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Feature book: The Luck of the Bride

16 January 2019

The Luck of the Bride by Janna MacGregor

Subgenre: historical romance
Release date: 1 May 2018
Publisher: St Martin’s Paperbacks
Format: ebook and print
Length: 384 pages
RRP: $10.34 (ebook); $15.99 (print)

Her family are in dire straits and she has to take drastic measures to ensure her family can survive.

March Lawson has had responsibility for her siblings since she was sixteen, the last eight years. Her two sisters and her baby brother, the heir, have constantly wondered when their guardian and or their inheritance will be available to repair the family property, but more importantly, feed them all. She has had to complete many of the jobs around the Manor as there isn’t the staff to do the work. March is also very good at numbers and bookkeeping and offers her services to the local shop keepers to earn extra money to buy what they need. Her next step, signing a bank note from the Marquess, who is their new guardian, to access money in her inheritance, is a step into desperation.

Michael Cavensham, Marquess of McCalpin, the future Duke of Langham, discovers that someone has signed some bank notes on his behalf. He arrives at Lawson Place to see the circumstances and finds the family is really in dire circumstances. This is reinforced when he finds at the dinner to impress him, they have eaten the entire week’s supply of food. It is what comes next that shocks him more (sorry you will have to read what that is). He then moves the family into his family home to ensure that the girls have their season and that Bennett, the future Lord, has the tutoring he needs. Michael has a secret, he has difficulty with numbers and his brother helps him with the financial aspects of the duchy.

As March and her siblings are becoming more and more enmeshed in the family, Michael finds he is attracted more and more to March. And just as Michael asks March to marry him, and he thinks she would make the perfect Marchioness and future Duchess, her cousin makes several accusations and ruins March’s reputation. Michael struggles to deal with these accusations and he knows March isn’t like this, but the evidence points to her guilt. Naturally, there is a HEA.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this historical. What also struck me while reading was that the family were all about love and not fighting. March and her siblings were a unit. Michael, his siblings and his parents are a unit. There is love and understanding among them all. It is the peripheral character that comes in to try and destroy the heroine as he wants the money, and one of the sisters.

I started reading this book and was immediately absorbed in the story. Ms Macgregor is a new to me author and I have since bought the previous two books as I’m keen to read Emma and Clare’s stories, and any future books!

Reviewed by Heather

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


Feature book: Willow Tree Bend

16 January 2019

Willow Tree Bend by Kaye Dobbie

Subgenre: historical romance
Release date: 1 Oct 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Format: ebook and print
Length: 344 pages
RRP: $8.99 (ebook); $29.99 (print)

The Taylor girls have a secret. Many secrets. The secrets have been kept for thirty years, and are about to unravel.

This story is more fitting in the women’s fiction area but there are some romantic elements.

The story of Hope in the present, Faith in the past and Samantha, Faith’s daughter, in the present are told. The book is mainly set in 1969 and 2000, but being pivotal to the events.

Hope Taylor has made it to the big time in America as an actress. She has come home to do a show in the hopes that it will boost her career after her movie flop, a show that involves the story of her life. It also means digging through her secrets or the things she would like to be kept a secret. She arrives in her home town and this causes friction especially as her sister has suddenly left to deal with a personal issue. Hope must try and pull things together all the while protecting her secret. She must deal with Faith’s disappearance, her mother Lily’s failing health and memory, and her own memories of the secrets she has held for thirty years.

Faith Cantani is setting up her new business in the town. She is nervous about this but when she receives a phone call, she then leaves for an unknown destination in Queensland. As the story unfolds the reader is treated to a young Faith’s life in the big city, Melbourne. Faith needed the space to live and experience life in Melbourne as she was seeking more in her life. She gets a job at a place called The Angel, and then her life really does change with what happens at The Angel. When it all falls apart for Faith, she returns home and marries local boy, Joe. Joe who has been in love with her since forever. Joe who has been checking on Faith while she was living in Melbourne and falling in love with another man. Joe who picks up the pieces.

Samantha Cantani is Faith’s daughter. She is a landscape gardener who loves her animals. She isn’t particularly interested in her mother’s past until it slowly unravels. She has to try and deal with the information that keeps coming out. She struggles between knowing and trying to ignore what it all means, until she becomes the centre of events. She does find her love interest, the man who bought the family home.

As mentioned previously, this is more a women’s fiction book but that has not lessened its interest as a twisting story. As a reader I do sometimes like to read the stories that have events across the years, sisters, mother and daughter. In many ways, as I was reading this book, I thought I knew where things were heading but when the ends were finally tied together there were some unexpected surprises in Faith, Hope and Samantha’s stories. This book was an enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Heather

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

A Romantic High Tea in Sydney

15 January 2019

We are very pleased to announce that we will be holding a Romantic High Tea in Sydney on Saturday 23 February 2019 from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm.

We’re taking advantage of everyone being in Sydney for the annual Australian Romance Readers Awards Dinner in order to host a special event just for readers. Two of our favourite authors will be hosting the high tea—Penelope Janu and Alyssa J Montgomery.

There will be delicious savoury morsels, luscious cakes and tarts, plus a choice of premium teas and summer punch. You may also bring books to have them signed if you wish.

Meet our special hosts …

Penelope Janu writes contemporary romance novels about clever and adventurous women who don’t mean to fall in love, but do. Her novels In at the Deep End and On the Right Track, were published by Harlequin Mira, and her third novel, On the Same Page, was published by Brio Books. Her next novel, to be published by Harlequin Mira, will be out at the end of the year. It is a rural romance, and the working title is Up on Horseshoe Hill.

Alyssa J Montgomery writes contemporary romances and also writes medieval romances as Alyssa James. Alyssa lives in Wollongong and has written nine books for Escape Publishing and self-published three titles. Her latest release is The Irresistible Royal, with Seduced by the Enemy to be released in April.


Tickets are on sale today. Get yours here. There are only a very limited number of tickets available for this event, so grab one while you can!


2018 ARR Awards: finalists announced

15 January 2019

Voting has opened today for the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards. Below are the finalists in each of the nine categories, as well as finalists in our three special Members’ Choice categories. ARRA members will now vote for their favourite in each category. (The voting link is available to members in the January newsletter.) Voting will close on 12 February.

Here are the finalists:

Favourite Paranormal Romance – proudly sponsored by Hachette Australia

  • Clash of Storms by Bec McMaster
  • Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
  • Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold by Demelza Carlton
  • Lionheart by Thea Harrison
  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh
  • The Chosen by Thea Harrison
  • When Darkness Follows by Athena Daniels

Favourite Sci Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Almost Perfect by Tamara Martin
  • Breakeven by Michelle Diener
  • Cursed by Keri Arthur
  • Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Favourite Short or Category Romance

  • A Baby in His In-Tray by Michelle Douglas
  • Destroyed by Jackie Ashenden
  • Getting Lucky by Avril Tremayne
  • Inherited for the Royal Bed by Annie West
  • Maggie’s Run by Kelly Hunter
  • Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews
  • Shock Heir for the Crown Prince by Kelly Hunter
  • Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon by Kandy Shepherd
  • The Million Pound Marriage Deal by Michelle Douglas
  • Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Synder

Favourite Historical Romance – proudly sponsored by Hachette Australia

  • Lord Garson’s Bride by Anna Campbell
  • Marry in Scandal by Anne Gracie
  • The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart
  • The Devilish Duke by Maddison Michaels
  • The Juliet Code by Christine Wells
  • The Laird’s Christmas Kiss by Anna Campbell
  • The Laird’s Willful Lass by Anna Campbell

Favourite Contemporary Romance – proudly sponsored by Allen & Unwin

  • A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
  • Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London
  • Bittersweet by Jacquie Underdown
  • Captivated by Tessa Bailey and Eve Dangerfield
  • Chaser by Kylie Scott
  • Cinderella and the Geek by Christina Phillips
  • Resurrection by Karina Bliss
  • Snatched by Cathleen Ross
  • The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden

Favourite Romantic Suspense

  • At Your Service by Sandra Antonelli
  • Bloodtree River by Sarah Barrie
  • Dark in Death by JD Robb
  • Retribution by Diane Demetre
  • The Secrets of Palmerston House by Phillipa Nefri Clark
  • The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard
  • Whitsunday Dawn by Annie Seaton

Favourite Continuing Romance Series

  • Bad Bachelors by Stefanie London
  • Dashing Widows by Anna Campbell
  • Marriage of Convenience by Anne Gracie
  • Outback Brides by Kelly Hunter, Victoria Purman, Cathryn Hein and Fiona McArthur
  • Sydney Smoke Rugby by Amy Andrews
  • The Lairds Most Likely by Anna Campbell
  • True North by Sarina Bowen

Favourite Debut Romance Author – proudly sponsored by Booktopia

  • Georgia Tingley
  • Helen Hoang
  • Laura Boon
  • Maddison Michaels
  • Marianne Delaforce
  • Marie Tremayne
  • Megan Mayfair
  • MV Ellis
  • Sandie Docker

Favourite Australian Romance Author 2018 – proudly sponsored by Booktopia

  • Amy Andrews
  • Anna Campbell
  • Anne Gracie
  • Annie West
  • Christina Phillips
  • Kandy Shepherd
  • Kelly Hunter
  • Kylie Scott
  • Michelle Douglas
  • Penelope Janu
  • Phillipa Nefri Clark
  • Sarah Williams

And the finalists for the Members’ Choice categories are …

Favourite 2018 romance that made me cry

  • Bittersweet by Jacquie Underdown
  • The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden
  • Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair
  • Maggie’s Run by Kelly Hunter
  • Photos of You Tammy Robinson

Favourite 2018 romance with laugh-out-loud moment

  • Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London
  • Captivated by Tessa Bailey and Eve Dangerfield
  • Chaser by Kylie Scott
  • On the Right Track by Penelope Janu
  • Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews
  • The Love Coupon by Ainslie Paton
  • The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

Favourite Australian romance of 2018

  • Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair
  • Elsa’s Stand by Cathryn Hein
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time by Kylie Scott
  • King’s Reign Nina Levine
  • Maggie’s Run by Kelly Hunter
  • On the Right Track by Penelope Janu
  • Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews
  • Playing House by Amy Andrews
  • So Wild by Eve Dangerfield
  • The Dairy Farmer’s Daughter by Sarah Williams
  • The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden
  • The Red Dirt Road by Alissa Callen

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner, which will be held at Cello’s Restaurant in Sydney on Saturday 23 February 2019. If you would like to attend the awards dinner, you can buy your ticket here.


ARRA newsletter #114

15 January 2019

Purple news

The January issue of the ARRA newsletter is out today. Members should have received the download code via email.

Here’s a quick run down on what you can find in the newsletter this month:

  • the finalists in the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards are announced
  • the date for our next AGM—please keep it free (see pg 6)
  • tickets for the high tea in Sydney go on sale today (pg 7)
  • the 2016-17 annual report is now out (pg 7)
  • tickets for the ARR2019 members-only events are on sale today (pg 8)
  • ‘finds’ of 2018 (pg 12)
  • Charlotte’s Web Watch column has a special ‘Year in the life of a romance reader’ article this month (pg 13)
  • win a $10 gift card if you can Find the Heart!

Plus our regular columns—romance roundup, publisher news, self-publishing highlights, weekly musings, events, reviews, freebies, author interviews and upcoming releases.

If anyone has any publishing news or deals to report, please send information through. And we are always looking for authors to do a Q&A for the newsletter. If you haven’t done one yet, please contact us at

We are looking for authors to do the “Five minutes” Q&A in the newsletter and authors to take part in #AuthorHour FB chats this year. You do not need to be a member to do either of these.

Happy reading everyone!

Author spotlight: Susan Horsnell

15 January 2019

We’re featuring a wide range of Australian authors participating in ARR2019 next year in venues across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. 

Today we’re having Elevenses with Susan Horsnell author of 42 romances in the genres of Western historical romance, set in Texas and South Dakota, Australian Outback romance, contemporary romance, paranormal shapeshifter romance, male/male romance, ménage romance and children’s books. She will be attending ARR2019 in Brisbane.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I was in high school when I realised I had a flare for writing and storytelling.

Why romance and not a different genre?

I enjoy romance, the boy gets the girl stories, or the boy gets the boy.

What was the first romance you read and why did you love it?

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I loved the byplay between Scarlett and Rhett even though she was besotted by Ashley. The book came to life for me through Ms Mitchell’s words. It has always been my favorite book.

What is the single most important characteristic for an aspiring author wanting to be a published writer?


What is your favourite part of creating a story?

I love character creation and exploring their growth, twists and turns.

What is your best tip for fighting writer’s block/writer’s fear?

I don’t suffer this, but I mentor young girls who have. I give them three questions to answer, then I ask them questions about their answers and so on until their creative juices are flowing again.

Pick a favourite (bold your preference)

  • series or stand-alone?
  • ebook, paperback or hardcover? (I am blind in one eye and cannot read the small print of paperbacks or hardcovers)
  • first person or third? (I feel like the character is speaking to me)

Who has been an inspiration to you, in life or your writing career?

My inspiration is Margaret Tanner. She has done so much to develop my career.

Tell us about your latest release in 100 words or less 

I am currently doing a very loosely based rewrite of Pocahontas. The story will be a novella in an anthology and then released in May as a full-length novel. It tells the story of a young Indian princess, in my case she is a lawyer. Like the real Pocahontas, she champions the rights of the Native American Indians. Her love interest is a half-caste Indian who cannot accept his native heritage. After an incident, the two are brought together and she opens his eyes and his heart to their people.

What else will you be working on in 2019?

I have the second book in my Australian Outback series due in May/June. Andrew’s Outback Love came out in August 2018. In March I am part of a Calendar Men series—I have March. In May I am part of a Calendar Gal series—I again have March. There will be a book called Eight Letters. The third book in the Broken series—Broken Bum.

Please recommend an Aussie romance you read recently.

Maralinga by Judy Nunn—love her books.

If you haven’t booked your ticket for ARR2019 yet, you can buy one here.

Release day: Unforsaken

14 January 2019

Today is the official release of Unforsaken by Cassie Laelyn (ebook and paperback, The Wild Rose Press). Here’s the blurb:

One choice: save his soul … or her life?

Hidden deep in the Snowy Mountains, lives a brotherhood of immortal Guardians, banished from the Heavens.

After centuries of exile, Head Guardian Raven can taste Hell. One wrong move could destroy his soul. When Fate assigns him a female mortal to protect, his forbidden desire becomes a distraction he can’t afford. Giving in to temptation risks plummeting into the fiery pits of Hell, dragging her along with him.

Tayla Eason is on the run, escaping a horrific attack on her life. When she lands in the arms of the sexy, alluring man who saved her, the shadows of her past swiftly close in. But when Fate throws a twist, Tayla’s forced to choose between saving Raven’s soul or fleeing before the creatures strike again.

In an ultimate test of love, the two must battle against the almighty Fate. But will it be enough to save them both?

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

Unforsaken is the first book in The Fallen Guardians series, a paranormal romance set in the Snowy Mountains, Australia. Raven’s character came to me almost seven years ago when I was sitting outside chasing the sun on a rather chilly winter’s day. I pictured Raven crouching on the rooftop of the building behind me, his majestic black wings unfurled behind his back, scanning the park below. The image was so clear it sent shivers down my spine. I even spun around to see if he was real! Five years later, the image of Raven on that rooftop still plagued me, so I wrote it down … then, as though I’d opened a doorway to another world, other characters appeared and The Fallen Guardians series unfolded. I’ll always be thankful for that first image of Raven, which became the opening scene for Unforsaken.

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

To celebrate her debut release, Cassie would like to give one lucky ARRA member a signed copy of Unforsaken. To enter, just comment on the blog post and tell her why you love reading paranormal romance! The giveaway will close on 28 January.