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Feature book: Wraith’s Revenge

31 May 2023

Wraith’s Revenge by Keri Arthur

Subgenre: urban fantasy
Release date: 28 Feb 2023
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 315 pages
RRP: $6.99 (ebook); $31.89 (print)

This is such a great series and each time a book ends I’m ready for the next one. Luckily Keri produces her books quickly enough I don’t have to wait years for the next one and the quality of the story stays high.

This book sees Belle and Lizzie leaving their home at the Reservation and heading back to Canberra for the court case against her father for the circumstances around Lizzie’s marriage to Clayton, the abuse of Belle, death of Clayton and that big fat estate to which Lizzie is heir and beneficiary.

As Bette Davis once said (in All About Eve) … ‘Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’

Our intrepid duo are, of course, accompanied by their adopted grandfathers—Eli and Ashworth—so someone they trust has their back. Monte isn’t happy at having to stay behind.

Of course, something bigger is waiting for Lizzie in Canberra, and it isn’t the outcome of the court case, the amount of money she might inherit, or even the re-evaluation of her magic level.

Something is targeting members of her family. Outer members are the first to be attacked and then it turns its attention to the immediate family. The wraith who didn’t get her last time. How has he survived and revived? Can she see past the grief of her sister’s death to beat this man once and for all?

Lizzie and Belle are joined by members of the Black Lantern Society, lawyer Anthony, High Witch Council rep Henrietta, Saska, and Samuel (who was a potential match back before Clayton and still finds Lizzie attractive and intriguing). All these new characters are cool folks and their addition to this storyline makes for funny, serious, intelligent and sarcastic moments. Lizzie’s family dynamic really hasn’t changed much, as illustrated when her warnings to her father and her brother fall on deaf ears with just the right amount of disdain.

This enemy is not mucking about, and it becomes clear that it is taking the best/worst kind of revenge…leave the one they really want until last to make them suffer through all the other deaths first. Luckily Lizzie isn’t that close to most of those being hunted at the beginning so it gives her breathing and thinking space.

All of this revenge binging is happening alongside the court case which will decide whether Lizzie’s father broke the rules, Lizzie should answer for Clayton’s death and whether she and Belle will end up with any money from the estate (or will they take all they can because that’s how the law says it should be?).

The deaths are horrible but Lizzie gets a secret weapon—a most unexpected one—to aid her in the fight for her life. It is heartbreaking and bittersweet and beautiful. As all the threads are pulled together and the situation resolved there is a rapprochement, a come-uppance and a win for our heroine and her sidekicks who are just as important to the storyline as Lizzie herself.

We end this book on a joyous moment with the promise that book 11 will pull hard on the threads with Aiden and Lizzie. To what end, and whether we get books 12 to 50, I can’t tell.

I can say, ‘I can’t wait.’

reviewed by Sharon

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

Release day: Kookaburra Cottage

30 May 2023

Today is the official release of Kookaburra Cottage by Maya Linnell (ebook, audio and paperback, Allen & Unwin). Here’s the blurb:

cover image of Kookaburra Cottage by Maya LinnellA delightful, warm and captivating rural romance from the bestselling author of Paperbark Hill.

Limestone Coast horticulturalist April Lacey is determined to lead her family’s winery into the future.

She dreams of opening a bed and breakfast at Lacewing Estate, but soon discovers the crumbling historic building and her father’s reluctance to join the food tourism revolution are just the beginning of her uphill battle.

English winemaker Connor Jamison has travelled to South Australia’s iconic wine region to learn from the experts and carve a name for himself in the industry. However, it quickly becomes clear that no matter how many miles Connor puts between himself and the accident that flipped his world, the past keeps nipping at his heels.

Can April’s fresh ideas save Lacewing Estate from folding or will they be a fool’s folly? And will Connor’s fierce loyalty come  back to haunt him? United by cooking classes, music and an unexpected involvement in the Penwarra Country Show, April and Connor seem like the perfect match, but with old flames, new challenges and careers conspiring to keep them apart, can this pair forge their own path together?

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

I’ve crossed the border and set Kookaburra Cottage in my home turf—South Australia’s rugged Limestone Coast—complete with award-winning wineries, secluded beaches and close-knit country communities. If you’ve picked up any of my four previous novels—Paperbark Hill, Magpie’s Bend, Bottlebrush Creek and Wildflower Ridge—you’ll know I love writing about small towns, gardening, baking and strong women, and for the first time I’m adding an ex-pat into the mix. Connor Jamison is an Englishman abroad in Australia, the perfect match for April Lacey, whose family runs Lacewing Estate. Or is he? There’s a fixer upper project, cheeky lambs, cooking classes and much more in this tale, perfect for readers of all ages. I hope you’ll enjoy the first in this new series, out today.

You can find out more about this book, including how to purchase the book, from Maya’s website.

Guest blogger: Emma Grey

28 May 2023

How my ‘grief book’ became a romantic comedy

When my husband died from a heart attack in 2016, I turned to words to wrangle my way through the trauma and grief. I couldn’t seem to process any aspect of loss until I’d written about it. Tens of thousands of words later, I had a series of published articles about being a young widow (I was 42 when Jeff died, with a five-year-old son). But there was more to say—and it was information I couldn’t squeeze into a 600-word article.

I wanted—needed—to write a book about grief, but wasn’t clear on the genre. Non-fiction? Self-help? Memoir? None felt quite right.

It wasn’t until I landed on the idea of fiction that I felt liberated to go hard and deep into the rawest aspects of loss. I could tell the story of someone who knew grief intimately, but she wasn’t me.

Forty-year-old Kate Whittaker is juggling the loss of her husband with motherhood, her demanding job in university fundraising, an overbearing mother and a best friend intent on matchmaking her with someone new. It’s not until she becomes stranded with her boss, Hugh, on a work trip gone wrong, that she finally has time away from her child to process all she has lost, and everything the future may hold …

I wrote the romantic comedy, The Last Love Note, as a fictional tribute to our love, an attempt to articulate the magnitude of my loss, and a life-affirming commitment to hope.

Penguin Random House published the novel in January this year, and New York publisher Zibby Owens is bringing it to the US in November. The Australian Women’s Weekly chose it as their fiction extract, and several film companies, including some from Hollywood, have enquired about the film rights.

It’s the kind of novel I want people to emerge from with mascara running down their cheeks, loved up and inspired by the joy of love and life, having plunged to the life-changing depths of loss, drawn to the magic of second chances.

Humour and sadness coexist in real life, and they coexist in this novel. I wanted to tackle grief in an accessible, romantic story that would carry people through the full spectrum of emotions, never shying away from the devastation, but with a strong commitment to the magic of a Plan-B future.

One of the most precious offshoots of having this story published has been the connections I’ve made with readers. The conversations at book talks and writers’ festivals or in private messages are incredibly open and healing. There’s a strong sense of us all walking each other through.

My only regret is that I can’t turn to my husband and share with him the unfolding of this publishing journey—one I’d surrender in an instant if it meant I could have him back.

This book is my last love note to him.

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

The Last Love Note

In the aftermath of crushing grief, sole parent Kate Whittaker must learn to live and love again. It’s been tough raising her young son and wrangling a university fundraising job, an overbearing mother and a best friend intent on matchmaking her with someone new.

When Kate and her boss, Hugh, become stranded in a sleepy hamlet north of Byron Bay, she finally has a chance to process all that she’s been through and all that the future might hold. Caught in an impossible tangle of loss, love and unexpected longing, Kate wonders if she can risk her heart again.

But when it becomes clear that Hugh is hiding a secret from her past, all she has to guide her is the trail of scribbled notes she once used to hold her life together. The first note captured her heart. Will the last note set it free?

A sparkling Australian romantic comedy that will break your heart into a thousand shards and piece it back together again.

Read an extract and reviews of The Last Love Note here.


Feature book: Innocent in her Enemy’s Bed

24 May 2023

Innocent in her Enemy’s Bed by Dani Collins

Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 1 Aug 2022
Publisher: Mills & Boon Modern
Format: ebook
Length: 211 pages
RRP: $5.99

Ilona Callas is the illegitimate daughter of the Pagnosis family, which is comprised of a deceased father, a stepmother who only cares for her sons, a younger stepbrother who is friendly towards her and an older stepbrother, Midas, who is a bully. He gives Ilona nightmares and causes her to live her life in fear of what he’ll do to her next. She is the CEO of a multimillion cosmetics company she has built up from a small starting grant from her father. Now it is under attack from Leander Vasilou.

Leander is a highly successful businessman who is now seeking justice for his deceased father and himself. Together they developed speech recognition technology, but they trusted Midas Pagnosis to market it. However, he claimed it as his own technology and integrated the product and profits into his own family’s businesses. Leander’s father has died but Leander has been driven by his need for revenge for many years but now has ownership of enough shares in Ilona’s business to buy it. He intends to purchase it and ruin it thus removing the Pagnosis family business, the main business that can be used to send funds to other businesses in their empire.

Ilona is not prepared to let this happen to her, her company or her employees. She doesn’t care about the Pagnosis family. During a meeting with Leander, her suggested compromise is disregarded, and they agree to an arranged marriage. As soon as this information begins to leak it causes trouble for her. An upsetting confrontation with Midas in a restaurant results. Then another attack occurs at her home and Leander takes her home to his place with a new understanding of her life. They begin to date, and they begin to share personal details as desire builds between them.

On the morning of their wedding rehearsal dinner, they agree to not have a platonic marriage and Ilona tells him she’s a virgin. They marry in a private ceremony later that day and enjoy a romantic wedding night. Life is looking up for Ilona and she begins to think that maybe she can enjoy long term happiness and love. Then comes the wedding day for the public. A bride, two hundred wedding guests attend as well as a couple of police officers who arrest the bride for trafficking narcotics through her business. However, the groom and his mother appear to have sailed into the sunset on his yacht. Has Midas found the ultimate revenge, or can Ilona still have love and happiness in her life? Will Leander return for his wife? Is there something else happening here?

Dani Collins has penned a fast paced, sexy romance in this story with two wounded leading characters. You will be cheering for both of them throughout this story as their backgrounds are revealed and they encounter a range of challenges. Can they find their way to a joint happily ever after? You’ll enjoy finding out.

reviewed by Tracey

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

Guest blogger: Nancy Lee Badger

21 May 2023

The Rogue’s Ring, a treasure tale

When is a Scottish horse considered a hero? When he saves a child from a life of piracy and leads a nasty pirate captain far from his friend. Ghost is the hero in this story (that’s what he wants us to think) and he keeps our titled hero, Bryce, in line. Don’t lead him to water … if there are waves such as the wild surf he and Bryce encounter on the shores of Scotland’s North Sea.

Some writers add a dog to their adventure, but the 1817 time period, the snowy Scottish landscape, and the seven days to get from point A to point B were the perfect reasons to add a feisty horse. A couple of grooms find out about his sour attitude the hard way, but whispering a few secret words allows a kidnapped boy to flee to safety on his back.

I work hard to make animals a meaningful addition to my stories. The books are still romance novels, with blossoming affection and a hot night or two. One story was crafted to share a large, furry behemoth of a Highland cow with readers, and his name, Hamish, appears in other books in the Treasure Tales series, causing my characters to share a private joke. Humour is important, but the series is a treasure hunt with danger, pirates, romance, and surprises around every tree.

Nancy Lee Badger grew up in Huntington on New York’s Long Island. After attending Plymouth State, in New Hampshire, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and met and married her college sweetheart. They raised two handsome sons in Rumney, New Hampshire while she dreamed of being a writer. When the children had left the nest, and shovelling snow became a chore, she retired from her satisfying job as a 911 emergency medical dispatcher and moved to North Carolina, where she writes full time. Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic and Paranormal Romance Writers, and the Triangle Association of Freelancers. She finds story ideas in the most unusual places.

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

The Rogue’s Ring

Heading out on his horse, Ghost, into the snowy Highlands of Scotland in January 1817 was not sane, but Bryce Ketteridge would never let down his friends. If a duke, an earl, and a former spy felt finding the owners of nobleman’s rings was important, he would do his share. Coming across masked bandits, and shooting one, turned his life on end. What follows was not in his plans.

The last thing Cat Douglas wished to do was steal coins from the handsome stranger she meets at a tavern. When he later shoots her while she threatened a nobleman’s coach, she suspected he had no idea it was her. Kidnapped boys, pirate threats, and murder propel them to save a boy named Blake. He was, after all, special to them both.

Buy links can be found here.


ARR2024: save the date

18 May 2023


Release day: Shards of Stasis

18 May 2023

Today is the official release of Shards of Stasis by Mel Harding-Shaw (Soul Court Ascension #2) (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Shards of Stasis by Mel Harding-ShawThe reality contagion threatening the Melded Earths might be temporarily stable, but the unintended mating bond between Hel and Bast is anything but.

Hel’s link to his necromancy is drowning her in deaths. On top of that, ominous shards of stone are emerging from the earth—deadly to both their people and Hel’s secrets.

If Bast can’t find a way to protect Hel from his power, they’ll both die leaving the contagion to annihilate their world. With the Lady of Air marshalling her forces, starhounds prowling the city’s streets, and their tenuous truce with the other elemental rulers crumbling, Bast is pulled in all directions as he fights to save his mate.

Under attack from outside and within, they fly from court to court in desperation. Inextricably bound together, their only hope of survival lies in the same mating bond that’s killing them.

Shards of Stasis is book two of the Soul Court Ascension trilogy—a steamy enemies to lovers paranormal romance with a side of urban fantasy featuring Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. It is not a standalone.

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

Shards of Stasis is book two in a trilogy that follows a single couple, Bast and Hel, to their HEA. I had so much fun writing this one because it gave me the opportunity to take my reluctant enemies-to-lovers couple across more of my world and explore the sentient strongholds of the four elemental courts. It also gave me a chance to play with both some light horror imagery from my short story writing days. Necromancy, sexy wings, and secrets—what’s not to love?

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

Release day: Cinderella’s Secret Fling

17 May 2023

Today is the official release of Cinderella’s Secret Fling by Michelle Douglas (ebook, Mills & Boon Forever). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Cinderella's Secret Fling by Michelle DouglasCinderella…
and her forbidden Italian!

Aspiring artist Audrey is staying with newly discovered relatives in Lake Como when she meets renowned sculptor and brooding single dad Gabriel.

Their attraction is instant and unexpected…as is his hostility! Is it because Audrey was related to his late wife?

As they bond over art and his little girl, their spark ignites into a secret affair. But a summer fling was never meant to be this complicated…

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

This is the second book in my One Summer in Italy duet, and features Audrey’s story. Following the instructions in her paternal grandmother’s will, Audrey travels to Lake Como. There she discovers the family she never knew she had, and is suddenly transplanted into a life of wealth and glamour. Family is everything to Audrey and, even though the members of this one seem aloof and standoffish, she’s determined to make them love her. I wanted to contrast the Cinderella and fish-out of-water elements of the story with Audrey’s innate warmth and kindness—to show how it changes the lives of all those around her for the better. Of course, her biggest impact is on hero Gabriel, and he’s going to need to take the biggest risk of his life if he’s to win her. If you love a fish-out-of-water Cinderella, a wounded hero, a bit of heat, and clandestine affairs, then you’ll love Cinderella’s Secret Fling.

You can find out more about this book, including where to buy it, at Michelle’s website.

Release day: Kidnapped for the Acosta Heir

17 May 2023

Today is the official release of Kidnapped for the Acosta Heir by Susan Stephens (ebook and print, Harlequin Presents). Here’s the blurb:

Cover image of Kidnapped for the Acosta Heir by Susan StephensShe doesn’t need to confess to the Spaniard, because he already knows her secret! Read this dramatic pregnancy romance from USA TODAY bestselling author Susan Stephens!

Alejandro Acosta:
Billionaire, enigma…father?

The death of her beloved brother was the first of three shocks for singer Sienna Slater. The second was inheriting his half of a Spanish island…and the last was discovering her brother’s best friend, Alejandro, owns the other half!

Sparks fly as their worlds collide, until one unforgettable night leaves Sienna carrying a nine-month secret. But before she has the chance to confess to Alejandro, he discovers the truth and swiftly steals her away on his superyacht. Now, Sienna is about to  realise how intent Alejandro is on claiming his child. No matter what it takes…

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

The most thrilling moment for any author is to have readers ask for the next book in a series, especially when that series started with a prequel more than ten years ago. The Untamed Argentinian was that first story, and now, eleven books on, Kidnapped for the Acosta Heir is the book of my heart for you, the reader, with my love and gratitude for your continuing and unstinting support. Susan xx

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

Feature book: The Silk Scarf

17 May 2023

The Silk Scarf by Frances Dall’Alba

Series: Australian at Heart #3
Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 1 Jun 2022
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 292 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $30.30 (print)

Melita Van Der Meeliko, adopted sister of Patrick (from The Stone in the Road) comes to Australia from Boston like her brother. She’s felt incapable of being loved all her life, especially by her parents, so why not give life a try elsewhere?

She wants to develop her personally designed swimwear with Australian designs, featuring the native birds and animals. She just knows there’ll be a fabulous market for them in the US.

To that end she purchases a derelict house on the highway between Port Douglas and the Whitsundays in Queensland. The perfect stop-off point for a teahouse, and a place to showcase her exclusive swimwear.

She hires builder Luke Harvey, Ella’s brother from Little Blue Box, to do the renovations. They have kissed in the past. Maybe hiring him will also lead to something else?

Then the bombshell drops. Luke’s grandfather casually mentions that Melita’s house is known as a previous ‘mafia house’, where people from ‘The Black Hand’ carried out their dirty work of blood, greed and crime. Hacked off ears! Murder, even! And the families of those involved in the murders (victims and perpetrators alike) still live locally and still bear long-held murderous grudges.

Luke is horrified. He has PTSD from a violent home break-in that happened to him as a little boy. The thought of being around a community where violence has occurred, let alone in the same actual house, gives him serious nightmares.

Then they uncover a heavy box in the cavities of the wall. A gorgeous red silk scarf inside is tucked over … well, I’ll let you read it yourself to find out. A big surprise! Huge! The contents of the box then set in motion the most extraordinary set of events for the rest of the book.

Back to Melita and Luke, and that little spark they had when they kissed … In the middle of the crazy drama and ensuing chaos, can they fall in love?

This book was a 2021 Finalist in the Mid-American Writers, for the Mara. Congratulations Frances Dall’Allba!

reviewed by Malvina

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

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