Jul 27, 2018

When Childhood Dreams Come True

by Helen Lacey

Last week, I had a flash back to my eight year old self who had re-read My Friend Flicka for the countless time and then spent days begging her parents for a pony. Anyone who knows me, knows that horses are a huge part of my life. 

As a child I read Black Beauty over and over. And the Silver Brumby series. I watched Follyfoot on the TV and loved Mr. Ed. I had a shelf filled with picture books and would stay up late when I had the chance to watch the international showjumping.

I did actually get a horse when I was thirteen. He taught me patience and responsibility and we were together for twelve years. 

In the last ten years my husband and I have owned several more horses, but last week, a new pony arrived. Her name is Pepper and in some ways, she feels like the horse of my heart. Is there such a thing? I’m not sure. I guess it’s how some dogs seem to resonate more to our emotions than others. 

Pepper is thirteen and very sweet. She was. Little nervous for the first few days, no doubt because of her new environment and routine, but she has settled in so well.

I write about horses a lot and try to keep it as real as possible. I never have my hero’s astride black stallions etc (because in the real world, I don’t know anyone who rides a stallion outside of the competition ring and stallions are nothing but trouble, since all they think about are girl ponies). And I love being able to share this part of my life with my readers.

But yesterday morning I was at the paddock feeding the horses and I looked at Pepper and wished I could go back and tell that eight year old girl who loved My Friend Flicka, that one day I would be standing beside a pretty chestnut mare with a loving nature and who I know will be a friend for life.

Is there anything you would like to go back and tell your younger self?

Jul 22, 2018

Sunday Smooch with Clare Connelly

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Clare Connelly's July release for Harlequin Presents, Bound by the Billionaire's Vows. 

But first the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Linda Christie.

Please contact Amy Andrews to receive your e-copy of Playing Dirty (such a great read! I finished it in one sitting, you're going to love it!).

And now for today's smooch.

'I have a condition…' Can she agree to her husband's terms?
When heiress Skye learns her marriage to Matteo was built on lies, she demands a divorce. A pawn in his revenge, Skye's heart shattered when she discovered her husband's game. The clock is ticking; she needs his signature. But Matteo is not willing to let Skye go so easily – the price of her freedom is one last night together!

Scene set-up:

Skye wants out of her marriage. Her billionaire husband ruthlessly manipulated her into marriage just because she had something he wanted. But now she knows the truth, she wants a divorce... the only problem is, she's pregnant with his baby, and if he finds out, she knows he'll never let her walk away from him again!

Having succeeded in getting Matteo to sign the divorce papers, Skye is almost free, but an accident outside his office (she falls into a Venetian canal, whoops!) has her being rushed to hospital, where her condition becomes known. A concerned Matteo is by her side, wanting - needing - to know that she will be okay. That is until he learns that she's pregnant - and was trying to hide the truth of her condition from him! Worse, Skye had plane tickets in her handbag, to Australia, and he surmises - correctly - that she intended to not only run away, but to hide as well.

Desperate not to lose his heir, he rips up the divorce papers. She's his wife, and they're going to raise the baby together!

The Smooch:    

‘I don’t want to raise a child with you,’ she said with a determination that was somewhat belied by her quivering lower lip.
‘That is not your decision.’
Skye pulled a face. ‘We’re divorced, remember? Or as good as.’
Matteo’s mouth formed a grim line. ‘There will be no divorce.’ He reached into his pocket and pulled out the papers, tearing them in half with satisfaction, along with the contract for the hotel. The whole deal was off. This baby changed everything.
Skye’s eyes followed the soft ripping of the soggy paper then flew to his face. ‘You will not be flying out of Italy, taking my child with you.’
‘You can’t stop me,’ she snapped, wrapping her arms around her slender body, holding herself tight.
‘Like hell I can’t.’ He spoke coldly. ‘If necessary I will take this matter to the family courts today.’
Skye’s mouth dropped open. ‘You…can’t stop me from leaving. No court would make a mother remain in a country that she’s not even a born citizen of.’
He lifted a hand, silencing her with the simple gesture. ‘Perhaps not. But you had better believe I will have every reporter available covering the story. Our child will know, from as soon as he can read, that I foughtlike a dogfor him. That I wanted him—and you wanted simply to take him from me.’ He leaned closer, his face only inches from Skye’s. ‘I will fight for him with my dying breath. You will long for the days when we were married, rather than being in constant custody disputes in court.’
She shivered, his threat making her stomach roll. ‘You wouldn’t do it. You’re too private.’
‘There is nothingI wouldn’t do for my child.’
‘Then let-let me raise him,’ Skye stammered. ‘Let me raise our baby, because that’s best for everyone. And you can be…involved,’ she conceded, because she could clearly see she had no other option.
‘How involved?’ Matteo demanded.
‘You can visit. Several times a year. I suppose I can bring him to Italy when he’s older. We’ll work out a schedule.’ She said the word as though it was the miracle cure they desperately needed. ‘Christmas, birthdays, just like every other divorced couple.’
Your parents weren’t together,’ Matteo said with cold disbelief. ‘You told me that you hated feeling pulled from one to the other. Yet you’d suggest it for our child?’
Skye froze. He was right, of course. Though Skye hadn’t spoken much about her upbringing, she’d obviously given enough indication for him to glean the truth of her loneliness.
‘We’ll do it better than they did,’ she said softly.
‘We won’t do it that way at all.’
Disbelief scored her heart. ‘You can’t make me stay married to you. That’s insane.’
‘Insane is what you planned to do. Insane is planning to hide your pregnancy and baby from me. Hell, Skye, I cannot believe you thought, for one moment, that I wouldn’t find out.’
‘How would you have?’ she snapped. ‘This was just bad luck. If I hadn’t passed out…’
His eyes glittered with anger. ‘Yes?’
Skye’s cheeks were pale. ‘You would never have known. Ever.’
‘Because you were going to disappear into thin air and hide from me?’ He moved closer, his expression menacing. ‘And what if you met another man? Would you have married him? Raised my child with him? Would you have let my child, the Vin Santoheir, grow up with no idea of who he is? From where he comes?’
Skye was as white as a sheet and, in the part of Matteo’s brain that was working, he recognised that he should ease up. That he should give her a moment to breathe and reach her own conclusions. Only, Matteo had rebuilt the family empire by sheer determination alone and easing up on any of his adversaries was not something he believed in doing.
And Skye was his adversary—his enemy—not just by blood, but now also by deed. How could she not be, given the deception she’d been willing to practice?
‘Answer me, damn it!’ he demanded, and when she didn’t respond he grabbed her around the waist, pulling her body to his. Her lips parted on a wave of shock and he took advantage of the surprise, driven by a soul-deep instinct. He ground his mouth to hers, lashing her with his tongue, stirring her into the kind of frenzy that had typified their short, super-heated marriage.
It wasn’t just about possessing her. He wanted to possess all of her, to mark his claim on her as his wife, and as the mother of his baby. He wanted to claim their child. ‘This is my baby.’
Skye was frozen with shock but it didn’t last long. The second Matteo’s lips touched hers she was flashing back into the past through the days of their marriage, the nights of their passion, the need that had always defined them. She was losing a battle to the only truth she could rely on—sensual need.
‘Would you have raised him with another man?’ He asked the question straight into her mouth so that she heard the words in the depths of her soul and felt his pain as though he’d touched her there. But he didn’t break their kiss, making it difficult for Skye to answer.
‘This is my child.’ The statement was filled with judgement. ‘And you are my wife.’
Skye made another sound, a mix between a groan and a sob, a sound of desperate emotion and pain, of acknowledgement and regret.
‘I won’t let you go. Not now.’

Poor Skye... or might it just be that she gets *everything* she's ever wanted in life? BOUND BY THE BILLIONAIRE'S VOWS is out at the end of July but to win a signed paperback copy (international post is fine), tell me your favourite place in Italy! Have you ever been to Venice? If not, where would you want to go? For my part - it's Florence. I could lose myself in that city, and the countryside surrounding it. I ache to go back - it's my "in another life, I'd live here" city. How 'bout you? 

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

Jul 19, 2018

Vacation Reading

by Bronwyn Jameson

Despite a succession of cold foggy midwinter days, I'm forcing myself toward optimism. Because winter is halfway done...or, if you're in the other hemisphere, the summer heat is halfway done.  We're all on our way out of the extremes and heading toward the enticements of spring and fall.  My favourite seasons.  Yay!

We all have our favourite season(s) and I've been pondering the concept of seasonal reading.  This was driven by the sharing, a month or two back, of several lists of recommended Summer (or Beach) Reads.  This year I garnered at least six new titles/authors for my TBR list, saved for possible purchase for my next vacation reading binge.

On holidays, whether that's a grand adventure with long plane trips (excellent for reading!) or a staycation (equally excellent for reading!), I do choose books that are a little different to my norm.  I want something absorbing, entertaining, unputdownable. Something that adds to the vacation feel by removing me from my usual pattern.  My usual mood.  My usual genre ... that being traditional romance, mostly category or shorter length titles, from trusted authors and/or series.

My vacation reads may include a dark thriller, a family saga packed with secrets and drama, a fun frothy chic-litty comedy, or a slice-of-life told with an engrossing voice.  There may be a once-a-year title by a favourite author, or it may be completely new-to-me, chosen from the blurb or title or buzz.

I've included a few covers from this year's Summer/Beach Reading recommendations and a couple of new titles by author favourites.  Have you read any of these?

Do you read different genres or types of books when on holidays?  

What does the term "Beach Reads" conjure up (apart from sand between the pages or sunscreen smeared on your Kindle screen)?

Jul 15, 2018

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 Veronica!

Can you please contact Helen Lacey at helenlaceyauthor (at) gmail (dot) com to receive your copy of The Secret Son's Homecoming.

 And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Playing Dirty.......


Sydney Smoke star recruit Kyle Leighton can’t believe the best sex of his life was just a one-night stand. He didn’t even know her name… Until she shows up at the locker room two weeks later and he connects the dots.

 Val King. Oh shit.

Coach has one hard and fast rule: Never, ever date (much less f*ck ten ways to Sunday) his daughter. And not only did Kyle break that rule, but he wants to break it over and over again. In the shower. Against a wall. On every flat surface in his home.

But the coach and his daughter share more than just DNA. Their issues run deep and fooling around with her could widen the family chasm. And get Kyle benched for life.

So why can’t he stop thinking about her? Flirting with her? Suggesting they date for real and damn the consequences?

Scene set-up

Val has just let Kyle pick her up in a bar. She knows he's her father's star new recruit to the Sydney Smoke rugby team, but he has no clue she's his boss's daughter. 
And that she's a whole lotta off limits.
She's gone back to his place for some sexy fun times because it is her birthday and because its the ultimate screw you to her father. She knows she's going to hate herself in the morning but right now is all that matters. Right now and their first kiss....

Touch. She had to touch him. A distant siren wailed in through the open glass doorway. A wise person might have taken it as some kind of portent, but Val was too far gone to pay any heed.
She took the one step required to bring her body up against his and swore she heard the sizzle as her nipples came into contact with the smooth hardness of his chest. She certainly heard the quick, rough intake of his breath. Rising to her toes, she slid her hands around his neck, their mouths so very, very close.
But there were parts of them that were closer. Val was excruciatingly aware that only two scraps of fabric were keeping them decent, and the hard ridge of his erection was pressing against the screamingly sensitive flesh between her legs.
It took all her willpower not to grind against him. As if he knew it, his hands came to rest in the small of her back, his fingers splaying again, pressing her closer.
“I think it’s time—” She stopped to draw in a ragged breath. There wasn’t enough air in her lungs when she was this close to him. “For my birthday kiss.”
His mouth was so close it almost brushed against hers as his lips broke into a smile. “I think it’s past time.”
“Okay. Don’t move,” she whispered. “Let me.”
He didn’t move. He stayed perfectly still as she fitted her mouth to his. So still she could feel the tension of his neck muscles and the rigidity of his abs and quads, the steel band of his hands in her lower back. But he let her lead, standing passively in the circle of her arms as she nibbled and tasted his mouth, her tongue licking along the seam of his lips. They parted under her probe, and she moaned triumphantly as she tasted beer.
Val’s senses swam with it, and she pulled back, temporarily overloaded. By him, by who he was, by what she was doing. She shut her eyes as she ran her tongue over her lips, savouring his taste, humming her approval. Her eyes fluttered open to find him watching her intensely.
“That was…sweet.”
“Sweet?” He made a low, growly noise at the back of his throat. “Fuck that.”
He kissed her then. Really kissed her. A proper birthday kiss. Nothing sweet about it. Not one little bit.
It was hard and fast and dirty, the power of it crowding her backwards. Back, back, back until her ass and shoulder blades hit the wall. Val barely noticed as his tongue—his clever, clever tongue every bit as good as he’d promised—took full possession. A hand slid under her hair, clamping at her nape while his mouth roved over hers, twisting and turning and demanding that she answer him back with the same fervour.
And she did. God help her, she did. Every desperate breath she sucked in around the demands of his mouth was full of him.
Full of beer and voodoo. Heady. Intoxicating her beyond all reason.
It was the kind of kiss that belonged in a movie. That was hot and effortless and arousing. That made the audience tingle and sigh and yearn. Made them pull over the car on the way home for a quickie.
As abruptly as it’d started, it stopped, and Val was thankful for the solid presence of the wall behind her as her knees almost went from under her.
She could hardly hear him above the hammer of her heart, let alone form coherent words. She made some kind of nonsensical noise instead, which he clearly took for agreement.
“Good.” He slid his hands to the backs of her thighs and lifted her. “Plenty more where that came from.”

Thanks for reading folks! I thought you all might appreciate a picture of my feet! Faces are so boring :-)

Val's drinking martinis when Kyle stops for a chat. For your chance to win a digital copy of Playing Dirty (must have an Amazon account) let me know in the comments what's your drink of choice when you go to a bar.

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Jul 13, 2018

One of those days ...

Yesterday morning I was up well before six as I had an appointment in Nelson at 8.30am, and another at ten. Nelson is approximately 95kms away and since we've been having diabolical weather I decided to allow an extra half hour to get there in case of trouble. Little did I know.

At the end of our road lights were flashing in the dark. A bit late to be taking the cows to the milking shed I thought. Nothing to do with cows but the road. I was barred from heading in the usual direction. 'A truck has rolled, completely blocking the way through,' the guy manning the hurriedly erected barriers told me. 'You'll have to go the long way.' At least I had that option although it meant heading in the opposite direction to my destination. Except the road, the Queen Charlotte Drive as it is known, is in a state, with numerous slips and slumps that the roading crews are working round the clock to clear and fix, for the second time in two weeks. These roads wind around the edge of hills with the sea below. It was a slow thirty minutes to Picton where everything was under a heavy blanket of frost - so slow down further and take it easy.

I head towards Spring Creek and what's next is fog. And more fog. At last I reach the turn off and I'm finally heading towards Nelson. The traffic cops are out in abundance and everyone's crawling along. When I have coverage I phone the medical centre and explained the situation. The receptionist kindly squeezed me in between two other appointments. I just had to get there.

One hour later than I should've, I go through Havelock and into more fog. I finally made it to Nelson , dashed into the medical centre and saw the doctor, then raced to the accountant's, late for that appointment. By then I was ready for a very strong coffee (too early for wine) so parked and headed into a cafe. Ten minutes later I returned to find a parking ticket on my windscreen. Great. it had just become the most expensive coffee I've ever had as the area I parked in is controlled by an international company not the local council. Who knew that? Not me.

Mr Mac had been in Nelson since the day before, working at the port for two days. I was going to hang around to pick him up at six when he finished. Then he texted, said he probably wouldn't be coming home as the ship they were loading had been shut down by Maritime Safety. Seems my day was rubbing off on him. I decided to wait until he knew what was happening.
Then a text from a close friend who wanted to take me to lunch as a belated birthday present. Perfect. We had a great couple of hours catching up. But what was happening with Mr Mac? The phone was silent. Because I'd accidently flicked my phone into silent mode. A message popped up from an hour earlier, he was ready to go home. Then another, he'd see me at home.  I left town, knowing he had a ride, and trying to get in touch every time I had coverage, not often on that bush enclosed road. He wasn't picking up my calls, apparently he'd run out of time on his phone and since it's out of the ark he can only top up on the computer.

When I passed the place where the truck had rolled that morning I knew my day had been a lot better than the truckie's. Eventually Mr Mac and I got home, the plus side for me was the warm, cosy house with the fire roaring and dinner prepared.
In the end, the day panned out fine, no problems with the doctor or accountant, AND lying in bed last night I began thinking like an author. What if I'd been a beautiful doctor (yeah, right) and was asked to help the sexy, rugged truckie as he'd been injured? I think this story line needs a lot of work, but who knows what might come out of it.

You just don't know what's going to happen when you get out of bed in the morning, do you? Have you had days that have gone haywire and still turned out okay in the end?

In Surprise Twins for the Surgeon my heroine's day didn't go as planned either.

Jul 11, 2018

Reading binge

For the first time this year I've indulged in a mini reading binge, and it's been rather divine (all right, a lot!). Better yet, I've discovered some new to me authors. And as we're all readers here I thought I'd share them with you.

 Virginia Kantra’s Carolina Dreaming. Our own Rachel Bailey recommended this to me and it was an unexpectedly emotional read with great characters who could’ve followed predictable trope-y, plot-y paths, but didn’t. This was a book that had all the feels. And I can’t wait to explore Kantra’s Dare Island novels further.

 Roxanne Snopek’s Forever Yours, Sweetheart. This was just a lot of flirty fun, with an ending that will have you cheering. I hate slut-shaming, so I found this book particularly satisfying. Also, there are dogs…and I love the dogs.

JoAnn Ross’s Herons Landing. I don’t know why, but I thought Ms Ross might be a bit…mumsy, but there was nothing mumsy about this one. It didn’t start off quickly, and there was quite a bit of background to experience in relation to the two leads, but I didn’t mind in the least because Ross writes with authority…and Honeymoon Harbor (the setting for her series) was just such a fab place to spend time in. So, I wallowed. :-)

Sherry Thomas’s My Beautiful Enemy. This was a book that blew me away. It’s a romance that pushes the boundaries of the genre, and succeeds gloriously. The heroine is half-Chinese half-British and the novel is written with a definite Chinese sensibility, and I adored it. I adored everything about it—the heroine is ‘cheer out loud’ empowered, the hero is deliciously unflappable, and the pace is gripping. I can’t wait to read my next Thomas novel (which will be Not Quite a Husband as soon as I find the time).

 And I’ve just rounded my little binge off with a tried and true author, Kelly Hunter, with her wonderful Outback Brides: Maggie’s Run. It’s intense and powerful and I couldn’t put it down.

I can heartily recommend each and every one of these titles. So what about you, what can you recommend at the moment, and have you discovered a new-to-you author this year?

Jul 9, 2018

Romancing the Festival

Byron Writers Festival is being hosted from 3-5 August and we are serving up a lovely slice of romance this year.  As many of your know, I’m the Chair of the Festival and I’m thrilled that romance favourites Rachael Johns, Lisa Walker, Victoria Purman and Christine Wells all accepted our invitation to the Festival.

We will be featuring the following panels and discussions that all touch on the wonderful world of romance:

And Then He Kissed Me with Racheal Johns, Victoria Purman, Christine Wells chaired by the hilarious Mandy Nolan

A Break From the City: Rural Crime and Romance with Mark Brandi, Jane Harper, Rachael Johns chaired by Victoria Purman

What Women Want: Novels by Women For Women with Anita Heiss, Hannah Richell, Lisa Walker chaired by Victoria Purman

Should be a wonderful three days. Great conversation, by the beach, in the sunshine. Would so love to see you there. Grab a ticket today and join me!