On Saturday night we all got blinged up to the max for the Australian Romance Readers Awards dinner. Our wonderful author, Anna Campbell – who has won Favourite Romance Author for the past five years in a row – passed on the sparkly tiara this year to a worthy successor. But she did win Favourite Series for her Sons of Sin trilogy. The first two, Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed and A Rake’s Midnight Kiss, are out now, with the third, What a Duke Dares, coming in August. Catch up with this fabulous Regency noir series now, in time for the release of What a Duke Dares.
The darling Molly McAdams spoke to us about Chris Hemsworth, the perfect date and creepy noises in the night. Her latest book Deceiving Lies is available in paperback and as an eBook from March 4.
1. Describe the perfect date. I really want to bust out in a Miss Congeniality quote right now! Ha! But, honestly, I’m one of those people who loves spontaneous/random dates. Like. “Hey! Let’s go for a drive, see where we end up.” And since you’re stuck in a car with them for however long, you can talk a lot and just be ridiculous if you have the music blasting. Then you pick a place to pull off the freeway, and find somewhere to eat. Look around at the town’s shops. If you’re near the beach, go sit on it and talk for a while. Then make the drive back home. Pretty much every date my husband and I went on for the first year of our relationship.
2. Which of your books are you most proud of? Oh, that’s a really difficult question! Three are standing out in my mind for completely different reasons. Uhhhh … but … I think I have to go with FORGIVING LIES. It was technically the first book I ever wrote. And I completely re-wrote the book three times before getting what you see now.
3. What is the hardest thing about being a romance author? Having to write my characters’ love stories. Sometimes relationships suck, and having to go through that for a bunch of other people—not just myself—is really hard!
4. What is the best thing about being a romance author? Getting to write my characters’ love stories. Sometimes they’re full of swoon-worthy-ness, and moments that make my heart happy.
5. Who (aside from a significant other) do you swoon over? Uh. Chris Hemsworth. PLEASE. Legit, named my red SUV: Thor.
6. Tell us something very few people know about you. Well, I would normally say something about how awkward I am. But I’m pretty sure everyone now knows how awkward I am. Um … I once drank a bottle of nail polish remover when I was a toddler. My poor parents. I’m pretty sure I gave them a dozen heart attacks by the time I was five.
7. Describe your writing style in three words. Angst. Drama. Real.
8. What is your definition of a good book? A story that makes me forget it isn’t reality.
9. Which author would you invite to a dinner party and why? Nicholas Sparks … he’s my favorite. He really needs no explanation. Haha!
10. Finish this sentence: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do THAT! Oh, wait, you really wanted me to answer? I started singing and everything just now. I really can’t think of anything! Haha other than serious stuff like: I won’t change myself. My husband and I are best friends so we’re never doing anything where the other is like, “No! No way!” But, you know what? I refuse to go check the house when there’s a creepy noise in the middle of the night. He can do that, I don’t care how tired he is. He’s the cop!
Welcome back to the Avon Romance blog for 2014. We hope you had a wonderful holiday period. To get you in the mood we thought we would start the year off with an excerpt from Sophie Jordan’s book Foreplay: The Ivy Chronicles. For more excerpts from the book check out Sophie’s blog here.
Smoke billowed up from beneath the hood of my car in great plumes, a gray fog on the dark night. Slapping the steering wheel, I muttered a profanity and pulled to the side of the road. A quick glance confirmed that the temperature gauge was well into the red.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I killed the engine with quick, angry movements, hoping that might miraculously stop the vehicle from overheating further.
Grabbing my phone from the cup holder, I hopped out of the car into the crisp autumn night and stood well away from the vehicle. I knew nothing of engines, but I’d seen plenty of movies where the car blew up right after it started smoking. I wasn’t taking any chances.
I checked the time on my phone. Eleven thirty-five. Not too late. I could call the Campbells. They would come and get me and give me a ride back to the dorm. But that still left my car alone out here on this road. I’d only have to deal with that later, and I already had a ton to do tomorrow. I might as well handle it now.
I glanced at the quiet night around me. Crickets sang softly and wind rustled through the branches. It wasn’t exactly hopping with traffic. The Campbells lived on a few acres outside of town. I liked babysitting for them. It was a nice break from the bustle of the city. The old farmhouse felt like a real home, lived-in and cozy, very traditional with its old wood floors and stone fireplace that was always crackling at this time of year. It was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The kind of life I craved someday.
Only now I didn’t quite appreciate how isolated I felt on this country road. I rubbed my arms through my long thin sleeves, wishing I had grabbed my sweatshirt before I left tonight. Barely October and it was already getting cold.
I stared grimly at my smoking car. I was going to need a tow truck. Sighing, I started scrolling through my phone, searching for tow trucks in the area. The lights of an oncoming car flashed in the distance and I froze, debating what to do. The sudden insane idea to hide seized me. An old instinct, but familiar.
This had horror movie written all over it. A girl all by herself. A lonely country road. I’d been the star of my own horror movie once upon a time. I wasn’t up for a repeat.
I moved off the road, situating myself behind my car. Not hiding exactly, but at least I wasn’t standing out in the open, an obvious target. I tried to focus on the screen of my phone and look casual standing there. Like if I ignored the approaching car its inhabitant would somehow not notice me or the smoking pile of metal. Without lifting my head, every part of me was tuned in to the slowing tires and the purring engine as the vehicle stopped.
Of course, they stopped. Sighing, I lifted my face, staring at a would-be serial killer. Or my rescuer. I knew that the latter was much more likely, but the whole scenario made me queasy and I could only think of worst-case possibilities.
It was a Jeep. The kind without a roof. Just a roll bar. The headlights gleamed off the stretch of black asphalt.
“You okay?” The deep voice belonged to a guy. Much of his face was in shadow. The light from the instrument panel cast a glow onto his face. Enough that I could determine he was youngish. Not much older than myself. Maybe mid-twenties at the most.
Most serial killers are young white males. The random factoid skittered across my thoughts, only adding to my anxiety.
“I’m fine,” I quickly said, my voice overly loud in the crisp night. I brandished my phone as if that explained everything. “I have someone coming.” I held my breath, waiting, hoping he would believe the lie and move on.
He idled there in the shadows, his hand on the gear stick. He looked up ahead at the road and then glanced behind him. Assessing just how alone we were? How ripe his opportunity was to murder me?
I wished I had a can of mace. A black belt in kung fu. Something. Anything. The fingers of my left hand tightened around my keys. I thumbed the jagged tip. I could gouge him in the face if necessary. The eyes. Yeah. I’d aim for the eyes.
He leaned across the passenger seat, away from the glow of instrument panel, plunging himself into even deeper shadow. “I could look under the hood,” his deep, disembodied voice offered.
I shook my head. “Really. It’s okay.”
Those eyes I had just contemplated gouging with my keys glittered across the distance at me. Their color was impossible to tell in the thick gloom, but they had to be pale. A blue or green. “I know you’re nervous—”
“I’m not. I’m not nervous,” I babbled quickly. Too quickly.
He leaned back in his seat, the amber glow again lighting his features. “I don’t feel right leaving you out here alone.” His voice shivered across my skin. “I know you’re afraid.”
I glanced around. The inky night pressed in thickly. “I’m not,” I denied, but my voice rang thin, lacking all conviction.
“I get it. I’m a stranger. I know it would make you more comfortable if I left, but I wouldn’t want my mother out here alone at night.”
I held his gaze for a long moment, taking his measure, attempting to see something of his character in the shadowy lines of his face. I glanced to my still smoking car and back at him. “Okay. Thanks.” The thanks followed slowly, a deep breath later, full of hesitation. I only hoped I wasn’t going to end up on the morning news.
If he wanted to hurt me he would. Or at least he would try. Whether I invited him to look at my engine or not. That was my logic as I watched him pull his Jeep in front of my car. The door swung open. He unfolded his long frame and stepped out into the night with a flashlight in his hand.
His footsteps crunched over loose gravel, the beam of his flashlight zeroing in on my still-smoldering vehicle. From the angle of his face, I didn’t think he even looked my way. He went straight for my car, lifting the hood and disappearing under it.
Arms crossed tightly in front of me, I stepped forward cautiously, edging out into the road so I could watch him as he studied the engine. He reached down and touched different things. God knows what. My knowledge of auto mechanics was right up there with my origami-making abilities.
I went back to studying his shadowy features. Something glinted. I squinted. His right eyebrow was pierced.
Suddenly another beam of lights lit up the night. My would-be-mechanic straightened from beneath the hood and stepped out, positioning himself between me and the road, his long legs braced and hands on his hips as the car approached. I had my first unfettered view of his face in the harsh glow of oncoming headlights, and I sucked in a sharp breath.
The cruel lighting might have washed him out or picked up his flaws, but no. As far as I could see he had no physical flaws.
He was hot. Plain and simple. Square jaw. Deep-set blue eyes beneath slashing dark brows. The eyebrow piercing was subtle, just a glint of silver in his right eyebrow. His hair looked like a dark blond, cut short, close to his head. Emerson would call him lickable.
This new vehicle halted beside my car and I snapped my attention away from him as the window whirred down. Lickable leaned down at the waist to peer inside.
“Oh, hey, Mr. Graham. Mrs. Graham.” He slid a hand from his jean pocket to give a small wave.
“Car trouble?” a middle-aged man asked. The backseat of the car was illuminated with the low glow of an iPad. A teenager sat there, his gaze riveted to the screen, punching buttons, seemingly oblivious that the car had even stopped.
Lickable nodded and motioned to me. “Just stopped to help. I think I see the problem.”
The woman in the passenger seat smiled at me. “Don’t worry, honey. You’re in good hands.”
Eased at the reassurance, I nodded at her. “Thank you.”
As the car drove away, we faced each other, and I realized this was the closest I had allowed myself to get to him. Now that some of my apprehension was put to rest, a whole new onslaught of emotions bombarded me. Sudden, extreme self-consciousness for starters. Well, for the most part. I tucked a strand of my unmanageable hair behind my ear and shifted uneasily on my feet.
“Neighbors,” he explained, motioning to the road.
“You live out here?”
“Yeah.” He slid one hand inside his front jean pocket. The action made his sleeve ride up and reveal more of the tattoo that crawled from his wrist up his arm. Unthreatening as he might be, he was definitely not your standard boy next door.
“I was babysitting. The Campbells. Maybe you know them.”
He moved toward my car again. “They’re down the road from my place.”
I followed. “So you think you can fix it?” Standing beside him, I peered down into the engine like I knew what I was looking at. My fingers played nervously with the edges of my sleeves. “’Cause that would be awesome. I know she’s a jalopy, but I’ve had her a long time.” And I can’t exactly afford a new car right now.
He angled his head to look at me. “Jalopy?” A corner of his mouth kicked up.
I winced. There I went again, showing off the fact that I grew up surrounded by people born before the invention of television.
“It means an old car.”
“I know what it means. Just never heard anyone but my grandmother say it.”
“Yeah. That’s where I picked it up.” From Gran and everyone else in the Chesterfield Retirement Village.
Turning, he moved to his Jeep. I continued to play with my sleeves, watching him return with a bottle of water.
“Looks like a leaky radiator hose.”
“Is that bad?”
Unscrewing the cap on the water, he poured it inside my engine. “This will cool it down. Should run now. For a while at least. How far are you going?”
“About twenty minutes.”
“It will probably make it. Don’t go farther than that or it will overheat again. Take it to a mechanic first thing tomorrow so he can replace the hose.”
I breathed easier. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Shouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred.”
I winced. That would pretty much wipe out my account. I would have to see about working a few extra shifts at the daycare or getting some more babysitting gigs. At least when I babysat, I could get in some studying after the kids went to bed.
He slammed the hood back in place.
“Thanks a lot.” I shoved my hands into my pockets. “Saved me from calling a tow truck.”
“So no one’s coming then?” That corner of his mouth lifted back up again and I knew I amused him.
“Yeah.” I shrugged. “I might have made that up.”
“It’s okay. You weren’t exactly in an ideal situation. I know I can look scary.”
My gaze scanned his face. Scary? I knew he was probably joking, but he did have that certain edge to him. A dangerous vibe with his tattoos and piercing. Even if he was hot. He was like the dark vampire in movies that girls obsessed over. The ones that were torn between eating the girl and kissing her. I always preferred the nice mortal guy and never understood why the heroine didn’t go after him. I didn’t do dark, dangerous, and sexy. You don’t do anyone. I shoved the whisper back, batting it away. If the right guy—the one I wanted—noticed me, all that would change.
“I wouldn’t say scary … exactly.” He chuckled softly.
“Sure you would.”
Silence hovered between us for a moment. My gaze swept over him. The comfortable-looking T-shirt and well-worn jeans were casual. Guys wore them every day on campus, but he didn’t look casual. He didn’t look like any guy I ever saw around campus. He looked like trouble. The kind that girls lost their heads over. Suddenly my chest felt too tight.
“Well, thanks again.” Offering up a small wave I ducked back inside my car. He watched me turn the key. Thankfully smoke didn’t billow up from the hood.
Driving away, I refused to risk a glance back in my rearview mirror. If Emerson had been with me, I’m sure she wouldn’t have left without his phone number.
Eyes on the road again, I felt perversely glad she wasn’t there.
As promised here is another blog post from Amanda Prowse’s Australia series. We had the pleasure of meeting Amanda last week and we can confirm that she is as lovely and funny in person as she is on her blog.
“I’m in AUSTRALIA!!!! Wooohooo! Arrived yesterday morning (I think) and it’s now the day after (I think) – I actually have no concept of day or time, but it doesn’t matter – I made it and after my initial 24 hour explore I am love with this city! I have loved places before and undoubtedly will again, but what I wasn’t prepared for and have rarely experienced, is that Sydney loves me back!
So, what has my first whizz around the city revealed? It’s full beautiful people. Seriously where are all your uglies? Is there an exclusion zone? A curfew? Everywhere I look there are leggy, clear skinned lovelies of both sexes, flashing perfect teeth and looking at peace with the world! In the UK, if 10 is ‘stunner’ I think realistically I hover around the 3 mark – on a good day. But here in Sydney – I’m reduced to a 1-2!
I’ve worked out why everyone is so fit. The Oz coinage is big and heavy, Russell Crowe doesn’t work out, he just carries a lot of cash around, which would do it.
Highlights so far, the Botanical Gardens – stunning, manicured, but with signs inviting me to ‘smell the roses, hug the trees and picnic’ on the immaculate grass. What’s the catch? I have grown up surrounded by signs telling me the exact opposite! I must say as a bit of a rule breaker, it took some of the thrill away.
I’ve strolled along The Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo – marveling at the shiny yachts in the harbor and watching more beautiful people dining in elegant waterside restaurants.
We lunched at The Andrew (Boy) Charlton pool café, who serve the best thyme-salted fries with aioli and have breakfasted at the Goods on Crown Street where I munched on their delicious home made granola and fresh fruit, washed down with a generous, rich black coffee.
…and then my friends I joined a delightful couple I met from Birmingham UK and a hundred camera bearing Koreans and I stood at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and looked out. The difference was, while they oohed and aahed and snapped away – I flung my arms out cruciform stylee and shouted at the top of my voice, ‘I am in AUSTRALIA!!!!!’ They then started snapping me as I laughed, cried and jumped up and down on the spot, pointing at the bridge and opera house in the distance. Blame it on jet lag, slight hysteria and the fact that I was actually looking at the sights that I have only seen on the TV and at the movies since I was a little girl. It was beautiful.
In summary, Sydney has the elegance of Cannes, the majesty of Barcelona, is the foodie heaven of New York, with the pace of Bermuda. It is a city with many faces, each one of them smiling at me.”
One of our very favourite and very lovely authors, Amanda Prowse, is coming to Australia! We loved her post ‘Australiababble’ so much that we had to share it with you all. Keep an eye out for the rest of Amanda’s Australia series here and on her blog.
“So, standing here in the lounge in my pyjamas with the ironing board and a mountain of clean but crumpled laundry filling the room. The kids are on the computer thingy, demanding bacon and my husband is ankle deep in paperwork, just a normal Sunday really, only it isn’t. For tomorrow we are off to AUSTRALIA!!!
I am beyond excited and more than a little apprehensive. All those hours on a plane? Really? I am planning a strategy that involves movie watching and lots of wine.
I am ashamed to admit to an appalling level of ignorance when it comes to Oz. Every image I have in my head is conjured from the stereotypical and clichéd. Barbeques – Beaches – Dame Edna (who I think would make a superb monarch when the queen abdicates) – Cricket (not that we will be mentioning THAT!) – Rugby (or THAT either!) – Koalas – Shane Warne’s forehead – Ayers Rock and of course the pocket sized beauty that is Kylie.
Don’t judge me. I grew up in inner city London in a large, chaotic family and our idea of a holiday was a sticky fingered fish and chip suppers in our coats and scarves while sitting on the wall at Southend-On-Sea, followed by a night, still in our coats and scarves, in me nan’s dripping caravan. Yes, it’s was as glamorous as it sounds. Now since I’ve been a grown up, a fact that I don’t like to admit, I have of course done a bit, The West Indies, Europe, The US of A and of course my beloved Bermuda. But the other side of the world?? Not until now.
Geography is not my strong point; in fact other than writing books, I have very few talents of note. A friend of ours was moving to Oz, Cairns to be specific and I sent his details to an acquaintance in Sydney, suggesting it might be nice to hook up for a coffee to make him feel welcome… My friend in Sydney replied by sending me a map with two big fat red X’s on it, showing that coffee was highly unlikely as they weren’t even in the same time zone! Who knew?
I know there is a beach in Sydney, which simultaneously fills me with dread and excitement. In most lights, I am more Rebel Wilson than Elle Macpherson. This isn’t really a problem living in Blighty – although in fairness, we have had a wonderful summer it was August 14th between 11.30am and 3.45pm. Oh we went crazy! I made ice in the fridge and drank my milk on the patio; I even rolled up the sleeves on my cardi.
So, Australia bound and very excited, what to pack? Do they have Starbucks? Asda? I shall let you know.”
It’s not often that we encourage you to read non-Avon books but we have had to make an exception for Colleen McCullough’s Bittersweet. An Australian saga at its best, Bittersweet incorporates history, drama and romance in a beautiful and compulsively readable story about four very different sisters who are united in their fierce love for one another and in their quest for happiness. We think it’s brilliant! And we’re not alone in our thinking. Haylee Nash, Booktopia’s romance specialist and self-confessed lover of hot men, sassy women and sizzling sexual tension was more than satisfied by Bittersweet. Nash admits that this was her first taste of Colleen McCullough, having been put off by the sheer size of her books. But she insists she needn’t have worried stating that the book was “utterly engaging” with “great depth of information and description” making it a “gorgeous historical saga”. Read the full review here.
Last week some of our favourite AVON authors featured on USA Today’s Happy Ever After Blog discussing their favourite love songs. No mention was made of Celine, nor did anyone cite Michael Bolton. Instead, our writers offered a very cool and very romantic array of tunes. Here’s how it went:
Jennifer MqQuiston, author of the recently released Summer Is For Lovers, chose Collide by Howie Day, Hanging by a Moment by Lifehouse, and Here Without You by 3 Doors Down. Jennifer admits that these tracks are heavy, raw and emotional, but says that they highlight “the struggles in an early relationship rather than the more celebratory moments”.
Beverley Jenkins, author of Destiny’s Surrender, holds book club meetings on her Facebook page that always open with He Is by Heather Headley so that was an easy choice for her. She also named You Put a Move on My Heart by Tamia and Spanish Guitar by Toni Braxton in her top three.
Jennifer Bernard, author of How to Tame a Wild Fireman, aptly chose I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen, as well as Something by The Beatles and You Are My Sunshine because those are the words that run through her mind when she’s with her husband (sob!).
Here at the AVON blog we found it mighty hard to cut our love song playlist down to just three songs so here are ten of our favourite:
1. Need Your Love So Bad by Peter Green
2. Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley
3. At Last by Etta James
4. Crazy in Love by Beyonce
5. I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher
6. Never Tear Us Apart by INXS
7. My Boo by Usher and Alisha Keys
8. Wicked Game by Chris Isaak
9. She’s Got a Way by Billy Joel
10. All My Life by K-Ci & JoJo
Click here to read the full post on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog.
Here at Avon we are well aware of romance fiction’s popularity and potential to change the world, but it seems as though the rest of the world is starting to catch on and acknowledge the genre’s powerful force for social good. With kick-arse female protagonists who defy the old world stereotype of women as passive recipients of love, lessons on love and the complexities of human relationships, and sex scenes that involve mangos!, it’s no wonder the genre is now worth around $US1.6 billion in the US alone. ABC journalist, Antony Funnel, spoke with three romance authors at the recent Brisbane Writers’ Festival to discuss this literary phenomenon. Click here to read the juicy article.
Stephanie Laurens has been awarded the 2013 Ruby Romantic Book of the Year award for her Regency romance The Lady Risks All. The award is the largest reader-judged writers’ competition in Australia so this is a seriously big deal. If you haven’t yet read Laurens’ passionate tale then you must. It tells the story of the notorious and enigmatic Neville Roscoe who lives resolutely outside society until challenged by his desire of the one woman he cannot have. Introducing Miranda Clifford, a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability until tempted by a passion like none she’s over known. Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore.
For more about the book click here.