Friday Five: Viveka Portman

1607Author: Viveka Portman
First published with Escape: 2013
Favourite romance trope: Historical
Ideal hero (in three words): Strong, masculine, confident
Ideal heroine (in three words): Interesting, clever, thoughtful
Latest book: The Journal of a Vicar’s Wife
What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I always wrote stories from a young age, and I decided to get serious about it after my good friend and fellow author Shona Husk urged me send some of manuscripts off for publication. I chose the romance genre because I think there is far too much unhappiness in the world, and I have no intention of adding a miserable story to it. Romance by definition has a happy ending, and that’s what I love about it.

Viveka (1)What is your writing Kryptonite?

My small farm usurps most of my time these days, and though I love it, I am struggling to find time to write. Which I hate. My latest work has been ‘in progress’ for over two years: fingers crossed we’re nearly there!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?

I spent a great deal of time researching testicular injuries for my book “The Private Affairs of Lady Jane Fielding.” I am now fully versed in the appearance, and symptoms of a testicular atrophy.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

When I’m writing, my face contorts with the emotions that my character is feeling. So I’m intermittently scowling, smiling, frowning, smirking at the computer screen. My children find this disturbing.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/familiar? Do you have one alViveka (2)ready?

I love my animals from my sheep to my steers, but my mascot would undoubtedly have to be my cat Al, he’s a naughty, funny, cuddly monster who will sit on my lap, computer, desk for however many hours I stay there. There’s not better writing companion.

24497The final instalment in Viveka Portman’s sexy, sinful Regency Diaries sees an unhappy wife desperately seeking love—and her taciturn husband who doesn’t know how to reach her.

My husband, though I do not doubt his goodness, does not love nor want me. He married me for pure convenience. He needed a bride and I was the one offered to him. Thus I find my pleasures where I may…

Mrs Maria Reeves has been married for six years. Six long, lonely years. She craves love and affection, but married to a handsome but pious vicar she receives little in the way of earthly pleasures. The Reverend Vicar Frederick Reeves is a man of principle and morals, and is more likely to provide his wife with suggested Bible readings than carnal knowledge.

If her husband will not please her, then she will find a man who will.

But infidelity doesn’t come naturally to the vicar’s wife. Though Maria finds herself getting the sexual pleasure she desires, she also finds herself emotionally frayed and unhappy. To make matters worse, in the small village of Stanton there are always people watching, and Maria discovers that some secrets are impossible to keep. What will her upright husband do when he discovers that Maria has broken not only one of the commandments, but her vows to him?

Friday Five: Bronwyn Stuart

2373Author: Bronwyn Stuart

First published with Escape: April 2016

Favourite romance trope: Beauty and the beast.

Ideal hero (in three words): Sexy, intelligent and built!

Ideal heroine (in three words): Sassy, independent and feisty!

Latest book: She’s The One


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

I was working night shift for a security firm and had just finished reading a book with the worst ending (sorry, can’t remember the title) and though I could do better. Turns out I was wrong! Took me nearly seven years before I had learned enough to be published.

I am completely addicted to two things. Happy endings and the aww moment when your heart sings and you hear angels in your mind because the moment of ‘I love you’ is just so beautiful. Why be brutal and kill your characters when you can help them find true happiness.

How do you write? What is your process like?

I sit back in a comfy chair with my feet up and put my laptop on my lap. Once my butt hits the chair, I try not to get up again for at least two hours. I set myself a word goal of around 1000 words an hour and don’t let the internet distract me. If I need to research, I do it very quickly or I come back to it later.

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

If I’m really stuck and I’ve gone back a few scenes and still can’t get unstuck, I take a really long bath with someone else’s book and relax. Usually the answer comes to me with a word or a phrase or a similar reaction/action in that book and then I can get back to mine. Most of the time a writing block is actually because your story or plot has gone wrong or you’ve manipulated your characters somewhere they didn’t want to go.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Or any cute quirks in general?

My office is a renovated caravan It’s one big quirk on two wheels. My house was too small for my own space so my dad and I rescued a dilapidated van and spruced it up into a creative haven just for me.

What are your favourite types of book covers? What draws your eye to a romance cover?

My favourite contemporary covers are the ones where the lovers embrace and they’re looking deep into each other’s eyes. Since historical romance is my first love, I adore the covers with the long, bright dresses or even the Scottish Laird in his kilt and nothing else. So basically, intensity jumps off covers and pulls me in, but so do bright colours and snappy titles. And yes, I do judge a book by its cover!

29691In the game of love — and TV — you play to win or you lose your heart.

Millionaire Banjo Grahams originally signed up for She’s The One drunk as a skunk and willing to do anything to bed Australia’s most beautiful women, but when he sobers up he realises he could lose much more than his reputation if he goes through with it. Unable to back out of an ironclad contract, he makes a deal with the network boss to rig the show, picking the lucky bachelorette ahead of time and guiding the season to meet his own ends and keep the board happy.

When her father tells Eliza Peterson she isn’t going to produce She’s The One, but appear as a one of the contestants, she is livid. Competing for some guy on reality TV is no way to earn his — and the network’s — respect and show them she is capable of producing shows of her own.

But for all the planning and staging, somehow the show takes on a reality of its own, and the goals of Eliza and Banjo fall away from something neither of them expected — love.


Feed Your Reader: Next in a Best-selling Australian Historical Trilogy


An Australian historical romance about a woman with a past who is fighting with everything she has for her future.

All of Sydney knows she was a convict and a prostitute, but Nellie Malone is now the manager of the ‘Tullamore’ Inn, a respectable businesswoman who makes her living on her brains and hard work – no longer on her back.

But when gentleman Harry Chester, fresh to the colonies, shows up at the Tullamore with papers of ownership and plans to collect rent, Nellie’s carefully controlled world is sent into a tailspin. She has barely enough money to keep her doors open, let alone pay an owner the rent he is demanding.

The Tullamore is Nellie’s home, her hope, and her freedom all tied up into one, and she will do anything to save it. Now, she has to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to hold on to the dreams for a future she’s only just beginning to realise.

Buy links here!

Romance for all women

by Kate

One of the best things about working in romance publishing is working with many, varied women on a daily basis, whether they are authors, fellow editors, or part of the greater publishing team. But one of the deserved criticisms of romance fiction is its lack of inclusivity: most romance heroines are middle-class, young, abled, and white. If one (or more) of these factors are different, then the book is labelled an ‘issues’ book. It’s published under a different imprint or marketed as diverse.

Marketing (indeed publishing!) is a very tricky business when it comes to risk-taking. The market is considered very conservative, and the business model can be seen as only buying what has already sold. It’s hard to break out a new book into the market, and even harder to get the right book into the hands of the right reader. As more and more books are published every week, visibility and discoverability have become the single largest challenge in publishing.

When Escape was first envisioned, we had four Fs as our vision statement: fast, flexible, fun, and fearless. Fearless meant risk-taking. Our digital platform meant we weren’t going to be bound by the conventions of commercial trade publishing. Now that we’re almost five years into our experiment, International Womens Day is a good day to admit that in many cases, we’ve held to our creed, but not always. Sometimes taking risks fell before keeping our doors open. Sometimes we were legitimately worried we couldn’t edit or publish a work with authenticity. Sometimes we had a choice between a book we knew would sell and a book that we didn’t, and we played it financially safe. And sometimes, as with all publishers, we were busy and tired and overwhelmed and overworked and the only books we had on submission were from the core romance demographic and we just didn’t have the time or energy to go out seeking new and diverse voices.

Sometimes we failed at being fearless.

Sometimes we were afraid.

But over the course of our nearly-five-years, we have managed to find and support and publish many amazing authors who have written amazing and amazingly diverse heroines. So today, on International Womens Day, I would like to shout out to those brave writers and their brave characters, and provide you a not-comprehensive list of some brave books that might be perfect reading for a day like today.

Here’s to fearless books: may we write them, may we read them, and may we see them published proudly and widely.


Features a Chinese-Australian heroine who returns home to her small town and her parents’ Chinese restaurant.

From Goodreads:

Short Soup was a breath of fresh air, truly it was, and I really enjoyed it.”

“The book resonates with the power of love.”

“Great characters and setting for this short, sweet and hot romance novella.”


Features an Indian-Australian heroine who is seeking an arranged marriage.

From Goodreads:

“Maddie, the heroine, is a fantastic example of a woman who knows who she is. It’s really nice to have a heroine who respects herself and those around her.”

“This is a great romance!”

“Ms. Dunk did a great job at keeping the story moving and interesting.”

Features an Asian-Australian heroine in a fun, new adult story

From Goodreads:

“breezy and fun and fresh”

“I especially loved the humour throughout.”

“I loved that I was so invested in all the characters.”


Features an African-American heroine competing on a reality TV show for authors

From Goodreads:

“this book was cute; an easy read and had a sweet ending.”

“This is a MUST READ if you enjoy contemporary romance!”

“Plotting to Win combines the thrill of reality television with superb writing skills and character development that make this book impossible to put down.”


A YA novel that features a heroine with a chronic illness (rheumatoid arthritis)

From Goodreads:

“Wow, this book was an amazing breath of fresh air for me.”

“While I would have liked this book just because of the horsey stuff, what made it a fulfilling read is the personal growth Melissa undergoes.”

“Amazingly easy read. A great double love story with a message of strength and what true friendship is like.”


Heroine is 40+

From Goodreads:

“Right from the moment that they get stuck in the elevator, and all the way throughout this fantastic book, it was clear to me that this was going to “rev my reading engine””

“pour yourself a glass of bubbly and settle in for a wonderful wedding weekend with some really quirky characters and some serious life issue lessons learned.”

“it’s fun, flirty and sassy”


Features an historical heroine with an occupation

From Goodreads:

“I so enjoyed this most beautiful romantic story ever”

“The pacing is perfect, the characters are well developed, and the setting was a welcome change.”

“The Healer is a powerful and riveting story that had me from the beginning”


Features a divorced, single mum in 1970s Australia

From Goodreads:

“It is beautifully descriptive, heck I could almost hear the waves at the beach, feel the sting of a summer sunburn, hear the cicadas echoing down the street.”

“The beauty of this book, though, comes from the way it manages to point out the timelessness of the characters’ issues and journeys.”

“So who ends up with who? You will have to read this wonderful book to find out and I guarantee you will love it.”


A YA novel featuring an Iraqi refugee heroine and an American hero

From Goodreads:

“This book is considered Young Adult but I feel it caters to anyone who is politically minded, interested in current events or someone who generally enjoys a forbidden romance.”

“Beth Fred was not afraid to tackle a tough issue and we, the readers, reap the rewards.”

“Miriam is probably one of my favorite female leads in YA of the year.”


A new adult romance with a lesbian heroine

From Goodreads:

“This is really very, very sweet.”

“a quick, light, airy read that I would recommend to any rock star readers who enjoy the setting”

“new fresh voice”


Features a heroine with a prosthesis

From Goodreads:

“April’s Glow is filled with humour but it didn’t take away from the sincerity and gravity of the issues the characters faced.”

“I loved the story, I loved the characters and I loved the two furry minor characters, Romeo and Juliet :)”

“A refreshing, feel good read.”


Features an domestic abuse survivor

From Goodreads:

“strong storyline and … delicate treatment of some very nasty subject matter”

“a fabulous read and one of the best romantic suspenses I’ve read in a while”

“a thoroughly enjoyable story with all the right elements of danger, suspense and romance”


Features a heroine aged 40+

From Goodreads:

“delightful rural romance”

“I’m a sucker for second chance romance novels, and this one did not disappoint!”

“an entirely enjoyable sweet romance”


Heroine comes from a very poor socio-economic background

From Goodreads:

“nice, addictive and out of the ordinary New Adult romance”

“a New Adult Romance I simply can’t praise highly enough”

“There are not many complex, interesting and just all around great books in the New Adult genre, but This is Now is certainly one of them.”


Features a heroine who can’t have sex

“A wonderfully well written story by a very talented Aussie author. HIGHLY recommended”

“I fell into the story and was swept along by thoughtfully conceived characters that set this story apart”

“a sensual, gentle romance, with beautiful, tender moments”


Historical romance with a bisexual heroine

From Goodreads:

“I also love the idea of women like Lady Cecilia, a woman who is living ahead of her time and taking control of her life, her sexuality, her pleasure and, the people she seeks that pleasure with.”

“This may be the steamiest story I’ve ever read in my entire life.”

“This book is amazing. Nothing is what it seems, and despite being set centuries ago, its intricate plot could have happened today.”


Historical romance featuring a woman convicted of prostitution

From Goodreads:

“solid characters, an interesting story and a developing romance that definitely has a bumpy ride”

“A meaty angsty marriage of convenience historical”

“a fabulous historical romance that is authentic and yet very romantic”

Feed Your Reader:A Beloved Story Gets an Update


He thought it was all a game…until he grew accustomed to her face.

Henri Higgins is bored by everything – his life, his work, even the models he regularly sees socially (and privately). So when a close friend suggests a high-stakes, friendly competition, a ‘fame’ game, Ree leaps at the opportunity for a little shake-up in his daily routine. The rules are simple: the competitors are to take the first person that they meet at a certain time and make them as famous as possible within two weeks.

But Ree doesn’t expect Elizabeta.

Elizabeta Flores del Fuego has a plan. An office manager by day, she moonlights at a number of creative Canberra businesses by night to learn all she can about the fashion industry and put her in the best place possible to help launch her beloved daughter, Angelina’s design career. Cleaning the office of Higgins Publishing is just one of those jobs, but when Henri Higgins offers her a week’s worth of work and a paycheque large enough to get Angelina Designs on its feet, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

But Elizabeta doesn’t expect Ree, and neither expect the lessons in love they’re both about to learn.

(Buy  here)


amazon kobo amazon AU  ibooks booktopia bookworld google play

Romances Celebrating Pride

Google Play is currently running a promotion on LGBTQI romances that include some fantastic Escape titles. If you’d like to celebrate Mardi Gras with some queer romance, may we humbly suggest the following?


A gripping,  blood-drenched saga about twin brothers, the men they love, and the enduring truth that true love never dies  — no matter how many times you kill it.

From Goodreads: “If you love your fiction dark, bloody, and breathtaking, you will love this book.”

From Daniel:

Bonds of Blood isn’t just your average series of gay love stories. Gritty, blood-thirsty and passionate, it brings into the light the love that has until now been hidden in the shadows. I love writing in this genre, adding my own voice for the mostly female readers of gay romance to discover.


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

From Goodreads: “graphic in its presentation; impassioned in its friendship; burning with the immortality of love.”


Falling for her best friend was never going to make life easy.

From Goodreads: “a quick, light, airy read that I would recommend to any rock star readers”


An all-access pass to Sex, Love, and Rock ‘N Roll. Because what happens on tour doesn’t always stay on tour

From Goodreads: “an intimate exploration of the M/M dynamic but … this story is also about the journeys we take on the path to finding ourselves”

ARRC2017 – A Wrap Up!

Renee Dahlia attended her first Australian Romance Readers Convention this weekend, and she wrote up a recap for us!

The romance community celebrated and discussed our best-selling genre at the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention. Romance readers welcomed me into the group, and made my debut experience one of easy acceptance. This sense of community is special to romance. The shared camaraderie over books is delightfully refreshing in the current climate of cynicism that has invaded world politics.

Being the geek that I am, I took notes on every session I attended. Here are a few personal highlights (you can get all the details at my website).

In the “publisher” session, readers had their chance to speak directly to publishers. The panel asked questions to the audience about how they read, where they find new authors, and importantly, what type of heroines do they want to read about but can’t find.


Female sports stars got the biggest cheer.

The session Feminism and Romance created plenty of discussion between panel and audience. Everyone agreed that in a genre written by women, for women, there is no conflict. On wider societal issues, Erica Hayes spoke about how romance is a safe place to write about issues that affect women, because the reader knows it will work out. Any other time these issues are discussed in literature, the women end up abused and dead. Romance readers want to see heroines who get on with their lives, and heroes who respect their choices.

The Dukes Need Not Apply session descended into giggles (and super fandom) when Courtney Milan read from her current work in progress. It will be part of an anthology inspired by the popular Broadway show Hamilton. Kat Mayo (Book Thingo) kept the fan moment alive by asking Milan how to say ‘suffragette!’ (From: The Suffragette Scandal).


Back to the theme of what readers want, someone asked the panel if they knew any books that turned the wealthy Duke trope upside down. I mentioned Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Street where the heroine is a billionaire, and enjoyed an “OMG, I love that book” moment with someone. Instant book buddies. Once again, welcomed into this community.

Another questioner said “I’ve never read an historical novel, because I don’t care for the damsel in distress trope. How do you get beyond real history and create strong women?”

Milan answered for all us.

“History has lied to you.”

She went on to say that we aren’t damsels in distress. We’ve always been strong. We just get erased from history because it’s been told by men. Milan bases her characters on these strong women that she finds when looking deeper into history.

30778-1She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.

1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.

But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.

Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.

Feed Your Readers: Workplace Romance and Rural Suspense


She might be the biggest star in Australia, but she never forgot the small town she came from, or the man she left behind…


A collection of full-length novels about what happens after business hours…

Happy-Ever-After Plus

by Kate

Last week, the internet went absolutely nuts over one single photo.

This photo:


And in between all the joy and the pleasure were voices getting progressively louder asking why? Why was everyone so happy? Why did this pregnancy matter to anyone except the family? Why were we talking about a celebrity like she was a goddess?

Barring all arguments contradicting Beyonce’s goddess-status (we at Escape definitely fall on the Goddess side), the answer to all those questions is already well known to romance readers. It’s why so many epilogues feature the happy couple adding an extra member to their family (either in progress or in actuality). It’s why the infertility trope is so popular, especially in historicals, when due to a lack of medical insight, a miracle baby really does feel like a miracle.

Babies are new beginnings. They are hope and innocence and the promise of a future. And when represented in romance fiction, they are a tangible representation of an act of love, a representation of two people who have committed to each other in the present and going forward. They are a vessel of that love and commitment, a visual symbol that the love between the couple will endure beyond their own lifetimes. In short, babies are love.

Of course, babies aren’t the only way of representing this vow, but they are a very poignant illustration.

There’s a reason that Beyonce’s pregnancy felt so monumental: because in these turbulent times, the world needed some hope. And she gave it to us.