Monday, 6 April 2020

The Power of Writing

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

In September 2018 on this blog, I wrote an article about how romance novels can empower women. I mentioned how modern romances cover a whole host of hard-hitting issues women face such as rape, abuse and loss of children. I also discussed how romances are culturally relevant and promote discussions about love and relationships and it really hit me how much romance writers as a collective group have achieved and how much a story can not only impact on an individual life but on society in general.

Literature isn’t just a form of entertainment. It’s a powerful platform. It can provoke us into deeper thinking about controversial subjects, challenge the perceptions or prejudices we may hold and teach us so much—all while presenting us with a riveting story.

 (Image courtesy of
Some authors have specifically set out to ignite burning questions and their stories have become classics that are still studied.  Earlier this year, my youngest daughter had to write an essay on George Orwell’s 1984 – a book that I had studied over thirty years ago when I was at school. What a powerful story that is.

George Orwell used his literature to push his political viewpoint and I doubt there are too many romance authors who write with that intention. Having said that, there aren’t too many romance novels (Romantic Tragedies such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet aside) that are perennially studied. But, when I thought about it I realised that there are a lot of contemporary romance novels that make mention of pressing issues that are relevant in our society.

I don’t think it’s necessarily been a conscious decision by the author to bring these issues to light. I feel it has most likely been an organic part of the story, relevant because of the characters’ beliefs, values, difficulties and general life experiences.

I have never set out to write romances as a platform to highlight some of the problematic issues of the world. After all,  by their very nature, romance novels centre on the development of the romance between characters and how each character becomes stronger because of the romance and none of us who read romance want to be diverted from that by a whole host of heavy hitting side issues. But if authors are penning believable contemporary romances, the characters must surely have been touched by some real issues that are present in modern society. Who hasn’t been?

                                                                                                  (Image Courtesy of Pixabay)
When I reflected back on some of the issues relevant to my characters I was surprised by the diverse range of issues that have been mentioned in my stories. I won’t list them all but Logan from Roses for Sophie was campaigning against the use of Blood Diamonds. Chloe from The Irresistible Royal was a lawyer fighting a legal case against discrimination in the workplace. The Formidable King briefly mentioned a dictator in Africa who used child soldiers. The Irredeemable Prince highlighted the need for ongoing measures to be taken against drug dealers. And, in my latest release, Seduced by the Billionaire (12th April release date), both the hero and heroine involved me in a whole host of issues relevant to society—all completely character driven!!

Despite all those issues, I wouldn’t think that they stand out in the readers’ minds and I hope they don’t because they weren’t essential to the romance but they were very relevant to who the characters are.

Are you aware of a romance novel you’ve read where you’ve learned something interesting, or one that’s highlighted a societal problem?

Love to Love: The feeling of emotional connection to characters in romance novels and the satisfying HEA in a story that has delivered entertainment, escapism and on some level has also been educational or thought-provoking.

Love to Laugh: At romantic comedies.

Love to Learn: I love learning as I read romances – whether it’s interesting little facts about life in historical times or in contemporary romances something about a city, culture, occupation or an issue that’s occurring in society.

Monday, 30 March 2020

The Curious Case of a Criminal Conversation

By Cassandra Samuels

Believe it or not, in the Regency period the term Criminal Conversation meant adultery, especially as formerly constituting grounds for the recovery of legal damages by a husband from his wife's adulterous partner.  

There were several such notable "conversations". In this blog post, I talk of a particularly juicy scandal in 1818 involving much more than a mere chat.

Ashton v. Elliot.

Colonel Harvey Ashton was in the army and was said to be a particular friend of Wellington. While away at war he married a Spanish woman, against the advice of his companions, but it didn't take long to turn sour. Margarita was actually the daughter of an Irish gentleman but born in Cadiz, Spain, and the pair re-married when they returned to London. Followed by their first child.

They moved just outside Paris and quickly had a second child (Wellington's godchild). It was in this town called Passy that she met Captain Edward Elliot. He was Ashton's friend but it soon became common knowledge that his attentions lay only with his friend's wife. He was barred from the house but still visited her in secret - through the back door.

The pair were not very careful and soon letters were intercepted and used as evidence in the case of criminal conversation in which Ashton sued for 10,000 pounds.
One of Edward Elliot’s Love Letters to Mrs. Aston, Bell’s Weekly Messenger, Dec 20, 1818.
(©2015 British Newspaper Archive)

Things looked bad for the pair especially when letters from Elliot to Margarita were read out to the court. Then, to everyone's surprise, Elliot's lawyer James Scarlett accused Ashton of sabotaging the situation and brought to the court's attention that Ashton had, 'neglected his lady in a manner the most shameful;'

He discredited the French servant's statements and brought his own many witnesses, painting a very different picture. One that painted Ashton as someone who frequented brothels and mean women of the street. He stated that Ashton had caused his wife to suffer from syphilis and the need for mercury treatment, nearly killing her.

When the jury made a decision it was that Ashton not be awarded the 10,000 pounds he had wanted but only 100 pounds because he had caused so much illness to his wife through his dissipated actions. So, although he won the case Ashton had the story follow him everywhere and his reputation sullied.

Love to love: Just sitting and admiring my garden and listening to the water feature bubble away.
Love to laugh: At a good Rom Com.
Love to learn: About wellness and looking after my mind and body.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Welcome to Our Guest Blogger, Cindy Davies!

Hello everyone, I'm Cindy Davies, romantic suspense author. Thank you for joining me today! You can read more about me on my website.  The novels I'm talking about today are The Afghan Wife and The Revolutionary's Cousin.

The Afghan Wife is set in Iran during the volatile times of the Iranian Revolution. Zahra, mother and widow, is coerced by her cousin Firzun to travel from Afghanistan to Iran, posing as his wife. When she's reacquainted with wealthy, handsome Karim, sparks fly. It's a strict society - she's off limits because she's 'married'. Then a dramatic turn of events means Karim can declare his forbidden love and offer Zahra and her son a new life in America.

In the sequel, The Revolutionary's Cousin, Zahra's cousin forces her and her son to travel to Australia with him, then abandons them at the airport. Unable to contact Karim, frightened and alone in a foreign country, Zahra tries to overcome her ordeals and make a new life. Although desperate to get in touch with her, Karim's destiny takes a different path in the USA. Will Karim's persistence and love for Zahra be enough to succeed in his quest to find her?

In both novels my heroine is often in danger. In Iran, she's threatened in the street. In Australia she's suspected of drug smuggling, approached by an assassin, has to identify a body... In the USA, Karim is investigated by the FBI. He meets another woman. Will he stay true to Zahra?

In the strict society of Iran it's 'immodest' to look into a man's eyes, but Zahra dreams about Karim's honey-coloured eyes! He forgets he's not in the States and embraces Zahra when she's upset. Shocked, she pulls away, secretly longing to stay in his arms and inhale the scent of him...

The Afghan Wife  was placed third in the RWAmerica NY Chapter Competition 2018, and I've recently been awarded a ten-week writer's residency in Devon UK to work on novel #3, Unaccompanied Baggage. (Editor's note: congratulations, Cindy!)

I hope I can show my readers that love can flourish whatever the cultural setting.

Have you ever been really attracted to someone when you were teenagers, then met again after ten years? Was the attraction still there?

Please share your experiences of being stuck and alone either overseas or in a strange town in Australia... How did you feel?


Love to Love:
Happy endings... like my daughter's wedding in March 2020!

Love to Laugh:
About things which seemed important in the past and are now irrelevant.

Love to Learn:
About people from different cultures. 

Monday, 16 March 2020

Australian Romance Readers Association Book Signing 2020

By Jayne Kingsley

Last August—post Romance Writers of Australia conference when I was all inspired with my bucket filled to the brim—I took the plunge and filled in an expression of interest form to do my first book signing. A wonderful and jolly good idea when one has a glass of champagne in hand and no real commitment on the table. But with that gusto in mind, I was thrilled when I was emailed my acceptance and officially committed myself to the ARR20 Sydney and Melbourne signings.

As life goes, I kept writing, did bits and bobs towards organising myself for what I thought I might need at a signing and tried to keep the anxiety that kept creeping up on me at bay. A room full of romance readers? I mean how scary could that concept be … really?

Image courtesy of

Regrettably I had to pull out of the Melbourne signing due to family commitments but on Saturday the 7th March, I jumped on a train and sped north into the glorious depths of Sydney and dived headfirst into my first ever book signing event.

It was absolutely amazing. Inspiring. Thrilling!

Was I still nervous? You betcha! I was a discombobulated ball of sweat as the time drew closer. But with my writing buddy sitting beside me, I knew I was in good company. I have made new author friends, saw some familiar faces and met loads of lovely new readers. One popped past to tell me she’d read my book just the prior night and loved it. Talk about walking on cloud nine!

Book Signing Table ARR20 Sydney with Megan Mayfair

The ladies who run the ARRA event are organised, delightful and all-around superstars in my mind!

In addition to the book signing, I attended the awards dinner the night before along with loads of other wonderful authors and readers. I was thrilled to have been nominated for three different awards and whilst I’d never imagined I’d win any, I was delighted (okay – I was literally in shock) when my book, Loving Lucas, was awarded the ARRA Favourite short or category romance 2019. Author dreams made.

My very pretty trophy and award winning book :)

I *may* have ended up buying more books than I sold at the signing, but I can honestly say it was the most wonderful experience and I’d highly recommend it. I’ve come away feeling proud of myself for overcoming my introvert tendencies, have made new friends, won an award and increased my TBR pile. What’s not to love about that!

How about you? Have you ever been to a book signing as an author or reader? I’d love to hear about it!

Love to Love Hanging out with my fellow writing buddies. 

Love to Laugh At the crazed toilet paper shortage. 

Love to Learn About other authors and their journeys to where they are today. 

Monday, 9 March 2020

Culling Those Much-Loved Words

By Marilyn Forsyth

I recently faced the massive problem of having to cull my medieval/contemporary timeslip manuscript by 45K words. 😟 I’d spent over a year writing 140K words, only to be told by the two editors and an agent I pitched to at the RWA conference that it had to be cut to 90-95K words before sending it to them.

That was, like, one-third of my story!!!

The good news is, I did it. (Yay me!)

Image courtesy of giphy

Here’s how:

1. First, I looked at choices for removing huge chunks of the story. Could I take out whole chapters, whole subplots, whole point-of-view characters?

I found I was able to remove two chapters that, though fascinating from a historical point of view, were not strictly needed to move the plot forward.

Image courtesy of giphy

Did it hurt? 

Like a punch to the heart! 

I loved writing those chapters.

2. Next, I went scene by scene to decide if each one was really necessary. Did it up the stakes, or show character development, or move the story forward?

This was tough, but also enlightening. I changed a heap of scene beginnings to start at a later point (while still managing to keep the hooks 😇).

Did it hurt? Hell, yeah! I loved those scenes.

3. My next task was to examine the dialogue and introspection. Had I repeated conversations, thoughts and actions?

Image courtesy of giphy

Why, yes, I had...and way too many times. 

I ended up cutting and/or combining a ton of each of these. And while I was at it, I noticed some descriptions of characters and settings were worded very similarly, so I did a search for keywords and either deleted or changed the descriptions (shortening them at the same time).

Did it hurt? Did it what! That dialogue was sparkling, those descriptions were captivating.😉

4. By this time, I was down to reduced to removing individual words. Yes, folks, that’s what it came down to.

Image Author's own

I’ve been writing long enough to know that really, very, just, that, and so are my favourite filler words, but a run through of each chapter on Autocrit brought up some other interesting overused words (eyes, hands, now - needless to say, more editing was required).

Did it hurt? Nope. Those fillers have no place in my writing.

I finally reached my goal of 95K words (after several months’ working on it) but, with all the deletions, I had to check that my plot points still occurred in the right place (to my delight - and amazement - they did), and then reread to make sure my story made sense. (I'm happy with it, but if there are any beta readers out there who’d like to offer their services, I'm up for honest feedback.😜)

This image (courtesy of giphy) has nothing to do with the post and is unashamedly gratuitous.

But let's get back to this post...

Wouldn’t it be great if culling was as simple as deleting words and leaving it at that? Unfortunately, it’s not. But what I’ve learned is that, after so many changes have been made, the most important thing is to ensure your story still hangs together. That there are no loose ends. That your story is still worth telling.

That the threads of your story weave a tale that is worthy of the reader, because that is what we all strive for.

Have you ever had to cull a story you loved writing? How did you go about it?

Love to Love the DIY writing retreat my crit partners and I undertook in February. The weather was pretty conducive to writing.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Love to Laugh when reminiscing about the past. Had so much fun catching up with old school buddies last week!

Love to Learn the inspiration behind Beth O’Leary’s The Flat Share. You can watch her interview at (click Watch Now when you get there). Myvlf is a fabulous website for authors and readers alike.

Using Google Chrome as your browser will enable you to leave a comment.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Romantic Settings - Rural Romance

By Sharon Bryant

Which Setting and Why?

Setting is an integral part of any quality romance novel. It can serve to highlight themes of the story, or emphasise a character’s feelings. Sometimes a setting can evoke introspection, or trigger a character’s memory from the past. It can even play a role in the developing romance.

Rural Romance

Rural romance has a diverse range of settings including small towns, farms, and the arid landscapes of the outback. As a subgenre, it offers great breadth of opportunity to authors, and a diverse range of vicarious experiences to its readership.

Two of my favourite romance novels are described below. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Maggie's Run by Kelly Hunter

Maggie’s Run by Kelly Hunter is part of the Outback Brides series. Maggie Walker inherited run-down Wirra Station in rural Victoria when Carmel, the lady who raised her, dies. Maggie’s parents were tragically killed in a car fire when she was a child. She was saved from the flames by twelve-year-old Max O’Conner. He was unable to save her parents. She has never forgiven him. Carmel had her own demons to deal with, and brought Maggie up without love or kindness. Max has loved Maggie for many years, and is keen to reach out to her. He hopes for more than friendship.

Kelly Hunter uses setting masterfully to convey character’s feelings and elucidate relationships. “There was café coffee happening in Carmel Walker’s spartan kitchen and Maggie took perverse pleasure in knowing Carmel would have called it a frivolous indulgence.”

This is a fabulous novel. I felt for Maggie and Max, and was so excited when they reached their happy ending.

On the Right Track by Penelope Janu

I was introduced to Penelope Janu's novels at her author talk at Anna’s Shop Around the Corner in Cronulla. I have been a keen fan of her books ever since. Penelope is highly intelligent, insightful, pragmatic and funny, and she brings these qualities to her writing.

On the Right Track is the story of Golden Sanders, a rural-based speech pathologist. Independent, feisty and determined, Golden has a damaged relationship with her family, and a physical injury to her leg. Her deceased father and grandfather are believed to have been involved with proceeds of crime. Tor Amundson, a confident and clever man with a touch of arrogance is sent to investigate. Golden loved her grandfather dearly, and wants to ignore Tor. However, her stepfather who has a financial hold over the rural property she loves, pressures her to assist him.

Like Kelly Hunter, Penelope Janu is gifted in the use of setting to convey a characters’ feelings, and awaken their memories. About halfway through the novel, Tor actively probes Golden’s knowledge of people linked to his investigation. The following lines in Golden’s viewpoint come immediately beforehand.

“I stop on the highest patch of ground where the roots of the tree are exposed, and rest my bag against the trunk. It’s smooth and cream, except for the uneven narrow lines that mark it.”

This description triggers memories for Golden, serves as a metaphor for her feelings about her injured leg, her reaction to Tor’s probing, and the risk she takes in furthering their relationship.

This novel is a joy to read. It's a real page-turner.

Do you have a favourite rural romance novel? Did the setting contribute to your enjoyment of the book?

I love to love: Family time

I love to laugh: With friends

I love to learn: More about the craft of writing

Monday, 24 February 2020

Guest Blogger: Leisl Leighton

 The Importance of Narrative Drive

I’ve been building a little side-business over the last year and a half - manuscript assessment and mentoring - and every manuscript I assess, every author I mentor, makes me think more deeply about what it is we do to write our stories, how we go about it, the choices we make and the effort we put into learning to grow and make our writing as good as we can.

What makes a good story?

Writing teachers talk about a lot of things - POV, tense, GMC (goals, motivation, conflict), the Three Act Structure, voice, place - and each of those things is incredibly important to build the right narrative drive for your story. If one of these isn’t spot on, then the narrative drive isn’t right and the story falls down. Badly structured narrative drive is more often than not responsible for manuscripts that meander around but never get anywhere, or the saggy middle, or the end that fizzles.

What is narrative drive?

Writers often think narrative drive is the same as structure - it’s not. Narrative drive is more than what makes up the plot and how. It’s more than ‘add protagonist’s journey here’. It’s more than GMC and the all-important Three Act Structure. Put all of these together, add voice and you have narrative drive.

It took me some time to understand narrative drive and all the elements that make it work. Now that my ninth published book is about to be released in May (Blazing Fear), I feel that I have come to understand it intimately. 

All the work that goes into redrafting and editing my novels is in service to narrative drive. It’s the thing that I bang on about the most when doing assessments and what I teach when I’m mentoring - teaching just about voice or conflict or structure individually isn’t enough to make a book speak to readers. Of course, I teach all of those skills because they are part of narrative drive!

How do I make my narrative drive work?

Narrative drive isn’t something that just comes. An author must make choices for it to work. That doesn’t mean you have to be a plotter - I’m not. I’m a pantser. But I still have to make choices at some time to decide how to structure the conflicts to drive the protagonist’s journey onward in a page turning way to a satisfying end. Some of those choices come easily, some require many rewrites, but in the end, everything is in service to the narrative drive. Making your narrative drive work is hard work, but it is all so worth it in the end. Once you have it and understand it, it is the key that will open the lock to a world of wonderful manuscripts full of the stories you want to tell, and do so in a way that shines.

What do you do to ensure you continue to hone your writing skills?

I love to love: Books that show me how to be a better writer.

I love to learn: About narrative drive and how to make it work better.

I love to laugh: With my writing friends as we work through our mistakes and improve together.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Books, Music, and Romance

By Kristine Charles

Today is 17 February and it’s Ed Sheeran’s birthday.

Now, I can’t confirm or deny whether Ed is actually into romance or not but it seems a reasonable bet given:
  • the man has written a heap of stellar love songs; and
  • he recently married the woman he met at high school when they were both 11; and
  • his song Perfect was inspired by his now wife <swoon>. 

Photo from Milkos via (Image: 321559668)

So, I thought, what better day to explore the connection between music and romance than Ed Sheeran’s birthday.

Many of the authors I know, and read, in #Romancelandia listen to music while they write.

Some have to listen to instrumentals because lyrics are distracting, especially if you like to sing along (like me!). If you’re as addicted to Life Hacks as me, you’ll know that listening to Hans Zimmer music while studying is recommended because it has no lyrics, and the music is intended to motivate.

Others listen to the same song, over and over, to stay in the mood, or the headspace of their characters. I’m pretty sure I heard Lauren, of Christina Lauren, once say that she listened to Xxplosive by Dr Dre to get in the mood for writing Finn of Dirty Rowdy Thing. I <heart> Finn, and that song is hot.

Photo from fxquadro via (Image: 250373478)

Others create entire playlists to feed their output. For example, Penny Reid and J. F. Lowe both have heaps of playlists on Spotify which, they say, are the songs that inspire the writing of the book.

And then others, again, can’t listen to anything and need silence to feed their creative muse.

Then there are authors who use music to inspire their stories. For example, Renee Conoulty’s Got that Swing series all have song-based titles and the song is central to the story. M. L. Tompsett, Renee Dahlia and Joanne Tracey also use songs to inspire their stories – Shakespeare’s Sister, Lorde and (of course!) Ed Sheeran, respectively.

And then there’s how one particular song can make or break a moment. If anyone went and listened Thomas Tallis after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll know what I mean… Spem in Alium is haunting and hot in equal measure.

Photo from Vadymvdrobot via (Image: 336781326)
So, what’s your favourite 'books, music and romance' moment…? 

Love to love: music. It never fails to make me feel better.

Love to laugh: Did you hear about the bed bugs who fell in love? They’re getting married in the spring!

Love to learn: About writing sex and love! Spent three hours with Leisa Rayven this morning and it was fabulous! Leisa is a Queensland based author, has written the Starcrossed Series (Bad Romeo, Broken Juliet and Wicked Heart), and is currently working on the Masters of Love Series. Check her out at

And you can check me out at :-)

Monday, 10 February 2020

The Evolution of Romance Novels

by Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of:

Image courtesy of:

The romance novel, focusing on the relationship and the happy-ever-after romantic love between two people, first began as chivalric romance, a narrative in verse popular in Medieval Europe about heroic knight-errants going on quests and defeating monsters.
Then in the 12th century, Chretien de Troyes, French poet, writer of Arthurian tales, wrote tales with courtly love, where knights win the favour of a lady.

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Though prevalent through the Medieval era, in later years when women were oppressed and considered a man's property, romantic tales with themes of faithfulness and honour were not widely popular. Then in 1740 Samuel Richardson wrote what is thought to be the first English novel and the first 'romance' novel. Controversial for its content - the growing love between a pious servant girl and her land-owning master - Pamela (or Virtue Rewarded) captured the hearts of women yearning for more from life.

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Romance novels rose in popularity but it was when Jane Austen emerged in the 1800s that romances became favourable and fashionable. Though considered 'literary', her tales of women pursuing higher social standing and financial security, and the 'classic romance' tales of authors such as Charlotte Bronte were a source of inspiration for readers trapped by the rules of their society.

The early years of the 20th century saw the introduction of history in romance novels, best sellers being the Georgian-era romances by Georgette Heyer. Gothic romances with added thrills and drama, where heroines experienced horrific events as they gave in to the passion of love followed, readers devouring stories such as Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

Harlequin's emergence in the mid-1900s with 'sweet' stories where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl get back together and live happily ever after gave rise to romance novels with strong heroines and intricate plots.

From sweet romances to sexy, historical to contemporary, young adult to romantic suspense, paranormal to fantasy, LGBT to characters with different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, romance novels abound to suit every romance reader's taste.

As the world evolves so does the romance novel and I wonder what exciting stories I will be reading. Do you?

Love to love: that I attended a three-day writer's retreat

Love to laugh: at the rain soaking the land around the retreat. Gripped by drought and fire-ravaged, seeing rain is definitely something to bring joy

Love to learn: a writer is always learning and where better than a writer's retreat

Monday, 3 February 2020

Smothering the Breathless Authors with Love!

Miranda's February Musings

Wow, December/January in Australia! So many super hot days, so many horrendous fires, so much heroism and so many sad losses. Keep donating (thankyou), keep praying, the fires are still burning in some places. We will get back on our feet, but as we do we salute the heroes who've saved so much, even as some lost their own lives. Such humbled thanks. Thankyou. Thankyou. Thankyou.

Words are simply not enough. We need to celebrate our own, our friends and family and loved ones, and hug them tight and just smother them with love. 

So as February begins I'm celebrating my fellow Breathless in the Bush authors, precious people to me. And, {{{shrug}}}, I'm totally biased about them and I don't care! So with no further ado, let my smother-them-with-love CELEBRATION begin! 

We love having KRISTINE CHARLES on board at BITB, and I've just read the anthology LOVE SABRE featuring her novella, A Mutual Thing. The book totally sends up the purple prose that used to dominate romance in yesteryear, but in such a creative way it's taut and terrific, sassy and sexy. (See what I did there? Thank goodness we've moved on.) But seriously, this book romps along with such fun. And not so much of the purple prose after all. These authors have created quick-to-read stories that are very energetically entertaining. (18+ warning for the *cough* love sabre...)

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Our beloved JAYNE KINGSLEY blows me away with her stories - and you'll find her Christmas novella A Kiss For Christmas Eve reviewed by yours truly here; sheer delight. Her full-length novel LOVING LUCAS made it onto my January read list, and I have to say that the always popular office romance trope - and friends-to-lovers - makes a wonderful appearance (I love these so much). Miranda is the boss's daughter, and Lucas doesn't know how he can work with her - because, so much temptation. OOH. And, that cover. 💋

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I actually knew ALYSSA J. MONTGOMERY before she was published. As soon as I read her first unpublished manuscript I knew Romancelandia had a powerhouse author about to explode on the scene. I am fairly smug I called it, heh, and her star continues to rise. I read her wonderful book SEDUCED BY THE STRANGER  over January and, wow. I love me a good amnesia plot, with a pregnant-by-I-don't-know-who plot also tossed in! So gripping. Go, Alyssa!

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The marvellous CASSANDRA SAMUELS is someone who knows just so much about Regency times, I'm impressed. Never try and get away with anything but true facts about the Regency period around her, she is spot on! I adore Regency romances, so enthusiastically dived into COLLECTOR OF HEARTS in January. My only concern was - why had I waited so long to read this?! Silly, silly me. I totally loved her hero, Robert Mallory, Marquis of Sheldon. To cope with something absolutely appalling in his life he became, well, a 'Collector of Hearts' - but then tossed them aside. I knew it was going to take someone very special to collect his heart... I laughed at Cassandra's wit and sparkling dialogue, and then, oh my, I cried. Such an outstandingly beautiful story. ❤ 

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Magical MARILYN FORSYTH creates beautiful stories in exotic settings, and I can't wait to read whatever she publishes next. If you haven't already, fall on her last book, FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN. I've never been to the Australian opal fields and possibly never will, so reading about the amazing opals, a mystery about a fossil, and a stunning romance - is, like, win win win! I adored this story. In fact, when I visited the Australian Museum in Sydney, there was a certain opal exhibit that entranced me...and which Marilyn assures me is the inspiration for this story! Intrigued? Oh, do read the book, it is so wonderful. You'll never look at opals the same way again. Or fossils! 

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ENISA HAINES and SHARON BRYANT are special stars in our special Christmas anthology A VERY AUSSIE CHRISTMAS.  I was so thrilled to read it, and each story is so very unique. Enisa's story is Endings, Beginnings and Sharon's is Desert Fire. Why wait until next Christmas to read them? It's still hot here in Oz, go back and get some blazing Christmas spirit in your year right now. 😍 

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So, ta-dah! I give you The Breathless Girls, who I celebrate! Perfect to pop on your reading list!

With love until next time,

Miranda xxx

Love to Laugh:

At the charm and wit in those ravishing Regencies, like Cassandra's!

Love to Love:

My BITB authors. Always and forever, girls! Mwuh. 

Love to Learn:

Which of the above have you read? Is there a special author you celebrate? 

Monday, 27 January 2020

The Breathless List

Image courtesy of giphy

It's that time of the year again, when the Breathless ladies reveal their favourite romance read of the last year by an Australian or New Zealand author. As always, it's been a difficult task to choose just one, but here is The Breathless List! (Hope you're as excited as Rachel and Phoebe. 😉)

Sharon Bryant: Marry in Secret by Anne Gracie

Lady Rose Rutherford has no desire to marry for love, but she is sick of being on the marriage mart and wishes to enjoy the relative freedom of life as a married woman. Having rejected numerous proposals, she accepts the Duke of Everingham’s offer of a “courteous, unemotional, rational arrangement”. Midway through their wedding ceremony a bedraggled stranger storms into the church. He demands the wedding be stopped, claiming to be Rose’s long-lost husband. At first Rose does not recognise him. This wild-looking man cannot be her beloved Thomas. The man she married in secret is surely dead.

Anne Gracie has delivered another delightful page turner with a fascinating premise and beautifully constructed characters. This novel has considerable depth of plot and characterisation. It deals with the harsh realities of the slave trade on the Barbary Coast and explores themes of anguish and suffering, recovery and redemption.

Kristine Charles: See Me by L. Simpson

Full disclosure: L. Simpson is a friend/writing buddy but, that said, this is my favourite Aussie romance of 2019.

See Me follows single-dad Ethan as he navigates an infuriating ex, an adorable daughter and Mia, a sparky new love interest. Mia, of course, has her own commitment issues (thanks to another infuriating ex) and the requisite meddling friends who help Mia, and Ethan, find their way.

See Me is set between Bright, in the beautiful Alpine Valleys of Victoria, and bustling Melbourne. L’s from the Alpine region and her love for the area is clear in her descriptions. The story’s a well-written, easy read, which will make you both fall in love with Ethan, and want to travel to Bright!

Warning! See Me is book four in a series! Two more are due in 2020. Happy reading!

Marilyn Forsyth: Undara by Annie Seaton

This book combines dual timelines, eco-adventure, mystery and romantic elements, and it grabbed me from the opening page with a heap of questions I just had to find answers to.

Emlyn Rees is an entomologist investigating the lava tubes of North Queensland for new species of insect. The tunnels are located beneath the property of Travis Carlyle, whose cattle station has become an unviable millstone around his neck. Both characters have suffered tragedy and throw themselves into their work to escape the pain of their individual marriage breakdowns.

Mysteries abound. What happened to the children who disappeared over a hundred years ago? Who is sabotaging Emlyn’s work? What happened to make her leave the husband who writes her such heartfelt letters?

Annie Seaton’s love of the Australian landscape shines through on every page. The lava tubes of Undara are now on my bucket list of Aussie must-sees. Thanks Annie!

Enisa Haines: Emma (Book 4 in the Outback Brides of Wirralong quartet) by Kelly Hunter

Laughter, soul-wrenching sadness and tears, trust that’s feared yet yearned for, and love that fills the heart to overflowing. That’s what Kelly Hunter’s Emma has from the first page to the last. Liam McNair, a rough and tough cattleman as gorgeous in looks as well as in his heart, seeks love but believes himself unworthy. Emma, Lady Emmaline Lewellyn Grayson, always feeling the outcast in her upper-class world, seeks to belong but believes no one will ever want her for the woman she is. When Emma meets Liam, each finds ‘the one’ and no way are either letting go.

A beautiful story with that ‘awww’ ending that keeps you staring at the page. Thank you, Kelly Hunter, for a really moving read!

Jayne Kingsley: The Aussie Next Door by Stephanie London

Man, choosing one favourite read was hard! But this book is the perfect combination of heat and heart and I simply couldn’t put it down.

Angie Donovan has left America and an unthinkable past to come to Australia. Specifically, Patterson’s Bluff, where she’s found her forever home. Except she has to leave, her visa is a ticking clock. Marriage of convenience isn’t an option, but marriage for love certainly would be.

Jace Walters grew up knowing he was a little different from most people. Settled with a great job creating a successful comic strip and living by himself, the last thing he needs is a distraction in the form of his sexy neighbour, Angie.

Throw in dog sitting of two delightful dogs, a small-town community that welcomes everyone, and a large unwieldy interfering family – well it’s one hell of a book. I literally laughed out loud, copious times.

Cassandra Samuels: Live and Let Spy by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Adam Hardacre has proved his worth but is denied a promotion in the royal navy because he was not high born. Insulted he resigns but is quickly approached by another man and asked to use his skills to help in a secret mission.

Olivia Collins was the governess to the occupants of the big house but they are selling and she is no longer needed. She has stuck around to help finish things up and comes across a secret that involves Adam. She quickly falls for his no-nonsense charm and he for her. They both know that their lives are verging for only a few weeks and then must face a future without each other. They become involved in Adam’s mission and only just escape with their lives and their true love.

A fun book and the first in a series for this author.

Alyssa J Montgomery: Prince's Virgin in Venice by Trish Morey

This book is my standout for 2019 for a couple of reasons. Firstly because although I’ve loved her longer romantic/women’s fiction stories such as The Trouble with Choices and Cherry Season (and her latest, One Summer Between Friends is now on my TBR pile) it was so lovely to see Trish return to her ‘roots’ as a Mills & Boon Presents author and this was the first Presents book I’ve read from her in a couple of years.

Secondly, apart from delivering the expected romance in the Presents style with the lovely rags-to-riches/Cinderella trope, I really enjoyed the descriptions of Venice and of the lace-makers from Brugge. Venice is one of my favourite places and I’ve seen the lace-makers at work in Brugge, so the rich descriptions of these elements in the story really struck a chord with me. Thanks Trish!

Miranda: 99% Mine by Sally Thorne

Sally Thorne's debut The Hating Game was totally left field, a game changer in modern romance. A bit dark and different, and funny. Bitingly funny. Ditto for this one, although much darker to begin with, so dark I was a bit worried I wouldn't bond with the book and Darcy, the feisty, unusual, out-there, take-no-prisoners heroine.

About a third of the way in, after I'd put the book down and picked it up the next day, the book changed - or maybe it was me. I suddenly 'got' the humour, started laughing, enjoyed the walk on the dark, wild side, and totally relished the story so much it was sad to finish. Imagine my delight to find an epilogue tucked away for both this book and The Hating Game right at the end - so don't skip the important last bits!

Can't wait to see what Sally offers us next.

Love to Love: the way Australians have come together to help each other during the terrible Bushfire Crisis this summer.

Love to Laugh: along with everyone who danced in the rain (when it finally arrived).

Image courtesy of giphy
Love to Learn: What was your favourite romance read in 2019?
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