Feed Your Reader: Dystopian Menage Trilogy Concludes

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They fight for their survival, they fight for their love, and they fight for the human race.

Euan left his home whole, only to return broken, battered, and partially blind. He has endured the torments inflicted upon him by monster and man, but they are nothing compared to the consequences of betraying Nick and Kira. Incapacitated, he has no choice but to concede leadership to the man he considered his enemy, and is powerless as the distance between him and those he loves deepens and grows.

But his recovery time is short lived. The commander of destruction still lurks in the shadows, determined to dominate and control what is left of the human race. The final battle is upon them. They need a champion, a hero for humanity. There is no where left to run, and there is only one person who can provide the ultimate catalyst for change: A little, blonde sun-sprite, with crystal blue eyes.

“an atmospheric, descriptive and exciting read” – Deborah, Netgalley

“This book is a triumph! The perfect blend of ménage romance and suspense set in a post-apocalyptic, almost Mad Maxesque world.” – Eliza, Goodreads (on True Refuge) 

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Friday Five: Jacquie Underdown

1501Author: Jacquie Underdown
First published with Escape: December 2013 – The Paler Shade of Autumn
Favourite romance trope: The love triangle
Ideal hero (in three words): Handsome, intelligent, and dedicated
Ideal heroine (in three words): Funny, ambitious, and loving
Latest book: Bittersweet

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

I’ve always loved reading romance books or books with romantic themes, so it was a natural trajectory when the urge to write hit that I would write in this genre. When I wrote my first romance book ten years ago, it was with the strong purpose of wanting to show others how amazing love could be.

What kind of characters do you like reading about the most? What about the ones you enjoy writing?

I love reading about characters who are somewhat otherworldly—they possess magical/mythical qualities—yet have to navigate real life and romance with those inherent qualities.

I enjoy writing all types of characters from cowboys to multi-millionaires, florists to time-travellers, but my real passion is writing characters similar to those I like to read. I adored writing Autumn Leone, a girl who can see into people’s minds, in the Paler Shade of Autumn. Even with my most recent novel, Bittersweet (Brothers of the Vine #1), I couldn’t help but weave a subtle magical matchmaking thread through the story.


Which writers inspire you? Favourite books and authors? What makes them your favourite?

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This changes all the time, but, at the moment, my favourite authors are:

  • Alice Clayton—her books are funny and sexy (particularly the Hudson Valley series) and she writes super-hot heroes.
  • Maggie Stiefvater—I adored the Raven Cycle series so much it makes my heart race thinking about those books.
  • Liane Moriarty—her ability to observe everyday human behaviour is outstanding.
  • Sarah J. Maas and Karen Marie Moning—I adore books about Fae that are also a little sexy and where the female protagonist gets to kick arse.
  • Hannah Kent—her prose is meticulous and I couldn’t read The Good People fast enough.

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

I’m not sure I would call my Siamese cat, Bear, my familiar or even a mascot, but he is certainly a big supporter of my writing for no other reason than because he gets to sit on my lap while I write. In summer, especially since moving back to Queensland, that’s not the ideal scene.

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But, in saying that, his spirit certainly makes its way into my stories. I named my male protagonist in Pieces of Me after him. And a female version of him appeared in Catch Me a Cowboy.

Bear 2 mins after wanting to be let out

Where is your favourite place to write?

I know authors generally have an office to write in, and I’ve tried that many times, but after a career as an accountant, stuck in an office day in day out, that’s the last place I want to be. So, I generally write while sitting on the lounge with my laptop on my lap.

And I have a standing desk, also in my lounge room, that I alternative between.


 

32702A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

” I loved the way the story was woven and all its twists and turns. A box of tissues is a must!”  – Jeanne, NetGalley

“a lovely story of love, healing, and new beginnings.” – NetGalley Reviewer

“just gives you a huge happy sigh” – Becky, NetGalley

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Celebrate (Wiccan) Good Times

by Leisl Leighton

I have always been fascinated with modern religious holidays like Christmas and Easter and how they got to be the way they are. Why on earth do we decorate a pine tree to celebrate the birth of Christ? Why is Christmas in December when historians know Christ was born in the Spring, not in Winter? And why would we have a rabbit leaving eggs to celebrate a man’s death?

It was always so weird – wonderful and interesting, but weird. As I got older, I discovered the reason was because many of our own holidays actually borrow elements from other religious pantheons, most particularly from pagan festivals which are now celebrated by Wiccans and Witches.

For instance, Midwinter, or Yule takes place on the 21st-23rd December. Marking the last month of the old year and the first month of the new (from the lunar calendar), Yule was a time of sacrifices, feasting and gift giving in the northern hemisphere.

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People decorated their homes with ever-greenery – holly, ivy, mistletoe, yew, pine – often featuring red winter berries. (Sound familiar? The only thing missing is a jolly fat white-bearded man wearing a red and white outfit – thanks Coca Cola!) Yule was a very important festival, a turning point of the yearly cycle, a reversal of the sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, symbolising the rebirth of the solar god and presaging the return of the fertile season.

Historians posit that the Christians appropriated this holiday for their own celebrations, due to similar themes of birth and hope they wished to focus on (not to mention supplementing the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which occurred around the same time and was a regular orgy of food, drink and flesh – and a completely different story for another blog!)

Easter also takes much of what it is from the Pagan festival of Ostara or Oestra (sounds a lot like Easter, right?) Ostara is the Vernal Equinox running from the 19th-22nd March. It gains its name from the fertility goddess, Ostara, the Eastern Star.

The festival itself inaugurates the new year on the Zodiacal calendar and is the point at which the day becomes longer than the night in the northern hemisphere.

It is a time of rebirth – hence why it celebrates the goddess of fertility! Given eggs are a symbol of fertility, it became the custom to decorate them in celebration and as a kind of hopeful prayer for the new year. That’s why we give eggs at Easter time – although the chocolate thing is an entirely modern twist that most of us find indulgently delicious.

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In regards to the bunny rabbit who delivers eggs (something we all know rabbits don’t do), the Goddess Ostara is associated with fecund symbols, most especially the hare (we all know the phrase ‘going at it like rabbits’) and the egg. So, this is why we have a rabbit delivering eggs. Cool hey?

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And then there’s Halloween. A bastardised version of ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ or All Saints Day, it was a reference to the eve of Samhain, a sabbat festival, considered to be one of the four Great Sabbats.

It’s a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on. It is often considered a festival of darkness, balanced at the opposite point of the Wheel of the Year by Beltane which is the festival of light and fertility.

Wiccans believe that at Samhain, the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest, making it easier to communicate with the departed, the strongest time at midnight on Samhain Eve. It became tradition during the middle ages for people to go ‘mumming’ or ‘a-souling’ on the night before Samhain. They’d dress up and pretend to be spirits of the departed, roaming from door to door offering prayers for the dead. They were offered sweet cakes and fruits in exchange for this ‘mumming’.

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Of course, in modern times, candy companies and costume makers jumped on this tradition (after trying to start up their own ‘Sweets Day’ in the USA earlier in the month but failing to get traction) and the homemade treats and costumes became horror dress ups for candy. Trick or Treat anyone?

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While I enjoy the modern versions, I love the histories of these ancient festivals, the rich traditions which are still payed homage to by thriving Wiccan communities across the world. It was this fascination that led me to include these festivals, the ties to the power of the earth, to rebirth, to changes, death and the power beyond the veil, into my Pack Bound Series. I hope the thread of ancient mystery mixed with my own imagination helps to bring my world of Were, Shifters, Witches and Wiccans to life for readers as much as they have for me.


33095One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined…

Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch-kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as the Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand-new world.

But the Darkness was not destroyed.

Skye Collins has been brought up to fear her magic and shy away from witch and Were alike. But when Jason McVale, the Alpha of Pack McVale, comes in search of her, she is intrigued and tempted. Her mistrust of magic and wariness of the intensity of passion she shares with Jason threatens her control—and if she loses control, she just might turn into the weapon the Darkness intended her to become all along.

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Exclusive Excerpt 2: Bittersweet

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A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Tom dropped Amy home later that night. He walked her to the back door of Sugar Cakes and waited for her to open the lock and turn the inside light on.

She had a feeling he didn’t want the night to end. If she were to be honest, she’d admit she felt the exact same.

Thank you so much for today,’ she said as they lingered on the doorstep under the filmy light that spilled over them. ‘I really appreciate your help. And for tonight too. I had a great time.’ And she truly did. She enjoyed Tom’s company a great deal.

Even now, as she looked up into his face, she ignored the buzz of anticipation that tingled through her body.

I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.’

I did. I needed it.’ She had needed to do something just for the hell of it. Not out of obligation or duty, but just for fun. She had already dedicated so much to her career, she’d forgotten what that was like.

Tom looked into her eyes as he smiled; Amy melted just a little. How could she not. This man was incredible—warm, compassionate, and as sexy as sin. And he was completely respecting the boundaries she had delineated. No pressure.

But, the worst thing they could have done was sleep together because now that she had had a taste of him, she knew how great it could be, and she wanted more. So much more.

Could she take it there again? Would it really be so bad if they were to let this attraction play out physically for the duration they had left together?

There was no denying that Tom was becoming a huge part of her life.

There was no denying that she was developing real emotions for him.

Her breaths grew thinner, louder, as much as she tried to hide it. But there was nowhere to hide, for in this silence was only their breaths and beating hearts.

So, I guess I’ll see you later in the week?’ he asked, but his words were thin. He was obviously on the same train of thought she had stumbled onto. But how could he not be when all the space between them was becoming charged with their need to touch one another.

Before she could think of all the reasons why she shouldn’t, Amy reached for his hand. A warm current coursed through her arm. She needed his touch so much she ached.

His gaze met hers.

Her thumb moved over the back of his hand and that small gesture stole her breath. His eyelids dipped a little, and his next intake of air was rushed.

Still his eyes held hers.

She took a step closer. His warmth reached across the space between them and caressed her, urged her to come even closer. Could she?

Amidst all the pain and the uncertainty of the future, could she let Tom in? Even if only for a short while?

Her breaths were making her chest rise and fall. Her heart sped up pace.

Amy?’ asked Tom, a deep whisper.

For a long moment, she didn’t answer, still indecisive. No-one but themselves could get hurt here.

Was he worth that risk?

He reached for her, his hand cupping her jaw, thumb smoothing over her cheek. She nestled into his touch. ‘Amy?’

Was it really so wrong when everything inside her was screaming at her to take the leap, to fall into him.

Will you catch me?’ she whispered.

His gaze flickered from her eyes to her lips, then he nodded. ‘And I won’t let go.’

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Reasons Spec Fic Romance is for you – a list

by Annabelle McInnes

Speculative fiction fosters more than just a thirst for the fantastical. It can create an environment that explores societal norms, exposes and dissects flaws in our society and asks the hard questions about our morals, our values, and our impact. Ultimately, speculative fiction can create a narrative around the best and the worst of humanity.

When you combine the highlights of Spec-fic with romance tropes, you have the opportunity not only explore thought-provoking concepts, but also how these environments influence the nuances of relationships, love, family and community. This takes us into wild and wonderful world of Spec-fic Romance (SFR) where the endless possibilities of this exciting sub-genre are ahead of you.

But you need a little more convincing? I’ve put tougher the top ten reasons you should start reading Spec-fic Romance.

  1. Spec-fic Romance asks the big questions

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As a genre, Speculative fiction asks the question ‘what if?’. It’s a fundamental element to the plot and can drive the narrative and the direction of the story. By doing this, readers are given the opportunity to explore different realities, alternative histories and futuristic prospects. This question can also influence the romantic elements to highlight the emotional connection between characters, the circumstances in which they fall in love, courtship and sexual conduct. In short, SFR can offer high tension, high stakes, alpha heroes and hot sex.

  1. Dissect societal norms

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SFR dissects societal norms in a closed environment, where particular aspects of our nature are amplified and ramifications explored. From a romance point of view, this includes our relationships. SFR delves into the values we attribute to love, and what elements are needed for us to fall in love. It can analyse how community, government and the environment influence the connection between partners and how people manage to overcome conflict in order for love to prevail.

  1. Entrenched in our history

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Historical fiction and SFR aren’t a likely couple. But SFR often draws elements of human history into its narrative and crates imaginative worlds to support and expand on those themes. War, equality, race and religion all offer historical information that drives and supports SFR concepts. Take any moment in time and ask that imperative question ‘what if?’ and the possibilities for adventures are infinite.

  1. World building

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On the other end of the scale is the world building. SFR offers endless prospects for those who love fantastical worlds and all the brilliance and wonder that they offer. Though SFR can often explore the darkest elements of humanity’s nature through dystopian worlds, it can just as easily explore the best of us. Romance tropes form a key part of these storylines and enable readers to immerse themselves in the human element of these ideas, explore how relationships can evolve and thrive, while knowing that they will always get their HEA.

  1. Explores fantasies

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A key reason to love romance? Because readers can live out their fantasies, whatever they may be. The focus the romance genre dedicates to its characters allows readers to be right at the heart of action. In SFR, not only do our heroines fight zombies, fly spacecraft, play with magic or save the world, but they’re likely entangled with a dominating, broody and tortured hero who just needs love to save him. If your fantasy is to be seduced and then whisked off your feet to fight oppressive overlords, then SFR is for you.

  1. The Heroes and Heroines are badass

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Overcoming significant adversity is a key theme to many SFR novels. It’s not just about characters finding the love of their lives, it’s can often also about survival, saving the humanity, or even the universe. Characters in SFR often have to shed the ideals and social norms created by society to survive and thrive. You want alpha heroes and strong feisty heroines who fight zombies, win against impossible odds and save the world? You’re in the right place.

  1. Multiple sub-genres

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SFR is not all about zombies. Dystopian and utopian sub-genres are included, but so is steampunk, futuristic, supernatural, horror and urban fantasy. Plus, every romance trope there is. There are multiple layers to SFR that offers most readers something they love.

  1. High tension, high stakes

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Not all SFR is action based, but storylines often have high stakes for the characters. The fight for the greater good is a common theme – so are robots. Readers who enjoy the genre can rest assure that they’ll be in for an adventure.

  1. An escape

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Reading in itself is an escape. It takes you out of your reality and offers you magic. SFR provides another layer to reading that doesn’t come with other genres. Readers are taken on a journey of discovery, of excitement, to remarkable worlds built to remove you from reality and take you flying. Add the tantalising element of romance with high emotional risks, badass heroes and heroines, and a love that could come at a price. Honestly, what’s not to like?

  1. The happy ending

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Let’s face it, we’re romance readers for a reason. We love our happy ending. SFR may ask the hard questions, push boundaries or take us on a heart-thumping ride, but when the romantic element is added, readers can relax in the knowledge that everything will work out in the end and that their fantasy will always be fulfilled.


32999 (1)They fight for their survival, they fight for their love, and they fight for the human race.

Euan left his home whole, only to return broken, battered, and partially blind. He has endured the torments inflicted upon him by monster and man, but they are nothing compared to the consequences of betraying Nick and Kira. Incapacitated, he has no choice but to concede leadership to the man he considered his enemy, and is powerless as the distance between him and those he loves deepens and grows.

But his recovery time is short lived. The commander of destruction still lurks in the shadows, determined to dominate and control what is left of the human race. The final battle is upon them. They need a champion, a hero for humanity. There is no where left to run, and there is only one person who can provide the ultimate catalyst for change: A little, blonde sun-sprite, with crystal blue eyes.

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Fair Game (Women of W.A.R.) Exclusive Excerpt 3

Part I

Part II

Levi knew the second he flipped the paper over a few days later and found himself staring into the face of his one-time best friend that Darcy’s buzz was going to be no match for this crappy piece of news.Tony’s shit-eating grin leapt from the back page and Levi’s heart sank as the headline jumped out at him.

Tony Cameron scores coveted Banshee coaching position.

Well… fuck! Darcy…

Fuck.

There’d been the tiniest niggle at the back of Levi’s brain for days. The knowledge that Tony could be a possibility as coach. No matter how outside. That’s what he did after all—coach. But last Levi had heard he was somewhere in Indonesia setting up coaching clinics there.

A long way away from here.

But apparently he wasn’t that outside after all.

Damn it! He should have listened to that niggle. Yoga had taught him to listen to his body and he did that without hesitation, but he wasn’t as good at listening to his gut. Trusting his intuition.

If he had, he could have prepared Darcy for it a little. Put it out there, given her time to get used to it. Just in case.

Christ. Tony—the life and soul of any party, the one who people gravitated towards—was going to be back in their lives. After leaving it so spectacularly two years ago. Turning his back on Darcy and gutting her in the process.

Levi had heard her crying in her bedroom late at night for months after Tony had left. He’d tried to be there for her during that time, be a shoulder for her, but she’d been so devastated. And then she’d woken one day and announced herself over him. He hadn’t heard her cry again. And they hadn’t ever really talked about him since.

But would Tony’s reappearance bring all that grief back again and was she really over him? Or did she, deep down, still love him. As far as he knew, she hadn’t been seeing anyone. So had she really moved on?

Or did she still lie in bed at night and pine for Tony as Levi lay in his bed next door and burned for her?

He sunk to the couch, reading the article without really taking anything in. He knew Darcy didn’t see him as anything other than her ex-boyfriend’s ex-bestie. A roommate. She’d firmly friend-zoned him and that had been enough to begin with because she’d needed a good guy to lean on.

But every day that passed it was harder to pretend he didn’t have deeper feelings for Darcy. Feelings he’d not looked at too deeply for the five years his best friend had shared Darcy’s bed. Feelings that had grown in the last two while he’d waited for his moment.

Waited. Prevaricated. Lost his nerve.

Too afraid to jump in case he fucked it up altogether. Got it wrong. Misread the occasional flare of heat in her weird, green cat’s eyes. Caused her to flee. Because being her friend, being near, sharing her life, was pretty damn good.

It sure as shit was better than nothing at all.

Christ. He was pathetic. And now this. Tony fucking Cameron smiling at him from the back page.

Her words from a few days ago came back to him. The coach can have whatever the hell he wants. Yeah. That’s what Levi was worried about.

‘Anything good in there?’ Levi almost went into cardiac arrest at the unexpected intrusion. He glanced at her lounging in the archway that separated the kitchen/dining area from the lounge room. She was in her regulation work clothes—roomy high-vis long-sleeved shirt, baggy King Gee shorts that reached her knees, thick protectors pulled over her socks and dusty steel-capped boots, her hair haphazardly tucked up in her Gerry’s Market Garden cap.

It was possibly the most shapeless, asexual uniform he’d ever seen. She shouldn’t look hot.

But she did. Fucking hot.

Trumped only by how she looked at the end of the day, her face all red and sweaty, her boots caked in mud, dirt under her fingernails and her hair clinging limply to her neck, happy and smiling and relaxed after a day doing what she loved.

Christ. What was wrong with him? Had Tony’s imminent reappearance tripped some kind of Cro-Magnon switch in his head?

Levi didn’t know. All he knew was he wanted to yank that hat off her head and kiss her. So damn hard.

Her spoon scraped along the bottom of her usual bowl of rice bubbles loaded up with Milo—poor man’s Coco Pops—before shovelling a spoonful in her mouth, spilling milk down her chin and swiping at it with the back of her hand.

‘Jesus.’ He grabbed his chest. ‘Sneak up on a guy why don’t you?’

‘Yeah. You look like you’re heart-attack material.’

She pushed off the archway, totally unconcerned for his cardiac health. Plonking herself down on the couch beside him, her arm warm against his, her thigh brushing his, she glanced at the paper. Levi angled it out of her line of sight.

‘Hey.’ She frowned at him. ‘I’m trying to read that.’

‘They’ve announced the coach.’

She gasped and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. ‘Who is it?’ She shoved the bowl on the coffee table in front of them, a bit of milk slopping over the side as she made a grab for the paper.

He held it just out of reach, wishing he didn’t have to tell her. Wishing it wasn’t so. She made another grab for it and he held it above his head.

Levi Phillips.’ It was said with a half-amused, half-frustrated growl and did very bad things to the muscles in his belly. They stirred and tightened. So did his dick.

She stared at him and frowned. ‘What?’

‘It’s… Tony.’

She blinked. Then she gasped again. ‘What?

She reached for the newspaper and this time he ceded it to her with a quiet, ‘I’m sorry.’

But she wasn’t paying him any attention. She had eyes only for the black and white print, the grip on the paper tightening as she read it half out loud, half to herself. ‘Cameron was the second choice after Doug McDonald reportedly turned it down.’

Levi suppressed a snort. Tony wasn’t going to like that one little bit. He had a huge chip on his shoulder about always being the bridesmaid, his whole life marked by being second best. Not quite making it to an elite level in footy due to injury and lack of that special X factor.

The one you either had or you didn’t.

Darcy had it. And Tony had known it. Hell, he’d resented her for it. And had spent the better part of their five years together undermining her confidence, trying to convince her she wasn’t quite good enough either. She hadn’t been able to see it but Levi had watched Tony’s subtle erosion with gritted teeth. And then he’d dumped her, citing her lack of commitment to their relationship, that it had run its course and he needed space.

It had really rattled her cage.

All because his fragile little ego hadn’t been able to cope seeing someone he loved be more successful than himself. It had been pathetic. Question was… would Tony continue his mind games or had he grown the fuck up?

Darcy threw the paper on the table. ‘Well shit. That killed my buzz.’

‘Yeah.’ Levi nodded slowly. ‘Thought it might.’

‘Can you believe this?’ she demanded, half turning to face him, incredulity twisting her features.

Levi shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. His gut burned with disbelief. And concern about how this would play out. How Darcy would handle it.

She groaned and buried her face in her hands. ‘God… Why him?’

Levi didn’t say anything. It was obviously a rhetorical question. He just sat there for a while and let her mutter away to herself for a bit.

‘What are you going to do?’

She dragged her head out of her hands. ‘What can I do?’

‘Nothing.’ It was the stark, honest truth. Players didn’t get a say in their coaches. Not at Darcy’s level anyway. And she wouldn’t want to rock the boat, not if she didn’t want to end up with a diva reputation before the comp even got off the ground.

‘Exactly.’

She sounded depressingly resigned and Levi cursed Tony silently. ‘It’ll be okay,’ he assured. ‘It’s been two years. And you’re over him, right?’

‘Right.’

It was followed by a nod. But neither the nod, nor her voice, rang with conviction. So Levi did the only thing he could think of, slipped his arm around her shoulder and gave it a brief squeeze.

‘He’s a good coach.’ It killed Levi to admit it. He didn’t want to say anything good about the guy at all but it was the truth and Darcy obviously needed something right now. He gave her another squeeze. ‘Don’t let him ruin your buzz.’

Tony fucking Cameron had already done too much of that in Darcy’s life.

Darcy nodded again, turning her face to look at him. ‘You’re right.’ A wan smile touched her lips. ‘I’m not going to give him that kind of power.’

‘Good for you.’

She stood then, slipping out of his light hold, tossing the paper onto the coffee table. ‘It’s been two years. We can have a professional relationship.’

Levi wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince him or herself. He gripped his thighs hard to stop himself pulling her down again, slipping his arm around her again, trying to convince her with the solid assurance of his body that she could do this.

She was incredibly strong and determined. She could do anything. He nodded instead. ‘Absolutely.’

She shot him another wan smile. ‘Thanks.’

‘You’ll be fine,’ he assured.

‘I am fine.’ Then she calmly scooped up her bowl and disappeared into the kitchen. Levi winced as the bowl crashed into the sink.

Maybe not so fine after all…

 


32511 (2)How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

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Fair Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt 2

You met Darcy and her man-bun-wearing, yoga-doing, biggest supporter Levi in Part I yesterday. Not enough?

Well, we can help with that.

‘Unhand me, DC, you’re making a spectacle of yourself.’

Darcy laughed at the gruff humour and unlocked her legs, sliding to her feet. He handed her the balloon and grabbed for her bag.

She took a step back. ‘I can take it.’

He didn’t answer, just reached for it and slid it off her shoulder, slinging it over his own with quiet efficiency as they turned towards the exit. ‘Are you sure you’re female, DC? Most chicks’ make-up bags are this size.’

Darcy laughed to cover the sudden deflating realisation that after seven years of platonic cohabitation, Levi had probably never seen her as a female.

As a woman.

It’s true she wasn’t much of a girly girl. She was a sporty girl who worked a manual job, preferred loose comfortable clothes to anything fashionable, and lived for her Aussie Rules. But bloody hell, she had two C cups that pretty much put her femininity right out there.

They’d been squashed against his chest a moment ago.

Annoyed at her train of thought and why it seemed to matter so much suddenly, Darcy gave herself a mental shake. Since when had she given any fucks about this crap? ‘Not only female but a goddamn Brisbane Banshee, so watch out, Levi.’

He laughed and high-fived her before stepping around a toddler who was drunkenly navigating the airport corridor. ‘What did your parents say?’

Darcy sighed as she also took evasive action to avoid the toddler. ‘They said they were proud but could the name be changed to something less ghoulish.’ Levi laughed. ‘I explained the team names weren’t up to me.’

‘They mean well.’

‘Yeah.’

‘They going to go to your debut game?’

She shook her head. ‘Dad’s got a convention in Cambridge in February and Mum’s going with him to catch up with family.’

He didn’t say anything for a moment, then slid his hand onto her shoulder and gave her a squeeze as they walked companionably side by side. ‘Sorry.’ His hand fell from her shoulder as quickly as it had appeared.

‘It’s fine.’

Darcy didn’t mind. Her parents were proud of her, in their own way. It wasn’t their fault she’d strayed from the plan. That growing boobs and thighs at the age of fifteen had stymied her mother’s Royal Ballet ambitions for Darcy. And taking up soccer and football had added insult to injury.

They were the arts and academia. Darcy was dirty hands and football on Sunday. The two were hard to reconcile.

‘Well, I’ll be there.’

‘I should bloody hope so.’ It wasn’t strange that Levi’s presence at the game meant more to her than her own parents being there. He’d been her number one cheerleader for years. He got it. ‘

All of Brisbane’s going to be there, DC, just you wait and see.’

Darcy smiled at him. She hoped so. She really did. Everyone had such high hopes for the women’s game taking off and being supported by the same fans who’d been watching the blokes do it for decades. There were detractors, of course. The people who said nobody wanted to see chicks playing football and why didn’t they just stick to netball?

But, overwhelmingly, reaction had been positive. It was a gamble for the powers that be—no one was disputing that—hopefully one that paid dividends.

They’d all know in four months…

‘So, how’re you going to celebrate? Going out with the girls?’

‘No. Tomorrow night. Big night in Melbourne last night with the team.’ All the Banshee draft picks had painted the town red and Darcy grinned, remembering again, and gave herself a mental pinch. She was part of a national women’s team!

‘Can’t party too hard.’ She patted her stomach. ‘Gotta keep match fit.’ Levi threw back his head and laughed. The man knew the type of crap she usually shovelled into her mouth on a regular basis.

A woman coming towards them glanced at Levi, totally checking him out as she passed by. And why not? He may be just a friend but Darcy was still a woman and the man was very easy on the eyes. He didn’t seem to notice her appraisal, though.

He never seemed to notice how women looked at him. And they looked at him. A lot.

Not that he ever seemed to partake. Darcy couldn’t be absolutely sure—they weren’t the kind of friends who talked about their sex lives—but she did live with him and if she was a betting woman, she’d say Levi had been as celibate as she had these past couple of years.

He’d dated, in the past—she’d met a few of his women at the breakfast table when Tony still lived with them. But she hadn’t seen him with anyone in a long time. Not at their place anyway.

Which was a crying shame. The man practiced yoga every morning and taught it three nights a week—for damn sure he’d have some mad, crazy skills between the sheets.

Tune in tomorrow for Part III!


32511 (2)How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

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Fair Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt

Our third and final launch title in the new Women of WAR series, releasing 20 February (pre-order now!) is Fair Game from award-winning, best-selling author Amy Andrews. 

If you haven’t, check out the excerpts from Nicola Marsh and Catherine Evans!

Darcy Clarke hadn’t felt this freaking fantastic in a very long time. Maybe not in her whole twenty-seven years. Not after a block of lime Lindt chocolate (which never failed to zing her straight to her happy place). Not after three scoops of pineapple gelato (which totally should be mandatory treatment for depression).

Not even after sex.

Not that sex counted, considering she hadn’t had any since douchebag Tony had dumped her just over two years ago. She’d had orgasms, for sure. By herself. And she didn’t think self-love counted.

But that didn’t matter right now. Hell, she doubted it would ever matter again because footy was better than sex—why hadn’t she always known this?—and she’d done it. She’d actually done it! Her name had come up in the draft and she was going to be playing professional Aussie Rules football in the inaugural national women’s competition for the Brisbane Banshees.

And she felt amazing.

She deserved it, for sure. But when had that ever made a difference? She’d busted her gut for this for years, but even twelve months ago she’d have never thought it possible. A national women’s comp had been mooted for years, but as time progressed it had become more mythical than the bloody unicorn. But suddenly, the planets had aligned and the glass ceiling had been smashed and she was going to be right there in the thick of it!

Darcy allowed the chants of an invisible crowd to swell inside her head. Not that having a crowd chant your name was what it was all about but she ran with it for a moment or two, giddy on life, footy and everything. She grinned so hard, the man sitting in the seat next to her shifted sideways a little as the plane made a smooth touchdown.

But Darcy couldn’t help it. She couldn’t stop smiling. She knew she looked maniacal—the flight attendant had eyed her suspiciously and handed her a plastic knife to cut her roll rather than a metal one like she’d given the guy next door—but she didn’t care.

Nothing and nobody was going to kill this buzz.

The plane taxied and finally docked and as soon as the seatbelt light went out, Darcy was up, dragging her small overnight bag out from under the seat in front. She was too damn excited to sit and she couldn’t wait to see Levi.

Sure, he’d rung yesterday afternoon to congratulate her, but just anticipating his I-knew-you-could-do-this grin was adding to her giddiness. She’d lived with Levi Phillips for seven years now and, in a lot of respects, he probably knew her better than any of her girlfriends.

He certainly knew more than anyone how freaking hard she worked for that Banshee jersey and had never doubted she’d make it. Never. Considering there were numerous times she’d doubted it, that was saying something.

Still, she was surprised to actually find Levi waiting at the gate for her. They often made trips to the airport for the other one, but always stopping at the drop-off/pick-up zones out front. He’d never come into the terminal. But there he was, standing right at the back, head and shoulders above the waiting crowd of kids and lovers and parents, a huge grin on his face, a metallic helium balloon with Congratulations emblazoned on its hide in his hand.

He looked like a crazy person, standing there with that grin and the stupid balloon with a few days’ worth of scruff on his face, but her heart gave a funny little giddy-up seeing him here for her. Of course, that could have something to do with his faded old T-shirt stretched across his shoulders, barely long enough to meet the waistband of his standard loose trackpants, of which he had about a hundred thanks to his obsession with yoga.

The top half of his long, riotous, dirty-blond hair was pulled back into its regular man bun, leaving the rest to curl and twist around his neck and shoulders in its usual disorder. Even the sight of his big, bare, size fourteen feet, sticking out of his open-toed slides, did funny things to her equilibrium. The man looked like some kind of Zen lumberjack but what she liked most was that he didn’t care one fucking jot what he looked like.

The crowd parted, as if especially for them and, before she knew it, she was grinning at him and running towards him, launching herself at him, crawling up him like a koala up a gum tree and wrapping her legs around his waist to hug him tight.

He laughed as he caught her, his body easily absorbing the impact as his arm anchored around her back. ‘Whoa!’ The low timbre of his voice licked into her ear as deliciously as the swipe of a hot, wet tongue. ‘I knew you’d get picked.’

Darcy grinned even bigger, hugged him even harder. ‘Yeah, yeah.’ She squirmed at his unashamed bias, but her heart swelled big in her chest at the pride underpinning his statement.

She wasn’t sure how long they stood like that, with her glued to him like an oyster on a rock, people eyeing them curiously as they stepped around them. But it felt good to be in this moment—the high point of her life—with the guy who’d been there for her during all her low points.

It felt really freaking good.

Pre-Order now, and tune in tomorrow to find out what happens next!


32511 (2)How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

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Feed Your Reader: A vineyard, three brothers, and the magic of cupcakes.

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A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

” I loved the way the story was woven and all its twists and turns. A box of tissues is a must!”  – Jeanne, NetGalley

“a lovely story of love, healing, and new beginnings.” – NetGalley Reviewer

“just gives you a huge happy sigh” – Becky, NetGalley

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Long Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt 4

Cress has been in love with Quin since she was a girl. But he thinks of her as a little sister. And now they’re going to live together…

Part I here

Part II here

Part III here

‘Were you scared when you came to Sydney? You were a few years younger than me, and you didn’t have anyone to come to.’ She was being nosy, but knowing Quin, he’d tell her if she overstepped, or he’d ignore her if he didn’t want to answer.

‘I think I was too young and too excited to think about it.’ The car seemed to slow a little as he flicked her another glance. The traffic was slowing for the lights ahead. Cress hadn’t seen them at first glance. There were so many lights and signs and sights, it was a little bedazzling.

‘Aren’t you excited?’ he asked.

‘I haven’t really had the time to get too excited. I got off the header late yesterday, on the train today. Tomorrow I’ve got a team meeting and I’m sure I’ll start getting excited then.’

His eyebrows lifted but before he could turn his head, the lights changed and they were moving again. ‘Weren’t you excited when you signed that contract?’

She chewed her bottom lip and tried to remember how she felt. ‘It came on email, Quin. It wasn’t any big deal. Not like you with the agent coming to school and all the media you got.’

He stiffened for a moment and then said, ‘The contract came on email? Did you get an agent to negotiate it?’

Cress laughed. ‘There was no point. It was a flat offer across the board, take it or leave it, except for a few who went in the draft.’

He shook his head. ‘No agent? That’s crazy?’

She fought back a grin. ‘You don’t have a clue how much money I’m earning, do you?’

‘No. I didn’t ask.’

‘Eight grand.’

‘Oh right. Per week? Per match?’

Cress chuckled. ‘Total.’

‘Total for what?’ Quin didn’t seem to have any idea at all. He was genuinely puzzled, she could tell by that deep crinkling near his eye and the tugging of his jaw.

‘Total for the season. It’s only eight games. A short season. Kind of an experiment.’

While she spoke, his jaw dropped further and further. Then he snapped it shut, slid a look at her, before his jaw bunched tight. ‘You’re okay with this?’

Cress laughed. ‘Well …’ She’d explained this a lot but it was a bit difficult to explain it to someone who was her male counterpart. ‘Women’s sport has to start somewhere. I’m stoked that they’re recognising us and giving us a competition. I understand that they’re not sure how it’ll go, so they can’t offer big contracts.’ She took a breath. If it wasn’t someone who was like a brother, she wouldn’t add this bit. ‘But yeah, it was a bit like a slap in the face, paying us that. I don’t know why they offered us anything, really. I would have played for nicks.’

Quin swallowed and it was a pretty loud one. ‘I’m sorry. I thought Tris would have told you why I had to ask to stay with you. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find work to fit in around football, which meant I wasn’t sure I could afford to rent.’

He held up his hand. ‘There’s no rent. No problem, Watercress.’

‘No, it’s cool,’ she said quickly. ‘I’ve got a job. It starts tomorrow too.’

‘You got a job?’ He sounded incredulous.

‘I’m a pretty capable chick, Mr Fitzpatrick. Did you doubt my ability to be employed?’ She tried so hard to make it funny, but she could hear the defensiveness. She hoped Quin wouldn’t hear it.

‘No. It’s just …’ He hummed. ‘I … geez … I thought you might want to climb the bridge?’ His question quite swept the air from her lungs.

She nodded. Vigorously. ‘I do. I do.’

‘I thought we could do it this week.’

‘A weekday?’ Cress shook her head. ‘I’ll probably be working. I’ve got to fit that in around training.’

‘Oh. Will you have the weekends free?’

‘I think we train some Saturday mornings. Not sure if they’re scheduling trial games or not. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.’

A few more kilometres passed in silence.

Then Quin said, ‘Do you need to work?’

Cress snorted. ‘Pretty much. I don’t want Dad footing the bill. I want to try to make this work. They reckon I can fit the work around footy commitments.’

‘What are you doing?’

‘Labour for a landscaper. It’s local.’

‘I was hoping you’d see the sights with me.’ There was just a tiny bit of a young boy’s plea in his tone that made her heart soften.

‘If I can fit it in, you’re on.’

Quin’s head shook, then was still, then shook again. If she had to guess, she’d say he was having a great conversation with himself and answering himself in the negative all the time.

‘It’s going to work, Quin. I feel it in my soul. I can juggle farm and footy, been doing that for years, so this’ll be just the same. Don’t stress. If I can still manage to get to the Royal to catch up with people, I’m sure I’ll fit in a few trips with you.’ She leaned over and squeezed his forearm. ‘I’ll let you know tomorrow night what my schedule is and we’ll fit in the Bridge Climb. There’s no way I’m coming to Sydney for months and not getting on that thing.’

Quin chuckled. ‘Watercress, you’re going to set Sydney on fire.’

That, or it’d burn her completely.

PRE-ORDER NOW and tune-in this week for more from Catherine Evans!


32510Does 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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