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.

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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