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Guest blogger: Louisa Duval

4 September 2022

A 430-page love letter to rural firefighters

Who doesn’t love firefighters as romance heroes and heroines?

Launching Ignite at the Romantic Rendezvous at Fremantle during the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference last month was, in a way, bittersweet. It was the end of a four-year journey into romance writing, which started as a tribute to my local rural fire brigade.

I live between two homes: one in Brisbane and the other in Ballandean in Queensland’s Granite Belt region. Being involved in a city community as well as a country community gave me a unique opportunity for my journalism work. I produced radio stories and online content for ABC showcasing the Granite Belt, including wombats in the national park, dogs trained to sniff beehives for disease, chestnut growing and celebrating country halls turning one hundred years old.

It was through my ABC Radio work that my love affair with the Granite Belt deepened.

In 2018, I learnt how extraordinary my local rural fire brigade was. Embers from a private household’s fireplace escaped their chimney and fell on tinder-dry grass in the neighbouring paddock. The grassfire quickly turned into a blaze. With strong winds and warm conditions, the Ballandean Rural Fire Brigade jumped into action to contain the fire.

Relief and despair: Aaron Cox, another Ballandean rural firefighter, sinks to the ground after saving his home from a bushfire in 2019

With a wind change, the fire could have escalated into a bushfire, reaching neighbouring bushland on private land, and ultimately a national park, with thousands of acres of inaccessible terrain and home to more than 130 species of birds.

Without a wind change, the whole village was under threat.

After an intense twenty-four-hour period, with crews working through the night, volunteer firefighters saved homes, vineyards, businesses and lives that day.

That day I decided I’d write a story as a tribute, not unlike a love letter. My world of Ballydoon, and Stanmore up the highway, and a family on a historic sheep station in their 170-year-old homestead was born. No one dies, the villain is caught, and the heroes and heroines would always get their happily ever after.

Tash, a Ballandean rural firefighter, with her rescued wombat during the 2020 Black Summer bushfires, was the inspiration for one of my heroines

A few of the local firefighters agreed to speak with me about their roles and assist with my research. One was Tash, who later volunteered with interstate crews during the 2020 Black Summer bushfires on the ACT/NSW border. She even rescued a wombat joey while on duty and became inspiration for a novella set in Ballydoon (which you can read for free here).

Ballydoon does exist in real life, in a way: the Zanetti Winery is based on Ballandean Estate Wines, and the Turner’s Creak homestead and sheep station are modelled after Ballandean Station, established in 1840, with its homestead, holding yards and smithy’s hut all visible from the road.

Even the chocolate shop in my short story for the 2021 RWA Sweet Treats anthology, ‘Chocolate and Orange’, is a real place. Heavenly Chocolate is owned by Tash the firefighter’s parents, Glenys and Tony, located on the fringe of Girraween National Park.

Launching Ignite in August with ARRA in Fremantle, after so many lockdowns and border restrictions, recovering from COVID, and the floods in south-east Queensland in March, was no small feat. It’s you, dear reader, who make the journey to publication so worthwhile.

I hope you enjoy Stacey and Dr Harry’s story, and the rest of the Fiery Hearts of Ballydoon series, and one day visit Ballandean and the Granite Belt to see why it inspires heroes, heroines and romance.

To celebrate the launch of Ignite, Louisa is giving you the chance to win one of two signed paperback copies. Comment on this blog post to go in the draw. Posting to Australian addresses only. The giveaway closes on 18 September 2022. (The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jennifer and Stacey.)

Find Louisa here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Ignite

Someone’s lighting fires. A town needs a hero. Passions will ignite.

Stacey Turner is ready to kickstart her life ten years after a horrific bushfire that killed her father and left her scarred. She dreams of a new career and hasn’t dated since high school and doesn’t know where to begin.

When Stacey takes a big risk driving a race car without a permit, she meets a gorgeous stranger. Sparks fly as they flirt over a drink. A kiss leads to another and turns into a steamy one-night stand in the back of his vintage Mustang. Returning to work two days later, Stacey finds her one-night stand is the new locum doctor.

Doctor Harry Cain wants to escape the ghosts of his past. He didn’t expect to have a chance encounter with a beautiful woman who refuses to tell him her name. When he arrives in Ballydoon for a temporary work contract, the beautiful woman from his one-night stand, Anastacia, is now his colleague. But Stacey makes it absolutely clear she will never, ever, date a doctor.

They both have scars—physical and emotional. As their passion ignites, people’s lives are on the line. Will Stacey and Harry both take a risk to give their futures, and love, a chance?

2 Comments
  1. 18 September 2022 3:37 pm

    Louisa and I met at the 2022 RWA Conference in Fremantle (thanks @MelaniePickeringWrites for introducing us!), and we hit it off instantly! I have so many books on my TBR pile from that conference and I’d love a 𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙣𝙚𝙙 copy of Ignite to add to my treasured shelf of signed books. It will sit next to Maya Linnell and Penelope Janu’s books which I also had signed that weekend! *Squeeeeeeee*

  2. Stacey permalink
    7 September 2022 7:00 am

    Absolutely love ignite, and have loved reading the inspiration behind it. Reading this blog has made my heart warm ❤️ thank you

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