Apr 29, 2015

What are you reading?

Like most romance readers, I'm very nosy about what everyone else is reading. Mainly so I can get some recommendations for my TBR pile!

So I'll start by telling you what books I've read recently and then ask you to share your lists.

First up is the book I'm currently reading, THE DUCHESS WAR by Courtney Milan.

I'm about halfway through this and loving it. And best of all, it's free on kindle which is why I picked it up. But let me tell you, I'll be buying all the rest of the books in this series as soon as I finish this one - it's smart, it's funny, and it's original. Here's the blurb:

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly--so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention. 

But that is precisely what she gets. 

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he's up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he's determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match... 

The book before this one was another free kindle read that is the start of a series (do you get the sense of a pattern here with my reading lately?). It was SATISFACTION by Sarah Mayberry. Again with the smart, funny and original. I can't wait to dive into the second book in this series! Here's the blurb:

Maggie Hendricks’s life is exactly the way she likes it—except for one small problem. She’s never experienced the big O. She’s had good times, definitely. But so far, nothing and no one has delivered the fireworks. She tells herself she can deal…until a friend shares the details of a steamy one-night with an extremely talented lover. Suddenly good times are not enough and Maggie vows to seduce this man. If he can’t make her forget her own name… 

Within minutes of meeting Rafel Oliveira, however, Maggie knows she’s in over her head. As he takes her on a sensual journey toward the ultimate pleasure, frustration has a new, delicious texture and he exceeds all her expectations. When she craves more than his beautiful body, she realizes she needs something else to be truly satisfied: his heart. But is that something Rafel will ever be able to offer her? 

So now it's your turn - tell me what you're reading. My buying finger is ready to click! :)

Apr 27, 2015

Would You Like Some Hair With That?

I have a confession to make. I like my men with nice, smooth, hairless chests. I don't know why....I just do. Most of the heroes I write have smooth chests. And the ones that do have hair its always just a smattering. Or just that fascinating little trail of hair that heads south from the belly button.

We all know that one, right?

And then I wrote a character who I just knew was a really solid, muscular (as opposed to muscly which I think are two different things) manly, hairy, man's-man, testosterone infused dude. I really wasn't sure why he had to be so but I just knew he did so I went looking for a guy to base him on and I came across this one.

I've always had a thing for Mark Ruffalo so he ended up being perfect for Dashiell Dent, the hero in my upcoming May 8th release (Limbo). By about half way through the book I knew why Dash had to be hairy and solid because he had to be the absolute opposite of Joy's ex who is a skinny, waxed, metrosexual kinda guy. I didn't know that at the beginning. I didn't even know it as I was writing both of them. I'm not sure when it clicked. Doh! We writers can't see the wood for the trees some times!

So, score one for hairy men. Merely an abberation (along with my schoolgirl crush on the very hairy Tom Selleck) I told myself. And then this happened -

It's a hard job but somebody's got to do it.....

And now I'm a convert..... Poldark and Ruffalo ruining me for smooth men everywhere.....

Are you a smooth or hairy gal? And do you have any examples of hairy men you'd like to share? Have mouse will travel :-)

PS - If you're keen to find out more about Dash Dent my hairy hero you can pre-order it here and read its first review on Goodreads which is just up here.

Apr 26, 2015

Sunday Smooch: Annie West's anthology 'A Royal Scandal'

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Annie West's A ROYAL SCANDAL but first 

... the two winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Franca Poli!

Can you please contact amy(at)amyandrews(dot)com(dot)au to receive your copy of Risky Business.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from A ROYAL SCANDAL.

This is the first anthology of three Annie West full-length stories. Yay! The stories included in A ROYAL SCANDAL are:

Passion, Purity and the Prince
Prince Alaric of Ruvingia is as wild and untamed as the remote kingdom he rules. Then prim, bespectacled archivist Tamsin Connors uncovers a shocking state secret. Now Tamsin has Alaric’s undivided attention…and she is quickly promoted to His Majesty’s mistress!

Prince of Scandal
Raul, Prince of Maritz, is furious that an archaic law is forcing him to wed. But scandal and unrest has dogged this prince for years, and a marriage to recently discovered princess Luisa Hardwicke will help bring stability to the monarchy. Only, Luisa is an outspoken farm girl who isn’t going to come quietly! Luisa challenges Raul at every turn – and he finds himself anticipating their wedding night with an excitement he never imagined he’d feel…

Defying Her Desert Duty
Across the nightclub, bodyguard Zahir El Hashem watches his latest charge temptingly swaying on the dance-floor. Returning the princess to her bridegroom might not be such a simple operation after all… Soraya Karim knew one day she must resume her royal obligations, just not so soon! Clinging to the last shreds of her freedom, Soraya insists they take the long way back to Bakhara – their attraction reaching a dangerous fever pitch…

 Here's a scene from Passion, Purity and the Prince.

Scene set-up

Tamsin is a book conservator staying at Alaric's castle while she works on some recently unearthed manuscripts. She finds herself falling for the dashing, troubled prince. Inexperienced at glamorous social events, she finds her first royal ball at first intimidating and then exciting, especially when she finds so many eager partners. But when Alaric dances with her, she's stunned by his unexpected bad temper, warning her not to take such male attention too seriously.

Smooch  -

'Alaric.’ The word was barely audible. Whether from the pulse pounding in her ears or because she couldn’t seem to catch her breath, she didn’t know.

‘That’s better.’ His voice was rough as his lips moved against her hair. ‘I like it when you say my name.’

With one final turn he moved them off the dance floor. Before Tamsin could catch her breath he’d shoved aside a hanging tapestry and hustled her through a door into a narrow passage. A few steps on and another arched door opened on their left. They were through it and in a small dimly lit chamber before Tamsin could get her bearings.

A key scraped in the lock, loud as the thrum of her heartbeat. Then she felt a solid wall behind her and Alaric’s powerful body trapping her against it.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ It was meant to sound strident and outraged. Instead Tamsin’s voice was light and uneven, weak with the force of conflicting emotions.

She should abhor this forced intimacy, the press of his body. Yet a secret thrill of pleasure ripped through her.

‘I’m sorry, Tamsin.’ Alaric cupped her face in warm palms and lifted her chin so she looked deep into eyes the colour of a stormy night sky. ‘I spoiled your evening with my loutish behaviour. That was unforgivable.’

He leaned forward, touching his forehead to hers, hands tunnelling her hair, sending threads of shivery sensation down her spine and across her shoulders. Suddenly it wasn’t him holding her prisoner, but her body’s response.

‘Why?’ she croaked, her mouth too dry for speech. How had they come to this?

She should move but she made no resistance as he caressed her scalp and rubbed his nose against hers.

Where was her anger? A deep shuddering sigh rose and she strove to stifle it.

‘Because I was jealous.’ Shock slammed into her. Yet she felt the words as well as heard them as his lips caressed her eyelids. He really did say it. ‘From the moment you appeared tonight I wanted to be with you. Only you.’

This couldn’t be. Tamsin shook her head, or tried to. He held her so close she couldn’t move.

‘I don’t understand.’ She hated her shaky tone but she was at a loss. ‘You avoided me most of the night.’

‘Displacement activity. I either spent the evening glued to you, and that would have caused a scandal, and probably embarrassed you. Or I kept my distance, acting the polite host, circulating. There was no happy medium. In the circumstances I thought my self control admirable.’

His hands moved, slid down her throat and spread across her bare shoulders. Something about his powerful hands touching that vulnerable part of her so tenderly made her breath catch. His palms circled back to her throat, warming her skin and making her pulse race.

‘Every time I saw you smiling at a dance partner I wanted it to be me you smiled at. No one else. Do you have any idea how gorgeous you are tonight?’

He couldn’t be serious!

She couldn’t think logically when he caressed her like that. She needed to think, to understand.

‘Please. Alaric I…’

‘Yes, let me please you. Like this?’

His hands dropped, skimming the silk of her bodice, down the sides of her breasts, till her nipples puckered needily and the breath seared from her lungs.

Logic didn’t matter when his mouth was a mere inch away. She craved him with every fibre of her yearning, untried body. As if this were what she’d secretly waited for. Without volition she raised her face, hungry beyond rational thought for his passion.

His mouth hovered, a breath away from hers.

‘I promised I wouldn’t.’ His husky voice stroked like suede, dragging at her senses.

‘So ask me to kiss you, Tamsin.’

As you can see, Tamsin had a very exciting time at her first ball. Do you have fond memories of a dance you've attended, or maybe even a ball? A little romance maybe? If not, perhaps you'd like to share your idea of the perfect dress for a royal ball! 
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Louisa George will be posted!

In the meantime, if you'd like to grab A ROYAL SCANDAL and can't see it in store you could try Mills and Boon Australia, or The Book Depository which posts free anywhere in the world.

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Apr 24, 2015

Lest We Forget: The Women of Gallipoli

I make no apology for writing a similarly themed post to last year.

It is 100 years since Gallipoli and we have mourned and celebrated the lives of the men who bravely fought there- and we should go on doing this in gratitude for their service for as long as we all can. Because of their sacrifice we can live our lives in relative peace and without fear.

What I did not know, however, was that there were 8 women at Gallipoli too. Seven Australian nurses and their matron were on board the hospital ship The Gascon moored off Anzac Cove. From the ship's deck these women had to witness the massacre, listen to the cries of the fallen and dodge shells fired at the boat. They then had to tend to the wounded, deal with serious overcrowding on the ship and cope with rapidly diminishing resources. There is a detailed account of one of those nurses here. Muriel Wakeford wrote letters to her local newspaper back home describing the Gallipoli campaign and telling of the need for more medical personnel, braving a backlash from the government who had been sending out propaganda that we were winning the war. Having worked as a nurse for many years I cannot begin to imagine what life must have been like there, the horror and the suffering and the utter helplessness and frustration at not being able to give the care needed.

But this is also a romance blog and we celebrate the triumph of love over all, and I'm happy to say that Muriel led a life befitting one of our heroines- dealing with conflict and disapproval from all and amidst the chaos of war she fell in love with a dashing officer on board ship (which was obviously forbidden, plus he was catholic and she was protestant), but she finally overcame all barriers and married her sweetheart in 1916. They moved to Kenya and then to London after the war and had (at least) one son.

So, on ANZAC Day, while remembering the men who gave up their lives, please add in a huge prayer of gratitude to the 8 amazing women who cared for the sick and tended to the fallen with as much respect and honour as they could. And send up a little extra cheer for Muriel Wakeford, a true heroine of the time.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Apr 20, 2015

I Am In The Depths Of Despair (L M Montgomery)

****I posted this blog somewhere else on Monday but still feel so sad I thought I'd repost it here****

On Sunday the world learned the news that Jonathan Crombie, the man who was Gilbert Blythe to so many of us died a few days ago aged 48! from a brain haemorrhage.  

The news saddened me. So young to die. Just a few years older than me. His family must be reeling. So terribly, terribly tragic. I don't even have words for that....

I do want to say though that he leaves behind a wonderful legacy.

Gilbert Blythe was my first literary crush and IMHO the original beta hero and Jonathan Crombie seemed to personify the very spirit of the boy Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote all those years ago. When she gave us Gilbert, she ruined many of us for all other men and Jonathan brought him to life so perfectly. 

Today I feel like I’ve lost a friend. A little piece of my childhood.

Jonathan Crombie was a talented actor who went on to do many things but it is for Gilbert Blythe that he will be remembered most.

He will always be Gilbert to me.


 Do you have a favourite scene from the books or the TV series?

Surviving the Winter

Winter, you say?

Yes, winter. While most of the Lovecats have just made it through summer, I’ve survived my first Canadian winter…snow and all.

I feel there should be a t-shirt this.
Screen cap from my phone on a very cold day

Any Canadians we meet love to tell my husband and I how brutal the winter is here. We got a lot of ‘what the hell were you thinking?’ comments when explaining our decision to relocate. I have to admit, when the temperature outside had a wind-chill of -42 celcius, I started to question my sanity in leaving a place where ‘cold’ meant 7 or 8 degrees.

However, now that spring has sprung I can honestly say I’m glad I did it. And you know what, I like the snow (mainly because I live somewhere that doesn’t require me to shovel it). 

The snow, while it’s falling, is magical. I’d seen snow once before I came to Canada, and it was already on the ground. Watching fluffy fat flakes drift down from the sky for the first time is something all always remember. 

What they don’t tell you: snow by the end of winter is gross. It gets piled up on the side of the road and turns to brown sludge. Who knew?
A street near my apartment after 10cm+ snowfall

Here are some fun facts about Canada:
  • 15,500 of the worlds 25,000 polar bears live in Canada according to this infographic. I haven’t seen any yet.
  • Also from that infographic: Canada has more lakes than all other countries combined!
  • Canada is the second coldest country in the world if you look at the yearly temperature average, which is a chilly -3.6 C. Russia takes first place at -5.3 C. (source)
  • According to Trip Advisor, Canada is approximately 9,984,670 sq. km and comprises of six time zones. It’s almost 30% larger than Australia and over 18 times the size of France.
  • The ‘feels like’ temperature is really a thing. On cold days the wind can makes it feel even colder than it actually is. I.e. the temperature might read –22C on your thermometer, but the wind can make it feel like –32C on your skin. 

Have you ever lived in a really cold place? Do you like snow? 

Apr 19, 2015

Sunday Smooch from 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 Ruby

Can you please contact Helen Lacy on mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to receive your prize.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Risky Business.

* Note from Amy - I posted a smooch from RB last year when it was first released. It can be found here I'm posting another today to celebrate its lovely new cover.  

Samantha Evans’s life is going to hell. Not only has she rage-quit her beloved, high-powered job, but she is suddenly afflicted by hormones, free time, and an unavoidable, unignorable, undeniably gorgeous irritant in the form of Nick Hawke, her extreme sports star neighbour, who has come home to take over the reins of his grandmother's second-hand bookshop. Sam needs something to keep her from begging for her old job back until she's good and sure her boss understands how wrong he was, and taking a low-risk, low-stress job helping Nick at the bookstore might be just the thing.
After all, it's not like Nick is the right guy to help her with her hormones. He'll just be fun to look at while she searches for the one

Nick has six months to get over an injury before Everest and a big, fat contract beckon. That means no sports, no danger and, above all else, no risks. It means playing it safe. And Nick Hawke doesn’t do safe. So he’s going to need something to stave off the boredom while selling books he doesn't read to people who wouldn't know a carabineer from a crochet hook. What could be safer than hiring a cranky, unemployed accountant to help run the bookstore? Sam is efficient and methodical and messing up her neat, post-it note world could be a fun way to pass the time….
Risky Business mixes the classic romance of Philadelphia Story, the humour and wit of When Harry Met Sally, and a strong, contemporary Australian setting to create a delightful, irresistible, utterly satisfying treat of a novel.

Scene set-up
It's Samantha's birthday and there's only one kind of present she wants from Nick!

Suddenly everything went dark as the lights went out and Samantha dragged her eyes away from the window to find Nick advancing slowly toward her illuminated by a cake ablaze with candles. He had eyes only for her as he sung her a surprisingly in tune Happy Birthday with a stupid grin.
Samantha stayed rooted to the spot. There was something so intimate about the scene she found it hard to breathe. He finished the song as he drew level with her. The candlelight gave him a mysterious edge and he looked more pirate-like than ever.
‘Blow ‘em out, birthday girl.’
The candles blurred into one as she felt tears prick her eyes, and she dutifully leant forward and puffed them out in one hit. The room became dark again and she was glad for its cover as she blinked away the moisture clouding her eyes.
‘Make a wish,’ he murmured.
She shut her eyes and wished Nick would throw the damn cake against the wall, sweep her up in his arms and take her to his bed. She opened them a few seconds later, disappointingly with both feet still on the floor.
Oh well. Maybe that was a sign. Maybe she should just eat her cake and go.
‘I have a present for you,’ he said, still holding the cake between them. The city lights from outside threw a low gloom over everything now her eyes had adjusted.
There was only one present she wanted from him.
Her gaze flicked over a picture of him in a plane. Samantha knew it was now or never.
Bugger the danger.  Here goes nothing.
             'Actually Nick,’ her voice sounded strange stuttering into the semi-darkness, ‘I was wondering how you felt about granting me a birthday wish, instead? This is probably going to shock you but I’m just going to say it anyway. Put it out there.’
‘Don’t say anything, okay? Not until I finish because otherwise I'll chicken out or vomit and as you've seen me do that already, I'd rather not go there.’
‘Just say it Sam.’ Nick could feel the slow hard bang of his heart against his ribs. Was this what he thought it was?
She inhaled a ragged breath and looked in the direction of his top shirt button. ‘You told me once that you had a hundred percent success rate...that has kind of stuck in my mind and I know that you're leaving soon and you don’t want babies and even if you did you're not in my demographic but you did tell me to knock on your door when I was sober and so...well here I am...sober and...I was kind of wondering whether you think birthday sex might be...doable.’
Silence filled the room as her speech petered out. It settled between them as Nick gripped the plate hard with both hands.
His heart hammered and he licked suddenly dry lips. Doable? He looked into her grey eyes and thought, more than just doable, an absolute requirement.
He glanced at the cake, the smell of the chocolate frosting wafted towards him, making the moment sweeter still. He dipped his index finger in the soft gooey icing, brought it to her lips and almost groaned when she opened her mouth and sucked him in, her tongue devouring every sticky morsel.
‘Is that a yes?’ she asked, nervously licking some icing from her lips.
‘Oh god, yes,’ he muttered, placing the cake gently on the windowsill behind them before yanking her close.
Okay, so they'd kissed before. But not like this. Not full of the promise of what was to come. It took all Nick’s self-control not to rip her clothes off and have her against the wall as she pushed her body closer and moaned against his mouth. It was her birthday and he had a lot to prove. She hadn't believed him when he had told her about his prowess so it was important to pace himself. Hold back. Tonight was about her. Yes, his body ached to be inside her but that wasn’t important.
That would happen soon enough.
And man could she kiss. Every cell in his body was quivering at the exquisite softness of her mouth, the smooth glide of her tongue, the way she moaned and sighed and the way she squirmed against him trying to get closer. The feel of her breasts pushed up against him, the hard pebbles of her nipples rubbing through his shirt to the skin beneath. The sheer unadulterated force of her passion. She was burning up in his arms and he wanted more.

For your chance to win an e-copy of Risky Business, tell me, have you ever had a birthday wish come true?

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Apr 17, 2015

It's In His Kiss......

I'm ankle deep into writing my next book for Harlequin Special Edition and like always, fall a little in love with my hero. This one is extra special...cowboy, widowed single dad...you get the picture. So, I'm at the kissing part...their first kiss. The kiss that will never be had again. And there's the usual pressure to 'get it right'. The right place, the right moment, the right mood.

Which of course got me thinking about favourite kisses...that's 'screen' kisses.

Like the scene in The NoteBook where they're kissing in the rain

Or When Richard Gere and Julia Roberts kiss in Pretty Woman ......sigh.....


Or when Chris Hemsworth kisses Natalie Portman in Thor.....still sighing....

Here's an old favourite, but still relevant.....

Do you have a favourite screen kiss?

Apr 15, 2015

Small Pleasures with Annie West

We talk about the need to celebrate the good things that happen in our lives and over the last few years I've made a conscious effort to do just that. The celebration might not be large scale with bubbly and a big meal. It might be a coffee date with someone I care about or a walk in the sunshine or a morning reading. I was musing about the importance, not just of celebrating, but of appreciating the smaller things in life that make me feel good, when I went searching for a photo I'd taken on a trip. In the process I noticed this series of photos I'd taken on the same day. They weren't of anything big and impressive (like the photo I'd been searching for) but they made me smile. They took me straight back to the pleasure I felt when I took them, the delight I felt at what I saw. So here are a few of those small pleasures.
Just looking at this window makes me want to curl up on a window seat and pretend to read while actually just letting my mind drift. I like the light from the water (there's a moat outside) on the ceiling.

Speaking of ceilings, isn't this just lovely? I know it's not simple. It must have taken a whole lot of work to do this, but I suspect a lot of people didn't even bother to look up and see how marvellous it was.

And when I looked down I had to smile. Some dog had walked across the hand-made tiles before they were set. When I walk by the lake there's a cement path which has tracks made my a bird meandering along it, taking its time looking for tidbits. I love those prints!

And look at the way the light plays on the floor - I love it.

I also love curves, particularly in buildings. This has such a lovely sinuous shape.
I also love mythological creatures. At first I thought this was a dragon but maybe it's a salamander. I don't really care - he just caught my eye.
I've always been a sucker for feeding waterbirds. Aren't these gorgeous?

And who has a tower in their garden wall? I spent ages trying to work out what it was. An outdoor loo? A guardhouse? A garden shed? An impressive dog house?

I'm so glad I came across these photos. They made me remember not only what this place looked like, but also the quality of the light and the scents and the sheer delight of being there. It's reminded me to take stock of the small delights that make life so good, like the smell of freshly ground coffee, the feel of autumn in the air, the magpies warbling early in the morning, fresh-mown grass, laughing so much you have trouble stopping, or having a friend call you long distance just because they were thinking of you.
What are some of your small pleasures? What's making you smile right now?
In a shameless brag I have to add the fact I'm also smiling about these two - my April book 'The Sheikh's Princess Bride' which I adored writing, and my first ever anthology of three stories all by ME(!), called 'A Royal Scandal' out in May.