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Weekly musing: highlander romances

21 June 2018

What do you think a highlander romance is?

Who doesn’t love a Scottish hero? I think it is safe to say that we all love Jamie! Jamie, who? I hear some of you ask? Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Can I say swoon-worthy? If you haven’t read this series yet you MUST—no ifs and buts about this! Get your bum in gear and watch this series. There is the added bonus of the TV series to indulge on and Sam Heughan is one fine-looking gentleman.

So to kick this musing off, who is your favourite Scottish hero? Jamie is mine, you can’t have him! Well, okay we can share … maybe …

Well, obviously it has to be set in Scotland, with a Scottish hero or heroine. Although I find that most of the books I have read have the main character is the Scottish hero more so than the heroine. The other obvious requirement is that it has a HEA or HFN ending. It must also be historically correct or the readership will pull you up on it. For example the wearing of kilts when it was appropriate; not when they were forbidden by law (unless it was mentioned).

Does a highlander romance have to be historical?

No, although most of the highlander romances I am aware of are set in the historical era rather than be contemporary works. If you know of any contemporary highlander romances, please speak up! Highlander romance also finds it’s way into paranormal romance and time-travel romance.

There are many common elements in this genre such as: kilts, Scottish warriors, alpha heros, Scottish tempers. The use of the Scottish Gaelic language, plus the use of phrases like ‘wee lassie’ ‘ack’ and ‘dinnaes’. This leads me onto my next question … What makes a Scottish hero? I’ve found they tend to be referred to as a ‘noble savage’, usually complete with a fierce loyalty and a sword at the ready. They tend to also be very prideful along with a bad temper!

My must-read highlander romance authors are: Diana Gabaldon, Karen Marie Moning and Julie Garwood.

Who are your must-read highlander romance authors?

My top 10 must-read highlander romances are:

  • Outlander/Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander)
  • Son of the Morning by Linda Howard
  • Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (The Montgomerys and Armstrons)
  • Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning (Highlander)
  • The Bridegroom Wore Plaid by Grace Burrows (MacGregors)
  • Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband by Melissa Mayhue (Daughters of the Glen)
  • A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney (Scottish Sisters)
  • An English Bride in Scotland by Lynsay Sands (Highlanders)
  • The Devil Wears Kilts by Suzanne Enoch (Scandalous Highlanders)
  • Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts (Bad Boys of the Highlands)

What your reading recommendations for highlander romance?

The first highlander romance that I read was Highlander’s Curse by Melissa Mayhue. It was so pretty that I picked it up not knowing that it was #8 in a series. It didn’t matter, it was great anyway. Even though it doesn’t have any people on the cover it’s still my favourite cover! What’s yours?

Here are all my favourite covers:


Happy reading!

#SecretProject #Discussions #LoveReading


Release day: Maggie’s Run

21 June 2018

Today is the official release of Maggie’s Run by Kelly Hunter (Outback Brides, book 1) (ebook and print, Tule Publishing). Here’s the blurb:

Maggie Walker has never called Wirra Station home. Orphaned as a child, she spent more time at boarding school, and then working in the city, than she ever spent on the edge of the outback. But when her great-aunt dies, Maggie inherits everything and reluctantly returns to tidy the place up before selling.

Ambitious cowboy-next-door Max O’Connor has the means and the desire to buy Wirra Station outright and return it to its former glory. But first, he wants elusive Maggie Walker to know what she’s giving up. He challenges her to live at Wirra Station for three months and if she still doesn’t love the place after that, he’ll gladly pay up and she can be cashed-up and careless, with no ties to anything or anyone.

Three months. Two hearts. One Summer. Roll on.

Kelly dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:

Teaming up with fabulous authors Victoria Purman, Cathryn Hein and Fiona McArthur to create the small country town of Wirralong was such a lot of fun. I claimed a run-down, historic grazing property for Maggie and set about bringing her home. I added Max—a man whose life had intertwined with Maggie’s since childhood—and promptly tried to break him. When I couldn’t break him, I set about driving Maggie away. I’m very persistent! But resilience won, and love won, and I’m proud to introduce the first of the Outback Brides to readers. I hope you enjoy them.

You can find out more about this book at Kelly’s website or buy it from Tule.

All ARRA members who leave a comment on this post will go in the draw to win ecopies of all four books in the Outback Brides series. The giveaway will close on 5 July.

Feature book: Wayward Heart

20 June 2018

Wayward Heart by Cathryn Hein

Subgenre: rural romance
Release date: Dec 2016
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Format: print and ebook
Length: 408 pages
RRP: A$14.99 print; A$13.99 ebook

I haven’t read any of the other Rocking Horse Hill books, so getting the characters straight in Wayward Heart was a little disconcerting at first. However, I trusted Cathryn Hein to take me by the hand and lead me through. Which she did! By the end the characters felt like old friends, and I so want to read more of Granny B. What a firecracker!

In this book, grieving Digby Wallace-Jones hooks up with his sister’s long-time best friend Jasmine Thomas, somewhat by happenstance. His sister’s wedding is upcoming and Jas is bridesmaid while he is best man for the groom. He and Jas have known each other for years, but never really in any sort of romantic sense.

The recent death of Digby’s fiancée was unspeakably horrible. It sounds like she was a very troubled lady, and maybe not the nicest person in the world. But Digby loved her despite her faults, even though his heart was and still is sore and troubled, knowing she fractured some of the relationships in his family. This guy loves big, and he’s a man walking on the edge of a very dark pit. All the family are tip-toeing around him, worried they might never reconcile properly or that he might go and do something stupid …

Jas is coming out of an ill-fated relationship with Mike, a married man. He really is a loser and she knows it, but it takes quite a bit of strength for her to break the bonds and she’s not quite there yet. She fell in love with him before she realised he had a wife and children. She’s horrified by her own behaviour—and his!—but love is love and takes some doing to undo.

When Digby realises Jas has a stalker his protective instincts kick in. The two find comfort together, even with everything else still unresolved. The question becomes whether they can actually get past their own huge issues, and then find love.

This is a very heartfelt and moving romance, the kind Cathryn Hein does so very well.

Reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Release day: His Million Dollar Marriage Proposal

19 June 2018

Today is the official release of His Million Dollar Marriage Proposal by Jennifer Hayward (The Powerful Di Fiore Tycoons, book 2) (ebook and paperback, Harlequin). Here’s the blurb:

“I have a business proposition for you.”

Sealed with a million-dollar ring!

To win the most important deal of his life, Lazzero Di Fiore needs a fake fiancée. He strikes a pact with his gorgeous but guarded local barista Chiara: he’ll save her father from bankruptcy, if she agrees to wear his ring! But any convenience is consumed by their explosive attraction. Now Lazzero is determined to see his diamond on Chiara’s finger—for good!

Jennifer dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:

I am so excited to share the second book in my The Powerful Di Fiore Tycoons trilogy with you! Cinderella is my favourite fairytale—it’s so romantic and aspirational! I always wanted to put myself in Cinderella’s shoes as she dances the night away at the ball with the handsome prince, putting her loathsome sisters to shame. Who wouldn’t want to be swept up in that kind of a dream? So I decided to write my own Cinderella story with a modern-day twist. Barista Chiara Ferrante is battling her way through a massive line-up in an Upper West Side café when Lazzero Di Fiore walks through the door with a very unconventional proposition. Play his fiancée for ten days in Milan to divert a jealous ex-lover and he’ll save her father’s bakery. Chiara is sure she shouldn’t do it—she has her own past and it’s waiting for her in Milan. She knows this flirtation with Lazzero should stay exactly where it’s always remained—within the café walls! But the chance to save her father is too tempting. She’s determined to keep her head as she graces the arm of Manhattan’s most notorious bachelor. He’s made #2 on the city’s Most Wanted Summer Lover list. But when the opportunity to find out exactly what the fuss is all about leads Chiara into temptation, it might not just be her father’s future on the line—it might also be her heart!

You can find out more about this book at Jennifer’s website or buy it from Amazon.

Love Between the Pages

18 June 2018

In June, July and August the Love Between the Pages author tours from Penguin continue, with events in WA featuring Anthea Hodgson and Sasha Wasley, and in Queensland featuring Barbara Hannay, Christine Wells and Helene Young. Today some of these authors are sharing their thoughts on writing about love in all its forms …

Helene Young on writing familial love

I’m fascinated by the twists and turns of love within family relationships. Can the love between partners be eclipsed by love for a child? Does the way we are loved as children influence our own relationships? I think a mother’s love is the most complicated and important of family loves.

In Return to Roseglen, ageing matriarch, Ivy Dunmore, knows she’s blind to her children’s faults, but she’s powerless to change. Her love is bone deep, different for each of them, but no less strong. Her eldest child, Ken, holds a special place in her heart, even while she grapples with feelings of guilt.

Ivy’s daughters, Felicity and Georgina, share the bond of sisters—sometimes volatile, sometimes judgemental, but always strong. Even menopause, and all the change that brings, can’t break their love.

But love becomes more complicated as we age. There’s a point when our parents become the children and we become their carer. That love is different to everything that’s come before. It needs to be patient and kind, gentle and wise, yet, sadly, that isn’t always the case.

For years the crime of elder abuse has snuck under society’s radar—adult children taking advantage of their parents, manipulating them for their own financial or emotional gain. That’s when the very love that succoured them, protected them, becomes a weapon to be used against their parent. And yet, even then, a mother or a father can make excuses for their children’s faults.

In Shakespeare’s words ‘love is blind.’

Sasha Wasley on writing romantic love

For me, writing about romantic love is a bit like building a fire. You can’t just throw the big logs on and hope they’ll catch. I start with the kindling to ensure the romance really takes hold. Many readers talk disparagingly of ‘insta-love’—when the romantic couple have barely met and they’re already declaring undying love (a bit like Bachelor in Paradise). There is a fine line between simmering new love and believability!

So the kindling is a series of igniting moments for the lovers—sparkly conversation, eye contact, touch, smell, physical reactions, shows of kindness or chivalry—anything to demonstrate they mean something to one another. I’m also a fan of little handmade or thoughtful gifts to show how well a character ‘gets’ their lover. I’m NOT a fan of extravagant gifts like cars or jewellery because these smack of control: ‘I have chosen this for you and you will use/wear it’ (alpha males send me running the other way).

Once the kindling’s burning merrily, it’s time to pile on the big burners. These are the things that test your lovers’ relationship: crisis, rivals, illness, poverty—drama, basically. Their love must be able to stand up to some heavy battering or how can we believe it will last beyond the wedding day? Now’s the time to show how well they comfort or defend one another, help and support each other through hard times, and make them earn the happiness of true love.

And I don’t think writing about romantic love is unrealistic. It can act as an anchor point for a reader: a way to work out if your own love is satisfying, if a new prospect is worth your time, or even if you are in an abusive relationship. Most romance celebrates strong, loving relationships—and that’s healthy, in my opinion!

Anthea Hodgson on the love of a community

There are many types of love. I was lucky enough to grow up in a tiny town in WA, where ‘the girls’ ran the town like loving village elders and the experience of being held in the collective cradle of their arms has formed who I am today.

When you live alongside each other across the years, you learn to be forgiving of each other’s faults. There were many different personalities and a mixture of generations, but the women I grew up with made space for each other and they were always there when they were needed. We lived through all the messiness of life together—bankruptcy, infidelity, substance abuse, illness, divorce. We knew each other’s secrets and the women of my hometown accepted and supported each other through it all.

One of the girls turned up to do our ironing while Mum was away with her ailing parents, a couple more taught me to play tennis. An older lady taught me to crotchet in the Yealering tearooms. They worked side by side planting trees and flowers in the main streets, pulling weeds from the CWA. They held bush picnics, they drove each other’s kids to boarding school.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I think that’s becoming rarer now. I was lucky to have been brought up in the bush by wonderful women, who understood the power of community and the power of love.

Sandie Docker on writing female friendships

What drew me to write about the bond of female friendships in The Kookaburra Creek Café is just how strong and dynamic that bond can be. Free from the constraints of expectation that can come with other forms of love and the roles we’re supposed play within those relationships, there is something quite magical about female friendships.

The BFF who eats ice cream and chocolate with you into the wee hours of the morning after you break-up with your boyfriend; the girlfriend who understands and sympathises when hubby is out of town yet again, and takes you out for lunch; the one who gives you a pendant to help remind you how strong you are when life threatens to reignite your depression; the friends who sit with you in the hospital and buy you food and feed your dog when your child is in intensive care; the one who reaches out when you’re suffering PND as they recognise it because they’ve been there too. The depth and scope of female friendships is vast and glorious.

I love my husband, my daughter, my family, with all my heart. No question. Without them I cease to exist. But it’s my girlfriends, that small group of beautiful women who are true and strong, that fill the spaces in between. And it’s those spaces in between I find most exciting when I write.

This month, WA authors Anthea Hodgson and Sasha Wasley will be talking romance and books at:

  • Woodvale Library, Tuesday 19 June, 6.00 pm. Tickets $4. More information here.
  • The Bull and Bush Tavern in Boyanup, Wednesday 20 June, 11.00 am. Tickets $15. More information here.
  • Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School, Wednesday 20 June, 6.00 pm. Tickets $10. More information here.
  • Busselton Library, Thursday 21 June, 10.30 am. More information here.
  • Iluka Capel Library, Thursday 21 June, 6.30 pm. More information here.
  • Mandurah Library, Friday 22 June, 1.00 pm. More information here.
  • Victoria Park Library, Wednesday 27 June, 6.00 pm. More information here.

In July and August Barbara Hannay, Christine Wells, Helene Young will be touring in Qld:

  • Chermside Library, Monday 30 July, 6.00 pm. More information here.
  • Indooroopilly Library, Tuesday 31 July, 10.30 am. More information here.
  • Carindale Library, Tuesday 31 July, 6.00 pm. More information here.
  • Victoria Point Library, Wednesday 1 August, 2.00 pm. More information here.
  • North Lakes Library, Wednesday 1 August, 6.30 pm. More information here.
  • Toowoomba City Library, Thursday 2 August, 12.00 noon. More information here.

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free. Bookings are essential. Dymocks will be selling books at each event.

Guest blogger: MC D’Alton

17 June 2018

How to write a loveable monster

About a year ago I started watching Penny Dreadful, a delicious, four-seasoned, binge-worthy, television series, starring all my favourite monsters. Witches, demons, werewolves, Dracula and Frankenstein, graced my television screen whenever I had a free moment to watch what I’d recorded on Foxtel (and by free, I mean Mommy had the house to herself, kinda free moment).

I’ve always been drawn to the darkness in a character. Why are they the way they are? Is there any good inside of them? And if so, what do I have to do to find it, love it, and make it shine?

I found myself toying with the idea of a romance starring a monster as the love interest. I wanted to write a monster people could fall in love with the same way I was totally besotted with Penny Dreadful (yeah, I know I’m weird, sue me). I mentioned this one morning at my writers group, the BookBaybZ. Melanie, a dear writing friend, and my co-author said, ‘How will any sane person fall in love with a monster?’

And so, the story began to unfold.

So how does one get your beautiful, strong-willed, independent heroine—and your readers—to fall in love with a monster, and give them a happily ever after?

Would Frankenstein have ever found his one true love? Would society have accepted him, or them? Probably not. And, I wasn’t in the mood to travel down the vampire or werewolf road either—I’m a little over Twilight (don’t beat me over the head fans).

I had a very specific hero in mind and my idea intrigued Melanie, who soon suggested we co-author this strange plot I couldn’t stop whingeing about.

Over the following weeks, Melanie and I tossed ideas back and forth until … voila! Beauden Somerton and his steampunk universe was born.

By creating a world, which essentially revolved around late 19th century morals, but had the added speculative advantage of steampunk, Melanie and I were able to sculpt a monster so unbelievable, he was both believable and easy to fall head over heels in love with.

We created a man born with a heart defect, to a prominent Edinburgh physician who was not going to stand by and watch his son die. A man so determined to save his son, he invents, then builds a heart made of iron, and implants it into his son to save his life—and so, a monster is born … or is he?

According to historical beliefs, the soul resided in the heart, ergo, no heart, no soul, but …

Our monster had both a soul and a ‘heart of gold’. So, how did we go about convincing our reader of this? Firstly, we pointed out his good manners (this being an important quality in any gentleman, of course), his ability to empathise (duh, totally necessary in any man we want to swoon over), to desire (romance factor is a must), and we gave him a love for mankind by giving him a workshop where he used the science invented by his father to build prosthetic limbs for any person, rich or poor, who’d lost a limb to amputation. (Need I say more?)

We then made a point of showing, through his actions, that even in his compromised physical state (because hello, a lump of iron in one’s chest is a health risk), he was willing to defend our blue-stockinged heroine, Galena. We showed, and had the reader feel, how he fell in love with the woman who would eventually save his life.

We pointed out his respect for her intrepid desire to become one of the world’s first female physicians, and how he supported her through every obstacle that came her way. (Is that not what most women would want from their beloveds?)

And then, to make sure our readers didn’t leave our universe thinking our darling monster was a wimp, we weaved a true monster into the plot. And while our villain did not bear the physical similarities of a monster, his heart was as black and cold as coal.

Once Galena had saved Beauden, it was time for our awesome steampunk hero to save the love of his life. And boy, was that a scene to dive into … but you’d have to read the book.

So, this is how we created a monster than anyone could love.

Happy romancing 😊

You can find MC D’Alton here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Iron Heart

Beauden Somerton is dying and he knows it. Then some fascinating research by an enterprising medical student puts hope within his reach. As she strives to mend his failing heart, he seeks to win hers.

Galena Tindale’s dream of being the first female graduate of Edinburgh Medical College comes crashing around her ears. Then she is offered a new opportunity, one that defies belief—and every medical convention.

Beauden and Galena, with the help of family and friends, must overcome prejudice and greed if they are to save both their hearts.

Grace Burrowes to visit Australia

16 June 2018

Grace Burrowes will be visiting Australia in August and has very kindly agreed to do two events for readers. This month we are chatting with Grace to get to know her ahead of her visit …

What kind of books did you love when you were a child?

When I was very young, my parents would read to the smaller children after dinner. There wasn’t a television in the house until I was well into my school years, and even then we weren’t allowed to watch TV on school nights. The first books I can recall my parents reading were Uncle Wiggly stories (a rabbit gentleman with lots of little animal friends), but they also read Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. Once I learned to read, I gravitated toward the Hardy Boys and biographies of composers.

Do you remember the first romance novel you read?

It was either The Wolf and the Dove or The Flame and the Flower. I forget which one came first, but I gobbled them both down in rapid succession.

How old were you when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I never consciously aspired to be a writer. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I know I did well in English classes, but nobody ever suggested I could make a living writing. I also did well in history classes, same thing. Good grades were expected, and if I enjoyed a class, or an academic requirement, that was a fluke.

I didn’t attempt to write fiction until my daughter left home when I was in my mid-forties. I had peace and quiet, emotional oxygen, the house to myself … and the books started bubbling up.

When did you first sit down and start to write? How long after that before you were published?

I’m guessing I started writing around 2005. I had a publishing contract by 2009, but I didn’t spend four years chasing publication. I spent four years writing like a house afire and having a wonderful time doing it.

How hard was it to first get published?

I was very, very, very lucky. The first editor to whom I pitched my books ended up offering me a contract. That’s not supposed to happen. I was simply in the right place at the right time with the right books, and somebody at the publishing house really liked my voice.

What authors do you read and/or admire now that you’re an author too?

I have always thought that Judith Ivory, who is no longer writing, was a brilliant talent. She anticipated so many developments in the historical romance genre. She wrote a hero with a history of addiction, she wrote a Gilded Age story when historical romance was limited to Regencies and Medievals, she wrote heroes who were very much not aristocrats, and all with such terrific historical details and ingenious prose.

Joanna Bourne is another immense talent. Her books hit every wicket of wonderfulness—beautiful prose, fascinating characters, plots with the precision and intricacy of a handmade clock, and worlds that are realer than real.

My keeper shelf also includes Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh, Carolyn Jewel, Meredith Duran, Mary Jo Putney, JR Ward (yes, you read that right), Jennifer Ashley/Ashley Gardner, Anna Campbell, Anne Gracie and zillions more. The romance community, and historical romance in particular, really do enjoy an embarrassment of riches.

If you weren’t a writer, what career do you think you would have now?

I’m still lawyering, though I hope the day job is riding into the sunset. For the past 25 years, I’ve been the attorney for the foster children in my county. This is about the opposite of being in the happily-ever-after business, but it’s honourable work, and I hope I’ve done some good. Owning a flower shop has always appealed to me too.

Other than books, what is one item you can’t resist buying?

There’s a dessert from Scotland called ‘tablet’ … I buy that stuff in the Edinburgh airport, immediately upon landing. It’s like sweetened condensed milk fudge, and I love it. I’m also a fan of good dark chocolate.

Book 4 in the Windham Brides, A Rogue of Her Own, is your latest release. Is this the last of the Windham stories?

I doubt it. It might be the last of the novels for a while, but there is a branch of cousins I haven’t explored (Arabella and Peter’s branch), and even in A Rogue of Her Own, I heard discussions of a Windham family house party at the Duke of Haverford’s Welsh castle. The author is sometimes the last to know, but in this case, I’m sure we’ll see novellas, epilogues and other tales.

Do you have more books planned in the contemporary Trouble Wears Tartan series?

Book 3 in that series, Scotland to the Max, has gone to the copy editor. I can see having that story on sale by midsummer. Max is the first American hero I’ve sent to Scotland, but I’m fairly sure he won’t be the last.

You have the Rogues to Riches series starting later this year. How many books are planned in this series?

Book 1 is written, book 2 is about two-thirds finished, and there are enough characters to keep me busy for at least another four books. Very interesting family, and not like a lot of my previous series families!

What are you most looking forward to doing while you are in Australia? Will you have the chance to explore?

I haven’t finalised my itinerary, though I hope I get to nose around some. In any place, what makes it special are the people, and I am very much looking forward to connecting in person with Australian readers, and with other romance writers. I’ll attend the RWA conference, which promises to be a great time, and I’m thinking of taking the train from Melbourne to Sydney, so I at least get to see a little of the countryside.

If you live in Melbourne or Sydney, come along and meet Grace Burrowes at our events in August. You can find all the details here.

[This article originally appeared in the June 2018 ARRA newsletter.]