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Favourite reads: Nov 2018

5 December 2018

Books_purpleWelcome to our Favourite Reads for November. Each month some of ARRA’s members will tell you a little bit about one of the books they’ve recently read and loved.

These are not full reviews of the books, just honest opinions on why they enjoyed the book so much. Hopefully one of these will strike a chord with you.

So, we asked our members to tell us about some of their favourite reads for November …

Our Country Christmas by Darry Fraser et al (contemporary romance)

This month I enjoyed Our Country Christmas, a Mira anthology featuring five Christmas stories from Aussie authors Darry Fraser, Penelope Janu, Fiona Lowe, Eva Scott and Jacquie Underdown. A knock-out author line-up. Each story’s completely different and all are centred around Christmas, which binds the anthology together with a festive note—terrific for reading in December. I loved Darry’s special touch of Christmas ‘magic’ with ‘Bob Nicholas’ (really You Know Who [no, not Voldemort but someone from further north])—very sweet; and I was so touched by Fiona’s special tick-tock tale, I need a baby before it’s too late. But all are just fabulous. There may have been happy tears in my reading … Bravo! [Malvina, NSW]

Nightfall by Ellen Connor (dystopian fantasy) (Dark Age Dawning #1)

John Mason is a tough-as-nails ex-marine/survivalist who owes a life debt. He honours a promise to keep Jenna Barclay safe after the world succumbs to a prophesied change, so the hero and heroine are on uneasy footing from the outset. I loved watching these two learning to trust each other, first through necessity, then because of the attraction they have for one another. The prophesied change and world-building is riveting, too. There’s enough realism woven into it that you think it could happen. This book is a solid, satisfying post-apocalyptic romance with great characters and a strong storyline. [Kylie, NSW]

Irresistible Forces by Candace Irvin (romantic suspense)

I really enjoyed this newly discovered book by an old favourite author. Beside the overarching military suspense aspect, this story dealt with a female health issue that I have not read about before in a romance, and I was impressed with the author’s handling of it. It also highlighted how it doesn’t pay to lie to children ‘for their own good’. Overall, the plot was exciting, the relationship between the main protagonists was complicated, and the denouement was both heartwarming and a little bittersweet. [Deb, NSW]

Fireworks by Sarina Bowen (contemporary romance) (True North #6)

There was a setup for this story in the previous book, and as soon as I realised it was a second-chance-at-love plot I was hooked. Then, of course, I had to wait. But the wait was worth it! The hero, Benito, is to die for—so strong and so sure of what he wants. He hasn’t seen the heroine, Skye, since she ran away 12 years ago as a teenager. As soon as he sees her again he knows what has been missing from his life. He just needs to convince her now. Skye, on the other hand, would have taken off running again if she hadn’t been committed to staying to help her step-sister. Benito makes the most of the time to win her over, and help her confront and conquer her past. [Debbie, ACT]

The Secrets of Palmerston House by Phillipa Nefri Clark (historical romance) (River’s End #3)

Where do I start? Firstly this book was like going home to family I have become very close to. The characters in this series—Christie and Martin, Thomas and Martha, and of course Randall and the townsfolk—add so much to the story. The author has taken me on a journey with a beautiful continuing romance with a mystery to uncover the secrets of the beautiful historic home Palmerston House in River’s End. I do highly recommend this book and the series. [Helen, NSW]



Feature book: The Whisperer

5 December 2018

The Whisperer by Elsa Winckler

Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 10 Mar 2017
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Format: ebook
Length: 163 pages
RRP: A$4.99

She can talk to the animals. She can hear the animal’s thoughts and desires.

Cilla Stevens is a teacher by day, works with troubled children, and is an animal whisperer. She senses and knows exactly what the animal needs. Her talents are with horses, but dogs and people are also included in her sensory and intuitive nature. When she was young, she had an imaginary friend who suddenly left, but he has come to life in the ranch owner.

Cameron Rahl is a ranch owner who is having trouble with one of his horses. The horse is just plain ornery, and he wants to get to the bottom of it, but he doesn’t believe in whisperers. He thinks Cilla will only cast a spell on the horse. He hasn’t believed in the solidity of much since his mother died when he was ten. So, he ridicules the whisperer when she turns up. And this sets the pattern for their time together.

I struggled with the whole on-and-off-again relationship, particularly the way in which it was done. Cilla is the one who held to the belief that she and Cameron were meant to be together, forever, after all she drew him when she was ten. Her mother kept the picture, so she is totally in awe that she has known him all along. Cameron is the one who has the doubts. He would be with her, break her heart, get called an idiot by someone like his brother, and wouldn’t see her for months. Then this pattern is repeated many times with her parents disgusted with him, his ranch manager when it was his turn disgusted with him. These people tell him he should be ashamed of his treatment of Cilla each time he breaks up with her. This pattern was repeated a few times in the story, which was quite annoying, and distressing for Cilla. I’m not sure that I could have been that steadfast.

At the end, Cameron does come around like all good romance heroes, and he gives her the perfect proposal. He also has a plan for their life together. His shame at how he treated Cilla does come through and the reader feels this on the pages.

Reviewed by Heather

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

Feature book: The Hidden Duchess

5 December 2018

The Hidden Duchess by Bree Verity

Subgenre: historical romance
Release date: 2 Jul 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Length: 320 pages
RRP: US$0.99 (Kindle) / free (Kobo)

Running from a murder she didn’t commit, Celeste did not see the revolution coming. She fled to her cousins’ home in the country hoping they will provide a place to stay while she sorts out her legal issue. Her cousins, Marcel and Louise, find Celeste entertaining at first, as she couldn’t seem to do much, or know much about country life.

Celeste Martin, as she becomes known in the village, just wants to go back to her life in Paris. She wants the balls, the food, the lovers. She also wants to be exonerated from the murder charge. As the days and weeks go on, she gets used to country life, and the very slow letters from her lawyer, especially the daily routine and the people around her, and she complains less and less. She also finds Marcel very attractive.

Marcel initially is entertained by Celeste’s inability to do the hard tasks and must browbeat her into doing house chores. He also gets very jealous when Lucien Antonin pays particular attention to Celeste. Lucien is quite open about his loathing of the nobility and says he will shoot any noble if they cross his path. When Marcel and Celeste get together, he tells her he is a virgin and is waiting to have sex with his wife. But he is happy to do all manner of other things than actual intercourse.

During the time Celeste is in the village, she comes up against the hate that people have for nobles in France. She has to keep her title a secret. And is mostly successful until there are repercussions from the storming of the Bastille and the destruction of noble properties. She goes missing and Marcel has to find her.

This story was set against an interesting background: the French Revolution. The history is only touched on as Celeste and Marcel are the focus of the story. The reader is certainly able to feel the intensity when different events happen, Louise gets influenza and Celeste goes missing, and all the people who surround Celeste and Marcel. There is also an intensity between the couple as they think they have limited time together.

The historical reader may find the different setting as intriguing as the relationship between Celeste and Marcel.

Reviewed by Heather

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

Author spotlight: Karen Deen

4 December 2018

We’re featuring a wide range of Australian authors participating in ARR2019 next year in venues across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. 

Today we’re having Elevenses with Karen Deen, author of 3 romances in the genre of contemporary romance. She will be attending ARR2019 in Sydney.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always loved reading the fairy tale and a happily ever after story but never dreamed I’d write one. In my thirties I started to dream of writing. I finally took the leap when life told me to step back and take some time for me. My words were “If I do one thing this year, I’m going to write that book I’ve been dreaming about.” Best decision ever.

Why romance and not a different genre?

Growing up I always loved Disney princesses and love stories in books and movies. It made sense to write what I love to read.

What was the first romance you read and why did you love it?

The first adult romance books I read were by Danielle Steele. I don’t remember the first book, but I remember the first one with a racy scene being Thurston House.(The blushing teenager is now reading a lot hotter books, ha ha).

What is the single most important characteristic for an aspiring author wanting to be a published writer?

Write for yourself firstly. If others enjoy your words, it’s an amazing bonus you can be grateful for. The rest will fall into place with time and patience. But if writing for yourself makes you happy then you are already winning in life.

What is your favourite part of creating a story?

Giving your characters a happy ending—I could never write a book that didn’t end happy ever after. It would break my romantic heart. I can’t read sad stories unless they have a happy ending, so I certainly couldn’t write one.

What is your best tip for fighting writer’s block/ writer’s fear?

Keep trying to write small amounts to push through it. My greatest help, though, is to talk to one of my best friends who has been my beta reader from the beginning. Boosts my confidence and kicks me to get moving. Couldn’t do it without her.

Pick a favourite (bold your preference)

  • series or stand-alone?
  • ebook, paperback or hardcover?
  • first person or third?

Who has been an inspiration to you, in life or your writing career?

In life, my Mum without a doubt. In my writing I’ve been blessed to find a friend in TL Swan who has helped me along the way and believed in me even if I didn’t. She is a favourite author who became so much more. I’m grateful for her guidance and encouragement.

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

Love’s Hiding is a standalone in a family series.

Luke is the playboy in the family, the joker never taken seriously. Zoe works for his family company. She’s off limits under company policy. At their first meeting there’s an instant chemistry he tries to ignore. Something keeps playing at him though, a familiarity with Zoe. He just can’t work out what. Zoe’s life plan doesn’t involve a relationship. Hiding her past is her main aim while continuing to build her future. She pushes Luke away in a fear he will destroy that future, but he won’t give up. Will they ever find their HEA?

What else will you be working on in 2019?

2019 will see the release of the last two books in the series—Love’s Fun (Feb 19) and Love’s Hot (July 19). Then I’ll start on some of the many standalone stories in my head.

Please recommend an Aussie romance you read recently.

Gym Junkie by TL Swan. Love her reads; they are always hard to put down. I would start with the Stanton series first if she is a new author to you.

If you haven’t booked your ticket for ARR2019 yet, you can buy one here.

Release day: Sweet from the Vine

4 December 2018

Today is the official release of Sweet from the Vine by Jacquie Underdown (ebook, Escape Publishing). Here’s the blurb:

A second chance at love in the beautiful Ovens Valley – if he just has the courage to take it…

Matilda James never thought she’d ever return to Alpine Ridge, the small town she grew up in and couldn’t wait to leave. But when her desire to have children proves too great a strain on her childless marriage, she heads back home for a tree–change, determined to find a partner with the same life goals. Good luck and good timing lands her a dream marketing role on a breathtaking vineyard. The only hitch is her boss – her old high school flame. But Matilda is a professional, and that relationship is old news.

Mitch nearly lost everything when he lost his wife, and he’s worked hard ever since to support and protect the most important people in his life – his two brothers and his beautiful, miraculous daughter. When his high school sweetheart, Matilda, starts working on the vineyard, he still feels the attraction, but the pain of his past is too close and too constant to ever consider acting on it.

But soon the sparks between Matilda and Mitch grow so bright they can’t be ignored. Matilda is forced to question what she truly wants in life and how far she is willing to push to get what she deserves. And Mitch must learn that moving on is not a betrayal and find the courage to fight for a future he could never have imagined.

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

Sweet from the Vine is the third and final book in my Brothers of the Vine trilogy—a heart-warming series, set on a picturesque vineyard in rural Victoria, that follows three tall, dark and handsome brothers as they find lasting love. Sweet from the Vine is an emotional second-chance romance featuring the eldest brother, Mitch, and his hard-fought road out of grief to eventually find his happily ever after.

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

Publisher pitch: Tule Publishing, Dec 2018

3 December 2018

Tule PublishingTule Publishing brings you the best in commercial fiction, from romance to chick-lit to compelling women’s fiction. Whether you’re in the mood for sexy or sweet, Tule brings you fresh, modern and exciting plots and beloved classic romance.

Tule has over 80 authors who have unique styles, terrific voices, and have helped us grow to house over 300 titles, and garner eight RITA® nominations and one win in three years.

We love our readers and acclaimed authors! Visit us at or subscribe to our newsletter here.

This December enjoy autumn with Tule Publishing’s newest release from Jane Porter and the Montana Born imprint:

Not Christmas Without You by Jane Porter

She’s swearing off men, but the rules don’t apply to him…

Charity Wright has a history of picking the wrong guys and has decided to swear off men for the month of December–no dates, no kisses, no holiday romance–a decision made all that much harder when she meets the man that could be her Mr. Right, Marietta native and professional baseball player, Quinn Douglas.

Just out of a long term relationship, Quinn Douglas isn’t looking for love at the Little Teton Resort, and he certainly isn’t interested in a girl from home, but now that he’s met Charity, he can’t get her out of his mind. Charity even has him rethinking his career and life on the road. Is Charity the missing piece he’s been looking for?

Guest blogger: Anna Campbell

2 December 2018

All the best of mistletoe wishes!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Something that has been part of my Christmas season since 2012 is writing a seasonal story for independent release. This year, there’s a double whammy. I’ve got a new Christmas book (The Laird’s Christmas Kiss, a stand-alone entry into the Lairds Most Likely series, out late October) and a boxed set of six previously published Christmas stories put together as Mistletoe Wishes: a Regency Christmas Collection.

The collection is a real bargain at US$3.99 (today that equates to A$5.42) on Amazon and US$5.99 on other platforms. All the stories were bestsellers when they were released. It weighs in at well over 500 pages. Four of the stories—A Pirate for Christmas, A Match Made in Mistletoe, Mistletoe and the Major, and The Christmas Stranger—were ARRA finalists, and one—Her Christmas Earl—won the Romance Writers Australia Ella Award for best novella of 2014.

It was an interesting process to re-read all the stories before I sent them to the formatter for the boxed set. There’s such a wide variety of tones—wistful, romantic, emotional, sensual, heart-warming, comedic. Not too much hot-and-heavy steamy stuff, because personally at Christmas I prefer a sweeter story. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of sexual tension—one of the things I love about Christmas stories is that the festival offers a good excuse to get heroes and heroines into close proximity. The Northern Hemisphere weather generally cooperates when it comes to getting people stuck in the snow! And of course, there’s always a moment when all that sexual tension overflows into action. Saying the stories aren’t hot and heavy doesn’t mean a lack of love scenes!

Having said that, the focus of these stories is on love and family and belonging and coming home. Two are reunion stories—The Winter Wife (my very first indie novella, so the beginning of the career I now have as a writer!) and Mistletoe and the Major. Both of these involve married couples who made a mess of things when they were younger, but get a second chance at happiness, thanks to Christmas.

Her Christmas Earl and The Christmas Stranger are Cinderella stories where my downtrodden heroines fall in love with men they think are out of their league. Through a combination of Christmas magic and their own courage, they find their true place in the world. A Pirate for Christmas is a romp and includes a cast of interfering villagers as well as an incorrigible donkey called Daisy. I had great fun writing that one.

A Match Made in Mistletoe might actually be my favourite in the collection—it’s a romantic comedy with a powerful emotional undertow. The heroine, Serena, has spent her life madly in love with the handsome boy next door and, this Christmas, he’s finally paying her attention—what a pity that her attention is now drawn to his quieter, more intense friend, Lord Hallam. As she navigates a Christmas of confusion and chaos, Serena grows up fast and learns a lot about what her heart really wants. It was lovely with this one, Her Christmas Earl, and The Christmas Stranger to write about heroines younger and more innocent than my usual girls. All three of these heroines travel from emotional blindness to a point where they can clearly see what they want and who they love.

So if you’ve missed a couple of my Christmas stories along the way or you’d like to try something new, this is a great chance. You can find out more about the boxed set and the individual stories here. You’ll also find links on that page to excerpts and more information about each story. By the way, if you only want to try one or two of the stories, they’re all still available individually.

Thank you for having me as your guest today. I wish every ARRA member the very best of the coming season! And a ton of wonderful reading in 2019!

You can find Anna here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

A Regency Christmas Collection!

Six breathtakingly romantic Christmas treats from Anna Campbell, together in one collection at last – and all at a bargain price!

The Winter Wife: Will an unexpected meeting on Christmas Eve deliver a second chance at love?

Her Christmas Earl: To save her sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now only a hurried Christmas marriage can rescue her reputation.

A Pirate for Christmas: What is vicar’s daughter Bess Farrar to do when the dashing new earl, the man gossip paints as a ruthless pirate, kisses her on their first meeting? Why, kiss him right back of course!

Mistletoe and the Major: After years of war, Major Lord Canforth returns to England a hero. Now he faces his greatest battle—to win the heart of the wife he hasn’t seen since their wedding.

A Match Made in Mistletoe: Serena Talbot makes a wish on the mistletoe—but the mistletoe gets it wrong! A Christmas of chaos and confusion lies ahead. Will mistletoe magic lead to a happy ending?

The Christmas Stranger: At Christmastime, a stranger crossing the threshold means good fortune. But is Josiah Hale’s arrival lucky for Maggie, the girl Christmas forgot?

Buy it here: Amazon AU | Amazon US | iTunes | Kobo