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Guest blogger: Sandy Barker

25 September 2022

Bittersweet—writing a series finale

2022 marked the publication of the fifth and final book in the Holiday Romance series, A Wedding in Tuscany. And, although the book has only been out a few months, I have already had readers reaching out to ask if I can please bring all the characters back together ‘just one more time’. For me, this is one of those ‘never say never’ situations where I can imagine, somewhere in the future, gathering up the series cast and sending them off on holiday together—perhaps Mexico for Christmas—for a ‘where are they now?’ style book.

Till then, however, I have said a bittersweet farewell to the Parson sisters and their friends and family.

So, how did this series begin?

In 2013, I started writing a fictionalised version of my very own ‘meet cute’. In 2006, I’d taken a solo trip to Greece, licking my wounds after a series of not-nice love interests, and there, on a pier in Santorini, I met someone. His name was Ben (the cute American boy) and he and I just happened to be on the same sailing trip. Ten days later, I knew I was (inconveniently, as he lived in Minnesota and I lived in Sydney) in love with him and we embarked on a lengthy long-distance relationship.

We’re still together, by the way, and our love story sparked the original book in the series, one that underwent dozens of re-writes and was pitched to even more publishing houses. At the start of 2019, I got that ‘one yes’ from an imprint of HarperCollins UK. They loved my ‘Sarah in Santorini’ book and wanted to publish it. By then, I’d written two follow-ups, one the direct sequel and one about Sarah’s sister, Cat. I secured an agent based on the initial offer and since then, the series has expanded to five books.

What are my biggest takeaways from writing a series?

This year is the ninth year I’ve been working on this series and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to my very first copy editor, as they crafted what became my ‘series bible’. This included everything from the slang a particular character uses, to their height and hair colour, to what type of home they have and where it is, to their favourite colour. I’ve built on this ‘bible’ over the years, adding not just characters but their characteristics—all the nuances and ‘nuggets’ that bring them to life for readers. It’s also been very handy when I’m naming minor characters as I tend to plagiarise myself and use the same names over and over again. Apparently, I love names that start with ‘J’!

Another takeaway, especially in writing the ‘Holiday Romance’ series, is that setting plays a big part in each character’s story. All five books are set in locations I have travelled to repeatedly, or have lived in—Sydney, London, Bali, New Zealand, Tuscany, Paris, Switzerland—and I’ve always aimed to have my characters interact with those locations in a way that enhances their emotional journey. An example is that in A Sunset in Sydney, Sarah, who is then embroiled in a love triangle, gets to ‘play host’ to her two love interests in her hometown. It helps her to see Sydney through fresh eyes and realise how much she loves her life, regardless of whether or not she’s in a relationship.

My other big take away is that even though these characters are fictional, they feel like family to me. I’ve been inside their heads and hearts for the better part of a decade, laughing with them (and often at them) and crying with them when their hearts get broken. All I’ve ever wanted for them was their own happily ever after. That’s why Tuscany became the final book in the series. No spoilers, but I have given all my heroines—Sarah, Cat, Jaelee, Lou, Siobhan—their own version of happily ever after.

Still … a reunion for Christmas in a decade’s time? It really does sound like a lot of fun. Never say never, right?

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

A Wedding in Tuscany

The Parsons sisters are all loved up.

Sarah is living in Sydney with Josh and their cat, Domino, but is anxious about her fast-approaching fortieth birthday.

And Cat is still living in London with her flatmate, Jane, but is in a long-distance relationship with Jean-Luc, her childhood sweetheart and recently re-discovered love.

One of the sisters receives a surprise wedding proposal—it’s a yes!—and everyone heads off to Tuscany for a destination wedding.

Reunite with favourite characters from the Holiday Romance series in one of the most beautiful locations yet for love, laughter, wedding vows, and just a smidge of sisterly mayhem.

Release day: A Lady Never Surrenders

22 September 2022

Today is the official release of A Lady Never Surrenders by Bronwen Evans (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of A Lady Never Surrenders by Bronwen EvansFrom USA Today Bestselling Author, Bronwen Evans comes her new Sisterhood of Scandal series. A group of ladies whose friendship is based upon ensuring they can take on the world dominated by their menfolk. No male relative is going to choose their destinies.

Shhh. Blue Stocking Miss Tiffany Deveraux has a secret. The poor orphan is not so poor.  But she does not want that information to become common knowledge. Being a plain Jane, any hint of money would just bring fortune hunters to her door. No. In society’s eyes she will remain the poor orphaned ward of the Earl of Marlowe. Only then will she ensure the man who professes his love for her is genuine.

Slade Ware, the Marquess of Wolfarth also has a secret. He’s a renowned investment guru with everything he touches turning to gold. Or is he? Society may think so, but mostly his investments have been blind luck, and he’s pretty sure his luck is about to run out. Help comes in the form of his best friend’s ward.

He’s learned Miss Tiffany Deveraux’s secret. She’s an investment guru who has accumulated a considerable sum. Marriage would seem a sensible option with so many dependents relying on him. But what’s a man to do when the one thing a woman wants isn’t his looks, title or money—it’s his heart and Wolfarth’s heart is shattered beyond repair.

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

Before my writing life I worked in the financial markets and a story evolved around a woman in early Regency, Miss Tiffany Deveraux, who was a whizz with numbers. How cool would it be to have her secretly invest her pin money successfully in shares? How would she do it? What would society think? Would she have to hide her investing? And what options did having her own money give her? What if she also helped her friends? She’d have choices… They’d all have choices. For instance, she’d have a choice as to if and who she marries. Then I thought of a hero, a handsome, sought-after bachelor, Slade Ware, Marquess of Wolfarth (Wolf) who wasn’t so good with investments. He’s more the arty type. He learns Tiffany’s secret and decides she’d make him an excellent wife. He’ll protect his family and fortune by having a wife with the Midas touch. Imagine his surprise when ‘plain Jane’ turns him down. But Wolf’s not giving up—she might be good with shares but he’s an expert in seduction.

You can find out more about this book (including where to buy it) on Bronwen’s website.

Release day: Cinderella’s Secret Baby

21 September 2022

Today is the official release of Cinderella’s Secret Baby by Dani Collins (paperback and ebook, Harlequin Presents). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Cinderella's Secret Baby by Dani CollinsThe confession that stopped his billion-dollar wedding! USA TODAY bestselling author Dani Collins thrills in this secret baby romance.

The scandal of the century…
She’s had the billionaire’s love child!

Innocent waitress Amelia Lindor’s encounter with Hunter Waverly was unforgettable. Their chemistry? Off the charts! Their connection? Soul shattering! And, for Amelia, the consequences were life-changing…

Amelia had braced herself to tell Hunter she was pregnant, only to learn he was engaged. Unwilling to endure more heartache, she vowed to raise their daughter alone. Then the news gets out! In a shock turn of events, Hunter’s wholly convenient marriage is halted at the altar as all his attention turns to Amelia… and her secret!

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

When I was pitching ideas to my editor for my last contract at Harlequin, I suggested four stories linked by the same ruined wedding in Canada. I had this vision of a hero at the altar when the wedding is halted because he learns he has a secret baby. Hunter has found the perfect bride to fix his scandal-ridden reputation when Amelia’s father crashes in to accuse Hunter of abandoning Amelia and their daughter, Peyton. There are reasons she didn’t tell Hunter about their baby and now the kitten is out of the bag! I had so much fun with this series! It’s called Four Weddings and a Baby and, spoiler alert, all four books feature weddings that don’t go off as planned. You’ll enjoy loads of family secrets and flirty banter, betrayals and scandals and sexy times (of course!) I hope you enjoy this first installment, Cinderella’s Secret Baby and I hope you’ll read on through the rest.

You can read more about this book at Dani’s website and buy it here.

Feature book: Pregnancy Shock for the Greek Billionaire

21 September 2022

Pregnancy Shock for the Greek Billionaire by Kandy Shepherd

Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 1 Aug 2022
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Format: ebook and print
Length: 256 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $8.99 (print)

Claudia and her friend Kitty (from Kandy’s book Second Chance with His Cinderella) run the very successful PWP (People Who Pack). They work hard, enjoy it, and have an excellent reputation.

When Claudia turns up to an exclusive Bloomsbury address to pack a beautiful luxury apartment, she’s stunned to discover it belongs to her very first love: Stefanos Adrastos, moving back to Athens.

Ten years ago, Claudia and Stefanos spent an absolutely idyllic summer together in Greece. He was the young heir to a Greek shipping company, and she was working her way around the world in hospitality.

Taking some rare time off, the young Stefanos was completely smitten by Claudia, and vice versa. They spent all their spare time together, often on his yacht, passionate young blood running high as they fell in love.

Tragically, they parted company when something happened to drive them apart. Stefanos couldn’t bear to ‘just stay friends’—he’s an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of guy—so he cut Claudia off completely, and she continued, broken-hearted, working around the globe.

Imagine their surprise to suddenly meet ten years later. They talk, grateful to clear the air about unresolved issues from the past. Then that flame of attraction that’s still there—has always still been there—suddenly roars into life again, bigger and brighter and fiercer than before.

Then, a pregnancy shock! Will they be able to navigate this situation better than their other dreadfully sad parting?

A tender second-chance-at-love story, with a charming glimpse of characters from other books (hello, lovely to see you again). Thank you Kandy!

reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author. ARRA members who leave a comment on the blog by 12 October 2022 will go into the draw to win a copy.

Guest blogger: Jennifer Raines

18 September 2022

What’s the starting point for a book?

Authors fossick for ideas and words and unpick them before stitching and weaving them into stories. Like so many creative endeavours, writing is a meeting of mind and heart. I love all sorts of stories, fact and fiction, but when it came time to write my own it was romance that drew me. Divorce was part of my childhood and—yes, you guessed it—I kept rewriting the ending in my head. I’m happy when love conquers distrust, shame, betrayal or loneliness.

I’ve been writing for most of my life, spending varying amounts of time on my writing depending on when reality and living get in the way. I’ve entered competitions, attended conferences, listened to people talk about craft and learned, as Maisey Yates said in her keynote at #RWA2022 ‘only writing teaches you how to write’.

My debut novel Taylor’s Law (Inkspell Publishing, July 2022) is the first in a two-book series about the Anderson sisters. Taylor’s Law is a secret toddler—rather than a secret baby—story, and my main protagonist is an aunt rather than the child’s mother, but to write it I drew on lots of shiny bits of information I’d absorbed over time:

  • a farmer’s daughter, with no passion to work the farm
  • a swindle igniting a passion for justice
  • a toddler—mother dead, father unknown
  • an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news team—reporter, pilot and cameraman—killed in a fatal helicopter crash in Lake Eyre during a routine assignment
  • a man whose private homage to his father includes sporting a ponytail and an earring
  • a colleague’s distress after spending his morning explaining to divorcing parents that children can’t simultaneously be enrolled in two public primary schools in NSW. The parents were weaponising their children—shared custody to them meant the kids staying with one parent and going to one school, then moving to the second parent and a second school. In the real world not everyone puts the needs of children first
  • a family dinner where your sister recounts a story from your childhood—that’s not how I remember it—and you wonder if siblings take different paths because of a single event that shapes them differently?

What’s the starting point of a book?

For me, the initial trigger may be a single incident, like the helicopter crash. It appears in a scrolling news ticker on your screen—appearing—disappearing—yet so many lives are impacted by this event in small and monumental ways.

Who takes responsibility for the child or children left behind when a single parent dies? Who wins if there are credible conflicting claims?

Stories are born of other stories, the layers built slowly and carefully so the initial inspiration is woven invisibly into the fabric of the new tale. Stories take time, research, planning and endless revision—at least for me. But there are also moments of complete joy, when you think you’ve nailed what you want to express.

Taylor’s Law involves some fact, some fiction. Add wealth, power, greed and envy and balance them with compassion, loyalty and love. Ignite with passion and imagination.

Grace Under Fire, about the second Anderson sister, will be published in March 2023 (Inkspell Publishing). The Anderson sisters’ significant childhood event was a shyster swindling their father out of a piece of prime farmland. In Taylor’s Law we discover that Eleanor Anderson is passionate about justice. In Grace Under Fire, Grace is determined no one else will steal another piece of the family farm.

You can find Jennifer here: Website | Facebook

Taylor’s Law

Tell me a secret and I’ll tell you a lie

Ella Anderson adores her niece. Despite struggling to make ends meet, accepting her dying sister’s request she raise Tessa as her own is a no brainer. Until she receives a summons from a legal goliath on behalf of a wealthy stranger claiming paternity and, potentially, custody of her child.

Jake Taylor has been ripped off one too many times. Yet the letter from a woman claiming his cousin fathered her child feels real. His aunt and uncle are desperate for a grandchild. When the child’s aunt shows up in his office in place of the child’s mother, he smells fraud.

Secrets and lies bubble to the surface, threatening Ella and Jake’s growing attraction. In a minefield of divided loyalties, can Ella trust Jake to make the right decision about custody of Tessa?

Taylor’s Law is available here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple

Author spotlight: Jay G Bee

17 September 2022

In the lead-up to ARR2023 in February 2023 we will be spotlighting the authors who will be signing. In the spotlight today we have Jay G Bee. Jay will be signing in Perth.

Who was the first romance author to catch your interest?

Ann Hampson. The book was Song of the Waves (published 1976).

What do you write?

Contemporary rural romance, WA Police department and WA fire fighters.

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

Plot, then I find a cover photo for the cover so I can describe my hero and heroine.

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

Inferno and Rein, book 1 in the Love Behind the Flames series. Cast would be Hugh Jackman (aged as he was in Paperback Hero) or now Scott Eastwood and Claudia Karvan (aged as she was in Paperback Hero).

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

Inferno and Rein. Safira has finally achieved her dream of being a successful firefighter. Determined to be seen as more than just a girl by her crew, she doesn’t see why SHE has to be the one to deal with a weirdly possessive horse after rescuing his arrogant owner from a fire. Sam is a semi-recluse who has given up on finding the perfect partner. Life takes a turn when after a fire at his farm he finds a strange woman sleeping in his bed. Can a horse that is nasty and conniving towards everyone but Sam, bring them together?

What else are you working on at the moment?

Book 2 in the Love Behind the Flames series—Java and Flames—and book 3 in the Love Behind the Flames series—Hoops and Ladders.

Jay’s latest releases:

Tickets for ARR2023 will go on sale in October. You can find the full list of signing authors here.

Join us in the ARR2023 Attendees group on Facebook.

 

ARR2023: social events

16 September 2022

In conjunction with our signing events in February, we will have a social event in each city. Tickets will go on sale when registration opens on 16 Oct.

BRISBANE
Friday 10 Feb 2023, 6.00 to 8.00 pm
Author talk at Brisbane City Hall
Charlotte Nash will interview Julia Quinn and Audrey Carlan
Tickets: free

SYDNEY
Sunday 12 Feb 2023, 4.00 to 5.00 pm
Happy hour for readers and authors following the signing, Sydney Boulevard. Drinks and nibbles provided
Tickets: $60

MELBOURNE
Friday 17 Feb 2023, 2.00 to 4.00 pm
High Tea with Julia Quinn and Audrey Carlan at Collins Coffee House
Tickets: $90

PERTH
Sunday 19 Feb 2023, 4.00 to 5.00 pm
Happy hour for readers and authors following the signing, Pagoda Resort and Spa. Drinks and nibbles provided.
Tickets: $60

 

ARRA newsletter #158

15 September 2022

Purple news

The September 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:

  • all about the social events at ARR2023
  • our annual survey is still open
  • our event calendar has all the dates for two author tours
  • details of the Ruby winners
  • have you heard about the Bridgerton High Tea?
  • win a $10 gift card—if you can Find the Heart!

Plus our regular columns—romance roundup, web watch, publisher news, self-publishing highlights, diverse reads, reviews, freebies 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 arra.editor@gmail.com.

Happy reading everyone!

Release day: Eight Seconds

15 September 2022

Today is the official release of Eight Seconds by Frances Dall’Alba (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Eight Seconds by Frances DallalbaTriumph, hardship, true grit … and one crazy dream.

An inspirational story about one woman, with one dream, and one almighty driving passion.

Grace Lucas knows from an early age that climbing onto a bucking animal and holding on is exactly what she wants. When Grace wins her first poddy ride at the age of twelve but is refused the first prize trophy because she’s a girl, it stirs a fierce streak that won’t rest—not until she’s allowed to compete in the sport she loves as an equal and be recognised for it.

Erin Blackwater comes into Grace’s life many years after her bull riding days are over, at a time when she has questions and doubts about how her own life is tracking. Employed by a medical research company to record Grace’s miracle recovery, Grace teaches Erin the importance of living life to the fullest without fear or regrets. Or life will leave you behind.

Encapsulating the Australian outback landscape of the sixties and seventies, with a storyline weaving in and out of the present day, this story is inspired by one woman, with one dream, and one almighty driving passion. With every adversity in her way, Grace pushes past the barriers and succeeds in a male dominated sport, and creates a new legend.

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

This book came about when I went on the search for an incredible Australian woman whose achievement I could use in a story. I never expected to find such a woman living less than ten minutes’ drive away. Having lived all my life in this area, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this person. I certainly knew nothing of her achievements, which I learnt are showcased in two Australian Halls of Fame. Eight Seconds is a story inspired by Dianne Lucas Luppi, Australia’s first female to be recognised in open bull-riding. When she rode her last bull at the age of 34, Dianne was still the only female competitor in open bull-riding, and the oldest competitor (both male and female). More incredibly, I discovered a link between myself and Dianne, which I reveal in the book.

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

Feature book: Stepping Stone

14 September 2022

Stepping Stone by Liv Arnold

Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 11 Jul 2022
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Format: ebook and print
Length: 280 pages
RRP: $6.76 (ebook); $30.80 (print)

Jenna Kravitz is struggling to get her life back together after her separation from her husband. A man she still loves and thinks is really hot. However, she needs to keep it together for her two children. Now there is an issue at work, and it is in a program she has written but is unable to find where the program is being altered and by whom.

While out, Jenna has her bag snatched, again. This time she has support as someone helps her and she discovers Claudine is looking for a job. She recommends Claudine to her boss, and she is employed in the company. It is then the issues with the program ramp up, and Claudine is the main suspect. The problem is that Jenna thinks Claudine is sex on a stick and really wants to get to know her in an intimate way. Her best fantasy ever.

The problem for Jenna is that her husband, Marco, stills wants her but can’t be with her. He has been in Afghanistan and suffers from PTSD. (His PTSD has been treated sensitively by Ms Arnold). Marco is a boxer in a similar set up to fight club and he struggles to keep his day job but doesn’t want his girls to know of his struggles. He is astounded when Jenna wants to have sex with no further expectations of getting back together. He is also a little upset when Jenna wants to see others. What he doesn’t know is Jenna is leaving her options open with Claudine. He just assumes it is another man.

There are many things that Marco and Jenna need to work through, and Claudine is a factor for Jenna as she really wants to get intimate with her. But will this happen especially as Claudine could be the hacker?

This is a sexy story and there is most certainly tension, both relationship and sexual, between the three characters. There were occasions where I wasn’t sure who would end up with who, or indeed whether there would be a threesome. I will let the reader find out for themselves what happens at the end.

reviewed by Heather

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

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