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Favourite reads: Feb 2021

5 March 2021

Books_purpleWelcome to our favourite reads for February. Each month some of ARRA’s members will tell you a little bit about one of the books they’ve recently read and loved.

These are not full reviews of the books, just honest opinions on why they enjoyed the book so much. Hopefully one of these will strike a chord with you.

So, we asked our members to tell us about some of their favourite reads for February …

The Hot Mess and the Heartthrob by Pippa Grant (Bro Code #5) (contemporary romance)

Ingrid is your normal hot mess mom; she runs a little bookstore, has very active kids. Levi is a popstar who inadvertently enters her bookstore; she is a bit frazzled but he is weirdly interested. Her son Hudson is so much fun, the pet squirrel is hilarious, but my absolute favourite part was when Ares Berger comes to give her little girl some tips at hockey practice. I enjoyed all the cameos of characters from the other books; what a great place Copper Valley would be to live. I laughed out loud so many times during this story—so much fun! [Linda, WA]

The Valkyrie’s Viking by Tanya Nellestein (The Valkyrie of Birca #1) (historical romance)

I have not read a Viking story for many years and this one was so very good—action packed, filled with passion and emotion and the brute force that the Vikings lived by. Yes they lived hard lives but when they loved they loved. I am so excited that this is the start of a new series and that I am going to be going back to Birca later. If you love your romances to be exciting and have strong and awesome heroes and heroines than this is a book for you. I do highly recommend this one, it had me turning the pages. [Helen, NSW]

Beach Read by Emily Henry (contemporary romance)

Perfect as a ‘beach read’, but also anytime, anywhere. I loved that the two main characters, January and Gus, both writers, had writer’s block. Or rather, were ‘temporarily stuck’. It was fun to see them work through this, and also cope with accidentally living side by side. I enjoyed the premise they were old rivals from university writing class days. January writes luscious rom-coms and Gus is the darling of literary fiction. The back stories/baggage are super poignant, the entire cast of characters entertaining, the dialogue incisively cutting at times and/or hilarious, the romance hot and fabulous. A terrific read. [Malvina, NSW]

Forsaken Trail by Devney Perry (Runaway #4) (contemporary romance)

Aria is a gardener and Brody is a billionaire. He’s her sister’s boss and she’s never liked him, because he doesn’t seem to care about people. Now they’re having a baby together (the set up for this was great) and they are finally getting to know each other. I loved that Brody was all in for the baby from the start and they didn’t have typical reactions to the situation. They have great chemistry and common goals, but there’s still plenty for them to overcome. Another great book in this series; I’m really looking forward to the final book. [Debbie, ACT]

The Wife in the Attic by Rose Lerner (Rye Bay #1) (gothic romance)

Act or atrophy. This is the story of a woman who decides to finally take control of her own life and do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves most in all the world. It’s a true gothic horror with a classic romance HEA. I listened to this book as an audiobook. The narration was beautiful and the author’s attention to detail is admirable. It’s unlike any other book I’ve read and well worth the experience. [Charlotte, ACT]

Release day: The Codebreakers

3 March 2021

Today is the official release of The Codebreakers by Alli Sinclair (print and ebook, MIRA). Here’s the blurb:

They will dedicate their lives to their country, but no one will ever know…

A compelling story about tenacity and friendship, inspired by the real codebreaking women of Australia’s top-secret Central Bureau in WWII.

1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason.

With her country’s freedom at risk, Ellie works with a group of elite women who enter a world of volatile secrets; deciphering enemy communications to change the course of the war. Working under immense pressure, they form a close bond – yet there could be a traitor in their midst. Can the women uncover the culprit before it’s too late?

As Ellie struggles with the magnitude of the promise she’s made to her country, a wedge grows between her and those she holds dear. When the man she loves asks questions she’s forbidden to answer, how will she prevent the double life she’s leading from unravelling?

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

The Codebreakers is inspired by the real-life women who worked for Australia’s top-secret intelligence organisation in WWII. They worked in a small garage at the back of a mansion in suburban Brisbane and none of the neighbours had any idea some of the Allied nation’s most volatile secrets were being created and discovered right across the road from them! Ellie and the other women in The Codebreakers were inspired by the real-life codebreakers. I had the pleasure of meeting them as part of my research, which helped me bring authenticity to the story and characters. I’ve also started filming a documentary about the real-life codebreakers and this should be aired next year. And, of course, in The Codebreakers there are a couple of romances within the story, including one that was conducted in code!

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

Feature book: Wrapped Up in Christmas Joy

3 March 2021

Wrapped Up in Christmas Joy by Janice Lynn

Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 27 Oct 2020
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Format: ebook and print
Length: 231 pages
RRP: $11.99 (ebook); $28.90 (print)

Award winning author Janice Lynn is a nurse practitioner in a US country town, with a lovely long list of Harlequin Medicals to her name. I expected maybe some of the ‘medical’ in this latest release, which would have been most welcome, but she’s veered in a new and fresh direction, bringing along her trademark caring heart and her lovely romance.

This is Book Two in the Hallmark Wrapped Up In Christmas series, set in a small community called Pine Hill in rural Kentucky. I haven’t read Book One, but it didn’t matter. This was a lovely book to read alone, sweet and Christmassy and full of warmth and Hallmark-y goodness. Gotta love that.

Hero Cole Aaron is a former marine who left the service after a horrific incident occurred under his command. You don’t learn much about the incident, but his occasional flashbacks make it very obvious that it was utterly awful and still preys on his mind with flashbacks and nightmares. I imagine a lot of veterans battle this, far more than we realise. Civilian life led him to his uncle’s farm outside Pine Hill, and he’s now become a firefighter. Fighting battles for other people—and giving back to the community—has become as necessary to him as breathing. And maybe that way he can find some atonement for himself.

He meets quilt shop owner Sophie Davis when she finds—and tries to return—his journal, containing his thoughts and feelings about his veteran days. He accidentally donated the journal to a church charity drive along with some other things and is utterly horrified when he realises that Sophie has not only tracked him down to the fire station as the owner of the journal, but she has read it. In full retreat, he refuses to accept the diary back, and asks her to destroy it. He feels raw and terrifyingly exposed, convinced Sophie will hate him because she knows the truth about him. Just as bad, or maybe even worse, she might feel sorry for him and pity him.

He’s even more appalled when he’s then suddenly teamed up with Sophie for an annual charity drive in Pine Hill, raising money and toy donations for children who otherwise won’t have a gift for Christmas. To say Cole is reluctant to be a ‘team’ with Sophie is the understatement of the year. If I was Sophie, I might have given up on him. He’s a little bit curt and withdrawn, not one for conversation. He clams up when she tries to talk about his veteran days. He’s not exactly ‘company’ and shows his extreme reluctance. Not the most heroic of his moves …

And yet. Sophie is sweetness and light to everyone who crosses her path. She radiates joy. That’s just the way she is—which makes Cole even more determined to try and avoid her. She certainly doesn’t need him sullying up her life.

One of Sophie’s passions is making quilts for veterans through the non-profit organisation Quilts of Valor, a gift made to wrap them up in love and comfort and help them heal. Almost from the first moment she meets Cole, she’s already planning his quilt. She’s driven to do this because of her own veteran father, who also suffered on his return from service. Once she gets to know Cole, her stitches on the quilt become … stitches of love, even though someone as damaged as Cole always has a tricky road back to recovery.

To be honest the ending seemed a little rushed, but it’s tender and lovely. The whole book was also wonderfully Christmassy and festive. Just the perfect thing to read and not just at Christmas, but any time of the year.

reviewed by Malvina

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

Publisher pitch: Tule Publishing, Mar 2021

2 March 2021

Tule PublishingTule Publishing brings you the best in commercial fiction, from romance to chick-lit to compelling women’s fiction. Whether you’re in the mood for sexy or sweet, Tule brings you fresh, modern and exciting plots and beloved classic romance.

Tule has over 130 authors who have unique styles, terrific voices, and have helped us grow to house over 600 titles, and garner 13 RITA® nominations and one win in five years.

We love our readers and acclaimed authors! Visit us at or subscribe to our newsletter here.

This March, enjoy Tule Publishing’s newest releases from our American Heart, Texas Born and Montana Born imprints.

  • Eyeful by CR Grissom
  • Texas Forged by Eve Gaddy
  • She Gets What She Wants by Denise N Wheatley
  • My Kind of Cowboy by Pam Crooks
  • To Rope a Bull Rider by Kelsey McKnight
  • The Cowboy Steals a Lady by Anne McAllister
  • One Purrfect Summer by Robyn Neeley


Publisher pitch: Totally Bound, Mar 2021

1 March 2021

2021 is already rushing by, and we’re welcoming March with billionaires aplenty! There’s a new instalment from our favourite circus, Arcanium, four brand new series, and a new release from bestselling author Desiree Holt.

Find out more on our website.

Here’s what’s coming up in March …

2 March

Going the Distance by Alexandra Alan. Cara never expected hitching a ride with a stranger would turn into such an adventure. She’s hitchhiking from Boston to LA, hoping to catch a ride in a minivan or two, but when Nate shows up in his semi-truck, all bets are off.

Silk by Aurelia T Evans (Arcanium #10). We’re revisiting Arcanium, this time with Fae princess Sera who has fled to the circus for sanctuary. Sera’s would-be husband has destroyed half her face, and he’s still in pursuit, but the circus must protect its own.

9 March

Critical Density by Desiree Holt (Galaxy #2). Hannah thinks she has life all figured out, until it all blows up in her face—literally. It’s up to ex-SEAL Viper and the men of the Galaxy agency to prove her innocence and find the real culprit, all while the heat between Hannah and Viper flares hotter.

One Motion More by LA Tavares (Consistently Inconsistent #1). Bad boy rock guitarist Xander has hit his lowest low yet. While trying to find his next step, he meets Natalie. The two couldn’t be more different, but are they all the other needs?

16 March

Claw by Ellen Mint (Coven of Desire #1). Student nurse Layla is having a heck of a year. First a sex-crazed demon appears in her living room, then she finds out she’s a witch, tasked to protect the mortal realm, and on top of that, her crush is a potential killer! With a free short story included when buying from!

The Billionaire and the Princess by Katherine E Hunt (Sag Harbor #1). Caitlyn is heading to Sag Harbor to start again—new life, new job, new her. She doesn’t expect the instant chemistry with her seat mate on the plane, and definitely doesn’t intend to join the mile high club with him. When it turns out he’s her new boss, though, things start to get complicated.

23 March

Snowbound with the Billionaire by Aurora Russell (Anywhere and Always #2). The follow-up to the hugely popular Flirting with the Tycoon! An enemies-to-lovers, forced-proximity romp, the second in the Anywhere and Always series, sees Marina trapped by a blizzard in a remote cabin with a man she can’t stand. But as the snow thaws, so does their animosity.

Love by the Stroke of Midnight by Raven McAllan (Castle on the Loch #1). Marcail comes from a family with special abilities—they can see the past and future, heal and help. Not Marcail, the only thing different about her is chatting to Paden, the voice in her head. But for Paden, it’s not a game—it’s a matter of life and death.

30 March

Twist My Heart by Brooke Taylor (Wicked Games #1). In a contemporary twist on The Wizard of Oz, Thea and her little dog are thrown into a hurricane and dropped into the arms of Navy SEAL Nik. Thea can’t remember where she’s come from, and Nik needs to decide if she’s a risk to his safety or to his heart.

Runaway Royal by Wendi Zwaduk. All Princess Catherine Zara wants to do is go to college and get away from the man she’s supposed to marry. Running off to the US and dropping her first name, Zara soon meets Luke, and the young artist immediately finds his muse. But she’s a princess—how can this go any further than a college fling?

Release day: The Lengthening Shadow

1 March 2021

Today is the official release of The Lengthening Shadow by Liz Harris (paperback and ebook, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

When Dorothy Linford marries former German internee, Franz Hartmann, at the end of WWI, she’s cast out by her father, Joseph, patriarch of the successful Linford family.

Dorothy and Franz go to live in a village in south-west Germany, where they have a daughter and son. Throughout the early years of the marriage, which are happy ones, Dorothy is secretly in contact with her sister, Nellie, in England.

Back in England, Louisa Linford, Dorothy’s cousin, is growing into an insolent teenager, forever at odds with her parents, Charles and Sarah, and with her wider family, until she faces a dramatic moment of truth.

Life in Germany in the early 1930s darkens, and to Dorothy’s concern, what had initially seemed harmless, gradually assumes a threatening undertone.

Brought together by love, but endangered by acts beyond their control, Dorothy and Franz struggle to get through the changing times without being torn apart.

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

As soon as I finished writing The Dark Horizon, the story of Robert Linford and Lily, and The Flame Within, the story of Alice and Thomas Linford, I couldn’t wait to tell the story of Dorothy Linford and her husband, Franz, and also that of Louisa Linford. Cast out by the Linford family when they marry, Dorothy settles with Franz in a small German village, unaware of the turbulent years ahead. Back in England, Louise is making her parents’ lives a misery. But trapped by secrets in their past, they’re helpless against her unpleasantness. Then tragedy strikes, and none of their lives will be the same again.

You can find out more about this book at Liz’s website or buy it here.

Guest blogger: Tanya Nellestein

28 February 2021

Creating the Valkyrie of Birca!

Last year I came across the Harlequin Warrior Blitz. For no other reason than I love a challenge, I decided to write a Viking romance. My knowledge base in this area was … negligible. Not to be deterred, I took a deep dive into Viking culture and found myself completely smitten. Wanting to know more, I took the obvious course of bingeing Vikings on Netflix. Oh my … Then I found The Last Kingdom. Between Ragnar Lothbrook and Uhtred, son of Uhtred, there was no turning back.

But more than all of that, there was Lagertha! Fierce, determined, fearless—a veritable goddess. She became the true inspiration for my Viking romance.

I wrote my first chapter, got some great feedback from my writing pals, and submitted to the Warrior Blitz, full of confidence. The rejection was as swift as a sharpened axe to the neck.

So I popped the chapter into the metaphorical drawer and moved on. Until Aiki Flinthart, finding herself at a loose end after completing her bucket list and still very much alive, asked if anyone wanted her to look at a fight scene. The creator of Fight Like a Girl, author, martial artist, and all-round amazing human being was looking for something to do. I jumped on it.

Not only did Aiki critique the first battle scene in the book, she went on to mentor me and the development of the manuscript from an idea to a story, and into a series. Unfortunately, by the time my first draft was done, Aiki’s time had run out. Her support and guidance live on in The Valkyrie’s Viking.

The book is set in Birca, Sweden, which is the site of the 10th-century grave belonging to a female warrior. The ancient warrior was given a prestigious Viking burial, complete with deadly Viking weapons, a bag of gaming pieces (possibly to represent military command) and two horses, one bridled for riding. This mighty warrior—long thought to be a man— made headlines in 2017 when researchers in Sweden announced that the individual was, in fact, a woman.

My very own Lagertha! How could I resist? The Valkyrie’s Viking is the first in a three-book series entitled The Valkyrie of Birca. The characters and their adventures are purely fictional, but their origins are steeped in centuries of culture and history.

The Valkyrie’s Viking will be released on 1 March 2021. You can pre-order your e-copy here. Paperbacks are available through

The Valkyrie’s Viking

She wants to rule the land and he lives for the sea. Is their love fated or cursed?

Shieldmaiden Brenna may be young, but she knows her mind. As the daughter of King Aric’s most trusted Huscarl, she is well-schooled in the art of battle and weaponry: skills vital for defending what is hers. Having fought to defend her homeland against would-be usurpers, she knows the cost of plunder and pillage.

Vali is a seasoned warrior. His thirst for adventure and battle has served him well in his many raiding expeditions. He has no use for the politics of position and land, preferring the freedom of the open seas.

Brenna and Vali’s young love is torn apart when the King offers Brenna’s hand in marriage to the Jarl of his most important trading centre, Birca. Believing this to be the will of the gods and a prophecy revealed to Brenna as a child, she agrees to the marriage.

Death brings Brenna and Vali back together to defend Birca. As their love is rekindled, Brenna must choose between Vali and the prophecy once more.

Her fate has been determined by the gods, but is it the destiny Brenna has always believed in?


Publisher pitch: Escape Publishing, Mar 2021

27 February 2021

Escape logo_200x150And almost like it was never here at all, summer gives way to autumn. The one thing that seems to persevere is the renewed interest in historical romance, and we have the perfect book for anyone who is looking to stretch their wings a little.

As always, we’d love to know what you think. Check in with us in all the usual places! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on our website.

Happy reading!

The Escape Team

Here’s what we have coming out in March …

Releasing 4 March

The Lady Detective by Ava January (historical romance). Enola Holmes meets Bridgerton in this Victorian romance about a wealthy widow who will do anything to avoid the marriage market. After the disappearance of her husband, Theodosia can’t imagine giving up her freedom to marry again and relishes her role as detective to the ladies of the upper echelons of society. When a priceless necklace on loan from the Royal family is stolen, Theodosia must work with the scandalous Lord William Montague to recover it before the theft is discovered. But somewhere between setting a brothel on fire, being knocked out in a cemetery in the middle of the night, and narrowly avoiding death by Scotch egg, Theodosia and William fall in love …

Release day: Deadlocked by Dawn

27 February 2021

Today is the official release of Deadlocked by Dawn by Afton Locke (ebook, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Paradise in the Florida Keys…

After 2020, Delia Sloane struggles to keep Rainbow Falls Resort afloat while grieving the loss of her father and husband. She refuses to let her Key Largo slice of paradise—a haven for non-mainstream couples—die. But when a serial killer begins attacking her guests—leaving a single dreadlock on each victim—everything spins out of control, including what’s left of her family.

Hides a killer…

After her brother’s experience with police brutality, the last place she wants to turn to for help is law enforcement. Scarred mentally by a deadly force incident, Detective Will Peterson has avoided homicide cases. But only he has the skills to drill into the elusive killer’s twisted mind.

And it just got personal…

When a hurricane strikes, exposing the horrible truth behind Delia’s losses and threatening everything she holds dear, trusting Will may be her only hope. Are they up to the challenge?

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

I was inspired to write this story on a trip to Barbados in 2019. Sitting on the beach, I admired the turquoise water and men with dreadlocks. I’d been reading suspense for a while, but hadn’t written one yet. At that moment, I knew I wanted to write a murder mystery set in the tropics, centred around a dreadlock. I filed it away in my ideas file. The whole plot idea didn’t come to me until the following year, when I was isolated due to the pandemic. Timing is everything. The events of 2020 made the story what it was. I hope it heals everyone who reads it.

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

Release day: Dark Wizard

25 February 2021

Today is the official release of Dark Wizard by Jeffe Kennedy (Bonds of Magic #1) (ebook and trade paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Lord Gabriel Phel wants one thing: to rebuild the shattered fortunes of his people and restore his ruined house to its former station in the Convocation’s highest tiers of elegant society. Fortunately, through a wild chance of birth, he was born with powerful wizard magic, the first in his family in generations. If he can obtain a familiar to amplify his magic, a highborn daughter he can marry, to be mother to his children, he’ll be that much closer to saving his family. With her by his side, he can ascend to such a position of power in the Convocation that he can destroy it forever.

Lady Veronica Elal, captive in her tower, has only one way out. To her bitter disappointment, she will never be a wizard. Instead, through a twist of fate, and despite her expensive Convocation Academy education, Nic is doomed to be a familiar like her mother. Forced to participate in the Betrothal Trials, she receives a wizard suitor for one night each month. Whichever man impregnates her will bond her to them forever. With no choice but to serve the one who wins her, Nic has one hope for control over her life: a wizard she can manipulate.

Gabriel Phel seems like the perfect choice for Nic’s gambit—he’s desperate and untutored in wizardry—but within moments of meeting him, she feels the bonds of magic tying them together. Afraid of losing her will to the compelling wizard who touches her heart like no other, Nic does the unthinkable: she runs. Pregnant and alone, Nic eludes monstrous hunters, searching for a safe haven. But when Gabriel catches up to her, their adventure has only begun.

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

I’ve been mulling the idea for this story for a long time. Finally, I reached a window of opportunity between my traditional contracting deadlines, one that allowed me to invest time and creative energy in this entirely new world. I thought I’d write a little on it—and then this book grabbed me by the throat and demanded to be written in full. I wrote it in a blaze of excitement, a rare gift. Then, to my utter delight, every one of my beta readers pronounced it their new favorite of mine. Even my proofreader sent me an aside note saying “Wow—THIS BOOK!” I’m super excited for it to make its way into the world today. To celebrate, I’m giving away three digital copies to commenters on this post. (Sorry about no print—you all are in Australia and I’m in the US. The dolphin express works okay, but the print books get soggy.)

You can find out more about this book at Jeffe’s website.

All ARRA members who leave a comment on this post will go in the draw to win one of three ecopies of this book. The giveaway will close on 11 March.