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Author spotlight: Cathleen Ross

28 September 2021

In the lead-up to ARR2021 in December we will be spotlighting the authors who will be signing. In the spotlight today we have Cathleen Ross.

Who was the first romance author to catch your interest?

I remember it was Diana Gabaldon. The hero beat the heroine and it really shocked me. Still does. But I think when writing historicals, accuracy is important.

What do you write?

I write across genres. I have just finished and self-published Resisting the Firefighter and it has gone very well. I did this with Christina Phillips and Mel Teshco. We’ll keep doing these.

Which usually comes to you first—characters or plot (or something else)?

Usually it’s the character but I keep seeing an old house. I wrote a synopsis for my next book around what happened in this historical house. My agent loved it, so now I have the rest of my year cut out writing an Australian historical women’s rural fiction with a strong romance.

Choose one of your books to turn into a movie—who would you cast in the lead roles?

Sorry, I have no idea!

Tell us about your latest release in 100 words or less:

Resisting Adam. Secrets shadow Emma Cain’s life, ones she can’t unlock by herself. When a bushfire threatens the valley she lives in, her ex-boyfriend, firefighter, Adam Thompson, demands she leave her home. Saving her precious cattle means everything to Emma, even if she has to agist them on Adam’s property. His fireproof place is the one safe place, but is it safe for her heart? Adam Thompson is determined to get Emma back and right the wrongs of the past. Bit by bit he unlocks Emma’s heart, except he is holding on to a secret that could totally destroy her.

What else are you working on in 2021?

I have three projects on. The one above we have self-published, the rural romance/women’s fiction set in a Hunting Lodge where there is a mystery as to what has killed a woman in the past and will it happen again to the heroine? Lastly I’m doing a Cornish set novella where the heroine is a witch.

Cathleen’s latest releases:

You can find more information on Cathleen on her website.

If you haven’t booked your ticket for ARR2021 yet, you can buy one HERE.

Already have your ticket? Join us in the ARR2021 Facebook group.


Guest blogger: Sandy Barker

26 September 2021

My inspiration for writing The Dating Game

Last year, just as The Bachelor was about to commence, some colleagues asked around—who would be up for a ‘Bachie sweepstakes’? It was a fun way to liven up an otherwise (often) dull working-from-home existence—What day is it? It’s Blursday!—so I leapt at it. And after the season premiere aired, I was inspired to write a recap. I posted it to our Teams chat the next day, got lots of LOLs and, as I am a sucker for positive reinforcement, I continued writing recaps throughout the season.

Now, if you watched the 2020 season, you’ll remember that the second half was filmed during lockdown. Everyone was sent to their respective home and we endured cringey ‘Zoom dates’, including the terrible one in which Lachie and Izzy took a bath together—well, at the same time—on camera. Yikes! With Zoom dates and meltdowns and the top two bachelorettes one-time besties, it was quite the season and there was a lot of fodder for those recaps.

Just before the finale, I mentioned my recaps to an author friend—she was having a hard time and I sent her one to cheer her up. She came back with, ‘You should write this as a book.’

‘A season of The Bachelor as a book?’ I couldn’t quite see how that would work.

‘No,’ she replied, ‘write the story about the woman who writes the recaps. Then send her on the show undercover.’

I percolated on this (brilliant) idea then pitched it to my agent, sending her one of the recaps. She said, ‘Write me chapter one. Show me who she is, this woman.’ I had a snarky recapper character, but not the woman behind the persona. I percolated again and ‘met’ Abby—a smart introvert who loves her mum and longs to be a proper journalist.

I sent chapter one back a couple of days later and my agent loved it, asking for a synopsis. A week later, we pitched the story to my publisher, One More Chapter. They loved the light-hearted tone and the characters, particularly Abby, as well as the concept—lots of opportunities to peek behind the scenes of a reality dating show—and we got the green light. Abby Jones aka Anastasia Blabbergasted would be strong-armed into going on The Stag as a contestant. And as we embarked on a nearly four-month intense lockdown here in Melbourne, I got writing.

The Dating Game is a little different from my other books. It’s still ‘destination fiction’ with a heroine from London and most of the book set in Sydney, but it isn’t really about travel the way that my other books have been. It’s mostly about love and relationships—about what you want and need in a relationship, and how that can differ from what you think you want. It’s also about what’s real and what’s not when you go on a reality television show seeking love. That was a really fun theme to explore and a lot of characters get to have that conversation—with themselves and with each other.

Another differentiator between this book and my previous books is the romantic tropes I played with—several at once, actually: slow burn, forbidden love, friends to lovers … I had a lot of fun exploring Abby’s relationship with her love interest, especially as it starts as a meeting of the minds (with a little lust thrown in). And even though this book doesn’t have as much heat as the Holiday Romance series, I think readers will love how Abby keeps her love interest on his toes—and deservedly so! She’s plucky and, sometimes, he’s a bit of a twit!

The book also includes eight recaps of The Stag written by Abby as ‘Anastasia’ and—oh my god—those were a blast to write. Anastasia loves word play and literary devices, she’s hilarious and just a little bit mean and writing her was like playing.

There’s also an undercurrent throughout the book of being trapped by circumstance—of having no way out of the situation so having to make the most of it and, just maybe, discovering something about one’s self along the way. (This really resonated with me.)

One thing The Dating Game does share with my other books, is that female friendship is a strong theme. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the supporting characters and how friendships form, even under the unlikely circumstances of being in competition with each other. Quite a few reviews mention Kaz, one of the Aussie Does, and she could actually be fun to write as a heroine. Hmm …

So, The Dating Game will forever be my ‘lockdown’ book, a little snapshot of what it was like to write while confined to home, and how ‘making the most of it’ resulted in my funniest book to date. I really hope you enjoy it—it’s light and fun and funny—and that it is as much an escape for you to read as it was for me to write.

Sandy Barker is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. Sandy lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel, One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. The series continues in That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney and there are two more to come in 2022. Her standalone novel The Christmas Swap celebrates her favourite time of the year, and next up is The Dating Game, a laugh-out-loud rom com set in the world of reality TV.

You can find Sandy here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The Dating Game

Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity …

Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.

When a recap for The Stag—the must-watch dating show—goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.

The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all …

Buy it here: Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Kobo | Google | iBooks | Nook | Waterstones | Foyles

Author spotlight: Amy Andrews

25 September 2021

In the lead-up to ARR2021 in December we will be spotlighting the authors who will be signing. In the spotlight today we have Amy Andrews.

Who was the first romance author to catch your interest?

When I was first reading category romance (aka sneaking off with my mother’s…) I was reading Carole Mortimer, Ann Mather, Penny Jordan, Emma Darcy etc. The first author who made an impact as far as my writing went was Jennifer Crusie.

What do you write?

Contemporary romance, mostly in the category romance area and rom-com single title books.

Which usually comes to you first—characters or plot (or something else)?

It varies from book to book. Sometimes I’ll have a character arrive fully formed in my head with their story to tell, others times I’ll have a scene appear in my head that needs to be explored, other times an editor asks for something specific and I run with that.

Choose one of your books to turn into a movie—who would you cast in the lead roles?

I always thought Holding Out for a Hero would make an excellent movie. And the lead roles—Joe Manganiello for Jake and Rachel Griffiths for Ella. Also Pauley Perrette, the chick who plays Abby in the original NICS, as Rosie and Rob Lowe playing her super-straight love interest Simon.

Tell us about your latest release in 100 words or less:

Playing it Safe is book 7 in my Sydney Smoke rugby series and my first ever—after 80+ books—MM romance. I knew by book 2 that Donovan was gay, but it’s never been revealed in the series before and I’m super excited as well as super nervous to see how it is received. I really wanted a Patrick and David style relationship—sweet and heart-warming—for Donovan and Beck and I hope readers love their HEA as much as I did writing it.

What else are you working on in 2021?

I have a Christmas book coming out for Tule in November—You Had Me at Chocolate—which I’m just finishing up now, and I’m also working on two books for 2022: book 5 in the Credence series and the next rugby book!

Amy’s latest releases:

You can find more information on Amy on her website.

If you haven’t booked your ticket for ARR2021 yet, you can buy one HERE.

Already have your ticket? Join us in the ARR2021 Facebook group.


Release day: Murder by Numbers

24 September 2021

Today is the official release of Murder by Numbers by Megan Mayfair (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Murder by Numbers by Megan MayfairThis is one murder that doesn’t add up…

Following a spectacular business failure, Clara Mitchell returns to her coastal hometown, Lemon Tree Bay, with an inglorious thud. Living with her mum and working in a hair salon, she’s determined to repay her debts and get back to glamorous city living.

When she meets poker-faced accountant Lucas Pepper, sparks fly, however, their blossoming romance slips into the red as he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his uncle.

Convinced of Lucas’s innocence, Clara locks horns with her ex-boyfriend – local bad boy turned police officer, Senior Constable Adam Billings. He’s desperate to prove Lucas guilty and protect Clara at all costs.

With evidence threatening to sink Lucas, Clara must unravel the mystery using a trusty grapevine of local gossip and her somewhat unreliable intuition. Will she save Lucas from mounting charges in time, or was Adam right all along?

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

Romantic, suspenseful and puzzling, Murder by Numbers is the first book in the Lemon Tree Bay Mysteries. These stories will follow Clara Mitchell as she navigates murder, poisonings, theft and general chaos in her quirky beachside hometown while pursuing a romance with accountant Lucas Pepper. But things are never simple with her feelings and amateur sleuthing constantly clouded by local police officer, and Clara’s ex-boyfriend, Senior Constable Adam Billings, who is determined to protect her at any cost.

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

Author spotlight: Rachael Johns

23 September 2021

In the lead-up to ARR2021 in December we will be spotlighting the authors who will be signing. In the spotlight today we have Rachael Johns.

Who was the first romance author to catch your interest?

Probably Helen Fielding with Bridget Jones, but the first M&B author to really hook me into romance was Barbara Hannay with Having the Boss’s Babies. It was the first M&B I ever read and changed my perception of what I thought they were. Have been devouring all sorts of romance novels ever since!

What do you write?

I write contemporary feel-good fiction (aka life lit, aka women’s fiction, aka just contemporary fiction) and I also write rural romance. The favourite of my contemporary fiction novels just happen to be those that have the strongest romantic elements. Romance makes any book better!

Which usually comes to you first—characters or plot (or something else)?

Hmm … this is a hard question, because I feel like they’re kinda all wrapped up together for me. I guess I often think of a seed of an idea (e.g., a family curse or an egg donor who doesn’t want children) but then the characters come next before I even think about where the plot will really take us!

Choose one of your books to turn into a movie—who would you cast in the lead roles?

Only one? I think it would have to be The Greatest Gift then. I think it’s structured well for film and also believe the hot air balloon aspect would look good and be fun on the big screen. Liam Hemsworth would play Jasper, Asher Keddie – Harper, Rodger Corser – Samuel, and for Claire, I’d like an emerging talent we haven’t seen much of yet.

Tell us about your latest release in 100 words or less:

How to Mend a Broken Heart is the story of Felicity Bell and her daughter, Zoe, who are both recovering from forms of betrayal and end up in New Orleans on the adventure of a life time, in which they meet a ghost hunter, a jazz musician/bar owner and an eccentric elderly woman inspired by Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. It’s a story of intrigue, romance, friendship, motherhood and there may even be a ghost!

What else are you working on in 2021?

Outback Secrets the fifth in my Bunyip Bay ’trilogy’. It releases in October. It’s the story of the local publican and an agricultural pilot who only comes home to Bunyip Bay occasionally. Sparks fly when Henrietta convinces Liam to be her fake boyfriend to stop her mother and the town trying to get her to settle down. I’m currently writing The Work Wives, which is a feel-good contemporary fiction about friendships in the workplace, online dating and the lies we tell those closest to us in the name of protecting them. I’m having SO much fun writing it!

Rachael’s latest releases:

You can find more information on Rachael on her website.

If you haven’t booked your ticket for ARR2021 yet, you can buy one HERE.

Already have your ticket? Join us in the ARR2021 Facebook group.



Release day: Muster in the Dust

23 September 2021

Today is the official release of Muster in the Dust by Mel A Rowe (Elsie Creek, book 5) (ebook and paperback, self-published).

Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Muster in the Dust by Mel A RoweShe’s rodeo royalty. He’s nothing but a drifter chasing a dream. So how much trouble can a fake date create in a town overrun with cowboys?

Daughter of a wealthy cattle station owner, Mandy is the wallflower who prefers to take care of her family, her herd, and horses. But when her father hires someone else to manage the station she was born to run, Mandy makes a plan to retaliate…

Rigsy only came into town to find a date for a friend—not get roped into fake dating one of the famous Muster Sisters! Pretending to be in a relationship with the sweet-smiling stockwoman to help achieve his goals seems simple enough. Yet with Mandy’s father gunning for Rigsy to leave town, her scheme may be the only thing that can keep his hopes alive.

But when the couple’s unexpected passion collide with their ambitions, they become rivals in the race for their individual dreams that could cost them everything—including each other!

Settle into the saddle for this charming, heartfelt story of love, family, and friendship, found in the most remote corner of the outback in this edition of in the much-loved Australian bestselling Elsie Creek series.

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

In this book I revisit the normally slow-paced town of Elsie Creek, which is overrun with cattlemen, station hands, stockmen, jackaroos, jillaroos, drovers, and more—all behaving like cowboys while waiting for the annual mustering season to begin. And among the chaos is one man trying to find a date for his friend. How hard can that be, right? So, consider this your invitation to take a local’s tour of the Northern Territory, to feel the dust and sunshine as you settle into the saddle for this ride across the pages. The Elsie Creek series is written to enjoy either as a standalone or beautifully binged in order.

You can find out more about this book, including buy links, on Mel’s website.

Feature book: Magpie’s Bend

22 September 2021

Magpie’s Bend by Maya Linnell

Subgenre: rural romance
Release date: 1 Jun 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: ebook and print
Length: 368 pages
RRP: $12.34 (ebook); $29.99 (print)

The third in Maya Linnell’s series about the McIntyre sisters.

Never underestimate community spirit, and the rural town of Bridgefield is one shining example.

One of the hubs of a community is always the local general store/post office, where the daily home-made pies are delicious and habit-forming, and the local newspaper and gossip are sweet extras.

Nurse Lara McIntyre walks into the store one morning to discover the elderly owner injured under a tumble of heavy boxes. As she gives first aid, she calls on the other person present, journalist Toby Paxton, to call the ambulance and assist. To her dismay he snaps some photos of her working on the injured woman—something that hits her hot buttons. They clash when she immediately asks him to delete them. To Toby’s mind, one photo in particular is a potential award winner, and he can’t understand her request, particularly as she hasn’t even seen them.

Lara is a victim of domestic abuse. We are not told much about her ex-husband, just enough to get the horrors. Toby’s unthinking action and reluctant reaction to delete the photos when she requests it ignites Lara’s distrust of pretty much most men except those in her family. Not a good start between these two.

To keep the vital store open, Lara becomes embroiled in an onslaught of plans. Something she didn’t expect! Suddenly she’s drawing up volunteer rosters to man the store, including herself. Delightfully, the townsfolk rally. They know the importance of keeping such an icon in their town.

Sadly, the elderly owner can’t recover easily, and decides to sell. There follows a parade of fairly amusing (to the reader) potential buyers who are totally out of their element in a country town. You just know how wrong they would be in the rural environment (e.g. the chap called Tarquin).

Lara’s pushed on by the sadness in the community at potential disaster if the store is sold to the wrong person. She has the brilliant idea of the town itself raising the money to buy the store, including the flat above it. Omigosh, the fund raising is huge in this book! And so inspiring! And so exhausting! How Lara keeps on top of it is astonishing. A raffle! A fun-run! A ball! Lara is a strong, determined lady as the town gathers behind her.

And what’s the best place to write features and promotions and whip up even more community spirit? The local newspaper of course, with Toby at the helm. Slowly but surely, he proves his mettle, time and time again, and gains the respect of the town and Lara’s family. His teenage daughter and hers get on like a house on fire. Lara almost believes he is possibly one of the good guys when something happens to wreck her trust in a flash.

This book has such a big heart, curled around Lara and her big McIntyre family, Toby and his daughter and the newspaper, and the whole community. Minor characters—including a magpie called Vegemite and a dog called Basil—provide loads of fun, and you really want the town to succeed in its quest to save the store. But will it really be possible? And is there a chance for Lara and Toby? It doesn’t seem like it … but … maybe, possibly?

One final word, oh my, on the baking. Maya Linnell, you tempter! So much delicious baking in this book you’ll be ready to fire up your own oven and whip something up as soon as you finish reading. Or sit down with something while you read … Enjoy!

reviewed by Malvina

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

Author spotlight: Cynthia Terelst

21 September 2021

In the lead-up to ARR2021 in December we will be spotlighting the authors who will be signing. In the spotlight today we have Cynthia Terelst.

Who was the first romance author to catch your interest?

For me it wasn’t an author but a publisher. When I was younger I read Sweet Dreams romances. They were geared towards teenagers. I would stay up to all hours just to finish a story.

What do you write?

I write contemporary romance (mid-level steam) set it Australia. They are all first-person dual POV. They touch on some social issues and are not all light and fluffy. But they will leave you feeling warm and hopeful.

Which usually comes to you first—characters or plot (or something else)?

First of all I come up with a title. My titles are all based around animal sayings. Then I think about tropes and a plot to fit with that title. For example, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie fits perfectly with a second-chance romance where Tara and Shepherd had to acknowledge the past but move on from it to have a chance of rekindling their love.

Choose one of your books to turn into a movie—who would you cast in the lead roles?

For Down the Rabbit Hole I would choose Chris Hemsworth to be Luke. He has that great Australian charm and I’m sure he could pull off being a farmer. He could be a little too old for the age of the character, but I’m sure he could pull it off. Just me for. LOL. And for Emily I would choose someone like Isla Fisher. She is a great actress and would immerse herself in the character.

Tell us about your latest release in 100 words or less:

Down the Rabbit Hole is a romance between two lifelong friends, Emily and Luke. Emily returns to look after her estranged father and Luke tries hard to respect the boundaries of their friendship, but every moment they spend together makes it harder to deny their connection.

It is a small-town romance with a difference. It is set in a fictional farming town in Queensland. Usually small towns have their quirks and news travels fast. Overall, they are lovely little places that give off warmth. But in Alma, the people within it are not very nice. In fact, we could almost call them hateful and this is directed towards our main female character, Emily.

Another cause of conflict is when Luke finds himself in a problematic situation when he agrees to do something he shouldn’t and he finds himself falling deeper into that hole as the novel proceeds.

When Emily finds out it could ruin everything …

What else are you working on in 2021?

My next novel is A Bird in the Hand. It is an opposites-attract romance and I’m in the process of writing the first draft. It includes a road trip up the west coast of Australia, visiting many of the places my daughter and I went to when we travelled.

All of my novels have animal characters in them and this one stars a foul-mouthed cockatoo. I can’t repeat his name on a public forum, but let’s just say it’s not something you’d say in front of your grandmother.

Cynthia’s latest releases:

You can find more information on Cynthia on her website.

If you haven’t booked your ticket for ARR2021 yet, you can buy one HERE.

Already have your ticket? Join us in the ARR2021 Facebook group.



Release day: The Sound of Violet

21 September 2021

Today is the official release of The Sound of Violet by Allen Wolf (hardcover, paperback and ebook, Morning Star Publishing). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of The SOund of Violet by Allen WolfDesperate to find his soulmate, Shawn goes on one awkward date after another until he encounters the alluring Violet. He starts dating her, but his autism keeps him from realizing that she’s actually a prostitute. Shawn thinks he’s found a possible wife while Violet thinks she’s found her ticket to a brand new life. This hilarious and dramatic award-winning story takes all kinds of twists and turns and has been adapted into a major motion picture.

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

I can relate to Shawn’s dating journey because it reflects some of my journey when I was a single man in Los Angeles. Even though I’m not on the autism spectrum, I struggled with many of my main character’s issues, such as meaningfully connecting with women, being naïve in relationships, and struggling with how to build intimacy. The woman he falls in love with works as a prostitute, which he doesn’t realise. I thought that would be a compelling contrast with Shawn who has a faith background and has been saving himself for marriage. He resists touching because it’s too intense for him, while she’s forced to touch others. I thought that would make a compelling story.

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

Guest blogger: Jane Ellyson

19 September 2021

What do romance readers want?

I think about this question I lot. It’s a tough one, as there are many sub-genres within romance. However, regardless of genre, romance readers expect a HEA or a suitably resolved ending. But what type of journey do they want the protagonists to have experienced?

Darla Denton asked romance readers what they wanted more of. Responses included:

  • Depth of feeling and emotion
  • Great girl friendships
  • Crazy twists pulled off right
  • Something out of the ordinary
  • Great supporting characters
  • Strong underlying plot in addition to the romance. It keeps it from getting too one-dimensional.

These findings influenced the way I write and I’ve included many of these elements in my stories. For example, in the first book in the series called Over Byron Bay, I wanted to write a book that took the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Feeling the protagonists’ conflict and pain was a skill I was keen to master.

In Substitute Child, I wanted to explore the friendship between Charlotte and Miranda as revealed through their text messages, as a secondary story. I also wanted to build in unexpected story elements that would surprise and delight the reader. All great stories have conflict. Charlotte Wyatt knew her parents worried about her, and more specifically about losing her. This reality had given her an identity crisis as revealed in the title of the book. The plot starts with a journey to collect a bottle with a message inside to a brother who only lived a day. The conflict comes from getting home without revealing all the trouble she’s been in.

In Substitute Child, Charlotte has to respond to a deadly situation, whereas in Roman Roulette, Charlotte takes the lead and jumps feet first, into a bag of trouble, when she attends a party on a yacht. Captured while helping a friend to escape, she’s presented with several unbearable choices by her nemesis ‘The Monk’. She throws herself into her new role with an audacious plan to break everybody out, relying on great supporting characters. Not only does she maintain her subterfuge, she’s offered an intriguing opportunity for a career change, which all starts in Missing in Myanmar. Charlotte tentatively takes her first assignment as an occasional Intelligence Officer for ASIO. Seems easy enough. A bit of information gathering and then a speedy exit from the country before catching a flight home. If only …

And then we arrive at the final book in the series

In Nonsense in the North, Charlotte needs to find Scott, who’s gone missing after a one-day sailing gig from Hamilton Island. He’s now suspected by police of being an integral part of an international drug smuggling operation. There is danger everywhere, and Charlotte needs to find Scott and clear his name before his family discovers what they’ve been involved in. And this is all happening while she’s planning for her best friend Miranda’s wedding.

We all live vicariously through the lead protagonist’s experience. We all want to overcome obstacles and achieve our happy ever after. The common thread through my stories is that the heroine needs to make tough choices. These choices have consequences and inevitably lead to a chaotic situation from which they need to extract themselves. It’s a wonderful and bumpy journey with the reward being a safe arrival home for our protagonist, and a satisfied smile on the face of the romance reader.

You can find Jane here: Facebook | Twitter