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Feature book: Secret Nights with a Cowboy

24 February 2021

Secret Nights with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

Subgenre: Western romance
Release date: 1 Dec 2020
Publisher: St Martin’s Paperbacks
Format: ebook and print
Length: 398 pages
RRP: $8.11 (ebook); $17.50 (print)

Young love, is it true and forever, or will it burn out?

The whole town gets to see the on again, off again relationship, courtship and marriage of Rae Trujillo and Riley Kittredge, of the Kittredge boys (hopefully, just between you and me, there are more stories on these men!). They marry straight from school, and to others it seems they have grown apart. Most of the town thinks they are divorced, as they live in separate places, but the reality is they are still married, and see each other from time to time when Rae suddenly appears at their home. Finally, Rae asks for a divorce and Riley is shocked. He will love Rae forever.

Their respective families also have issues and often offer input into the lives of Rae and Riley. Both see mainly the faults in their families but when they see the good and the courage over some decisions, it changes their perspectives.

As the couple work out their issues, and one secret will be exposed, it is entertaining to watch Rae and Riley try to offer each other dating advice on who might be the best new partner for the other. They also try not to offer a critique of the dates, but it is hard when you are in love with your spouse. Naturally, inside both are hurting. The town is divided and, in some cases, takes a side which makes it difficult for them to work through what hurts them. It can also make it hard for their businesses.

When the secret is exposed, one hurts the other more than they believe they could. When this secret comes out, each has to retire from the fight to lick their wounds, but it also means that they can be together in the end. Our HEA.

It can be easy to forget that these characters are so young in age. Their experiences make the reader believe they are older, but you can see that youth in some of actions and reactions. This story does include characters from previous books, and it is nice to see where they are at in their lives. There is also the hope the glimpses we see of some characters <cough> Zach Kettredge <cough> will get their own story.

I am really enjoying this cowboy series.

Reviewed by Heather

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

Feature book: Something Like This

24 February 2021

Something Like This by Karly Lane

Subgenre: rural romance
Release date: 1 Dec 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: ebook and print
Length: 253 pages
RRP: $14.24 (ebook); $29.99 (print)

I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book, to be honest. I’m not a ‘horsey’ person, just a clueless city suburban dweller. But my goodness, I’d have to be stone cold heartless not to be touched by the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horses, used here in equine therapy.

I googled the horses and they are magnificent! They are also part of Australia’s living history, wild horses that are descendants of Australia’s wartime horses. Amazing the things you learn from reading romance novels!

Tilly Hollis, our beautiful heroine, knows how impressive these horses are, and is working to create her own dream career running an equine therapy program for troubled youth. Meanwhile she’s also waiting tables in a cafe in rural Ben Tirran, in the Australian New England mountains, trying to save money to make the full-time equine therapy dream an actual reality, and something she can make a viable living from.

Tilly’s been through so much in life, the biggest being suddenly widowed. Now she’s determined to finally follow her passion and train her horses for her Healing Hooves Horse Therapy, including the horses she acquires wild. She has an ‘eye’ for the ones with the most potential. She certainly loves her horses and understands them in such an insightful way. I was thoroughly impressed. She is utterly convinced the horses can slowly be trained to trust and love the humans around them, and by doing so bring out the best in those humans as they work with the animals. A wonderful two-way relationship that can only improve over time.

I love this introduction to the hero from the blurb on the back cover: Jason Weaver just wants to be left alone. It was a tough transition from his army days to the civilian world, and he’s looking forward to settling into a solitary life.

Says it all, really, doesn’t it? And so true! Jason truly is a bit of a hermit to start with, but then finds himself rather surprised to visit the local cafe where Tilly works for breakfast way more than he expected. Tilly intrigues him, and that annoys him, because he’s not signing up for a romance or even a friendship. Still, Tilly is always sunny and polite, and he finds himself drawn back to her time after time. Not that he lets her know or anything …

Jason is a wounded veteran but really doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. He has rebuilt his life since his army days and made a good living for himself. For now—renovating his newly acquired property with a ‘fixer-upper’ house—he just wants to be left alone. Snort. Romance readers have heard all that before, and we all know how that’s going to end! (But it’s such fun reading how.)

One of the recurring plot devices through the book was the utter love of and references to the poem The Man From Snowy River by Banjo Paterson. Seriously, all Tilly’s family is named after characters from the poem, and she has watched the film so many times she knows the dialogue off by heart. I can’t remember the last time I watched the film, and now I’m desperately scrambling to find a copy. I absolutely loved the scene where Jason is astounded to find himself watching said film with Tilly. Then she informs him there’s a second film, and that’s next on the to-watch agenda!

This was such a terrific book. All my qualms about the horse side of the story absolutely melted away as I fell in love with the animals—as did the troubled teens that worked with them—and reading their journey was such a plus.

The romance wasn’t an easy one, I have to say, there was so much Tilly and Jason had to go through with loads of tough readjustments and serious thinking. Which made it all the more fabulous to read because I was so fully invested. Thanks, Karly Lane.

reviewed by Malvina

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

Guest blogger: Charlotte Anne

21 February 2021

Hello everyone

Thanks for having me on the ARRA blog. Today I wanted to share some photos of my writing journey for The Unworthy Duke. Every person works differently, and I personally love seeing the process of other creators—whether they be writers, painters, gardeners etc … The list is endless. Almost every person has a creative outlet, and the way we go about expressing our creativity is such a personal and unique process.

For me, I tend to write in short bursts. The reason for this is I have to fit my writing in around my day job. This meant that when I was working on The Unworthy Duke I carried a notebook with me wherever I went so I that I could write during my free moments, no matter how short they were—on the bus, on my lunchbreak, between appointments. I wouldn’t have been able to keep my thoughts straight without my notebooks.

Quite a few of the ideas I recorded in my notebooks didn’t even make it into the final book, but the notebooks offered a safe place for me to explore and tinker.

Like many people nowadays, I can type much faster than I can write, so on the weekends I would collate my notes into one document and spend hours working on the actual manuscript. The process of writing the first draft probably took me close on 12 months. As soon as I finished, I printed a hardcopy so that I could edit by hand—on the bus, on my lunchbreak, between appointments. You get the idea! In total I probably edited The Unworthy Duke four times through.

For example, this scene is actually the last few paragraphs of chapter 4 but I edited it so significantly that it’s now virtually unrecognisable—and a whole lot better! (You can see the fold marks from when I was carrying the paper around in my handbag.)

After that, The Unworthy Duke went to my amazing copyeditor at Escape Publishing for a final two rounds of edits. During those last weeks, we mainly worked on fixing inconsistencies and fact checking. Then, almost unbelievably, it was done.

Writing this book was such an amazing journey, and there isn’t anything I would change. As for book 2, let’s just say that I’m already well on my way through my second notebook.

You can find Charlotte here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Unworthy Duke

She’s running from her past; he’s hiding from his.

​Miss Ellen Burney doesn’t have a penny to her name. Determined to escape scandal, she flees to London and becomes Miss Smith: spinster and lady’s companion. London offers security in anonymity. So long as Ellen can rein in her overactive imagination and become the perfect picture of propriety.

Calum Callaghan spent ten years in the Royal Navy fighting Napoleon and has the scars to prove it. Now he’s a duke, but all of London thinks he murdered his brother. Heartbroken and battle weary, he’s locked himself away for four long years, a prisoner in his own townhouse.

That is, until Cal’s grandmother comes to stay with him for the London Season, her new lady’s companion in tow. A lady’s companion with a passion for life and love that can hardly be contained by even the most spinsterish of lace caps. She’s fooling nobody, especially not this grumpy duke.

Feature book: The Princess and the Rogue

17 February 2021

The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman

Subgenre: historical romance
Release date: 29 Dec 2020
Publisher: St Martin’s Paperbacks
Format: ebook and print
Length: 334 pages
RRP: $7.83 (ebook); $17.50 (print)

It takes a lot of effort to destroy the family tiaras and other jewel sets and hide them, but Russian Princess Anya has to do it to escape France.

Anya and her servant friend escape to London and set up a new life. But her spurned suitor is on their trail. When she reappears, she is Anna Brown and is companion to a Dowager Duchess, because quite frankly she is not prepared for anything else. Anya is still upset from the death of her brother and she also wants to escape the attentions of those who may know her.

She also has friends in the local brothel, but she is teaching the girls to read, not working as one of the girls. Lord Mowbray comes in and wants to hire her for the night as she is interesting, and he thinks to his taste. Anya refuses then disappears. For a while their paths do not cross, but then he has to save her from being kidnapped by thugs and takes her back to the gambling den, his very lucrative business with his friends. Sebastian is surprised to find that she, the woman he has been desiring, is the devoted companion of the Dowager Duchess.

Sebastian, Lord Mowbray, is the last of his trio of friends to find his love. He is cynical about love and an off handed quip will come back to haunt him. As these men work for Bow Street, the trio investigate the death of a foreign national, who just happens to be Russian. As he hides Anya in his home, he is able to use her to find out and translate Russian for him. Together they solve the mystery of the spy among the ranks.

I have loved this series and I think this story was probably the best one. It took the cynical Sebastian and the haughty Anya and makes an interesting tussle with Anya trying to hide her real identity and slipping all the time, and Sebastian, the man who doesn’t think he will ever marry.

Anya’s description of the different suspicions and ‘rules’ in Russia are entertaining and Sebastian is taken with her and her ‘rules’ and sometimes this is a giveaway as to her identity. But you can certainly feel the connection between this couple and it comes through on the pages.

Reviewed by Heather

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

Feature book: Misty

17 February 2021

Misty by Fiona McArthur

Series: Lyrebird Lake
Subgenre: rural romance
Release date: 30 Nov 2020
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 214 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $32.34 (print)

The lyrebird has spoken. The couple who have just heard its song are to be the next match.

Misty can feel it. Something is wrong and she heads towards that danger. And saves Ben’s life. Ben can’t believe that she saved him even though he doesn’t feel worthy. But Misty feels a connection with Ben. Misty takes off and thinks about what might have been.

A month later, Ben turns up at the rural hospital much to Misty’s surprise. She also discovers he is an obstetrician with a daughter, Tammy. Okay a step-daughter, and one who is pregnant. But why would he choose to practice in a small but growing hospital? Ben feels this will be the best place for Tammy so she can give birth. Ben has a rocky relationship with Tammy but when he sees Misty interacting with her and getting her to do things, he is more than happy he made that decision to come to the town.

The local woman’s birthing centre is still being set up, but Ben is still unsure as to how this will all go. This is likely because of Ben’s past. He feels he is responsible for a medical incident and wears guilt and responsibility on his shoulders and has led him on this path. Sometimes when something is shared, it can often feel less of monster, and this anguish shared adds to the connection between Ben and Misty.

The series story arc is a fascinating one. While the medical focus is midwifery, there isn’t much suspense action, but there is angst. Angst on sometimes life-saving issues. What is important is the relationships between the main characters and also their connections between other people in each story. Ben has had to make lifesaving decisions and has paid a personal price. Each of the characters have their issues, but they are able to use their resilience and overcome the obstacles.

I love this series.

reviewed by Heather

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

2020 ARR Awards: finalists announced

15 February 2021

Voting has opened today for the 2020 Australian Romance Readers Awards. Below are the finalists in each of the nine categories, as well as finalists in our three special Members’ Choice categories. ARRA members will now vote for their favourite in each category. (The voting link is available to members in the February newsletter.) Voting will close on 8 March.

Here are the finalists:

Favourite Paranormal Romance 2020

  • Alpha Night by Nalini Singh
  • Famine by Laura Thalassa
  • Salvation by Christina Phillips
  • The Longing of Lone Wolves by Lana Pecherczyk

Favourite Sci Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance 2020

  • Archangel’s Sun by Nalini Singh
  • Blackbird Rising by Keri Arthur
  • Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
  • From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout
  • Mutant Unveiled by Mel Teshco
  • New Witch on the Block by Louisa West
  • Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
  • Sorcery and Sandstorms by Samantha Marshall
  • The Matriarch by Annabelle McInnes

Favourite Historical Romance 2020

  • An Unsuitable Lady for a Lord by Cathleen Ross
  • Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Intrigue by Stephanie Laurens
  • Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie
  • The Goldminer’s Sister by Alison Stuart
  • The Highlander’s Christmas Countess by Anna Campbell
  • The Highlander’s English Bride by Anna Campbell
  • The Master’s New Governess by Eliza Redgold

Favourite Contemporary Romance 2020

  • All the Dumb Things by Georgia Tingley
  • Asking for Trouble by Amy Andrews
  • Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns
  • Lonely in Longreach by Eva Scott
  • Love Under Quarantine by Kylie Scott and Audrey Carlan
  • Playing with Trouble by Amy Andrews
  • The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh
  • The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur
  • The Hunter by LJ Shen
  • The Lost Letters of Playfair Street by Michelle Montebello
  • Xmas Dust by Mel A Rowe

Favourite Short or Category Romance 2020

  • Love Song by Kylie Scott
  • One Night with Her Millionaire Boss by Kandy Shepherd
  • Revelations of a Secret Princess by Annie West
  • Revelations of his Runaway Bride by Kali Anthony
  • Serenity’s Song by Cathryn Hein
  • Their Royal Baby Gift by Kandy Shepherd

Favourite Romantic Suspense 2020

  • A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones
  • Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine
  • Golden in Death by JD Robb

Favourite Continuing Romance Series 2020

  • Chance Sisters series by Anne Gracie
  • Credence, Colorado series by Amy Andrews
  • Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh
  • Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews
  • Marriage of Convenience series Anne Gracie
  • Psy-Changeling Trinity series by Nalini Singh
  • Regency Rockstars series by Sasha Cottman
  • Sunshine Vicram series by Darynda Jones
  • The Lairds Most Likely by Anna Campbell

Favourite Debut Romance Author 2020

  • Allison Ashley
  • Anna Foxkirk
  • Clyve Rose
  • Joanne Austen Brown
  • Kali Anthony
  • Kate Stayman-London
  • Lissanne Jones
  • Sarah Hogle
  • Serafina Jax
  • Tanya Nellestein

Favourite Australian Romance Author 2020

  • Alison Stuart
  • Amy Andrews
  • Anna Campbell
  • Anne Gracie
  • Kelly Hunter
  • Kylie Scott
  • Mel A Rowe
  • Michelle Montebello

And the finalists for the Members’ Choice categories are …

Favourite Australian-set romance of 2020

  • Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell
  • Lonely in Longreach by Eva Scott
  • Serenity’s Song by Cathryn Hein
  • The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur
  • The Goldminer’s Sister by Alison Stuart
  • The Lost Letters of Playfair Street by Michelle Montebello
  • Xmas Dust by Mel A Rowe

Favourite Christmas or holiday romance of 2020

  • All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Amy Andrews
  • ‘Happily Ever After for Christmas’ by Tanya Nellestein in Christmas at Kissing Point
  • Christmas Reunion in Paris by Liz Fielding
  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
  • Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Intrigue by Stephanie Laurens
  • The Christmas Bride by Anne Gracie
  • The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker
  • The Highlander’s Christmas Countess by Anna Campbell
  • Xmas Dust by Mel A Rowe

Favourite small-town romance of 2020

  • All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Amy Andrews
  • Asking for Trouble by Amy Andrews
  • Lone Star Reunion by Justine Davis
  • Montana Son by Juanita Kees

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Winners will be announced at a special online awards ceremony on Saturday 20 March 2021. Tickets for the ceremony will go on sale soon.

ARRA newsletter #139

15 February 2021

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:

  • the finalists for the Australian Romance Readers Awards are announced (and voting is open!)
  • an update on the awards ceremony
  • last chance to fill in the EOI for the booksigning at RWA in August
  • win a $10 gift card—if you can Find the Heart!

Plus our regular columns—romance roundup, web watch, publisher news, self-publishing highlights, reviews, freebies 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 arra.editor@gmail.com.

Happy reading everyone!

Guest blogger: Alissa Callen

14 February 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope wherever you may be you are able to spend time (real or virtual) with those who are special to you.

On a day dedicated to celebrating all things romance it is fitting that my new release, Snowy Mountains Daughter, contains a love story. This book is the first in my new series set in a tiny book town called Bundilla, located on the western side of the Snowy Mountains. The plot focuses on Clancy Parker, a peony flower farmer, and Heath MacBride, a street artist. Both have had feelings for each other since childhood but complex circumstances have prevented them from being together. Life now offers them a second chance, if they have the courage to take it.

As well as following their journey, Snowy Mountains Daughter also explores the dynamics of a family in which secrets have become so ingrained they have become the truth. As in all my books the landscape isn’t again content to stay in the background and it becomes a character in itself. Even before my family bought a farm in the Snowy Mountains, it was a favourite place of mine and it has been a joy to write as if I were there riding in the high country.

Much like how our kelpie sneaks inside to wake up my teenagers, my real life has again slipped into my book. After finding a missing branch of our family tree and discovering a thread of dementia, I became interested in learning more. The University of Tasmania runs free courses through their Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre and before I knew it dementia was front and centre in my plot.

I hope you enjoy Clancy and Heath’s happily-ever-after as well as your first visit to Bundilla. Rowan, my cattleman who moonlights as a stonemason, will be the next local to have his story told and his book will be out this time next year.

Until then, take care and happy reading,
Alissa xx

You can find Alissa here: Website | Facebook | BookBub | Pinterest

Snowy Mountains Daughter

The road home isn’t for the faint-hearted…

Peony flower farmer Clancy Parker was born and bred in the Australian high country. Small-town Bundilla is the only place she will ever truly belong, even if staying means remaining alone. The man she’d loved is long gone and single men are as rare as a summer snowfall.

As soon as he could, street artist Heath MacBride escaped his complicated family and traded mountain peaks for city concrete. Now a commission to paint a mural on Bundilla’s water tower brings him home. It doesn’t matter how long he’s been away, the animosity of his cattleman father hasn’t waned. As soon as the water tower is painted, he will be gone.

But between steadfast Clancy, who’d once been his muse, a free-spirited kelpie who becomes his shadow and a corrosive family secret, his best laid plans disintegrate. When life again backs him into a corner, will he have no choice but to leave or will he and Clancy have the second chance they’d each thought would forever remain out of reach?

Snowy Mountains Daughter is available here.

Release day: Always Elspeth

14 February 2021

Today is the official release of Always Elspeth by Joanne Austen Brown (Always #2) (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

Tragedy has followed Elspeth. Hoping for a new life she moves to the Isle of Skye. Can the society that she hates leave her to start again? What she cannot see is someone who is following her.

James has loved her all his life. Elspeth rejected him once but now she may be tempted to try love again. But in the shadows, someone is stalking her.

Can James and Elspeth renew the love they once had? And make it stronger? Or will the darkness overtake them?

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

I love Elspeth’s story. When, at the end of Louisa, we see that she has lost everything, many of my readers asked if I was planning to do a story about her. It was always my plan. Her best friends Louisa and Chalanor have their happy-ever-after, and I so wanted Elspeth to have hers. James was unexpected, but was a delight to write. And of course, the darkness that was in the first book has not disappeared. It comes from an unexpected source. I had so much enjoyment letting the story take me on an unexpected ride. I hope those who read it will love it as I do. It is better to read Louisa first, but it stands alone very well also. Now to finish the series. I am off to write Always Delia.

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

Release day: How to Catch a Devilish Duke

12 February 2021

Today is the official release of How to Catch a Devilish Duke by Amy Rose Bennett (The Disreputable Debutantes #4) (ebook and paperback, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

In this fourth installment of the Disreputable Debutantes series, the spirited daughter of an earl is in imminent danger of ruining her reputation forevermore.

Lady Charlotte Hastings—already branded a hellion by polite society—is in a terrible scrape courtesy of London’s most notorious blackguard. One thing is certain: her name cannot appear in the gossip rags … again. However, Charlie’s bold attempt to extricate herself from the fine pickle she’s in takes an unexpected turn when the devilishly handsome Maximilian, the Duke of Exmoor—the rakehell she’s secretly loved for years—comes to her aid.

Upon discovering the irrepressible Lady Charlotte—his best friend’s younger sister—is in danger, Max Devereux feels duty bound to offer assistance. Only he soon realises he’s also mired in deep trouble when an entirely inconvenient desire for Charlie sparks to life. If that’s not enough to contend with, Max’s manipulative mother is busily engineering his betrothal to a perfectly polished debutante. A hardened rake with an armour-plated heart, Max has absolutely no intention of becoming leg-shackled to anyone. At least not this Season.

When unforeseen disaster strikes plunging both Charlie and Max headlong into a new public scandal, Max proposes a deal: to restore Charlie’s good name and to help Max avoid his mother’s machinations, they’ll enter a temporary engagement-of-convenience. But even the best laid plans can go awry. As passion flares between Max and Charlie, their arrangement doesn’t seem like make-believe anymore… and hidden enemies intent on ruining Charlie once and for all, are waiting in the wings. Will a happily-ever-after ever be within their reach?

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

How to Catch a Devilish Duke is the fourth title in my Disreputable Debutantes series, and I do hope readers will enjoy Charlie and Max’s story; they are the last of the series’ romantic couples to find their happily-ever-after. The book has lots of fun tropes I know readers will love: damsel-in-distress; the hero (my first-ever duke!) is the best friend of the heroine’s older brother; and a fake engagement! One of the major themes of the whole Disreputable Debutantes series has been how my heroines have dealt with the initial scandal that ruined their reputations and subsequent chances—or lack thereof—in the ton marriage mart (they were all expelled from a young ladies’ academy for unbecoming conduct). For Lady Charlotte Hastings, the repercussions from that event have lasted several years, and during the story, the theme of scandal is explored in some detail, including the role the Beau Monde Mirror newspaper—a notorious gossip rag or ‘tabloid’—has played in Charlie’s life. I know many have been looking forward to Charlie’s story—I adored writing it—so I do hope How to Catch a Devilish Duke makes readers smile … And maybe swoon a little too when Charlie eventually finds love with the ‘Duke of her Dreams’.

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