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A Romantic Rendezvous with Grace Burrowes and Jane Porter: wrap-up

19 September 2018

On Tuesday 14 August, a small group of readers and authors gathered at the Golden Gate Hotel for a Romantic Rendezvous with Grace Burrowes.

It was an intimate evening as we sat and listened to readings by Grace Burrowes, Anne Gracie, Keri Arthur and Beverley Eikli as we drank wine and ate the delicious canapes.

Each of the authors read from their newest works (some yet to be released) and spoke about the inspirations behind their works and their writing in general.
As it was an intimate event, we were able to have some in-depth discussions regarding different aspects of reading and writing—series vs standalones, digital vs paper books, old and new favourites.

Overall it was a lovely way to spend a Tuesday evening. With thanks to Anne Gracie for MCing.


On Thursday 16 August a second rendezvous was held in Sydney at Customs House Library. Taking advantage of the upcoming RWA conference, we had a panel of six authors (Grace Burrowes, Jane Porter, Anne Gracie, Kelly Hunter, Maisey Yates and Jackie Ashenden) who enthralled us with tales of their characters, stories and lives.

These authors told us whether they were plotters or pantsers, why characters have flaws and why they write full-time. There was lively discussion, laughter and great interaction from those who attended. Once the panel was over the authors stayed and chatted and signed books for the attendees.


[This article first appeared in the September 2018 ARRA newsletter.]


Feature book: Shock Heir for the Crown Prince

19 September 2018

Shock Heir for the Crown Prince by Kelly Hunter

Series: Claimed by a King #1
Subgenre: Contemporary
Release date: 22 Jan 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Mills & Boon
Format: print and ebook
Length: 193 pages
RRP: A$5.99

Anastasia Douglas and Prince Casimir had one week together when she was a university student. She didn’t know he was a prince—she knew him only as Cas, and it wasn’t until he was long gone that she discovered she was pregnant. She later learned he was the crown prince of Byzenmaach, but never tried to contact him. Her daughter is now six years old and Casimir has returned to her life and, in fact, whisked her away from it, off to his fairy tale castle, just in time for the old king to die.

Ana and her daughter, Sophia, are quite suspicious of Casimir’s motives, but they understand the potential dangers now that they are part of the royal family and are willing to go along, for now. As for Ana and Cas—the chemistry is still there; they now just need to sort out their feelings. I love that Anastasia is smart and tough and doesn’t do stupid things. This is often the case with Kelly Hunter’s heroines: they face their troubles head-on and deal with them. Quite often they also deal with the hero’s problems and fix them as well. Who doesn’t love a fixer-upper?

The setting and cast of characters in this story is great. The winter and summer palaces, the falconry, the myriad staff who now have to deal with a very different king, as well as Ana and Sophie. In fact there is so much more I would love to learn about this kingdom—the coronation, the political unrest—and hopefully I will in the rest in the series.

Reviewed by Debbie

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

Feature book: The Devilish Duke

19 September 2018

The Devilish Duke by Maddison Michaels

Subgenre: historical romance
Release date: 26 Feb 2018
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Format: ebook
Length: 335 pages
RRP: A$9.79

Maddison Michaels’ debut Victorian romance is a stunner. It even begins with a cameo from Queen Victoria herself. I was delighted, especially after the recent Victoria TV mini-series where I fell a bit in love with Victoria and her Albert.

Devlin Markham (Huntington) is the so-called devilish duke of the title. He’s a bit of a rogue, a bit naughty in the past, and doesn’t really care about his reputation. But now he needs a wife, and it might have something to do with a not-too-subtle suggestion from the afore-mentioned Queen, tangled up with business he’s trying to convince the Queen England requires. Victoria’s a canny lass: you get married and I’ll think about what you suggest, she says.

So, with a little emotional blackmail regarding funding for an orphanage, he becomes betrothed to the delightful Lady Sophie Wolcott. This orphanage was her mother’s pet project and Sophie champions it rigorously, giving orphans an education and a safe and warm home to grow. Already she’s a winner in my eyes by doing this. She uses balls and functions to circulate and shamelessly charm donations from the wealthy.

Sophie’s known as ‘eccentric’ for all this orphanage work and is definitely not interested in getting married for the sake of it, especially to the devil duke. To his amusement she is, of course, highly resistant to his charms—until he dangles the financial orphanage carrot under her nose, which makes her reassess.

Sophie’s intelligent and lovely through and through, a brilliant heroine who keeps Huntington regularly flummoxed through the whole book, which is such a joy to watch. Their dialogue is sparkling, all the better for when they get a bit narky or wildly impassioned by something. I kept laughing at their conversations, the snappy to-and-fro was such fun to read as they tried to outwit (or convince) the other of something.

I did particularly love a (cough) ‘bonding’ session between Sophie’s brother and Devlin. They give each other a couple of cracked ribs and smash up a room in their zeal to each ‘protect’ Sophie from the other. And yes, at the end of the fight a grudging respect grows between the two men amongst the bruises. Snort. Boys! Still … hopefully we see this very interesting brother again …? Please, Maddison?

Lurking with intent around this fabulous romance is someone who bears a grudge from the past. A killer has become so unhinged by his chilling quest that everyone is in danger. This dramatic turn of events grows diabolically more horrible through the story and produces a breathtaking climax. I tried to guess the villain early on, and I guessed wrong. Quite a few red herrings abound!

What a winning debut from Maddison Michaels. I can’t wait for her second book.

Reviewed by Malvina

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

Guest blogger: Justine Lewis

16 September 2018

Painting an official royal portrait is a notoriously risky business. A portrait of a well-known or much loved public figure might make the reputation of the artist—or it might ruin it. The prospect of a scandal surrounding a royal portrait inspired my latest release.

History is littered with examples of royal portraits that haven’t been received as well as the artist may have liked. When Hans Holbein the Younger painted his infamous 1539 portrait of Anne of Cleves he had to tread a careful path between diplomacy and realism and paint a modest, regal and also appealing princess. But when Henry VIII met Anne she didn’t live up to the advertisement. Fortunately for Anne, she kept her head (not an easy task considering her husband’s form) and managed to negotiate a generous settlement. Holbein and Thomas Cromwell—the mastermind of the marriage—weren’t as lucky. The failed marriage to Anne marked the beginning of Cromwell’s downfall and while Holbein kept his position as Henry’s official painter the portrait of Anne cost him dearly in prestige and further commissions.

Modern day artists don’t face an easier time. Paul Emsley, who painted the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge in 2013, may have kept his head but was crucified on social media. William and Kate were apparently very happy with the portrait but the critics called the painting ‘vampiric’, ‘tragically awful’ and ‘catastrophic’. Just to be clear, unlike Thomas Cromwell, no one actually died in the painting of Kate’s portrait.

Mocking royal portraits is hardly a new sport. The artist has to please the subject, the art critics and anyone with a twitter account. Thomas Kluge’s 2013 painting of the Danish royal family inspired as many memes as the portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. Prince Phillip approved the choice of acclaimed artist Stuart Pearson Wright to paint an official portrait, but ended up rejecting the finished piece. Funny that.

Painters of royal portraits are not the only ones who risk reputational damage—Winston Churchill thought Graham Sutherland’s portrait of him was ‘filthy’ and ‘malignant’ and his wife apparently burnt the painting, though not before it had been presented to the House of Lords. Malcolm Fraser disliked his official portrait so much a second was commissioned. The first languished in a storeroom in Old Parliament House until released under a freedom of information request. Very Canberra. Fun fact: John Howard is the last Australian PM to have an official portrait painted and hung in Parliament House. Though there could be many reasons for this.

Of course, for every perceived disaster there are many more paintings that are much loved. The Mario Testino photographs of the Princess of Wales are considered iconic. I like the Andy Warhol portraits of the Queen and apparently she does too, because she bought several from the series.

The hero in my latest release, Marc Durand, is a talented and passionate artist, on the cusp of international success. He is commissioned by a Princess, Sophie, to paint her official portrait. Marc’s life is complicated enough without throwing a gorgeous princess into the mix. Marc knows that painting a royal portrait is fraught and, while it could make his career, it could just as easily destroy it. Just as he fears, things don’t go to plan.

You can find Justine here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Books2Read

Painting the Princess

Princess Sophie needs to shake off her reputation as a frivolous party girl.

Handsome and passionate artist Marc Durand wants to prove he can make it on his own as a successful artist.

He has reluctantly agreed to paint her official portrait, but if she gives into temptation, will scandal consume them both?

ARR2019 … in Perth?

15 September 2018

As you all know by now, we are hosting three Romantic Rendezvous next year in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Our two special international guests for these events will be Sherrilyn Kenyon and Celeste Bradley.

We are also now exploring the possibility of holding a fourth event in Perth. Sherrilyn and Celeste are both on board for this, we just need to gauge interest from readers.

We have priced a Perth event and worked out how many tickets we would need to sell to make it viable. Via a handy crowd-sourcing site, Perth readers can now pre-purchase a ticket!

Help us spread the word—tell your romance-reading friends in WA to pledge their support here. If we reach the minimum number, the event is on!

(If you are an author who would like to sign at the Perth event, you can fill in an EOI form here. Feel free to pass this link along to others.)

ARRA newsletter #110

15 September 2018

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:

  • if you missed our earlier announcement of special guests for ARR2019, you can catch up on this news in the lead article; we are also working on a fourth event for Perth—and are pre-selling tickets for this event (there is also a link for WA authors who are interested in signing)
  • we have set a date for the 2019 Awards Dinner—mark your calendars (pg 6)
  • wrap-ups from the two Grace Burrowes events (pg 9)
  • a wrap-up from the recent Romance Gauntlet (pg 10)
  • FREE BOOKS! (pg 12)
  • Charlotte’s Web Watch column features Kiss and Tell Book Blog (pg 14)
  • 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 me at

PS – if you read the newsletter in the Members’ Lounge, be sure to leave a comment for us – we would love that!

Happy reading everyone!


13 September 2018

If you love being swept away by a love story, there is a place for you.

If you love reading about gorgeous men and fearless women, there is a place for you.

If you love romance, welcome home.

Visit for all things romance, and find your happy place. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram. is offering ARRA members the chance to win a tote bag full of books! Just leave a comment below to go in the draw. Giveaway will close on 27 September. (Books in tote bag may vary from picture.)