Mar 27, 2019

All sorts of family – Kandy Shepherd

Like many romance writers, family is important in my stories. Family—or lack of family—features strongly in the backgrounds of my characters and shapes the people they become, and the way they react to others—particularly the hero or heroine.

I come from a small and somewhat dysfunctional family. Consequently, non-family people are very important in my life. Close, long-standing friends over many years—some dating right back to early childhood—are as much family to me as blood-tie family. That also includes much loved in-laws and step-family.

One of the most wonderful people in my life is my god-daughter—truly family of my heart. Her mother, too. Not only did her mother generously share her with me for the years before my own daughter was born, my god-daughter became a much-loved stand-in older sister to my daughter. That they actually have the same colouring and similar looks, they were often mistaken for “real” sisters. They continue to have an enduring friendship.

With my sweet grand-god-daughter !

Now there’s another member of that “family”—my darling, grand-god-daughter—daughter of my god-daughter.. She’s ten months old and utterly enchanting with the most charming and outgoing personality. (No, I'm not biased!) Recently, I went to her christening in Melbourne and spent a happy weekend with little Elise, her beautiful mother and wonderful father and a group of people who love this adorable baby. Some of the fun was looking back at the photos from my god-daughter’s christening way back when I was the god-mother. Not family of the blood, but “family” all the same.

Training the next generation of readers! This is a book about inspirational women.

 My recent book Second Chance with the Single Dad features a beautiful baby girl named Nina. Her character is inspired by both little Elise and memories of my own daughter. Different kinds of family! (And different definitions of family are explored in the book.)

What about you? Do you have friends and important people in your life who aren’t related but feel like family? I’d love to read your comments!

Now off to cook a meal for a young visitor who is the son of my daughter’s god-mother but seems like a cousin to her…

Mar 25, 2019

This or That? by Amy Andrews

Okay, guys, a little bit of funday Monday. 

This or that?

I'll go first - 

Sing (Karoke only)
Bath (although I so rarely indulge and shower 99% of the time)
Chocolate - I generally indulge in neither as a rule but if I have topick one then yes, definitely chocolate!

Aaaaaaaand tag - now its your turn! :-)


The winner of last week's smooch is Mary Preston!!! 

 Congratulations, Mary! 

Drop me a line: michelle (at) michelle-douglas (dot) com, and I'll pop a copy of the book in the mail for you. :-D

Mar 22, 2019

Congratulations: 2019 RITA Finalists

by Bronwyn Jameson

All here at the LoveCats DownUnder are absolutely and totally delighted with the news that two of our pride are finalists in the 2019 RWA RITA* Awards.  Champagne Congratulations to Amy Andrews, who was also a double-finalist in 2018, and to first-time finalist Michelle Douglas. Both are finalists in the Short Contemporary category with the following wonderful stories:


Billionaire playboy William Trent-Paterson has one year to get married. His grandfather will disinherit him if he doesn’t settle down, leaving his vulnerable sister homeless! So when his old friend Sophie Mitchell jokes that she’d marry him for a million pounds, a temporary marriage seems like the perfect solution! Until, after spending time with the captivating Sophie, Will realizes walking away will be the hardest part…

FAIR GAME, by Amy Andrews
Darcy – There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to play for the Brisbane Banshees in the new Women’s Aussie Rules league. I think I’ve proved that given that I’m willing to put up with the coach being my ex, Tony. He may have stomped over my heart, but I’ve moved on, and I’m focused on my team. I don’t need any men in my life–apart from Levi, of course, my roommate, and friend. And my saviour, now that I’ve corked my thigh in our first game, and need his sports massage skills to get me back on the field. What I feel when Levi touches me … is making things very complicated.

Levi – Darcy was always my best friend’s girl–Tony’s girl. Two years on and she still doesn’t know how I’ve felt all this time. There’s no way I’m leaving her in pain when I can fix her injury and get her back to playing the sport she loves. No matter how much touching her makes me want to make her mine at last. Finally, I’ve got a bit of hope–the last thing we need is Tony suddenly deciding he wants to take Darcy back after all…

You should read THE MILLION-POUND MARRIAGE DEAL if you enjoy:
  • A marriage of convenience storyline that totally works in the modern world 
  • Real characters you want to be best friends with/fall in love with 
  • Being thoroughly engaged and entertained 
  • An authentic English setting 
You should read FAIR GAME if you enjoy:
  • Sports romance with a twist of humour and a double shot of sexy 
  • Strong, athletic women doing their strong, athletic thing 
  • Friends-to-lovers stories, featuring real and likeable characters
  • An authentic Australian setting 

At the LoveCats we are also delighted that former Cat, Stefanie London, is a finalist in the Long Contemporary Romance category with BAD BACHELOR, the first in her fabulous Bad Bachelor series.

You should read all three of these books if you enjoy excellently crafted and written romance from authors at the top of their game.

*What are the RITA Awards?

Romance Writers of America, the trade association for romance fiction authors, promotes their annual awards to recognize excellence in published romance novels and novellas. The RITA is recognised as the highest award of distinction in romance fiction.

Mar 17, 2019

Sunday Smooch with Michelle Douglas

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a retro smooch from Michelle Douglas to celebrate her new The Best Of... anthology, but first...

... the winners (there were 5!) of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway were Jessica Lawson, laurie, Laney4, kimeleon and Jan Vanengen!

Can you please contact Clare: clare (at) clareconnelly (dot) co (dot) uk to receive your copy of Burn Me Once.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Redemption of Rico D'Angelo.

 The man behind the Italian good looks…

Gorgeous Rico D’Angelo is single-handedly saving the world, one disadvantaged teen at a time. The opening of his charity café should be enough for him to finally put the regrets of his childhood behind him…but even as the ribbon is cut on opening day it’s not enough.

Until new hire Neen Cuthbert walks through the door and offers an unexpected blast of sunshine. She’s had her fill of misguided do-gooders, but something tells her Rico is different. Neen won’t let him push her away—especially now she’s discovering that Rico might just need her most of all…

Scene set-up: You know...I'm not sure we need one. ;-)

Rico stared at her, his jaw slack. Then a light blazed in his eyes. It stole her breath. Before she could gather her wits he reached across, took her face in his hands and kissed her.

If Neen had thought Rico’s lips would be cool—like him—she’d have been seriously mistaken. They were hot. Searingly hot. Heat jolted through her all the way down to the soles of her feet, electrifying her. Telling her what she needed and how.

She gasped, but she didn’t pull away.

His grip tightened. And then his tongue stroked her inner lips, teasing and tempting, creating an aching space of need and desire inside her that grew and grew and threatened every shred of her composure until she thought she might die if she didn’t respond.

Her tongue touched his. She felt rather than heard his moan. He smelled of cologne, but tasted smooth, like a buttery Chardonnay. She pressed herself as close as she could and drank him in.

Beyond the sheer unexpected magic of the kiss the table bit into her ribs and the clatter of cups and saucers tried to break her concentration. She did what she could to block it out, wanting to savour this one unexpected moment. A moment filled with energy and hope, and a lightness of being that was utterly foreign to her but utterly right at the same time.

More china rattled and clinked.


Chatter. Laughter.

Kissing her.

The sound of a coffee machine.

So right…


The word screamed through her and Neen planted a hand in his chest and shoved him away. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, trying to rid herself of the taste of him in an effort to settle the clamouring need that hurtled through her. Her body’s betraying hum and thrum, its pounding and pulsing, made her grip the wooden tabletop in an effort to stay upright.

Rico stared at her, his chest rising and falling, his eyes dark and dazed.

This scene is set in a cafe (after all, Neen and Rico are in the process of setting up their own charity cafe). Do you have a favourite place to sneak out for coffee and cake? What's your very favourite thing about your local cafe?

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

Mar 13, 2019

What are you...?

Back in the old old days (that is, in the early days of the Lovecats blog) we often used to open our posts with a series of whats—what I’m watching/reading/listening to etc, and as I love to know what people are watching/reading/listening to etc, I thought that’d be a fun game to play today. So I’ll start…

#1 What I’m watching…

Nothing of particular interest at the moment—reruns of Escape to the Country and Location Location Location (I adore Kirsty and Phil). But, I am going to launch into this soon.

Rachel Bailey has been telling me I MUST watch this. And I have a feeling she’s right. Who else is a fan?

#2 What I’m listening to…

This is the last song I downloaded. And I thought the singer actually sang: “Tell your Mum I said hi”. Noooo. She sings: “Tell ’em all I said, hi”. I have a friend whose 20-year-old son recently broke up with his girlfriend of 5 years. She and his girlfriend are missing each other. That’s what I thought the song was about.

 I like my version better. In this version she sounds all self-pitying and “poor me”. So I continue singing my version of the lyrics. ;-) Who else does this?

# What I’m reading…

I just finished two seriously enjoyable reads. Kaz Delaney’s Chocolate and Old Lace. Rosie Hart and I are going to become very good friends. :-)

 And Tikka Chance On Me by Suleikha Snyder. Amy Andrews told me I HAD to read this, and she was right. It was sassy and sexy with great banter.

So now I’m reading James Scott Bell’s 27 Fiction Writing Mistakes—and How Not to Make Them. I’m knee-deep in my next book, and I feel as if I’ve forgotten how to write (this happens from time to time), and this one is reminding me of a few fundamentals.

 # What’s making me smile…

Because of the James Scott Bell book above, I ordered a hard copy of the book Description by Monica Wood (not available as an ebook) from BetterWorldBooks. And my book sent me a message:

Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

How much fun is that, huh?

So, your turn! What have you been watching, listening to, reading, or what’s been making you smile recently?

Mar 11, 2019

Must Keep at It

Photo courtesy depositphoto
With my writing and day job, I spend a lot of time sitting. With so many messages saying ‘sitting is the new smoking’, I’m very conscious of getting off my butt and getting going.  But, damn, some days it is hard. Sunday is long run day, but with the days not getting any cooler it is a killer. Yesterday it was 28 degrees when I was running – arrrhhh!!! Jumping in the pool after was fantastic.

It was so hot the other day, I decided to walk the dog a long way instead of running. Lucky decision in hindsight. If I’d been running I might have actually stepped on the red-bellied black snake in the grass. Missed it by less than a metre. That’s one way to get the adrenaline buzzing.

But, I do love a good run. Keeps me fit. Keeps my bones strong. Keeps those calories burning. 

What about you? What do you do to keep fit and any tips on an exercise alternative during these heat waves.

Mar 10, 2019

Sunday Smooch with Clare Connelly

Sunday Smooch with Clare Connelly 

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Clare Connelly's BURN ME ONCE.

But first, the winner of last weeks smooch is Laney4! Please email Michelle Douglas to claim your prize.

You. Me. Sex. It's easy.All she has to do is not get hooked…
Ally Douglas has made a deal with Ethan Ash: just sex, no strings, no forever. All she knows about him is that he's a world–famous rock star and absolutely gorgeous. Their sexual chemistry is instant, magnetic, and it satisfies their needs. Only now Ethan has started to break the rules – will Ally be able to stop herself from getting burned?
Hi Lovecats!

I'm so delighted to share a bit of a retro smooch with you today. This is an excerpt from my ROCK STAR book, and the reason I'm going back in time to this sexy read is because I've seen two of my fantasy husbands perform in the last week (Isaac Hanson and Tim Minchin - with huge love for my real-life husband who is, of course, amazing!) and I'm going ga-ga for rock stars - and thought you might like to as well! So this scene is written from the Hero's perspective. Ethan-hotter-than-sin-Ash has just found out his very-recently-ex-girlfriend is getting married to some other guy, and he's met Ally in a bar.... sparks are flying and a sexy one-night-stand is on the cards! 

Language warning! This book is written for Harlequin/Mills & Boon's super sexy Dare line, and features some expletives. 

Every time I question the wisdom of this I think of the freaking Tweet. #soinlove
Sienna’s moved on. Why the hell shouldn’t I have some fun too?
Something squeezes inside me and my past with Sienna flashes before me. The years we spent together. The way we came through the industry together. I get her and she gets me. It damned near killed me when we broke up. Only her promise that it was temporary eased that pain.
And now she’s fucking engaged to another guy.
A new sense of urgency powers my intent.
‘Hell, yeah. Let’s get out of here.’
I drain my beer, noticing she’s hardly touched her drink. I nod towards it but she shakes her head.
‘I’m okay.’
She’s better than okay. Briefly I feel a wave of guilt. To Sienna. To Ally. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m not thinking one hundred percent clearly, but my instincts are telling me to go with this—or is that my cock?—and I’m not going to ignore them.
‘Let’s go.’
I hold my hand out and she places her palm in mind. Her hand’s small, and yet it fits into mine perfectly. I stand and pull her closer to me as I do. She smells like vanilla and moonlight.
Someone’s tipped the press off as to my whereabouts, so that when we step out of the club there’s flashes everywhere. Ally’s surprised. She’s not used to fame and its pointed intrusion. I pull her closer to my chest. The desire to protect her is instinctive. I don’t want her being collateral damage in all of this.
I hail a cab and it stops instantly. I hold the door open for her and she slips inside, a blur of pale skin, bright blue eyes and long red hair. I follow, moving close to her in the back of the cab.
I hear every single one of Ally’s rushed breaths echo inside my soul.
I give the driver my hotel address and then I turn to Ally. I don’t know what I’m going to say to her. Thoughts fly from my head at the sight of her huge wide eyes and parted lips.
Fuck it.
I want her.
I kiss her as though my life depends on it. I kiss her with an aching hunger and desperation that surprises us both.
Or maybe it doesn’t—because it’s exactly how she kisses me back.

I loved writing this steamy, satisfying romance. I hope you fall in love with Ethan Ash as much as I did! 

I'm giving away five digital copies of this book - so leave a comment here or on Facebook and the winners will be announced next Sunday, right here on the blog. Mwah! 

Mar 6, 2019

The Love of my Teenage Life

You know how people say you never get over your first love? Well, it's true. When I was in high school, I fell head over heels, mind-explodingly in love and even though I'm celebrating my ninth wedding anniversary today to my fabulous husband, I've never forgotten the love of my high school life.

And last week, I got the chance to catch up with him and it was like no time had passed. My heart raced, my pulse thundered through my body, my temperature soared, my ears made a weird buzzing noise. I looked across a crowded room and saw Isaac Hanson and I was the same fifteen year old I'd been who'd first adored everything about him.

And the song that propelled Hanson to worldwide fame is no doubt one you're familiar with - MMMBop. But have you listened to the lyrics? Because I couldn't help thinking about them last week, during the concert, when the brothers began to play the famous song.

You have so many relationships in this life
Only one or two will last
You go through all the pain and strife
Then you turn your back and they're gone so fast
Oh yeah
And they're gone so fast, yeah
Oh, so hold on the ones who really care
In the end they'll be the only ones there
And when you get old and start losing your hair
Can you tell me who will still care?
Can you tell me who will still care?

The words are kind of profound, right? And I really loved the fact that the children who wrote this song would have had no idea we would all still be here for them, so many years later. The venue was absolutely packed, full of adoring fans and followers, people like me who fell in love a long time ago - with all their hearts - and never stopped loving and listening.


I'll be back here at the blog on Sunday, giving away FIVE e-book copies of BURN ME ONCE, my rockstar Mills & Boon Dare, which I dedicated to Isaac Hanson (because, love) so share wildly and help someone fall in love with Ethan Ash, every bit as delectable and loveable as my teen crush.

Tell me about your teen heart throb? And do you still love that person, or did you grow out of it? Bonus points if your heart throb was someone you knew and you ended up together forever...!

Mar 3, 2019

Sunday Smooch with Andrea Bolter

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from The Prince's Cinderella but first...

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Donamae Kutska!


Donamae, can you please contact Kandy: kandy (at) kandyshepherd (dot) com to receive your copy of Second Chance with the Single Dad

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Andrea Bolter.

 From event planner…To belle of the ball!

Organizing a charity gala on the glamorous French Riviera is a dream come true for event planner Marie. And then she realizes she’ll be working with single dad--and handsome prince--Zander! Marie has never felt she truly belonged anywhere, least of all alongside royalty, but Zander soon sweeps her into his world of toddlers and tiaras! Dare Marie believe she’s found her fairy-tale ending--a family of her own?

Scene set-up: In Cannes on the French Riviera, Marie and Zander attend glamorous parties together as they work on a charity gala of their own.

    Zander hadn’t meant to kiss Marie. Hadn’t meant to at all!
     Why had he, why had he? His brain throbbed, and would until it had its answer. Maybe it was after being approached by those two aggressive party girls. Who reminded him of Henriette and the endless parade of awful women that had defined his life thus far. Marie was so definitely not like any of them. And he found himself opening up to her, perhaps actually too much.
     But, in any case, a kiss on the cheek was merely a sociable gesture, right? He hoped that was it, although he wouldn’t swear to that conclusion.
     Unfortunately, his mouth wouldn’t stop vibrating after the feel of his lips against Marie’s cheek. Surely the clouds in the sky weren’t as soft as her delicate skin. His mouth had barely brushed across her face but his body reacted as if a firecracker had exploded inside of him.
    His behavior was dangerous. It was shocking how he hadn’t had any control of himself in the moment after he’d confided in her about the royal gold diggers. His mouth was propelled to Marie’s face as if an outside power had deemed it and there was nothing he could do but obey the command.
     Everyone pecked everyone on the cheek at events like this, he reasoned with himself. It was no big deal. Marie had probably forgotten about a minute after it happened. He would, too.
     As those reassurances ticked across his mind, he knew they were lies. The kiss dilated his eyes with desire, both physical and emotional. It was as if he hadn’t known how hungry he was until someone handed him a crust of bread. He suddenly felt as if he was starving.
     However, this was no time in his life to sate that craving.
     He could surely have physical contact with a woman if he wanted to. After the APCF gala. And with a female other than Marie. He was free to have dalliances that meant nothing to him, and not under the same room as Abella of course. But there’d be no getting serious with anyone for many years to come, if ever.
     Indeed, after Henriette, it had been dawning on him more and more that if he were ever to marry, his wife would effectively become Abella’s mother. Not only would he have to find someone he could trust with his niece’s safety and wellbeing, whoever he was with would have to be able and willing to accept Abella as part of the package. To be a good influence on her and to genuinely love her like her own. Zander would accept nothing less. It was a tall order.
     Frankly, he doubted he’d ever meet someone like that. Which was fine with him. Abella was the one in line for the throne. As Zander was Elise’s younger brother, he was not obliged to produce heirs. If he never married it might appear unconventional but wouldn’t harm the royal family in any way.
     So why was it that everything about Marie had thrown him into a brainstorm of new ideas and new contradictions?

  Zander and Marie are in charge of a huge charity gala. If you had loads of money to spend and resources at your disposal, would you enjoy throwing a lavish party? What aspect would be the most fun to you?

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Mar 1, 2019

Curly Girls

One of my favourite episodes of Sex and the City is the one I think of as the Curly Girl episode. 

Remember when Big was dating (engaged to?) Natasha, the perfect, tall, sleek-haired younger woman. It's a pivotal moment in Carrie's life when it hits her that she and Miss Sleek might both be smart, successful women - but they are not the same species.

For Carrie is a Katie Girl (aka Barb in The Way We Were); fabulous, unique, raw, untamed, wild, unfinished, searching, and not kind of girl who classically ends up with the Bigs (or Hubbells) of the world.  For Katie - and Carrie - are determined to be themselves, to own their quirks, to not conform to current social norms in the face of loving larger than life men.

They are curly girls.

It was no accident that 'Natasha' had dead-straight hair. For straight hair is considered professional, beautiful and aspirational. (Which it is!) I'm just saying, when did it become so that curly hair isn't thought of the same way?

There have been moments when a Curly Girl's curls have made a big impact - Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Keri Russell in Felicity, Debra Messing in Will and Grace, the glorious Bernadette Peters in everything she ever did. Meg Ryan flew the curly flag in a number of films. But over time even they have succumbed to the pressure to defrizz. And Hermione (a total Curly Girl) began the Harry Potter franchise with curly hair only to see it smooth out as the films went on.

When Viola Davis wore her natural hair to the Oscars in 2012, rather than a glossy 'straight' weave,  it made international news.

Chris Rock made a fabulous documentary called Good Hair which talked about the overwhelming number of African American women who chemically straighten or weave their hair. He made it for his daughters in an effort to show them that their natural curly hair was amazing, to be celebrated, and need not be homogenized.

Quoting the New York Times, as recently as February this year, the "the City of New York, through its Commission on Human Rights, officially banned discrimination based on hairstyle." Because before then it was actually ok to have rules and policies against cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, curls, hair that stood taller against the crown than a certain measurement. I kid you not. 

A great deal of the pull for me regarding this subject, is that I've always identified as a Curly Girl, whether I straightened my hair or not. Off centre, not so neat and tidy, a little rock chic. And as a kid I had wildly curly-hair. It frizzed, it fuzzed, I had no clue how to tame it, but I owned it. It was a big part of who I was.

Though as time went on and kids came along, my hair changed, it spent most days in a messy bun, or was straightened in an effort to at least appear as if I had it all together. My curls made the occasional come back, but by putting them out to pasture meant I lost a little of the Curly Girl part of myself along the way.

And then came the Curly Girl Method movement. And hallelujah!

Those of you with latent waves or under-appreciated curls, read on.  For what I'm about to tell you may well change your life.

For Curls are making a come back. Curly Girls (or wavy woman, frizzy females) are out there, sharing the right combination of products, and methods, to bring out the best in their curls. Products that are sulphate, paraben and silicone-free which stops the coat-then-strip coat-then-strip merry-go-round. Methods in which you learn about trapping moisture, deep conditioning, beer-protein-rinses, squishing, and scrunching.

It can be as fun and full-on as easy and light as you decide for it to be. For someone who's used the exact same (wrong) shampoo and conditioner for 20 years, for me it was time.

I've taken the plunge. I gave away all the smoothing, 3-day straight, silicone de-frizzing gloop filling my bathroom cupboard and bought leave-ins, and curl creams and apple cider vinegar and a bowl with which to saturate my clumps. I no longer use a towel to dry my hair, rather one of my husband's old t-shirts.

And I love it! My curls are back. My hair has NEVER felt better. And my inner Curly Girl is punching the air with glee!

If I'm ever caught glued to Youtube, my kids are all like, "Which Curly Girl are you watching?"  My eight-year-old son wants to start a movement called "Spiky Boy" and he squishes in his conditioner like a pro. And watching Iron Man 2 the other day, he took one look at Black Widow and said, "Mum, she's a Curly Girl!"

Since I'm also a Never Say Never kind of girl, I may straighten my hair again one day. For fun. But for now - I'm out and proud and au naturale!

My name is Ally, and I am a Curly Girl.

How about you?