Monday, 23 November 2020

Miranda's Bumper Christmas Musings!

It's never too early to say Happy Christmas in November, is it, darling ones? Particularly when this is my last post of 2020. Christmas brings such joy to me, and this terrible year is no exception. It's still something special to look forward to, even if things are madly different. We can find small blessings in the chaos, I'm sure.

I have heaps of exciting Christmas reading for you! Some already read by moi, and some saved TBR in December. I swear the festive books seem to mount in number every year, so obviously I'm not the only one loving it. A lot of these are new-to-me authors, so I'm delighted to share them with you. Pssst! This is a looong list, so feel free to scroll through and at least look at the pretty pics. Worth it. 💋


Picture credit: amazon.com


The first Christmas book I read was The Winter We Met by Samantha Tonge, a new to me author - and I fell in love with it. Nik and Jess meet on a plane coming home from a toy fair, but the romance here is - hmm, maybe not what you think it might be. I loved the whole community in this book, including Jess' work colleagues, her Gran and the other people at Gran's care home, and her gorgeous and reliable flat mate Oliver. A little sprinkle of Christmas magic makes this book an absolute charmer.


Picture credit: amazon.com

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan was another winner! To my delight, this is about book 5 in an ongoing series, which means - more joy in the catching up with the back stories! Jenny Colgan is such a skilful author I just went with the flow and enjoyed every festive moment on the amazing island of Mure. I can't wait to read the rest now. Oh golly, and the food! I wanted to be in the hotel kitchen or the cafe, all the time. I think I put on weight just reading this...


Picture credit: amazon.com

I love Debbie Macomber's annual Christmas book, and Jingle All the Way was no exception. A workaholic gets booked on an Amazon (as in the Amazon River) cruise - where she can't escape (heh) - then goes home for Christmas. But she can't get a certain someone from the cruise out of her head, and he can't get her out of his head. Lots of re-prioritizing has to go on before this unusual couple can be joyful. I must say, the unexpected Amazon cruise was fascinating, armchair travel at its best. 


Picture credit: amazon.com

In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren was absolutely fabulous to read! It was Christmas meets Groundhog Day meets Romance - until Maelyn gets it right and can move into a happy future. Friends, this was novel and unusual, but so smart and superbly funny, you can't help feeling terrific and (mostly) optimistic as you read it. All the characters are endearing and wonderful, especially Andrew (swoon). Super highly recommended! Christina Lauren, meet your new fan. Happy sigh.


Picture credit: amazon.com

One Snowy Week in Springhollow was written by another new-to-me author, Lucy Knott. And let's face it, who doesn't want a wonderful childhood-friends-to-lovers story? Tender and amusing, with lots of issues from the past rearing their head before we get to the HEA. And ooh, he's a fab super-hero movie star (as in a cape and everything), but underneath it all a geek. Too adorable.  


Picture credit: amazon.com

The Christmas Swap by inspirational author Melody Carlson is another tender story. Musician Emma wants a white Christmas, so when the family she usually celebrates Christmas with does a house swap to get to the snow, Emma's thrilled. Little does she know the owner of the house is so intrigued by her, he stays around as 'caretaker'. The heat rating here is sweet kisses. Much to enjoy in this one, and much to think about. 


Picture credit: amazon.com

Missing Christmas is a quick-read novella from Kate Clayborn, author of the acclaimed Love Lettering (also worth a read!). It's a reprint from last year, when it was first published in the anthology A Snowy Little Christmas. It's a lovely, snowy, 'cabin' romance, where two work colleagues get (sort of) stranded over Christmas and take the time to talk about what's in their hearts - at last!


Picture credit: amazon.com

Where are the Aussies, I hear you say? Here they are, and definitely on the beach in Christmas at Kissing Point by Peta CrakeJacqueline Hayley, Clare Miles, Tanya Nellestein, and Kerrie Starbuck. Ladies, you are a welcome addition to my Christmas list, so pleased to meet you! Five wonderful chances at romance. Just the thing for a quick read between hectic shopping and preparations for Christmas. I'm saving this for December as the weather heats up. 😍


Picture credit: amazon.com


Drumroll! Breaking news and I'm so excited about this - look who's released a Christmas novella? Anne Gracie, that's who, with her brand new The Christmas Bride! And, ooh... As soon as I started I was back in the beloved world of Blake Ashton, and those glorious Chance sisters. The joy! And so poignant: it's about forgiveness, redemption - and love. Yes, there were a few tears. Fear not if you haven't read the Chance sisters, Anne is such a skilful writer you'll get the gist, and you'll end up wanting to read them anyway. And truly, why wouldn't you? Consider that hint my Christmas gift to you. 💕

In the spirit of things and because she is a wonderful person, Anne has offered a free e-copy of The Christmas Bride to one lucky reader who comments on this blog. I will draw the results at the end of the week starting 23.11.20. Go comment, you lucky ducks! Thankyou Anne, you are such a treasure!

Here's a 'new' segment I'm trialling for the blog: From the Vault  (AKA from my TBR shelf). I could also call it Blast From the Past or something similar. What do you think? Which title do you prefer? (To be honest, I'm trying to read through my shelves and thought I might as well encourage myself this way. Then I get to share it with you lovely people. Win, win.)


Picture credit: amazon.com


The first to feature from my 'Vault' is a book from 2004, A Visit From Sir Nicholas by fan favourite Victoria Alexander. It's got a little of the Dickensian A Christmas Carol theme about it, with references to the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future! I'll leave you to find out how. Rather a tender tale with a marvellously strong heroine. I was excited to read from the 'vault', and - well, Victoria Alexander... 💝


Picture credit: amazon.com

Almost there, hang on, just a few more exciting books to tell you about! I've nearly finished a trilogy called Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotelin the M&B Forever line (always emotional). The first book about the three siblings, Christmas Reunion in Paris by Liz Fielding is, wow, be still my trembling heart good. About long lost lovers who suddenly meet again - in Paris! Swooningly fab, the gorgeous chef hero is one of the above mentioned Harringtons, and the heroine has so! much! courage! Here's book 2: 


Picture credit: amazon.com

Their Royal Baby Gift by Kandy Shepherd, everyone's fave author. Kandy, how do you manage to keep giving us so many excellent reads? This time it's Sally Harrington meeting a tall, handsome someone special - ta da, an incognito prince! - on a trip to Singapore. First Paris, now Singapore... Too enticing this Christmas, when we live to travel in our armchairs! And finally book 3: 


Picture credit: amazon.com

Stolen Kiss With Her Billionaire Boss by Susan Meier.  I've read several of Susan Meier's Christmas books and loved them. This one just slid into my Kindle, so I'm madly reading about Hugo Harrington (a few juicy/poignant secrets will come out, I'm sure...), and all the Christmassy bling taking shape at the Harrington Hotel. So much gorgeousness - loving it so far.


Picture credit: amazon.com


Secondlast one, I promise. Meet Me In London by Georgia Toffolo, a popular British celebrity, took my eye. Here's another family London department store opening, with the owner and a clothes designer pretending to be a 'couple' for the opening. Described as a classic rom-com/Christmas lit. I'm in! Another read to enjoy in December! 


Picture credit: amazon.com

Of course, after Christmas comes New Year! As I write this, it's anyone's guess what sort of festivities NYE will bring, so why not add to your joy at seeing the new year in - and truly, it cannot come fast enough - with this smashing anthology, Love And Fireworks? Our own beloved Jayne Kingsley (kisses, Jayne) has teamed up with the wonderful Aussie writers who brought us Christmas on Hope Street last Christmas: Megan MayfairStella Quinn, newie Anna Foxkirk and Marianne Bayliss. If you didn't catch it a couple of weeks ago, here's the link to read how they wrote it.

I loved it. The stories are related but so varied they're unputdownable. I was totally surprised by dinosaurs and singers, a cupboard rendezvous (I'm not making this up), twins, and more... There's total razzle dazzle when the story arc culminates in a Community Heroes Foundation cruise on Sydney Harbour. The new year gets fizzed in with fireworks and champagne and romance. We so need extra sparkles after 2020, so yes, yes, yes please! I did love the Golden Tickets given to some very deserving home grown Community Heroes. Such a lovely bookend to your Christmas reading. 

Phew! Well done for staying with me through all the above, you wonderful people. Now, you tell me what you're reading!

Finally, I wish you a great booky Christmas and New Year! Take care of each other, do the right thing for Covid-19, hug your precious ones, and be kind. Until 2021!

Much love from Miranda xxx

Love to love: Christmas books, Christmas goodwill, Christmas everything. 🎅

Love to laugh: at the long Christmas lists from certain young people I know. But pleased to report they're getting more thoughtful every year. Bless.

Love to learn: what you're reading. Always! Fire your list back to me. And don't forget one commenter will win Anne Gracie's ravishing new novella.

Monday, 16 November 2020

What Makes a Great Romance Hero?


 by Enisa Haines



Of the many romance novels available to readers today, how do they choose which to read? To paraphrase Jane Austen, 'it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a romance reader falls in love with the characters, and thus is in want of an irresistible hero.' This hero sweeps us into the story and keeps us turning the pages to that all-important 'happy-ever-after' ending. 

He can be a billionaire businessman, tall, dark and handsome in his three-piece suit; or the lead singer of a rock band, strutting across the stage in black T-shirt and jeans. He can be an easy-going mechanic or a surly vampire. What he looks like and what his profession is isn't what makes the hero alluring. A great romance hero has traits that make him one we never forget.

He has flaws. He's not perfect, has a bias that influences what he believes and how he acts, and these flaws make him relatable to readers. Think of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, so full of pride and disdain for those beneath him in social class, and the troubles his flaws cause him when he meets Elizabeth Bennet.






He leaves his comfort zone. Though it makes him uncomfortable, to win the love of the woman who holds his heart, he will step away from the comfort of the life he's been living. Robert Mallory, Marquis of Shelton and the master of seduction known for brutishly discarding broken hearts in Cassandra Samuels' Collector of Hearts, gives up his wicked amusements when he falls for innocent Arabella Fleming.  



He has emotional courage. Scarred emotionally by a tragic past, he avoids romantic entanglements. Then a woman breaks through his shell and if he is to have her permanently in his life, he has to conquer his demons. In JR Ward's Lover Awakened, the vampire Zsadist, mesmerised by Bella, vanquishes the torturous memories of his blood slave past and surrenders his heart.



He is heroic. He will do anything, no matter what it costs him, to have her. In Nora Roberts' Shelter in Place, Reed Quartermaine puts his life in danger in order to save the life of fellow mass shooting survivor and love of his life, Simone Knox. 



A flawed hero who moves out of his comfort zone, leaves his past behind and sacrifices himself for love. That, for me, makes a great hero. 

What makes a hero great for you? What character traits must he have?

Love to Love: lunch dates with friends

Love to Laugh: at dogs playing up on YouTube videos.

Love to Learn: about great romance heroes




Monday, 9 November 2020

Fanfiction and Romance


According to Rukmini Pande, fanfiction is a genre of amateur fiction writing that takes as its basis a “canon” of “original” material (like books, TV shows, movies and, on occasion, the lives of celebrities).

Fanfic origins (or at least fan communities) can be traced back to the late 1960s and 70s (mostly around science fiction shows). I fell down the rabbit hole in the early 90s, avidly reading Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The X-Files fanfic. In fact, I still have a plastic bucket filled with about four or five reams of paper worth of X-Files and Lois & Clark fic in my garage. Back in the day I did not have the interwebs in my pocket so I printed stuff. A lot of stuff. I recycle to make it up to the trees I killed. I also started dabbling in writing fanfiction, and published a few X-Files stories around that time. Pretty sure they were terrible… but I had a thing for Scully and Skinner that just wouldn’t die.

Fanfiction itself can be controversial. There are valid arguments around copyright infringement and/or plagiarism but it seems that some/most creators are going with the flow. Reports say that Stephanie Meyer never read Fifty Shades, but she has graciously congratulated E. L. James on her success. J. K. Rowling has reportedly said that she is flattered by the interest, and by the fact that people take time to write their own stories.

On the other hand, George Lucas has apparently previously said that Lucasfilm wouldn’t take action against Star Wars fanfiction writers and editors but stipulated that fans should avoid publishing sexually explicit Star Wars stories. The company doesn’t seem to have pursued that (given there are plenty of sexually explicit Star Wars stories out there if you want them) but the whole issue of copyright (and moral rights) remains an open legal question. One blog reports that Fifty Shades was 89% identical to Master of the Universe (its fanfic origins). Frankly, I’m not sure this copyright question will ever be legally resolved as, generally, the fans of the source material are often also fans of the fanfiction and closing down the fanfic might be a little to much like biting the hand that feeds you…

As an aside, the seed of this blog was planted while listening to Fated Mates talk to Christina Lauren
about their journey from fanfic to publishing. You too can listen to the podcast here.

What horrified me in Christina Lauren’s discussion with Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop was that, at the time that Christina Lauren were on submission with their first manuscript, Christina’s original story The Office (which was later reworked by both Christina and Lauren into Beautiful Bastard) was being shopped around to publishers by someone else as their own work. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but this is a ballsy move.

Anyway, so why did I want to touch on this topic?

Because there are some FABULOUS books out there which started life as fanfiction. There are also some BRILLIANT authors out there who cut their writing teeth in others’ playgrounds, plucking characters out of one world and dropping them in another (alternate universe fanfiction), taking them in another direction or developing the story beyond ‘the end.’ And, clearly, fans are hungry for the stories. Romance publishing does just fine thank you very much, even with there being so much free content available (although, yes, the free content can be hit and miss in respect of quality) because romance readers are voracious readers.

Which means that, if you’re a romance reader, you’ve probably read (or seen) something that started its life as fanfiction, often but not solely in the Twilight or Harry Potter fandoms. There are plenty of Pride and Prejudice retellings out there, as well as Disney and other fairy tale retellings and other versions on a theme. As noted above, the Fifty Shades trilogy started life as Twilight fanfiction, as did Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Bastard (one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE books). Anna Todd’s After series started out as Harry Styles/One Direction fanfiction. And Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series appears to have started life as Harry Potter fanfiction.


Then there are some of my other (now published) favourites:

  • the Gabriel’s Inferno series (now being made into a moving on Passionflix);
  • the Submissive series by Tara Sue Me (personal view, this series is better than Fifty Shades and I wish someone would make these into a movie);
  • Wallbanger by Alice Clayton;
  • Pucked by Helena Hunting (which is hilarious, and spawned an eight-book series, with some further spinoffs); and
  • Clipped Wings, also by Helena Hunting which is more angsty but still a great read.

If you want to dive into the fanfiction world, there are plenty of places. Fanfiction.net was my entry point but now there’s also Wattpad, an Archive of our Own and Commaful. Be careful, these are wonderful sites for procrastination… it’s easy to get carried away! Some of these stories are LONG (Wide Awake, referenced above is 400K+ words).

Here are some of my personal faves from the Twilight fandom because, sadly, most of my West Wing faves appear to have vanished:

  • I was pretty excited to see that one of my favourite, but long unfinished, fanfics, Business Class Girl was being updated again (although damn slowly!);
  • Everclear and its sequel and Everclear Revamped which mixes Twilight and Evanescence fandoms (but beware, the third part of this trilogy, Everclear Reunited remains incomplete);
  • Wide Awake which is highly angsty, and appears to be being reworked for publication but remains online here;
  • Departures, ThePracticum and The Purple Banana Hammock by the FicChick.

That said – don’t think you’re limited -pretty much if it’s been a TV, book or movie you’ll find some measure of fanfic out there.

Go, explore! And don't blame me when you're at the bottom of that rabbit hole... 😆



Kristine Charles writes sexy tales where coffee (and red wine) is abundant, designer shoes and handbags are cheap, chocolate has no calories and men always put the toilet seat down. Find her at www.wordsbykristinecharles.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I love to love... fanfiction

I love to laugh... at great romantic comedies (see Pucked, above)

I love to learn... about US politics. Anyone else been caught up in US election fever?!