Sep 29, 2017

Welcome Party for Clare Connelly (with giveaways)!

Today is a special day for the LoveCats DownUnder. First we need to bid a very fond adieu to dear Melanie Milburne, who has been such an active LoveCat. Melanie, thank you for being such a big part of the group. We'll miss you, but we're so glad you'll be popping back from time to time even though now you're technically 'In the Wild'! We wish you everything good.

Today also marks the arrival of our newest LoveCat, Clare Connelly. Welcome Clare! That means it's party time, so relax, pour yourself a glass of bubbly or a cup of tea or whatever takes your fancy and help us celebrate.

Clare grew up in an Australian country town where she says stories and story telling were a huge part of her childhood. She styles herself a romance devotee, reading everything from Jane Austen to Georgette Heyer, and from Mills and Boon to the Fifty Shades trilogy. She wrote her first romance at the age of fifteen! More recently she's become a highly successful category romance author with 43 self published titles and seven anthologies published since 2014. Clare has recently signed a contract with Harlequin Mills and Boon (you can buy her first book now!) and will be busy writing for Harlequin while continuing her indie career. And we're all exhausted just thinking of so many books published in such a short space of time! 
Clare kindly participated in an interview so you can get to know her better:

Can you recall the first category romance you read? Is there a book (romance or otherwise) that made you want to become a writer?

I read Harlequin Series voraciously growing up, and a lot of them were older ones. My mum is an antique dealer and, as children, my sisters and I were trotted around to all the antique markets and garage sales and charity shops, and we would spend the time it took her to browse out treasures selecting books. I was always drawn to Mills & Boons, and particularly loved the powerful stories of the eighties and nineties. I was, and remain, a devoted reader of Emma Darcy, Penny Jordan, Sarah Morgan, Valerie Parv, amongst about a billion others! In terms of wanting to write, it wasn't a conscious decision, so much as an ever-present desire to meddle in the worlds of the characters' that I was reading about. I suppose I have that control-freak gene that likes to take hold of the narrative and move it in the direction I want! I began writing romance novels at thirteen, and finished my first full manuscript at fifteen. I found then, and still find now, that I am never happier than when diving into the world of my people, layering a story onto their lives, and steering them towards their happily ever after.

Do you have a favourite romance trope?

I love sexy contemporary romance novels, and read almost all tropes. I need well-drawn characters and convincing motivation, and am a sucker for a really, really 'how the hell are they going to work this out?' angsty conflict. I think second-chance-at-love books are very compelling because there can be such a strong history of hurt and pain which brings the tension into it right from the first page. I love marriage of convenience books too, and who doesn't love a secret baby!?

What do you most enjoy about writing category books? What’s the hardest part?

Writing category is an art form. There's a huge emotional journey to pack into a relatively modest word count, and romance readers are discerning! They want to know their characters, to get their motivations, to be moved by their story. I love the pace of a category – there's no room for fluff. You need to tell a great story without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. I also love the guaranteed happily ever after. Life, real life, can be such a dark and gloomy place at times. There is always happiness to be found in the pages of a category romance – it's my favourite part about writing these stories.

What category romance are you hoping to read next?

I buy most of the Mills & Boon Sexy titles each month and am really looking forward to the current selection, in particularly Michelle Conder's THE ITALIAN'S VIRGIN ACQUISITION. The cover is so pretty!

Do you share your life with anyone furred, feathered or scaled? If so we’d love to hear about them.

My husband wouldn't really appreciate the description but, speaking of furry, he is sporting a phenomenal beard at the moment! He's growing it to raise funds for SHAVE-FREE FOR CALVING, a charitable initiative started by our Kiwi farming family, who raise funds each year for the NZ Rural Farming Trust – which helps farmers dealing with the hardships of life on the land during the really tough times (including with much-needed psychological support). I know that's not what you meant but I'm so proud of the good work my Kiwi family is doing... and they have about two hundred cows. I'd love to get a Labrador one day, but my little human puppies take up most of my spare time at present. Full-time school for both next year and then we'll see!

Finally, can you share one fact about yourself we might not already know?

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was twenty six years old. My husband and I had been travelling through Europe and both picked up a really nasty virus. The theory is that my immune system fought the virus off and then attacked the beta cells in my pancreas, meaning I don’t make insulin of my own. I now wear an insulin pump 24/7 which does a fairly decent job of simulating the real deal. It’s far more common to develop the disease when you’re under ten years old, so I think I was pretty lucky to make it so far into my twenties ‘unscathed’. Although I’m on insulin, I still try to make the disease easier to manage by sticking to a relatively healthy diet – though wine and chocolate are two of my vices I always have to guard against!

Also, I’m completely Christmas mad. I love it. I start listening to carols around September, and we put our tree up on the 1st of November each year, so that we get about six weeks of it in the lounge. BUT I have to pull it straight down on Boxing day or it depresses me too much. The kids and I make gingerbread houses together each year – as they’ve got older they’ve had more interest in the creative process which has resulted in some, interesting, constructions, but it’s always good fun!

Thanks so much, Clare! How terrific to end with a photo of Santa's helpers with the gingerbread!

Now for our traditional mega-giveaway to celebrate the arrival of a new LoveCat.

Just leave a comment on this post and you will be entered in the prize draws. Winners will be announced in our Sunday Smooch post on Sunday 1 October.

ONE WINNER will receive a fabulous bundle of Mills and Boon paperbacks direct from Mills and Boon Australia!  Note, this prize is for delivery in Australia. Please mention in your comment if you're in Australia so you can go in this draw.

TWO WINNERS (from anywhere in the world!) will EACH receive from:

  • Michelle Douglas, a signed copy of ‘Sarah and the Secret Sheikh’
  • Shannon Curtis, a signed copy of ‘Warrior Untamed’
  • Bronwyn Jameson, a London Love Cats Treat 
  • Stefanie London, a signed copiy of ‘Mr Dangerously Sexy’ 
  • Rachel Bailey. an ecopy of ‘The Finn Factor’ 
  • Amy Andrews, a signed copy of ‘A Christmas Miracle’ 
Clare's newest title!
  • Annie West, a signed copy of ‘His Majesty’s Temporary Bride’ 
  • Kandy Shepherd, a signed copy of ‘Conveniently Wed to the Greek’
  • Helen Lacey, a signed copy of ‘The Rancher’s Unexpected Family’ 
  • Ally Blake, an ecopy of ‘Kiss Me Quick’
  • Sue Mackay, a signed copy of ‘Falling For Her Fake Fiancee’ 
  • Jennifer St George, an ecopy of 'Wild for You'.

So, here's to our newest LoveCat! And good luck to all of you in our giveaways. Don't forget to come back on Sunday to find out who won.

Sep 27, 2017

Why are heroines always beautiful? - Kandy Shepherd

A friend was reading one of my books recently. “Why do all your heroines have to be so beautiful?” she asked. (The book was Hired by the Brooding Billionaire and the heroine was indeed beautiful though with a quirky nature and prone to dressing in khakis and steel capped worker’s boots to play down her looks.)

“Because a romance has an element of fantasy,” I replied to my friend. “As readers we want to identify with the heroine. We like to see an idealised image of ourselves and that usually means beautiful.”

Then I stopped myself. All my romance heroines are not necessarily beautiful. In fact one of my favourite (and best-selling books) From Paradise to… Pregnant! features a heroine who is actually quite plain. The book starts:

“Zoe Summers knew she wasn’t beautiful. The evidence of her mirror proved that. Plain was the label she’d been tagged with from an early age. She wasn’t ugly—in fact ugly could be interesting. It was just that her particular combination of unruly black hair, angular face, regulation brown eyes and a nose with a slight bump in the middle added up to pass-under-the-radar plain.”

Zoe gave herself a makeover and even got a nose job that she confesses to late in the novel. She is immaculately groomed and dresses elegantly. Even so, she still feels a degree of insecurity about her looks. But the hero fell in love with pre-makeover Zoe back when they were teenagers. He doesn’t notice her nose, or care about her hair, he sees beauty in her just the way he is.

Zoe is my only heroine who is out-and-out plain. Others are stunningly beautiful. Mostly they’re attractive or above average in looks. Each has to be written so they are relatable and sympathetic. But they’re always beautiful in the eyes of the hero. That goes without saying!

What about in movies and TV shows? I’m binge watching The Blacklist at the moment. My husband thinks lovely actress Megan Boone is too beautiful to be believable as an FBI profiler. “Can’t they at least have her wearing glasses? he asks.

Megan Boone
What do you think? Does it matter if a romance heroine is beautiful or not? I’d love to hear your comments.

I leave you with one of my favourite movie romance heroines played by Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. She’s often described as plain, but I think she’s beautiful. Can you believe the movie is thirty years old this year?

Sep 25, 2017

Waffles by Amy Andrews

I'm in Brussels as I write this. We arrived late and are just here overnight so we've seen hardly anything but the Grand Place of a night time is something else!

And of course, when in Belguim, you have to eat waffles right? So we did. But I've finally realised,while I was sitting on cobblestones and staring at buildings older than white settlement in my country, why I've never been a fan.

They taste stale!!! And stodgy! Yes....even in Brussels! My three travelling companions had no problem with them but Inate half and decided then and there, never again!

So...waffles? Fan or not?

PS - my book, Playing With Forever, is out today!!!! There's a Sunday Smooch from yesterday with a sexy excerpt if you want to take a sneak peek and if you keave a comment, you could even win a copy!

Sep 24, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!


Today we have a smooch from Amy Andrews but first ... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Laurie! 

Can you please contact Helen Lacey on hjlacey (at) bigpond (dot) com to receive your copy of her book!

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Playing With Forever........

 Country boy, Ryder Davis has the world at his feet. A stellar rugby career, a winning way with women and a beach view that keeps him in blue sky and bikini babes. He's living the dream. The last thing he needs is a Great Dane called Tiny destroying his feng shui. 

Dog whisperer, Juliet Morgan is about to start living her dream and she's counting down the days. In two months she'll finally be moving to Italy and no man's going to stop her this time. Not even a rugby superstar with a badly behaved pooch. 

But when Ryder skids into the animal shelter looking for help Juliet agrees to assist him with his canine issues. Pretty soon they're assisting each other out of their clothes and tumbling headlong into a sex thing with an expiry date. 

Neither of them expected it to become more. But when for now starts to feel like forever Juliet hits the panic button. Ryder knows he has to play the long game and let her walk away. After all it's not over until the final hooter sounds and all's fair in love and rugby. 

Very excited to share that Ryder and Juliet's book is out tomorrow! You can click on the cover to go to a preorder/buy link and have that gorgeous cover on your device pronto!

Scene set-up

Juliet and Ryder have just come from their first dog obedience class with Ryder's temporary flatmate and permanent homewrecker, a Great Dane called Tiny. He's, ostensibly, showing her around his goregous art deco apartment but both of them know there's going to be some canoodling going on. If only it weren't for Tiny....

***language has been tamed to spare blushes***

Had it not been for Tiny taking up all the room between them in the gorgeous, original— exceedingly small—lift, Juliet may well have made the first move then and there. But Tiny was right there, looking at her adoringly, and she had no desire to corrupt a puppy. 

His owner on the other hand... 

The lift eventually creaked to the fourth floor, and Tiny waited patiently for Juliet to exit before he leapt out after her, licking her arm enthusiastically. 

“I know just how he feels,” Ryder said, following at a more sedate pace. 

Juliet looked over her shoulder at him. “You want to lick my arm?” 

“I want to lick every inch of you.” 

She let her gaze wander over his chest and down to his crotch again. “Ditto.”  

Juliet thought she heard him groan or maybe curse under his breath as her head swivelled forward, and she smiled despite the ache between her legs becoming more and more urgent. Leaving here tonight without doing him was going to be torture. But, thanks to her ex, she’d learned to set boundaries with men. To start as she meant to go on. 

She’d told him no sex, and she meant it. If she didn’t respect her own boundaries, how could she expect him to? And it would just make their inevitable coupling the sweeter.  

She waited for him to open the door, the flex of the muscles in his forearm cranking her anticipation to fever pitch. They were mesmerising, the urge to make a start on the licking, strong. The door gave way and Tiny pushed it open, enthusiastically racing into the apartment ahead of them. 

Juliet wasn’t conscious of stepping inside or the interior of his apartment or the door closing behind her, just the thud of her heart, the warm slide of his fingers on her nape, his breath on her cheek, a tangy hint of passionfruit filling her nostrils, the loom of his body as he guided her backwards, the feel of the wall at her shoulder blades.   

Then it was the heat of his mouth, the hungry lick of his tongue and the rumble of his groan. The way his shoulders filled her hands, the solid cage of his chest, the firm span of his hands on her hips.  

The hard, thick length of him.  

Juliet moaned and rubbed herself against him shamelessly. He groaned again, deep and resonant, and she swallowed it up, her arms twining around his neck, her hands tunnelling into his hair, her fingers twisting into it liked she’d fantasised about earlier. Her lips pressed harder, opened wider, branding his mouth with her own. Desperate to take all he was offering and give all she had of herself. 

She clung to him, starving and drowning all at once.   

Two short, loud barks dragged her out of the moment. Ryder too, who groaned as he tore his mouth away.  


For a chance to win a digital copy of Playing With Forever, answer me this - ever had a pet ruin a special moment?

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Sep 20, 2017

Dora's Happily Ever After

I love a Happily Ever After. Love them in books, love them in movies, and love them in real life. And not just for people. Everyone deserves a HEA, even little girls like Dora.

Where Dora came from...
Dora, Reuben (middle) and Dougal (at back)

Dora is an eight-year-old greyhound who was rescued from appalling conditions along with five other greys. She was so thin her little hip bones stuck out, and she was scared and confused. All the rescue groups were full (one has a waiting list of 90 greyhounds), but somehow Dora and her group were still saved.

The first job was veterinary assessment, where she was desexed, had her teeth cleaned (and a couple of teeth beyond saving were removed), and some lumps removed. Then she came to me. We had first fostered an 11year-old girl, Cindy, from the same group, but she had died during her vet work as a result of her past treatment (her heart was damaged, most likely from drugs), and we were devastated. The next day, we picked up Dora. 

Despite being a senior girl, Dora had never lived in a house before, so she wasn't house trained, but she was also confused by things like the TV, and the reflective surface of the oven door, and sounds like the vacuum. However, for Dora, these were trifles. The big news was that she had soft beds, and discovered the joys of couches. Plus, food! All that food. To start with, we fed her three times a day to get her weight up. She was pretty thrilled with that.

Another favourite new thing was walks. She didn't know how to walk on a lead and would pull and jerk to try to get to all the exciting smells, but it didn't take her long to realise we'd meander over to where she wanted to go if she was patient, and she became a joy to walk.

Dora loves a fluffy toy to snuggle.
But her favourite new thing of all was love and affection. At first, she was wary even as she was desperate for pats. She soon learned we could be trusted and lapped up as many kisses and tummy rubs as we were willing to give her.

Dora and Reuben
Her profile was added to the adoption page of the group that had rescued her, Friends of the Hound, and she had her own adoption video, but sometimes the senior dogs take a bit longer than the young ones. After just over four months with us, her perfect home came calling. They had a seven-year-old male greyhound already, and were after a girl about Dora's age. And they'd fallen in love with her over the interwebs.

A meet and greet was arranged and we drove all day, from Queensland to NSW, so Dora could meet the humans and hound. It went even better than we'd hoped, and Dora is now officially on her two week trial period with them. Assuming all goes well, they'll adopt her at the end of the trial. 

On our road trip to her forever home!

Her new home has soft dog beds and couches and treats and yummy food and a huuuuuge yard to explore at pats and kisses and LOVE. I couldn't have dreamed up a better, more perfect home for her. There have been tears as I've had to leave her behind, along with a piece of my heart, but I know for sure that this is Dora's Happily Ever After. And I couldn't be more thrilled.

Dora with her new brother Cairo