Gateway Romance: Ainslie Paton

The romance in my reading life is of the twisted type. There was no HEA in my house. There was a good deal of misappropriation.

There was no certainly Mills & Boon. I went from Black Beauty to what I could sneak off my mum’s shelf, all age inappropriate sexy stories: Jackie Collins, Taylor Caldwell, Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Judith Krantz, Susan Howatch and Colleen McCullough.

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They were read under cover by torch and snuck back into place. She’d have been horrified. Shhh, because she could still hurt me over that.

People did dreadful things to other people in those novels. They cheated, slept around, stole things, plotted and connived, wrecked their families and died, sometimes in vaguely historically accurate ways. They didn’t fall in love and stay that way.

I gobbled them up.

Later, Mum got into crime and murder mysteries and I got a library card and spent everything I earned from part time jobs on books. None of them were traditional romances. I didn’t know there was such a thing, and the Austen and friend’s classics were just hard work I associated with school, not reading for pleasure.

I stole a copy of Gone With the Wind from a holiday house one summer. It rained the entire week we were away and I’d run out of books from my own stash. It would have to do. I’d just read through James Clavell: Tai-pan, Shogun and Noble House.

Gone with the Wind

I was very bored and it was very wet and there was no bookstore in town. Gone With The Wind would have to do.

Hooked.

Controversial I know. Not the part where I stole the book from the holiday house, where someone else had obviously abandoned it, but for the whole is it a romance if it doesn’t have an HEA question.

Bookthingo is now shouting at her screen and will likely never read another of my books again.

Scarlett and Rhett crash and burn, but I fell for the sweeping, epic nature of the story, the heroine’s perspective and the kissing bits that were more of a conversation than an act of masculine power.

GWTW was a far more feminine read than the Clavells, Micheners, Irvings and Uris’ that were in my TBR. In that way it was a subversive read like the first Jackie Collins had been an eye-opening wild ride for a twelve year old. It stuck with me. It didn’t necessarily change my reading habits, but it made me want to create my own romances.

Took a while before I tried, but somewhere between GWTW, a long list of literary fiction with unsatisfactory conclusions, and my first novel, I learned to appreciate the value of a happy ending, because what a way to go.


Ainslie Paton might write twisty romances, but it’s not her fault, it’s the way she was brought up. Luckily, despite a host of bad influences and running with the wrong literary library crowd, she saw sense and all of her novels are HEA assured. Her latest release features a voice artist and a sound engineer. 

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Love can be a great healer, except when it hurts…

As voice actor royalty, Damon Donovan is trouble.  He’s professionally intimidating.  He’s confident. He’s charming, funny and genuinely talented. And he triggers the nurturing instincts newly separated Georgia Fairweather has sworn to ignore.

Damon Donovan is used to three types of women: those who fawn, those who mother and those who want to fix him. So a reticent, prickly engineer he can neither awe nor charm triggers his interest.

A recording engineer and a voice actor should be a match to sing about, but the thrilling rhythm they create is soon drowned out by static. Georgia doesn’t know who she is, and Damon doesn’t know who he’ll become.

Can a man facing his insecurities and a woman afraid of her own instincts harmonise, or are they destined to sound good in theory, but be out of sync in life and love?

An Interview with Lee Christine

1440Lee Christine was one of Escape’s launch authors with her debut novel, In Safe Hands

We are delighted that her fifth novel, A Dangerous Arrangementhas been nominated for a 2016 Romantic Book of the Year!

 

So we asked Lee a few questions about it.

What is the title of your book?

A Dangerous Arrangement

What did you do when you found out you were nominated?

I received a phone call from an RWA member after dinner. I was sitting down, thank goodness. My initial thought was that something must have gone wrong with my conference registration. I was totally shocked when she told me ‘A Dangerous Arrangement’ was in the final of the R*by in the romantic elements category. I remember saying something like ‘thank you so much for calling, that’s so cool. I can’t believe it’. I remember her laughing at my surprise and congratulating me. After the call ended, I told my husband and messaged my children. I had one of those 4 packs of individual bottles of champagne in the fridge so we cracked a couple of those. That was the best I could do as nothing else was cold. The excitement lasted a couple of days and I still get excited when I think about it now. It’s not every day you final in the R*by, and while I’m sure most authors don’t write novels with the aim of finaling or winning awards, it’s lovely to know there are people out there who enjoyed your work.

How many books have you written?

I’ve written five books in total. My ‘In Safe’ Sydney-set legal series is comprised of three romantic suspense novels with more to come in the future. ‘A Dangerous Arrangement’ which is another romantic suspense also with more novels to come, and a small town Australian rural romance, ‘Shadows of the Heart’, which has a touch of suspense and is part of a thirteen books series written by members of my writing group.

Tell us a little more about ‘A Dangerous Arrangement

A Dangerous Arrangement is mostly set in Italy. It has an Australian hero, a naval architect who builds super yachts for the rich and famous, and an American heroine, a classical violinist living and working in Australia. The two main characters are linked by the heroine’s flatmate, a man who works at my hero’s company headquarters. The inciting incident is a cyber-attack on my hero’s company. The files containing his latest yacht designs are frozen and a ransom is demanded. At the beginning of the book the hero has to find out if Marina is involved in bringing his company to its knees.

What is your favourite scene in the book?

Apart from the reconciliation in the final chapter, Marina’s scene with her father and sister in her home town of Boston. I love exploring sibling relationships in families, from the birth order, which can affect outcomes for children, along with the parent/child relationships. In romance novels, we often read about the disadvantaged sibling, the one who wasn’t favoured and the scars that result from those feelings of inadequacy. Often the character arc is about overcoming and rising above those inadequacies.

In ‘A Dangerous Arrangement’ I wanted to explore what happens when the hero/heroine is the talented one and how that affects their relationships with their less accomplished siblings. Also, how the burden of expectation and of being ‘the special one’ affects them personally? In Marina’s case, she feels guilty that the family’s money was siphoned into expensive lessons to further her talent often at the expense of her siblings’ sporting pursuits which didn’t rate as highly on the ‘Needs’ list as her violin lessons. She also feels the weight of having to succeed because of the sacrifices made by her parents. To fail, or not to make the most of every opportunity, would be a disservice to her parents.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Definitely the nautical research, though I was greatly assisted by a very knowledgeable fellow in that area. The musical knowledge came naturally as I studied saxophone at the Newcastle Conservatorium for fourteen years.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope the book leaves them with a feeling of optimism and a belief that no matter how insurmountable the obstacles appear to be, that they can be overcome – provided there’s a willingness on both sides and lots of open and honest communication.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing a 90,000-100,000 word mystery/thriller with romantic elements. It begins in Tokyo then moves to the mountains of Vermont. I usually write around 65,000 to 72,000 words but this is an ambitious story and it will require the extra words. After that it’s another Dangerous Arrangement novel and another In Safe novel. I also have a romantic comedy plotted and I’m dying to write that one.

What would you tell people who are looking to read your books for the first time?

The tag on my website says, A potent cocktail of love, danger and high stakes suspense. My books have been described as entertaining reads with lots of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the end. They are mostly urban set and have quite a meaty crime/mystery/suspense story that occurs along with the romance.

And finally, what are you planning on wearing to the awards ceremony?

I’m wearing a navy blue vintage style dress with beading on it. It’s quite dark, so I may need to accessorise with silver shoes and blingy earrings.


24250Kicking off a brand new romantic suspense series from Lee Christine is A Dangerous Arrangement: a violinist with a secret, a billionaire with a problem and a race against time set on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

 

The story of my book: Evan and Darcy

by Melanie Coles

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that every story has its beginnings in another story…’

It’s not exactly Jane Austen’s infamous first line from Pride and Prejudice, but quite often stories come about because of a premise, an idea or a thought an author has while reading another story.

It happened for me during one of my many re-reads of Austen’s best-loved work. As I lost myself in the romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, I found myself asking how the story would have played out if their genders were reversed. Would Darcy still hold the same appeal as a woman? What would a male version of Elizabeth be like? And could the story still work?

The questions wouldn’t go away, so I set about trying to answer them the only way I knew how. The result is my first novel, Evan and Darcy.

Adapting an existing novel has some advantages for a writer—the main characters already exist and the basic story arc is in place—but you still want to put your own spin on it. I decided to transport the setting to modern-day Australia and draw on my love of rural romance to create a truly unique adaptation. After all, who can resist a rugged, small-town hero?

In Evan and Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet has morphed from a gentleman’s daughter in Regency England into a modern Aussie wheat farmer from outback Victoria. Evan’s a proud country boy, dreaming of a life outside the one he has but too committed to his family (even if they do drive him a little nuts!) to pursue it.

Enter Darcy Fitzwilliam—the beautiful lawyer born and raised into upper-class English society. She’s in town to support her friend’s new business venture, but the last place she wants to be is stuck in the Aussie outback with the uncultured locals.

Though the story that follows may be familiar, the route they take to get there—from outback socials to society fundraisers to majestic vineyards—delivers something a little different and, I hope, truly special.


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Jane Austen gets a little dusty in this outback retelling of a beloved story about a man who learns that first impressions can be wrong when you’re looking for Ms Right.

 

The Endorphin Rush

by JC Harroway (originally published here)

Why do I read romance?

According to Thomas Stewart’s article for The Richest, I am not alone in my love for this genre. The romance/erotica fiction business is a $1.44-billion-dollar industry and is top of the list, beating crime, horror and fantasy.

So what is it that draws the predominantly (but not exclusively) female readership to romance novels?

It’s too simplistic to dismiss the whole genre as ‘mummy porn’. Romance novels range from incredibly sweet to explicit and includes the popular new adult and young adult subgenres.

And if women simply wanted porn, wouldn’t they just read or watch porn?

My own theory, not an original one by the way, is that many women, myself included, are drawn by the endorphin rush that comes when they get lost in a love story with a happy ever after (or an emotionally satisfying ending).

Endorphins, according to the Wikipedia, are a group of endogenous (i.e. produced in the body) opioid neuropeptides (hormones produced by the brain that inhibit the transmission of pain signals and produce a sense of euphoria). In short, they are your own legal and free source of narcotics!

It’s the same high experienced by athletes, yogis and chocolate lovers, and can also be induced by moderate levels of alcohol, a good massage and an orgasm.

Reading a great book, or watching a great movie, sucks us into the story. We get lost, becoming so invested in the outcomes of the characters, that when the boy gets the girl or the girl staves off dragons to save the boy, we experience a rush of chemicals so strong the following occurs in our bodies:

  • Pain sensations are blocked, or reduced
  • Our limbic system (part of the brain concerned with emotion) lights up giving us a rush of pleasure
  • Sleep improves
  • Our appetite is reduced
  • The negative effects of stress lessen
  • Our immune system is boosted
  • Blood pressure drops
  • Memory improves.

Wow. All that from a romance novel with a HEA—sign me up!

No wonder I’m addicted.


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She can’t help but want him. But neither can his millions of fans.

The Story of My Book: Copping It Sweet

by Anna Clifton

In Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolen quips, ‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’

I love this line. It reminds me that real life can be an extraordinary experience. And I often need this reminder when I’m hyperventilating over whether the contemporary romance story I’m writing might be getting a little bit too ‘extraordinary’ for belief.

Writers within the contemporary romance genre know they have a narrower licence for diving into extraordinary possibilities than those in the paranormal, historical and suspense genres. But the really tricky part for contemporary authors can be knowing exactly when a plot or a character’s situation is falling beyond the parameters of possibility and toppling into awkward implausibility. One solution for keeping stories out of the realm of implausibility reflects the title of this blog series, The Story of My Book: if the story you’re writing is to feel real, it helps to have a real story behind it.

At some stage I must have recognised this fact as each of my books was deliberately drawn from a real story inspiring it. But it’s Sara’s story in Copping It Sweet that comes from a particularly bittersweet story in my own life.

When I was in primary school I had a close buddy. I’ll call her Sally for the purposes of this post. Sally was kind and fiercely loyal, mischievous to the point of personal foolhardiness and outrageously funny. She also seemed to cherish our friendship in a way that I see now was beyond her years. We spent countless weekends and holidays together, the original odd couple with her hyperactive ‘Rebel Wilson’ personality an unlikely match for my quieter one. But Sally had a family secret she didn’t tell anyone, not even me.

To the outside world—at parent-teacher meetings, on the sidelines of netball courts, at birthday parties—Sally’s family looked like a regular family. But behind the respectable veneer, I would later discover, Sally’s father was a criminal underworld figure—in short, an all-round thug. I have no doubt at all that Sally had a good sense of what he was up to.

As so often happens, Sally moved away at the end of primary school and we lost touch. Something tells me though that despite her father’s career choice, Sally would have risen above that situation if anyone could.

Staggeringly, as the Australian TV series Underbelly portrayed, underworld figures have always moved seamlessly in and out of the general community, adopting guises of law-abiding normality as Sally’s father did. Copping It Sweet is a story drawn directly from this extraordinary reality. At eighteen, my protagonist, Sara, unwittingly falls for and marries the charming Anthony Dennis without any clue about his underworld celebrity. By the time Sara’s path crosses with Detective Sergeant Cooper Halligan’s ten years later she’s been estranged from Anthony a long time. But Anthony has never accepted the end of his relationship with Sara and controls her from a distance the only way he can—through stalking and intimidation.

In contrast, Cooper’s family life is about as ‘normal’ as it could be—a foil for Sara’s predicament as she hides her post-marriage secrets from them as well as from her estranged husband. When Cooper is finally compelled by his boss to investigate Sara’s relationship with Anthony Dennis, the closer he approaches the truth the harder it is to keep his distance from her.

Copping It Sweet, inspired by Sally, is not only a story about the transformative powers of love and acceptance but about keeping your heart open to the possibilities offered by hope, wherever and whenever they may be found.


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To find out her secrets he’s willing to risk everything — including his heart.

 

Hot toddies: Nicola E Sheridan

From A Warlord’s Lady by Nicola E Sheridan. Nicola writes: Sabra Westwood is a human Chameleon (essentially a genetically modified human who is able to camouflage due to the presence of chromatophores in her skin). This is an extract from Sabra’s book, ‘Memoir’s of a Warlord’s Love Slave’.

My stomach lurched into my throat and my heart constricted as if garrotted. I turned, and there he was, the Warlord, Cain Dath. He stood in loose, faded blue jeans, bare feet, and another snug white tee-shirt. The dark tan of his skin contrasted with stark beauty against the cloth, and I noticed the muscles in his neck tense as he obviously waited for my response.
‘No,’ I croaked, all too aware that I was naked and, due to my nervousness, was camouflaging badly.
A smile eased the line of his lips and he let out a slow breath, as if he’d been holding on to one. Like a gentleman, his gaze stayed locked on my eyes, not once flickering to my breasts and lower body that were randomly fluctuating in colour.
‘Why am I here?’ I asked, raising one hand to try and cover at least my nipples, and lowering the other to cover my shamefully bushy and colourful pubes.
Without answering, the Warlord uttered a spell and a loose silken wrap appeared in a shimmer of magical ions in his hands. It was as rainbow-hued as me, and as light as air. ‘Here,’ he murmured, and stepped toward me. The silk loosened and he extended it to me, as if expecting me to step into it and allow him to wrap it around me, like a lover might. Instead, I snatched it from him and wrapped it around myself, cinching the ribbon tight around my waist to hold it closed.
He didn’t seem perturbed by my rudeness, if anything there was a slight movement in his eyebrow and a hint of amusement in his eye.
‘Why am I here?’ I repeated, feeling a little stronger now that I was somewhat covered. Yet his presence was so unsettling. Just as in the bar, my body seemed to react to his. Horny, traitorous, lustful and dirty thoughts cart-wheeled through my brain.
The Warlord stepped closer, and at this new proximity I could smell him. His scent was an olfactory assault of magnificently sensual proportions. He was spicy and exotic, less like perfumed cigarettes and more like pure magic. There was power in his scent, and Lord it was delectable.
Before I could stop myself, I was in his arms, moulded to him like putty. He raised a hand and tilted my chin so my lips could meet his. I’d wanted this from the very first moment I’d seen him, and despite the fact he’d kidnapped me and slaughtered my travel companion, I waited breathless for his kiss.
That one kiss was more than I could have hoped, or ever dreamed–and it doomed me to six months of captivity. His lips met mine in an explosion of desire. We kissed, experimenting, tasting and exploring. Though eEvery fibre of my brain told me I should stop, that what I was doing was dangerous and extremely wrong, but my body and, dare I say, my heart convinced me it was right.
Without moving his mouth from mine, the Warlord’s searching hands slipped up my sides and discreetly loosened the ribbon that held the wrap closed. The silk, smooth as it was, slipped from my shoulders and fell to the floor like liquid. He caught my gasp in his mouth and soothed me with his hands, stroking my back, my hair, my bum. Yet instead of soothing, his hands seemed to arouse me even further. They dusted my body with exquisite sensations and left me weak-kneed and wanting. I didn’t fight when he scooped me into his arms and walked back from the balcony toward the mosquito-netted bed. I couldn’t have fought even if I’d wanted to, which I’ll confess here and now, I certainly didn’t.

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Magic, murder and mayhem collide when an ordinary woman meets a powerful warlord — and writes a bestselling, tell-all book…

The story of my book: Quest for Earth

by SE Gilchrist

When anyone asks where I get my ideas from, I find it difficult to answer. Some ideas just come to me, out of the blue—literally. (For some weird reason, a lot of times when I’m in the shower!). Some of my story ideas are triggered by articles I’ve read, even a phrase or book title or information on technology or innovative ideas. With Quest for Earth, the idea behind the story was born when I was plotting the story world for my Darkon Warriors series.

It seemed to me a logical conclusion that not all the Earth people would want to stay in the ‘Seven Galaxies’ and voila!—I had the premise for a second, follow-on series.

My heroine first made her appearance in Star Pirate’s Justicethe perfect candidate, as she has a lot to atone for due to past actions. I wanted to really make things difficult for this new band of travellers, so I decided that nope, they weren’t going to return to their own time. This, of course, gave me lots of ideas for conflict and plot.

Maaka, my hero, is a native of Earth and the leader of his people. But who was he? What was his life like? I brainstormed a brief history of what had happened to Earth since they left, which basically meant a devastated planet where every day was a battle to survive and this led to more ideas for plot and also world building.

I asked myself—what would protect these people from the elements? Where would they live? My research came up with some fascinating information on amazing dwellings carved into the rock and ground centuries ago, which I instantly wanted to use. For instance the Turkish underground city of Derinkuyu, which was once home to around 20,000 people and was eleven levels deep, had 600 entrances and miles of tunnels connecting it to other underground cities! It was even engineered to provide water tanks, wells, shafts for ventilation and light and, astonishingly, it was built in the Byzantine era—fully developed at least before 780 AD. I would use a similar underground city for my hero to live—perfect.

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How did these people survive though, in such a harsh environment? I decided they needed to be physically adapted humans, genetically modified, then I asked, who would have the technology to be able to do such advanced research? Voila—I had my villain and another race of ‘perfect’ humans living in a carefully controlled world. And of course I needed the villain to have a goal, motivation and conflict. What better way of melding the two series together, then have the seeds planted in the first?

Thus I had the bones of a new series, which led first of all to a short story, Paying the Forfeit and then to a short novella, Storm of Fire, and finally to my latest release, a full-length single title, Quest for Earth.


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With the survival of her crew at stake, an old enemy waiting in the wings, and a mighty chieftain declaring his love, can Sherise lead her people safely home?