Saturday, 28 February 2015

Saturday Sneak-Peek: Gallipoli Street by Mary-Anne O'Connor

Mary-Anne O'Connor is a Sydney based author whose major novel Gallipoli Street is due for release on the 1st of March 2015. The granddaughter of a Gallipoli veteran, Mary-Anne has drawn on her own family history to inspire and inform her writing of this story.

'The Anzacs were elderly and frail when I saw them as a child but once...once they were young and strong. They felt courage and passion and lived through extraordinary times. It has been a humbling privilege to write about this generation.'  - Mary-Anne O'Connor

"As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the battle at Gallipoli in 2015, this poignant novel exposes where we have come from as a nation, by revealing the adversity and passions that forged our Anzac tradition.

Set against the backdrop of two great world wars and the world-changing events between, Gallipoli Street is an epic story of three Australian families whose destinies became entwined by war, tragedy and passion. It’s a story of mothers, sons, sisters and lovers, and of the anguish, passion, joy, loss and heartbreak of this period, as experienced by the three families who are not only connected by a common address, but ultimately bound by a greater fate. Inspired by her grandfather’s own story, in Gallipoli Street Mary-Anne O’Connor brings a fresh perspective to the story of Australia as we grew and became a nation."

Here's the Blurb:

"1913: Veronica O’Shay (Vera) is happier running wild on the family farm than behaving in the constrictive, ladylike manner her mother requires. She despairs both of her secret passion for her brother’s friend Jack Murphy and what promises to be a future of restraint and compliance. But amid the genteel tranquillity of Beecroft and the rural fringes of Sydney, Vera and Jack’s lives are about to change forever as the O’Shay and Murphy families, along with their friends the Dwyers, are caught up in the theatre of war. From the horrors of Gallipoli to the bloody battles of the Somme, through love lost and found, the Great Depression and the desperate jungle war along the Kokoda track, this sprawling family drama brings to life a time long past.

Mary-Anne O'Connor's debut novel is a love letter to Australian landscape and character and celebrates both mateship and the enduring quality of real love. But more than that, this book reveals the adversity and passions that created a nation, and brings to life the love and courage behind our Anzac tradition."

About the Author

Mary-Anne O'Connor nee Best grew up in Wahroonga in the Bushland Shire of Hornsby-Kuringai, northern Sydney. The youngest of six children, her childhood was spent exploring the local bush and playing music with her siblings and close neighbours. An avid reader, she devoured her mother Dorn's extensive library and was often found trying to finish a chapter by torchlight late at night. She also began to fill every blank piece of paper in the house with stories and drawings of her own and dreamt of becoming a writer one day.

When she was twelve her father Kevin Best left his established career in the stock-market to become an artist. The perseverance and ultimate triumph she witnessed during those years left her inspired to follow in his footsteps and pursue her own creative aspirations. A successful marketing career followed, along with the completion of education/arts degree and during this time she also co-wrote two books with her father, A Brush with Light and Secrets of the Brush. Work then began on her first major novel, Gallipoli Street.

Mary-Anne has drawn on her love of the Australian bush, her fascination with her own family history and her deep, abiding respect for the Anzac generation to produce this novel. It was written in her office at home, surrounded by her grandfather's war memorabilia and beneath a long window that overlooks her beloved gum trees.

Mary-Anne still lives in the Bushland Shire with her husband Anthony, their two sons, Jimmy and Jack and their very spoilt dog, Saxon.

For some fabulous "behind the story" information, please head over to Mary-Anne's website here.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Aussie Book Review: Shooting Butterflies by T.M. Clark

"A vivid and suspenseful portrayal of the contradictions of Africa and her people, traditions and superstitions – from the acclaimed author of My Brother-But-One.

He sees ‘The Butterfly’ in his dreams.
She is the key to setting a child’s soul free.
She is the perfect sacrifice.

Ex-soldier Kirkman ‘Buffel’ Potgieter lives by the motto of his former military unit: Tiri Tose, which is Shona for ‘we are together’…but also for ‘there is no escape’. So when Shilo Jamison Khumalo betrays Buffel by saving a neighbour’s child, Tara Wright, from becoming the latest addition to his sinister ‘butterfly’ collection, it sparks Buffel’s obsession with hunting them both down.

After Tara witnesses the murder of her father and uncle, she and her remaining family leave Zimbabwe for a new life in South Africa. There, a teenaged Tara meets Wayne Botha—but finds she isn’t prepared for the price she is asked to pay for falling in love. After Tara secretly flees the conservative rural community, Wayne never gives up hope of ever seeing his one true love again.

But years later, out of the blue, Tara makes contact with Wayne to reveal a secret—and some potentially devastating news. In a twist of fate, Wayne and Jamison find they have far more in common than just a passion for African wildlife and join forces to protect Wayne’s new family. But the threat of Buffel is still looming—and Jamison knows only too well that there will be ‘no escape’ for him and Tara, ‘The Butterfly’."

Africa’s dirty little secret, one that most of the Western World would probably find difficult to fathom - that of traditional African medicine or magical charms - is brought to life in this, T.M. Clark’s second novel set on a beautiful but sometimes harsh continent.

Rhodesia, 1946 - While out hunting in the bush, ten year old Kirk Potgieter and his best friend, Impendla make a gruesome discovery that causes Impendla a huge amount of fear as he knows what it all means. Kirk, however, having been brought up in a Christian home on a mission station, does not hold the traditional African beliefs that Impendla does so, when Impendla goes missing and a search party is sent out only to find his little body hanging from the same trees they stumbled upon the day before, he is filled with remorse at not being able to save him.

A number of years later, Kirk, now known as “Buffel”, still fighting the demons and nightmares that have haunted him since Impendla’s death, is a commander with the Psychological Operations Unit (PSYOPS). When one of his fellow soldiers, Shilo Khumalo, discovers that he has been committing unnecessary murders, he is horrified and determines to keep a special eye on him. Luckily for Shilo, there appears to be a faint connection of trust between him and Buffel and, when they finally leave the unit, Shilo goes to work for him on his farm.

Zimbabwe, 1981 – If it wasn’t for the day that Tara Wright and her mother visited their next door neighbour, Buffel, he would never have noticed this beautiful butterfly. One day, out riding with her father, uncle and cousin, Gabe, tragedy strikes and Tara is forced to run to the safety of their farm, Whispering Winds, on her own to seek help. When she reaches the gate she is unable to open it and begins to panic, worried that the murderer will find her. Whilst battling with the gate, a farm worker appears and comes to her assistance, opening it for her and telling her to run.

With her father and uncle both dead, Tara’s mother decides to relocate her little family to South Africa to begin a new life. For a time, all is well and Tara meets the love of her life, Wayne Botha. Unfortunately, while it seems that the fates are against their love for each other, another far more sinister threat continues to loom unknowingly over Tara’s life. Will the butterfly be able to escape the clutches of a depraved man who is still so set on atonement for his guilt?

Tina’s books, while published by Harlequin (a well-known romance novel publisher), definitely do not sit in the genre of romance only. There is so much at stake in her characters’ lives both emotionally and physically which enables her to cross genres by incorporating drama, history, adventure, intrigue, suspense, as well as the multi-cultural aspects of the inhabitants of Zimbabwe and South Africa, bordering on a sweeping saga – all in four hundred pages.

Drawing on fragments of her own life and experiences on the African continent, her knowledge of the traditional beliefs of the African culture, her first-hand experience with conflict in countries divided by political unrest as well as a huge amount of research into various themes contained within the covers, Tina isn’t afraid to put her characters through their paces whilst, at the same time, always keeping her readers a few steps away from total comfort.

The rhythm of ancient beliefs pulses strongly within this narrative and, just like Africa and its wilds, Tina has penned a book which is unpredictable, brutally honest and in tune to rural African mythology and the esoteric heart which beats at its core.

Passionately told, filled with compelling characters, a dramatic landscape, the scents and sounds of the African wilderness, a love that one hopes will transcend time and some truly bone-chilling moments, this is the ideal read for one of those nights spent around a blazing fire with the stars gazing down upon you.

I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this novel and cannot wait to see what she brings us in Tears of the Cheetah which is due to be released in December this year.

About the Author

Born in Zimbabwe, Tina Marie completed her primary school years at boarding school in Bulawayo, but on weekends and holidays, her time was spent exploring their family ranch in Nyamandhlovu, normally on the back of her horse.  Her teenage years were totally different to her idyllic childhood.  After her father died, the family of five women moved to Kokstad, a rural town at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa, where she lived in the boarding school hostel as her home. In winter she walked to school in the snow and could never get warm, and in summer she sweated having to wear an impractical, but smart, blazer on the same trail.

She began writing fiction when she moved to the UK while being a stay at home mum to her two sons, following a suggestion from her husband Shaun during a trip to Paris, and she hasn't looked back.

Now living on a small island near Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, Tina Marie combines her passion for story telling with her love for Africa. When not running around after the men in her life, she gets to enjoy her hobbies, which include boating, reading, sewing, travel, gardening, and lunching with her friends. (Not necessarily in that order!)  

Passionate about Africa, different cultures and wildlife, most of Tina Marie’s books are set somewhere on that ancient continent. My Brother-But-One first published in 2013 by Harlequin, Mira, was nominated for a Queensland Literary People Choice Award in 2014. Shooting Butterflies was published in 2014 and Tears of The Cheetah will be published in 2015. Tina Marie also runs the CYA Conference in Brisbane, helping others on their journey towards publication.

Readers are welcome to find Tina on social media by following these links:

Monday, 23 February 2015

Guest Post: What Inspired Me to Create a Psychic Heroine by Lizzy Chandler

In celebration of the publication of Lizzy Chandler's debut novel, Snowy River Man (which was released yesterday), Lizzy has kindly offered to give us some insight into why she chose to create a psychic heroine. Psychic abilities are something that has always intrigued me but it is also something I have lived with during my life as my own mother has psychic tendencies, in particular precognition. So, despite paranormal not being one of my chosen genres, I have no objection to reading those with characters that have these abilities and I can't wait to read this novel by Lizzy.

Lizzy Chandler has written a number of novels in different genres, including romance, suspense and fantasy. Snowy River Man is the first of her novels to be published. Lizzy is passionate about social justice and mental health, and loves stories that convey the healing power of love. She shares her time between her home on Sydney’s northern beaches and living in the Blue Mountains with her partner.

Snowy River Man is available as an eBook from the following links:

Amazon    Booktopia    Google Play    Kobo    Nook

Katrina Delaney isn’t an ordinary romance heroine. For one thing, she has psychic dreams. And she hates it. Hates it because it reminds her of the time she had a breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric ward, an event pivotal to the story. What Katrina, her mother and the doctors didn’t realise was her “breakdown” was part of the awakening of her psychic gift. This gift later helped her locate missing children – including the son of the hero, Jack Fairley, a wealthy mountains grazier.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve heard stories of psychic dreams. My nana had them. One morning, she woke up after dreaming of an old family friend who’d been missing for years. “I’ve been up in the Pilligar Scrub,” he told her. Nana was so convinced the dream was real, she tried to find the place on a map. Weeks later, the old friend turned up in my grandfather’s office in the city and announced where he’d been: the Pilligar Scrub! 

My dad also had psychic dreams. Sometimes it was just the answer to a problem he’d been working on. (He was a mechanic and would dream of what was wrong with an engine.) But other times…

When I was little, Dad used to take us kids to Mass and we’d fill the whole pew. (There were ten of us back then.) We made so much noise, fidgeting and squabbling, that the old priest told my father not to bring us unless he could make us behave. Dad never went back. Years later, we were holidaying up at Forster in a caravan park and Dad had a dream. “Keep taking the little ones to Mass,” he heard a voice say. Dad discovered later that was the night the old priest died.

I’ve had my share of psychic dreams, too, some to do with the writing of Snowy River Man. I’ll leave that for another time.

Lizzy would love to connect with her readers, so if you'd like to do so, you can find her here:

Facebook    Twitter    Blog

About the Book

Their chance at love was lost in the harsh light of day. Is the romance of the majestic Snowy Mountains enough to heal the wounds of the past so that they get a second chance at a future?

The last time Katrina Delaney saw Jack Fairley was the morning after a one-night stand, when she discovered he was engaged to be married. Seven years later, she dreams of a missing boy – Jack’s son. Katrina has worked with police to find missing children before, and she knows she must help. But seeing Jack again comes with its own set of dangers, and Katrina fears the risks she is taking with her heart.

Jack Fairley’s standing in the community can’t keep his son from wandering off during a country rodeo. Frantic with worry, Jack is willing to do anything to find him, even put aside his scepticism and accept the help of a woman who sees his son in a dream. But when that woman turns out to be Katrina Delaney, he’s immediately suspicious. Neither Katrina nor Jack have any reason to trust each other, or the attraction that flares between them again. But trust they will have to, if they want any chance at love. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Guest Post: Putting Heart Into Romance Writing by Anna Clifton

With all the excitement surrounding ARRA which is coming up in March, I am delighted to welcome Anna Clifton to the blog today. Anna will be speaking on a subject very close to her heart (pardon the pun), that of emotion in romance writing.

New Year's Promise, published in November 2014, is the third book in Anna's Murphy's Law series. Falling for the Lawyer was published in March 2013 and Adam's Boys in September 2013.

Before we buckle down to this emotional issue, I just want to take a moment to thank Anna for contributing this great post and give you a bit of an introduction to her and her writing.

Anna writes contemporary romance novels with a special focus on legal eagles and the modern urban family. Her third novel, New Year’s Promise, is out now and her fourth, Portrait of Somer (Harry’s story), is due for release through Escape Publishing on June 22, 2015.

New Year's Promise is available as an eBook from the following links:


I’m reading a crime novel at the moment. It’s well written, it’s racy and I’m enjoying it. But am I ‘feeling’ it? Not one bit.

I can’t relate to the main protagonist as though he’s a living, breathing life force. I don’t care if he’s happy or sad from one page to the next. But does this ‘not caring’ thing matter in the crime genre? Probably not. I’m enjoying the mystery and the intrigue. Would it matter if this protagonist was starring in a romance novel? Absolutely it would.

It’s not by accident that readers read romance novels. They’ve got their noses in those pages for a reason. They’re looking for that special something that they know the romance genre will offer them. But what is that magic ingredient that’s won the hearts of around twenty-nine million readers worldwide?

In a recent post in The New Yorker Joshua Rothman wrote, ‘We connect with books in an intellectual way, but the most valuable relationships we have with them are emotional’*. For me as a reader, that’s where romance fiction packs that emotional punch. I care about the characters I meet there. In fact, give me an emotional love story that has touch points for my heart and it will stay with me forever. I’m guessing that most romance readers feel just as I do.

So. Note-to-self: when writing my next romance novel, inject lots of emotion.

Easy. Right?

Well, not exactly.

It sounds easy. Unfortunately, it’s not easy at all. In fact, it’s damn hard – one of the hardest things a romance novelist faces. But why is it so hard to get readers to care about your characters and feel what’s happening on the page? And why is it so important that they do?

As I prepared this post I tried to remember a scene in a book I’d read where I’d sweated and fretted over a character and the predicament they’d found themselves in. One scene in particular kept flooding back into my mind. And one line in particular:

‘In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’

For those of you who’ve read Pride and Prejudice you might recognize Mr Darcy’s explosively unexpected declaration of love to Lizzy Bennet. Being both ‘handsome’ and ‘rich’ you might also think that in the rough and tumble of the eighteenth century marriage game Lizzy would have jumped at the proposal of marriage that follows? Alas, no. Her response to Mr Darcy’s proposal is scathing given that she and her entire village decided he was ‘proud and disagreeable’ the moment he arrived at the Meryton ball.

                                ** See below for copyright licensing information and

So how do readers feel about the proud and disagreeable Darcy in this proposal scene? I know how I felt but do other readers share Lizzy’s intense dislike of him? Do they believe that he deserves to be rejected as brutally as she rejects him? 

You might think so, given that Austen has handed out painfully few cues about Darcy’s motives towards Lizzy up to this point. Yet strangely, I’m pretty sure most readers are unwilling to hate-on Darcy with the same enthusiasm as Lizzy does.

Jane Austen had a fierce faith in her readers’ emotional intelligence. She had faith that by the time they reached the proposal scene - with the help of just a smattering of cues - readers would already be feeling Darcy’s powerful attachment to Lizzy. She had faith that they were feeling that beyond the village gossip Darcy might be far from all-bad. She even had faith that they were feeling that he and Lizzy might actually be made for each other. 

The genius of Austen is that she never ‘tells’ her readers what they should think or feel. What she does is give her readers the freedom to take ownership of the relationships they’re forming with her characters. Because of the fledgling bonds readers have already begun to build with Darcy - all on their own - this proposal scene is harrowing, even if we’re not yet quite sure why. 

The temptation for romance writers to regularly ‘newsflash’ to readers how they should feel about their characters is powerfully compelling. Why? Because we’re utterly petrified that readers and reviewers will hate our characters if we don’t. 

The problem with newsflashing is that readers of romance fiction want to experience the thrill of life-like relationships within the relaxation of their reading world. And in real life, relationships are not born out of newsflash moments, they’re forged within step-by-step journeys of discovery, connection, understanding and growth. To feel what’s going on a reader must experience this same slow thrill around a character’s journey too, just as I experienced Darcy’s. And although mapping out a cracking itinerary for the journey is essential, it’s not a writer’s job to frog-march readers to their ultimate destinations. 

So, once a writer has mustered up the courage to let their readers run free within the world of their characters, is that it? Will that be enough to entangle their characters with the hearts and minds of their readers in a way that will endure beyond the last pages of the story?

Once again I’m reminded of another creative genius. Not an eighteenth century English novelist but a cultural icon of the twentieth century American film industry.

Walt Disney was a trailblazer. No doubt about it. He discovered that if human qualities and everyday predicaments were kept front and centre of his movies then his creative choices were limitless. Not only could he animate his films, his main characters could be talking animals! 

The film, Bambi, is a great example. Can anyone relate to being an animated baby deer?

Not likely. Does it matter? Clearly not. I cried buckets when Bambi’s mother was shot and he was left to fend for himself in the wilds of the forest. But I wasn’t crying about a deer. I was crying about the gift of motherhood and the grief and vulnerability of a child who had lost that gift forever. 

Romance fiction is no different to cinema. No matter who or what the main characters are, whether eighteenth century aristocrats or modern day captains of industry, their predicaments and motives must actually touch a reader’s life in some way. If they don’t, the reader won’t feel what’s happening to the characters. Whether it’s grief, joy, loneliness, jubilation, or any of the other emotional roller coasters we ride, readers must feel these being played out in a gripping and inspirational way on the pages before them.

Not every book will touch a reader’s life. No writer has discovered a one-size-fits-all recipe for that yet. But for writers who care about forging a dynamic and emotional relationship between their readers and their characters, committing to a unique journey of discovery within their story and then putting their heart and soul into its resolution is vital. 

After the release of my third book, New Year’s Promise, a reader wrote to let me know how much she’d enjoyed and appreciated Justin and Ellie’s story. But what she also said was that she’d cried her way through the scene when Justin’s brother, Sam, makes his final goodbye to Ellie. The reason it had moved her, she said, was because she’d experienced something similar to that despair-hope moment that Ellie experiences on that snowy Paris street.

Did all of my readers relate to this scene in that way? I know they didn’t. The reason I know is because I was never going to reach every reader with Ellie and Justin’s story. But what I did want to do was reach my readers, with a story that was emotional and meaningful for them as individuals, as though each one of them was the only reader I had written it for. 

So what is the magic ingredient within the romance genre that’s won the hearts of around twenty-nine million readers worldwide? 

I’d be willing to put money on the fact that it’s the exhilarating and emotional journeys it offers its readers. But what the genre also offers, like no other, is a chance for readers to ride-up-front on those emotional journeys. They may not be in the driver’s seat, but they’re indisputably a vital and dynamic part of the journey as they enjoy the wind in their hair, the company of exciting if challenging new friends in the backseat, and the building anticipation of the destination that awaits them all.

(*Joshua Rothman (February 2, 2015) ‘The History of “Loving” to Read’. The New Yorker.
**’Pride and Prejudice’ by Apostolos Letov available at under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. See

Anna loves to connect with her readers, so if you'd like to do so, you can find her here:

About the Book

They've been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more - and he's not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

When Business Development Executive Ellie Halligan is offered the job of a lifetime in Paris, it seems her chance to live a fairytale adventure has finally arrived. Her only hurdle is convincing legal eagle Justin Murphy - her boss and friend since childhood - to wave his boss' wand and waive her four-week resignation period so that she can start her adventure by Christmas.

But Justin proves to be a demanding fairy godmother. He'll let her go early, but not unless she spends time with him over the festive season up until New Year.

Ellie doesn't know what to do. Is Justin finally looking at her romantically after all these years, or are far more threatening dynamics at play? Justin has a secret, and he seems to want to pull her back into a past she'd rather forget. But delving into that old pain might be the only way to move forward - and for Justin to finally be free.

Will doing this for Justin become Ellie's final gift of love as she loses him forever?

Monday, 9 February 2015

Blog Tour - Guest Post: Twisting the Truth by Avril Tremayne

I'm kicking off another great Blog Tour for all you die-hard romantics out there. This time around, I'm delighted to welcome Avril Tremayne, author of Wanting Mr Wrong which was published on the 2nd February.

Avril has kindly offered to share her thoughts on her characters ... and the torture she loves to put them through!

Just a quick note before I introduce you to Avril though and that is, that the tour will continue tomorrow at Australian Women Online. Please do hop on over to see what Avril has to say to them. 

After a highly successful career in corporate communications, Avril Tremayne decided she needed a little more romance in her life.

And, having tried her hand at shoe selling, nursing, teaching, and short-order cooking, before braving the corporate ladder as a high flying executive mixing it up with the business elite and an occasional celebrity, Avril has gathered more than enough raw material to kick-start a swag of tall tales.

Avril is a mad keen traveller, with more favourite cities than should be strictly allowable, and loves giving travel advice to anyone who asks - and a good few who don't!?

When she's not writing or reading, she can generally be found eating - although she does not cook - drinking wine and obsessing about shoes.

Avril lives in Sydney, Australia, where her husband and daughter try to keep her out of trouble - not always successfully.

Before Avril kicks off with her Post though, I'd just like to thank Random House Australia for arranging her contribution and also Avril for agreeing to chat about the metamorphosis of those wonderful things called characters.

Wanting Mr Wrong can be purchased in eBook format from the following links:


Recently, a friend of mine told me she was going to have fun matching the characters in one of my books to their real life models.

I was like, whoah – I don’t do that! 

But then I started wondering if maybe I actually do. 

Okay, I’m confessing right now that very often something in my real life tends to trigger something in my brain that ends up in something on a page. For example:
  • My slightly embarrassing crush on British actor Matthew Macfadyen gave me the idea for the crush-crazy heroine, Evie Parker, in Wanting Mr Wrong.
  • In Here Comes The Bridesmaid, I used a few characteristics – and the real surname, because I love it – of one of my all-time favourite aviation colleagues, who was a willing participant. He wasn’t exactly a ‘touchy-feely’ kind of guy, and is also a head-shaver. Just those two things were enough to get me started on building a fabulous hero, Leo Quartermaine. (Oh, yeah, and my own carnivorousness and shoe obsession came in handy for heroine Sunshine Smart.)
  • The genesis of my book Turning The Good Girl Bad was a mortifying experience from my corporate life. I was naughty enough to be doing a little sly editing of a romance manuscript in my office at lunchtime, when I was interrupted by a request from a senior executive (who shall remain nameless) for a particular document. I duly put the document in an envelope and handed it over, only to look around for my manuscript pages and find them missing. Shock horror! I raced into that poor executive’s office and wrenched the envelope out of his hand so fast, his head was spinning like Linda Blair in The Exorcist!
  • I started thinking of my nurse heroine, Ella, in From Fling To Forever, when I was applying for a job with Médecins Sans Frontières (a job I didn’t get, incidentally).
  • My book, The Contract, which is coming out as a Random Romance in April, came about because a banking colleague once joked that I should make my hero an economist, just like him. I liked the idea of an economist straight away – but for my heroine, and somehow the plot unfolded from that career choice.
But the truth is that although my stories and/or characters might start in real life, they don’t stay there. They metamorphose into something much more wonderful. 

For example – those pages I thought I’d put in that envelope with the executive’s document, which kick-started Turning The Good Girl Bad? Well, in real life, they weren’t in that envelope – but if you read the book…? Let’s just say the result is more exciting.

You see, the fun happens when I start twisting and turning and torturing. Giving my characters excruciating pasts to deal with; getting them into trouble – and out of it; laying on the passion; raising the stakes; giving them choices – the more difficult the better.

Inevitably, my characters end up nuttier, more glamorous, cuter, tougher, nastier, and altogether more fabulous than anyone I know. 

And that’s why, when another friend of mine remarked recently on the utter gorgeousness of Jackson J Stevens, the hero in Wanting Mr Wrong, I replied (with apologies to Mr Tremayne, who is a very worthy hero himself) that I only wished I lived my heroines’ lives. 


About the Book

Wanting Mr Wrong is an irresistible rom com about a girl who refuses to fall for the man the whole world is in love with.

Evie Parker has never been one to swoon after celebrities – give her a neuroscientist over an actor any day! So when she develops her first movie-star crush, she's determined to date her way out of it, starting with the next good-looking doctor she sees.

Yet hovering on the fringes of her life is her gay best friend's determined brother, Jackson J Stevens, a famous actor who comes with trailing paparazzi.

The one thing worse than a celebrity in Evie's eyes is a media circus, so Jack isn't an option no matter how hard he flirts with her.

Evie knows what she doesn't want; Jack knows what he does. And somewhere in the middle, pheromones are making things go haywire every time they're together.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Aussie Book Review: The House at the Bottom of the Hill (Swallows Fall #3) by Jennie Jones

“From the best-selling author of House on Burra Burra Lane, comes a brand-new story about opposites, attraction, an outback pub, and a pink house...

The mysterious death of her mother has left Charlotte Simmons on edge and off-balance for too long. The only way to move forward is to get answers, and those answers can only be found in one place. So Charlotte buys a Bed & Breakfast establishment in Swallow’s Falls, a small town in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, as a ploy to get close to the man who might have the answers. She’ll jazz up the old place, flip it, get her answers, and be gone in two-months – max.

What she doesn’t count on is opposition from the dogmatic and slightly eccentric members of the town council, and the hotshot owner of Kookaburra’s Bar & Grill and his two-hundred-squats-a-day physique whose mouth offers to act as mediator, but his eyes promise something so much more. 

Easy-going Daniel Bradford knows progress is slow in Swallow’s Fall. He’s finally about to put his plans into place to upgrade the hotel when a prim-and-proper, citified redhead blows into town, putting everyone on edge. The only way to contain the trouble she’s about to cause is to contain her – but he knows trouble when he sees it, and soon it becomes very clear that there’s absolutely nothing containable about Charlotte, or the way he feels about her.”

Jennie Jones invites you back to the drama and small town antics of Swallows Fall where the residents stick together, a slow-burn between the newcomer and a handsome resident will become a blazing fire, a mystery is about to be solved while a years old secret will unfold.

Charlotte Simmons has arrived in Swallows Fall all the way from the UK after the death of her grandmother and the sale of her beloved bed and breakfast business. Having been brought up by her gran after her mother’s mysterious death years before, she continues to be haunted by unanswered questions surrounding her mother’s murder and feels the only way she can get the truth about the man who murdered her mother is from Ethan Granger (House on Burra Burra Lane), his son.

Under the pretext of buying the local B & B (the house at the bottom of the hill) and renovating it so that she can begin trading as a going concern, she doesn’t realise that the residents have a certain pride for their town and are vehemently opposed to change so, when she makes plans to change the exterior colour of the cottage, she doesn’t count on the radical opposition she’s about to come up against. Thankfully she’s not planning on staying too long … all she needs to do is get Ethan on his own and ask him a few questions.

Her plans are somewhat thwarted though when she makes an unexpected friend in the form of Daniel Bradford, the owner of the local pub. Without meaning to, she soon finds herself being drawn in by his easy-going manner, his willingness to help her and his darned sexy butt! And then, there’s her dog Lucy! But, Daniel has his own secrets too!

This is the second book in the series (sorry Jennie, haven’t quite got to the Christmas novella, 12 Days at Silver Bells House yet) and again I have been enchanted by this little town of Swallows Fall (whose population has now increased to 97), wanting to visit so that I can see all the quaint old buildings, visit the pub, rock in a chair next to Grandy and listen to his reminiscences of times gone by, all the while learning everybody’s secrets.

Jennie’s writing is warm, inviting and extremely entertaining with her great wit and humour pervading the story in the interactions between both her main protagonists as well as her stellar but quirky cast of secondary characters such as Lucy (Charlotte’s four-legged friend), Mrs Tam, Mrs J, Ted, the twins, Ruby the pig and, of course, dear old Grandy, the town’s intuitive patriarch. Her incorporation of a number of the characters we grew to love in The House on Burra Burra Lane (my review here) also gives this novel a sense of continuity whilst providing some closure on a previous hot topic.

The question of the colour of the house at the bottom of the hill, in addition to Charlotte’s agenda for being in Swallows Fall and the unwanted sparks that begin to fly between her and Daniel, provides the motivation for most of the conflict in the story and, as a rural romance, this works well in keeping the momentum of the book going.

Jennie truly does capture the heart of a small Aussie town from the close-knit community to the pride of its residents, right down to the gossip-mongering and, like Burra Burra, there’s a bit of mystery at its heart and sadness as its core.

Charming, warm, mysterious and romantic, all you romance buffs out there need to come home to Swallows Fall!

I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a hard copy ARC of this novel.

About the Author

Born and brought up in Wales, Jennie Jones loved anything with a romantic element from an early age. At eighteen, she went to drama school in London then spent a number of years performing in British theatres, becoming someone else two hours, eight performances a week.

Jennie wrote her first romance story at the age of twenty five whilst ‘resting’ (a theatrical term for ‘out of work’). She wrote a western! But nobody wanted it. Before she got discouraged a musical theatre job came up and Jennie put writing to one side.

She now lives in Western Australia, a five minute walk to the beach that she loves to look at but hardly ever goes to - too much sand.

Jennie returned to writing four years ago. She says writing keeps her artistic nature dancing and her imagination bubbling. Like acting, she can’t envisage a day when it will ever get boring.

Aussie Book Review: Bad Romeo (Starcrossed #1) by Leisa Rayven

“While performing the greatest love story of all time, they discovered one of their own . . . Cassie Taylor was just another acting student with big dreams at her prestigious performing arts college . . . then she met Ethan Holt. She was the good girl actress. He was the bad boy on campus. But one fated casting choice for Romeo and Juliet changed it all. Like the characters they were playing on stage, Cassie and Ethan's epic romance seemed destined. Until it ended in tragedy when he shattered her heart.

Now they've made it to Broadway where they're reunited as romantic leads once again - and their passionate scenes force them they're forced to confront the heartbreaking lows and pulse-pounding highs of their intense college affair. For Ethan, losing Cassie was his biggest regret - and he's determined to redeem himself. But for Cassie, even though Ethan was her first and only great love, he hurt her too much to ever be trusted again.

The trouble is, working with him again reminds her that people who rub each other the wrong way often make the best sparks. And when it comes to love, sometimes it's the things that aren't good for us that are the most irresistible.”

In Bad Romeo, Cassie Taylor hears that she is going to be cast alongside Ethan Holt in a theatre adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. More than six years before, her and Ethan had been an item at college but she thinks she’s now over him and once again in control of her life. However, when they meet again, all her memories come to the fore and we are taken back to the beginning of the end.

Bad Romeo was one of the last books I read for 2014. As most of you know, it’s not very often that I read and review books from the New Adult genre so, when I received my ARC copy of this novel and read the blurb, I didn’t think that I would like it. But oh boy, have I changed my mind now that I've read it! What started out as Twilight fanfic has turned into something that has the younger generation abuzz and, having said that, I believe that Leisa Rayven is destined for great things.

I really enjoyed this book. Leisa executes the story well by giving it to us from Cassie’s perspective and using flashbacks and emails that Ethan sent to her, which helps to fully develop her characters. All of this as well as her scene setting and dialogue went a long way to drawing me in and keeping me glued to the story. 

The narrative switches between past and present, allowing the reader to piece together what has brought Cassie and Ethan to this point, with Cassie’s voice full of angst, ambivalent emotion and tormenting thoughts.

This is a slow-burning, emotional roller-coaster of a story that gives insight into how it all began and I found myself investing everything I had into Leisa’s characters and their story. The level of pain, anguish and love that she incorporates is simply superb and will keep you engaged until the last page is turned. So, if you enjoy a character-driven romance with a large focus on inner turmoil and introspection, then put Bad Romeo on your list of must reads. After the grand finale of the Twilight saga, I’m sure there are a number of readers out there who are looking for something in a similar vein – only this time, without the vampires. Right now, I'm waiting for the release of the sequel, Broken Juliet, due to be published in May!

Chemistry, unresolved sexual tension and humour set against the backdrop of drama school and Broadway make this highly anticipated debut from Leisa Rayven extremely readable for Romance and New Adult readers alike.

I wish to thank Pan MacMillan for providing me with a hardcopy ARC of this novel.

About the Author

Writing has always been a passion for Leisa, and even though she originally intended to be an actress, it wasn’t long into her time at drama school that she began writing plays.

Those plays were bad. Very bad. Well, her friends thought they were good, but that's because they were always cast in them and any opportunity to be on stage was met with an obnoxious amount of enthusiasm.

Since then, she's honed her craft, and several of her plays have been produced and toured throughout Australia.

These days, playwriting has given way to fiction writing with Bad Romeo being released worldwide during December 2014.

Leisa lives in Australia with her husband, two little boys, three cats, and a kangaroo named Howard.

(Howard may or may not be her imaginary marsupial friend. Everyone should have one.)

Book Review: Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

“Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims.  Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep.  Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together.  But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.

Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school.  Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past.  Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies.  Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed…”

“Where there is life, there is hope” - Dana

A year ago, Dana Nolan barely escaped the clutches of a serial killer with her life, after being beaten, tortured and raped. “Before Dana” (as she describes herself before the trauma) was an intelligent, attractive, confident and successful TV news reporter. “After Dana”, prefers to hide in a hoodie and can’t control what comes out of her mouth. Suffering with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as a result of severe trauma to her head, her woes become even more pronounced as we learn of her disfigurements, scars, terrible nightmares and debilitating memory loss. She is now just a shadow of her former self. In fact, there’s barely anything left of the girl she used to be. When her mother brings her home to Shelby Mills, all of a sudden the interest in her best friend, Casey Grant’s disappearance, is reignited with Dana caught in the midst of it all. But, when an incident triggers a distant memory, she begins to relentlessly search for answers pertaining to Casey’s unsolved disappearance just after graduation, seven years before.

The other characters Tami introduces us to are John Villante, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who dated Casey in high school then left town to join the army but who has now come home a lost and broken man with a lot of anger issues; Dana’s mom who is shattered by the trauma that her daughter has endured; Roger, her step-father who can barely even look at her now; Tim Carver, Dana’s high-school sweetheart and now the current town deputy; “Mack” Villante, John’s father, an abusive, cold, begrudging alcoholic who can’t even bring himself to love his son; and Dan Hardy, the now retired detective who investigated the disappearance of Casey.

Tami sets every one of her characters up so perfectly that not one of them (including Dana herself) is beyond suspicion and I felt myself constantly second-guessing myself as she expertly led me first in one direction and then another.

Her writing style is brilliant, drawing you into both her main protagonists’ worlds immediately, as she gives us both their perspectives with, for me, strains of Gotye’s song, “Somebody that I Used to Know”, heart-achingly replaying in the back of my mind throughout . Her voice is sympathetic to all the afflictions, such as PTSD and TIB, touched on and, when you read her author’s notes, you will realise why – she has either been through it or knows someone who has.

Tami has structured the novel in such a way that the first three quarters of the book have longer chapters giving us a lot of interesting background into what has brought all these characters to this point in their lives with maximum emotional impact. As you reach the climax though, the chapters get shorter, building up to a corker of a denouement in which all the questions you have asked yourself will be answered.

Taut, edgy, multi-layered, and totally absorbing, Tami Hoag will have you checking your doors twice while coming to the realisation that you should never prejudge the worth of a human being by circumstance and outward appearance alone.

Well worth the read for all fans of the crime and thriller genre.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with an ARC of this novel by an author who I'll definitely be seeking out in the future.

About the Author

Tami Hoag's novels have appeared on international bestseller lists regularly since the publication of her first book in 1988. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages worldwide and over twenty-million copies of her books are in print. Tami is a dedicated equestrian in the discipline of dressage and shares her home with two English cocker spaniels. She lives in Florida. Find out more at

Monday, 2 February 2015

Blog Tour - Guest Post - Research: Someone's Got To Do It by Lisa Walker

I'm happy to announce that I am kicking off the Blog Tour of Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing written by Lisa Walker. Arkie's Pilgrimage is her third book with her first being Liar Bird and her second, Sex, Lies & Bonsai.

Lisa has very kindly offered to join me today on the blog to share some of her thoughts on one of the most important aspects of writing, that of research! At the end of this Guest Post is a link to the Blog Tour list as well as a link to the next blog on the tour. Please do visit the other blogs listed where you will find an array of Q & A's, Guest Posts as well as Reviews from other great Aussie book bloggers.

Born in Holland, having grown up in Fiji and spent her teenage years in Brisbane, Lisa has worked as a bartender, wilderness guide, igloo builder and tertiary lecturer. She now works part-time in community relations. Unable to decide whether she likes writing or science more, she has Masters Degrees in both natural resource management and creative writing.

Her half-hour radio Play Baddest Backpackers aired on ABC Radio National in 2008. She was a finalist in the ABC Regional Short Story Award and winner of the Byron Bay Writers Festival short story award. Her writing has been published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald Online and the Review of Australian Fiction.

She lives in a pole house on the far north coast of New South Wales. In her spare time she reads widely, surfs, backcountry skis and bushwalks. Although she is yet to do a pilgrimage, she still has a notion that at some stage she will head out - sans husband and kids - on a spiritual journey from which she will return changed for the better.

Before I kick off the tour, I would just like to thank Random House Australia for arranging Lisa's contribution and also Lisa for agreeing to share her take on research.

Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing, released today, can be purchased from the following links:


Authors are often quite strategic about the books they choose to write. Settings like Paris or Antarctica mean – damn – I suppose I’m just going to have to go there and take a look. Google Street View is wonderful, but you can’t beat the little observations you make when you’re actually in a place.

When I originally started writing the book that became ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’, I envisaged a story about a woman walking the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan. I read a lot of books about it and it sounded wonderful, but I wasn’t sure when I was ever going to find sixty days to do it — I have a job and kids — and I didn’t think I could write about the walk without doing it. So, rather than hold off writing the book until I could do the pilgrimage, I decided to write about someone who wants to do it, but can’t. Arkie, I decided, would have to have her pilgrimage right here in Australia.

I tried to think where you would go to do a ‘temple’ pilgrimage in Australia and the idea came to me one day as I was driving past the Big Prawn — more or less as it does for Arkie. I suppose Big Things appeal to my sense of the ridiculous. I like the way they become totems of the towns that have them and how surprisingly passionate people become about them. For me, they evoke a sense of nostalgia. I have extremely vivid memories of visiting the Big Banana and the Big Pineapple as a child and they seemed like the most exciting places in the world. Like Arkie, I still think there is something ‘weird and sweet’ about them.

In the course of researching ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage’ my son and I embarked on a Big Things tour. He’s a keen filmmaker so he made a short film about it. Our tour included the Big Banana, Prawn, Avocado, Pie, Redback Spider, Pineapple, Macadamia, Cow, Shell, Pelican and Mower. We had a lot of fun doing the sorts of things that Arkie does — eating a pie at the Big Pie, eating fruit at the Big Avocado and cruising the kinky banana souvenirs at the Big Banana. My visit to the Big Macadamia was a bit like Arkie’s too — very intrepid.

At the time I did this tour, back in 2011, Ballina’s Big Prawn was just a shell and the closure of the Big Pineapple was breaking news. A local newspaper had a picture of a sad family who had supposedly driven all the way from Sydney just to go to the Big Pineapple, only to find out it was closed. But since then, both the Big Prawn and the Big Pineapple have happily experienced a new lease of life so I have reflected these changes in the book.

And coming up next? Well, it looks like I might have to take that trip to Paris… Ho hum.

Lisa, you make research sound so exciting. For all those aspiring authors out there - Good Luck with yours!

About the Book

A delightfully funny and inspiring novel about a very modern pilgrimage, and one woman's chance to rediscover what she's lost.

'I watch the highway go by and ponder my situation. I am on the run from my husband's divorce lawyer, my mojo is still missing in action and my demon ex-lover is lurking . . . But, all things considered, my pilgrimage is going well . . .'

Arkie used to be a trendspotter, running a successful business advising companies on ‘the next big thing'. Until she lost her marriage and her mojo along with it. 

Her eccentric new friend Haruko suggests a pilgrimage in Japan. But funds are tight, so instead Arkie's going on a very Australian trip, to all the ‘Big Things'. 

With Haruko as her guide, magic is everywhere. A Buddha appears next to the Big Redback, the Big Macadamia rises from the jungle like a lost temple and inside the Big Shell she can hear a tinkling voice, reminding her of the child she never had. 

As her improbable adventure unfolds, realisation dawns: could it be that, despite her celebrated foresight, Arkie's been missing what was right before her eyes?

Please do hop on over to 1 Girl 2 Many Books' blog where you will be treated to both a Review and Guest Post.

As promised above, for a list of the other blogs taking part, please click here where you will be re-directed to the Blog Tour page on Random House's website.

You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #ArkiesPilgrimage