Monday 20 December 2021


 Well, hello my darlings, long time no see! I'm delighted to be back with you and chatting about my absolute favourite thing: CHRISTMAS BOOKS! Christmas is tremendously special for me, and combining the love of the season with romance is a complete winner. I've got ten special books to share, so I'm going to dive straight in.

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DEAR SANTA by Debbie Macomber is a lovely way to kick off your festive reading; I always enjoy her Christmas books. How many of you remember writing letters to Santa when you were little, with a wish list? How many wishes came true? Lindy Carmichael's just had her heart broken - then her mother gives her all her old Santa letters, and Lindy realises sometimes Christmas wishes do come true, with a little help from you-know-who. No, not Voldemort, of course I mean Santa!

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Fancy a cowboy for Christmas? Don't we all! Vicki Lewis Thompson gifts us the scorching novella It's Christmas, Cowboy, and we do need to pop this in our Christmas stocking. With the always-poignant trope of second-chance-at-love, old school friends Tucker and Lacey reconnect. And boy howdy, do they ever! This is fast and furious, so if you've only got a short break, choose this.

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And speaking of cowboys - ranchers - ranch builders Kelly Hunter's Must Love Christmas is totally fabulous, one of my 5 star reads this year. Seth Casey is such a dream hero, strong and rugged and sexy and capable and, well, also nice. Madeline is the rich girl who owns the ranch he wants to own, and she says no to his offer to buy it. I thought this might degenerate into a fight (sorry Kelly, I should've known better), but they're both so heroic it turns out to be a heart-grabbing romance. The scene on Christmas Day here is enough to move even the stoniest of Christmas scrooges (sniff). 

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Rebecca Raisin is a new-to-me author this year, and I read the two books loosely linked to Flora's Travelling Christmas Shop and loved them: Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop and Aria's Travelling Book Shop. Both were terrific, especially the latter (it's about books!). I couldn't resist the third one, set in the most fairytale of all places at Christmas: Lapland! I'm not kidding. With reindeer and snow and hot chocolate and omigosh the food, and Christmas trees and, cough, Connor, a bit of a Christmas grinch. Flora's about the sort that out, quick smart. This is a gentle romance, and it's sparkly with tinsel and glitter and everything Christmassy.

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From Lapland to Edinburgh! I discovered Jenny Colgan last year, and she combines warm humour and romance with festive fun and food: a complete reader seduction. When you add in the booky setting for The Christmas Bookshop, it's winning all the way. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like Carmen: she was aimless and a bit thoughtless. When her mother and sister foist her into a pretty hopeless destined-to-fail job at the bookstore, it takes a while for Carmen to shine. But, happily, shine she does, and just in time for Christmas. The romance is a little bit different, and the quirky characters totally capture your heart. 

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Sweet Christmas Secrets is a stunning anthology with ten festive Regency stories written by ten Aussie authors. Kudos to them all! I had a fabulous time reading my way through the lushly romantic stories. Every one is just long enough to sit and enjoy as a mini break in-between all your Christmas busyness. They each feature a letter and/or a secret, and there are many misunderstandings and broken hearts before we get our happy ending. What a Christmas bliss bomb.

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While we're in Regency mode, treat yourself to the charming novella A Christmas Love Redeemed, by fan favourite Alison Stuart. It's a second-chance-at-love story, and it's simply lovely. Another one to enjoy with a quick hot chocolate and a fruit mince pie. Our hero is French (swoon) and the heroine English, so that leads to high tension when the hero is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such a special treat.

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Who can resist the two sweet cherubs on the cover of Their Yuletide Healing? Not I! This is another new-to-me author, Mindy Obenhaus, who writes for Harlequin Love Inspired, a series where faith is a main element in the books. Have to say, faith and Christmas sort of go together, and also reconciliation and forgiveness and healing. Here the town Scrooge suddenly finds his guarded, lonely heart invaded by these two little foster kids and their foster mom. Just. Beautiful. 

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It truly is a pleasure to read another Christmas story from Sarah Morgan, and The Christmas Escape is marvellous. And, again, shock, off we go to Lapland! Is the Universe telling me something? Do I need to book an escape to Lapland? (Yes. The answer is obviously yes.) It's not just snow and the cold and festivities, however. This is a deeply moving story of a little family in crisis, of reconciliation, and a zinger do-I-hate-you-or-love-you? romance. (Spoiler: love. The answer is obviously love.) 

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I've been told the cover of Trisha Ashley's book One More Christmas at the Castle is all glittery and gorgeous, so it almost seemed sacrilegious to read it on my Kindle. I wanted all that razzle dazzle in my hands, sigh. But any which way you read this book you'll love it. You'll also put on weight just reading about the lavish food, oh my. I have no idea how these characters stayed trim. All that walking in the snow? An elderly widow invites a few key people from her family and friends - and the Heavenly Houseparty catering company - to mastermind her last Christmas at the castle (bit sad). The burning question is who will inherit, but I kept getting distracted by the Christmas cake and cheese straws and...never mind. Not one but two romances here, so terrific, and a fabulous cast of characters. And I'm not going to mention decorations or the food any more. Although there was the mulled wine and the A wonderful book that happily wallowed in Christmas from beginning to end, and it made me happy. I now want to live in a castle and have Heavenly Houseparties cater for me, forever. Enjoy.

So that's my little list. Happily I have many, many more also ready to go, including my annual reread of the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. If you click on the link you'll see I've indulged in a very special new edition. 

Merry Christmas, dear readers. May your festive time be merry and bright, and I hope Santa brings you some wonderful reading.

Do stay safe and well, and hug your precious ones tight.

Loads of love from Miranda xxx

Love to love: Christmas! Everything and all things Christmassy!

Love to laugh: I'm a bit like Cassandra Samuels, I love funny Christmas movies.

Love to learn: What are you reading? And some last minute hot tips for the Christmas stockings? Please tell? Pop it all in the comments. below. 

Monday 13 December 2021

There was a time Christmas was banned - Was it all Cromwell's Fault?

By Cassandra Samuels

Believe it or not, back in 1647, Christmas celebrations were forbidden by law. No festivities were allowed and there were big consequences for disobedience, but how did it happen?

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The parliament won the Civil War in England, and Oliver Cromwell and his mates decided to incarcerate King Charles at Hampton Court. The Church of England was abolished and replaced with the Presbyterian Church. They had strict ideas about how the people should behave. The Presbyterian Church believed the religious holiday was for prayer, not parties.

"Oliver Cromwell statue outside Parliament" by UK Parliament is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

They brought in new restrictions that did not go down well with the populace. These new restrictions included no more than 12 days of Christmas celebrations. All the shops had to stay open on Christmas Day, and no decorations were allowed.

by Sister72 is licensed under CC BY 2.0   

The people were not happy and all throughout England, Scotland and Ireland they refused to conform. Armed forces had to be brought in to control the people and stop festivities. Even the church wardens at Westminster Abbey were arrested for not stopping the celebrations. The Mayor of London was verbally abused for trying to take down decorations of holly and ivy that adorned the shops. The Mayor of Norwich turned a blind eye and was summoned to explain himself. It all ended in a riot that culminated in an explosion, and the death of forty people.

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 In the following years, there were more riots that ultimately led to the second civil war after King Charles was executed. Revolution followed. 

Christmas was reinstated and the people were happy. So, although it wasn't solely Oliver Cromwell's fault, he was part of the parliament that brought in the Puritan restrictions and caused such drama.

Love to Love: Christmas movies and books including our own Breathless Anthology.

Buy here

Love to Laugh: at the joy of my grandsons when decorating the Christmas tree.

Love to Learn: That when things are bad, I have so much love and support from friends and family.

Monday 11 October 2021

Beta Readers: Why You Need Them


By Marilyn Forsyth

When my first timeslip, Gwenllian’s Ghost, was (finally) finished, I was advised by an editor that it was 45 000 words too long to even be considered by a publisher (100 000 max for a debut author).

Well, I culled those 45K words. The problem was, I knew that story so well it was impossible to recognise whether I’d cut out scenes and chapters that were vital to the story. I needed to find readers who could look at my story with fresh eyes and give me objective feedback on what worked or didn’t work in my manuscript.

I needed beta readers.

What is a beta reader?

“A beta reader is a test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing who gives feedback (to the author) from the point of view of an average reader...This feedback is fix remaining issues with plot, pacing, and consistency. The beta reader also serves as a sounding board to see if the book has the intended emotional impact.” (Wikipedia )

How do you find beta readers?

My crit partners, family and friends, and members of my writing group, had all given valuable feedback along the journey. But I needed the point of view of readers who belong to my target audience—who actually read and love the timeslip genre—and who wouldn’t be concerned about hurting my feelings. My ego was not important; all that mattered was that the story was authentic and enjoyable.

I chose to go with a paid Beta Reading Service, and I could not have been happier with the result.

The Historical Quill  guarantee comprehensive feedback from at least 6 readers (I ended up with 8). I wrote a short premise of the story and readers were selected from those who indicated they’d like to see the whole manuscript.

The feedback was amazing!

Overall, it was very positive, (except for one reader who hadn’t read a timeslip before and thought the contemporary story unnecessary). After reading through all 8 critiques, I let the comments percolate for a day or so before I went back to my story.

I made note of each reader’s comments (positive and negative). If two or more commented negatively on the same thing, it was obviously something that needed working on. If one reader didn’t like something that another reader liked, I went with my gut in deciding what to do about it. I was lucky that some of my betas were from Wales and they were able to point out mistakes I’d made (with geography - Google maps is not infallible).

Like I said, I couldn’t be happier with the History Quill service. It was fast (6-week turnaround) and efficient, and most of the negative comments were constructive. They’ve helped me make Gwenllian’s Ghost the best it can be. I’ve asked for 5 of those beta readers to be on my ‘street team’ when my story gets published. Now, all I have to do is get Gwenllian’s Ghost out there.

Have you used a beta reader service? How was your experience?

Love to Love: Spring! The Botanic Gardens at this time of year are magical.

Love to Learn: my way around One Stop for Writers. Genius! (And they have an article about where to find beta readers here.)

All images are free to use.

Monday 20 September 2021

Guest Post - Katrina Coll -

by Enisa Haines

Please welcome Katrina Coll - an Aussie who fell in love with an Irishman and let her heart lead her to the Emerald Isle. With that in her history what else would she write but romance, or as she says "kissing books that leave you wanting"? Winner of the Contemporary Romance Writers Stiletto Award she is now celebrating the release of her first published romance novel, A Match Made for TV, and giving us a little insight into her life.

What is one 'must have' when you are writing?

My Macbook. I literally can't write without it so it goes everywhere I go. Always.

What are you reading at the moment?

I've just finished Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale. I have Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews pre-ordered and that'll be my next read.

Name one thing you're scared of. 

Something bad happening to someone I love.

Like to share something that recently made you happy?

We visited a fairy garden last week that was pure magic.

Who is your favourite literary crush? 

Weirdly, I can't say I've ever had one as a reader. As a writer, though, I love my heroes so hard it hurts to let them go.

What is the last photo you took with your phone?

A screenshot of a Duolingo question. I'm trying to learn some Irish and the spelling is mind melt. I'm slowly getting the hang of it but don't ask me to say anything: the only thing worse than my spelling is my pronunciation.

If you were a main character in your favourite book, who would you be?

If I had to be a character in any book, I'd have to say Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice because she's marvellous and nothing too awful happens to her. But my favourite book? I love too many to choose one.

What is the premise of your latest book?

A celeb with a secret. A doctor with a dilemma. Faking they're in love makes for good TV. But whose heart will break when reality bites?
Available as an e-book worldwide.
Buy links:

Ria DeLorenzo is a damn good doctor. Or was. Burnt out before she's begun, a three-month paid vacation as the medical consultant to a reality TV show is just what she needs to recover her mojo.

Cancer survivor and headline grabber Griffin Stromberg is desperate to reboot his ultra-macho image. Typecast by years of fame, showcasing his softer side with a picture-perfect relationship should do the trick. Until Ria breaches show protocol and gets Griff fake girlfriend disqualified.

Now Ria's only hope of clocking out of reality is to check in to a fantasy by becoming his new partner. Griff, however, wants their relationship to be the real deal, not one of his infamous life-hacks.

Can a man renowned for taking shortcuts prove he's ready to commit to a forever relationship? Or will reality bit once filming is over?

Who would you cast as your main characters? 

Chris Hemsworth and Gal Gadot if she had a Texan accent.

What unique challenges did the book pose? 

Trying to immerse my characters in a reality TV show without making the filming mechanics too intrusive.

What are you working on at the moment?

A follow-up book with the same match-making producer but featuring a cook and a chef. It's a reunion romance during a bake-off.

Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between?

I'm a puzzler. I have elements of the book (part of a plot, the characters, some scenes) and I figure out how they go together as I write.

Do you listen to music as you write? 

I've tried but usually I can't. That said, I have a soundtrack for each novel to listen to when not writing to spark ideas/nail emotions I want to capture.

What do you love to love? Food. I love to love the whole process of cooking but I also love it when others cook, trying a new combination of flavours, sharing meals with friends, eating out. I'm a foodie from way back.

What do you love to laugh at? Comedians/ At a Billy Connolly gig once, I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. Here in Ireland, there's a trio of guys called Foil, Arms and Hog. As a family, we watch their weekly uploads to YouTube every Friday. We even have their t-shirts.

What do you love to learn about? Learning is my absolute favourite thing to do. I'll happily fall down a rabbit hole researching almost any subject. In fact, I used to get paid to research as part of my job as a business consultant. However, history and mythology would be lifetime loves.

Find out more about Katrina here:


Facebook: KatrinaCollAuthor

Pinterest: A Match Made for TV

#novel #contemporaryromance #arrangedmarriage #lovestory

Monday 9 August 2021

A few things not to say when meeting a romance author!

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

I’m sure many if not most romance authors have experienced this conversation. It could be at a black-tie cocktail party or a backyard BBQ. Someone mentions there’s a romance author present and the reactions vary from, “Really? I love romance novels” to the words, “You write romance?” (the latter accompanied by a snicker of disbelief, a discreet cough and a little titter from someone else). The conversation switches swiftly to romance novels and the same timeless myths are trotted out by males and females alike. 

Anne Gracie wrote an article for the Victorian Writers’ Centre magazine WriteOn about some “Myths of Romance”. The ones she mentioned – “formulaic writing”, “they’re all the same”; “soft porn for women” “cardboard characters, clichés and bad writing” as well as having “absolutely no value to the world”, are still being bandied about by ignorant, and (I think) arrogant individuals. 

Back to the conversation...Barbara Cartland is mentioned and I immediately point out that Dame Barbara sold over a billion books worldwide in at least 36 languages. Then, having written an article on this Breathless in the Bush blog about how romance novels empower women, I launch into my defence of romance novels, all the while wondering how my wonderful hosts can be entertaining people who are so downright rude! 
The conversation takes a personal turn when an acquaintance expresses surprise that I write “those books” because “you’re an educated woman”. I barely contain my eye-roll back at the man. When I ask what sort of person he thinks writes a romance novel, he has the grace to look slightly embarrassed, but then volunteers: “Someone who’s desperately unhappy and can’t find their own romance”. The floodgates open. One negative comment flows after another from ‘sex-obsessed’ (with a wink and a nudge to my husband) to “a middle-aged, unemployed cat lady”. 

Well, thank you very much!

Of course, these people are simply displaying their ignorance and appalling manners. None of their comments are original, but for the record, here are some things NOT to say if you ever meet a romance author.

“How long does it take to write one of those books? A couple of days or a week or so?”

“Are your books like 50 Shades of Grey?”

“Did your publisher give you a formula?”

“Did you have a crush on Fabio when you were growing up?”

“I downloaded your book from a free site, then I shared it to another free site because I enjoyed it so much!”

“Do you have to write a certain number of pages of sex scenes in each book?”

“Do you research the sex scenes with your husband?”

 “Where can I get a free copy?”

Please don’t use the words smut, porn/mummy porn, trash, or bodice ripper and please don’t do what ‘fans’ of Julia Quinn did to her and launch into a long-winded review of why you didn’t like the book and what the author should’ve done differently!

Thankfully the ill-mannered individuals are far outnumbered by respectful people.

Love to love awesome, empowering romance novels.
Love to laugh at the stereotypical images of the romance writer!
Love to learn what experiences others have had in regard to ridiculous comments people have made about romance writers/the romance genre, so please leave a comment below.

Monday 14 June 2021

Where do romance writers get their ideas?

 By Sharon Bryant

Where do you get your writing ideas? I recently posed this question to some writer friends. Their responses were enthusiastic, creative and varied.

One friend with strong visualisation skills envisages characters and situations. Another finds inspiration in dreams, even nightmares.

The most common response was that writers get their ideas from everyday life. Sometimes a writer may have no idea how a particular thought entered his or her consciousness. The best ideas may pop into a writer's head during the process of writing.

Where do you start?

So where does an aspiring author begin? Overheard conversations, newspapers, magazines, the internet, books, movies, people you've met, and situations you've encountered may all play a part in the writing ideas you generate.

The role of writing exercises

Some beginning writers find writing exercises designed to promote creativity most helpful. These can include letting your stream of consciousness run free, the use of creative writing prompts, or writing a story then rewriting it in a different character's viewpoint. Another useful approach is flash fiction where you start with basic knowledge of your plot, characters and conflict. Next you sit down, and immediately write your story in 500 words or less.

Where do you get your writing ideas?
Have you ever used creative writing exercises like the ones I've described? 
Were they helpful?

I love to laugh at life's eccentricities.
I love to learn more about the culture and history of the places I visit.
I love to love precious time with my family and friends.

Monday 12 April 2021

Two steps behind...

Contemporary romance heroes who have no problem walking behind their heroines

Following the passing of Prince Philip a few days ago, one of the photos that keeps popping up is one of him dressed in full Grenadier Guard regalia as the Queen passes him by, and the Queen is giggling like a schoolgirl. You know the one. You can see a copy of it (and get the story behind it) here.

The photo had me thinking about the relationship between he and the Queen for the some seventy odd years they were together. For all of Prince Philip’s failings, and I’m sure there were a few, he seems to have happily taken on the role of always being a few steps behind his Queen (unlike the another Prince Consort who "threw his toys out of the cot" and absconded to France for a bit). There was never any suggestion that he strayed and, despite some expressed concerns about not giving his name to his children and his predilection to "put his foot in his mouth", he seems to have been a wonderful partner.

It got me thinking about romance heroes who would have absolutely no problem with walking a step or two behind their partners. This is what I came up with:

Officer Reuben Price from Amy Andrews’ All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate

Reuben is a police officer in Marietta, a small town in Montana and Viv Dawson is a successful businesswoman who brings her chocolates to town.

Reuben is a Good Bloke™ who is confident in his own skin. He makes pasta for his woman while she soaks away a hard day in the tub, knows how to show a lady a good time (both in and out of bed) and is prepared to make the tough declarations of love first when required… even if it takes his woman a little while to come around.

Reuben would have NO issue walking a few steps behind Viv and would absolutely enjoy the view.

Oscar Mendoza from Alice Clayton’s Cream of the Crop

Oscar is a small town, boutique dairy farmer who looks a lot like Jason Momoa and Natalie Greyson, a curvy, big-city advertising exec is assigned to a project designed to put his small town back on the tourism map.

Oscar has a particular love for – his words – Natalie’s great big ass… in fact, at an early meeting he tells her that the first best part of his Saturday is watching her walk away from his city farmers’ market stall where she buys her cheese. He’s also absolutely ready to compromise with her make their relationship work… and to give her the time she needs to wrap her head around what the word compromise looks like.

Oscar is absolutely comfortable sitting back and watching Natalie be the life of the party… and, like Reuben, he’s definitely enjoying the view.

And this was not meant to be a hymn to all the men who love booty but, it kinda turned out that way! 

Jafar from Katee Roberts’ Desperate Measures

And then, there’s Jafar.

If you’ve not read Katee’s Wicked Villains series… it’s a ride. She’s created a world in which characters based more or less on Disney villains have a LOT of sex while running various crime syndicates in one city. It’s the best kind of madness and, in her first book, we meet Jasmine and Jafar…just after Jafar has ordered Jasmine’s father be killed so he can take over the syndicate.

It’s not giving too much away to say that…Jafar has no issue with Jasmine ending up as the head of the crime syndicate, and being known as her second-in-charge, provided that she submits to him in the bedroom. It’s hot. And quite the contrast given that some sex play (albeit in future books) happens at a neutral club called the Underworld where everyone knows that she’s running the show but Jafar is her Dominant.

And, just a warning, this one is spicy, and contains some consensual non-consent.

Which of your favourite romance heores (or heroines) are happily walking a step behind their loves?

Monday 15 February 2021

Valentine's Day Customs Around the World

 by Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of:

Valentine's Day was yesterday, as witnessed by the overflow of red roses, heart-shaped chocolates, cute teddy bears, balloons and jewelry in shops all around the globe. 

Author's photo

Too consumerised? Many a loved-up couple splurged anyway - it's about love and romance, after all - some also enjoying customs unique to their country. Here I take a look at some of those customs.


Invented for commercial reasons and now a yearly tradition, Valentine's Day is celebrated in a 'week of sweetness' from 13-20 July with lovers giving chocolates and other sweets. 


To avoid clashing with Carnival held in February or March, Dia dos Namorados festival, also known as 'Lovers Day', is celebrated on June 12. As well as the usual exchange of chocolates, cards and flowers, there are music festivals and dance performances. 'Lovers Day' is not only for couples but is enjoyed by family and friends too. The following day, Saint Anthony's Day - honouring the patron saint of marriage - single women hoping Saint Anthony will bring them a husband do particular rituals or simpatias.


On February 14, Bulgarians celebrate San Trifon Zartan, the 'day of winemakers'. Couples young and old celebrate their love with a glass of local wine.


Valentine's Day in China is Qixi, the Seventh Night Festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year. Chinese lore reveals that Zhinu, a heavenly king's daughter, fell in love with Niulang, a poor cowherd. They married and had twins but when the news reached Zhinu's father, their union was not to be. Zhinu's mother came to bring Zhinu back to the stars. However, when Niulang's cries and the cries of the children rang through the heavens, the king said Zhinu and Niulang could meet once a year on Qixi.  During the festival, women hoping to find good husbands offer melons and other fruits to Zhinu while couples pray for happiness and wealth. At night, everyone watches the sky, looking on as the stars Vega and Altair (Zhinu and Niulang) come close in their annual reunion.

Czech Republic

On Valentine's Day, May 1, young couples go on a pilgrimage to the statue of the poet Karol Kynek Macha and for good luck kiss under the cherry trees.


Celebrated in Denmark since the early 1990s, the day of love and romance is celebrated with a twist. Instead of gifting roses and chocolates, friends and lovers exchange handmade cards with pressed white flowers ('snowdrops'). There is also the exchange 'lover's cards'. When first used these cards were transparent, showing a picture of the card giver giving a gift to his love. Today a 'lover's card' is any card given on Valentine's Day. Another custom is the gifting of gaekkebrev, a 'joking letter' with a funny poem written on elaborately-cut paper and anonymously signed with dots. If the women receiving the 'joking letter' correctly identifies the sender, she receives a chocolate egg at Easter.


On Valentine's Day some women used to place bay leaves on their pillows, one at each corner and one in the centre, so they would dream of their future husbands. Other women placed bay leaves wet with rose water across the pillows. In Norfolk, Jack Valentine acts as a Santa for Valentine's Day. Children  wait for Old Father Valentine who, out of their sight, places lollies and small gifts on their porches.


February 14 is Sobrapaev or 'friendship day' with everyone - couples, singles, family members, friends - celebrating love with the exchange of gifts.


Like Estonia's Sobrapaev, Finland's Ystaan Paiva celebrates friendship with gifts and the greeting, "Happy Friendship Day." 


In 1415 Charles, the Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife from his prison cell in the Tower of London. Many believe those love letters were the first ever Valentine's Day cards, a custom still popular today, especially in the French village Valentin, called the epicentre of romance for its beautiful yards, trees and homes decorated with love cards, rose and marriage proposal flakes.  Another custom was the une loterie d'amour, 'drawing of love'. Men and women in houses facing each other called out to one another, pairing off. Men not happy with their match would leave the woman for another while the women left unmatched gathered around a bonfire where they burned pictures of the men who rejected them, all the while hurling insults. Over time the bonfires became disorderly and violent that the French Government banned them. 


Using the fact that Ghana is one of the world's biggest cocoa producers to increase tourism, the Ghana government named February 14 as National Chocolate Day with chocolate being the main item on restaurant menus and the theme in musical events and performing arts.


In ancient times Valentine's Day was celebrated as the Spring Festival. Young people looking for love got together, enjoying music and poetry readings before strolling with their love interest. As well young single women would wake up before dawn expecting the first man they spotted to be their future husband. Today's celebrations include romantic dining and the exchanges of gifts, the most popular being Baci Perugina, small, chocolate-covered hazelnuts wrapped with a romantic quote.


On February 14 it's the women buying chocolates for their male companions or lovers, with high-quality chocolates for husbands and boyfriends, cheaper chocolates for colleagues or acquaintances. On March 14, 'white day', those who were given high-quality chocolates then give their loved ones more expensive gifts such as jewelry.


On Valentine's Day in an en masse gala event sponsored by the government, Philippino couples marry or renew their vows.


Celebrated on February 24, Valentine's Day is the day young people get engaged. Spring season is also celebrated with young men and women picking forest flowers and other couples as a sign of good luck washing their faces with snow. 


February 14, the first day of the New Year of working in the fields, and the day plants begin to regenerate. For this reason the people of Slovenia revere St Valentine is a patron saint of spring. The people also believe that on this day birds 'propose' to each other and to see this they have to walk barefoot through frozen fields. The day of celebrating love is March 12, Saint Gregory's Day.

South Africa

In ancient times, during the pre-Roman pastoral festival of Lupercalia, women pinned the names of their love interests on their sleeves. So, too, do South African ladies and the men learn of their secret admirers. 

South Korea

The romantic couples in South Korea celebrate the day of love in a variety of ways on the 14th of every month. In February women court their men with chocolates, lollies and flowers. In March, on the 'White Day', men add gifts to the chocolates and flowers they give their women. For those who are single, April has  'the black day' where singles mourn being alone by eating bowls of jajangmyeon, black bean-paste noodles. In May it's back to celebrating romance with the 'day of roses', in June 'the day of kisses', in December 'the day of hugs'. 

South West China

On 15 March, the people of Miao in southwest China celebrate the Sisters' Meal festival. Women wearing beautiful dresses accessorised with silver offer a variety of dishes featuring coloured rice placed on silk fabric to young men walking the roads. If two chopsticks are found in the chosen rice, the destiny of the lovers is love. If a clove of garlic is found, love is not to be.


On 9 October, the Feast of Saint Dionysus, as parades fill the streets of Spanish villages, men  make macadora, a marzipan figurine, as their gift to their female lovers. 


The Welsh don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Instead, on January 25, they celebrate San Dwynwen, Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, with the gifting of love spoons, a custom begun in the 17th century where Welsh men carved intricate patterns onto wooden spoons as a symbol of their love for a woman. Today love spoons are also gifted at weddings, births and anniversaries.

Whether single or in a loving relationship, we all have many traditions to enjoy on Valentine's Day. What's your tradition?

Love to love: love spoons in Wales - swooning!

Love to laugh: Not funny really but can't help a giggle at the garlic for the unlucky in South-West China or cheap chocolates in Japan. 

Love to learn: about all the fascinating Valentine's Day traditions

Monday 1 February 2021

The Breathless List – Pandemic Style

And an update from the Breathless in the Bush ladies

(Sorry in advance! This is a long one)

Normally, in January each year, the Breathless in the Bush ladies reveal their favourite ANZ romance read of the year.

But, let’s be serious, 2020 wasn’t a NORMAL year.

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And so, while we didn’t want to leave you hanging without a list, we did take a slightly different approach this year – compiling a list of the books (or not books) that got us through 2020 (and, we do note that they are not all Aussie or Kiwi this year).

First up, our book reviewer extraordinaire, Miranda who, when asked which books helped her survive 2020 gave us the following great recommendations;

I found The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home by Australian GP Joanna Nell a terrific example of the endurance of the human spirit, friendship, and love. This book is a story of connection in a nursing home, an environment most people don't want to find themselves in, told with great warmth, empathy and lovely gentle humour. It gives hope that no matter what the circumstances, others are also going through tough times, and there is always a kindred spirit who understands - or has an inkling - what you are going through. Every time I think of the book, I smile. The perfect thing to read in lockdown. 

Another wonderful pick-me-up romance to read in these troubled times is Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie. This book is the end of a 'Marriage of Convenience' series, so I'd met and been highly entertained by these characters before (although you can read this stand alone - but why would you when you can have 4 delicious books to inhale?). I think the anticipation of reading the fiery marriage of the icy cool duke and the wonderfully independent and slightly reckless, impetuous George (Lady Georgiana) was just fabulous. She turned every stuffy outdated thought he had on its head, and made him completely rethink the way he treated women and marriage - for the better (yay!). In the process she was still honest and 'herself' to the core, a complete heroine. I absolutely loved their rocky road to love; the story showed that love changes everything. The romantic in me loves that!

For the wonderful Breathless lady, Lynne, she discovered the wonderful Natasha Lester and devoured all of Natasha’s backlist. Lynne said:

I read all her wonderful books taking me to what I have found to be a most romantic time in history.

Amongst all the dangers and atrocities, there are incredible stories of love and survival and Natasha has certainly recreated wonderful stories in this time frame.

So hard to pick a favourite but if pushed would have to say The Paris Secret which combines a compelling romance with an intriguing mystery.  Definitely a can't put down story which I found to be case with all her books.

Lynne also told me that as long as there are books like Natasha’s to read, lockdown can go on forever.

Yeah, nah Lynne… I love your thinking, but I cannot be stuck in my house FOREVER 😉

And then the fabulous historical romance author Cassandra found solace in Amy Rose Bennett’s How to Catch a Sinful Marquess. This story is book three in Amy Rose’s Disreputable Debutantes series, described by the author as: a reserved debutante and a former soldier make an unlikely but fated match as they hasten for the Isle of Skye and, I mean, who doesn’t like disreputable debutants, soldiers and Scotland! Cassandra said that this book was "just the tonic I needed after finding it hard to read anything."

And finding it hard to read ANYTHING was certainly an affliction suffered by others in the Breathless in the Bush team. Both Jayne and Alyssa reported finding it hard to find the energy to read with everything else happening – whether that was writing work, work work or family and friends. Jayne did find some escape in Tricia Stringer’s The Family Inheritance – which, she says, highlighted the importance of family and communication. Jayne said:


One thing I really felt through Covid was how lucky I am to have my family all living in Australia, even though I wasn't able to see them as often as normal due to living in different states, at least I knew they were safe and close. A few friends of mine have family overseas and I couldn't imagine how painful it must be knowing that it could be years until they would be able to easily visit each other in person again. 

Alyssa, on the other hand, commented that she had found some solace in work. Working as a speech pathologist in the day job, Alyssa noted that it was good to know she was helping, and that there was plenty of variety coming in her front door!

And then there was Marilyn, who struggled with romance and happily ever afters in 2020 (SHOCK! HORROR! KIDDING!).

Finding it hard to find romances that interested her, Marilyn turned to other genres to fill her well but (OF COURSE!) returned to romance via a Barbara Erskine dual timeline historical romance, Sleeper’s Castle. Marilyn LOVES time slip stories, and said that she had been meaning to read this one for a long time as Barbara is the QUEEN of time slips (at least according to Marilyn!). Marilyn said:

'Two women, centuries apart. Linked in a place haunted by its history' is the tagline that drew me in, that and the fact that it's set in Wales (we had to cancel our third trip there in mid-2020, and I am so missing it!). It's a haunting tale with one heroine's story set in the 1400s, the other, a modern-day heroine. 

Great characters, fabulous settings. If only we could travel back in time... 

And then, unlike many of us, who did not get the memo until Netflix launched Bridgerton on Christmas Day, Sharon found the Julia Quinn bandwagon early in 2020! She, of course, started at Book 1 with The Duke and I but then read through all 8 of the Bridgerton books and followed those with the Rokesby series. Sharon said:

I loved escaping from the worries of the pandemic year into a world of romance, particularly Regency romance. Julia Quinn’s characters are the sort of people I would love to know well, and her novels are real page turners. Of course, my Regency romance year culminated with the release of the first series of Bridgerton on December 25. I’ve watched it twice already.

Then, last but not least, is the gorgeous Enisa, who returned to an old fave, Nora Roberts (Queen Nora, if you please!) and a new series, The Chronicles of the One. Enisa said:

Part fantasy, part romance, part adventure, the series (written over 3 years just before 2020), starts in Ireland with an event that causes the outbreak of a deadly virus that kills off most of the world's population (an eerie echo of Covid-19). Many who survive discover they have abilities stemming from 'magick.' This magick creates fear and hatred in those who aren't left gifted and wars break out, threatening humanity. It is up to one such gifted girl, and the boy who is her destiny, to save her new people. Loved, loved, loved this series. 

That the book was about a virus pandemic that has love fighting hate drew me in. I'm a sucker for stories where good wins against evil.

Who isn’t a sucker for good winning against evil? Seriously? Who isn’t?

Oh, yeah. And then there’s the book that got me through 2020.

I actually read more than I thought I did this year, but I did tend to read in fits and starts rather than consistently. And when I read – I binged authors and backlists. Katee Robert, Kylie Scott, Amy Andrews, K. Bromberg and Helena Hunting all have lots of entries on my ‘have read’ list. Yet, when I looked at my list I can’t say that any single book got me through 2020 – it was probably a podcast that saved my sanity – the Fated Mates podcast with Sarah Maclean and Jen Prokop (hey, I’m writing the list, I can go off track if I want!). If you aren’t already listening to this podcast, what are you waiting for? There are THREE seasons to catch up on. Sarah and Jen are knowledgeable, honest and if you don’t laugh at least five times during each show, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!

An update from Breathless in the Bush

On 19 March 2020 I (Kristine), like who knows how many other people lucky enough to be able to do so, I started working from home.

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Since that day I’ve been into the office on less than 10 occasions (most of them actually in January 2021). Like almost everyone in the country I’ve spent innumerable hours staring down the barrel of my laptop’s camera, on Zoom, Skype, Teams and Facebook Messenger, ‘virtually’ talking to all the people I’d usually be seeing face to face. I’ve been entertained by and wanted to strangle my mother* in equal measure (we live together), I’ve missed family dinners, Easter and Christmas gatherings, conferences, travel and hoarded just a little toilet paper. 

I even started watching Netflix (yes, I was LATE to that party…).

Others have lost friends and family members, or have not been able to see and spend time with loved ones, whether those loved ones were in aged care homes, interstate, or across the world. They’ve been sick and they’ve been scared. This virus has been serious business. Honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve been just a little thankful that my father passed away in November 2019 and not November 2020 because I DO NOT KNOW how I would have said goodbye from such a distance. 

Love your family and friends peeps. From a safe distance. With masks. And hand sanitiser.

And yes, in saying all this, I recognise how lucky we have been in Australia. Less than 1000 dead is still too many, and yet still much better than the numbers we’re seeing in the US, UK and Europe. We’ve also had significantly less people fall ill and, like always, we’ve recognised the Aussie spirit – pulling together off the back of floods and fires, to manage this virus as best we can.

But, 2020 has also invited us all to rethink our relationships with work, families, friends, and, importantly for us Breathless in the Bush ladies, writing. I don’t know about you but the one benefit I saw of working from home – avoiding the commute and WRITING ALL THE WORDS, funnily did not materialise in the way I’d imagined 😉 Yes, clearly I can still procrastinate like a boss.

So, in light of 2020, and on behalf of all the BitB clan, I’m writing to share an announcement.

Breathless is NOT going anywhere but, at least for 2021, we will be a little less prolific, publishing our blog every second month or so, rather than pretty much every week. We love everyone in our community – and we love blogging for you, but it’s just not feasible for us to keep up this pace!

We will be back later in February with our stalwart, Enisa Haines, leading the charge. We’ll then have posts up in later in February and around mid-month in April, June, August, October and December and, last but not least, OF COURSE, will be Miranda with her annual, and irreplaceable, Christmas round up. 

If you haven’t already read 2020’s round up, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? IT’S HERE.

We might also pop by from time to time when we have NEWS to share… a fabulous read, a celebration (when, finally, I’ve FINISHED a manuscript!) or just something funny (because, frankly, we need more funny in 2021). But we won’t be in your eyeballs every week.

We hope that you, our amazing community, understands our need to take a little breath (tee hee, see what I did there…) and we hope you’ll stay with us – and share with us in the comments below some of the reads (or other things) that got you through 2020.

Kristine xx

* PS, just to be clear, I don’t REALLY want to strangle my mother. It’s a turn of phrase… Don’t call the cops on me!

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, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

LOVE TO LOVE: the Aussie romance writing, and reading community, who all pulled together in 2020.

LOVE TO LAUGH: At quarantine jokes… Come on, tell me these (from Fatherly) don’t elicit at least a chuckle…

Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves. Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.

After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn't the reason.

The World Health Organisation announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out. 

And yes, thank me for putting that earworm in your head. Woof! 

LOVE TO LEARN: Or, at least, to sign up for learning. I’ve signed up for MasterClass, and Babbel in the last year or so and yet… I still procrastinate by watching reruns of The West Wing… go figure.