Oct 31, 2011

Is it Christmas already?

I'm the sort of person who does last minute Christmas shopping. In fact, I'm a last minute Christmas decorator too. Part of the reason is that dh is a December baby, and I don't like to focus on another celebration until he's had his birthday.The other reason is I rarely plan that far ahead.

So, to be honest, Christmas often catches me by surprise.

People are talking on twitter about the presents they've already bought (how organised are they?) and I've seen some decorations out in the shops. But then I received a box of my November (Aust) book the other day... with Christmas ornaments on the cover! That was a pretty good wake up call that the Festive Season is approaching.

Return of the Secret Heir was out in October in the US, and the Australian cover uses most of the same image, just done in the Australian office's style, plus the gorgeous white ornaments. I like it. And maybe with this reminder, I'll even get organised for this Christmas.

So, tell me, are you a forward planner when it comes to Christmas? Have you bought any presents yet? Dusted off the tree? Got any tips? Or are you a last minute planner like me? I'll give away a copy of the Christmassy version of Return of the Secret Heir to one commenter. :)

Oct 29, 2011

Christina Hollis Sunday Smooch

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Weight of the Crown by Christina Hollis, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is:

Congratulations, Anita! Can you please contact Michelle Douglas at: michelle (at) michelle-douglas (dot) com and she'll send you a copy of His Christmas Angel.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Weight of the Crown by Christina Hollis ...

Now duty is his only mistress

For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over… Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew!

Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander’s wicked side re-emerges! 

Wary of Lysander’s scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance, but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.

Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire but Lysander is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won’t refuse…

Instinctively she reached out her hands, sliding them up his arms. It was all the encouragement he needed. His light touch became an all consuming embrace as he crushed her tightly against his body...
Alyssa relaxed into him as desire welled up within her, blotting out everything but the need to be held and appreciated. It felt so right she knew it couldn’t be wrong - not while it was happening. There would be plenty of time to worry later...

As she softened beneath his hands Lysander’s kiss became fiercely possessive. His hand slid to bottom, kneading it until the fabric of her robe reefed up and he made contact with her warm, yielding skin. It was a defining moment. As he released her mouth to kiss the gentle curve of her neck she gasped and braced her hands against his shoulders.

‘Lysander, no...’

Weight of the Crown was released in October as a Harlequin Mills and Boon Modern Romance in the UK, and as a Sexy in Australia and New Zealand. It will be released as a Harlequin Presents/Extra at the end of this year.

Weight of the Crown
is set in the fictional country of Rosara. If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Unmarriagable Isobel by Sophia James will be posted!

You can buy Weight of the Crown from Amazon, Amazon UK, Mills & Boon or Mills and Boon Aust. You can find Christina at: her website, twitter, Facebook, her blog or Tumbler.

Oct 28, 2011

The Beauty of Black on White by Natalie Anderson

There’s something about black on white designs that really draw me in. I love the simplicity, the clarity – and, being bookish, I tend to think of ink on a page.

Now as you probably all know, I live in Christchurch and recently I’ve been really quiet on the blog (and everywhere in Internetville) as we’ve been ‘between homes’ for a while and working out some issues in our shattered city. And I appreciate how fortunate my family and I have really been compared to so many others – my heart just aches for those in Turkey currently dealing with that horrendous quake there and the utter devastation.

For me, recent weeks have really been a time for stopping and appreciating the small things in our lives and city. In the face of much destruction and loss, we’ve needed to look for little bits of lovely.
Daffodil picture by Graeme Weatherston

And let me tell you, nothing lifted my heart more than a few weeks ago when early Spring hit and all the daffodils flowered – they’d been through earthquakes, liquefaction, snow and floods – and still they grew – en mass, tall and beautiful.

Such inspiration.

And this weekend we finally moved back into our own home. We’ve been incredibly fortunate in that our house is pretty okay. And it’s wonderful to come back to these old wooden walls – I brought four babies home from the hospital to this house. It has such amazing memories associated with it, and we’re so lucky and thrilled to be back.

We have a teeny tiny creek that crosses the front of our section. On the ‘far side’, across the stepping stones, is a mini-bushland that at the moment is completely overgrown and in the high winds the other night half a tree fell right through the middle of it! So it REALLY needs a tidy. Out the back we grow veggies – I’ve generally had a preference for ‘useful’ plants – but inspired by those little bits of lovely, I’ve been ‘pretty garden plotting’ for the front. And this is where my fancy for black and white comes in.

White gardens are nothing new – I think it was the inimitable Vita Sackville West who created one of the most famous white gardens – check out the link here – don’t you just adore the Elizabethan tower? What a wonderful writing room!

But I really am intrigued by the impossible in nature – the black flower! The idea of black flowers may be a touch Gothic – but I also think they’re wonderfully romantic and dramatic! And of course, there’s really no such thing – they’re actually very deep, deep purple. It’s the pursuit of impossible perfection! Kind of like writing itself– given we strive to make words perfect and of course that can pretty much be impossible... fortunately so much of the pleasure is in the pursuit itself…

Black Velvet
I’ve had a couple of irises in pots for a while – waiting our return home. And I’d surfed around looking at other kinds of black flowers. So you can imagine my delight when I read about a new breed of petunia called Black Velvet. It was mentioned in an article I read online in a UK newspaper. So it must have been kismet that saw me in a garden centre the next day and the first display in the outside area was… yes, the Black Velvet petunia! Isn’t she gorgeous?

I also like this little viola – Zorro – and I’ve some grasses and near black sweet peas. Next bulb planting time I’ll put in some tulips. I think some of my family think I’m a little crazy to want only black and white flowers in that particular part of the garden, but to me it makes perfect sense!


My second ever story for Mills & Boon (His Mistress by Arrangement) featured an artist who loved flowers and in the story she was illustrating a book about ‘floriography’ – the language of flowers – the meanings of some flowers were pretty relevant in some scenes! But I’m not sure how the Victorians would have defined black petunias!

Anyway – are you a flowers person or a growing herbs/veggies person? Do you like to keep fresh blooms in a vase or are you the type who forgets to put the old ones in the compost and ends up with a shrivelled sort of science experiment?!

What little bits of lovely are you inspired by?!

p.s. I did think there was the most gorgeous display of black on white on Sunday night when the magnificent All Blacks beat the white clad French to win the Rugby World Cup – fabulous! ;)

Oct 26, 2011


 WHAT I AM READING Ngaio Marsh - fabulous read!
WHAT I AM LISTENING TO: The Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra
WHAT I AM WATCHING: Downton Abby. 
Today we have the wonderful Christina Hollis joining us. What a treat!

Hello Christina and welcome to Lovecats! 
It’s great to see another sizzling Mediterranean romance coming our way with Weight of Crown.  Not an Italian setting though, I see, but a fictitious country. What are the joys and challenges of creating a whole new world?
Let's start with the joys - I wanted to combine all the things about all the countries I love in one package. England has some stunning countryside and fascinating history, but oh, dear, the weather! For me, romance means escaping to a land of golden sunshine and gentle breezes. Not either frying or freezing, and being blasted by wind that would blow the ears off a cat. As for my main challenge, that was in trying to remember where everything was in relation to each other. A quick sketch map or two sorted that out.

Tell us about the love affair you generally have with Italy.
I love Italy and the Italian people so much! My first visit was seven months after my son was born. Our bambino was given superstar status everywhere we went, which set the scene for everything that followed. The people are so friendly and open, and of course there's tons of history all around. That's before I mention the great growing weather. Even their rain can be warm (which means a lot to a keen gardener living in England).
Lysander has a deliciously wicked edge to him. Do you think we as readers look for different qualities in our fictitious heroes than we do as women in real life?
To a certain extent, yes, because fiction offers us all such a perfect escape from real life. We have the power to pick and choose our men without worrying about any possible downside to all that rampant testosterone. We want a guy who is tall, dark and handsome - not a man who swears the hind legs off a donkey when he hits his head on a low beam, goes into a decline when he finds his first grey hair and admires his reflection in every shop window he passes. Fiction gives us that - real men without all the angst.

 Alyssa starts off being buttoned-up but is gradually seduced.  Why do you think we always love stories like this?
Again, I think it's the element of escape into a fictional ideal. In real life "stuff happens" in a crazy, tumbling jumble of dates, bills, arguments, school runs, kisses, vet's appointments, holidays, noise, love and action, with one day bleeding hopelessly into the next. The gradual, sensual peeling back of layers of reserve indulged in between a hero and his heroine allows us to savour seduction as it should be -  one man totally focussed on his woman, desiring her and concentrating on her needs for as long as it takes. It's the way we'd all really love to be adored ourselves, with our own chaotic real lives relegated to the sidelines for a few hours.

If this book was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast as the main characters?
After a lot of enjoyable thought, I think Dr Adam Rutherford would make a good Lysander. I have absolutely no idea if he can act, but take a look at www.adamrutherford.com and you'll see that wouldn't matter ;) As for Alyssa, that's an impossible call. I'd like everyone to be able to identify with her story - she's you and meof course! Once you start naming famous names, you polarise opinions.

If you were given the chance to marry the gorgeous heir to the throne of a tiny country,  would you jump at the opportunity?
That's a surprisingly difficult question to answer honestly. Of course, being the centre of attention would be fantastic - dressed by my country's top designers and being able to go anywhere and do anything I liked in the company of a breathtaking prince must be heaven (Care to comment, Princess Catherine?) but believe me, these people work incredibly hard and have virtually no privacy. I'd hate that. Give me a piece of chocolate cake, a cup of tea and my lovely OH, who is the benevolent monarch of our own half acre of Gloucestershire countryside, any day!

If, for just one week, you could be the heroine of any book you’ve read, who would you choose to be and why. 
Christina Parsons, from K.M.Peyton's original Flambards novels. It would have to be in summer, outside of the hunting season of course, with the horses let down and lazy. I read these books as an unhappy fourteen year old, growing up in a crumbling, decrepit but (supposedly) romantic old house in the country. Christina's adopted home was so much more desirable  than my own, which goes back to my point about romance being real life without all the problems! A horse will listen to your secrets without making any judgements, and Flambards gave me hope that a dumpy, plain, lonely teenager could find herself a dashing hero (or two, or three...) in the most unpromising situation.

Let us know which heroine you'd choose to be for a week or feel free to ask Christina a question and be in to win a copy of her fabulous new book.

Oct 24, 2011

Brain + charisma + dimples = *sigh*

by Nikki Logan

I’m talking today about what a dangerous mix a really good brain, natural charisma and the ‘everyman’ quality are, but first a little context…

BOCSTicketing.com.au - Davies back onstage in Aus in December 
I went along to Q.I. LIVE in Perth on Friday night—the first of a new format to bring this popular British television quiz show to the stage. I was five rows back, centre, and had an awesome up close view of the very talented Stephen Fry and his equally clever and permanent fixture Alan Davies. 

Fry was predictably and brutally well-informed and witty and just so very charming on stage it was impossible to hate him for that.  But the show started to flat-line from the moment Fry finished his witty one-man intro and a series of reasonably-known but pale-by-comparison Aussie comedians who didn’t add a whole lot of value to the show (and who probably should have watched QI before participating)  joined the panel.

But… like a human defibrillator… Alan Davies then burst onto stage and jolted the show and the audience back to life and then kept them alive with three hours of top-effort theatrical CPR. Despite the early onset pneumonia he was suffering he manned up to the floundering effort from the Aussies and carried the contestants part of the show single-handed. He and Fry did what they do best – bounced off each other constantly for the next three hours.

I’ve not seen Davies perform live and I always wondered whether his sterling witt on QI was actually about good editing, but…no. The man is funny. And sharp in a pretending-not-to-be way. Really talented at improv (or at seamlessly delivering pre-loved material as though it were improv) and he has an intelligence that is somehow so much more accessible than Fry’s spooky, remote brilliance. 

And he’s terminally, inexplicably hot.

I know..! I didn’t expect it either.

Alan Davies
(Creative Commons)
I think it’s that accessibility that wheedled under my defences. Cos—let’s face it—the anatomically odd, lisping Davies lounging around onstage in a flannie with not-quite-clean, needs-a-good-trim mop of curls, and hacking up a mouthful of phlegm every time he laughed should not have been sexy.

But it was.

Davies was inexplicably mesmerising. I seriously could not take my eyes off him. And neither could half the audience judging by our sycophantic giggles every time he did…well, anything really. The fact that he stole the show from someone as seasoned and knife-blade brilliant as Stephen Fry says a lot.

So…clearly ‘charisma’ is not just about sexual attraction. And attraction is not just about physical appearance or even physical contact (because Davies looked like the fashion equivalent of the stuff he was coughing up and none of us were close enough to paw him.)

Yet… something in him reached out and twisted around me and held me as thoroughly in his thrall as those vampires we love to read about and watch. And I didn’t shake my head free of it until half way home in the car.

It’s a strange kind of mix between a cognitive appreciation for his skill as a comedian and his low-key smarts, and visceral responsiveness to his crack-a-beer-with-the-front-row mateyness and his adorable self-deprecating tendencies.

The triple- (quadruple-) threat:  intelligence, proficiency, accessibility, modesty.

Just like the best romantic heroes. He had me at ‘Hello Australia…’  And now I'm off to BOCS to grab a ticket to his next show.

Have you ever been captivated by someone’s charisma against all logic, sense and taste? What is ‘charismatic’ for you? What’s your personal triple-threat? Do you adore a man that can laugh at himself?

Oct 22, 2011

Michelle Douglas Sunday Smooch!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a retro smooch from His Christmas Angel by Michelle Douglas, but first ...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is:

Congratulations, Kaelee! Can you please contact Zana at:
zana (at) zanabell (dot) com, and she'll send you a copy of A Risk Worth Taking.

And now for today's Retro Sunday Smooch from His Christmas Angel by Michelle Douglas ...

Home For Christmas…
Once Sol Adams and Cassie Campbell had been inseparable, drawn to each other when times were tough. Cassie has spent the last ten years trying to move on from her life back then, but now Sol is home for Christmas, more gorgeous than ever, and she can’t avoid him—or her memories…

His Bride For New Year?
Sol can see Cassie’s changed—she’s now a widow, a woman who tirelessly cares for others. But he knows her too well—he can see the hurt and yearning behind her cheerful smile. Can he get to the bottom of her troubled heart and make this Christmas angel his much-loved wife?

[Set up: Ten years ago, Casse and Sol were best friends, but he left town when she announced she was getting married. Sol has returned home in the lead up to Christmas to organise care for his ailing father, Alec. Cassie, now a widow, has insisted that Sol and his father take part in the spirit of the season. It’s Christmas Day and Sol has just unveiled his Christmas gift to Cassie.]

‘I didn’t get you anything, Sol.’ She should’ve got him something. She stared at him stricken. ‘I’m sorry—’

He reached across and laid a finger against her lips. ‘You’ve already given me more than enough, Cassie. You’ve helped ease the way between Alec and I. You’ve brought us more than trifle and fruitcake today. You’ve brought us Christmas.’

‘That’s nothing more than being a friend.’

He eyed her for a moment then grinned that crooked half-grin. ‘Then I guess you could give me a Christmas kiss, as one friend to another, and we’ll call it even.’

As one friend to another? His eyes held hers and she knew she couldn’t refuse. Bracing her hands on his knees, she leant across and pressed her lips to his. A sigh breathed out of her as his scent engulfed her. Her lips clung to his for a fraction longer than they should have, then she pulled back and sat, hands demurely folded in her lap. ‘Merry Christmas, Sol.’

‘You just kissed me, Cassie.’

The obviousness of that made her grin. ‘Yes, I did.’

She gasped when he picked her up and set her in his lap. One of his arms went around her shoulders; his other hand gripped her chin. ‘I can kiss you now.’


Her throat closed over at the look in his eyes.

‘I told you I wouldn’t kiss you until you kissed me first.’

But she hadn’t kissed him like that! Not romantically. Not—

‘And I’m going to kiss you, Cassie. Like I should’ve kissed you ten years ago.’

His lips descended to hers—not quickly, not slowly, but with determination. She watched, frozen, seconds stretching into something beyond time. Struggling didn’t enter her head. All her limbs turned to liquid in that half-second before contact then his lips claimed hers.

They weren’t tentative and they weren’t tender. They were forceful and demanding. They didn’t hurt her, but they drank from her deeply, as if they needed whatever she could give. And as if they had no intention of ever stopping.

Cassie didn’t have the strength to pull back. She didn’t even have the thought as sensation pounded through her. He demanded and she gave. She could only do as his lips, his hands, his tongue bade her.

She was putty, she was helpless, and she gave and gave. Opening her lips as his tongue demanded, opening herself as he demanded, and he drank and drank until he reached her very soul, and there was nothing but her and her soul to give, and he kept drinking until a moan wrenched out of her, dredged up from some place so deep she thought she’d drown.

Only then did he lift his lips, and she dragged in great gulps of air. The darkness, the fierceness of his eyes held her still.

‘I’m not going to apologise for that,’ he growled, hoisting her in his arms so she sat rather than lay in his lap. ‘And I’m going to kiss you again, Cassie Campbell.’

He didn’t give her time to respond. Clasping her face in both his hands his pulled her lips against his in a hard kiss that had the blood stampeding through her veins. It spoke of the frustration of a long wait and the exhilaration now. Again Cassie felt powerless against it, swept along by his hunger.

Then in the blink of an eye it changed. Lips and hands gentled and teased as kisses were pressed to the corners of her mouth, to her eyelids. Fingers raised gooseflesh on her arms as they trailed a path down her throat and along her collarbone. Kisses that played and asked her to play, kisses that slowly created a heat and need deep inside of her until she’d thought she’d die if they didn’t deepen and give her what she needed.

But they evaded all her attempts until, with a groan, she straddled Sol’s lap and with both of her hands held his head still and met his lips fully with her hunger. For one electrified minute he stilled beneath her, then his arms crushed her to him as he matched her hunger. Her last rational thought before her mind fogged over was—I am home.

His Christmas Angel was originally released in Dec 2007, but it's still available in eBook at eHarlequin and Amazon.

Michelle is giving away a copy of His Christmas Angel to one lucky commenter. Just tell us, what was the best Christmas present you ever received?

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from The Weight of the Crown by Christina Hollis will be posted!

Oct 20, 2011

Goodbye to my CATegory friends...

Reading: all the free Naughty Nooners on my new Kindle.

Watching: The rain clouds coming over.

Listening to: My daughters DVD (the Saddle Club)

Making me Smile: upcoming release day for R
ed-Hot Lover.

Well it’s been a great run with the wonderful lovecat girls, but it’s time for me to say goodbye to this leg of my journey since my career is (for the moment at least) veering away from harlequin and category books to my erotica works with the wonderful Ellora’s Cave.

I’ve met some truly inspirational authors with the ‘cats’ as well as some wonderful people through their commenting on the blog and/or following us. And to them I say a heartfelt ‘thank you’.

I’m not lying when I say romance authors are the most amazing, sharing and caring people in the world! And yes, I’m going to miss being here *but* obviously family is my priority, especially with my eldest daughter needing a little extra attention and care right now =)

I will still be writing, that’s almost as important to me as breathing at times *g* and I’ll still be posting on my own blog: melteshco.blogspot.com as often as I can—and of course visiting the lovecats blog!

I won't be gotten rid of that easily lol!!! And I really do think any new author invited to be on the lovecats blog will feel honored to be here. I know I did. =))

Oct 17, 2011


Reading: The Killing Place by Tess Gerritsen

Watching: The little bird that waits every morning for the biscuit crumbs left over by Boss (the dog).

Listening to: The absolute quiet that comes with sunrise in the Sounds.

Well, World Cup Fever is at a pitch here in New Zealand. Even if you're not a rugby fan you can't avoid it. Everywhere you go there are flags of all participating nations slung around houses, shops, cars and campervans. And what's this got to do with writing and writers?

Well, last week my editor rang to discuss my next contract and where I was headed with my career and we spent most of the time talking about - rugby. She is Welsh and hoped for a Wales/All Blacks final. Sadly that's not to be, but at least we'll still be talking after next weekend's final. We did eventually talk about books and writing, and it was even mentioned that unfortunately HM&B don't like sports orientated stories.

But they do like big, strong heros and where better to find those than on a rugby field. There are some seriously built guys in the many teams that have visited our shores these past weeks. I made the mistake of saying one of our players was quite short - he was when compared to his team mates. Then I saw him at the airport and if he was short then I'm a midget. Which only shows how big the rest of the team is.

As for strength, these guys have it in bucketloads. Some are goodlooking dudes, and the top players are earning quite nicely too. Many are accomplished and entertaining public speakers, are also well educated. Aren't these some of the attributes we use for our heros when we're writing?

So as I plot my next book which player am I going to hang my hero on? There are too many to choose from so maybe I'll have an amalgam of a few of them.

We love our heros, even the gentler, less imposing, maybe more realistic, ones we live with daily. We wouldn't read or write romance if we didn't. From the moment I could dream up stories at a very early age I've dreamt of my hero. His prerequisites changed as I grew up, but the basics probably stayed the same. The three L's. Love, loyalty and laughter.

What characteristics in your hero are the most important to you? I'd love to hear your answers.


Oct 16, 2011

Sunday Smooch!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from A Risk Worth Taking by Zana Bell, but first ...

the winners of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaways are --
Xandra, Catherine and Elle!

Congratulations, Xandra James, who has won of copy of The Return of the Stranger, as well as Catherine and Elle Fynllay, who have each won a book from Kate's backlist. Please contact Kate Walker at Kate (at) kate-walker (dot) com with your address to arrange delivery of your books. Catherine and Elle, visit Kate's website here first to select your backlist book.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from A Risk Worth Taking by Zana Bell ...

Any red-blooded American male would be all over Cressa Curtis. She's gorgeous, she's wild and clearly she's open for a no-strings-attached adventure. But Adam Walker's been there, done that. And now he wants more for himself. Even with his history, Adam still believes in love and family and marriage and the whole white picket fence—hardly what Cressa is offering.
Besides, everything about the crazy Kiwi spells danger and distraction—two things Adam can't afford to risk with his sights set on medical school. He's only in New Zealand for a month. Surely he can resist Cressa's advances that long…

[Set up: Adam has just arrived in New Zealand from Texas to give his sister, Sass, away at her garden wedding. Though desperately jetlagged, he immediately attracted to the groom’s feisty cousin, Cressa.]

“Will you dance with me?”

“With pleasure.”

Adam put his camera down on one of the tables and swept Cressa into his arms. The band was playing Moon River and it felt good to drift like this on the grass, under the trees and stars, a pliant woman pressed against him. He hadn’t had a chance to catch up with Cressa again before now. He’d only seen her from afar, chatting animatedly to different people. At one stage he saw her in deep conversation with Jake and Sass. They’d glanced several times in his direction and he’d wondered what they’d talked about. Nothing bad, clearly, for here she was, in his arms.

Adam closed his eyes, letting his tired mind relax and his senses take over. He liked her perfume and the softness of her hair. Dreamily he wound it round and between his fingers. It had been a long while since he’d felt such a strong attraction to a woman. He loved the contrast of the cold night air and the warmth of her body which fitted so well against his, and he moved his hand down her back and up under the hem of her jacket, feeling her curves in all the right places. It would be so sweet to melt into the shadows with her and make out. Slow and easy.

Almost trancelike, he danced them to the edge of the dancers, towards the sheltering darkness of trees. He’d been so serious for so long and Cressa reminded him of what he used to be like.
Tonight he was in a foreign land, among strangers. Tomorrow she’d be gone and he’d refocus, get back to his studies. With only his mother around and nothing to distract him, he could ace the exam given the empty weeks stretching ahead.

The thought made him smile as he leaned down to rub his cheek then his lips on the top of her head. That felt so good. She raised her face to his but just as he was about to let his mouth sink down onto her beautiful lips, he saw Cressa’s mother, Deidre, only a few feet away, watching the dancers. The way she wasn’t looking at them as she sipped her wine, let him know she knew exactly what was going on. He swung around with the music so his back was to her but already Deidre had knocked some of that delicious, drugged dreaminess out of him.

Cressa smiled up at him. She looked so full of mischief and wicked promise, he couldn’t help smiling back. One night with her would be amazing.

“I’ve a surprise for you.”

“Yeah?” He could hear the husky, lustful hope in his voice and wondered if she did.

“I hope you won’t mind. Sass said you’d be delighted. Your mum knows about it and she says that it’ll be wonderful.”

Suspicion replaced lust. “Really?”

His instincts had spotted danger but his mind couldn’t seem to keep up. “What?”

“Sass has invited me to stay here. Now I’ll be around to show you the country. Won’t that be fun?”

Alarm bells going off in his head, Adam jerked backwards, tripped over the root of a tree and stumbled, knocking the glass of red wine out of Deidre’s hand and all down her cream suit.

Zana is giving away a copy of the Australian edition 2-in-1 with Abby Gaines Her Best Friend's Wedding to two lucky commenters today!

Come back next Sunday, when the winners of today's giveaways will be announced -- and a smooch from Dragon Heat by Mel Teshco will be posted!

Oct 14, 2011

In romance, how real is too real?

by Robyn Grady

One of the reasons I love romance fiction is the fact that there seems to be a story for everyone! Harlequin offers a wide range of tones, with various levels of sensuality (from sweet to scorching!) as well as lines that provide pure fantasy to real life grit and anywhere in between.

I love fantasy. There seems to be endless variations on the Cinderella theme. The movie Enchanted literally takes the fairytale and drops it dead centre of the realities of New York. An old hobo steals the princess’s tiara. A divorcing couple get nasty at the lawyer’s office. But the flavour is still deliciously light.

Then there’s Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook (yes, I know he writes ‘love stories’ but the romance in this tale is monumental.) While there are lighter moments, the deeper subject matter propelling this story is dark: unfaithfulness, debilitating illness, treachery on a level that turns your stomach even while you sympathise with the reasoning. The close of the book is poignant – we feel hope and gut-wrenching sadness as well as a frightening sense of: ‘This could happen to anyone. This could happen to me’.

I like light. I love the escape! But I think I like heavy more. Not ‘hand to the brow’ over-the-top drama but fiction reflecting real life issues, particularly in romance where a happy ending is guaranteed no matter how tough the battle to get there.

My latest Presents - Fearless Maverick - is part of an editorial-driven continuity (that is the editors create the characters and general story arcs). Early in the story we discover that the heroine was in an accident and wears a lower-leg prosthesis. Some readers/reviewers loved the story! Romantic Times awarded it four and a half stars and said,
This fast-paced romance will grab readers from the start and not let go, with unforgettable characters, excellent witty and descriptive dialogue and a plot that gives us incredible in-depth detail -- it reads like a much longer novel.'

But other readers felt – well, the term I’d use is betrayed. They weren’t happy that a story, which is meant to be filled with high-stakes, should get this close to reality.

I puzzled over the responses to this book being so polarised. They loved it or, well, they didn't. Which leaves me with an interesting question about how to approach future works. But I have to say that I’d much rather have a strong response to my characters and their stories than mediocre ones.

Do you have any examples of what’s too far in romance for your tastes? Or what’s just right!

Oct 10, 2011

A little bit of luxury...

by Michelle Douglas

Reading: Girl in a Bedouin Tent by Annie West

Watching: Dirty Dancing

Listening to: Dido

Making me smile: Patch Blackshanks

I’ve just returned from five days in our nation’s capital Canberra and it got me thinking…

Not about the tax forum that was taking place. Not about the state of the nation or democracy. Not even about spring and the glory that is Floriade.

It got me thinking about hotels and how much I love them.

As a child my family NEVER stayed in hotels. I’m afraid our budget didn't stretch to that kind of indulgence. We stayed in caravan parks. We camped. And I’m not complaining. We had a ball on our annual two-week holiday to Happy Hallidays Caravan Park. But it did give hotels an allure and a mystique that remains in my mind today

As an adult, however, I have sampled the delights of hotels…and I’m addicted. Oh yes, they are far more expensive than caravan parks, but there are no late night dashes for the amenities block (or, worse still, a convenient tree). They have staff whose sole purpose is to ensure you have an enjoyable hassle-free stay. There are complimentary lotions and potions and big fluffy robes. There are gyms and pools (mind you, I never use the first but have been known to take advantage of the second). There is room service. There are concierges. And in my opinion one of the biggest benefits—you are not responsible for cleaning anything! It is all so delightfully extravagant and self-indulgent.

So, what have been the highlights of hotels past?

The beds. This was my favourite thing about the Canberra hotel.The bed was HUGE! See…

It has to be said, however, that the bed in the Melbourne Langham has yet to be surpassed.

The views. This was the view from my room at the Langham. I could’ve watched it for hours.

And this was the view from the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach. I had a cup of tea out here every morning. It was a wonderfully relaxing way to start the day.

The Foyers. I wish I had a picture of the foyer of the Hilton on the Park in Melbourne. It's divine. So to is the foyer in the Menzies in Sydney. I think, however, the Langham again takes the prize.

Quirkiness. Several years ago when I was in Geneva, I stayed in a hotel that had all this wonderful space. The foyer could’ve comfortably housed four camp beds. There was a huge living area with wicker lounges, a huge working area with big desk, not to mention a lovely big bed. Modern hotels would have utilised this space to create two rooms. What most endeared me to this particular hotel, however, were the tiles in the bathroom.

Aren't they a hoot!

However, my favourite hotel of all time has to be the Dorchester in London. I spent my honeymoon night there. It is the ultimate in luxury. Just check it out – isn’t it gorgeous.

So what about you? Do you love staying in hotels? And if so, do you have a particular favourite?