The biggest risks yield the greatest gains—especially in the game of love.
by Jacquie Underdown
Catch Me a Cowboy began with a 3500km interstate move. Then a coffee. But everything in my life starts with coffee.
My family is nomadic. Not by choice, but for employment purposes; however, it’s not a bad deal for my muse, living in different towns across Australia. In fact, I realised that every place I’ve lived has inspired a story. My latest residence isno different.
My family moved to rural Victoria early last year. Coming from Queensland, where it was hot, humid and incredibly dry, Victoria was a shock to the system—in a good way. Driving through rural Victoria and seeing the vast expanse of green hills and fields was breathtaking. I spent the majority of the first six months with tears welling as I peered out at all the splendour from my car window.
But my inspiration for Catch Me a Cowboy didn’t arrive until I was seated at a café in the rural town of Briagolong (246km east of Melbourne), drinking coffee. The café is situated on the main street of this small township. The main street has a pub, a quaint art gallery, and few other little shops. The morning was cool, the sun was warm, and the town was quiet. The surrounding lands were verdant and stretched, uninhibited, all the way to the Great Dividing Range. How could I sit there, surrounded by such beauty, and not think, ‘I’m going to write a story about this’?
But, it wasn’t until I was driving later to a nearby town that I passed a golden sea of canola flowers. I pulled the car over so I could take photos. From this field, my imagination was set further in to motion.
Everywhere I looked, there was inspiration. Never had I been more thoroughly captivated by my surroundings.
The characters, setting, and plot for Catch Me a Cowboy roared through my brain and rolled off my fingers, unlike any other story.
And it is unlike any of my other stories.
Catch Me a Cowboy is a rural-romance/reality-television hybrid. If you enjoyed watching Farmer Wants a Wife, you’ll love this. It is funny, yet still possesses emotional depth. And of course, the story is set in rural Victoria in the fabricated town of Wattle Valley—a blend of all the best parts of this amazing region I live in. The lead character, Emily Wolfe, is sexy and sassy. And the cowboy, Wil Parker, whoa! He’s a rugged, salt-of-the-earth farmer, but has a few surprises up his sleeve.
Nothing like a tree change to spark new creative energies. I wonder where my inspiration will lead me next?
The biggest risks yield the greatest gains—especially in the game of love.
by Melanie Coles
I have a somewhat hazy memory when it comes to my foray into the world of romance novels, but as a girl-child of the eighties, here are the ones I do remember reading that influenced my love for them:
- Sweet Valley
My earliest memory of romance novels, Francine Pascal’s engaging series about twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield had me hooked for years. Though they weren’t strictly romance, it was certainly enough to whet a young girl’s appetite for the genre.
2. Anne of Green Gables
I saw the telemovie before I discovered the books, swooning over Jonathan Crombie’s Gilbert Blythe along with millions of other girls, but once I found them I couldn’t put them down. He was the first fictional hero I ever fell in love with, and to this day the love story of Anne and Gilbert remains one of literature’s most endearing.
File this one under “sex-ed for tweens”. Judy Blume’s coming-of-age story was the first book I read that dealt with issues of teenage sex and intimacy. The book was so popular that I spent a month on a wait-list at the local library for my turn to read it.
4. Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.
Melanie Cole brings her love of Pride and Prejudice to rural Australia in her re-imagining of the classic, Evan and Darcy.
by Jacquie Underdown
Nothing can divide a room more than reality television.
You either love it, or you pretend not to.
For a people watcher (aka author) like myself, I’m firmly in the love camp. Give me The Block, MasterChef, Famer Wants a Wife or The Bachelor, and I’ll gladly have my eyes glued to the television every night of the week.
A nod, wink, and finger-gun salute at my reality-television-loving tribe.
As for the pretenders, I hear you loud and clear. Why the f***?
Yes, reality shows’ sets are staged, some of the storylines are scripted, but the one thing that remains constant is that the contestants are real. The emotional reactions are real.
Don’t scoff. I know some contestants might look like Prince Charming with a side order of yes please, or the latest swimsuit model for Sports Illustrated (The Bachelor, I’m looking at you.) But mostly, a closer-to-real-life diversity among contestants on reality television is not found anywhere else.
Only on MasterChef will you see a woman wearing a hijab. Only on Farmer Wants a Wife will you find a sixty-year-old Central Queensland farmer pursuing realistically shaped women his own age. And I’m not even starting on The Great Australian Bake Off or My Kitchen Rules.
Watching real people, who are placed under extreme pressure in a confined competitive environment, reacting in ways we ourselves might, holds a tremendous amount of appeal.
Witnessing Richie’s face on the new season of The Bachelor, with all his adorable awkwardness, when Lady Eliza serenades him seconds after their first introduction is priceless viewing. An actor could not portray or improvise that raw, tender human expression and emotion, nor evoke in the viewer a sinking twisted feeling of embarrassment for having watched the interaction it in all its uncomfortable glory.
And no script-writer is going to come up with the line, ‘Wow! Olena is a total babe’ like Richie delivered making us marvel at his me-good-at-words skills.
Okay, okay, that’s all ‘cool bananas’, but what’s this got to do with romance—specifically, a romance novel?
I’m glad you asked.
Let’s focus on reality dating shows, shall we? You know the ones—The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Farmer Wants a Wife and Married at First Sight. If you look closely, each of these shows possess all the components you love in a romance novel:
- a heroine we can love and sympathise with
- a sexy hero who may not be perfect but he sure as hell is mouth-wateringly close
- exotic settings
- loads and loads of conflict.
Bless reality television for showing us so many tears, tantrums and tender moments. *sigh*
But don’t you ever want to know what happens behind the scenes?
Did last season’s Bachelor, Sam, really fall hopelessly in love with Snezana like we all hoped?
Did they sneak a moment to secretly get hot and heavy with each other between filming?
How did Snezana react when she saw the footage of Sam kissing the other beautiful contestants and whispering his sweet-nothings in their ear?
And when all the girls were getting sloshed on champagne, did any take it too far and have to secretly rush to the toilet to vomit?
Okay, maybe scratch that last one.
The point is, I want to see what’s left on the cutting room floor. Or what didn’t even make it on to film in the first place. I want to know the motivations, secrets, regrets, excuses, and behind-the-scene squabbles. But mostly, I want all the romance and love found in a reality dating show dished up with a big bowl of happily-ever-after, wouldn’t you?
Of course you would. And your wish is my command.
*waves magic wand*
Enter the romance author. (That’s me!)
I’ve taken all of the best parts of reality television and a romance novel and mixed them up together. The result is Catch Me a Cowboy: a big, delightful mishmash of catty contestants who risk their hearts to win the love of a hunky man-mountain cowboy.
The best part is, nothing is left out. All the goodies are on show.
And that is how reality television and romance collide!
Crash into Jacquie’s new novel, Catch Me A Cowboy.
Emily Wolfe, real estate agent to the elite, is tired of being alone. So when she gets a chance to compete on a reality dating show she decides to risk it all for love in the biggest game of her life.
The city girl is surprised how much she enjoys switching her high heels for cowboy boots and pedicures for mud treatments—and not the kind you find at a day spa. And she’s falling hard for Wil Parker, the sexy, rugged farmer at the centre of the show.
Amidst the chaos, tantrums and editing tape, the heat and passion between Emily and Wil reaches boiling point. But can they survive the imminent explosion, let alone the fallout?
by Lea Darragh
It wasn’t always books that lured me into the delicious world of romance, or writing for that matter. Stories of lovers are sometimes enticed from watching people. Listening to and absorbing the inner workings of the mind, the language of the heart that isn’t always decipherable to those who don’t pay attention.
And sometimes it’s music. A song playing over the speaker system as you drive to and from a life you begrudge because you’d rather be spilling your every romantic thought onto a page. A line written in beautiful scripture that even though it was barely five words long, still transported you to a story that completely overtook you.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams…And all I loved, I loved alone…All my soul within me burning…But we loved with a love that was more than love – I and my Annabel Lee…
Poe is gorgeously bewildering, and incredibly inspiring to say the least. As simple a kiss, I was addicted.
That’s not to say that I never felt so compelled to tell a story based solely on a book I couldn’t put down, or a hero I was easily intrigued by. That absolutely happened. Many times. Most notable was, or is, my obsession with one book in particular. The Bronze Horseman – Paullina Simons.
I’m convinced I sound like a broken record when I say this, but that’s how this book left me; completely wrung out, emotionally and mentally. Broken. And I loved every second of Tatiana and Alexander’s story, but more than that, I was in awe of the way words strategically arranged on a page can draw out every single emotion a person can feel. How wonderfully creative.
I wanted to do that, to provoke thoughts we may not have otherwise entertained, or challenge views and morals we think are unbreakable, so ingrained in us that we’ll never be swayed. I wanted to push boundaries that The Bronze Horseman so easily pushed with me. It’s the number one book I would recommend for its deep and intense romantic themes, as well as being written in a way that has the reader believing, because, though it’s fictionalised, it’s based on true moments in history. It could be real. And that’s what we want when we read, isn’t it? To believe any one of us could have played these roles.
From a writer’s perspective, a gateway into romance, or any other genre, won’t always come from a book, or even from any of the reasons I’ve shared. It’s a subjective compulsion. A deep-seated need to get out what is trapped within us. Maybe it’s a cathartic experience, which it most often is with me. Whichever way the fiercely defiant monster is awakened, go with it on its journeys. It’ll take you places you never thought were possible. And from a reader’s perspective, if a friend offers a book and tells you your life will never be the same after having read it, believe them. Despite the fact that if I had picked up the book and looked over the cover, turning it in my palm to scan the blurb, finding it as bland as I first did, essentially judging it by its cover, I would never have then segued into the romance world. It changed my life. I hope it changes yours.
Happy reading : ))
Lea Darragh’s latest book explores the healing power of forgiveness and love in unexpected places.
by JC Harroway
Inspiration is a funny thing. It comes in many guises.
For many writers, a story starts with a spark—an elusive flash of magical inspiration that starts a chain reaction, a cascade of creative impulses. For others, their characters talk to them, waking them at night, demanding to be set free, immortalised on the page.
Into this imagination cauldron, throw a handful of ‘write what you know’, add a sprinkle of creative juice and…voila! You have a story.
This was the process for my first contemporary romance novel, Recovery. I’d spent months ignoring the heroine character in my head, fearing I couldn’t do her justice, when a local news item on the New Zealand evening news added the spark!
A BIG Hollywood name was in town, sadly making the news for negative reasons. But now my curiosity was pricked. Why was he here? What had brought him to the South Island? What was he doing in remote rural NZ?
The answer, of course—New Zealand’s buoyant film industry.
The screen industry revenue nets the NZ economy over three billion dollars a year. But this star wasn’t here to make a hairy-footed fantasy blockbuster.
And this got me to thinking about the NZ film industry and how a tiny, rural community could attract filmmakers seeking stunning locations for their films and the Hollywood A-listers starring in them.
Back to my story. Enter, stage left, our hero—Nathan Banks.
Now I had a heroine with a story to tell and a hero in the right place at the right time. And so Recovery was conceived. The story of a young British doctor, Sophia King—working in the stunning New Zealand town of Queenstown—who is called to treat famous Hollywood heartthrob, Nathan Banks.
Of course, where there’s fame there are paparazzi, globetrotting and glamour, a combination that’s enough to send our heroine running for those quintessentially New Zealand, movie-set-worthy hills. But who doesn’t want to meet an insanely attractive and charming movie star?
She can’t help but want him. But neither can his millions of fans.
Movie Review: Jason Bourne
Char: Before venturing solo to the movies last night, Bek and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Char: I’m thinking of seeing Bourne.
Bek: It got 57%. Star Trek got 83%.
Char: I know. But I like seeing Matt Damon hurting people.
Bek: I already saw it. Two hours I won’t get back … I mean … enjoy ….
Char: So, I wasn’t expecting much. And that’s what I got. Jason Bourne is the latest outing in the Bourne franchise, directed by someone called Greengrass (who also directed the second and third Bourne films). It’s got Matt Damon (which we have to say since the last one had JRen), Julia Stiles (for a little while), Tommy Lee Jones and a woman who suspiciously resembles the evil pharaoh from Stargate.
Char: Apart from this new character, all the actors look suitably aged, which I like. It’s nice seeing the wrinkles on screen, even if they don’t extend past Matt Damon’s chin …
… except where it means Tommy Lee Jones as the Director is channelling the emperor from Star Wars.
Char: I thought it was a lazy film outing. The first half is flat and dull. There’s a cool chase scene, but I smelt the whiff of the second Bourne film and thought, they’re going to kill Nicky. I know they are. AND THEY DO. Now, Nicky’s character is one of the most enigmatic in the whole franchise.
Bek: Humph. Like the latest James Bond movie, they cast aside the age-appropriate awesome actress in favour of someone young with thighs like a baby giraffes neck.
Char: Uh, YEAH. I’ve always been curious about Nicki – she has some skills, and yet we never get really anything about her. AND NOW SHE’S DEAD. And because they never allowed any romantic tension to develop between her and Bourne (except for that throwaway line in one of the earlier ones) her death really means little. She’s a device to bring Bourne back. AGAIN.
Bek: She got Refrigerated, man. Classic dick move.
Char: Yeah. Ho hum. Yawn. Even the intriguing power woman character of Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) couldn’t quite save that.
Bek: Argh. Intriguing? Are you kidding me? The only thing intriguing about her was the question of someone who was supposed to be so smart, why is she wearing a giant 90s banana hair clip? TELL ME WHY.
Char: Oh yes. That fracking banana clip. I did spend a while wondering if they put it in just to give her a ‘thing’. You know, to stand in place of a personality. She was a pretty unreadable book. But, in the desert landscape that it was, I did find it intriguing that a young woman character is swinging with the big power dicks, and is shady, and you’re never sure whether she believes what she says or is just playing anyone.
Bek: I. Did. Not. Like. Her. At. All. Banana.
Char: But, enough of that. Where the film really got interesting is right around the half-way point where the ‘Asset’ (Vincent Cassel) starts going rogue, opening up a splinter in the CIA.
Bek: I lost interest when it became apparent he wasn’t taking his shirt off.
Char: Touché. It wasn’t until then that we really had a villain, and could open up the full throttle on hating Tommy Lee. But it’s all really haphazard and half-finished. The thread with the social network Deep Dream security bizzo is just kinda hanging out there awkwardly at the edges like a nutscape**. Why is Bourne bare knuckle fighting? Does he need money? DID MATT DAMON NEED MONEY?
**(look it up if you have to; NSFW)
Bek: I’ve got money for Matt *waves five dollar bill*
Char: Even Heather Lee, who is the most interesting character with the constant questioning of whose side she’s on—
Bek: ARGH BANANA CLIP WHOT IS THAT SH*T?
Char: —ends up getting a pat ending.
Bek: I felt no emotional beats in this movie. Bourne discovers the real reason why his father was killed, but I don’t know enough about their relationship to care.
Char: Yeah, Bourne’s face is just a mask of I’m-dead-inside. I mean, even Daniel Craig’s Bond managed a kind of crazy-eye emoting in Casino Royale. Then there’s the stupid, stupid dialogue (“There’s a phone in the room. I can use it to delete the files”)—
Bek: Because accessing Black Ops files remotely is totally believable.
Char: —the convenient airbags (the Asset’s car crashes in the first chase, deploying said bags, but Bourne’s car goes through a demolition derby in Vegas with none in sight).
The one really interesting thing is that Bourne comes to his full arc, recognising that if he truly regrets the things he’s done, he can’t kill Tommy Lee. So Heather Lee does it—
Bek: BANANA CLIP KILLER
Char: —And then they kinda ruin that insight by having him kill the Asset with his bare hands. WHAT?
Bek: And you just can’t kill that magnificent French man!!
Char: Mmmmm. He’s definitely got some of that grey fox going on. Anyway, despite the appeal of Bourne hurting people, the film ended up so, so dissatisfying. Maybe because Bourne has become such a bleak and tragic character. I think the second Bourne was so powerful because it dared emotional investment – Bourne had had a shot at normality and it had been snatched away. Now there’s nothing. He’s still got his wiles, but honestly, the man’s deserved that to mean something. This movie needed a big adrenaline needle of emotion and investment. Clear!
Bek: BANANA CLIP
Char: 4 Rippling-Older-Man-Torsos out of 10
Bek: 1 Vengeful-Julia-Stiles out of 10
by Louise Forster
We lived in The Netherlands for a couple of years, and soon discovered that Dutch spoken at home was quite different to trying keep up with relatives talking through and over each other. Never mind TV announcers who seemed to speak Dutch, plum-in-mouth, which was equally daunting. Television was appalling and the winter nights were long. I needed something to occupy my mind so I ventured into the attic of the house we were renting. I soon discovered said places are always dimly lit, and creepy to explore; a bit like tingles along your spine all the way up to the back of your neck, making your scalp prickle. Nevertheless, creeped out, but determined, I hesitantly poked around and discovered books with English titles. Eureka! Neatly stored in a bookcase, were John Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham, and oh my god, Henry Miller; he blew the cobwebs right out of my prissy upbringing.
Then Jennifer Crusie stole my romantic reading heart.
Her books were and still are a delight. There are two that stand out for me: Agnes and the Hit Man and Fast Women. If I had to choose it would be have to be Fast Women. I loved crazy Nell and grumpy Gabe.
The opening para is absolutely brilliant:
‘The man behind the cluttered desk looked like the devil, and Nell Dysart figured that was par for the course since she’d been going to hell for a year and a half anyway. Meeting Gabriel McKenna just meant she’d arrived.’
Who’s Nell? why was her life hell? Who is Gabriel and what made Nell think he looked like the devil? Fantastic, I was hooked. Surely this would have any non-romance reader intrigued as well.
Jennifer Crusie’s dialogue is always brilliant. Her characters draw the reader in, and make you want the whole business of an unlikely romance work out. Gabe is a private detective and his office is exactly how he likes it … a bit of a shrine to his late father who passed away twenty years ago. Livewire, Nell, hired to type and file, thinks the whole place needs updating. Mindful of grump Gabe, she starts carefully with a good clean out and uncovers a mystery involving Gabe’s dad and her ex’s family. There’s plenty of humour, and the intricate plot would keep anyone turning the page.
Just to add more reading fun the whimsical china called Walking Ware features in this book.
Louise Forster grew up in country Victoria, but has seen quite a bit of the world. Experiencing different cultures, she learned that one of the enjoyable things to do was step back and watch as events played out. It fascinated her how European and Australian men romanced women, which differed for every country, yet, happily, the outcome was the same … usually.😉 Her latest book pits a small town teacher against the wounded soldier who just wants to keep her safe.
by Catherine Evans
The first romance I remember reading was Lucy Walker’s Gamma’s Girl. One of our neighbours dropped it in because she knew I loved rural stories and Mum had shared with her the Mary Grant Bruce Billabong series.
In Gamma’s Girl, I don’t remember the exact story, what I remember is the aching sweetness of their love. I think it was her first love, and he was her everything. It was a rural Australian story and I loved it. I devoured everything I could find by Lucy Walker. I still have a copy of The Bell Branch, which is set in England so I’ve no idea why I kept that one.
I had a hunt around the internet to see if I could find a blurb, but I’ve had not much luck. It came out in 1977, and I would have read it a few years after that. On Goodreads it hasn’t got many stars, so maybe my first romance isn’t the best I’ve ever read! Looking on eBay, there are a lot of Lucy Walker stories but no Gamma’s Girl, although, I’d probably not read it again in case it bursts my gorgeous memory!
Here’s a bit of a blurb from AusLit.edu.au: “Gamma’s Girl tells the story of Nairee, who is found as a baby by an Aboriginal woman, and brought up by Widow Peech, whom Nairee calls ‘Gamma’ (a childish way of saying ‘Grandma’).”
Does anyone else remember this story?
If you’re looking to try romance, my suggestion is to pick the sub-genre you like to read and start there. I loved Aussie rural stories so it was perfect to read a romance along those lines. If you’re not into rurals, there’s pretty much romance to suit all tastes – I have Dad addicted to the fantasy and suspense romances!
Catherine Evans stays true to her roots: her story, The Healing Season, is a true blue rural romance.