Monday 4 December 2023

CHRISTMAS BOOKS! A wonderful time of year!

Hello, my darlings! It's been too too long! Lovely to be back here on Breathless to bring you my bumper Christmas reading suggestions - and we're spoilt for choice.  

Let's dive into what I've already enjoyed.

I know I'm super-duper predictable, but Debbie Macomber always makes my Top Ten (Top Eleven this year). Her novella Jack Frost was a gorgeous start to Christmas reading with a grumpy/sunshine pairing. When Jack and Lindsay get accidentally locked into their work Christmas party when everyone leaves, Jack is totally a super grump. But only at first... Enjoy!

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I'm sure you read The Christmas Bookshop by the Scottish author Jenny Colgan last year. Did you worry that Carmen's relationship needed a bit more resolution at the end? Fear not, here is the sequel, Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop. It's worth reading both books because they're all about saving Mr McCredie's old bookshop, and that booky story thread is utterly fab and quite funny in parts. Set in snowy Edinburgh, it makes me want to go back there. 

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I was thrilled when I found The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Susan Wiggs in my library! Who could resist those furry little faces? Christmas-hating Brenda gets roped into driving twelve rescue dogs across the US to their new owners for Christmas. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately something does...and hot single dad paramedic Adam comes to the rescue. Can he change Brenda's mind about Christmas? And wow, all those dogs involve some lovely mini stories too. A must for dog lovers and actually, everyone.

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Do you know, so many many lists of favourite Christmas romances include Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice. It's also continually listed as a comfort read, 'one I reread every Christmas', 'on my keeper shelf' and so on. I decided to read it myself this year, and now I totally get what everyone is talking about. It is gorgeous, my friends, about a group of people who've made some right and wrong choices in their lives, even had tragedy occur, but they bravely struggle on and eventually all end up together one snowy Christmas. Oh my dears, there's so much love in this book it will fill your heart. 

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Back to Sydney, Australia, and beautiful Manly Beach, which features highly in Belinda Williams' new novella The Christmas Escape. It might be a shorter book but it is mighty, tackling the problems of long distance relationships. Do they really work or is it all too hard? Well, cough, if you came all the way from England and met Jaz, professional surfer, single father and cafe owner, you might be inclined to change your mind. 

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We all know and love Mary Jo Putney, and she's given us a kitten for Christmas, in her new novella The Christmas Tart. We so need kittens at Christmas, and also need the very nice new baronet Sir Philip Selbourne. Yes, please (gets stocking ready...). This one's quick enough to read in a sitting, the perfect length in this busy time. 

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Hang in there, five final Christmas books. I haven't read these, but December's looking excellent to do so.

I've just started Kandy Shepherd's Mistletoe Magic in Tahiti, so by the time this post goes live I'll be sitting in a HEA cloud at the end; Kandy is always swoon-worthily romantic. This is part 1 of The Christmas Pact Trilogy featuring three sisters, so go right ahead and indulge in them all: Cinderella's Costa Rican Adventure, and Snowbound Reunion in Japan. Tahiti! Costa Rica! Japan! They all sound fabulous, don't they? Love Christmas 'done' in a different country... 

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We'll Never Have Paris by Adriana Anders. This is described as another grumpy/sunshine book (I cannot get enough of these) when the grump (a Welshman) and the sunshine (an American) get stuck in an elevator on Christmas Eve. But seriously: Paris! On Christmas Eve! Say no more! 

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For those who love a hot Christmas, and vets, this is high on my TBR: A Country Vet Christmas by five - count 'em, five beloved Aussie authors: Lily MaloneAlissa CallenPenelope JanuPamela Cook and Stella Quinn. What a fabulous anthology for a very modest price. 667 pages of great reading ahead, I can't wait. Fellow Breathless blogger Enisa Haines mentioned this in her column last month, but it's such great value I'm going to recommend it again. 

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This definitely has to go on my Christmas list: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan, which also goes by the title The Christmas Book Club in the UK. I listened to her audiobook Snowed In For Christmas last year, and absolutely loved it, so I'm downloading this one too. I really enjoy a good audiobook, they bring the stories alive.

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Last but definitely not least - and probably not the last (cough) on account of all I can see in my Kindle are more and more and more Christmas books - I found this charming inspirational romance, The Doctor's Christmas Dilemma by a new-to-me author, Danielle Thorne. I'm really looking forward to it: a second chance of love with a bit of faith thrown in. Sounds perfect.

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So that's me, folks. Be kind to each other, be generous, be loving, be safe. And of course read as much as you can. May your Christmas be full of booky goodness and lazy days to enjoy it all. See you in 2024!

With love for a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year,

Miranda xx

Love to Love:
I guess we all know I'm going to say, Christmas romance!

Love to Laugh:
...and cry, through all the delightful Christmas movies now screening. So much Christmas festiveness and hot chocolate and wow, emotion.

Love to Learn:
What is special to you at Christmas. To me it's family, faith, friends, fun, and love. Always love. And food! You?

Monday 6 November 2023

Romance and the Magic of Christmas

by Enisa Haines

It's a season many days away yet but everywhere I turn it's looking a lot like Christmas. Streaming services such as Netflix and Hallmark bring an enticing array of Christmas romance movies while publishers spoil us with a plentiful choice of Christmas romance novels. 

What to choose? Our voracious romance reader Miranda will be talking about that in her next post, just in time for a Christmas book binge. What I'm wondering about is this abundance of Christmas romances. 

These stories have lured readers since the time of Victorian England (yes, Christmas romances were popular even then). What is it about them that calls to readers and movie-goers alike? 

Christmas is a time where happiness abounds. Families get together, as do friends and even strangers. Gifts are exchanged, delicious meals served, reminiscences shared. Moments to celebrate, where joy, generosity, a sense of belonging, and love - of family, of friends, neighbours, workmates - is all around.

And it's love that is the highlight of these beloved romances. Though many stories may not focus on the true spiritual meaning of the season, always these romances are set in the days or weeks leading up to Christmas or through the three days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. 

Magic exists at that time. Wishes are made and there's the promise that if you believe what you wish for it will come true. And what are romance novels but stories where readers get the happy-ever-after they crave in fiction. The heroine wishes the life she's experiencing at the beginning of her story will change by the end. The hero, a man beset with problems of his own, also wishes for something better. Circumstances  bring them together but it is love that heals past hurts and shows them that together they have the life they once thought would only ever be a dream.

Whether we immerse ourselves in Christmas stories for the setting and its spiritual meaning, or for the expectation that the hero and heroine will find their 'forever love', it seems to me that it's the happiness that fills us while we're immersed that we seek. And Christmas romances always give us joy.

As lovers of Christmas romances, is it the same for you?

Love to love: Several native plants fondly called Christmas Bush for their gorgeous displays of flowers from October to January are found throughout Australia. My favourite is the NSW native Ceratopetalum gumniferum and now I have one of my own for my balcony. 

Love to laugh: romantic comedies are both a joy to watch and oftentimes you can't help but laugh.

Love to learn: Christmas has so many traditions. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the hanging of mistletoe, fruit puddings and cakes are ones that spring to mind. Each intrigue me as to their origin and so I have the urge to explore. 

Monday 16 October 2023

Spring has SPRUNG!

I don't know about you but spring is my favourite time of the year (maybe because it opens with my birthday!) but how can you NOT love the mild, sunny days, the blooming flowers, the beginning of daylight saving, and the sense of emerging from the winter hibernation.

Spring is also a great season in which to set a romance or read a romance and so, this month, I thought I'd share a couple of my favourites with you (to help fill those TBR piles!)

Firstly, this one's been out a little while now but, if you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? The Vintner's Muse by Jennifer Westgarth is set in the spring in South Australia (mostly in the beautiful Clare Valley) and opens with one of the best scenes I've read in a while (no, I won't tell you what it is because that would be a spoiler!).

This is Jennifer's debut, and it's a great one... I have quite the soft spot for professional women (like our FMC Shannon) who are trying to make sense of their lives when their plans go off the rails. And our MMC, Ethan is her perfect foil, with similar dilemmas, and our two dummies clearly have to work out that they're made for each other. 

Secondly, an oldie but a goodie, Nora's A Bed of Roses, the second book in the Bride Quartet series. I've not linked this as I'm expecting that most of you will have already read this but, it's always great for a re-read and, if you haven't  read it, you really should - the series is a little older now, but still generally holds up. 

A Bed of Roses is a friends-to-lovers story involving the Quartet's florist, Emma and their architect, Jack. It's also a romance set amongst an abundance of weddings (and the occasional Bridezilla to balance the mood!). This book (and its series siblings) are also great because of the sense of family (especially found family), and the focus on women successfully navigating a successful business together. 

Thirdly, we have one that's not 'strictly' a romance but rather a women's fiction book, Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. This one also isn't, strictly speaking, set in spring (in fact I can't quite work out the season where we begin) but I got it for my birthday, which is in spring, so I say it counts. I asked for this book because I'd seen one of my fave actresses (Missy Peregrym from FBI and Rookie Blue) had apparently optioned it for a movie, so I wanted to see what it was about.

It's an interesting book... and I'm still thinking about it so that means it must have resonated somehow. Cassie Hanwell, Texas firefighter, is our protagonist, who has to uproot her life and move to Boston, partly to deal with her own actions and partly to deal with an unwell parent. The story follows her finding her way through vulnerability and forgiveness, and it can be a little blunt instrument in parts but, overall, is worth a read. Note though, it doesn't seem to be available in ebook in Australia.

Finally, RUBY AWARD WINNING The Library at Wagtail Ridge by Janet Gover is my current read (a spring read, even though it's set in summer) and I'm loving it.

I love Janet - she was a 'newbie' at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in 2015, the same year as me and some of my closest friends, and we've remained friends since... Janet writes amazing rural romances, and this one seems no different.

The Library at Wagtail Ridget tells the story of Lou Taylor uncovering the story of her birth mother via her inheritance of a cottage, a mobile library, a scattering of letters, the town of Wagtail Ridge, and her new neighbour, Jake Barnes. And, who doesn't love a MMC named Jake?! They're always a little trouble and a lot worth it! 

I'm still in the middle of this one, so if you've read it, reach out and let me know your favourite parts.

So, what else has sprung in Spring? A little shameless promotion to end this month.

November 14 this year sees the launch of Love for Maui a jam-packed anthology of all kinds of romance shorts and novellas with all proceeds going to the University of Hawai'i Foundation, to assist those impacted by the Maui wildfires last August. I've submitted my award-winning, sexy contemporary short story, Cuffed. You can preorder Love for Maui here.

LOVE TO LAUGH: When is it impossible to plant spring flowers? When you haven't botany!

LOVE TO LOVE: The first blooms of my Mum's roses.

LOVE TO LEARN: I attended the Toronto Romance Writers Conference this month and while I confess to not attending most of the sessions in real time (as time zones are a pain) I really enjoyed hearing from their guests... Zoe York and Farah Heron in particular. And everything you hear is true, Canadians are the NICEST people!

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 her website, or on various social media platforms here

Monday 10 July 2023

The Joy of Romance Reader events

 by Alyssa J. Montgomery

From the 1st to 5th June this year, I was in Houston, Texas, at the Book Lovers Convention and it was a fun, up-beat event, but there was some sadness and a lot of nostalgia too, because this was the last Book Lovers Convention.

Taking a step back in time...The amazing, and trail-blazing Kathryn Falk founded Romantic Times and the RT conventions. She created a unique environment where writers, agents, publishing houses, cover models, reviewers, librarians and readers were all able to come together. Behind the scenes, Jo Carol Jones was the wonder woman who organised the events for- I think - about 20 years. So, when Kathryn announced that the RT convention in Reno was to be the last event, all those in attendance were thrilled to learn that Jo Carol was going to pick up the baton and continue the annual event as the Book Lovers Convention (BLC!). The slogan "I can't wait for BLC"  was particularly apt.

We talk about having a 'tribe' that isn't familial and my tribe is my romance writers/authors and reading friends. I've always enjoyed the RWA and ARRA events and gatherings, but I was on happiness overload when I attended my first RT event in 2014 in New Orleans (From memory there were approximately 3000 people there and the event was one of the most well-attended RT convention of all time).. 

From that first New Orleans gathering, I reunited with the RT then BLC "family" in Dallas, Las Vegas, Reno, New Orleans and Houston. And, as silly as it might sound, the incredible group of volunteers who stuck with Jo Carol, other authors, and especially the romance readers embraced me as part of the "family". It became the norm for me to walk through the foyer of the hotel to calls of "Alyssa! Hey girl, how are you doing?" (The fact that I'm an Aussie and many "I just love your accent" comments were made, probably made me a bit of a novelty!). 

The joys of these particular reader events were:

- meeting and connecting with like-minded people (both romance readers and writers)

-discovering new authors (and models!!)

  With some models, Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons and at a Book Bash signing event. (Images Copyright: Alyssa J                        Montgomery)




-learning more about the industry from other writers and from industry professionals

-all manner of fun in the form of dinner and dance parties, author and publishing house events, games to play and craft activities in which  to participate. (Better still, dressing up is encouraged at these gatherings)

(Fancy Dress Events! With my friends Susan and Libby

So, what's next?

Well, since Kathryn Falk first showed us the way with the RT Events, there have been several other large reader/writing/industry professional conventions that continue to 'spring up'. I've just been to the BABE23 event in Sydney (amazing event run by Tate James and Jaymin Eve), but they say this was the last BABE event in Sydney as well.

Next year I'm going to be at the READERS TAKE DENVER event in April. Tickets and accommodation are almost sold out, so if you'd like to attend, you'd better get your skates on!! 

Have you any international book conventions you're keen to attend? If so, please let us known about them.

Love to Laugh in sheer happiness at being in attendance at one of this incredibly up-beat reader conventions.

Love to Love reuniting with friends I've met through the Romance reading events and making new friends..

Love to Learn about what all my friends have been up to - what they are reading/publishing.

Best wishes to all,



Monday 12 June 2023

 What Makes ‘Good’ Book?

By Marilyn Forsyth

I’ll start by stating the obvious: the concept of a ‘good’ book is totally subjective.


There are certain qualities all readers expect from a book they’d recommend.

From what I’ve read, what many readers identify as the most important quality of a good book is a CAPTIVATING STORYLINE. They want to be sucked into the story and transported to another world for the (often) all-too-brief hours of the read.

Next in importance is COMPELLING CHARACTERS. Readers want believable characters they can identify with and come to care about. They want to laugh with them, cry with them, and think about them long after the book is finished. 

Who can forget Katniss Everdeen??

For many readers it’s the author’s LANGUAGE STYLE that makes a book memorable. Every author’s voice is unique to them, their personality emerging in the tone of the book, in their word choice, in the way they structure sentences and use punctuation. I think dialogue comes in here, too (I love good banter).

A SATISFYING ENDING is the gauge of a good book for many readers. Getting to the end and closing the book with a sigh of happiness or a fist pump of celebration is, for them, the final decider.

Other things mentioned as features of a good book are pragmatic things like auto-buy authors, thorough research, and decent-sized print (although this isn’t an issue with e-books). Some readers judge from a scan of the first page (or the first few lines) whether the book will grab them and not let go. Others nominate themes like old houses, family secrets, etc. as good books because they're into that genre.

For me, I judge how good a book is by how much it makes me ‘feel’ as I’m reading. If I can feel each character’s excitement or delight, sadness or anger or regret, that’s exactly what I want. And if it keeps me up reading into the early hours (even knowing I’ll pay for it the next day), that’s a bonus.

I can’t finish this post without mention of things that spoil a potentially good book. These are my no-nos:

 Lack of thorough copy-editing (grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes take me out of the story)

Inconsistency in character behaviour (takes away from believability of the character)

Plot holes (should never happen)

The book not meeting genre/cover/blurb expectations


How about you? I’d love to know what you think makes a book ‘good’ (or bad)? Let me know in the comments.

Love to Love: holidays! We recently returned from Khao Lak in Thailand. Such a relaxing time in a gorgeous place.

Love to Laugh: at crazy memes. (I’m an Ed Sheeran tragic but this made me laugh out loud.)

Love to Learn
: I’m doing an on-line Watercolour class at the moment. (I'd share but I'm not happy with my efforts yet. 😉)

Monday 10 April 2023

The myth and folklore that is the Easter bunny and his eggs

 By Cassandra Samuels

It is Easter Monday, so I wanted to talk about that other part of Easter.

Everyone loves Easter, if not for the religious aspect, then for the love of chocolate. How did a rabbit become tangled in all this? And how is it connected to eggs? That is what I am going to try and explain today. \

Courtesy of Creative Commons
 We all know they don’t lay eggs so how are chocolate eggs connected? To explain we must go all the way back to the Pagans. They celebrated the festival of Eostre or Ostara (a great northern goddess of Spring) whose symbol is the hare. 

courtesy of Creative Commons
Easter, as you know is not a fixed date every year, but is commanded by the phases of the moon, again a nod to the pagans. The hare also represents spring and fertility. We all know the saying about rabbits, so what about the eggs because we all know rabbits do not lay them. 


Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Since ancient times German folklore has connected rabbits and eggs where the Easter Rabbit puts colourful eggsin nests and baskets of good little children. They then took this custom with them as they migrated around the world.  

The Greeks have a more orthodox reason for dying eggs red at Easter. The egg is dyed red to represent Christ’s blood, its shell the tomb of Jesus and the cracking of the shell the resurrection from the dead and escaping his tomb. 

Photo by ALEXANDRA TORRO on Unsplash

But what about the chocolate? I hear you ask. In the early 19th century France and Germany started introducing chocolate eggs as eating chocolate. Before that chocolate was consumed as a drink but once they perfected the process of separating Cocoa from the seed, they were able to start using chocolate as it is mostly consumed today. Apparently, Fry and sons around 1860 invented the first chocolate bar from paste, sugar, cocoa butter, and chocolate liquor and moulded into a bar. Fry’s first chocolate easter egg was around 1873. 

Courtesy of Preston's Museum

The first Cadbury Easter egg was made in 1875 and now there are more types of Easter chocolate than you could possibly consume. 

So, there you have it. Easter is a combination of folklore, festivals, and religion. Over time they have become combined in a celebration that can be shared by all.  

I hope your Easter break was a wonderful one. How is your Easter spent? Have you ever read a Romance novel set over Easter? 

Love to love watching the children participating in the Easter egg hunt. 

Love to learn all about how the first chocolate eggs were made and how they related to the Easter Bunny. 

Love to laugh at my silly new puppy Buddy as he plays with his toys.

Monday 13 February 2023

Holiday Romance Novels

 by Sharon Bryant

I love reading romance novels and watching movies about Christmas, as well as those with a holiday theme. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Hanukkah, there are so many holiday seasons incorporated within romance novels and films. 

Each Christmas, I look forward to Miranda's special post on this blog site. I download the books she recommends, and spend my spare time in January reading my way through them. So much fun! 

As a Debbie Macomber fan, I was delighted to find her novel "The Christmas Spirit" amongst this year's recommendations. It's a fabulous novel, well worth reading.

I'd also like to recommend a Hanukkah-themed holiday romance novel, "The Matzah Ball". The heroine Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a chronic disease who secretly writes best-selling Christmas romance novels. She runs into difficulties when her publisher insists she diversify and write a Hanukkah-themed romance. She has no idea where to start, and decides to attend the Matzah Ball on the last night of Hanukkah, hoping to find her muse. This means working with her archenemy from summer camp days, Jacob Greenberg. 

My favourite Christmas films are the timeless ones like "It's a Wonderful Life", "The Holiday" and "Love Actually". "Sleepless in Seattle" is my favourite film with a Valentine's Day theme.

Do you love Christmas and holiday-themed romance novels and movies as much as I do? Have you ever wondered what makes them so special?

Why Are Christmas Romance Novels So Special?

Nan Reinhardt, romance author and blogger, thinks Christmas romance novels use the romance tropes we enjoy so much, but the holiday themes can make the romance seem much sweeter. 

Hayley Walsh, author, relates the popularity of Christmas romance novels to the way people like to feel - good, hopeful and happy. "Christmas novels are usually full of love, hope, fun, laughter and leave with that warm fuzzy feeling inside." 

Penny Jaeger, author, argues that Christmas novels amplify the universal desire for love because Christmas is "the time of miracles, the time of wishes being fulfilled".

All of these authors link the popularity of Christmas romance novels to the way we feel or would like to feel at Christmas time.

Why do people like to read books and watch movies with a holiday theme?

Associate Professor Brent Rodriguez-Plate argues that holiday movies are popular because they offer their audience a "glimpse into the world as it could be."  Holiday movies offer hope and can provide "solace, reaffirmation and sometimes even courage to continue working through difficult situations", and can serve as a "barometer for how we might wish to live".

The holiday-themed romance novels and films that I love all meet these criteria. I read and watch characters solving difficult problems, and finding ways to live their lives that more closely approach how they would like to live. This is often accompanied by lessons learned, personal growth and recognition that although life is never perfect, it can be good. 

Do you have any favourite holiday-themed romance novels and movies? If yes, please share the details.

Why do you think holiday-themed romance novels and movies are so popular?

I hope you had a good Christmas, an enjoyable holiday season, and wish you a fulfilling 2023. Happy Valentine's Day.

I love to love holiday romance novels and films.

I love to laugh with friends and family.

I love to learn and grow.