Oct 30, 2017

What Are You Reading?

Hi everyone, I'm in a nosey mood and would love to know what you're reading!

I'm currently reading a classic Sarah Mayberry, The Other Side of Us.

I'm also reading a couple of books by New-to-Me authors. One is Nancy Warren's Kiss a Girl in the Rain.

And Rachel Lacey's Unleashed.

I always have a few books on the go - one upstairs by my bed to read each night, and at least one other to read while I have a coffee (or any other time I can sneak in some reading time!). Does anyone else read more than one at a time? Please tell me it's not just me!

But, the big question: what book are you reading right now? Is it one I should be grabbing a copy of myself?

Oct 29, 2017

Sunday Smooch - The Greek's Forbidden Princess

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Annie West but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Pam Swain!

Can you please contact Stefanie London at stefanie(at)stefanie-london.com to receive your copy of 'What She Wants'.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Annie West's THE GREEK'S FORBIDDEN PRINCESS.

Illicit nights with the billionaire… 

News of a tragic accident plunges Princess Amelie's life into turmoil. To escape the swarming press, she takes her newly orphaned nephew and runs, seeking the protection of one man. 

Lambis Evangelos desires Amelie beyond all reckoning, but refuses to taint her radiant beauty with the guilt of his past. For years he's resisted his longing for her luscious body—until Amelie's arrival at his doorstep draws him too close to her forbidden temptation… 

His secluded Greek island is a refuge from the world. There, Amelie and Lambis have no choice—they must yield to their fiery, uncontrollable passion! 

Scene set-up
Lambis and Amelie are together at his Greek villa, both trying to help her traumatised nephew. But despite their common purpose, they're at odds because both are fighting the attraction that has simmered between them for years.

Smooch  -
She was on her feet and turning away when she heard the scratch of his chair on the paving.
‘Wait, don’t go.’ A big hand closed around her upper arm.
For a millisecond Amelie’s jagged nerves eased at the reassurance of that touch. Till she heard Lambis’s hiss of indrawn breath and his hand dropped away.
Amelie stood, blinking at the view of garden lights and the dark bay beyond, telling herself it didn’t matter. Truly. She’d had plenty of time to accept he didn’t want her.
But that instant reaction told her more. It told her she actually repelled him.
What was wrong with her? Twice in her life she’d reached out to a man, believing they shared something special. Twice she’d been pushed away.
She blinked again, horrified by this curious stasis gripping her. She couldn’t lift her feet. It was all she could do to repress the wild tumble of emotions churning inside.
‘Why, Lambis? What is it about me?’
She hadn’t intended the words. Heaven knew she’d worked for years to put on a bland, unconcerned face on the few occasions she and Lambis had met since that fateful summer. Pride dictated she say nothing, just accept she was flawed in some way that made her attractive from a distance, to the adoring crowds and the press, but not up close. Not to a man she cared about.
‘What do you mean?’
Amelie counted to five, telling herself to forget this and walk away. She had enough to contend with without opening up this too. Yet how could she fix whatever was wrong with her, if she didn’t know the problem? Was she forever doomed to repel rather than attract?
On a spurt of defiant courage she spun on her heel. He stood close behind her. So close she had to hike up her chin to meet his unreadable gaze.
UK cover
‘Why don’t you want to touch me? It’s not that you’re afraid I’ll misinterpret and think you’ve changed your mind about…us.’ She swallowed hard but kept going, determined to have this out. ‘What is it about me that’s so…’ she waved a hand, searching for the word, ‘wrong?’
‘Wrong?’ His brow wrinkled. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, Amelie.’
Yet she read strain in the tendons of his neck that stood proud. In the flare of his nostrils and the pulse racing at his temple. Amelie looked down and saw his hands bunched into fists.
‘Isn’t there?’ She lifted her hand and lightly touched his cheek. Silky heat and just a touch of abrasiveness met the pads of her fingertips.
She’d wondered how it would feel to touch him.
But his instant step back told her everything she needed to know.
‘Actually, don’t bother answering.’ She’d been wrong. She didn’t need to know the answer. Tonight, with so many other insurmountable problems, she didn’t have strength to wrestle with another.
She was turning when his arm shot out, barring her way. Again, he didn’t touch her, yet it felt as if the air between them snapped and sizzled with electricity. How she deluded herself.
‘You want to know why I don’t touch you?’ His voice sounded different, raw and hard. ‘It’s because I don’t dare.’
Amelie frowned. ‘What are you saying, Lambis? I don’t understand.’
‘No, you don’t, do you?’ His voice was husky. His hands closed around her shoulders, turning her to face him, pulling her so close she shivered as the heat of his big body encompassed her. ‘I’ve tried to resist you, Amelie. I thought I’d succeeded, but I can’t do it anymore. Not when you’re so close, so…’ He shook his head. ‘Every time I see you I want to touch you, more than touch you.’
Amelie’s eyes widened. Her breath caught as he lowered his head. His eyes, the colour of a storm cloud shot with lightning, captured hers.
‘There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, Amelie.’ His breath feathered her cheeks. ‘The problem is me. And the fact I want to do this.’
He hauled her up on her toes, wrapping powerful arms around her, then slanted his mouth over hers.

Amelie begins this story sure that Lambis doesn't care for her, more, that he doesn't like her. Boy, was she wrong!

Have you ever believed something and then found out you were completely wrong? Maybe it was a first impression of someone that proved false, or a discovery not about a person but a thing. How did you react?

Leave a comment and you'll go in the (international) draw to win a signed copy of  'The Greek's Forbidden Princess'.

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Oct 25, 2017

Why are tropical islands so alluring?—Kandy Shepherd

What is it about a tropical island that makes it such an appealing setting for a romance novel? 

I’ve just returned from a week staying on the small island of Nusa Lembongang, near Bali in Indonesia.

Mushroom Bay

 I can attest that the exotic setting, the heat, the lush tropical growth, the beautiful azure sea, all contribute to an all-round relaxed sensuality. The fact it’s too hot to wear much clothing also helps!

The lumbung where we stayed at the Hai Tide resort

There were some beautiful young honeymooners at the island while were there. It made this romance writer’s heart melt to see them so blissed out together—and also happy my husband of twenty-eight years and I were able to spend some relaxed, stress free time together. 

View from our room

Perhaps what makes a tropical island so popular for real-life romance is what works in a romance novel! What do you think?

So romantic eating on a beach watching the sunset - and not having to cook the dinner!

 Will I be using the gorgeous island I just visited as a setting for a book? But of course—I’m writing it now!

Tropical flowers add an extra layer of appeal, here a heliconia

I’d love to see your thoughts on why or why not a tropical island mades a good setting for a romance novel!

Oct 23, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Stefanie London

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Jayne.

Can you please contact ally@allyblake.com to receive your prize.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Trouble Next Door

McKenna Prescott is the queen of picking the wrong men. When her latest boyfriend dumps her, she decides to devote her time to “exploring herself” (read: drinking wine and ordering sex toys online) and starting her freelance makeup business. That is, until an embarrassing delivery mix-up puts her sexy, gruff neighbor in her path…

Beckett Walsh is married to his job…which is a deal-breaker for the woman he’s supposed to be marrying. Even worse, his would-be father-in-law has pulled support from Beckett’s startup and now Beckett stands to lose everything. But the gorgeous, crazy makeup artist from down the hall has an equally crazy but mutually beneficial idea: if he convinces his sister to hire McKenna for her high-society wedding, McKenna will teach him about what women want so he can get his fiancée back.

Scene set-up
McKenna is at Beckett's place after a particularly heinous family dinner, where her mother was up to her usual antics and making McKenna feel like crap.

Smooch  -

The tears threatened again, but she fought them back. There was still time to get out of here with the last of her dignity intact. It might only be a shred, but it was hers and she needed it. She held his gaze for a moment before attempting to stand. But Beckett’s hand reached for hers and she stilled. Frozen.

“If they can’t see what a kind and creative person you are, then f**k ’em.”

McKenna blinked. She hadn’t ever heard Beckett swear before, and it took her by surprise. But now that she looked closer, his expression wasn’t so hard to read after all. His eyes were like blue fire—shimmering and flickering with intensity. His mouth pressed into a hard line, his jaw ticking with effort. And his fingers wrapped around her wrist, burning through the thin fabric of her top.

He was angry. For her.

No one had ever been angry on her behalf before.

Her breath stuck in her throat.

He was closer now. When had that happened? While she was crying into her ice cream? The couch suddenly seemed small, like it was pushing them together.

“Maybe they’re right,” she said, a lump clogging her throat. “Maybe I am wasting my potential.”

They hadn’t said that exactly, but the message had been clear. Though whether it was because they thought her capable of more or because they simply couldn’t conceive that someone who shared their DNA wasn’t a genius,

McKenna wasn’t sure.

“What do you want to do?” he asked.

I want to kiss you.

No. Wrong answer. But the thought hovered and tendrils of desire wound through her. Her breath hissed out between her lips like a silent yes. She wanted him. Badly.

“I…” She shook her head, trying to see through the fog. But it didn’t work. “I…”

She shifted on the couch, digging her knees into the soft, comfortable cushions so that she was closer to him. Her head and heart couldn’t align, the mixed signals clashing until it was all white noise.

“I don’t know,” she whispered, reaching her hand out to touch his face. His skin was soft, cleanly shaven. And damn he smelled incredible—like cologne and fresh cotton. “Or maybe I do.”

“McKenna.” His breath was warm against her palm, and she brushed her fingertip over the corner of his mouth.

He was still holding her other hand captive, like her touch had frozen him solid. But he wasn’t retreating, wasn’t backing away. Maybe he wanted it, too…?

The force with which his lips crashed down on hers took her by surprise, but she yielded. Quickly. Completely. He threaded one hand into the hair at the back of her head, cupping her skull. It was incredibly intimate. Possessive. He pushed his tongue between her lips and she almost groaned when it made contact with her own.

He was soft and hard. Demanding and coaxing. Perfect.

Stefanie is giving away an ebook copy of Trouble Next Door. To enter the giveaway, answer the following question:

Have you ever had a crazy neighbour? What did they do to drive you nuts?

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

Oct 20, 2017

Cat Fever....

Although I'm a cat owner, I've always considered myself more of a dog person than a cat person. But I do adore my cats....a pair of Ragdolls that were both rehomed to us. Recently, I got to hang out with fellow LoveCat and well-known dog rescuer, Rachel Baily, and we talked about dogs, dogs and more dogs....

But then I got home and headed to my office and discovered this....

Oscar....known as the laziest cat in the universe.

He doesn't do much...actually, he doesn't do anything except eat and sleep for twenty one hours a day.

Very different from this....Candy....she'd awake pretty much all night, racing around the house, looking for moths of gecko's or some other tasty morsel with legs she can tear off....

Two cats....same house....same food...same beds....but one who treats me like a servant and thinks I'm around to do his bidding and empty the litter tray. And the other, a huntress, a night stalker, a feline with stealth and cunning.

Ying and Yang. Salt and Pepper. Chalk and cheese.


So.....are you a cat or dog person? Canine or feline? Do you have a funny pet story you'd like to share?

Oct 18, 2017

In the Footsteps of Agatha Christie - Annie West

One of the joys of travel is discovering unexpected things along the way. Don't you think so? I research the places I'm going to visit but I don't organise every hour of every day I'm away (I know someone who does just that)! Though I have some idea of the things I want to see , there's always plenty of leeway for things that just crop up. Burgh Island was one of those.

We stayed in a quaint little cottage in south east Devon (England), on the river Dart. Think white washed stone buildings, thatch roofs here and there. Lanes so narrow only one car can use them at a time, birdsong, greenery and a general peace and beauty. It transpired that just across the river from us was Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home, which was definitely worth the visit, and full of Ms Christie's possessions still. 

Then we noticed our hosts had left recommendations about other places to visit and Burgh Island was one of them. As soon as we read about it we knew we wanted to go there. Here it is, viewed from the coast at Bigbury-on-Sea. I love English place names!
You'll see that it's not really an island, or only just a part time island. This tiny knob of land lies just off the south coat. At low tide, like in this photo, it's connected to the mainland by a sandspit. When the tide comes in though, it's cut off. Isn't that magic? What could be more alluring than an island, except an island that comes and goes?

There's not much on the island other than the very old Pilchard Inn, and the 1920s Burgh Island Hotel. Here's a closer look at the hotel. 

Did you notice that unusual vehicle in the water? Here it is in closer view. It's the water tractor that's used to take people across the water when the tide's in! And yes, that's how we got across. It was rather amazing how much joy there was in climbing onto such a contraption and slowly chugging our way across the shallows. Like an adventure from another era. And this is how people have been getting to Burgh Island for years. So much more fun than taking a car, or walking!

One of the lovely things about the Burgh Island Hotel is that it hasn't been renovated into a modern style. Instead it's all Art Deco loveliness so you really feel like you're entering another era, In fact some of the rooms are named for previous guests, including Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Josephine Baker, Amy Johnson and Malcolm Campbell. Wallis Simpson stayed here and plenty of other notables. 

One of the fun aspects about the place for a reader, is discovering the location was the inspiration for some well known stories, namely Christie's 'And Then There Were None' and 'Evil Under the Sun'. A TV adaptation of the latter Hercule Poirot mystery was filmed here too.

Personally, I loved the Art Deco elegance of the place. Just perfect for sitting, sipping a cool drink or a cup of tea and soaking up the ambience and the great views.

Have you ever had a particularly wonderful holiday find? Somewhere you hadn't known about before you arrived in the vicinity that was just fantastic?

Oct 16, 2017

Learning new skills

I have wanted to learn how to sew ever since I was a kid. I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch with my mother painstakingly hand sewing sequins onto dance costumes and being endlessly fascinated by the creations our dance schools came up with.

For some reason, I never made time for it. Life got busy, I studied, threw myself into my career, changed careers, moved countries and all the while this personal goal languished in the depths of the "one day I'll do it" basket.
Current project fabrics

Until now! I'm currently taking a "sewing fundamentals" class where they teach us the basics of using a machine, selecting fabric and making some fun and simple projects.

We're making:
  • A headband (perfect for keeping those pesky layers out of my face while I'm taking my makeup off)
  • A cosmetics case (which will be the blue fabric below on the outside, and coral on the inside)
  • And a cushion cover (hedgehogs FTW!!)

I've got grand plans of getting my own machine and dabbling with dressmaking. My goal is to make an item of clothing that I would be proud to leave the house in. Baby steps! For now I'm just trying to remember how to thread the machine on my own.

What's something on your "one day I'll do it" list? Or have you conquered something from that list already?

Oct 15, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Ally Blake

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

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

Can you please contact melaniemilburne@gmail.com to receive your prize!
And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Ally's The Dance Off.

- - - - -
I'm so excited to bring you a smooch from The Dance Off, quite possibly my hottest book!
Brilliant architect Ryder Fitzgerald's little sister Sam is getting married. Without their father on the scene, Sam has asked Ryder to give her away.  The honour comes with a hitch - Same insists Ryder have dance lessons so as to be ready for the brother-sister dance.
Enter Nadia Kent - dance instructor, daughter of one of the world's most famous ballerinas and sexiest woman Ryder has ever met.
Ryder would rather eat his shoes than take lessons and Nadia would rather be dancing than teaching, so the tension is high. Add an attraction neither wants but both can't resist, and a summer storm brewing outside the studio, the dance lessons get hot and sweaty for more reason than one.
. . . . . . . .
Nadia eased herself into Ryder’s frame, adjusting only slightly, using her body to urge him where he needed to go. And this time, as one, their feet began to move. Slowly, gently, no push or pull, just the music pulsing through the floorboards and rocking them to and fro. Nadia nodded. Good boy.  The music swelled around them, all harp chords and piano keys, and the singer’s husky voice crooning about spinning round and round, moving so fast. Nadia moved Ryder forward, and then he moved her backward, the rhythm so natural she let him. He slid his hand an inch further around her back until her belly met his, and she let him do that too. He tucked their arms nearer their sides, which wasn’t classic dance hold, but even while it made Nadia’s breath swell she didn’t put a stop to it. The rhythm had other ideas as the dance swirled around and through them, binding them together and shutting out the world.
It was bound to happen, considering the way their bodies had fitted together in that kiss. That mind-blowing kiss—
Lightning lit up the room, followed by a crack of thunder, and then out went the lights. Then the fans. Music too. Not for the first time that week, but it was the first time they didn’t flicker straight back on.
The heavy silence, the oppressive stillness in the air, the shards of moonlight the only thing between them, it should have been the perfect chance for Nadia to cut her losses and call the lesson over. Except neither of them stopped swaying.
In fact, Nadia might even have leant her head against Ryder’s chest. Curled her fingers into the loops of his top. Melted a little when his chin landed gently atop her head. Melted a whole lot when his hands slid around her waist, across her tailbone, his thumbs dipping into the elastic of her skirt.
It was madness. Completely the opposite of what she’d set out to do with her hour. And not an altogether appropriate way to earn a fee.
But boy did she miss this. Not just the dancing, but the human connection. Skin on skin. Heat on heat. Feeling a part of something. Feeling discovered. Feeling wanted. And with every sway the sweetest sensation poured through her; a fragile serenity, not only filling nooks and crannies but opening them wide, till all that feeling pressed to the outer edges of her everything. And her heart became a bruising beat against her ribs.
Then, before she could talk herself out of it, she lifted onto her toes, wrapped her arms about Ryder’s neck. And then easy as you please her mouth met his. Hot, wet, open, lush.
His tongue met hers, and she turned to liquid, melting against him as if she wanted to vanish right on inside. And with a groan he lifted a hand to the back of her head, the other gripping her backside, leaving her in no doubt just how much he wanted this. And the warmth inside soon spun into a crazy heat.
She tugged his top over his head, all but growling at the sight of him. Rippling, hot, golden, even in shadow. No wonder she’d been so bent out of shape all week. How could she function on a normal level, when there was this to be had?
Her nails scraped through those tight curls of hair covering his chest and he sucked in a breath between his teeth, and grabbed her by the wrists.
She shot him a look through the darkness. Really?
And with a flicker of the muscle in his cheek, he eased his grip. Shuddering deliciously as she continued her exploration. All that heat. All that strength. She kissed her way across his chest, the salty taste of him turning her thoughts into a faint grey haze.
She felt him bunch beneath her touch before the groan tore from his mouth. And then his hands were on her shoulders, clever thumbs pulling her shirt away giving his mouth better access to her neck, his tongue tracing her collarbone, his teeth nipping the swell of her breasts. And when her collar slipped another inch and his mouth found her nipple, at the curl of his hot tongue she began to tremble.
Nadia dragged her fingers through his hair and held on tight as Ryder proved himself greedy, taking her mouth, taking everything he wanted, leaving her weak, loose, nothing but impulse, and sensation. With no thoughts to cling to except a dull buzz inside her head.
It buzzed again, and through the haze Nadia realised it was the trill of a phone chirruping through the heavy air.
When Ryder pulled away Nadia went with him, following his lips with hers. Not done yet. Not even close.
 - - - -
Want to know what happens next?
Grab The Dance Off here!
I was a dancer growing up - but only took my first ballet lessons for the first time last year. It was a beautiful experience, but boy was it hard.
Have you ever taken dance lessons as a grown up? Come back next Sunday to find out which commenter wins an ebook copy of a backlist book of mine!
Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver