Nov 30, 2011

Happy Snaps

Reading: Immortal Rider by Larissa Ione
ers and Tiaras (I can’t look away!)
Listening to: More Elmo songs
Making me smile:
My little
boy clapping

I’ve just returned from three weeks of holidays. We had a fabulous time but travelling overseas with a seven month old doesn’t make for the most relaxing time off! I’m usually a very organised traveller but travelling with a little person means you have to be ultra-organised. They need so much stuff! And everything revolves around their feeding and sleeping.

My little man was so good on planes, trains and automobiles and coped with his jetlag remarkably well. He charmed all his UK family (as well as several flight attendants, waitresses, shop attendants and passers-by).

Since I’m still a bit jetlagged (as is bub) and recovering from a nasty cold, I thought today I’d just share some holiday snaps of some of our favourite places to visit in the UK. Anyone else have a fav spot in the UK they love to visit or would love to visit in the future?

Visting Westminster and Big Ben

My fav stop in London -- The British Museum

A lovely view from Greenwich

Lunch at Harrods

Checking out Stonehenge

A rare beautiful UK winter's day at Sheffield Park (National Trust)

Gratuitous cute baby shot! -- reading the Wall Street Journal on the plane

Nov 28, 2011

Don't put off until tomorrow....

by Nikki Logan

Over the weekend I got a solid reminder about the importance of telling people how you feel while you're feeling it….

I’ve been lucky enough in life to have two mums—my own fabulous mother, and a step-mother who was in our family since I was a young teen.  She was glamorous and gregarious and the sole reason weekly access visits to my father were bearable.

Eighteen years ago she lost the man that she’d loved so much and her journey since has been a tough one because she really wasn’t a person built for being alone. It made things tough between us, too, because she was a living reminder of all my father’s failings. And because she fell head-long into a self-destructive period.

But…turns out she was a resilient old duck (at least on the surface) and she came through that stage and limped out the other side to form a life for herself around the limitations of her ailing body.

So I’ve had these two mother role-models; both single, both ageing, both managing that independence so very differently.

I recently had cause to write a book about families—my heroine finds out her real father is a rancher in Texas and heads off to meet her new family. That book made me reflect on the definition of family and that some bonds aren’t measured in hours spent together or the type of things you do in that time. They’re measured in the thickness of the strands that make up the bond.

And I had surprisingly thick strands with my step-mum. It’s been eighteen years since my father’s death meant she could have just slipped out of my life, but she didn’t. Between the two of us—and despite the craziness of her life and the crazy busy-ness of mine—we managed to keep that bond more or less in place. It wasn’t always easy but the strands must have been made of solid stuff to weather the bad times.

And so I dedicated my latest book to her—because family isn’t always defined by blood—and I was going to surprise her with it at Christmas. I think it would have touched her and meant a lot given the nature of the story.

Except she didn’t make it to Christmas, and so she didn’t know.

I was being dramatic, I was going for impact. What I should have done was pick-up the phone and tell her straight away and not worried about whether that would strike her as immodest or awkward. Because then she would have known and, I hope, smiled.

And I would definitely have wanted her last thoughts about me being a smile.

Safe journey home, L.


Nov 27, 2011

Sunday Smooch!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Christmas at Blackhaven Castle by Sophia James, but first ...

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

Congratulations, Joanne! Please contact natalie.anderson @ actrix (dot) co (dot) nz (minus the spaces) and she'll send you a copy of The Millionaire's Mistletoe Mistress.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Christmas at Blackhaven Castle by Sophia James ...

Christmas At Blackhaven Castle is part of a Christmas 2011 anthology called ‘Gift Wrapped Governess’ with Marguerite Kaye and Annie Burrows.

[Set up: In disguise, penniless Lady Seraphina Moreton seeks sanctuary at the Duke of Blackhaven’s castle just days before Christmas. Trey swore never again to be beguiled by a beautiful face, but as governess Seraphina gets close to his unruly, motherless children, he wants the festive joy she brings to stay well beyond Christmas Day... ]

Three hours later the smell of pine filled the room as his housekeeper brought in a plate of Christmas pies.

‘Baked in the dozens to strengthen their charm,’ she said, ‘and good luck for the twelve months of the New Year, Sir.’

Surrounded by red and green ribbon, a pile of gold and silver paper and balls made from the dry branches of last year’s climbing wisteria, Trey’s feet were knee-deep in spangle as he looked at the tree.
Ginger-and-butter shortbread had been strung with twine, the delicacies embellishing an already over-embellished greenery.

Lady Seraphina Moreton had no pattern of demanding the fir dressed as his late wife had been want to on the few times she had bothered. Everything went, according to his new governess’ philosophy, so that even the broken offerings the boys had put their hearts into creating, took their place alongside the expensive and irreplaceable heirlooms collected by the Blackhaven ancestors for generations.

There was hardly a pine needle still on show and the angel on the top that he had had the task of securing looked down on a hotchpotch of colour.
His children loved it.

‘Have you ever seen such a tree, papa?’ David asked him and he shook his head in honesty.


Seraphina Moreton laughed as he looked over to find her watching him, her dog jumping at the foil on a lower branch and nestled in a pile of paper.

‘I like the red apples best.’ Terry pointed out his efforts, three matching misshapen ball with sprigs of gold drunkenly hanging from the top.
As leaves he supposed. He made much of nodding.

‘The stars are mine, papa.’ Gareth brought a folded silver shape away from the riot of others behind it. ‘Miss Moore helped me draw them. I could make some for your library tomorrow.’


‘We have mistletoe as well.’ David took a sprig from a box at his feet and placed it carefully on his hand. ‘Where should we hang it?’

‘Above Miss Moore,’ Gareth screeched. ‘Then we can all give her a kiss.’

‘Above papa,’ Terrence amended. ‘Then she could give him one.’ His oldest son was already counting as he walked over with the mistletoe. ‘Twelve berries. Twelve kisses. You can have the first one, papa.’

A vibrant red blush crept up Lady Moreton’s cheeks but with three boys baying for a kiss, Trey felt it easier to do so. He had meant to place a light peck on her cheek, just a small token to fulfil an expected duty but he found the soft fullness of her mouth instead and his world exploded.

She felt his finger against her cheek, light as air, question in the last second before his lips slanted inwards, the full force of an unexpected magic making her press in. Trey Stanford was hers for this moment under a tree of Christmas and in a world of colour, the taste of him strong and real, his fingers at her nape, the shape of his body full down the front of hers as a deep pain of need entwined itself into all the corners of her heart. He was neither careful nor gentle nor calm. He was masculine fervour tempered with steel, a man who knew his way around a woman and was taking the chance of appetite even with his three children watching on.

Seraphina was breathless when he broke away. Kissing was nothing like she had heard it to be; tepid, shallow and lukewarm. It was hot and ardent and fierce, the meeting of souls through a joining of spirit, a giving and a taking.

As amazement bloomed she heard the shouts of the boys and David plucked one berry and threw it in the fire. It sizzled against the embers, a slight puff of smoke and then gone.

Romantic Times Reviews gave these light Christmas reads 4 stars: "These lovely holiday stories are perfect to whisk you away when the Season gets frantic."
If you'd like to enjoy a little light relief from the daunting business of Christmas, Sophia has 5 autographed copies to give away to visitors to her post today!

Gift Wrapped Governess is out in the UK and North America now!

Come back next Sunday, when the winners of today's giveaway will be announced -- and a smooch from Rodeo Daddy by Soraya Lane will be posted!

Nov 25, 2011

My secret addiction...

My name is Natalie and I'm addicted to movie trailers! Seriously, I can waste a good hour or four on the New Zealand upcoming flicks site and I always click when a new trailer is released. If we get a DVD out, woe betide my hubby should he fast-forward the trailers while out I'm of the room getting the snacks!!!

While I don't watch TV, I do watch movies when I can. I love getting the whole story in a couple of hours - but even better the trailer gives me much of it in just a couple of minutes... and then I get to do the guessing game! The format of the trailer is brilliant - you get the tease, the set-up, and then a few clues - and then I waste too much time trying to figure out what happens in the rest of the movie - sad, but there you go. I think it's the possibilities that I enjoy so much.

Here are a couple I'm looking forward to and definitely will get to see - The Muppets (who doesn't love the Muppets!!!) - just because their humour is always that bit off-the-wall yet very astute.

And I'm also really looking forward to doing a compare and contrast on the two new versions of Snow White that are coming up soon:

Mirror Mirror - I think Julia Roberts might steal every scene in this one!

or Snow White and the Huntsman - with a very scary Charlize Theron

Okay, so with the Snow Whites I'm pretty sure I can work out the ending (*giggles*) - but it's still fun and I'm looking forward to seeing in what ways they twist those tales around.

Then there's the books-into-movies thing - I'm looking forward to Tintin (I'm a bit nervous because Tintin is revered in our household)... and when it hits the DVD store no doubt I'll watch Breaking Dawn when the hubby is away one week. We're both looking forward to the Jack Reacher adaptation (still unconvinced about Tom Cruise), The Hunger Games of course and I think the Stephanie Plum movie is looking good...

And I am always, ALWAYS on the prowl for a good rom-com - they're really hard to find!

And then there's the non-fiction films - I'm not sure I'm ready to see all of this one yet...

Nope - I think I'm more in the mood for the romcoms!!!

So what about you, are you a movie person? Do you always watch the trailers?! Do you play the 'guess what happens' game?!

Nov 23, 2011

Finding true-life LOVE AT THE END OF THE ROAD

Welcome to Lovecats, Rae and a congratulations on the fabulous reception your debut book Love at the End of the Road. Can you tell us a little about what it is about?
It’s the story of my life after meeting Rex Roadley, a beef and sheep farmer, through a dating service. After driving miles down a windy road, I found his historic home, Batley House, on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour in Northland, New Zealand. Rex was more difficult to find - he was out fishing! 
The book is a memoir which it covers our lives together, farming, life at Batley before and after European settlement, the house and our community.

It’s a very honest, open account of your life. Was it hard to write about yourself so personally?
Very difficult, but I knew the story of our relationship and my life as I adapted to rural living would engage readers. I worked in an upstairs bedroom or the terrace overlooking the harbour.

Your book reminds me of Under the Tuscan Sun. Clearly you fell in love with the man, but it seems you also fell in love with the house and the area.  Is that right?
I thought Batley House was big and cold, but was soon enchanted. In the late 1800s, it was the area’s social centre. The local people were welcoming and I soon got involved, even judging a Young Farmer of the Year event.

The book combines a love-story with re-inventing yourself, house renovations, the history of the Kaipara, and life on the farm and in a rural community. How did you achieve the balance with all these themes?
I wanted the story to be engaging and compelling. I wove other aspects through our personal story, aiming for light touch.
After several drafts, I went through the manuscript with highlighters: our story was red (for love); the farm story was green (for grass); history was orange; the house pink; gardening and fishing yellow
When I found ‘chunks’ of one colour, I shuffled text until the story was balanced. I was determined the history would be readable and worked hard to include it in a natural way.

Rex is gorgeous – archetypical Kiwi male all the way through - so how has he coped with suddenly becoming the hero of a book that’s leaping off the shelves?
He is gorgeous - I’m glad you spotted that. He’s been great, droll as ever. When Tessa Chrisp, the amazing photographer who did the cover shot, he knew what he wanted to wear while I dithered. He’s funny and relaxed which makes him a great character in the book, which he read as I wrote it.
During the Your Home and Garden photo shoot, he sat at the head of the dining table drinking coffee while the stylists fluffed around making it look fabulous for the Christmas issue. 

Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing this book?
Penguin gave me the idea after I’d submitted some of my newspaper columns. As I wanted the book to be fun to read, I did an online course at NorthTec - I couldn’t back out.
As part of the course, I had a mentor and reviewed 10 books in my chosen genre, figuring what worked and what didn’t.
I reviewed books by Bill Bryson and James Herriott as well as Living with the Laird by Belinda Rathbone. NZ titles were  Weather Permitting by Heather Heberley, and On the Wings of Mercury by Lorraine Moller.
Others worth reading are Susan Duncan’s, Salvation Creek (it’s Australian), plus The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary-Ann Shaffer, quirky, delightful fiction.

You’ve struck gold with your first book. Are you an overnight success?
The answer is no! I’ve worked in public relations and have a journalism qualification. I started creative writing in the 1980s and have belonged to writing organisations for years, among them Romance Writers of NZ.
Last year Penguin saw my book and wanted more, I was runner-up in a story contest,  then my single-title novel rated in the Clendon Awards.
After the book launch, people contacted me to say they’d loved my book, that it had made then laugh and cry (don’t worry, I don’t think everyone cried). That’s when I finally relaxed.

Why do you think it’s hitting a chord with so many readers?
I think the issues I’ve faced resonate with people: my mum died when I was 19 and I lost my way in life and love - and found it again; after meeting Rex I took a plunge into a new life - and survived; the book shares heartbreaks and breakthroughs. It’s funny and honest. Several people at Penguin said it read like fiction, which, as you say, hits a chord with readers.

Thank you, Rae.

Please feel free to ask a question or leave a comment and be in to win a copy of this heart-warming book. 
Rae can also be visited at her website:

Nov 21, 2011

Voices in my Head

Reading: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. Very good.

Watching: a storm raging outside my window.

It's churning up the sea, throwing small branches around, and knocking down the garden. There's not a thing we can do about it.

Which has me wondering - have I ever really had any control over the muse in my head? Ever since I can remember I've had stories in my head. They've been in the background during times of study and exams, during marriage and mortgage, but they've always been there. A bit like having an imaginary friend. Hopefully I'm not going around talking to myself. I haven't noticed people looking at me as though I'm bonkers but they could just be good at hiding their thoughts.

So where did this muse come from? When I was eight I wrote a story that was a bit of a success and tickled the muse. At nine I began ballet lessons because I was going to be a ballet dancer when I grew up but my dad said I was like a leaping heifer. I wrote another story and he enjoyed that. Then I tried the piano. Apparently elephants could tread more delicately on the keys. I wrote more stories, and took out class prizes. As a teen I decided writing and singing songs was my future. Even I couldn't stand that noise.

So back to the writing I went. I always dreamt of becoming a writer, but dreams don't become reality without hard work and goals. Finally when I couldn't shut the muse up at all I set out to write and sell a book. It took time and hard work but we made it. So why was I better at stories than ballet or singing? No amount of hard work would've helped me there. Was I born with a writing gene? Of course people might be taking the safe option and reading my books in case I take up ballet again.

I wondered if the muse would be so happy we made our first sale and then take a back seat or retire. Nope. It's as though the muse has been unleashed. More stories than I know what to do with pop into my head at times. The muse loves going for walks. Only yesterday when I was trying to sort out all the conflicts and backstorries for my current book the muse had plenty to say on our walk and when I got home I had most of the basics worked out. I'd be lost without my silent friend.

Do you all have a muse? Do you work harder on one facet of your life more than others because something is driving you to? Or am I nuts? Maybe don't answer that third question. There are plenty of people in white coats out there .

I've got a copy of Surgeon in a Wedding Dress to give away today.


Nov 20, 2011

Sunday Smooch!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from The Millionaire’s Mistletoe Mistress – from Tis the Season anthology (Christmas with the Boss in the UK) by Natalie Anderson, but first ...

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

Congratulations, Marybelle! Can you please contact michelle @ michelle - douglas (dot) com (minus the spaces) and she'll send you a copy of The Secretary's Secret.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Millionaire's Mistletoe Mistress by Natalie Anderson ...

Imogen's new boss, Ryan Taylor, is demanding, infuriating and utterly gorgeous. But she's been burnt by a colleague before, and she's not about to commit the same mistake twice…no matter how tempted she might be.

However, making Imogen his mistletoe mistress by Christmas is at the top of Ryan's wish list!

[Set up: Imogen has been trying to avoid her sexy new boss at the Edinburgh department store where she works in the office... But as she’s trying to walk to work one morning (it’s slippery on the icy paths!), she runs into him... ]

For the first time in days she stared properly into his eyes – even in the half-light of the late dawn they were that vivid blue. She was vaguely aware of her own mouth moving into a mirroring smile. Oh he had it all. One of those American great-all-round types with his blue eyes and brown hair, bronzed skin, broad shoulders and… had she dwelt on the blue eyes already?

“Do you wear contacts?”

“No. Why?” He seemed to be smiling with his whole body.

She couldn’t believe she’d asked that question out loud. “Your eyes are very blue.” Oh no she was whispering. Oh brain, where art thou? She jerked back. “I’m sorry.”


Because that was inappropriate. But she couldn’t answer. Looked away to try to clear her head from his almost hypnotic power. “It’s freezing, isn’t it?” Hell. Reduced to talking about the weather to distract from the fact she’d just made a colossal fool of herself. To try to ignore the way she burnt up in his presence.

“I like the cold. I like the fun of warming up.”

She looked back at him then. Had he moved closer? He had, and he was taking another step closer.

“It’s easier to warm up than cool down.”

“I don’t think so,” she said, just to disagree. “It can be impossible to warm up.

The brakes on her sensibility were slipping – standing near him, with him smiling like that. He still had his hand on her arm and he was edging closer and closer.

“You can always warm up.”

Awareness zinged between them.

“No.” She shook her head in the tiniest movement and her last hint of caution melted. “My lips are so cold they’re numb.” The scare from the almost-fall must have addled her everything.

“Numb?” He was looking deep into her eyes in a way that obliterated rational brain power.

She nodded, felt that squeezing inside as his gaze dropped to her lips.

“I don’t believe you.” His mouth had that cheeky quirk to it.

“They are,” she insisted. “I’ll have to be careful with my coffee or I might burn them.”

His lashes swooped up and she was pinned in place – just where she wanted to be. “Well we can’t let that happen.”

Bluer than the brightest summer sky, his eyes gleamed. Spellbound she watched as he came nearer and nearer.

The kiss was butterfly light. The faintest brush of his mouth on hers. Not remotely long enough or hard enough or deep enough to satisfy Imogen’s burgeoning desire.

“Still numb,” she spoke as his mouth lifted and hovered mere millimetres from hers.

Her challenge was unmistakable.

His smile widened and then she got to taste it as his head lowered. Her eyes closed and in her mind she was floating in those skies of blue. His lips were warm, gentle, teasing before they lifted again, still too soon.

She sighed, resigned. “I can’t seem to feel a thing.”

His brows shot up but there was a knowing look in his eyes. “I’ll have to try harder.”

This time she met his mouth with her own wide and hungry. This time he put his hands on her. This time it was longer, and harder and deeper.

Imogen moaned. He slid one hand down her back, pulling her against him while at the same time taking that last step closer. She was sandwiched firm between the bridge railing and him. Yet still she wanted closer. She hadn’t lied. It was true – she couldn’t feel a thing – other than pleasure radiating out within her. Emboldened by that madness, she kissed him as deeply, searching him out with her tongue, desperate to taste more of him – all of him. Her arms lifted, locking around his neck. Their bodies strained together, arousing, intoxicating, suddenly in an embrace so tight it almost hurt. Until finally he lifted his head and let them both breathe.

But it wasn’t sobering oxygen that she inhaled. It was all Ryan. “Are you sure you don’t wear contacts?”

Natalie is giving away a copy of The Millionaire's Mistletoe Mistress. To be in the draw, tell us whether you think it's easier to get warm, or warm down!

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

Nov 19, 2011


Congratulations to Lee Burgess!

Lee, you are the winner of a copy of my debut release Made For Marriage.
Please contact me at hjlacey (at) bigpond (dot) com - no spaces so I can send it out to you.

Nov 18, 2011

The First Time I Ever . . .

By Helen Lacey

I love First Time stories. You know, when someone tells you how they did something, saw something, or got something for the very first time. It happened to me the other day, and it was one of those big First Time moments. My book arrived. My first ever published book. In a box that had my name and address on it. As always in the afternoon I was outside feeding my horses and a van pulled up in my driveway. A horn honked so I knew it was the postal service. As soon as I saw the box I knew what it was (since I'd been waiting for that moment for a long time) I recognised the familiar Harlequin logo and squeeeeed rather unglamorously in front of the postal lady. She was naturally surprised and once I explained my reaction and told her what was in the box, she hugged me. Yep, hugged me... a stranger who quickly got wrapped up in my excitement and admitted to being a long time Harlequin reader.

  Once the box was opened, a bottle of bubbles was popped that I shared with my hubby, my sister and also fellow author and friend Louise Cusack. We clinked glasses and made a toast to celebrate the arrival of my first book. Which got me thinking . . . why is the first time often the most special? For me it was the culmination of many years of work and writing a book that was a story I simply had to tell.

But there have been other things too. Like the first boy I loved . . . we’ve all been there, through the pain of an unrequited longing. The day my first horse was unloaded off a trailer. The first time I went to a movie with friends and kept checking my watch to make sure I didn’t miss the train home so I’d be back home before eleven, convinced my parents would never let me out of the house again if I rocked up late. And other first times – the first kiss, the first real date . . . and much later, the first time I met my husband. For parents it can be the first time a baby is held, or the first day at school, or the last day at school. A school prom, a wedding, the first day at a new job.

They are often simple things and it’s amazing how they continue to happen all through our life and not only when we are young  – like the first time I saw whales breaching out of the water, quite  by accident as I walked along the esplanade where I live. Or the first time I saw sugar cane burning and then heard the crackle and inhaled the unique, smoky sweet scent as it drifted on the wind. 

Why does the first time feel so special? I think it’s because although we can anticipate, often we aren’t sure what to expect. There’s the thrill of the unknown, the realization that perhaps a dream has come true. And I love knowing that First Time moments will always happen throughout my life.

So what have been your special First Time moments? Share your thoughts and one commenter will win a copy of my debut release, Made for Marriage.

Nov 16, 2011


with Sharon Archer

Strutting her stuff on the Catwalk today, I have author 
Patti Shenberger's gorgeous bundle of energy!

Please welcome Sophie!


Sophie, though when I was at the shelter it was Callista. I was adopted from the Michigan Animal Rescue League.

A nice warm bed and a three acre fenced in backyard to roam (not unattended, but there will come a day when I can check out that bichon next door.

Human Slave             
My  mom Patti.  She calls me her Sophie Bug and kisses me lots and lets me take naps on her lap during the day.  I just love that!

I love my bed and all the new toys.  I have a stuffed frog that squeaks and a big pink squeaky bone to play with as well.

I am not impressed when we go out at 3:30 a.m. and the grass is frozen.  My toes get cold and because I'm so low to the ground that frozen grass really tickles the private parts!

I want to grow up big and strong like the Bouvier across the street.  She's allowed to cross the road all by herself  (Sophie's Mom here - we do live on a gravel dead end road at the way back of a neighborhood.  Regardless, Sophie is too little to cross the street!)

Sociable or Aloof            
Very sociable.  Except the cat was not impressed when I grabbed his tail and held on so he could drag me around the kitchen.

Night Owl or Early Bird           
I'm an early bird.  I go to bed about 9:30, have to get up only once so far to go out, and sleep till about 6.  Then the day begins and I get to play with all my toys and annoy the cat.

Favourite Pastime    
Taking naps on Mom's lap cause she whispers in my ear and it tickles.

Favourite Toy                
Ace, the 6 yr old cat.  Dad says he really belongs to him though and I'm Mom's.   Though Ace seems to think he can smack me on the head with his front declawed paws and I'll go away.  Little does he know!

Best Friend                   
Hmm, not sure.  So far it's Mom.

What do you like to sharpen your claws on?             
It's not my claws they have to worry about.   It's my needle teeth.  Mom made a really weird sound the other day when I accidentally (I swear it wasn't on purpose) bit her thigh.

Most embarrassing moment             
That's easy.  I learned how to climb the steps to the deck the second day but had a slight problem with the dismount.  So I did a sort of kamakazi, throw myself off the deck move and ended up getting grass up my nose.  Not real fun.

Patti, thank you for letting adorable Sophie out to play on the Catwalk!

Nov 14, 2011

Book Recommendations, Please!

 You might have guessed - I'm a bit of a book addict. (And I don't think I'm alone with this affliction!) So my family are asking for titles of books to buy me for Christmas.

What I usually do is give them a very long list to choose from so that the exact titles will still be a surprise. But, being such a book addict, I usually buy most of the books I want, so my list to offer my family isn't long this year. I need help!

Tell me a book you've loved this year. I don't want books you only half liked, just the ones you loved. I'll read most genres of romance, but I'm a 'fraidy cat and I can't read anything scary, so no suspense, no thrillers or horror.

So, what recommendations do you have for me? I'll be grateful forever!

Also, the winner of a copy of Return of the Secret Heir from my Is It Christmas Already post is Virginia! Virginia, drop me an email: rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com with your snail mail address and I'll pop a copy in the mail.

Nov 13, 2011

Sunday Smooch!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from The Secretary's Secret by Michelle Douglas, but first ...

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

Congratulations, Linda! Can you please contact Susan at susan-gee-heino (at) yahoo (dot) com, and she'll send you copies of Mistress by Mistake, Damsel in Disguise, and Temptress in Training.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Secretary's Secret by Michelle Douglas ...

Expecting a secret bundle of joy!
With one last look in the mirror, Kit Mercer prepares to face her boss—surely he can't wait to sweep her into his arms again and declare his love?

Actually, what Alex Hallam does is tell her their fling can't continue. He knows it's the right thing to do—after his ex-wife's lies, is he really ready for a relationship with sweet, lovely Kit?

Until Kit reveals she's pregnant! Swapping the boardroom and working lunches for the baby clinic and wake-up feeds, they'll get more than they bargained for…. Maybe even swapping their business contract for a marriage certificate!

[Set up: Kit is pregnant with Alex’s child, but Alex is far from ready for fatherhood. They are sitting on a break water overlooking the ocean when, for the first time, Kit feels the baby kick. She grabs Alex’s hand and presses it to her stomach, hoping it will forge a connection between him and the baby.]

His eyes widened. 'This is the first time?'

She couldn't get the grin off her face. 'The very first time.'

Alex's wonder made him look younger. The grooves either side of his mouth eased, the creases around his eyes relaxed and the darkness in his irises abated, his lips tilted up at the corners, and it all made Kit catch her breath.

Beneath her hand, his hand tensed. She dropped her gaze to stare at their two hands. Neither one of them moved, and in less than a heartbeat desire licked along her veins. She wanted to lift her gaze and memorize every line and feature of his face, the texture of his skin, while she could. So she could have this memory for ever.

She didn't need to look up to do that, though. His every feature was already branded on her brain. She knew that dark stubble peppered his jaw. Alex needed to shave every day, but he'd skipped that chore this morning, eager to get started on the painting instead. Her palm itched to sample that roughness, her tongue burned to trace it, to taste tease him.

Today he looked more like a disreputable pirate than a civilized businessman and a thrill coursed through her at the danger she sensed simmering just beneath the surface.

Finally obeying the silent command she sensed in him, she lifted her gaze to his. At the edge of his right eyebrow was a tiny nick, as if he'd once had a stitch there. She'd always meant to ask him about it, but her breath came in shallow gulps and her pulse had gone so erratic she didn't trust her voice not to give her away.

His eyes burned dark and hot as they travelled over her, and her soul sang at the possessiveness that transformed his features. No longer afraid of revealing her desire for him, she lowered her gaze to his lips. Need, hunger, thirst all speared into her. Her lips parted. Her eyes searched out his again, pleading with him to sate her need. If she couldn't taste him just one more time she thought she might die.

Something midway between a groan and a growl emerged from his throat. His hand tightened on her stomach. Her hand tightened over his. Yes! Oh, please, yes!

Still Alex held back, his eyes devouring her face as if he was picturing in vivid detail every caress he meant to place there. He didn't lift his hand from her abdomen and it felt like a promise. His fingers splayed, sending darts of need right into the core of her, making her tremble with the intensity of her desire.

His other hand came up to cup her face, his thumb traced the outline of her bottom lip, dipped into the moistness of her mouth, traced her lips again, moved back and forth over them as if to sensitize them to the utmost limit of their endurance before taking her to the next level with his lips and mouth and tongue.

She started to pant, wanted to beg him for his lips, his mouth, his tongue, but still his mouth didn't descend. With a low growl she flicked her tongue across his thumb. He stiffened as if electrified. She drew his thumb into her mouth, circled it with her tongue, suckled it until his eyes darkened to obsidian.

And then finally, slowly, inexorably, his head lowered and her blood started to sing. His body blocked out the sun and, as he moved closer, all she could see was the light reflected in his eyes. His lips touched hers, moved over hers—surely, reverently, thoroughly—her eyes fluttered closed and, as the kiss deepened, light burst behind her eyelids. Every wonderful Christmas, every sun-drenched summer and visiting dolphin, every bright and beautiful thing that had ever existed in her life gained a new vitality in that kiss.

The need and the energy, it took her and Alex and merged them into a sparkling, flaming oneness until, body and soul, she didn't know where she ended and Alex began. It was the kind of kiss to shape worlds and change lives. It shifted the foundations of her world and all she believed about herself.

Alex eased away from Kit. He didn't know for how long they'd kissed. He barely knew which way was up. Very slowly he drew his hands away—one from her face, one from her stomach. He tried to stop his legs from jerking in reaction.

'Are you okay?'

Her voice came out soft and husky, as if he'd kissed all her breath away. Served her right for kissing his breath clean away too.

He nodded and cleared his throat. 'And you?'

'Oh, yes.'

She had stars in her eyes! No woman should look at him like that.

An imaginary noose pulled tight around his neck, and yet for a moment all he could see was the shine on her lips and he ached to sample them again.

'I'm...' He cleared his throat again. 'I'm sorry.' 'I'm not.'

'It can't happen again.'

'I'll be holding my breath till it does.'

He closed his eyes. He was in way over his head.

Michelle is giving away a signed copy of The Secretary's Secret. To be in the draw, tell us what you think Kit and Alex should call their soon-to-be new arrival.

The Secetary's Secret is out now in the UK and
will be on North American shelves in December
and in Australia/NZ in January 2012!

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

Nov 11, 2011

Don't Wish Time Away

by Robyn Grady

Next week my baby graduates high school.

We’ve collected her amazing full-length champagne-coloured satin gown. She’s booked hair, nails and make-up appointments. Her prom date asked that she hang off his arm months ago. Don't worry about her. *I’m* so excited. Relieved.


On the night, I’m bound to cry.

The wonderful school Holly attends asked for past photos of all the graduates. My husband and I dug out these three.

We all know time flies by. Just the other week I became a Grandmother – to my eldest daughter’s new baby kitten.

Right now my head is filled with memories of my girls growing up, of the years rolling on and everyone achieving milestones as well as facing those roadblocks that strengthen our character and shape us into the responsible adults we ultimately become.

My graduating daughter says that she's never leaving home - she'll never leave us. I know she will. She’ll get married, have her own babies, and one day she’ll be reminiscing like I am today.

Life is full of arrivals and departures. Of sweet hellos and often poignant, even sweeter goodbyes.

Do you have any "graduation" stories you’d like to share?

Nov 9, 2011

You Can't Stop the Music

by Michelle Douglas

Reading: Everything I know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

Watching: Jam and Jerusalem

Listening to: Kate Fagan

Making Me Smile: my afternoon walks in this gorgeous spring weather

I’ve heard that a lot of authors create a playlist of songs for their stories, and I’d always thought, Good for them. Whatever works, I say. But it was never something I’d tried for myself.

That is, not until The Secretary’s Secret (out now in the UK). I’m not even sure why I did give the playlist thing a whirl. Except, I’d given myself a whole wonderful fortnight to play with the story before getting down to the nuts and bolts of actually writing it, and a playlist seemed like one of those fun, playful kind of things to do.

So I spent a week perfecting my playlist and another week playing it over and over, and it really did help me visualise certain scenes in my book. It helped me find the right tone for the story. What’s more it acted like a form of brainstorming and had new scenes occurring to me too.

Funnily enough I didn’t play it at all once I stared writing the story. But it had already done its job – it had helped me imagine my story world.

The process for every book is different and I didn’t create a playlist for The Man Who Saw Her Beauty (out in the UK in April 2012). I did, however, have a theme song for that book—Jesse by Carly Simon. Now, the book changed quite a bit so the reunion story I had in my mind became something quite different (so plaudits to anyone who can find even a skerrick of the song in that book now). But, again, the song helped me find the right tone and atmosphere for the book, even if the lyrics no longer applied.

For the story my editor has in her hot little hands right now I had three theme songs – Jesse James by Cher (for my heroine’s attitude), Summer Rain by Belinda Carlisle (for that all important tone) and Captain Zero by The Mixtures (for my hero’s realisation of his thick-headed doofusness and accompanying need to make amends).

One of my favourite things in the world is to lie on my sofa and stare up at the canopy of trees that soars over the backyard and listen to music. I quieten all the white noise in my head, and savour the view. Invariably, however, a line of music will catch my attention and suddenly I’ll be off playing the what-if game and creating scenarios in my mind.

And it seems to me that some songs lend themselves more to this than others. Here are three songs that persistently intrigue me:

1. My Girl by Hoodoo Gurus (She’s fallen out of love with him. Can he make her fall back in love with him? Has she really fallen out of love with him? Are his friends trying to cause trouble? If so, why?)

2. Living Next Door To Alice by Smokie (OMG, Alice is leaving! Hmm…but will Sally make the loss bearable? Actually, I play a whole load of scenarios with this song. Exactly how many love-pairings can I make? For a start there’s the narrator/singer and Alice, the narrator and Sally, Alice and the guy who’s sent the limo…and perhaps even Alice and Sally.)

3. Insensitive by Jann Arden (Is this jerk redeemable? And if so, why is he acting like such a jerk?)

Oh, and here’s another two:

The Day You Went Away by Wendy Matthews (The film clip breaks my heart)

Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis (I haven’t worked out exactly what this song is getting at, but I really like it.)

I don’t know if I will ever write a story based around any of these songs, but then again… :)

Songs are a great source of inspiration and I love collecting them. Do you have any favourite songs you think could be turned into great stories?



Congratulations to Imelda and Natalie! You lucky things! You have both won a signed copy of one of Kate Walker's back list books. :-)

You can contact Kate at: kate (AT) kate - walker . com (without the spaces)

Nov 7, 2011


Kate Walker
Kate, your latest book The Return of the Stranger has a fascinating premise. Can you tell us about it?
 It was part of the mini-series The Powerful and The Pure based on classic books of romantic fiction. The premise was to take four of the great classics of romantic fiction and use them as inspiration for Modern Romances (Presents/Sexy) and I was asked to do Wuthering Heights.  Of course Mills and Boon know about my MA thesis on  Emily and Charlotte Bronte’s  childhood writings and how they reflected in the adult novels they wrote so  I suppose I was a pretty natural choice as one of the authors involved.

The other  authors chosen were  – Sharon Kendrick (Jane Eyre), Kate Hewitt (Emma), Cathy Williams (Pride and Prejudice). Iconic romantic stories that everyone who loves romance remembers – with fascinating heroines and specially with heroes that have set the ‘dark and devastating’ standard for all time to come.

It’s perhaps important to say that the plan for this series was not – as some people have thought – plagiarism or stealing from the originals.  We are using them as an inspiration, and honouring them by doing so. They were all much bigger books than a short category romance – with much more in them than just the love story that romance writing focuses on –but that central love story was what I needed to focus on and to weave into a Modern Romance for today’s readers.
The Return of The Stranger is inspired by  Wuthering Heights but it’s a stand-alone romance  for the Presents line that works whether you have read the original or not.

 Was it fun to write and create a contemporary take on one of the most famous love stories of all times – and finally give them a happy ending?
It was both fun and a challenge. Wuthering Heights was a problematic novel to work on as a romance writer as I don’t really believe it is a love story – it’s hugely romantic in terms of powerful, passionate emotions but it’s more a novel about passion and possession and power than a long-lasting love that translates easily into the happy ever after. The love these two share is ultimately a destructive one – it is a wild, ferocious storm of emotion.

It’s interesting that the real love story – that between younger Catherine and Hareton – seems so mild in comparison that in so many film adaptations it gets left out completely and yet this is a love of real strength that flowers in spite of the very rough ground it grows on.

So that’s some of what I had to contend with  - giving my Heath and Kat  the understanding and strength of love, forgiveness, sharing while trying not to  diminish them in the passionate, tempestuous love. I also had to make two characters who some find unsympathetic and cruel, believably sympathetic and ultimately loveable.  But there was also the fun bit where I got to give Cathy and Heathcliff the happy ending that I’d always wished they could have – right from when I first read the book. 

Who are three of your all- time favourite heroes?

Heathcliff has to be one of them – I fell hard for him when my schoolteacher told us the opening of Wuthering Heights one day when a storm had fused all the lights in the school. As I’ve grown up I find Heathcliff far less sympathetic and appealing – but there’s no doubt that his fierce passion and the power of his feelings make so many people think that they would wish to be loved like that.  But probably only in a book!

But he is one of the ambiguous heroes I have loved over the years.  My very first ‘ambiguous’ hero –where you weren’t sure if he was a hero or a villain - was in Simona’s Jewel by Marjorie Phillips. I recently found this book again and was stunned to find that the hero Michele was actually only 14! But he set a pattern for the heroes I’ve loved. Mary Stewart always wrote those sorts of heroes -  Mark Langley in The Moonspinners  or Simon Lester in My Brother Michael are such great heroes.

 And one hero who fascinates me – who makes my heart ache with his vulnerability as much as I can be shocked and fearful of his ruthless determination and cold ferocity – is Francis Crawford of Lymond – the hero of the l-o-n-g series of historical novels called The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett.

 But it isn’t all about the hero, is it. What qualities do you think are most important in a heroine?
A heroine needs to have a backbone – particularly if she comes up against one of the forceful, ruthless, alpha heroes that we Presents/Sexy authors create.  She needs to be able to stand up for herself – though sometimes this can be shown in a quiet, vulnerable strength rather than feisty defiance or arguments. She needs to be vulnerable too – both the hero and the heroine do really so that they can reach out and touch each other through the chinks in their emotional armour.  A heroine needs to have the strength and courage of loving heart, one she can share with the man who becomes her hero. Loving someone isn’t just giving in to what they demand/what they think they are looking for – but giving someone what they truly need, even when they don’t recognise it themselves at first.  

Now Kate, you are coming up to your 60th romance. Wow. How are you going to celebrate this milestone?
To be honest, I haven’t actually thought about that yet! The trouble is that with publishing everything is planned so far in advance that  you get used to working on something now that won’t be published till next year. The Devil and Miss Jones will be published in the UK in March 2012  and – yes, I will need to plan something to  celebrate that. But what? Do you LoveCats have any ideas?  I’ll be thinking about that now – so watch my blog for news!  I love to celebrate with my readers so I’m sure I’ll think of something.

 How do you keep your ideas fresh? Is that a challenge?
With each new book I meet a a new hero and a new heroine. It’s the characters who create the books; their personalities, motivations and the conflict that comes between them. And because they are all different that keeps me on my toes – keeps me thinking of new ideas/new scenes/new plots.  Besides, nothing in writing and publishing stays still – the romances I’m writing now are not the same as the ones I wrote when I was first published in 1984 or even 2004 – things keep changing, growing, developing. And it’s a challenge to keep up to date and write what is currently popular for today’s readers – and the readers of the future. 

Just reading your blog made me feel weak, you seem to juggle so much. Can you share your three best time management tips with us?
I get so much done because I love what I do. This is what I always wanted to do with my life – writing and talking about/teaching writing. I never really thought that I would ever end up teaching writing so much, with the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance in such demand – it has even got me a job teaching a week long residential course in Tuscany – at the Watermill at Posara   next year.

I focus on what I’m doing and work at it till I get it done -  so if I’m writing then my concentration is on that – and if I’m teaching I think I use a different part of my brain from the imaginative one.  The most important thing I need to remember is that writing is my job – writing pays my bills and without novels being published, I don’t have the credentials to do the teaching. So writing is always number one.

I use my computer and my iphone to keep up to date – with everything recorded there and for teaching I have built up a resource bank of workshops that go well ready to print off at the press of a button
When I’m travelling I use the time as well as I can – my husband is great at doing the driving so I read/plan/organise as we go. If we’re on a train then I read or perhaps critique a manuscript – I don’t sit and stare out the window.

And because I manage my own working hours, I work when it suits me best. For example, soon my husband will start his university teaching   and that means that on certain days  he will  be out until 10.30 pm –  that’s a great opportunity for me to get as much done as I possibly can so that when he’s home we can relax together in what would be  a normal working day. 

And when it comes to writing – I always, always have a  notebook and pen – in my bag, beside the bed,  on the kitchen worktop – so that I can make sure I jot down any notes or inspiration that come to me and I don’t lose them. If you don’t make a note of something then you might think you’ll never forget it – but you do!

Whew Kate! You are a powerhouse. Thanks so much for giving such an inspiring interview.
 Thank you for inviting me along to LoveCats. My Maine Coons Flora and Charlie love this site – and they would like to offer a special giveaway of a signed book from my backlist.  Each of them will choose a prize for someone who posts a comment   and send them a special message!