Nominated!

We are so proud to be nominated for nine Australian Romance Reader Awards for books released in 2016!

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We acknowledge especially Sarah Barrie, who has two books nominated, and our wonderful Secret Confessions: Down & Dusty authors who have both single title nominations and a nomination for best series.

You can find all the nominees here.

As always, we thank the Australian Romance Readers Association for all their hard work in running the awards every year, and we look forward to seeing everyone at the awards dinner on 25 February.

 

 

An Office Christmas Carol

by Ainslie Paton

It was the night before we closed for Christmas and all through the cube farm, there was near chaos and threats of bodily harm.

Because despite everything we’d ever been taught, head office had demanded a seasonal report.

They dropped it on us at the last merry moment, when our brains were out the door and our hopes ill-equipped for a festivities postponement.

Instead of drinking egg-nog, and trying to score a nod from the girls at reception, we had our eyes down, tails up and sadly altered perception.

Singing jingle bells one minute and saying bloody hell the next. Bah humbug, I say, to this state of being thoroughly perplexed.

All we could hope for was that accounts got it together and it wasn’t looking good for sunshiny weather.

No one had ever been asked for a seasonal report and it wasn’t something we could ignore as a last resort.

There were rumours that Rudolf wouldn’t stop forehead-slapping and Carol was blitzed that the server kept crashing.

The spreadsheets corrupted and spat out the wrong numbers and all anyone wanted was to nosh till we slumbered.

I sat at my desk, scared to move, concerned to breathe. Best to look busy, while messaging friends as I seethe.

Then suddenly a voice said, “They can’t keep us here like this,” and up popped our heads with a chair swivelling hiss. It was Nicholas from customer service and he wouldn’t be dismissed.

Brave words, bold. There were murmurs of rebellion and it wasn’t only from the back-office hellions.

“What’s a seasonal report got to do with us?” said Blixen from marketing, adding to the fuss.

“I’ve got plans,” said Dasher from product development.

“Special snowflake,” replied Comet, always so eloquent.

“This qualifies as overtime,” said Cupid with a frown. He’d never completely live that nickname down.

“I’m hungry,” said Donner and everyone laughed, looks like we weren’t getting out of here without a patience overdraft.

And then a shout rang out, “Nobody leaves”. That just about brought us all to our knees.

It was Rudolf and his forehead glowed; that had to be against the office health code.

But Nicholas, good old Nick had other notions. He climbed on his desk and made a commotion.

“Let’s see what the union has to say about this.” I despair, not yet Christmas and everyone is harshing my bliss.

They faced off, across desktops and it wasn’t terribly pretty. Tempers were frayed and no one was witty.

No glitter or fairy lights, no tinsel or bows. Just two angry men denied mini plum pudding and a chance to go home.

Until Rudolf with his pulsing red forehead side-eyed us all, Instantly causing a Scrooge-like pall.

“Get back to work, Donna and Dasher and Vixen. Sit down, Comet and Cupid and Blixen.

And you, St Nick,” Rudolf raised his arm and pointed, “My office now, before we’re all disappointed.”

As I drew in my head glad to escape a mention, an ominous sound cut through that horrible tension.

Scrap, thump, drag, click, click. Thump, scrap, drag, flick, snick.

It was Dancer from reception in high heels and fur, a welcome interruption I most certainly concur.

She strained and she grunted and she dragged a big sack. “What?” she said, annoyed, when everyone stared back.

It was time for secret Santa and no one could object, since we’d all drawn names from a hat and it would be criminal neglect not to go through with this ritual of offices worldwide, despite the fact this was Christmas spirit misapplied.

We all stood about as the presents came out. Budget shop items the starring attraction, especially given the low dollar transaction.

There were colouring books and glow in the dark goo, a farting wallet and a smiling plush emoji poo.

There was a giant pencil and a musical straw, a pen that whistled and a keychain rabbit’s paw.

The best gift given was a tiny tea pot, and nothing was more unusual than sparkly unicorn snot.

I gazed at my present unaccountably afraid. How could one little wrapped item be such a grenade?

But last year a secret someone bought me to a rude pair of shorts and now I’m worried I should find a way to abort.

Then I rationalised it could all be so much worse, this awkward gift giving is a seasonal curse.

I tore at the paper and let go a relieved sigh as inside the wrapper was nothing too sly.

Not a toy you could wind or one you could squeeze, nothing too sexy or edging towards sleaze.

Not a whoopee cushion or an inflatable walking stick. Not a dad joke book or a sad conjuring trick.

My present was bright yellow and when you pressed hard, it quacked. Nothing likely to give me an anxiety attack.

Just a small rubber duck to float in my bath, a cheerier version than the one fashioned famously like Darth.

With the presents distributed and Nicholas still missing, there was naught for the rest of us to do except gift-giving dissing.

But I have to admit I’m happy with my duck, if you could see some of the other gifts—who gives a fire truck?

And in the delay there was one tiny blessing, I got to chat with Dancer without fear of messing things up like I might’ve done if we’d all been half-sloshed as she’d have been sure to have suitably squashed any suggestion of a mistletoe kiss, and that would’ve made my end of year truly hit and miss.

Breakthrough happened as we’d combed our social feeds, posted updates and selfies and hashtagged our particular needs (#officehostagesendhelp).

Nicholas and Rudolf returned arm in arm, joking and laughing, the picture of smarm.

The servers were stable, the numbers lined up, the seasonal report was submitted and champagne poured in red plastic cups.

At last it was Christmas and we set our out-of-office messages with glee, in the hope that the holiday would be worry-free.

As we bolted for the exits before head office decided they needed something else, I switched off the lights, the first to confess.

A good break from work was the real seasonal blessing and all the rubber ducks in the world wouldn’t stop me professing,

Happy holiday to all and to all a good night. May your time off be splendid and the start of your new year a rip-roaring delight.

December Gift Guides: A Little Bit of Magic

by Louise Forster

The trouble with finding that perfect gift for an uncle who only reads the sports pages and political satire cartoons, who loves throwing a steak on the barbecue, with a beer in one hand and tongs in the other, while listening to AC/DC is really difficult. The man loves inappropriate T-shirts, with inappropriate slogans and/or graphics. He’s not a bad person: on the contrary, he’s a big-bellied, big-hearted, generous person who contributes to many worthwhile causes, including marriage equality. He does get a kick out of verbal run-ins, loves the sparring. He’ll argue a point that is the opposite of how he feels with conviction, just so he can work out the other person … or push their buttons.

He has two teenage daughters who often find themselves in the middle of a heated debate with him. I’ve watched him grinning as in midstream he’ll swap sides. It doesn’t take long for his girls to catch on, and that’s when they give him a groan and an eye-roll before wandering off.

I could buy him a T-shirt that says, I Fear No One … I Have Daughters.

But I asked avid reader, DH, what he thought would put a huge grin on the man’s face Christmas morning. His immediate answer was anything by Ilona Andrews. But start with the Magic series. He’ll get a kick out of Kate Daniels and Curran.

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28381If your uncle likes stories about secrets and small towns, may we suggest Louise’s latest book, Tumble Creek?

December Gift Guide: Community and Cookbooks

by Juanita Kees

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Great reading and fabulous for rural readers and authors alike, this collection of true small town stories really warms the heart. For me, it epitomises the true spirit of Australia and small towns. These brave, big-hearted women are about so much more than just cake stalls and fundraisers. They are the backbone of support for rural communities no matter what the circumstances – drought, fire, education or immigration. The book includes 90 classic CWA recipes and stories from all over the outback.


29692For readers who love stories about communities, we also recommend Juanita’s latest story, a rural romance about a man who’s shouldered the burden of caring for the small town – and the woman who might come to care for him.

December Gift Guides: For BFFs

By Rhyll Biest

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The title I’ll be buying for working women friends and colleagues this year is Feminist Fight Club, so they can enjoy a laugh while learning how to tackle the Manterrupter, (who talks over female colleagues in meetings) or the Bropropriator (who appropriates their ideas) in addition to a bunch more practical hacks for dealing with other external (sexist) and internal (self-sabotaging) behaviours that plague women in the workplace. And the Canberra Centre Dymocks definitely deserves some love during the holiday season for their friendly and knowledgeable staff!


29577Also recommended for BFFs is Rhyll’s latest novel, Hell on Wheels. What BFF doesn’t want a paranormal marriage-of-convenience story about a roller-derby playing demon princess?

December Gift Guides: For Great Cooks (and want-to-be Great Cooks!)

by Elisabeth Rose

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I’d recommend The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander for someone setting up house for the first time or someone developing an interest in cooking. It’s pricey so probably for someone a bit special, but it’s a really comprehensive guide for Australian kitchens. It has sections on vegetables, fruit, herbs, spices, cooking techniques, measures etc and is packed with recipes for pretty much everything. Best of all it’s terrific value for money because it has no glossy photos that cost a bomb and waste space.

It sits on a book seat thingy on my kitchen bench and I refer to it all the time. We bought it as our Christmas gift to ourselves one year. Husband and I do that instead of trying to think of something each after 43 years together.


23483.jpgFor fans of romantic mysteries – not thrillers, mysteries – on your list, we heartily recommend Elisabeth Rose who writes romantic suspense with real characters with real problems and real happy-ever-after endings. Perfect for those readers who like their suspense without the gore.