age doesn’t mean filling up on “junk” food later in the day. Yep, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that!

Dietitian daughter also warns: “Trying to skip breakfast in attempt to ‘eat less’ and ‘reduce overall intake’ doesn't necessarily work either, as we probably make up for it later in the day.”

What I had for  breakfast this morning! Apple, raspberries, plain yogurt and goodies from my "breakfast box."
So I’m getting better at eating breakfast. Big, cooked breakfasts have never been my thing. I do enjoy an occasional bacon and eggs, but much later in the day, preferably lunch time.

My daughter suggests low GI carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit make a good breakfast. She recommends poached eggs with spinach and tomato and wholegrain toast with avocado for my active husband. I used to eat fresh fruit and plain, sugar free yogurt when I did eat breakfast. Now I really enjoy the addition of raw walnuts, ground linseed, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and chia plus a small serve of plain muesli. I’ve got it all there in the “breakfast box” in my fridge. They're really delicious!

The family "breakfast box" that lives in the fridge
What about you? Are you a breakfast eater or a “can’t face the sight of food in the morning” person? Do you have a favourite breakfast? We’d love to read your comments!

PS I'm thrilled to be in this anthology of "royal wedding" stories with fellow LoveCat, Annie West! It's out in both Australia and New Zealand and the UK this month.

May 19, 2019

Sunday Smooch with Clare Connelly

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Clare Connelly but first ..... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Mel! Just Mel, like Madonna, or Beyonce, but romance-reading and therefore way more awesome.

Mel, can you please email Amy Andrews (Amy@AmyAndrews.Com.Au) to receive your prize! 

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from SHOCK HEIR FOR THE KING for Harlequin Presents. 

Cinderella had his baby…

Now she’ll wear his crown

Vibrant artist Frankie is shocked when Matt, the enigmatic stranger she gave her innocence to, reappears in her life. His touch was intensely sensual, his kiss pure magic…yet their affair had consequences, and Frankie had no way to contact him. Now she’s in for the biggest shock of all—Matt is actually King Matthias! And to claim his heir, he demands Frankie become his queen!

Explore the king’s Mediterranean palace with his royal bride

Scene set-up

I loved writing this book so much, for two reasons. I love, love, loved my hero, heroine and little prince to absolute bits, and also, I loved the country of Tolmirós, which features in the book. So much so I really wish I could escape there for a perfect summer holiday! This is a Cinderella-Secret Heir book. This scene picks up shortly after King Matthias has discovered he fathered a son - an heir! - two years earlier, and the only option, as he sees it, is marriage to the boy's mother. Only Frankie, a spirited artist from NYC has other ideas, despite the passion that flares between them...

‘Hang on.’ She lifted her hand, pressing it into the air between them as though it might put an end to this ridiculous conversation. ‘You can’t talk like it’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll marry you! You’ve suggested it and I’ve said, “Absolutely not”. You can’t just ride roughshod over me.’

His eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. ‘Do you think not?’

‘Definitely not. Unless you think I’m not a sentient person, capable of making my own decisions?’

‘On the contrary. I think you are very capable of that—which is why I’ll expect you to make the right one. But be assured, Frankie, regardless of what you think and feel, I have no intention of leaving this country without my son. It is obviously better for everyone if you come with him as my fiancée.’

She sucked in a breath as the truth of what he was saying settled around her. ‘You’re actually threatening to take him away from me?’

‘I’m asking you to marry me.’

Her eyes swept shut. ‘Telling me, more like.’ When she blinked her eyes open he was closer, so close her palm was almost touching his chest.

‘I’m asking you,’ he insisted, almost gentle, almost as though he understood her fear and wanted to ease it. ‘I’m asking you to see sense. I’m asking you not to put me in a position where I have to fight you for our child.’

Fear lanced her breast because she didn’t doubt the sincerity of his words, nor that he had the ability to follow through. She had some savings, but not a lot. Her adoptive parents were comfortable but by no means wealthy. Not in a million years would she be able to afford a lawyer of the calibre necessary to stave off this man’s determination. Would he even need a lawyer? Or would he have some kind of diplomatic privilege, given he was King?

‘You’re such a bastard,’ she said, stepping backwards. It was a mistake; the window was behind her. Ice-cold against her back, and rather like a vice clamping her to the spot.

‘I am the father to a two-year-old. A little boy I didn’t know about even three hours ago. Do you think wanting to raise him is truly unreasonable?’

‘Raise him, no. Marry me? Yes.’

‘I want this as little as you do, Frankie.’ He expelled a sigh and shook his head. ‘That is not completely true, in fact. I still want you. I came here tonight because I was thinking of our weekend together and I wished to take you to bed once more.’

She bit down on her tongue to stop a curse from flying from her lips. ‘How dare you?’ The words were numbed by shock. ‘After all these years? After the way you slept with me and then disappeared into thin air? You thought you could just turn up and have me fall at your feet?’

‘You did once before,’ he pointed out with insufferable arrogance.

Her fingertips itched with a violent impulse to slap him. ‘I didn’t know you then!’

‘And you don’t know me now,’ he continued, moving closer, speaking with a softness that was imbued with reasonable, rational intent. It was like a magic spell being cast. His proximity was enough to make her pulse thready and her cheeks glow pink.

But she hated him for the ease with which he could affect her and she did her best to hide any sign that she so much as noticed his proximity.

‘You don’t know that I am a man who has won almost every battle he’s fought. You don’t know, perhaps, that I am a man accustomed to getting everything I want, when I want it. You do not know that I have the might of ten armies at my back, the wealth of a nation at my feet, and the heart of a warrior in my body.’

Another step closer and his fingertips lifted to press lightly against her cheek. His eyes held hers, like granite locking her to the window.

‘You think I don’t know you get what you want?’ she returned, pleased when the words came out cool and almost derisive. ‘You wanted me that weekend and look how that turned out.’

It was the wrong thing to say. Memories of their sensual, delicious time together punctuated the present, and she was falling into the past. With his body so close, so hard and broad, a random impulse to push onto her tiptoes and find his earlobe with her lips, to wobble it between her teeth before moving to his stubbled jaw and finally those wide, curving lips, made breathing almost impossible.

They were perfect lips, she thought distractedly, her artist’s mind working overtime as they studied the sculptured feature.

‘You are not seeing anyone else.’ It was a statement rather than a question, and his certainty was an insult.

‘Why do you say that?’ she asked, a little less steadily now.

There was something enigmatic and dangerous in his gaze, something that spoke of promises and need. Something that stilled her heart and warmed her skin. ‘You do not react to me like a woman who’s in love with another man.’

She sucked in a breath; it didn’t reach her lungs. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

His smile was sardonic. ‘You look at me with eyes that are hungry for what we shared. You tremble now because I am close to you.’ He dropped his fingertips to the pulse point at the base of her neck and she cursed her body’s traitorous reaction. ‘You do not wish to marry me, Frankie, but you want to be with me again, almost more than you want your next breath.’

Oh, God, it was true, but it was wrong! And there was a difference between animal instincts and intelligent consideration—there was no way she’d be stupid enough to fall prey to his virile, sensual pull. Not again. Only she was already falling, wasn’t she? Being drawn into his seductive, tantalising web…

Sorry, LoveCats, that's an ALMOST smooch, isn't it? ;) What I really love about this book, as I said, is the country of Tolmirós, which is sort of a combination of Italy, Greece and Spain. It's beautiful, ancient, sunlit, prosperous and happy, with (naturally) the most amazing food... If you could book a summer holiday anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Leave a comment and I'll choose a winner to send a paperback book to! Come back next Sunday to find out who's won...

Shock Heir for the King is out now and available where all good romance books are sold.

May 13, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day

To all the mothers out there, I hope you had a lovely day yesterday.

I slept in…bliss.  With my daughter and puppy in tow (husband was off surfing), I walked to our local café along country lanes in the autumn sunshine. My husband met up with us for breakfast. After brekkie, I treated myself to a mother’s day special – a little chocolate cupcake. No calories on Mother’s Day!

Image courtesy pixabay.com
The café has a lovely vegetable and herb garden, which inspired us. So my daughter and I walked home and planted a herb garden. I then her gave encouragement while she made a papier mâché

mushroom for her school art project. Later we snuggled up on the couch, with the fire burning and watched rom coms while my husband went to band practice.

In the evening my daughter cooked us an amazing dinner (flavoured with the newly planted herbs) and we all watched Jane the Virgin in our PJs on Netflix while the rain pattered on our tin roof. A low-key day. A lovely day. A perfect day.

How about you? Did you have a great day yesterday?

May 12, 2019

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 Gill Bower!

Gill, can you please contact Michelle at michelle (at) michelle-douglas (dot) com to receive your prize!

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Nothing But Trouble.

For five years, Cecilia Morgan’s entire existence has revolved around playing personal assistant to self-centered former NFL quarterback Wade Carter. But just when she finally gives her notice, his father’s health fails, and Wade whisks her back to his hometown. CC will stay for his dad—for now—even if that means ignoring how sexy her boss is starting to look in his Wranglers.

To say CC’s notice is a bombshell is an insult to bombs. Wade can’t imagine his life without his “left tackle.” She’s the only person who can tell him “no” and strangely, it’s his favorite quality. He’ll do anything to keep her from leaving, even if it means playing dirty and dragging her back to Credence, Colorado, with him.

But now they’re living under the same roof, getting involved in small-town politics, and bickering like an old married couple. Suddenly, five years of fighting is starting to feel a whole lot like foreplay. What’s a quarterback to do when he realizes he might be falling for his “left tackle”? Throw a Hail Mary she’ll never see coming, of course.

Scene set-up

CC is walking home from a Credence street party after dancing with Wade and feeling stuff she should not be feeling especially after that very inconvenient sex dream she had about him! Wade catches up with her, scaring her half to death right into a hedge. Recovering from her ignomoy, he walks her home.  Then on the front porch a spider happens and thats when things really get interesting!

“Listen,” he said, as she coaxed the old lock which needed a bit of a jiggle and a certain tongue position before it would admit anyone. “Thanks for helping my mom with this whole thing.”

The lock gave and the door opened but CC wasn’t paying it any attention as she quirked an eyebrow at Wade. “I thought you were annoyed that I was spending all that time on your - let’s see if I can get this right - mother’s crazy ass scheme to pimp out strange women to the bachelors of Credence.”

He chuckled, unperturbed by having his words thrown back at him. “I may have been exaggerating for dramatic effect.”

CC’s eyebrow kicked up. “Ya think?”

“I was wrong.”

CC shook her head. Wade’s ability to apologize had always been his redeeming grace. He was man enough to own his mistakes.

“Who knows...” He shrugged. “It might just work.”

“Could I have that in writing?” she asked sweetly.

He grinned down at her, the deep grooves bracketing his mouth adding an extra layer of sexy and CC’s breath hitched. Just as suddenly, though, his smile faded and his gaze grew serious as it trekked slowly north and zeroed in on her bangs.  

“CC...” He put up a hand in a stopping motion. “Stay. Very. Still.”

CC froze. “What? Why?” Adrenaline surged into her system as Wade’s hand slowly moved towards her hair. Keeping her head still she looked up trying to see what he was seeing even though part of her did not want to know.

Wade,” she hissed. “What?”

“I think you collected a spider when you were parlaying with that hedge.”A wild surge of fear cramped through her diaphragm. Spider. Jesus, she hated spiders. “Don’t move.”

Despite wanting to jump up and down, shake her head and brush wildly at her hair like a mad woman, screaming, “Get it off, get if off,” she doubted she was capable of moving.

She turned her eyeballs upwards again suddenly seeing in her peripheral vision, what Wade was seeing. The creep of skinny legs traversing her bangs like the spider was already setting up house.

“Oh god, get it off!”

He chuckled as he stepped closer, his fingers at face level and descending slowly. Heat poured off his body but CC was oblivious to everything but the frantic beat of her pulse rushing like a waterfall through her ears.

“Is it big?”

“Nah. It’s only a baby. It’s quite cute actually.”

Cute? She glared at him. Or as much as she could with her head straight and her eyes practically rolled back in their sockets trying to monitor the progress of her unwanted arachnid visitor.

CC clamped her teeth together. “Get. It. Off. Me.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, yeah.”

He slid a hand onto her nape. Probably to stop her from taking matters into her own hands and doing the wild, hand-flapping, spider jig which every primal instinct she owned was urging her to do.  

CC shut her eyes tight as he reached for the uninvited creature with his other hand, not wanting to watch as a live spider was plucked from her hair. The thought of having to touch it herself gave her the heebie jeebies and she was grateful Wade was volunteering.

Even if it was his fault she’d ended up in the damn hedge.

She felt a light brush against her forehead and squeezed her eyes even tighter, tensing everything so tight she doubted she’d have been able to squeeze a credit card between her butt cheeks. “Is it gone?”

Another chuckle, the warm fan of his breath on her face. “It’s gone.”

CC slowly opened her eyes and unclenched, Wade coming into hazy focus, looking at her with amusement sparking in his gaze.

“I didn’t know you were an arachnophobe.”

She’d already told him tonight he didn’t know everything about her, she wasn’t going there again. Besides, his closeness, his intense gaze, the way his thumb was stoking at her nape was more than enough to deal with at the moment.

Her heart was beating entirely differently now. He was so big. She was so used to seeing him, to being around him, she sometimes forgot how big he was. Hard to ignore the span of his chest from this close, though.

She should be moving away. She knew that. In fact, somewhere her wiser angels were telling her just that - screaming it at her, actually. But his stubble and the sexy indents around his mouth and the softness of his lips were dangerously fascinating.

Their gazes meshed for a beat or two and she couldn’t look away as his dropped, drifting to her mouth. As if he was going to kiss her. The stroking of his thumb halted and they just stared at each other. They stayed so still for so long, the sensor light went out, plunging them into darkness again. CC’s breath grew thick as the night surrounded them, her body throbbing with awareness and need.

“Cecilia,” he whispered.

Just like in her dream.

And that was enough. In a blinding flash CC threw out caution and almost six years of professional boundaries, rose on her tip toes and kissed him.

He met her half way, their lips clashing in a frantic mash, opening wide, tasting and searching and demanding everything from the other. It was no tentative starter, no teaser, no slow and steady. It was on fire from the first touch of mouth on mouth and it was far sexier than anything he had done to her in her dream life.

He tasted better, his body against hers felt better, he smelled better and he sounded better, groaning deep in his throat. She felt that groan all the way to her toes and every hot spot in between. His spider catching hand, slid onto her hip, hitching her closer as the hand at her nape held her fast.

The movement must have tripped the sensor because the portico flooded with light again and it was like bolt of lightning had hit them, repelling them for each other, forcing them apart, forcing them two steps back.

CC gasped in horror. Holding her hands up in front of her she contemplated what the hell had just happened as her heart beat a wild tango in her chest. It was no consolation that Wade looked just as stunned.

What had she done? She’d kissed Wade. And he’d kissed her back. This was not good.

Not. Good.

Wade recovered first, taking a step towards her. “CC –”

“No.” She shook her head taking a step back her hands up higher now almost level with her ears. Whatever he was going to say, she couldn’t deal with right now. Her cheeks were flushed and she was hot all over.

Sweet baby Jesus! He was her boss! And she wanted to die. “I’m so, so sorry...” CC desperately tried to come up with some justification for her actions to follow her apology. Like being in post-arachnid shock or temporary possession by the devil. But nothing – not even the clear and present need for exorcism - justified crossing the line she’d just crossed. The line that she had drawn all those years ago.

“It’s okay,” he said, his voice calm and placating, as if she was some kind of incendiary device primed to go off at any second.

CC shook her head vehemently. How could be so damn composed? How was kissing him ever okay? God...she just wanted to hit the erase button.

Yes. That was it. The erase button. Or the next best thing.

“Do you think,” she asked, locking her gaze with his, “it might be possible to never speak of this again?”

If they couldn’t erase it they could at least pretend it never happened, right?

“Sure.” He nodded, his voice still placatory. “Whatever you need.”

What she needed was a time machine but this would have to do. “Thank you.”

Then she turned on her heel, shoulder checking the door open as she hurried inside, her shaky legs carrying her up the stairs and into her bedroom where she burrowed under the covers and curled into a ball.

Sweet mother of pearl. What she done?

What. Had. She. Done?

Okay so, I'm a huge arachnophobe! Are you spiders yes or spiders no? Let me know in the comments and you'll go into the draw to win a digtial copy of Nothing But Trouble! 

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