Blogging with Romance Writers Australia has been an absolute blast this year!

 

I developed my 'short and sweet' questions as a throwback to my teenage love of Dolly and Girlfriend magazines. Every month I would flick through the magazines, gravitating toward the short, sharp and shiny questions they asked the hottest celebs, gorgeous models, and people that were obviously way more sophisticated than my little country self. Now that I'm writing fiction, I can't get enough details about the authors I admire.

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October 2018 -Ainslie Paton

Fool Me Forever is the newest contemporary romance from enigmatic Australian author, Ainslie Paton. Full of laugh-out loud moments, a hero named Halsey and a heroine called Lenny, the novel takes a fast-paced ride through the world of professional con artists and leaves you wanting more. 

 

Lenny Bradshaw comes from a family of con artists, so when she meets Halsey Sherwood, she thinks she knows exactly what type of man he is. But with her father’s recent jail term ruining her reputation, all but destroying her charity, and loading her up with two unexpected dependants, she has little choice but to team up with the normally desk-bound numbers whiz. Just like Lenny, Halsey feels like a fish out of water. Fieldwork is way outside his comfort zone and trouble brews as soon as his brother flees the country and he is forced to step into the field – and straight into Lenny’s whiskey glass throwing range. Lenny and Halsey are both desperate to bring a foreign fraudster to justice, and despite their differences and the simmering heat between them, they team up to try overthrow a corrupt government. 

 

This was the first of Ainslie’s books I’ve read, and as well as enjoying the expertly-drawn characters and sizzling plot, I was impressed with the way she handled the hot topics of contraception and consent without jolting the reader out of her spicier scenes. When she’s not wrangling fluffy grey and white cats and inverting herself in pilates classes, Ainslie describes herself as a serial not-for-profit board member and occasional funky suit wearing consultant in the marketing, public relations 2018 as book two in The Confidence Game Series. advertising industry. Fool Me Forever was released by Entangled Publishing in andOctober,

 

 

September 2018 -Sasha Cottman

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Eye-catching front covers with handsome Counts, Lords and Dukes, as well as breathtaking heroines wearing regency ballgowns are a feature of Sasha Cottman’s historical romance novels. The Melbourne-based author has published eight books, with An Italian Count For Christmas released this month. A chartered accountant, Sasha works full-time for a national Social Enterprise Organisation and also takes time to volunteer for RWA and moderate two writing-related social media groups. Her love of travel has taken her to over 55 countries and she finds travel guides featuring heavily on her reading list. English-born Sasha weaves the themes of love, honour and family into her novels, and said it was her passion for history that drove her interest in writing. 

 

An Italian Count For Christmas is the first in Sasha’s new London Lords series, and follows on from the award-winning Duke of Strathmore series. Although it’s been two decades since I picked up a regency romance, I was delighted to slip back into a familiar and inviting world of gentry when Sasha’s August release landed in my inbox. The story follows a young widow Isabelle, who has been left destitute by her cad of a husband. Forced to work as a servant in the grand home she once lived in, she is at the beck and call of their new guest – Nico de Luca. The Italian count is dealing with his own trauma, and pours his energy into righting a series of unscrupulous business deals. I enjoyed the beautifully old-fashioned courting and opportunity to immerse myself in yesteryear, with several love scenes that required my iPad to be discreetly angled away from fellow train travellers enroute to Sydney’s RWA conference! This reintroduction to regency romance was long overdue, and I won’t hesitate to add more historical romances to my future TBR pile.

 

 

August 2018 -Annie Seaton

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Scheduling a book launch in the Whitsunday Islands might sound like a sneaky excuse for a vacation, but for this New South Welsh author, whose latest novel is set in her favourite holiday destination, it made perfect sense! The setting is a central character in her novel - Whitsunday Dawn – which recently hit the bookshelves through Harlequin’s Mira imprint. The story follows two timelines, each tale weaving in and around the spectacular Whitsunday Islands.

 

The present-day character, Olivia Sheridan, travels to the islands to complete a business presentation. Her good intentions are shattered when she discovers a conflict of interest that challenges her loyalties and makes her moral compass spin. No matter where she goes on the island, she keeps bumping into passionate local and ecological campaigner Fynn James. As well as the tension between Olivia and Fynn, readers are drawn into an unsolved mystery from the 1940s. I loved Annie’s knack for suspense and storytelling, similar to the style that lured me into her earlier novel Daintree. I devoured the second half of the book in one sitting, flying through the pages as I raced to find out what happened in the alternating plots. 

 

When she’s not writing or reading, Annie is drawn to the beach. This love and desire to preserve the environment shines through in her writing, and in the fundraising she undertakes with each book release. She also loves gardening and travelling, roaming remote locations of Australia each winter in search of story ideas. Prior to becoming an award winning and internationally published author, Annie worked as a research librarian, high school principal and university tutor. 

July 2018 - Barbara Hannay

You know the landscape must be spectacular when a writer has to orientate her office awayfrom the best views to ensure productivity! And fortunately for her devoted readers, this is the sacrifice that Barbara Hannay is willing to make for her craft, situating her office so she can’t be distracted by her sprawling hillside garden in far north Queensland. Barbara’s best-selling, award-winning, internationally published novels span multiple romance genres including rural, category and contemporary. A former high school English teacher, she also enjoys sharing her knowledge and craft by hosting writers workshops and composing regular articles for the Romance Writers Australia ‘Hearts Talk’ magazine. A mother of four and proud grandmother, Barbara sings in a capella choir, trawls salvage yards for the perfect pieces to suit their owner builder projects, loves cooking and helps her husband raise a posse of pigs in their rural backyard.

 

Barbara’s latest novel ‘The Summer of Secrets’ will be released by Penguin Random House on July 30 (e-book available July 26). The story opens with a young journalist, Chloe Brown, leaving her city magazine for a remote newspaper posting. But it’s not quite the sleepy little town she imagined. Her editor and her employer are both cradling their own grievances, the town is mystified by the local baker’s sudden disappearance, and an unexpected night-visitor sets local gossips into a frenzy. With help from the CWA tribe, the gutsy and efficient young journalist settles into the small community and finds romance blossoming. The story took me back to my years as a cadet journalist, so much so I could almost smell the printing ink from my old office and taste the scones – one of the best perks of covering CWA functions! I loved the authentic world Barbara crafted and the way she mixed romance, small town living, tangled family-sub plots, rural newspaper issues and a hint of mystery into such an engaging novel.

June 2018 - Alli Sinclair

Geelong author, Alli Sinclair, lives and breathes words, teaching writing workshops with the Queensland Writers Centre, mentoring and assessing manuscripts for Writers Victoria and collecting books for remote Fijian libraries in her spare time. Alli has woven her love of travel into her novels, picking an international theme for each of her four books, recently travelling through Europe to promote her first-ever German-translated book, and teaming up with a fellow author to initiate a writing retreat onboard a cruise ship. As well as writing and collecting passport stamps from across the globe, Alli has a heart for adventure. She has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, rafted along the Ganges River and ridden a camel in the Sahara. 

 

Her latest novel ‘Burning Fields’ was released by Harlequin Mira earlier this month. The story is set on a Queensland sugar cane farm in 1948, with main character Rosie and her family reeling from the war that claimed her two brothers. A strong and determined farm girl, Rosie has her heart set on running the family business but struggles to convince her traditional father. She befriends their new neighbour, a young Italian migrant called Tomas, and a relationship forms in spite of simmering tensions between the two neighbouring families. The storyline flickers back to Italy in 1943, delving into Tomas’s mysterious past and the ghosts that have followed him to Australia. I loved the dual timelines, the small town, sugar cane farm setting and Rosie’s fight for women’s equality.

May 2018 - Victoria Purman

A lifetime of working with words helped Victoria Purman slide right into fiction writing. From journalist and political advisor to editor and speechwriter, the South Australian author has written fourteen books and also happens to be the vice president of RWA and the deputy chair of Writers SA. Most of her books are set in her favourite holiday destination - South Australia’s south coast - and she happily weaves a spell of enthusiasm and possibility at author talks, book launches and writing festivals. I met Victoria at the Portland launch of The Three Miss Allens, where she impressed the audience with partially collated books in various stages of printing. It was a neat insight for those of us who are used to seeing perfectly bound books on shelves. Her passion for writing also shines through in her volunteer roles, boosting aspiring writers and spreading the word about the strong support network that underpins Romance Writers Australia.

 

Victoria’s latest novel ‘The Last of the Bonegilla Girls’ dips into Australia’s multi-cultural heritage, following a friendship borne in the Bonegilla Migrant Camp in the 1950s. Readers are invited into the lives of four women - three migrants and the daughter of the camp director – as they embark on their journey as new Australians. I particularly enjoyed the way their friendship keeps linking them back together, despite the different paths they take after leaving Bonegilla, and the secret romances bubbling beneath the surface. Tears flowed as the story addressed grief and inherited trauma, and the women battled between family traditions, duty, expectations and love. ‘The Last of the Bonegilla Girls’ is a work of fiction heavily rooted in fact, drawing on the experiences of Victoria’s relatives in the Bonegilla Migrant Camp. It was released by Harlequin HQ on April 23.

April 2018 - Alissa Callen

An office overlooking paddocks provides daily inspiration for rural romance author, Alissa Callen, whose best-selling storylines pivot around secrets, small towns, dusty roads, hope and healing. Living in central New South Wales, her writing is underpinned by a background in teaching and counselling, and a love of country living. She also draws from her time spent overseas and uses memories of the rugged Rocky Mountains to frame her Wildflower Ranch series.

 

When she’s not writing and running about after four teenage children, Alissa champions aspiring authors and gives back to the writing community, including volunteer roles with Romance Writers of Australia, and ‘paying it forward’ with assistance and advice for newcomers to the writing industry.

 

Alissa has published eleven books, and her settings range from the Australian outback to the snow-capped mountains in Montana. Her newest offering ‘The Red Dirt Road’ was released by Harlequin in February and quickly climbed the Australian bestsellers list. Readers are reunited with characters from the ‘Town of Windmills’ series when Dr. Fliss Knight returns to the small town of Woodlea.

 

Reeling from the shock of losing a patient, Fliss buys a rundown farm and tries to insulate herself from the world. But when an injured family friend needs a place to heal, and Hewitt Sinclair enters her solitary life, Fliss is forced out of her comfort zone. The warm setting and mysterious sub-plots grabbed my attention right from the start, and as a Border Collie owner, I adored the surprise canine storyline. I enjoyed Alissa’s relatable characters and authentic rural issues, plus the interesting facts about DNA testing. I’m already looking forward to reading her next novel The Round Yard (out in Feb 2019) after a sneak peek on her Facebook page.

March 2018 - Rachael Johns

West Australian author, Rachael Johns, has carved her mark in the romance writing industry, publishing her first book in 2011, and subsequently writing 22 books in the rural romance, category romance, and women's fiction genres. Before becoming an award-winning author, Rachael studied writing and teaching, worked as a camp counsellor, English teacher, copy-writer and library officer, and ran a rural supermarket with her husband. A wealth of experience and a love of books helps Rachael create rich plots, relatable characters, and page-turning bestsellers. She writes in a pink and white cabin in the backyard of her Perth hills home, devouring copious amounts of Diet Coke as well as wrangling a menagerie of pets and three boisterous sons.

 

Released by Harlequin HQ in November 2017, The Greatest Gift delves into the world of infertility and egg donation, with a fun insight into the hot air balloon industry. The story begins with successful radio presenter, Harper Drummond. A proud career woman, Harper has had enough family dramas to rule-out traditional motherhood but is drawn to the concept of helping a couple in need. Claire and Jasper desperately want to start a family and connect with Harper as a potential egg donor. Their roller-coaster journey will have you laughing, crying and empathisingthroughout. Warning – it will also make you want to book a hot air balloon flight!

 

I’ve been a fan of Rachael’s since stumbling across her books at my local library, and her latest offering did not disappoint. The surprise twist had me sobbing - fishing rod in one hand, novel in the other – during a family fishing weekend, but there were enough heart-warming scenes to balance out the heart-wrenching mid-point.

February 2018 - Clare Connelly

Welcome to the second instalment of ‘Kiss and Tell with Maya Linnell’, where we give you a sneak peek at the people behind the pen, and their lives outside of writing.

 

Adelaide author, Clare Connelly, stepped away from a career in law and recruitment, and a gig working for celebrity chef Maggie Beer, to write category romance. She lives in a tiny seaside cottage with her young family, fighting for bench space amongst an ever-growing population of Shopkin figurines, as she creates ‘happily ever afters’ for one of the world’s biggest romance publishers – Mills and Boon. She also self-publishes, and has more than 50 books under her belt.

 

Clare’s latest book OFF LIMITS is launched in eBook and print this month, featuring playboy tycoon Jack and his ultra-capable legal counsel, Gemma. Late nights at the office become an exercise in self-restraint, with professional boundaries rapidly flying out the window. It’s one of the first in Mills and Boon’s new ‘Dare’ range, which promises readers a sexy read with high heat levels throughout. OFF LIMITS delivers multiple times, with scenes steamy enough to fog up any boardroom window and enough emotional drama to have you championing Jack and Gemma’s relationship.

January 2018 -Tricia Stringer

South Australian author, Tricia Stringer, has taken the rural romance sector by storm, penning six books in the genre over the last seven years, and another three historical sagas set in the Flinders Ranges. Prior to writing full-time, Tricia worked as a teacher, librarian, as well turning her hand to small business, running a post-office and bookshop in the Copper Coast region, the perfect job for a lover of stories. These close-knit country communities have proved fertile ground for her imagination – that and keeping an ear out for turns of speech in conversations all around her - a touch that is reflected in her authentic characters and the resulting success of her bestselling books. I was delighted to meet Tricia at her book launch in Mt Gambier, where she shared insights into her writing routine, and the stories that shaped ‘Come Rain or Shine’, released by Harlequin Mira in November 2017.

 

Her latest book reunites readers with Dan and Paula, the leading characters from ‘A Chance of Stormy Weather’. The road for the newlyweds is already paved with challenges, as Paula -  a pregnant former-Sydneysider - settles into country living, and a series of bad seasons take their toll on the rural district. In a nod to the notoriously hot topic of farm succession planning, the pressure mounts when a distant cousin tries to stake a claim on Dan’s property. Written in Tricia’s engaging yet easy-to-read style, the book had me turning pages well past my bedtime, and reaching for tissues in the final chapters. 

I developed my 'short and sweet' questions as a throwback to my teenage love of Dolly and Girlfriend magazines. Every month I would flick through the magazines, gravitating toward the short, sharp and shiny questions they asked the hottest celebs, gorgeous models, and people that were obviously way more sophisticated than my little country self. Now that I'm writing fiction, I can't get enough details about the authors I admire.

I love finding out what they're reading, where they spend their spare time, and those all-important tips that helped them graduate from an aspiring author to a published author. Plus, what better way to hone my craft (and have another excuse to read more books) than interviewing fabulous Australian authors every month? I hope you enjoy the interviews and stay tuned for future editions of Kiss and Tell with Maya Linnell!

November 2019 - Darry Fraser

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I’m yet to find a Darry Fraser book I haven’t loved, so I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of The Good Woman of Renmark. Just as I’d expected, Darry reeled me in with strong female characters, the rich historical tapestry of 1890s Australia and a charming storyline. Darry has a talent for weaving in characters from previous books, and a great way of blending facts into her fictional plots. Having visited the Murray River on several holidays, I enjoyed the snippets about the Chaffey Brothers who had such grand plans for the region, inclusions on the indigenous people of the area and themes on women’s rights and the suffragettes. The Good Woman of Renmark starts with a bang, as strong-willed Maggie O’Rourke risks her life and reputation to save a friend. Fearing she will hang for killing a man and determined to avoid the shackles of marriage and domesticity, Maggie flees down river on a paddle steamer, only to find her escape route is equally fraught with danger. We also have the dual narrative of Maggie’s lost love, Sam Taylor who is sent by her family to find her and bring her home, and the loveable Bucky, a Murray River Retriever who will undoubtably win readers’ hearts. Discovering the backstory to this canine inclusion (on Darry’s website) made the plotline even more poignant. 

Darry Fraser lives in Kangaroo Island, off the mainland of South Australia and her hobbies and career history are just as unique as each of her books. As well as writing, Darry has operated a bed and breakfast, a four-wheel drive tour company, printing business, administration service and also worked in a boutique gin distillery. She is a justice of the peace and treads the boards in the local theatre group, with a weakness for dark chocolate, fresh licorice and plain potato chips, and a canine writing companion called Hamish the Wonder Dog. The Good Woman of Renmark was released this month by Harlequin, with a three-state book tour planned for coming months.

 

 

***WIN! For your chance to win a copy of The Good Woman of Renmark, simply read the answers below and comment on my Instagram or Facebook page to tell me Darry’s nickname for her writing spot. Contest opens Nov 21 and closes Nov 28. Aussie addresses only please. Thanks to Harper Collins Australia for providing the winning copy.

Short and sweet questions

Current book on your bedside table: The Other Wife – Michael Robotham

Where do you do most of your writing? At my batcave (office) desk

 

Favourite Australian holiday destination: Wherever I’ve decided to go … usually research destinations

What’s your preferred drop? South Aussie reds – big bold berry flavours

Guilty pleasure? Food and wine - I don’t ever feel guilty. Other things? I can’t remember!

Pet peeve: People who are rude to service staff / service staff who chat among themselves while you’re waiting to be served.

Favourite fictional couple and why? Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott from the Robert Galbraith (aka J.K Rowling) crime series – they seem real.

If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be? A wineglass and that South Australian red

 

Established authors who inspire you? Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), Michael Robotham, Lisa Gardner, Tim Slee – so many.

 

Best thing about being a writer? I’m doing what I love; it’s what I’ve always loved doing.

 

Worst thing about being a writer? Tidying the batcave; I can never find anything afterwards. OR – hitting ‘send’. OR Imposter syndrome. OR – it doesn’t matter. I love it all.

Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? Silence. I used to be able to have music, but not any longer. Not really sure why – probably just habit after a while

Favourite perfume: Forever - rain after a dry spell. And the other day it was the scent of sea shells – really strong on our first warm day.

 

TV/film crush: TV – Brit dramas (any of those great actors). Film – Meryl. Branagh. Deb Mailman. Emma Thompson. Cate Blanchett. Hugo Weaving. 

The best non-writing related prize I won was … $22,764 million from a nice Nigerian man.

 

Top three tips for aspiring authors? Write your story. Learn your craft. Take note of constructive criticism; it’s usually gently delivered.

What theme do you hope shines through in your writing? Strength in adversity. Maintaining one’s self. Survival. Honour.

 

Proudest author moment? The Call. I was by myself, locked in my office waiting - but still, it was the proudest moment ever. Then there was the ugly crying. 

Follow Darry online…

Website: https://www.darryfraser.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/darryfraser0210/

Instagram: @darryfraser

October 2019 - Cathryn Hein

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Cathryn Hein has a knack for spinning a yarn, with her latest novel Eddie and The Show Queen a charming rural romance that will make you smile. The tale is set in the fictional town of Levenham and opens with horticulturalist Alice Lindner planning her campaign to win the show queen crown in honour of her late mother. The last person she expects to sign up for the fundraising challenge is Eddie Argyle, a handsome farm boy who broke her heart when she was most vulnerable. The pair go head-to-head for the crown and I had to laugh out loud at the lengths Eddie went to in his plight for success, particularly the unique dares he is roped into in the name of charity. Readers are treated to authentic rural characters, settings and sub-plots. The working dog challenge was so realistic I was immediately reminded of our local Casterton kelpie muster, and I really enjoyed the many funny and touching moments throughout this light-hearted novel.

 

With thirteen rural romances under her belt, it’s no surprise Cathryn was raised in the country and studied agricultural science. After completing a post-grad diploma of business management and working in the pasture and turf seed industry, Cathryn moved to France. It was there she finished her very first novel and started planning a career in writing. The best-selling author has a fondness for hats, loves baking up a storm in her kitchen and plays golf, although her scorecard rarely reflects her on-course enjoyment of the sport. Cathryn lives in New South Wales and is an avid supporter of the Sydney Swans football team.

September 2019 - Emily Madden

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Sydney-sider Emily Madden’s newest release, Heart of the Cross, is stealing hearts across Australia, with rich, relatable characters and well-woven plots. The dual timeline tale opens in Ireland before moving to the bustling Kings Cross district in Sydney, where lead character Rosie Hart finds herself in strife. Neither her husband or her new life in Australia match her expectations, and she soon discovers her flamboyant neighbours care for her more than the man she married. 

The novel skips between Rosie’s point of view and the present-day predicaments of her granddaughter, Brianna Hart. I loved how Emily folded in pieces of Maggie’s story (Rosie’s daughter) in the final third of the book. Heart of the Cross was released by Harlequin Mira in late August and is an engaging read filled with heart-felt characters, mystery, romance and triumph.

 

As well as juggling motherhood and writing, Emily has a day job for a major Australian retailer and serves on the committee of her eldest daughter’s school, Giant Steps, for students on the autism spectrum. She happily refers to herself as a book nerd, and collects novels like some women collect shoes and handbags. Heart of the Cross is Emily’s third published novel and she is currently working on her 2020 story about the Australian Women’s Army Service.

August 2019 - Karly Lane

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Bestselling author, Karly Lane is a front runner in the rural romance genre, with her latest novel Mr Right Now bringing readers another much-anticipated serve of country living. Picking up where the first book left off, Mr Right Now focusses on Griff Callahan and Olivia Dawson as they navigate the city/country divide and deal with the romantic flame that keeps flickering to life when they least expect it. 

Olivia is unhappy in her job and her city world isn’t bringing her the joy it once did, while Griff feels like he’ll never be good enough to meet his father’s farming expectations. Add in a pair of matchmaking siblings, awkward family dynamics plus a farming accident, and it’s a recipe for a great read.

 

Karly’s settings and scenes are always authentic – I felt like I was wrapped up in the pressure of harvest from the comfort of my couch – and you can’t help but empathise with her characters after she lands them in one dilemma after another. I’m already looking forward to the third book in the Callahan’s of Stringybark Creek series this December.

July 2019 - Alison Stuart 

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Set in Victoria in the 1870s, The Postmistress tells the tale of Adelaide Greaves and the life she forges in the gold-mining town of Maiden’s Creek. Having worked hard to create a new identity and future for herself, her son Danny and her maid Netty, Adelaide has little time for friendships, let alone relationships. Her quiet existence is sent into a spin with the arrival of Caleb Hunt, a handsome but battle-weary American still reeling from the civil war. Both have their secrets and independent streaks wider than the Shenandoah River, but before long, romance blossoms in the tinder-dry bush setting. Alison has a knack for painting a vivid and authentic image of early Australia and the beautiful but deadly countryside, and I loved discovering Alison had based the location and several of the incidents and characters on real places and actual events. She weaves her research through the story with a hint of mystery and enough drama to keep me turning the pages throughout a wet, wintery weekend. Released in July by Harlequin Mira, The Postmistress is Alison’s ninth book, but her first set in Australia.

 

Alison’s pre-writing career spans several specialities and continents, with the Victorian-based writer having worked as a lawyer, and then in corporate governance. She qualified for Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve (Legal Corps) before moving to Singapore with her family and helped establish the Fire Fighters Charity Fund. As well as teaching OWL courses and volunteering in many capacities for the Romance Writers Australia, Alison was proud to help create a committee and structure that saved RWA from folding in 2003. Despite having her own office, Alison does most of her writing on the dining room table under the careful eye of her feline writing companion TobyKat.

June 2019 - Sandra Antonelli 

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As well as writing romance, Dr Sandra Antonelli has taken her passion for creative writing to the next level and made it her mission to study the romance genre. Her masters and doctorate both explored older heroines in romance fiction, and as well as writing mature characters into her novels, Sandra continues to research sexism, ageism, and the portrayal of women over the age of 40 as protagonists in romance fiction, genre fiction, in film, and TV. Sandra loves going to the movies by herself and is determined to prove that foxy doesn’t end at forty, and grey hair shouldn’t be seen as a turn-off.

 

Sandra’s novel – At Your Service – centres around a female butler called Mae Valentine, who is unwittingly tangled up in a curious mystery with her enigmatic client, the James Bond-esque Major Kitt. The story is set mostly in current-day England, with witty banter and simmering tension between the two lead characters as they chase criminals and a missing trust fund. At Your Service is the first book in the ‘In Service’ series. I enjoyed the bursts of dry, tongue-in-cheek humour, the quirky twists, and had to laugh out loud when a bad guy was impaled on a toilet brush. It’s fun, sexy and adventurous reading and will hit the mark for anyone who likes their protagonists smart, experienced and emotionally intelligent.

May 2019 - Jock Serong

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Award-winning Port Fairy author, Jock Serong writes with a gripping narrative and a pace that urges you to read quicker. Reviewers describe his novels as adventure fiction, crime novels, murder mysteries and political thrillers, and although each release covers a vastly different theme, all four are linked by unexpected plot twists, strong characters and sharp writing. A keen surfer with a background in criminal law, Jock is currently studying his PhD in creative writing, evaluates funding applications from other writers works as a peer assessor for Vic Arts and The Australia Council, and supports local authors through writing workshops and hosting book launches.

 

His latest novel, Preservation was released by Text publishing in 2018. Set in 1797 and based on the true story of the wreck of Sydney Cove, Preservation is tale of terror and treachery, shipwreck and survival as a contingent of sailors make their way to Australia. The plot dips in and out of present and past tense as it tells of a journey from India with a fortune of rum on board, the survivors’ trek across unmapped Australian coastline, their slow adaptation to the brutal environment and encounters with the indigenous Australians, and the disparity of their stories when they finally arrive in Sydney. 

 

The perspectives shift from a young and ambitious lieutenant and his British wife as he tries to assert law and order in the infant colony, back to the three shipwrecked survivors, who are hiding more secrets than they reveal. The cross-country expedition scenes had a hint of the 1954 William Golding novel ‘Lord of the Flies’, showcasing the lengths people will stretch to ensure their survival. An intensely themed book with harsh but beautifully-drawn landscapes, Preservation is a thrilling page-turner.

April 2019 - Natasha Lester

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Natasha Lester’s historical fiction novels are a juxtaposition of glamour and grit, with her April release – the French Photographer – jumping from the Manhattan modelling scene to the trenches of France. 

When the career of the lead character, Jessica May, is sabotaged by an old flame, she deftly jumps from one side of the camera to the other. The gutsy Jessica campaigns to become a war correspondent for Vogue Magazine, fighting for equality and risking her life to report from the frontline. A present-day storyline runs parallel to the historical plot, with Australian art handler, D’Arcy Hallworth travelling to a beautiful chateau in France to manage a famous photography collection. The identity of the enigmatic photographer is just one of the mysteries D’Arcy must unravel, with two love stories from past and present intertwining in a well-paced, passionate and heart-wrenching tale. I was quickly immersed in the French Photographer, relishing the depictions of the brave women often underrecognized in the war effort. Published by Hachette, the French Photographer is Natasha’s sixth book.

The Perth-based author exudes the same type of glamour as her novels, with a wardrobe full of vintage fashion, a love of travel and a background in marketing for Maybelline cosmetics. Now a full-time writer, Natasha also teaches writing workshops across the country and is taking French lessons to regain fluency in her second language. An avid runner and enthusiastic traveller, Natasha writes many scenes in her head while she’s pounding the pavement, and the extent of her research and international travel is reflected in rich and well-crafted settings.

March 2019 - Fiona Lowe

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Victorian writer, Fiona Lowe, has always told stories in her head, but it wasn’t until she was given a Mills and Boon medical romance for her thirtieth birthday that she decided to write a book of her own. Her experience as a midwife, community health nurse and sexual health counsellor provide ongoing inspiration, with Fiona doing most of her writing under the watchful gaze of her ginger feline friend, Pekoe. Her hobbies include tennis, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, coordinating a book group and enjoying live theatre in all its glory – from amateur to fringe through to professional. 

Home Fires is Fiona’s thirty-first novel and follows the story of several families in the aftermath of a deadly bushfire. Although many of the facilities in the fictional town of Myrtle have been rebuilt, the fires still have a stronghold on the residents. The four main characters – Julie, Claire, Bec and Sophie- have all lost something or someone dear to them. The storyline flashes between BF and AF (before the fire and after the fire) revealing the secrets, tensions and impacts of unresolved grief that lurk just beneath the surface of their carefully maintained facades. Fiona has a knack for weaving beautiful backstories into her writing to create realistic settings, relatable characters and strong sub-plots. Having previously coordinated a fun run, I particularly enjoyed the little side story where the ‘Stitch Bitches’ band together and create their own grassroots running event. I love how Fiona holds up a mirror to the way women instinctively shelve their own worries and fears to protect their families and maintain appearances, even when their worlds are crumbling. I also liked the social issues she raised, like mental health, domestic violence, manipulation and the importance of strong networks and friends in overcoming hard times. Released by Harlequin on February 28, Home Fires is set in Victoria’s Otway Ranges.

February 2019 -Nicole Flockton

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Texas-based romance writer, Nicole Flockton, writes contemporary novels in the living room of her Houston home. A former Perth resident, Nicole is a USA Today Bestselling author with 32 books to her name and a proud member of both the American and Australian romance writers’ associations. Before becoming a full-time author, Nicole worked as an executive assistant and now devotes her time to writing, raising a family, volunteering at her children’s school, reading and watching sports.

 

Nicole’s latest book Blind Date Bet was released by Tule Publishing on January 22 and is the first in her new ‘Man’s Best Friend’ series. Blind Date Bet features primary school teacher Isabella Knowles and military K-9 handler, Ethan Masters. After growing up in a military family and losing her husband in a training accident, Isabella is wary of trusting her heart to a soldier. Ethan’s looking for love and a family but with a promotion on offer and a career he loves, he knows sacrifice is needed to win Isabella over. This was my first time reading a military-themed romance and I liked the way Nicole used a German Shepherd to bring the main characters together. I also enjoyed the scenes from Isabella and Ethan’s date on a river cruise through the Texan city of San Antonio, which took me right back to my own travelling days.

January 2019 -John Purcell

Kiss and Tell with Maya Linnell intervie

Welcome to 2019, and the first Kiss and Tell in our genre diversification series. I’ve loved bringing you interviews with our fabulous romance authors over the last twelve months. Like many of my fellow RWA members, I delight in reading both inside and outside of the romance genre, so I’m excited to shake things up in 2019 and speak with a wide variety of Australian writers.

                                                                                                                          

First cab off the rank is John Purcell, author of the witty and fast-paced novel The Girl on the Page. Published by HarperCollins, The Girl on the Page is John’s fourth release, but the first under his own name. His erotic fiction trilogy – The Secret Lives of Emma – reached bestseller status under the pseudonym Natasha Walker in 2012. John’s passion for literature evolved during a decade selling second-hand books and continues as the book guru at Australia’s fastest growing online bookstore Booktopia.com.au. As their official head of books, John spends his days immersed in the written word, including reviewing books and interviewing hundreds of authors.

 

I was immediately roped into The Girl on the Page by the central character Amy, with her wealth, beauty, self-destructive streak and high sex-drive. A talented editor and ghost writer, Amy is on a downward spiral when she is tasked to work with a revered literary author. The unusual pairing forces Amy to reconsider her beliefs and direction, and also sparks a major shift for the older author Helen and her husband Malcolm. I loved the changing point of view between the very distinct protagonists, and the way the novel forced me to consider my own beliefs about fiction genres, how popular opinion and personal ambition colour our views, and the many manifestations of loneliness. The inside insights into the publishing world kept me entertained throughout, as did the mix of novel and author references, and the recommended reading list in the final pages, where each main character outlines their favourite books. 

December 2018 -Daniel de Lorne

Kiss and Tell with Maya Linnell intervie

Globe-trotting author, Daniel de Lorne, takes languages and writing to the next level. Not only is he an author of six romance novels, he also knows Australian sign language, Italian, French and Spanish. A keen traveller, Daniel uses a laptop for most of his writing. He crafts his tales of ruin, romance and redemption inhis favourite armchair in the living room of his Perth home, and writes outside under the verandah when the weather is nice. As well as writing gay romance, Daniel’s day job entails many hours at the computer, crafting yet more words on an entirely different subject. He spent more than a decade in communications at a zoo, and is now a researcher and writer for museums and heritage exhibitions. In his spare time, Daniel volunteers for a range of roles at Romance Writers Australia and is excited to be on the organising committee for the 2020 RWA conference in Fremantle.

 

Daniel has two new publications out this month. Binding Blood - released December 20 - is a gay romantic horror eBook with Escape Publishing, the third in his ‘Bonds of Blood’ series. The Faller – released December 1 as part of the Warmest Wishes Advent Calendar Anthology – is a Christmas novella with Dreamspinner Press. This charming historical novella follows the inept but determined Charlie Young as he tries to carve a living from felling trees. Fresh on the heels of a scandal and his family disowning him, Charlie aims to raise enough money to buy a passage to London. The campfire company of his fellow ‘fallers’ is a mix of brash and bigoted brutes, all except for reserved gentle giant, Jack Tapper, whose size and skills with an axe garner him immediate respect. Romance blossoms in the West Australian jarrah forest, but Charlie and Jack’s fledgling relationship is plunged into danger when the others return from their Christmas break. This was my first insight into male/male romance and the 1912 setting immediately drew me in. I really enjoyed Daniel’s descriptive writing, his ability to paint a beautiful landscape, and the way he wove compassion, love and humour into what would have been gruelling and dangerous conditions.

 

November 2018 -Fleur McDonald

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October 2018 -Ainslie Paton

West Australian author Fleur McDonald has a head full of stories and a heart that gravitates toward social issues. Fleur’s rural romance and women’s fiction novels have sold over 500,000 copies, and she takes her role as an advocate for women just as seriously as her writing. A Western Australian representative for Australian Women in Agriculture, a working member behind the scenes on the National Rural Women’s Coalition and a Rotarian, Fleur is also the founder and chair of a not-for-profit organisation called Breaking the Silence which helps families affected by domestic violence. 

 

Where The River Runs is Fleur’s twelfth book. Her latest offering brings the magic, but also the stark realities, of rural life into focus. Both of my recent ‘Fleur’ reads have featured subplots based on small country towns I know well, and this is one of the endearing factors that keeps her loyal readers happy! 

 

The story centers around concert pianist, Chelsea Taylor, as she returns home to rural South Australia with her young daughter. Haunted by the ghosts of lost loved ones, a tight-lipped father, and townsfolk who hold her absence against her, Chelsea needs to make peace with her past before she can plan any sort of future. 

 

A romance and several little mysteries run through the storyline, bringing the ever-popular Detective Dave Burrows into play. Like many ‘Detective Dave’ fans, I enjoyed learning more about his character and the intricacies of his life outside of the police force. Where the River Runs was released by Allen and Unwin in early November.

 

 

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Fool Me Forever is the newest contemporary romance from enigmatic Australian author, Ainslie Paton. Full of laugh out loud moments, a hero named Halsey and a heroine called Lenny, the novel takes a fast-paced ride through the world of professional con artists and leaves you wanting more. 

 

Lenny Bradshaw comes from a family of con artists, so when she meets Halsey Sherwood, she thinks she knows exactly what type of man he is. But with her father’s recent jail term ruining her reputation, all but destroying her charity, and loading her up with two unexpected dependants, she has little choice but to team up with the normally desk-bound numbers whiz. Just like Lenny, Halsey feels like a fish out of water. Fieldwork is way outside his comfort zone and trouble brews as soon as his brother flees the country and he is forced to step into the field – and straight into Lenny’s whiskey glass throwing range. Lenny and Halsey are both desperate to bring a foreign fraudster to justice, and despite their differences and the simmering heat between them, they team up to overthrow a corrupt government. 

 

This was the first of Ainslie’s books I’ve read, and as well as enjoying the expertly-drawn characters and sizzling plot, I was impressed with the way she handled the hot topics of contraception and consent without jolting the reader out of her spicier scenes. When she’s not wrangling fluffy grey and white cats and inverting herself in pilates classes, Ainslie describes herself as a serial not-for-profit board member and occasional funky suit wearing consultant in the marketing, public relations 2018 as book two in The Confidence Game Series. advertising industry. Fool Me Forever was released by Entangled Publishing in October.

 

 

September 2018 -Sasha Cottman

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Eye-catching front covers with handsome Counts, Lords and Dukes, as well as breathtaking heroines wearing regency ballgowns are a feature of Sasha Cottman’s historical romance novels. The Melbourne-based author has published eight books, with An Italian Count For Christmas released this month. A chartered accountant, Sasha works full-time for a national Social Enterprise Organisation and also takes time to volunteer for RWA and moderate two writing-related social media groups. Her love of travel has taken her to over 55 countries and she finds travel guides featuring heavily on her reading list. English-born Sasha weaves the themes of love, honour and family into her novels, and said it was her passion for history that drove her interest in writing. 

 

An Italian Count For Christmas is the first in Sasha’s new London Lords series, and follows on from the award-winning Duke of Strathmore series. Although it’s been two decades since I picked up a regency romance, I was delighted to slip back into a familiar and inviting world of gentry when Sasha’s August release landed in my inbox. The story follows a young widow Isabelle, who has been left destitute by her cad of a husband. Forced to work as a servant in the grand home she once lived in, she is at the beck and call of their new guest – Nico de Luca. The Italian count is dealing with his own trauma, and pours his energy into righting a series of unscrupulous business deals. I enjoyed the beautifully old-fashioned courting and opportunity to immerse myself in yesteryear, with several love scenes that required my iPad to be discreetly angled away from fellow train travellers enroute to Sydney’s RWA conference! This reintroduction to regency romance was long overdue, and I won’t hesitate to add more historical romances to my future TBR pile.

 

 

August 2018 -Annie Seaton

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Scheduling a book launch in the Whitsunday Islands might sound like a sneaky excuse for a vacation, but for this New South Welsh author, whose latest novel is set in her favourite holiday destination, it made perfect sense! The setting is a central character in her novel - Whitsunday Dawn – which recently hit the bookshelves through Harlequin’s Mira imprint. The story follows two timelines, each tale weaving in and around the spectacular Whitsunday Islands.

 

The present-day character, Olivia Sheridan, travels to the islands to complete a business presentation. Her good intentions are shattered when she discovers a conflict of interest that challenges her loyalties and makes her moral compass spin. No matter where she goes on the island, she keeps bumping into passionate local and ecological campaigner Fynn James. As well as the tension between Olivia and Fynn, readers are drawn into an unsolved mystery from the 1940s. I loved Annie’s knack for suspense and storytelling, similar to the style that lured me into her earlier novel Daintree. I devoured the second half of the book in one sitting, flying through the pages as I raced to find out what happened in the alternating plots. 

 

When she’s not writing or reading, Annie is drawn to the beach. This love and desire to preserve the environment shines through in her writing, and in the fundraising she undertakes with each book release. She also loves gardening and travelling, roaming remote locations of Australia each winter in search of story ideas. Prior to becoming an award winning and internationally published author, Annie worked as a research librarian, high school principal and university tutor. 

July 2018 - Barbara Hannay

You know the landscape must be spectacular when a writer has to orientate her office awayfrom the best views to ensure productivity! And fortunately for her devoted readers, this is the sacrifice that Barbara Hannay is willing to make for her craft, situating her office so she can’t be distracted by her sprawling hillside garden in far north Queensland. Barbara’s best-selling, award-winning, internationally published novels span multiple romance genres including rural, category and contemporary. A former high school English teacher, she also enjoys sharing her knowledge and craft by hosting writers workshops and composing regular articles for the Romance Writers Australia ‘Hearts Talk’ magazine. A mother of four and proud grandmother, Barbara sings in a capella choir, trawls salvage yards for the perfect pieces to suit their owner builder projects, loves cooking and helps her husband raise a posse of pigs in their rural backyard.

 

Barbara’s latest novel ‘The Summer of Secrets’ will be released by Penguin Random House on July 30 (e-book available July 26). The story opens with a young journalist, Chloe Brown, leaving her city magazine for a remote newspaper posting. But it’s not quite the sleepy little town she imagined. Her editor and her employer are both cradling their own grievances, the town is mystified by the local baker’s sudden disappearance, and an unexpected night-visitor sets local gossips into a frenzy. With help from the CWA tribe, the gutsy and efficient young journalist settles into the small community and finds romance blossoming. The story took me back to my years as a cadet journalist, so much so I could almost smell the printing ink from my old office and taste the scones – one of the best perks of covering CWA functions! I loved the authentic world Barbara crafted and the way she mixed romance, small town living, tangled family-sub plots, rural newspaper issues and a hint of mystery into such an engaging novel.

June 2018 - Alli Sinclair

Geelong author, Alli Sinclair, lives and breathes words, teaching writing workshops with the Queensland Writers Centre, mentoring and assessing manuscripts for Writers Victoria and collecting books for remote Fijian libraries in her spare time. Alli has woven her love of travel into her novels, picking an international theme for each of her four books, recently travelling through Europe to promote her first-ever German-translated book, and teaming up with a fellow author to initiate a writing retreat onboard a cruise ship. As well as writing and collecting passport stamps from across the globe, Alli has a heart for adventure. She has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, rafted along the Ganges River and ridden a camel in the Sahara. 

 

Her latest novel ‘Burning Fields’ was released by Harlequin Mira earlier this month. The story is set on a Queensland sugar cane farm in 1948, with main character Rosie and her family reeling from the war that claimed her two brothers. A strong and determined farm girl, Rosie has her heart set on running the family business but struggles to convince her traditional father. She befriends their new neighbour, a young Italian migrant called Tomas, and a relationship forms in spite of simmering tensions between the two neighbouring families. The storyline flickers back to Italy in 1943, delving into Tomas’s mysterious past and the ghosts that have followed him to Australia. I loved the dual timelines, the small town, sugar cane farm setting and Rosie’s fight for women’s equality.

May 2018 - Victoria Purman

A lifetime of working with words helped Victoria Purman slide right into fiction writing. From journalist and political advisor to editor and speechwriter, the South Australian author has written fourteen books and also happens to be the vice president of RWA and the deputy chair of Writers SA. Most of her books are set in her favourite holiday destination - South Australia’s south coast - and she happily weaves a spell of enthusiasm and possibility at author talks, book launches and writing festivals. I met Victoria at the Portland launch of The Three Miss Allens, where she impressed the audience with partially collated books in various stages of printing. It was a neat insight for those of us who are used to seeing perfectly bound books on shelves. Her passion for writing also shines through in her volunteer roles, boosting aspiring writers and spreading the word about the strong support network that underpins Romance Writers Australia.

 

Victoria’s latest novel ‘The Last of the Bonegilla Girls’ dips into Australia’s multi-cultural heritage, following a friendship borne in the Bonegilla Migrant Camp in the 1950s. Readers are invited into the lives of four women - three migrants and the daughter of the camp director – as they embark on their journey as new Australians. I particularly enjoyed the way their friendship keeps linking them back together, despite the different paths they take after leaving Bonegilla, and the secret romances bubbling beneath the surface. Tears flowed as the story addressed grief and inherited trauma, and the women battled between family traditions, duty, expectations and love. ‘The Last of the Bonegilla Girls’ is a work of fiction heavily rooted in fact, drawing on the experiences of Victoria’s relatives in the Bonegilla Migrant Camp. It was released by Harlequin HQ on April 23.

April 2018 - Alissa Callen

An office overlooking paddocks provides daily inspiration for rural romance author, Alissa Callen, whose best-selling storylines pivot around secrets, small towns, dusty roads, hope and healing. Living in central New South Wales, her writing is underpinned by a background in teaching and counselling, and a love of country living. She also draws from her time spent overseas and uses memories of the rugged Rocky Mountains to frame her Wildflower Ranch series.

 

When she’s not writing and running about after four teenage children, Alissa champions aspiring authors and gives back to the writing community, including volunteer roles with Romance Writers of Australia, and ‘paying it forward’ with assistance and advice for newcomers to the writing industry.

 

Alissa has published eleven books, and her settings range from the Australian outback to the snow-capped mountains in Montana. Her newest offering ‘The Red Dirt Road’ was released by Harlequin in February and quickly climbed the Australian bestsellers list. Readers are reunited with characters from the ‘Town of Windmills’ series when Dr. Fliss Knight returns to the small town of Woodlea.

 

Reeling from the shock of losing a patient, Fliss buys a rundown farm and tries to insulate herself from the world. But when an injured family friend needs a place to heal, and Hewitt Sinclair enters her solitary life, Fliss is forced out of her comfort zone. The warm setting and mysterious sub-plots grabbed my attention right from the start, and as a Border Collie owner, I adored the surprise canine storyline. I enjoyed Alissa’s relatable characters and authentic rural issues, plus the interesting facts about DNA testing. I’m already looking forward to reading her next novel The Round Yard (out in Feb 2019) after a sneak peek on her Facebook page.

March 2018 - Rachael Johns

West Australian author, Rachael Johns, has carved her mark in the romance writing industry, publishing her first book in 2011, and subsequently writing 22 books in the rural romance, category romance, and women's fiction genres. Before becoming an award-winning author, Rachael studied writing and teaching, worked as a camp counsellor, English teacher, copy-writer and library officer, and ran a rural supermarket with her husband. A wealth of experience and a love of books helps Rachael create rich plots, relatable characters, and page-turning bestsellers. She writes in a pink and white cabin in the backyard of her Perth hills home, devouring copious amounts of Diet Coke as well as wrangling a menagerie of pets and three boisterous sons.

 

Released by Harlequin HQ in November 2017, The Greatest Gift delves into the world of infertility and egg donation, with a fun insight into the hot air balloon industry. The story begins with successful radio presenter, Harper Drummond. A proud career woman, Harper has had enough family dramas to rule-out traditional motherhood but is drawn to the concept of helping a couple in need. Claire and Jasper desperately want to start a family and connect with Harper as a potential egg donor. Their roller-coaster journey will have you laughing, crying and empathisingthroughout. Warning – it will also make you want to book a hot air balloon flight!

 

I’ve been a fan of Rachael’s since stumbling across her books at my local library, and her latest offering did not disappoint. The surprise twist had me sobbing - fishing rod in one hand, novel in the other – during a family fishing weekend, but there were enough heart-warming scenes to balance out the heart-wrenching mid-point.

February 2018 - Clare Connelly

Welcome to the second instalment of ‘Kiss and Tell with Maya Linnell’, where we give you a sneak peek at the people behind the pen, and their lives outside of writing.

 

Adelaide author, Clare Connelly, stepped away from a career in law and recruitment, and a gig working for celebrity chef Maggie Beer, to write category romance. She lives in a tiny seaside cottage with her young family, fighting for bench space amongst an ever-growing population of Shopkin figurines, as she creates ‘happily ever afters’ for one of the world’s biggest romance publishers – Mills and Boon. She also self-publishes, and has more than 50 books under her belt.

 

Clare’s latest book OFF LIMITS is launched in eBook and print this month, featuring playboy tycoon Jack and his ultra-capable legal counsel, Gemma. Late nights at the office become an exercise in self-restraint, with professional boundaries rapidly flying out the window. It’s one of the first in Mills and Boon’s new ‘Dare’ range, which promises readers a sexy read with high heat levels throughout. OFF LIMITS delivers multiple times, with scenes steamy enough to fog up any boardroom window and enough emotional drama to have you championing Jack and Gemma’s relationship.

January 2018 -Tricia Stringer

South Australian author, Tricia Stringer, has taken the rural romance sector by storm, penning six books in the genre over the last seven years, and another three historical sagas set in the Flinders Ranges. Prior to writing full-time, Tricia worked as a teacher, librarian, as well turning her hand to small business, running a post-office and bookshop in the Copper Coast region, the perfect job for a lover of stories. These close-knit country communities have proved fertile ground for her imagination – that and keeping an ear out for turns of speech in conversations all around her - a touch that is reflected in her authentic characters and the resulting success of her bestselling books. I was delighted to meet Tricia at her book launch in Mt Gambier, where she shared insights into her writing routine, and the stories that shaped ‘Come Rain or Shine’, released by Harlequin Mira in November 2017.

 

Her latest book reunites readers with Dan and Paula, the leading characters from ‘A Chance of Stormy Weather’. The road for the newlyweds is already paved with challenges, as Paula -  a pregnant former-Sydneysider - settles into country living, and a series of bad seasons take their toll on the rural district. In a nod to the notoriously hot topic of farm succession planning, the pressure mounts when a distant cousin tries to stake a claim on Dan’s property. Written in Tricia’s engaging yet easy-to-read style, the book had me turning pages well past my bedtime, and reaching for tissues in the final chapters. 

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