Skip to content

Guest blogger: Alissa Callen

18 February 2018

The facts behind the fiction

My latest release, The Red Dirt Road, revisits the small town of Woodlea, known for its yarn-bombing and windmills. While Woodlea is purely fictional, aspects of my real life are woven into my words.

The plot for The Red Dirt Road owes its genesis to a past spring when all it did was rain. Paddocks were saturated, mushrooms grew on our lawn, water tanks overflowed and long-necked turtles were a common sight. There really was a tractor and a ute bogged at a front farm gate for weeks and a large round hay bale that bobbed along in the flooded river that submerged our pumps.

Thanks to my teenage son and his motor bike, when it came to medical material I had a range of injuries to draw upon. Touch wood, there’s been no more emergency department visits. The reduction of medical services and access to specialists continues to be an issue in the country. A baby has been born in the car park of a fast food place in Dubbo because of a two-hour drive to reach the larger regional hospital. Rural crime and illegal trespassing also remain huge community concerns. Gone are the days of leaving the shed and back door unlocked or even farm gates.

After a summer storm I opened our front door to find a young kelpie had found her way to our farm. She wasn’t microchipped and when no-one claimed her we formally adopted her. This real life event was the inspiration behind the mystery dog that features in The Red Dirt Road.

Another real life thread is the DNA component. Without giving too much away of the storyline, I’ve been using DNA to find my wartime paternal grandfather. DNA is fascinating and I have my fingers crossed it will one day lead to the answers that the characters in The Red Dirt Road were able to find.

I hope you enjoy spending time in small town Woodlea again. In February 2019 it will be Tanner’s turn to have his story told. Until then happy reading.

You can find Alissa here: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

The Red Dirt Road

After losing a patient, Dr Fliss Knight returns to small town Woodlea and buys a rundown farm, her confidence and city career in tatters. She intends to live a solitary life and hopes that the slow country pace will help her heal.

Pickup rider Hewitt Sinclair is no stranger to how hairy things can get in a rodeo arena. But when he can’t save the life of his twin brother, he hangs up his spurs. Determined to provide for his brother’s widow and young family, he gives himself no time to grieve. But when a motorbike accident proves he needs to also look out for himself, he accepts an old friend’s invitation to stay at an isolated property while his body heals.

When Fliss meets the cowboy living in the bluestone stables across the garden, all her hopes for a quiet and peaceful life fade. Despite his reserve, Hewitt is impossible to ignore. As they work together to care for an abandoned dog and her puppies they find themselves drawn to each other.

But as a family secret threatens every truth Fliss has ever known, and the heavy spring rain continues to fall, both Fliss and Hewitt must face their deepest fears. Will love be enough to guarantee happiness or will the past refuse to relinquish its dark hold?

You can buy The Red Dirt Road here.


Release day: Catching London

17 February 2018

Today is the official release of Catching London by MV Ellis (ebook and paperback, Hot Tree Publishing). Here’s the blurb:

He’s not looking to change his bad boy ways.

Arlo Jones is a badass millionaire rock star with the world at his feet. He lives the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle to the max, and believes in working hard and playing harder. He’s a man who always gets what he wants, especially when it comes to women. Until he meets London.

She’s a damaged dancer not looking to fall.

All London Llwellyn wants is to rebuild her life following the tragic car accident that robbed her of her fiancé, and ended her career as a professional ballet dancer. She’s working two jobs to scrape together the cash to set up her own studio, and reinvent herself as a photographer. The last thing she wants is to get involved.

Arlo promises to always be there to catch her, but can London trust him enough to let herself fall?

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

Catching London is a smoking-hot contemporary romance set in the sultry cities of New York and Paris. The story follows sexy millionaire rocker Arlo Jones and stunning dancer-turned-photographer London Llwellyn. The two meet in unusual circumstances when Arlo finds London naked in his shower. Sparks fly instantly, and neither can ignore the chemistry they share, but their relationship is a rollercoaster ride from the get-go. Although he’s a total badass, it’s clear that Arlo has finally met his match in London, and she refuses to give him an inch. Most of the time. The rest of the time she finds herself inexplicably and irrevocably drawn to him, as much as she tries to avoid him. Unfortunately for him, Arlo’s reputation precedes him. While he promises to always be there to catch her, London’s not sure if she can trust him enough to let herself fall. If you like your boys as hot as sin, your girls smart and sassy, and your romance hotter than hot, Catching London is the book for you.

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

2017 Awards: dinner tickets on sale

15 February 2018

The Australian Romance Readers Association is pleased to announce the tenth annual Australian Romance Readers Awards will be presented at a special dinner, to be held at Cello’s Restaurant, at the Castlereagh Hotel, Sydney, from 7.00 pm to 11.00 pm on Saturday 5 May 2018.

All fans of romance fiction are invited to attend this gala evening to help us celebrate the very best of romance fiction from 2017.

Nominations for the awards are currently being finalised and the award finalists will be announced in March.

We are delighted to announce that Melanie Milburne will be our guest speaker for the evening. Melanie is the author of over 75 romance novels for Harlequin Mills and Boon. With close to 12 million of her books sold across the globe, she is also the past winner of the Holt Medallion, RUBY and ARRA Awards. Melanie lives in Hobart, Tasmania with her husband and three miniature black poodles, and is an official ambassador for The Australian Childhood Foundation.

Tickets for the dinner are now on sale. Tickets are $97 for ARRA members and $107 for non-members. (Members, the discount code has been emailed to you.) Ticket price includes a three-course meal, drinks and door prizes.

You can buy your tickets here.

Places are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment. Ticket sales will close on 27 April 2018 (unless sold out earlier).

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our generous sponsors, who make these awards possible:

Booktopia—our exclusive event sponsor

Hachette AustraliaHarlequin AustraliaAllen & Unwin



Weekly musing: small-town romance

15 February 2018

Carrying on from last week, let’s move on to small-town romances. For this discussion we are keeping it to US-based non-city romances. Think along the lines of Sweet Home Alabama. We’ll discuss Western contemporaries next week.

This is another genre that I love to read. Who doesn’t love reading about other people gossiping about everyone else in the town, where everyone knows everyone and what they are getting up to? Meanwhile, they are trying to hide their own secrets; it’s perfect! Plus trying to have a relationship and sometimes trying to keep it a secret.

I’ve found the heroes and heroines in these types of romances are very independent and usually stuck in their ways. It takes the other person to bring them out of their comfort zones and help in their growth as a person. The sensuality levels tend to be more ‘sweet’; however, there are ‘spicier’ titles moving their way into this sub-genre.

Jilted brides, secret babies/pregnancies, returning to their home town and high-school sweethearts are common themes found in small-town romances. What are your favourite tropes in small-town romances? Which ones don’t you like?

My favourite authors are: Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery and Robyn Carr. Who are your favourite small-town romance authors?

My top 10 must-read small-town romances are:

  • Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis (Lucky Harbor #1)
  • Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis (Heartbreaker Bay #1)
  • Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis (Animal Magnetism #1)
  • No Tan Lines by Kate Angell (Barefoot William Beach #1)
  • Fool for Love by Beth Ciotta (Cupcake Lovers #1)
  • The Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #1)
  • The Best Man by Kristan Higgins (Blue Heron #1)
  • Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe (Boys of Bishop #1)
  • Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery (Fool’s Gold #1)
  • Trinity Falls by Regina Hart (Finding Home #1)

What books do you recommend as must-read small-town romances?

My top five favourite covers:
(Okay I could only cut it down to eight this week; I’ll try harder to keep it to five next time)


Happy reading!

#SecretProject #Discussions #LoveReading

ARRA newsletter #103

15 February 2018

Purple news

The February 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:

  • tickets are on sale for the Awards Dinner and we announce our guest speaker—see lead article
  • there are also some tickets left for the Sydney High Tea
  • voting is open for the Members’ Choice categories
  • announcing our 2018 Romantic Rendezvous events—featuring Grace Burrowes and Jane Porter
  •  a call for expressions of interest from authors for ARR2019
  •  Charlotte’s Web Watch column features the Flippin’ Pages blog
  •  February is packed full of reader events – see the events calendar
  •  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 us at

Happy reading everyone!


Release day: A List-Less Life

14 February 2018

Today is the official release of A List-Less Life by Darcy Delany (book 1, Women of Sass series) (ebook and print, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Gina Trent thinks finding the perfect man is as simple as writing the perfect list. Her list writing habits make her an internet sensation, but when she has to choose between hesitant Australian diplomat Sean Tate and proactive British entrepreneur Will Lockwood, Gina discovers that getting what’s on your list isn’t the same as getting what you need. Set in Papua New Guinea and Manchester, A List-Less Life is a heart-warming novel about the twists and turns on the path to true love.

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

Unfortunately, romance doesn’t come with a rule book, so Gina decides to come up with her own. She experiences a sliding doors moment though when she meets Mr Right-on-Paper, but longs for Mr Mysterious. She is like a savvier, more-serious Bridget Jones character—and you can’t help but want her to succeed as she lurches from one disastrous romance to another! Her journey grips you and keeps you hooked, but leaves you in no doubt that true love always wins the day!

You can connect with Darcy at StorieswithSass or buy the book from Amazon.

Feature book: Wenna

14 February 2018

Wenna by Virginia Taylor

Subgenre: Historical romance; family saga
Release date: 31 Jan 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Format: ebook / paperback
Length: 230 pages
RRP: A$3.42 / A$22.25

Life is what you make it and if you work hard enough, you will be rewarded is Wenna’s philosophy, especially in a new colony.

Wenna Chenoweth is a lady’s maid who also has to deal with her employer’s spiteful daughter. Patricia does all she can to ruin Wenna out of spite. She does so at a cricket match and Wenna finds herself in the carriage with Devon Courtney driving back to Adelaide city. Wenna thinks Dev is a labourer. Wenna would not think he is on a higher status level than her but eventually realises her mistake.

Devon decides that he needs to marry Wenna as he thinks she will be the best wife for him, and there is also an opportunity to have a go at his family in Cornwall. He is the heir to a title and wants a child to continue the line. Devon finds out that Wenna’s mother was his mother’s lady’s maid but he doesn’t let on until much later.

Wenna becomes very concerned that Dev is a spendthrift and she needs to make money to help out, save for her journey to Cornwall and to send money to her grandparents. Dev wants to return to Cornwall to show his family that he is better than the wastrel they thought he was.

Together Dev and Wenna are about to work through their secrets and all is eventually revealed especially after Wenna’s life is threatened.

This story is set in South Australia, in Adelaide, around the beginning of the colony. It shows the life of the higher levels of society, or at least those that think they are, and also workers. I like a story that gives me a wide view of the different aspects of society.

I like Wenna’s determination to better herself and some of those whom she comes in contact with. She is a very likeable woman and has a very caring soul. She wants to make things better for some people. It seems to be that Dev likes to keep things close to his chest and will only let certain people close. This may be due to his family background.

When this story is read in conjunction with the other stories in the series, they offer a look at the beginnings of South Australia and what it may have been like at that time. It shows people from all different levels in society and shows the nature of the future Australia.

Reviewed by Heather

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