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Guest blogger: Fiona McArthur

29 November 2020

Thinking about summer holidays?

South West Rocks is a small seaside town on the north coast of NSW. There’s a wonderful white and blue-edged lighthouse where you can stay in the lighthouse keeper’s cottages. From there you can watch and wonder at the ocean up and down the coast. It’s great to climb the hill up to the beam of light at night, preferably with bubbles in a glass with one or two buddies—so everyone gets their own room to write.

I’ve been there with authors Amy Andrews, Kelly Hunter, Bronwyn Jameson, Trish Morey, Jaye Ford and Elle Finlay, so you can see I’m a regular and not loath to enticing friends to share the fun. It gets windy up there sometimes as you can tell from the photo.

Below the lighthouse, a long beach allows four-wheel-drive vehicles to navigate along the sand to Hat Head about fourteen kilometres away. Hat Head is another amazing beach haven that’s even smaller than the Rocks and I used to stay there just after Christmas in a tiny caravan with my youngest son for a week. My darling husband much prefers his own bed on the farm.

I’ve driven along the beach with my sons quite a few times and with them we didn’t get bogged—when I drove, well … I still blush. The beach is incredible with white sand and aqua waves where you often see the fish swimming through the clear walls of water before the wave crashes. You can be on the beach with nobody in sight or there could be other vehicles every five hundred metres. Either way all you can hear is the ocean and the waves. There are rocky islets out to sea. One, Fish Rock, is a famous Australian scuba diving point where Chris Hemsworth dropped out to recently. As I said, the view is amazing.

Anyway, back to books, and the beach below the lighthouse. This is where Misty saw the future and an unknown man drowning. Or he very soon would be …

Lyrebird Lake is not near South West Rocks, but my midwives originally came from Coffs Harbour and moved into Queensland to Lyrebird Lake Maternity. Misty was down at the beach to say goodbye to one of her favourite places before she moved north when ‘it’ happened.

I hope you enjoy the second book in the Lyrebird Lake series, Misty. She comes out on 30 November and there’re still two more books to come in this session—Mia on 30 December and Emma on 30 January. More later in the year.

Have you read Montana? She came out on 30 October and is my lead midwife.

My books will be available on all ebook platforms here, or in print, as they arrive, from my website bookstore.

Happy reading and welcome to Lyrebird Lake. If I don’t speak to you before then I wish you a joyful lead up to Christmas and a very merry New Year!

Fi xx

You can find Fiona here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Misty

Misty saved the life of Dr Ben Moore but that brief wonderful connection was just a memory.

Misty the midwife shuts out her daydreams and sets off for a new life in Lyrebird Lake, where she meets the new locum … and looks into Ben’s sea blue eyes!

Ben moved to Lyrebird Lake for a chance to start again. But he wasn’t doing well in the single parent role.

Can Misty and Ben find the connection that saved his life once? Is Misty is the perfect person to make Ben’s family complete? And then there’s the magical myth of the lyrebirds …

 

Release day: The Giving Tree

28 November 2020

Today is the official release of The Giving Tree by Phillipa Nefri Clark (Charlotte Dean Mysteries, book 5) (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Christmas is a time of giving but one person wants to take it all away…

Christmas is almost here and Charlotte has every intention of making it the best one ever for the residents and shops of Kingfisher Falls. After the success last year of the bookshop’s ‘Giving Box’, she’s roped eleven other traders into joining her ‘Giving Tree’ project.

But somebody wants the project to fail. And they are quick to blame a recently returned, down-on-their-luck local when some of the gift cards go missing.

Meanwhile, Trev has a new constable to train and can’t seem to find the right moment to propose to the woman he loves.

As the thefts devastate the town and shoppers avoid Kingfisher Falls, Charlotte faces a big decision when news about her past casts doubt on her future.

With days before Christmas, can Charlotte solve the mystery of the missing cards and exonerate the accused local, or will the person behind all the crime in town finally take their revenge on her?

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

The Giving Tree is the fifth and final book (I think) in the Charlotte Dean Mysteries series. It is set at Christmas, one year on from the first book, The Christmas Tree Thief. It allows the story to go full circle and close all the remaining loose ends, plus deliver a heartwarming story of the values of Christmas—giving, family and forgiveness. I adore Charlie and love how she’s grown over the series, how much happier she is. And as much as this is a mystery series, it is also a beautiful romance across all five books, which culminates in a beautiful happy ever after.

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

Release day: Chasing Dreams

27 November 2020

Today is the official release of Chasing Dreams by Jes Logan (The Dream series, book 2) (ebook, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Angels don’t always appear with wings … sometimes they chew gum.

As an angel, Zanthie knows that once she takes her vows, she must guide her human charges while remaining emotionally distant. But, in keeping with her enthusiastic nature, she wants to try something different. However, being among humans distorts her rose-tinted perception of them, leaving her confused.

Bar owner, Noah Chase wants to be left alone. He’s had his fill of deceitful women and their schemes. When the talkative and vibrant Zanthie appears in his bar, he is not impressed. She challenges his solitude, yet somehow, he cannot get rid of her.

In order to help Noah, Zanthie must maintain her secret, hoping it will all work out in the end. But, to Noah, secrets are the same as lies. Will he see her as just another woman he despises? And will Zanthie be able to come to terms with the reality of human lives and its effect on her?

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

Chasing Dreams is book 2 in the Dream series. Zanthie appeared in book 1 (Edge of Dreams) and I adored her playful and easy-going nature. I had lots of fun writing her character and I hope you enjoy her journey to finding love. This is a wonderful paranormal, urban fantasy romance that explores the alternate realm of dream guides. It has all the feels and will make you want to fall in love all over again. Book 3 comes out in January 2021, but each book can be read as a standalone.

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

 

Feature book: Looking for a Cowboy

25 November 2020

Looking for a Cowboy by Donna Grant

Subgenre: western romance
Release date: 27 Oct 2020
Publisher: St Martin’s
Format: ebook and print
Length: 368 pages
RRP: $8.11 (ebook); $18.75 (print)

Cooper Owens is a gentle man. He has been brought up to be so by his mother after his father died when he was young. He lives in a small town and has a military background and will use it to assist his friends when needed. He wants to settle down but is yet to find the woman he wants to be with. When he sees Marlee, he instantly knows she is the one.

Marlee Frampton is on a mission. She is a former police officer who wears herself to the point of exhaustion trying to find child kidnappers. Not just any kidnappers but those who would take babies from their mothers, selling them for profit. Her sister was just the beginning of her journey. But in this case, has someone led her the wrong way as she accuses Cooper’s friends of underhandedly adopting a baby? (It all turns out good for them.) She also has to find out who has betrayed her.

Marlee is used to working on her own, but when she asks the worst question—is the baby of Cooper’s friends an authentic adoption as she believes that it may be the missing baby she is searching for—Cooper is offended but still wants Marlee. He does pull her into his group of friends, and they begin to help Marlee find the culprits.

This story has elements of violence. As with Danny in A Cowboy like You, Cooper is taken and tortured. But I guess the thing that was the most annoying was that Marlee seemed to trust Cooper’s friends but when he was kidnapped, she left the compound to go and find him even though all of the others were developing a rescue plan. And then she ended up in trouble herself. Luckily there was a bit of redemption for Marlee and her move to find Cooper herself.

This story was a good read and a good one to follow from A Cowboy Like You. This time I was actually expecting more a romantic suspense rather than the usual cowboy fare. This story was a page turner.

reviewed by Heather

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

Feature book: A Cowboy Like You

25 November 2020

A Cowboy Like You by Donna Grant

Subgenre: western romance
Release date: 26 Nov 2019
Publisher: St Martin’s
Format: ebook and print
Length: 304 pages
RRP: $8.11 (ebook); $18.75 (print)

One of the things I enjoy about some series is that you get to meet other characters and to also see how their lives have turned out.

However, the first thing I would say is that this story has a family violence storyline.

Danny Oldman is the local sheriff. He wonders why he can’t settle for a woman. He is well known and liked by his community. And he often misses meals. Or has to find a quiet spot to actually get to eat his meal. On one such occasion, he sees Skylar again, he knows she is the reason he can’t settle. But first he has to deal with an ugly situation.

Skylar Long has been found by her boyfriend. He smashes in the car in an attempt to take her back home, where he thinks she belongs. Danny comes to her rescue and has her ex arrested. As it turns out, the ex is from a very wealthy and politically influential family, who are prepared to do whatever it takes to silence anything bad about them. What they miss is that their son is a very dangerous man.

The ex, I don’t believe someone like him should be named although he is in the book, does, and uses, all manner of methods to get Skylar back.

Danny takes Skylar to his friend’s ranch where she will be protected. But that does not stop the ex from plotting and planning his revenge. The friends do group together to help Skylar, but it is hard for Danny and Skylar to be together under these circumstances. The ex does manage to penetrate the ring of security and does some despicable things to Danny.

At first, I was a bit anxious when I could see where this story was headed. I thought the storyline was treated reasonably sensitively around family violence, even with what happened to Danny. I kept reminding myself that there would be a HEA at the end. And there was. Skylar and Danny are meant to be together and once the ex is out of the way, they can be together, forever.

As I said, while the storyline may have had some distressing aspects, the chemistry between Danny and Skylar is there and the reader knows that things will turn out all right for them, and those around them.

reviewed by Heather

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

Release day: It Could’ve Been a Wonderful Life

24 November 2020

Today is the official release of It Could’ve Been a Wonderful Life by Karin Baine (ebook and paperback, Totally Bound). Here’s the blurb:

’Tis the season for a ghostly playboy to start haunting lonely Annie Marlowe to show her the life he thinks she should be living.

Annie Marlowe is grieving for her mother, a cheating ex-boyfriend and a life outside the dreaded retail sector. She’s beginning to think she’d be better off dead.

David Reece is a self-made millionaire, living the high life afforded to him through his toy store empire. A car crash leaves his spirit somehow attached to his employee, Annie.

Taking her cue from her favourite Christmas movie, she believes he’s unable to ascend to the afterlife until he convinces her that the world is better for her existence in it. However, her shallow guardian angel seems to think a makeover and a boyfriend will solve all her problems.

Working together over the festive season, they might just discover that it’s time they both began living.

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

With a few Christmas books under my belt, I don’t think it comes as any surprise how much I love this time of the year. I go all out with the decorations and presents and begin playing Christmas songs from November. The best part of the season is watching my favourite festive films every year. It’s become a tradition to watch them with my family drinking hot chocolate. It’s A Wonderful Life was my Mum’s favourite and it heavily influenced my idea of writing a Christmas rom com. I wanted a snarky version of Clarence, the Guardian Angel, who was more of a hindrance than a help to my heroine. I loved the sparky relationship between Annie and David in It Could’ve Been A Wonderful Life and I hope readers enjoy it too!

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

Guest blogger: Georgia Tingley

22 November 2020

Christmas nut

In every family there is one person who is a ‘Christmas nut.’ I describe this person as the Christmas driving force in the family. Someone who does the following—if you recognise yourself, be proud.

  • Has watched every Christmas movie at least two or more times
  • Loves all Christmas romance books
  • Plays or sings Christmas carols and songs—ad-nauseum
  • Is drawn to the Christmas decorations isle in the store
  • Pours over Christmas junk mail or catalogues
  • Collects and has way too many festive baubles, tinsel, lights, and other paraphernalia
  • Colour coordinates their Christmas tree
  • Has more than two Christmas shirts, dresses, hats in their wardrobe (even the ugly ones)
  • Wants to discuss the menu for Christmas dinner as soon as the door closes on the final trick-or-treater of the night
  • Has their fingernails and toenails painted in Christmas colours and with decorations
  • Starts buying and eating ‘candy canes’ as soon as they are on the shop shelves
  • Decorates their computer and workspace with tinsel, lights, and even has a festive screensaver
  • Makes their gift list (even mentally) not long after they’ve packed away the Christmas tree from last year
  • Many more things … but the list is getting too long now!

Anyone who has come to know me over the years acknowledges that I’m the family’s Christmas nut! But in all fairness, it wouldn’t be half as fun without these members steering the rest of the folk to enjoy the Christmas cheer.

We’re the ones who organise the Christmas light viewing evenings and Christmas pageant attendance. We produce the Secret Santa list and deliver to everyone. We create the cute or silly ‘dancing elves with your face’ e cards, that get sent out to family members.

In essence we are Christmas!

But why are we like this? I can’t speak for the other ‘Christmas nuts’ out there, but for me a psychologist would probably say it’s because I had lovely Christmases growing up as a child in Canada, and I’m trying to recreate it for my own family.

It goes without saying that a ‘White Christmas’ is awesome and is the standard most of us have held, either because of our European heritage or from growing up watching Hollywood’s version of Christmas.

Christmas time was postcard perfect where I grew up, in the suburbs of Toronto. The pristine blanket of white powder covered the landscape like a super-heavy serving of icing sugar. Every house was festooned with decorations and coloured lights. Real pine trees, usually from a Christmas tree farm, were lugged home to be set up in the front window of our houses.

As kids, we raced outside to brave the winter chill to ice skate in the frozen ponds, lakes, or in the park across the street, where a makeshift rink was created. We all owned toboggans or sleds, which we dragged uphill, only to shriek with joy as we flew downward over packed snow. We licked icicles, made snowmen, built igloos, and fashioned snow angels in the snow. Snowball fights ensued while walking home from school, as we slid across every patch of ice on the sidewalk.

One of my fondest memories was going ice skating in the evening. The ice rink was outside one of the bigger local shopping centres. In the middle of the rink was an island with a couple of park benches for skaters to rest. Small conifers, bedecked with festive lights, stood in the island, while strings of coloured globes crisscrossed overhead, reflecting pink, and orange, and green in the ice under our skate-booted feet.

On the sideline were 44-gallon drums with fires lit inside, so people could bunch around and warm themselves. You could buy hot chocolate drinks and hot dogs to consume when having a break. Christmas carols blared out over loudspeakers and almost every person wore a Santa hat. Sometimes there’d be a small cart with the vendor selling paper bags filled with roasted nuts.

Christmas Eve my family always entertained either other family members or friends. But it was always only until 11.30 pm. Then everyone bundled up to attend ‘midnight mass’ at our local church. When we returned there would be more presents stacked high under the tree from Santa, who’d somehow mysteriously made it to our house as soon as it became Christmas Day. We got to open one present and then had to go to bed until the ‘official’ Christmas morning.

Last year I wrote a Christmas novella called Whistler Wonderland, hoping to capture this magical time. In this story I wrote all the wonderful things about having a ‘White Christmas’. My novella is funny, sexy, romantic, and full of Christmas cheer. It won Romance Writers of Australia’s RuBY Award in 2020 for the novella category. Right now, it’s available for $0.99 here. Give yourself a Christmas present and pick up a copy for a festive Christmas read that will get you in the mood to be a Christmas nut!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

You can find Georgia here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Leave a comment on this article to go in the draw to win a signed copy of Whistler Wonderland (Australian addresses only). The giveaway will close on 6 December.

Whistler Wonderland

Cherise really, really loves Christmas. So, when she wins her perfect holiday for two, a white Christmas at Whistler Ski Resort in Canada – all her dreams come true. There’s only one downside to her ‘12 Days of Whistler’ vacation … her boyfriend of six months has dumped her only weeks before they’re due to fly out.

When her brother’s annoying best friend wants to buy her ticket, she point-blank refuses. Hunter had always been a thorn under her skin, ever since he’d asked her brother ‘who the fat chick was’, on meeting her as a pre-teen. The insult had stuck with her over the years, and in her opinion, Hunter was way too good looking, and needed to be brought down a peg or two every now and again. Cherise had assigned that job to herself, sick of women drooling over him. Plus, there was no way she would sell her ultimate Christmas so he could take one of his girlfriends.

Then Hunter offers her a deal she can’t refuse. They’ll share the holiday, and with him paying for half, Cherise has plenty of spending money. However, there were conditions. One, Hunter must escort her to all the couple events the holiday entails, and two, absolutely NO SEX!

Among the magical festivities of a Whistler Wonderland the rules shouldn’t be too hard to enforce. After all, Cherise was immune to Hunter’s charms, so she could easily resist him, right?

 

Feature book: Demanding His Desert Queen

18 November 2020

Demanding His Desert Queen by Annie West

Subgenre: contemporary
Release date: 1 Oct 2019
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Format: ebook
Length: 224 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook)

Desert Prince Karim stepped away from his home throne when an unfortunate truth was revealed, handing the throne to his brother. Turning his gaze to business he excels, but his passion for leadership and the skills embedded within him to lead a country are still strong. The council of a neighbouring country need a new ruler and their sights are set on Karim. He is reluctant until Safiyah—the woman he’s never been able to forget—comes to ask him personally.

Queen Safiyah of Assara has lived in a passionless arranged marriage, doing her duty and ensuring the safety of her young son. When her husband passes, a new sheikh must be found. Her past with Karim is complicated, but having him as the new Sheikh is the best chance she and her son have of staying safe. But Karim’s terms are unexpected—he’ll accept the role, if she agrees to marry him.

These two have a past and clear unresolved feelings that leap off the page. Safiyah is outwardly strong, even when she’s crumbling inside. The lengths she goes to for her young son were beautiful and very relatable. The tension between Karim and Safiyah can sometimes make you want to shake them to talk properly but the conflict is written in such a way that it’s almost impossible for them to do so—brilliant.

The desert setting is wonderfully described and added to the ambiance of the story. It was an absolute delight to read, the characters suited each other perfectly and I couldn’t wait to find out how they resolved their past to fall in love all over again. I love a good marriage of convenience romance, and with the added bonus of second chance love—these were perfect for Karim and Safiyah. The chemistry between these two was explosive and really left the reader on edge, but it was interspersed by interruptions of real life, in particular Safiyah’s son. Karim’s interactions with Safiyah’s son were heart-warming and really added that extra touch to his heroic character.

Another winner by Annie West containing the perfect level of angst, passion, amazing settings and characters you can’t help but fall in love with.

reviewed by Jayne

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

Feature book: Read Between the Lines

18 November 2020

Read Between the Lines by Belinda Williams

Series: Freshwater, Book 1
Subgenre: contemporary
Release date: 30 Mar 2020
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 330 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $32.99 (print)

This is my first Belinda Williams, and it definitely won’t be my last! As the first of the Freshwater trilogy, I’m very happy to know there are two more books to come.

Kat Chalmers lives in what sounds like a gloriously fabulous waterfront flat facing the beach. Oh, don’t we all wish! She’s a nightly news anchor, and she’s absolutely terrific at the job. She has perfect poise on camera, she does killer interviews with her guests, she manages good banter and such with her co-hosts, and is living a good life. She’s quite a celebrity, but she doesn’t trade on her public persona—and in fact keeps her private life extremely private.

There are reasons for that. I can’t tell you too much, but the reasons are rather staggering. High impact reasons. Intrigued? Read on.

Her next-door neighbour—who she never seems to see—is Matt Goodridge, an obstetrician. He’s fairly reclusive and hardly ever home. Those babies don’t keep office hours, do they? After they finally meet in a very funny balcony incident, Kat thinks of Matt as a blond Clark Kent: strong, silent and quiet, but all man. Ooh.

I think I fell in love with Matt when he quotes Mr Darcy, he of Pride and Prejudice fame. Omigosh. That scene is so good. And truly, that scene is the beginning of the end for Kat, too. I mean, she and I are all—Mr Darcy. Swoon.

Both Kat and Matt have a terrific group of friends, supportive, funny, smart-mouthed and absolutely great fun. And psst! I’ve looked ahead and Kat’s girlfriends Jess and Em are the heroines in #2 and #3 in the series. Big tick there.

In the middle of a fantastic and intense romance, Kat and Matt suddenly face some unexpected events that shake them to the core and force them to re-evaluate everything. And I mean, everything.

I really applaud Belinda Williams for the way she deals with mental health issues in this book. In an afterword it sounds like these things raised their head while she was writing and so she just ran with the scenario rather than fight against it.

Everyone knows someone, and in fact probably is someone who struggles with mental health from time to time. The supportive and normalising way mental health is dealt with in the book is excellently done. Take a bow, Belinda.

This is a smart, modern, fresh romance with today’s issues and dramas. I absolutely loved it, laughed a lot, and cried a lot, and have already pre-ordered #2 and #3. Go for it!

And PS, I grew up where I couldn’t quite see but could hear the waves from Freshwater Beach, especially in the quiet of night. That alone was enticement to read the book. Now that I’ve read it, wow.

reviewed by Malvina

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

Release day: The Boy Toy

17 November 2020

Today is the official release of The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh (ebook, paperback and audiobook, Berkley Romance). Here’s the blurb:

A woman ready to give up on love meets her match in a man she never expected to fall for in this heartwarming and steamy new romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Nicola Marsh.

For almost a decade, successful 37-year-old Samira Broderick has used her bustling LA practice as an excuse to avoid a trip home to Australia. She still resents her meddling Indian mother for arranging her marriage to a man who didn’t stick around when the going got tough, but now with a new job Down Under, she’s finally ready to reconnect with her. And while she’s there, a hot international fling might be just what she needs to get out of her recent funk.

Aussie stuntman, Rory Radcliffe, has been hiding his stutter for years by avoiding speaking roles. When a job he can’t refuse comes up as a reality show host, he knows he’ll need some help for the audition: a dialect coach. But he finds himself at a loss for words when he discovers it’s the same sexy woman with whom he just had a mind-blowing one-night stand…

Samira can think of many reasons why Rory is completely wrong for her: he’s ten years her junior, for one, and he’s not Indian–something Samira’s mother would never approve of. Even if things were to get serious, there’s no reason to tell her mother…is there?

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

The Boy Toy is predominantly set in Dandenong, Melbourne, a multicultural hub and I love that readers all around the world will get a snapshot into our Aussie culture. It’s a diverse, own voices romance, and several aspects of the story are close to my heart: biracial heroine, a hero with a stutter, infertility, physiotherapy, allied health … As someone with a stutter, I particularly identify with Rory, the Aussie stuntman hero (who looks like Chris Hemsworth!) because I too experience a lot of the insecurities he does. A word of warning before you read this book: have some Indian food on hand, or a menu for your nearest restaurant, because you’ll be hungry!

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