Christmas Earworms: Good King Wenceslas

by Daniel de Lorne

My favourite Christmas carol is Good King Wenceslas. When I was about 10, my cousin and I used to play a lot of Christmas duets on the piano. They were probably simple arrangements, but for me they were filled with a fun type of stress. She played the second part and I had the melody. Good King Wenceslas was my favourite of the lot, especially the part where it goes “Brightly shone the moon that night.” There was something rousing about those notes and I learned the whole lot off by heart.

That year I’d decided we’d have carols on Christmas Day when my family and my cousin’s family would come together to open presents. I’d spent weeks (or maybe it was only days) typing out the words to the carols and arranging them in a booklet, printing seven and colouring in specially designed covers. They were a work of art.

The day arrived and we played about 12 Christmas carols for the family going through a whole lot of the classics – Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Angels We Have Heard on High and of course Good King Wenceslas. All five verses. I’m sure the adults were wondering when it would all end, but they kept that to themselves and we had fun bashing out the tunes.

Years later when I was in Prague I quietly sang Good King Wenceslas while wandering through Wenceslas Square. I don’t think I’d even considered he was a real person before then at age 22.

I was trying to find a cartoon version of Good King Wenceslas that I remember from my childhood but couldn’t find it within the billions of videos on YouTube so here’s an Irish version that’s a lot more sprightly.


24083From the author of the romantic horror debut Beckoning Blood comes the gripping sequel that mixes blood, sex, and magic.

No-one gets to choose who they spend eternity with.

Aurelia d’Arjou has vampires for brothers, but it is as a witch that she comes into her own power, keeping balance and control, using her strength to mitigate the death and pain that her brothers bring. When she is forced to take on the centuries long task of keeping the world safe from the brutal demon that wore her father’s skin, duty dominates her life. But rare happiness comes in the form of a beguiling, flame-haired oracle who makes the perfect companion…but for one thing.

Hame doesn’t want to be an oracle, but when a demon destroys the closest thing to a father he has, he has little choice but to aid Aurelia with his visions. Unable to love her as she would wish, their centuries-old friendship comes under attack when a handsome Welsh witch enters his life – and his heart.

As treachery and betrayal push Hame to choose between his closest friend and his lover, it becomes clear that when it comes to war, love doesn’t always conquer all, and happy endings are never guaranteed.

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Friday Five: Catherine Evans

Evans_CatherineAuthor: Catherine Evans
First published with Escape: 2016
Favourite romance trope: Friends to Lovers
Ideal hero (in three words): Honest, fun, generous
Ideal heroine (in three words): Independent, down-to-earth, loyal
Latest book: The Healing Season, and in February, Long Game

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I wanted to write, but I had no idea what I wanted to write about, other than Australia. I read romance, but not only romances, as I read anything with writing on a page. I was writing stories, a member of the NSW Writers Centre, and entering contests in writing associations and not winning. I entered a Romance Writers of Australia contest and they gave feedback…using terminology I didn’t even understand! I became a member, learned all I could about writing, writing romance, and the romance genre. I was hooked.

How do you write? What is your process like?

My process is a mess, but it’s my mess! I get an ideaoften just a scene with two peopleand I start to write. Then I start thinking about what happened, and why, and who are these people. Things get tossed around in my head, or on paper, and I see where it goes. Then I stop at some point when I’ve messed it up. I go back to the start and try to work out what’s wrong. This continues until I get to the end of the story—sometimes I need help from writing friends or editors to un-mess myself!

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

When you finish, put it in a drawer for a while. I see so much more when I’ve got some distance from my story. I can edit it with some perspective. Flaws and holes jump out at me, making them easier to fix.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I write mostly in my ‘office’, but I also like to go outside if I’m stuck to get some fresh air and nature inspiration, so the back yard or the beach are my go-to places. I usually write straight to my desktop, but if I’m stuck, I’ll scribble in a notebook and I’ve been known to send emails to myself from my mobile device, especially if I’m in bed and half asleep when an idea hits me!


Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at? 

Swimming. I love it and always have. A swimming teacher told Mum when I was kid, “She may not be fast, but she’d swim all day.” Stick me in water and I’m happy. I began scuba diving at age 20. Diving and snorkelling are magical. It’s a completely different world below the surface and I’m so comfortable in that world. I find it the most relaxing activity…until I have to waddle back up the beach!

 


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Christmas Earworms: River

by Amanda Knight

I didn’t realise how tricky I’d find the task of narrowing down my faves Chrissy song… I’ve realised the ones that came to mind first are the more melancholy ones, and the gleeful, wide-eyed wonder tunes that remind me magic happens were later!
Fave One:
Robert Downey Jr – River – sung on Ally McBeal (original Joni Mitchell)
Why: I always find the Christmas season a mix of emotion… the year I heard this song (and this version) had been one where some of those very serious ‘life’ experiences that make their dark mark on your heart and soul had happened.  Starts with Jingle Bells and reminds me of the few years as a little person where magic truly happened, a time when things were simpler but also how life just doesn’t play out as expected, and Christmas always makes me think about that.
 Fave Two:
Gene Autry version – Here Comes Santa Claus
Why: In movies, department stores and over PA systems in schools – this song makes me smile, jiggle and wiggle and imagine myself in a perfect christmas scenario with snow, glitter, hot cocoa and the smell of cinnamon everywhere! It is my heart happy christmas song!

 


31096 (3)A taut debut novel about a wounded soldier, a courageous doctor, and a dog in desperate need of a rescue

Soldier, surgeon, traitor, dog…

When Sergeant Nate Calloway is carried into the field hospital with no memory of how he got there or where the other members of his unit are,  Australian army surgeon, Captain Beth Harper cares only about repairing his broken body. But it’s clear that something went terribly wrong on the other side of the wire, and as Nate slowly recovers, he becomes more and more anxious to return to duty, go back into the field, and rescue his friends, his unit, and the bomb detection dog that he loves.

The only way Nate can be released to active duty is if a doctor agrees to accompany him, and Beth surprises everyone by volunteering. Her role is to monitor Nate and take him right back to hospital the instant that his health deteriorates enough to put their rescue operation at risk. But as she stays close, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to his courage, his determination, and his commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Instead of a straightforward recovery, however, Nate and Beth soon realise they’ve stumbled on a tangled web of deceit and danger, and the enemy is no longer outside the wire. He is one of their own, a traitor, and he has them in his scope.

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Exclusive Excerpt 2: My Lady Governess

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One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance:  A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!

Miss Frome.” He smothered his incredulity. “Are you telling me you’re a fallen woman?”

She cringed. “Yes, my lord.”

 Rubbish.”

 I beg your pardon?” She shot blue daggers at him, even as he straightened up to look down on her in more ways than one.

 Rubbish. If you must lie to me, try not to insult my intelligence so brazenly. I can tell a fallen woman, Miss Frome, and you aren’t it.”

 Clinging to her ridiculous defence, the blonde put up a good fight. “How dare you? I am what I say! How dare you disbelieve me on such a subject? You’re insulting,” she raged on, really panicking now and saying anything in desperation. “I’ve been the worst hussy you’ve ever met!”

Tam eyed the worst hussy he’d ever met, and went from curious about her to all-out determined that he’d find out what the hell lay behind this; under no circumstances was this little blonde idiot being letting out on her own. A fallen woman…dear God.  And this was the girl he was going to marry. She wasn’t what he had ever expected, nor what he would ever have chosen. She wasn’t his type – he liked blondes, but he liked them tall, languid and experienced, not five feet one, energetic and with as much as sense as one of his geese.

She was noisy. She was rude. She was also about to learn that telling fantastical lies to him was a very bad idea.

It only took him two seconds. Before she knew what he was about, he seized her by her shoulders, pulling her out of the chair and up into his hold, where he kissed her fast but expertly, and with impressive power.  Barely given time to gasp, she made one cut-off sound of shock before her knees rather satisfyingly seemed to give way and she surrendered. He let go to watch as she dropped back into the chair gasping; she choked, turned a dozen shades of scarlet, trembled violently, then sat with her hands clenched, speechless and with no idea where to look. Certainly not at Tam, who leaned back against the table again and didn’t have to say a word.

No, he hadn’t thought so. Fallen woman, his backside. 

My Lady Governess is available for pre-order now!

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Christmas Earworms: White Christmas

by JC Harroway

It’s pretty brutal challenge to choose only ONE Christmas song, because I am a total Christmas-o-phile…(the internet failed to provide a real, scientific term for this condition) and adore all things Christmas. My obsession generally begins in November, when I force myself to hold off decorating the house and playing the Christmas playlist (which contains everything from traditional carols to Michael Buble and Mariah Carey) until the first of December. After that, all bets are off!

So, after much consideration, I have chosen White Christmas—the 1954 movie version sung by Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye/Rosemary Clooney/Vera Ellen.

My grandmother loved this movie, and watching it with her became a favorite Christmas tradition of my childhood. We would snuggle on the sofa, crack open the tin of Christmas chocolates and have a good old sing-a-long. I love the vintage glamour of the film, even now—the costumes, the locations, the soundtrack—so magical in every way. Like my Nana before me, I own a DVD version of the movie, continuing the tradition.

Enjoy!


32235 (2)Before you can heal, you must accept that you’ve been broken…

When an accident leaves her with severe burns, Captain Eden Archer has one goal — to get back to full fitness and her duties at her United Nations job. Eden is not a joiner, but the Ruby Challenge — a four-day hike across Nevada’s Ruby Mountains — seems like a great way to boost her rehabilitation, and to prove herself ready and able to move on. She just has to get through the pre-challenge medical.

As a doctor in Accident and Emergency, Dan Barbour is used to dealing with people in pain, people in denial, and people who don’t much like doctors, but the prickly servicewoman who dismisses his medical skills awakens an interest that has long been dormant.

The Ruby Mountain hike is as much about the emotional challenge as the physical, and as Eden and Dan find themselves getting closer and closer, they both face enormous obstacles. Eden protects her heart with distance and reserve; Dan keeps everyone at bay by being wholly unavailable. But if they stay true to their old course, they will lose the one chance at a real connection, the one chance to really find someone to love.

A broken-hearted doctor and a reluctant patient should be a match made in heaven, but are Eden and Dan strong enough to find courage outside of their respective battlefields and expose their hearts?

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Footy Fever

by Catherine Evans

I remember my first AFL game. It was not long after the Sydney Swans ‘invaded’ Sydney. I grew up in Sydney in a sports-loving family who believed rugby league was the best game. We watched the AFL Grand Final on TV, but didn’t follow it otherwise. Then in the 1980s, South Melbourne packed up and moved into Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. It caused quite a stir in Sydney.

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We didn’t often attend live games for any sport. There were lots of reasons for this, but cost was what was always mentioned. Now I think back, I have three younger sisters who weren’t as sports mad as I was, and although they would have come for the day out, they wouldn’t have been quite as caught up in whatever sport we watched. That may have been a contributing factor.

I was into new experiences, and I wanted to go to the SCG and see what all the hype was about a live AFL game. I wasn’t old enough to head off on my own, yet no one I knew was interested.

Until Sister M.

Yep, a nun, religious sister.

I didn’t pick her for a sports nut, but she’d come from Victoria and had been an Essendon fan. So when the Swans played Essendon, we decided we’d go. We knew her through church, and my parents often had her visiting, so I knew her quite well, or I thought I did!

She parked in some nearby convent and we walked to the SCG. I didn’t want to be seen as a convert to AFL, so I wore my rugby league gear (the colours of neither team I was to watch). On the way to the ground, there were a lot of men running around in a grassy area. Sister Margaret grabbed my arm, gasped and stopped dead.

Nuns, perving, who knew?

But then this voice yells, “Sister M?” and this guy came flying over. He wrapped her in a hug and deposited her back on the ground. A guy in red and black. A guy who towered over both of us, with shoulders a mile wide full of muscles. A guy whose face I knew (I didn’t know many) because he was the blooming pin-up boy (possibly captain) for the Essendon team.

They chatted, I tried to keep my eyes inside my head.

It turned out that in Melbourne, his family had been very good friends with her, kind of similarly to my family. Except rather than just meeting at church, she’d taught this Essendon star and his brother, who by this stage had also appeared.

The game? Yeah, I can’t tell you much about that. I remember Essendon won. I remember Sister M was horrified that the Sydney crowd didn’t yell enough, or at the right things. I also remember that she, a huge fan, could not answer a simple question for me about the game – why does the time clock count the wrong way? It took me years to get that answered!

Have you been to an AFL game? Do you remember your first?


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Feed Your Reader: A Royal Affair

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A chance meeting, a misunderstanding, and a second chance for a royal love affair…

Once, King Gabriel was bewitched by a violet-eyed beauty at a masquerade ball, but she left the function without a trace…not even a slipper. Now, Cinderella has a name. Fate has thrown India Hamilton right in Gabriel’s path, and he’s determined to expose her as the gold-digger he knows her to be.

But Gabriel’s attempt at revenge soon loses its appeal as he spends more time with India. Her generous actions and smart control of his sister’s foundation suggest a strong, kind woman, undeserving of his scorn and anger. It soon becomes clear that this is not a Cinderella story at all: India is a beauty, and Gabriel has been behaving like a beast.

“Really loved their romance … couldn’t put the book down.” – Sissy H, NetGalley

“The attraction and chemistry of these characters pulled me in … I couldn’t put it down! There is so much to say but, I believe this book is better enjoyed without divulging too much information about it.” – Sue, NetGalley 

“Wow, just wow, couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting. I can’t wait for more from [Alyssa] as always her books only get better with each one.” – Melinda S, NetGalley

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Friday Five: Darlene Fredette

2230Author: Darlene Fredette
First published with Escape: December 2013
Favourite romance trope: Returning Home
Ideal hero (in three words): Strong, Charismatic, Dependable
Ideal heroine (in three words): Determined, Feisty, Independent
Latest book: Winter’s Kiss

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

In my teenage years, I read Harlequin romance novels, and I was hooked. From that point, characters came to life in my head and demanded to have their own stories told.

How did your latest book come to life? What was your eureka moment?

I’m currently stranded in a small town called Redford Falls, but loving every moment. The residents in this town make the stories real. Winter’s Kiss was created for the guy who didn’t get the girl in One Sweet Christmas. The cold and snowy theme was the perfect setting for him to get his happy-ever-after.

What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

I stop and take a breath or two, or three. Doing house work always give me my ‘ah-ha’ moment. By the time the house is clean; the scene has unravelled and is as clear as the glass tabletop.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar? Do you have one already? 

I love all animals, especially dogs. So my mascot would definitely be a dog. Their strength and loyalty goes above and beyond. I have a Yellow Labrador Retriever who is my shadow. He follows me everywhere, and when I’m sitting at my desk writing, he’s close by, lying at my feet.

DarleneFredetteYellowLab

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

I enjoy painting, and people have said I’m good at it. I paint for the enjoyment and the escape it allows. I can’t replicate another drawing or painting because my own style needs to be released. I take the image and turn my own spin on it.

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30327Return to beautiful Redford Falls: a woman who knows what she wants and a man who knows what he needs…

Nothing thaws the chill faster than a warm winter kiss…

She’s been on a flight from hell for over eight hours, lost four hours of daylight, and arrived in temperatures twenty degrees lower than accustomed to. Disliking winter for a reason she refuses to discuss, Danielle Lerato would rather be anywhere than in Redford Falls. She needs to get the job done and return home before getting caught up in the small town’s charm…and the arms of the handsome, brown-eyed restaurant owner.

Andrew Haley’s first encounter with the buttery blonde didn’t go so well, and he well-remembers the chill of the glass of water she dumped over his head. Now, two years later, a raging storm drops Danielle back into his life. She’s determined to leave, but he’ll do whatever it takes to convince her to fall in love with Redford Falls…and him.

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Christmas Earworms: We Three Girls of Orient Are

by AK Leigh

For me, Christmas conjures up images of Santa, decorated trees, sparkling lights, and much-loved carols. Like any other kid, it was my favourite time of year.

The morning involved opening presents––which may or may not have had peek holes ripped into them beforehand!––followed by a visit to church. Part of the church celebrations included a play and singing performance by the children.

One year, the organisers decided to hold a retelling of the nativity story. Being identical triplets, my sisters and I were stereotypically cast as the “three wise men”.

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Nobody seemed to mind that we were little girls. Or the fact that the magi probably weren’t siblings!

One of the plays accompanying carols was “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. The children practised it so much that it lodged in my brain and became a favourite. Whenever I see this photo (I am in the middle), I am reminded of that day and that song.

As you can see, I insisted on a decent dose of bling for my costume, whereas my sisters went with a look that was probably more historically accurate! I can no longer remember what gift I bestowed upon baby (aka plastic doll) Jesus, but I think I look smashing in my cardboard crown, pink plastic jewellery, red sheet *ahem* I mean ‘robe’, and gold tinsel belt. Don’t you? 

I love this version of the carol performed by The Mediaeval Baebes:


31097 (2)They’re beautiful, accomplished, and they have identical interests…

In their spare time, identical triplets the Farris sisters work together to solve cold cases. Lizzie uses her skills as a Criminal Profiler, Nina her Scenes of Crime Officer experience, and Carrie assists through her work as a both a Forensic Scientist and Forensic Anthropologist.

Romantic and idealistic, Lizzie is picky about men. But despite the good-natured teasing of her sisters, she refuses to settle for anything less than ‘The One’. She loves her life, her job as both a profiler and a university lecturer, and her sisters, and won’t make changes for anything less. If that makes her unrealistic, then so be it.

Gabe Montcoeur has just moved across Australia from Perth to Cairns and starts a job as a journalism teacher at Cairns University: the same university where Elizabeth Farris works. On the surface, the move seems innocent, but he has an ulterior motive. Gabe wants to elicit the aid of the Farris sisters in solving the murder of his family members, and the only way to circumvent their notorious ‘no contact’ policy is to reach out to them in person.

But when Gabe meets Lizzie for the first time, the attraction is instantaneous — and mutual. The deeper they fall into each other, however, the more guilty Gabe feels about his real motivation for getting close. Lizzie wants the real deal, the one, true love — can Gabe ever offer her the future she deserves if he keeps holding on so tightly to the past?

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Women to Watch

The Women of W.A.R. series is set in a fictional universe, so our teams and characters – though they feel real – don’t really exist. But Women’s AFL is very much real, and the players and their teams on the field are playing their hearts out and inspiring girls and women all over the country.

So while we hope that you enjoy the stories of Angelica, Cress, and Darcy, we thought that we should also pay homage to those players who inspired them.

daisy pearce

Daisy Pearce

Already a stellar player in VFL Women’s league, Daisy set the AFLW league on fire in the inaugural season, winning the inaugural Melbourne best-and-fairest winner, the AFLW Player’s best captain award, AND captained the inaugural AFL Women’s All-Australian team.


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Moana Hope

Moana is born on Valentine’s Day (which as romance readers, you know we love), but more importantly, she is an incredible goal kicker: the first player to ever kick more than 100 goals in the VFL Women’s, and winner of her AFLW team’s inaugural leading goalkicker award.


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Kirby Bentley

Kirby won’t be playing in 2018 due to an injury, but she hasn’t let that slow her down: she has created the Kirby Bentley Cup to provide young indigenous girls aged between 13-17 the opportunity to put their footie skills on display. Also, just when she couldn’t get cooler, off field, Kirby works in mines as an explosives expert.


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Erin Phillips

Not content with dominating on the basketball court (where she’s an Olympic silver medalist and a player in the US WNBA), Erin also co-captained the Adelaide AFLW team and won the AFLW best and fairest medal and the AFLW Player’s Most Valuable Player award.


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Brianna Davey

Another over-achiever, Brianna played international soccer with the Matildas before becoming co-vice-captain of Carlton and being listed in the 2017 All-Australian team.


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Meg Hutchins

Meg not only plays for Collingwood, but she is involved in the management team as well, in her role as Women’s Football Operations Manager, where her experience benefits the Collingwood board.


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Ally Anderson

Part of the Brisbane Lions team that made it to the Grand Final, Ally is also a coach for the AFL KickStart program and mentors the Queensland under-15 women’s Indigenous side. She’s also training to be a paramedic, and has swapped her boots for a microphone, commenting on the NEAFL for NITV.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in Indigenous players in the AFL/AFLW, there is a great map here  with information about players and their identified language and cultural groups.


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Hannah Mouncey

Hannah isn’t an AFLW player – yet – but we wanted to include her on our list as she fights to be the first transgender player in the AFLW. Hannah was excluded from the draft, due to concerns that her physical disparity would give her unfair advantage. Mouncey’s testosterone levels fall between those required by the International Olympic Committee, the same guidelines followed by the AFL.

There are so many other inspiring athletes, and you can check them out for yourself here http://www.afl.com.au/womens/player-profiles.

And, for a fictional account of the lives and loves of Women’s Aussie Rules players – on and off the field – remember to check out the Women of W.A.R. series. Pre-order now!

 

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All Women of W.A.R. titles are available for pre-order now!

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