Aug 26, 2016

In praise of romance...

I think there must be something in the water, or perhaps the general non-romance reading population are finally catching up...but today I was alerted to TWO articles praising the romance genre. The first:  sets out to slam all the stereotypes and perceptions that people have about romance books and the protagonists etc.

The second one talks about an academic researcher who claims Mills and Boon books are actually the 'literature of protest' and feminist texts.

I don't know about that... I guess that's for people cleverer than me to debate. But I do know that I love to read about strong sassy women who won't settle for second best, who value their self worth and won't take any crap. Overcoming obstacles is something we all have to face in life, believing in love and a HEA keeps me going when things are going wrong.

When I tell people I write romance for a living I generally have to wait out the pause before the other person answers. (I secretly LOVE telling people what I do every day!). I usually get a fabulous response but, a few months ago I was out with a 'literary bunch' and when a man found out I 'made money' from writing he asked what I did. I told him I wrote romance and he literally turned his back to me. Honestly. Turned away from me without saying a word. I was pretty shocked and lost for words. His attitude sums up the ignorant, the snobby and the downright ill-mannered- someone who's never read a romance book in their lives but thinks they know what it's all about because of some 1980s book cover they once saw.

I don't care what other people think, though, I just love to read them and to write them. I love the thrill of making life complicated for my hero and heroine, I love living vicariously through my heroine (because, yes, I do! I'm always smarter, funnier and sexier in my books). I love going to conferences and meeting the strong sassy women who write and read these books and sharing my love for a bloody good plot twist and a gorgeous hero we all fell in love with. Mostly, I love it when a reader tells me a story (and not necessarily one of mine, but one of many) helped them through a difficult personal time.

What do you like best about reading romance? Any new releases you've read recently you can recommend?

Aug 22, 2016

Conference highlights - views, peeps and booze!

So I walked through the door a couple of hours ago having just flown back in from the Romance Writers of Australia conference. I dumped my bags and hung with hubby for a bit then switched on my computer - 600 emails.....

And this blog to do.

It's late, I'm sorry. But I thought you might forgive me if I posted lots of pics :-)

Hotel was in an absolutely stunning location with an awesome view!

I'd hate y'all to get the impression that the only thing I do at these conferences is drink. But there is a lot of time spent in bars....

ARRA book signing. I always sign with a glass of wine :-)

I call this one sunshine, booze and a redhead. The owner of that hair is the gorgeous Joanne Grant from the Harlequin office in London!

Awards nights dinner table!

And there were LoveCats!!! Rachel Bailey and Kandy Shepherd were also in attendance but I somehow appear not to have a photo with either of them.... Bad Amy!

The delightful Annie West!

This was taken verrrrry late at night and Michelle Douglas and I may have overindulged a little. The gorgeous Cathryn Hein kept us company!

Jennifer St George and moi at the Saturday night awards dinner with two spunky chicks - Denise Rossetti and Christina Brooke!

And that's all folks! Hope you enjoyed a little snapshot into my weekend!

Aug 21, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Yvonne Lindsay!

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from YVONNE LINDSAY but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is MALVINA.

Can you please contact STEFANIE LONDON via email at stefanie (at) stefanie-london (dot) com to receive your e-copy of PRETEND IT'S LOVE.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from YVONNE LINDSAY!

HIS LOVER by choice, his bride by decree...and the mother of his heir? Only from USA TODAY bestselling author, Yvonne Lindsay!

For a man used to getting what he wants, King Rocco has met his match. His courtesan, Ottavia Romolo, insists they sign a legal contract. He would have laughed at such demands from any other woman. But Rocco wants Ottavia more than he could have imagined.

Soon Rocco realizes Ottavia is an asset to him beyond the bedroom. And with his legacy in jeopardy, he must marry and produce an heir. Dare he enter into an even more binding union with Ottavia—turning his lover into his queen?

Scene set-up - Professional courtesan, Ottavia Romolo, has been held captive in King Rocco's summer lakeside palace for the past few weeks, so her knowledge of his sister's scandalous behavior cannot be shared with the media. King Rocco is surprised to be invoiced by the courtesan for the time he's held her captive, however he is in for even more surprises when he attempts to negotiate a contract with her.

Smooch  -

It galled her that he had so much power over her. Hadn’t she sworn that no man would ever make her decisions for her or control her life again? And yet, in this, she was effectively helpless. Work to your strengths, she reminded herself, and allowed her stance to soften. She allowed her lips to part, just slightly, and moistened them with the tip of her tongue. He’d noticed, she realized with a flare of satisfaction. His eyes had flickered to her mouth; his nostrils had flared ever so slightly on an indrawn breath.

She’d cast her bait, but had she hooked him?

“You had better be worth it,” he growled.

His voice was deep and slightly rough. As if he was fighting his own internal battle. Ottavia allowed herself a smile, lowering her eyelids slightly.

“So do we enter into a contract, my king?”

She lingered over the last two words, using every skill at her disposal to make them sound like a caress—a promise. She knew she’d failed when he threw his head back on a hearty laugh that transformed the seriousness of his face into something far more appealing. Something that pulled at her with a magnetic strength she’d never experienced before. Eventually he calmed.

“You still think you can control how this turns out, don’t you?” he said, cocking one brow at her. “Are you always this optimistic?”

“I am always in control of myself and my choices,” she replied.

Even as she said the words she knew they hadn’t always been true. Certainly not when she’d been fourteen and her mother’s latest lover had begun to show an unhealthy interest in her burgeoning figure. Even less when her mother had discovered that interest and Ottavia had overheard her mother haggling with her lover over how much he would be prepared to pay to have her. 

She fought back a shudder. Those days were behind her. She’d taken control of her life that day. Made a conscious choice and resolved to never be at anyone’s mercy ever again.

Ottavia forced her thoughts into the present and recalculated her strategy. Perhaps King Rocco needed a little more enticement. She took a step back before turning and slowly walking closer to the windows that overlooked the gardens and the lake. If she hadn’t been so acutely attuned to the man she’d turned her back on she wouldn’t have heard the sharp intake of breath as he noticed the long sweep of her back, laid bare by the open cut of her gown. It was as if she could feel the heat of his gaze follow the line of her spine until it dipped into the deep V of fabric that covered the swell of her buttocks.

She sensed rather than heard him approach behind her. Was it her imagination or did she feel the heat of his breath against her naked skin?

“Then you are indeed fortunate,” he said close to the shell of her ear.

His voice held a whisper of a thousand words left unsaid. Ottavia closed her eyes and concentrated on remaining still. On simply absorbing his nearness without analyzing the individual reactions clamoring throughout her body.

“Fortunate?” she asked, her voice surprisingly husky.

“A king does not have many choices,” he said to her surprise.

“I would have thought that you had it all, Sire.”

The air behind her shifted—the heat that had smoldered against her suddenly gone—and she knew he’d stepped away. Because with those few words he’d said too much, perhaps? Slowly, she turned around. He stood on the other side of the room, his hands loosely clasped behind him as he stared at a portrait of his late father on the wall.

“I have a proposal for you, Ms. Romolo,” he said without looking at her. “It would behoove you to agree.”

“Just like that? Without knowing the terms?” she asked. “Without negotiating? I think not.”

“Do you negotiate everything?”

“I am a businesswoman.”

He spun to face her. “Is that what you call your…trade? A business?”

“What else would you call it?” she challenged.

The corner of his mouth quirked upward. Ottavia fought the urge to bristle. He was testing her. That much was obvious. If she was to get what she believed she was owed by him, she needed to hold on to every last thread of self-control that she possessed.

“Come here, Ms. Romolo.” He crooked a finger at her.

She would do as he’d commanded, but only because she wanted to, she told herself as she glided forward with all the elegance and poise she’d learned in the past fifteen years.

“Sire?” She bowed her head as she drew before him.

A low chuckle escaped him and she felt her own lips twitch in response.

“Subservience does not suit you.” With the point of one finger he tipped her chin up so she looked him in the eye again.

Her lips parted on a gasp as she recognized the sudden flare of hunger in his gaze. A gasp that he captured as he lowered his mouth to hers and took her lips in a kiss that stole every rational thought from her mind. Caught by surprise, she gave herself over to his touch, to his taste. To the plundering of his tongue as it delved into the moist recesses of her mouth. A sound, a growl from deep in his throat as she touched her tongue to his, sent unaccustomed desire unfurling through her body. Her blood heated, her insides clenched on a spear of need that completely took her breath away.

And then, just like that, it was over. She teetered slightly on her heels before gathering sufficient wits to steady herself. A swell of anger bubbled at the back of her mind. Outrage swiftly quelled the yearning that hummed through her veins as she realized he thought he had the right to simply take from her without permission. Disappointment followed hard on the heels of her anger. Here was another man who saw her as something to be used at his whim, and discarded.

She had to regain the upper hand once more so she swallowed her indignation and smiled at the man standing opposite her.

“Sampling the merchandise?” she asked tartly.

I hope you enjoyed the first kiss between King Rocco and his courtesan, Ottavia. It was quite a challenge writing this story as I worked very hard to ensure that Ottavia remained very much her own woman--something she'd worked extremely hard to be--but also to allow her to find the happy ever after she never expected to get. The Courtesan Brides series is my first foray into royal themes and I have to say it was great fun to create my characters own world with its own rules and regulations. Tell me, are you a fan of royal stories? Did you ever want to be a princess or a queen when you were growing up? Leave a comment and go into the draw for a signed copy of CONTRACT WEDDING, EXPECTANT BRIDE.

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Aug 19, 2016

My Favourite things.....

With so many LoveCats away at this years Romance Writers of Australia's annual conference in beautiful Adelaide (And since I'm not there this year) I thought I'd cheer myself up with some of my favourite things.

1/ Flowers! I love flowers. In fact, I was a florist many many many years ago. I still adore getting flowers and my gorgeous hubby often brings them home for me.

2/ My cats! I have two lazy furballs called Oscar and Candy....two ragdolls that were rehomed with us four and three years ago.

3/ Books! I love writing books, and reading books and buying books.
4/ My horses (See a theme's what I collect) This is my beautiful old girl Sharnah....she's thirty one and still going strong.

So, what are your favorite things right now? Books? Movies? Family? Of the furry, four legged kind?


Aug 17, 2016

Unexpected Collections - Annie West and the Frog Prince

I have an assortment of items on my desk - little knick knacks and tokens from family and friends that make me smile when I look up from my writing. One of them is a little frog prince key ring given to me by my daughter. I was looking at it recently and suddenly realised that it was now part of a collection. An unintended collection.
You see, quite a few years ago I was writing a story about a hero who just refused to play nice. He was my heroine's worst nightmare, especially when she fell in love with him. Luckily for all concerned it turned out he had a heart of gold and a loving nature behind all that grumbling and posturing. As I wrote I thought of him as my frog prince - a hero who hid his true nature and would only turn into a real hero when confronted with the right woman.
While writing that book I visited a café and garden shop and look who was sitting, neglected in a corner? He's made out of cast iron and I had to bring him home. I set him in the garden where I could see him as I wrote and he was my talisman, my hope that I could finally, with a lot of work, turn this hero around.
My kids were fascinated and next thing I knew my daughter presented me with a little frog prince key ring. He's the one who sits on my desk. Then, many years later, I was in the most wondrous stationery store I've ever seen, in Berlin, and found a beautiful metal letter opener. I'm afraid the photo doesn't do it justice. You guessed it, though, another frog prince.
Earlier this year I was in Britain and my daughter again surprised me with a frog prince. This one is sleek but very cuddly and definitely has attitude. Other people bring home books and photos and snowglobes. My souvenir was a frog with attitude. Here he is on the way back to Australia.
Somehow I seem to have acquired an unexpected collection of frog princes! I don't think of myself as a collector and I've never been particularly successful at starting and sticking to a collection of anything much. But these guys make me smile and I wouldn't be at all upset if I discovered another amphibian joining the collection one day.
How about you? Are you a collector? If not, what would you love to collect if you had the time and resources?
And if you're a book collector (sorry, but I can't resist), don't forget my latest story THE FLAW IN RAFFAELE'S REVENGE. It could be a contender for your next read.

Aug 15, 2016

How I Relax with Stefanie London

At the moment I'm knee-deep in deadlines (although it feels a little more like neck-deep at times!!) I've had a few of those 'I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew' moments in the last couple of weeks, which tends to happen whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed.

So, in order to unwind and make sure I don't fall in a heap, I have a few go-to things that help me keep a clear head (and hopefully bring the stress-levels down to a more manageable level).

1. make a cup of tea...
I know I've blogged about my love of tea before, but it's part of my daily 'self care' routine. Taking a few quiet moments to brew the tea can make all the difference to how I feel. It forces me to get away from the laptop and I find the scent of tea so relaxing and soothing.

Current favourites: this adorable dinosaur infuser and Harrods Raspberry & Vanilla black tea.

2. have a bath...
There's nothing more soothing than a warm bath, especially if it's scented with something lovely. I often take a book in with my (but not my Kindle, because I'm clumsy as anything and that sounds like a recipe for disaster).

Current favourites: Saje unwind bath salts which have orange, bergamot, lavender, geranium, and cinnamon essential oils.

3. go out for brunch...
Sometimes I need to be physically removed from my laptop in order to chill out. Yeah, I'm one of those people who feels guilty if I'm not working all the time! Weekend brunch is probably my favourite meal to go out for.

Current favourites: in Toronto it's Mildred's Temple Kitchen and back home I was always a fan of Auction Rooms in North Melbourne.

4. read a book...
Reading is definitely an essential activity for me and if I can combine that with a good coffee and a nice setting, even better. Otherwise, if I'm at home, I love to curl up on my bed with a good book.

Current favourites: I'm really loving May The Best Man Win by Mira Lyn Kelly. It's funny, modern and sexy - all the things I look for in a contemporary romance.

How do you like to relax?

Aug 14, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Ruby Finalist Stefanie London!

Today I'm delighted to introduce another wonderful feature of Sunday Smooches showcasing the LoveCat finalists in this year's Romance Writers of Australia RuBY Awards. Today we are celebrating with Stefanie London and her fabulous book, Pretend it's Love!

The Ruby is Australia's premier award for Romance authors. it's open to all Australian and New Zealand authors and the finalists are chosen by reader judges. We are so delighted and excited for Stefanie as this is her first and well deserved nomination for this award. Congratulations Stefanie!

But, before we share the smooch... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Jan VanEngen. Can you please contact Katrina on katrina (at) katrinacudmore (dot) com to receive your copy of  The Best Man's Guarded Heart .........

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from the fabulous Stefanie London ........

Bar manager Paul Chapman is sick of his family’s traditional ideals. Marriage, babies, and a white
picket fence? Not his gig. But now that his ‘golden child’ big brother is tying the knot, Paul’s screwed. His ex will be there...and she’s having his cousin’s baby. Unless he wants to show up to the wedding alone and face his family’s scrutiny, he needs a girl on his arm. Now.

Cocktail specialist Libby Harris has spent her life earning the nickname Little Miss Perfect, all to win the love of her wealthy, controlling father. But she deviated from his plan, and now her business is on shaky ground. If it fails, she might as well kiss his respect—and her dream—good-bye. Her only hope? Convince the hottest bar in town to take on her product.

Luckily for her, the owner’s brother is sexy as sin and in need of a perfect girlfriend...

Scene set-up
Paul and Libby are at his parent’s house for dinner. They’ve agreed to engage in a fake relationship for mutual gain, and now they’re acting the part of his family. They’ve gone into the kitchen to put the dishes away and Paul works out that the family are watching the, very closely. So, being the cheeky guy that he is, he decides to take advantage of the situation.

She looked behind her to make sure they were alone. “This is a business arrangement, nothing more. I don’t want things to get messy.”

Messy was an understatement. She didn’t want to get used and discarded for a newer model the way she had back in university. The way her father had done to her mother years before that.

History would repeat itself if she wasn’t careful, and Paul would only be able to use her if she let him. But she wouldn’t. Their arrangement gave her something precious—an opportunity, a chance—and she would otherwise keep him at a distance.

“But getting messy is so much fun.” He reached out to her and pulled her to him, his hips flat against her belly as he wedged her against the kitchen bench. “Besides, they’re spying on us.”


“My family.” He inclined his head back toward the kitchen door with a movement so subtle she felt as though they were spies communicating undercover. “We should sell it; we don’t want them thinking this is just business.

His hands touched her hips, his fingers tracing the line at the top of her jeans just under her shirt. The throbbing started up again, insistent. Demanding.

“They don’t think that,” she protested, but her hands came up to his chest as if controlled by a puppet master tugging her strings.

His muscles were hard beneath her palms, and she had to stop herself from rubbing against him. Out of the corner of her eyes she saw a flash of red. Gracie.

“Okay, maybe they are watching us.”

“Ready to play the part?” One hand came up to cup the angle of her jaw. “Let’s see what kind of actress you are.”

“This is purely for show,” she said, the breath rushing out of her lungs as his face hovered close to hers.

“Of course.” His lips brushed the space next to the corner of her mouth, so close and yet the distance felt like pure, unadulterated torture. “You won’t enjoy this at all.”

“I won’t.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

He angled her head, coming down over her in a way that was completely possessive and in control. As his lips parted hers, she sighed against him, her body losing the ability to hold itself upright. Every nerve ending in her body sparkled like New Year’s fireworks, and her fists curled into his T-shirt.

The moment his tongue touched hers her mind went blank, the taste of wine on his lips and the scent of his skin driving her to a point of desperation. His fingers thrust into her hair, pulling her head back so he could take more, demand more. Taste more.

Unable to stop herself, Libby pressed her hips against him, gently rubbing up and down until a wonderfully guttural sound came from the back of his throat. He was hard beneath her hands, the muscles in his chest perfectly shaped. The press of his thighs against hers enough to spark wild images in her mind.

“You seem fairly invested,” he murmured against her lips, pulling away from the kiss with a dark fire in his eyes, “for someone who’s not enjoying herself.”

Huge congratulations to the fabulous Stefanie on her Romance Writers of Australia's Ruby nomination!

Please leave a comment to go into the draw to win an eCopy of this wonderful read.

Also, come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and another smooch will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver