Feb 19, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Ally Blake!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Ally Blake but first 
... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is  Devika Fernando.

Can you please contact Christy McKellen on christymckellen (at) gmail (dot) come to receive your copy of 

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Ally Blake’s TELL ME TRUE.

April Swanson is so hopeful about all the possibilities New Year’s might bring, she’s practically Pollyanna. She’s hardly wishing for the world, after all – just a little less family crazy and the promotion she's perfect for. Surely then she can finally let loose and not strive to be such a good girl all the time.

For reformed bad boy, Finn Ward, hope is a four letter word, yet he has a New Year’s wish of his own - to silence his dark and twisted past before it unravels his future and hurts the people he cares
about. No matter what.

So why would fate trick two such disparate souls into a fake first date? Maybe because they’ve both made the wrong wish...


After hiring The Cinderella Project (a seriously un-politically correct match-making biz!) to help her find her va va voom, April’s first field mission is to recommend herself to a man. (Yikes.)  “Merely for practice, darling,” she’s promised. And by picking an ‘ungettable get' - a man she can’t possibly have - surely it will make every other man she ever approaches feel easy in comparison.  Spying Finn sitting tall, dark, and broody across the other side of a crowded bar it’s clear to April that he’s the most ungettable of them all.  But the thing with being told she can’t…April begins to wonder if she can.


“You are the very definition of still waters, aren’t you, Finn?”

His voice was deep, hard with warning, as he said, “No sense spinning fairy tales about me in your head, April. Believe me.”

She shook her head. Once. Twice. “See that’s the thing with you, Finn. I don’t believe you.”

Before she could stop herself she wrapped a hand around his tie, dislodging the perfect knot. He didn’t react. Not even a blink. So she curled her fingers into his shirt, pulled harder, popped a button from its hole.

Still nothing.

It was infuriating. The man might as well have been made of stone.

The impulse to ruffle his hair, tug his jacket from his shoulders, to undo him somehow came over her like a tidal wave – huge, sudden unstoppable.

The man was so self-contained. Surely that couldn’t be healthy. It would be the kinder thing to help him relax--

Oh, stuff it.

April grabbed Finn by the shirt front, rose up onto her toes, and kissed him, planting one right on his beautiful mouth.

His resistance sang through him so powerfully he vibrated, while sparks of heat sprang up all over April's body at the feel of him beneath her hands, her mouth, her heart.

Turned out his resistance could only last so long, as April had barely registered what she’d gone and done before Finn finally broke off his leash and took complete control. Hauling her close with one arm, his other hand came to rest against her cheek, his thumb stroking the edge of her jaw as his devastating mouth slid over hers.

And, whoa, mamma, she felt it all the way to her knees.

April couldn't remember why she'd ever thought him made of stone. He was all heat and energy, the most vital life force she’d ever known coursing beneath his skin.

Finn. Yep, this was Finn who was kissing her like he had all the time in the world. The very same beautiful giant hunched dramatically over his empty glass in the bar the other night. The guy who was meant to be merely practice.
*   *   *

April never thought herself a contrary sort, but meeting Finn put paid to that!  How do you react to being told ‘no’? Got any good ‘oh, yes I can!’ stories of your own?

Leave a comment to go in the draw to win an ebook (epub or mobi) copy of TELL ME TRUE.

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Sue Mackay will be posted!

Feb 17, 2017

Love Is All Around......

I saw an article the other day about how there is going to be a ten minute commercial made about the movie, Love Actually. The idea is to give people a snapshot about the characters and what has happened to them a decade or so down the road. Now, I adore Love Actually. I know it irritates some people the way it shifts from scene to scene, but I love the way there are so many different relationships showcased in this movie. Because people from different walks of life, different socio-economic groups, different races, different religions, DO fall in love. All of the time. It's part of the magic of writing and/or reading romance novel. Two people, who seems so at odds with one another, going on a journey of discovery etc etc etc. There really is no better job in the world than being a romance writer.
I recently handed in my August release to my editor. I write for Harlequin Special Edition – which are small town, home and heart, cowboys, horses…you get the picture. And even though my August release is still set in small town South Dakota, it’s the first time I’ve written an interracial romance. My African-American, NASCAR driving hero, and freckled, red-headed rancher heroine just seemed the perfect match for one another.

Which got me thinking about relationships and some of the more famous interracial couples that have graced the screen or pages. This is one of my favorites…Frank Farmer and Rachel, The Bodyguard. I love this movie...Costner at his tortured best.

Karate Kid 2 (Okay, not a great film, but the romance was cute) And the song is wonderful.



The classic, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner…who can forget Sidney Piotier’s mother’s speech to a bewildered Spencer Tracy. And then this scene, just before dinner. I just love this movie. In today's world, there's a lot that can be learned from these few minutes.


Hitch – Will Smith and Eva Mendes....I love this movie (even though I've never been a Will Smith fan, I think he rocks this romantic lead)
Love, is simply love.

Feb 15, 2017

Feathered and Furred, or Possibly Scaled! Those Other Neighbours

Parts of Australia have been suffering through an appalling heatwave. Not just the occasional day over 40 degrees C, but here, where I live, sustained heat through several days, reaching up around the 114F mark. Too hot!

It's been remarkable and horrible, with difficulty sleeping, catastrophic bushfire conditions, worries about elderly and ill friends who don't handle the heat well, and trouble for those who lost power. One of the other side effects was that we saw much more of our other neigbours - the ones who don't live in the neighbouring houses, but who live in the gardens and bush that surround us. In particular, we saw a lot more of the birds who usually live high in the trees when they came down looking for shade and water. The poor things were suffering with the heat and it was great hearing from other people how they made water available for their furred and winged neighbours too.

Here's one we rarely get a glimpse of. Usually it sleeps during the day and only comes out at night. It's a tawny frogmouth owl that spends its time, when not hunting, blending in with the tree trunks, trying to look like a stick. 

Here he is a little closer. He's got his eyes closed but when they're open they're large and orange!

This fellow spent two afternoons on the fence by our pool, enjoying a patch of deep shade. Late in the day I turned the hose onto a gentle spray and he fluffed himself up to about 3 times his size then spread his wings at odd angles, catching the water and cooling himself off. Sadly I couldn't film him and shower him at the same time!

So, in the spirit of sharing, here are some photos of some other neighbours - taken near a relative's house. 

We get these noisy rainbow lorikeets at our home too, as well as eastern rosellas (which are thankfully much quieter), kookaburras, magpies, noisy mynas, currawongs and occasionally beautiful small falcons. We also get a couple of different types of possum and fruit bats who love our flowering plants and fight us for the pick of our vege garden!

I'm not sure if you can make this one out. It's an inquisitive little green tree snake (harmless and not venomous) leaning down to peer beneath a verandah roof. Its head is in the centre of the photo and it's looking a little to your left. You can see its right eye. We don't get many tree snakes at my house but we've had red belly blacks as well as browns and small marsh snakes. Fortunately they don't seem to want to meet us almost as much as we don't want to meet them. We also have blue tongue lizards who like to bask in the late afternoon sun. They help keep the population of snails down.

Finally, what would a post about Aussie wildlife be without kangaroos. In this case, yes, kangaroos in a suburban street. Not mine but not that far away. This family group (dad, mum and junior) were alert but not too bothered by people.

What feathered, furred or scaled neighbours do you have? Are they ones you enjoy having visit or are they ones you'd rather avoid?

Feb 13, 2017

Short Stories

I wrote my very first short story (except for those I had to write at school) last year. I was inspired by the Country Life short story competition. I love this magazine and I think the competition is great too. Some of the previous year's entries have brought me to tears.

Last year’s story theme was 'threads'. A story jumped into my head almost immediately. It ended up being called Sunset and Saffron.  

Here’s an excerpt:

Scarlett dragged herself down her tree-lined street but heart-tearing grief was robbing her muscles of their function. Even simple tasks seemed insurmountable.
Apple blossom scented the country air. Julie had loved that smell and together they’d often worked picking apples as teenagers. Now each inhalation seared the memory of happy times with her sister, with desperate grief. They say no parent should bury a child but there was no saying that captured the horror of watching a polished wooden box lowered into the earth with your mirror image cold inside.
She reached her fence and tapped every second paling, the habit of a lifetime. Julie’s palings remained untouched.
A letter protruded from the letterbox. Scarlett sighed. Most likely a bill. She grabbed the envelope. Julie’s name looked stark on the white paper. A sob leapt up her throat and the letter dropped from her grasp.
‘Is everything okay?’ The voice, deep and foreign and close, made her jump. Her new neighbour retrieved the letter and held it out.
She took it and blinked back the tears. She’d cried for so long but she didn’t want to weep before a stranger. Nico was tall, Spanish and new to the street. Mrs Hilltrap at number forty-three had his story within a few hours of his arrival. Nico had moved from Spain to work as a GP in their little country town. Mrs Hilltrap had mentioned a number of times, with sledgehammer subtlety that he was in his early thirties and single. How could she possibly think Scarlett could start a relationship three months after her twin’s death? The stupid crazy things people said in the name of comfort . . .
‘Yes. I’m fine.’ Scarlett fussed with her handbag.
She’d been a bad neighbour. She hadn’t dropped over when he’d arrived. She hadn’t invited him over for tea. Hell, she hadn’t even spoken to him. Orange was famous for its country hospitality but she’d proved the antithesis to the town’s reputation. But conversations with strangers were currently as difficult as setting off from base camp to climb Everest.

 I think the Country Style short story comp is a great initative as it is open to everyone, it provides a chance to see your work in print (if you win or are a ‘runner up’) and there’s $5000 prize money.

This year’s competition can involve any situation or setting but must incorporate ‘light’ as a major or minor theme in either a figurative or literal sense. The story can be no longer than 1500 words, which I have to say I found a challenge. No story has leapt into my head yet, but I’m hoping inspiration strikes before the closing date of 19 April.

Do you like short stories – reading or writing them? I’d love to hear.

Feb 12, 2017

Sunday Smooch with Christy McKellen

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Christy McKellen but first...

the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Laurie!

Laurie, can you please contact Stefanie on stefanie (at) stefanie-london (dot) com to receive your copy of Mr Dangerously Sexy

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon

"I know we were more than just friends."
Once Elena Jones had shared an intense entanglement with striking Spaniard Caleb Araya, ending with both their hearts in tatters. Now she's a successful entrepreneur, and when he rejects a new business proposition, it's clear Caleb hasn't forgotten…
When an accident causes the tycoon to lose his memory, Caleb seems to think they are still a couple! Elena wants to help him recover…but will staying in Barcelona with him just put her heart in jeopardy again?

 Hi LoveCats and thanks so much for having me here for another Sunday Smooch.

The following scene is from my latest release The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon, which is a second chance at love and amnesia story.

Our heroine, Elena, has come to Barcelona looking for our hero Caleb’s help, but unfortunately the man has a long memory and, citing the acrimonious way they parted in the past, he’s crushed her hopes of a friendly reconciliation. Determined to change his mind, Elena has stuck around, only to witness him being involved in an accident that causes him to lose his memory. Realising she’s the only person available to take care of him she stays in Barcelona, hoping once his memory returns he’ll give her another chance. In the following scene she’s agreed to go as his pretend girlfriend to a crucial business meeting to help him disguise his memory loss in front of his potential clients. The trouble is, she’s finding it incredibly difficult to only pretend she’s attracted to him…

 ‘I know you Caleb; you’ll want to go in all guns blazing. I recommend a lighter touch. If he’s here with his wife he’s not going to take too kindly to being bullied and harangued.’
  ‘I wouldn’t—’
  She put up a hand to pre-empt his angry rebuttal. ‘Not intentionally, I know, but you can come across as a little bit abrasive and intimidating until someone gets to know you. Show him a bit of your soft side too, that’s my advice.’
  Caleb blinked at her, his brows drawn into a tight frown as he appeared to consider what she’d said. After a moment he nodded slowly, his frustrated expression clearing and being replaced with a wolfish grin. There was something else in his eyes too that made her tummy flip and her blood begin to race. She stared at his mouth, wondering erratically how she would react if he leant forwards and kissed her right now.
  ‘Okay, I’ll be nice,’ he murmured.
  Shoving away her lustful urges, she nodded. ‘Good.’ She let out a gasp of surprise as he suddenly slipped his hand around her back and drew her closer to him.
  ‘Just relax, cariño. You seem tense and that’s going to look strange to our guests.’
  Swallowing hard, she gave him a jerky nod, her heart banging hard against her chest and her nerves jangling due to their intimate proximity.
  ‘Perhaps I should practice my soft side on you before they get here,’ he murmured, his dark eyes boring into hers.
  ‘How are you going to do that?’ she asked, but before she could draw breath he leant in towards her and brushed his mouth against hers.
  Fireworks seemed to go off deep inside her body and she wondered wildly for a second how the other diners would react if she suddenly burst into flames in front of them.
  Caleb’s lips were warm and firm, his mouth fitting perfectly with hers. She stood frozen to the spot, too befuddled to react, as a crazy surge of desire unfolded deep inside her, spiralling out to the very ends of her fingers and toes.
  His hands slid into her hair and instinctively she sank against him, her body craving the hard press of his against it.
  A moment later she was left gasping for air when he drew away from her, giving her a strange knowing kind of smile and nodding towards the upper mezzanine, his arm pressing into her back as he encouraged her to mount the staircase with him.
  ‘Let’s go and find our seats, ready for the show,’ he murmured into her ear, his breath tickling the sensitive skin on her exposed neck and making her shiver with longing.
  Oh, goodness, it was going to be impossible to keep her cool if he was going to be this physically attentive all evening.

For a chance to win a paperback copy of The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon, tell me the quality you value the most in a partner. (Mine is my husband’s enormous capacity for kindness to others.)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Ally Blake will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Feb 10, 2017

Who doesn't love reading?

Continuing with the reading theme, I'd like to share a few of my favourite reads from the previous few months. There are more but they're on my tablet or books I've borrowed from my Book Club.
I'm a huge Kristin Hannah fan which is why I've included two of her books in this photo. There are plenty more on my shelves.
Yeonmi Park's story about growing up in North Korea is heart-wrenching and an eye opener into her country of birth. This was a riveting read and everyone I know who has read it agrees. We don't know how lucky we are just by where we were born.
Unfortunately the book on the bottom left doesn't sow up clearly but it contains two stories written by Louisa George and Amy Andrews for the M&B Midwives On Call series eight of us took part in.  A little while back I admit, but until a week ago I thought I'd read all of the stories.  That's what happens when my office gets away on me with piles of books, paper, notes, and projects.
I m currently reading Marching Powder by Rusty Young, the true story of Thomas McFadden incarcerated in San Pedro prison for drug trafficking. This prison is extreme. Inmates buy their cells, can have overnight quests, girlfriends, nights out on the town. Pretty much anything can buy. Fascinating.
There's just not enough time to read all those wonderful books. Might have to follow Michelle Douglas's idea of a reading plan. 
 What are you reading at the moment? And what's your favourite read over the last few months?

Feb 8, 2017

My 2017 reading plan

 Ally’s post last month convinced me to take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I’ve challenged myself to read 50 books for 2017. That’s less than a book a week. Doable, right?


Here are my reading stats for the last few years (since I started keeping records):

2016: 44 books read
2015: 53 books read
2014: 34 books read
2013: 46 books read
2012: 52 books read

So, in the last 5 years I’ve only hit that fifty-target twice. Which kinda sounds appalling for a writer, but I’m not counting the bits and pieces I’ve been reading from research books for my PhD. Sigh. Yes, it’s true—I’m just searching for excuses.

So, in an effort to reach my target I’ve created a bit of plan:

  •  To read at least one book from each LoveCat this year. That’s 13 books.
  •  I’m part of a monthly book group. That’s 11 books (we do drinks in Dec rather than a book ;-) ).
  •  I have 6 RITA books.
  •  So far I’ve read 6 books for the year (though one is the book group selection). So that’s another 5 books.

All of that adds up to 35 books.

Now all I have to do is add another 15 books and I’ll have met my target. But how should I choose those 15 books. Should they come from:

  •  My Kindle TBR pile? I have soooo many on my device waiting to be read.
  •  Then there’s the serendipitous impulse buys that will need to be read immediately.
  •  What about the physical cupboard full of paperbacks I’ve yet to read?

I could simply choose 5 from each, and Voila, my target will be met. :)

What about you, do you ever organise your reading into lists like this or are you more footloose and fancy-free?

And is there one book this year you really have to read and think I should add to my list? Recommendations are always welcome. :)

 And if you'd like a recommendation to add to your own reading list. On the shelves this February is the new Australian Romance Duo where you get two fab stories in the one gorgeous cover: Road Trip With the Eligible Bachelor (Michelle Douglas) and The Magnate's Indecent Proposal (Ally Blake)