ARRA nominees: Lizzy Chandler

This post by Lizzy Chandler is the last in our series by Escape authors nominated for 2015 ARRA awards, to be announced in March. Good luck to all our nominated Escape Artists!

What an honour and surprise to have been nominated for Favourite New Romance Author for 2015. Thanks to everyone who voted!

I had two novels published in 2015, both of which were finalists in the Clendon Award some years ago (under different titles).

My first novel, Snowy River Man, is a rural romance about Katrina Delaney, a twenty-something woman with a tragic past who dreams of the whereabouts of a missing child. The child’s father, Jack Fairley, is someone with whom she had a one-night stand years before, a grazier whose property spans Snowy River country. Jack’s son Nick has gone missing after a country rodeo and Katrina volunteers to help look for him, even though she dreads being reminded of the hurtful events that kept her and Jack apart.

My second novel, By Her Side, is a contemporary romantic suspense set in Sydney and the Blue Mountains; it’s about Rory Sutton Whitfield, the granddaughter of a wealthy businessman who is involved in a hit-and-run accident. Recovering in hospital, the grandfather insists on hiring someone to look after her until the cause of the accident is known. The temporary bodyguard he chooses is the passer-by who saved Rory from injury, undercover detective Vince Maroney, a man grieving the death of his estranged wife. Vince doesn’t want to play the hero, and Rory certainly doesn’t like people telling her what to do, so when they’re forced together, sparks fly.

About me: I’ve been writing for over twenty years, so having these novels published has been the fulfilment of a dream, but if it wasn’t for a psychic friend who urged me to send my manuscripts to Escape, I might still be dreaming! I’m an avid reader, love a happy ending, and especially enjoy the tension and excitement of suspense. Some readers might know me from my work as the founder of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. (If you love books by Australian women in all genres, check out our blog!)

I’d like to thank everyone at ARRA for their amazing awards, and wish good luck to all nominated authors, especially our Escapees.


She would trust him with her life. But can either of them trust their hearts?

ARRA nominees: Kendall Talbot

Continuing our series of posts by ARRA nominees: Kendall Talbot has been nominated for three ARRA Awards: Favourite Continuing Romance Series, Favourite Romantic Suspense and Strongest Heroine.

Being a finalist in three categories in the ARRA awards for my Treasured series of books is a dream come true. Treasured Secrets and Treasured Lies were a delight to write because they revolve around my three favourite passions: travel, food and romance. I’m just so grateful that my readers love my characters and this action-packed adventure as much as I do.

There were two instances that inspired my Treasured series. The first came from a friend of mine who was dating a guy who wore an unusual necklace. Whenever she asked him about its significance he refused to elaborate on it. And he never took it off…not even when she told him that it nearly knocked her teeth out when they had sex. Of course she became obsessed about it and eventually, after eight months, he told her it belonged to his previous girlfriend who had died. Not long afterwards they broke up. My character in Treasured Secrets, Archer, wears an unusual gold pendant around his neck that he too refuses to talk about or take off. The story behind the necklace is central to the entire treasure-hunt theme that drives this trilogy.

The second inspiration behind this trilogy came from my 20th-anniversary holiday to Tuscany with my husband. Florence is a treasure trove of history and architecture, bustling with tourists and little cafés eager to serve you bread and wine within seconds of you finding a table to sit at. My husband and I went on a couple of city tours and one such tour took us to the Church of St Apostoli, a small insignificant church compared to many other magnificent churches dotted throughout Florence. Inside the church, inlaid in the mosaic floor tiles, was an oval pattern. Our tour guide told us it was the trap door where they tossed the bodies during the 13th-century plague that killed 50 million people in Europe. My mind went crazy thinking about entire families being decimated by that horrible disease. Then I began to wonder what happened to all their precious things they left behind. On the plane flight home, I began plotting Treasured Secrets.

I have just put the finishing touches to book three in this series. Treasured Dreams will be released in April this year. These three books were a wonderful writing journey and it’s a delight to know that my readers are enjoying them too.


From Romantic Book of the Year winner Kendall Talbot comes an adrenaline-fuelled series with sexy characters, exotic locations, and action-packed adventure.

ARRA nominees: M.A. Grant

M.A. Grant’s Honour Bound has been nominated for Favourite Sci Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance in the 2015 ARRAs.

I cannot adequately express how grateful I am to the readers who nominated Honour Bound for an ARRA award.

The sequel to award-winning Lace & Lead, Honour Bound doesn’t fit neatly into any one category. It’s kind of Gears of War or Call of Duty meets King Arthur in the lands beyond Hadrian’s Wall. The romance between Talia and Cade is star-crossed, but the bonds of love and loyalty between Cade’s squad are just as important. The book is dystopian fiction with a government so corrupt I felt grimy from writing it. It’s ripping action, political intrigue, romance and humour thrown into a rucksack and shaken around until it settles.

Strong characters were needed to hold this plot together. Cade could be the Republic’s golden boy, if not for his pesky habit of using his free will and believing in an equality the government refuses to grant to all its citizens. Talia is more than his equal; she survived years of internment at a forced labour camp by becoming a cage fighter and is beloved by the despised tribal people of the Wastes. Cade and Talia weren’t ready for each other at their first meeting, but years later, the broken edges formed from their suffering help them fit together perfectly.

Cade and Talia Fate

Talia balances out Cade’s squad. His ‘strays’ are bound by a long-forgotten law and together they manage to stay alive despite the Republic’s best efforts to kill them off. They’re a family forged in the heat of battle and Cade will do anything to protect them. They may have been brought together by the government, but they only trust each other, and for good reason.

That government, the Republic, is what pushes this story into true dystopian territory. A zealous dictator, a shadow government run by the corrupt nouveau-riche, treason, lawmen leaving the service to become mercenaries, people too afraid to challenge their oppression, and a terrifying rebel force gaining power through a campaign of violence help lead to a perfect storm that Cade and his squad must face.

This was one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, but is also the book I’m most proud of. I love my boys and Talia, I love the world they inhabit, and I love that writing this story left me emotionally wrung out—but in a really good way. Hopefully it’ll do the same to you when you read it.


The Lawmen of the Republic: fierce, honourable, soldiers, men. But what happens when all that they’ve been told turns out to be lies?

ARRA nominees: Tea Cooper

by Tea Cooper

I was thrilled, honored, chuffed, excited…in fact just downright stoked to discover that The Horse Thief was a finalist in the Favourite Historical Romance section of the Australian Romance Reader Awards 2015.

The story began with a throwaway line one Sunday afternoon in a pub in the Hunter Valley, just before the Melbourne Cup in 2013. ‘The horse that won the first Melbourne Cup was a Hunter animal,’ someone said.

I didn’t know that.

I went home to check.

He wasn’t!


But it was the beginning of NaNoWriMo and so The Horse Thief began. I wrote the first 50,000 words that November but the story was far more complicated than I originally thought and by Easter 2014 it had grown to 100,000 words.

At that stage it was the longest manuscript I’d written and I decided to pitch it at the 2014 RWA conference. In mid-2015 I signed a contract and The Horse Thief was released at the beginning of November. (The perfect date because India’s dream is to win the Melbourne Cup and, in case you’re not an Australian, the race is run on the first Tuesday of November).

To discover that The Horse Thief, an ‘oztorical’, is included with such a fabulous group of historical writers is my dream come true.

Huge thanks everyone who nominated The Horse Thief…oh, and not only that…drum roll..The Horse Thief is also in the running for Best Cover. I can’t lay any claim to fame for that. All accolades go to the wonderful cover artists at Harlequin and their perfect interpretation of my heroine, India Kilhampton. Thank you.

If you’d like to listen to a little audio snippet from The Horse Thief there’s one here, thanks to Richard Vobes of Book Snippets.

horseCan she save her family’s horse stud and reputation?

ARRA nominees: Lily Malone

Hell and Tommy! 

That’s what Remy would have said when she discovered So Far Into You was a 2015 ARRA finalist for Favourite Contemporary Romance. Remy says ‘Hell and Tommy!’ when something takes her by surprise, or if something good or bad happens (you know, like if you whack your thumb with a hammer). It’s much nicer than saying ‘holy sh*t’!

And Remy is nice.

Everyone says that.

Except Seth.

Don’t get me wrong, he thought she was nice when he met her, saving her from a spring storm at the Margaret River Wine Festival a few years back. He thought he’d found Snow White and Sleeping Beauty all rolled into one.

Then Seth heard Remy talking on the phone one afternoon (yes, okay, he eavesdropped because Seth is not nice) and what he overheard changed his mind about Remy and fairy tales. Changed it completely!

So begins So Far Into You. It’s a reunion/second chance romance that begins in the vineyards of Margaret River in southwest Western Australia, and moves to the vineyards of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.

It involves Seth and Remy and two crazy American Staffordshire Terriers called Occhilupo and Breeze.

Jars & Breeze

These two are inspired by the two dogs I used to own. I always knew they’d squish their way into one of my books one day!

Thank you to the readers who have read and enjoyed So Far Into You and who voted it into the finals of the ARRA Awards. I was so surprised, so excited to get the email from ARRA, I bet you can guess what I said!

Yep. ‘HOLY SH*T!!!’

Because I am not nice either 😉


An Australian rural romance about a millionaire wine tycoon, the woman he betrayed and the second chance neither was looking for


ARRA nominees: Frances Housden

As part of our series about Escape titles nominated for the ARRA awards, Frances Housden talks about her book Chieftain in the Making, nominated for Favourite Historical Romance.

I was surprised and delighted when Chieftain in the Making, book four in my Chieftain series, was nominated for an ARRA award.

chiefcurseBy the time I finished writing The Chieftain’s Curse I knew telling Rob and Nhaimeth’s story was inevitable. I simply had to wait until they grew up. Rob was the secret baby in that first book—the curse breaker—but Nhaimeth simply appeared as if he knew he was needed in the book before I did.

You might have gathered that I don’t plot. My stories evolve, as did the friendship between the two lads, one the lovechild of a chieftain, the other a dwarf whose inheritance was stripped away after his father disowned him. Two friends, different in stature, yet alike in the hurdles they had to climb. As the romance of the Euan and Morag developed in The Chieftain’s Curse, so did the secondary characters’ story; Rob, the secret son of a chieftain, who was looking for an heir, and Nhaimeth, a legal heir barred from claiming his birthright.

As always, before I begin writing I do my research into the history of the period. For book four, I discovered that King Malcolm, Rob’s father’s friend, was killed in the battle of Alnwick, which made Rob the perfect age to want to prove he could live up to his father as heir. As my readers will have discovered by now, I like secret babies [ED: this is true – look out for Frances’ ‘Secret Baby’ post in our series on romance tropes!]; this meant Rob had to have been in an earlier battle in the same area two years before, where I had him captured and held for ransom.

article-twin-babiesThe babies in Chieftain in the Making were twins. My mother-in-law had twins and I used her experience as the basis for Melinda, our heroine—the first birth was easy, the second a breach birth. Some readers weren’t too happy that Melinda had an aversion to the second twin, but as an author I try to get into character’s head and Melinda is young and inexperienced—deserted by her lover, with no mother to advise her. She believed her second twin’s birth would kill her. Don’t forget she lived at the beginning of the 12th century. And is it any wonder she wasn’t too happy about being abducted by Rob—a man determined to marry her, determined his sons won’t go through life labelled bastards, the way he had been. On a lighter note, I also used the way my twin sisters-in-law interacted with one another as toddlers to show Rob’s sons love each other.

I couldn’t have written this book without giving Nhaimeth his own well-deserved happy ending. And aye, I had to have gypsies, requiring a lot more research, but then finding Rowena with the gypsies added much more depth to the plot as well as masses of complications—well, she is psychic.

Before I finish, let me tell anyone who read Chieftain by Command that Brodwyn reappears in this book, just in time for the evil genius to redeem herself. Satisfying, but that isn’t the end. The Chieftain’s Daughter is already available online, and Chieftain’s Rebel will be released on March 5.

chiefmakeThe award-winning Chieftain series continues in a novel about duty, determination and the power of love to heal all wounds.

ARRA nominees: Dani Kristof

Over the next month some of our ARRA nominees will be sharing their thoughts about their nominated books. First up is Dani Kristof, whose Spiritbound is nominated for Favourite Paranormal Romance.


Thank you so much for the readers who liked Spiritbound enough to nominate me for an ARRA award.

Spiritbound embodies what I like about writing paranormal romance. I get to play with some dark stuff and weave in the light and love. It’s a good ride that leaves you uplifted at the end.

It’s pretty early in my paranormal romance writing career so I can get away with saying that Grace Riordon is my favourite character. I love her so much and that can’t be disguised in the story. Spiritbound is the prequel to Bespelled, although I wrote it second. Weird, I know.

It is also Fel’s origin story. Fel is the undead cat you see in Bespelled. I wish I could put the undead cat in all my stories.

While Spiritbound is a romance, it also features female relationships—Grace’s relationships with her mother and her cousin, Elena, which are close, supportive and dynamic. Elvira, Grace’s mother, is a powerhouse and can take anyone on, so Grace has a strong role model there.

The next thing about Spiritbound is the setting: Balmain in Sydney. What is more natural than Balmain and the surrounding suburbs as the place where a witches’ coven sets up its headquarters? It’s adjacent to Sydney Harbour, has a fab vibe, with cafes, markets and boutiques, and if I ever returned to Sydney to live, Balmain is where I’d want to be.

Now to the hero: Declan Mallory is tall, good looking and a solid warlock. He is totally hot property, but he hates all the attention he is getting from witches and is looking for a real connection. Grace is the childhood friend he can trust.

Here is an excerpt from when they meet again.

Next, he was excusing himself and heading in her direction. Panic stations blared in Grace’s brain. Oh goddess! What will I say?

‘Hello, I’m Declan Mallory.’ He had a delicious British accent.

Her heart sunk. ‘I know.’

He chuckled. ‘I didn’t think anyone would remember me. I’ve been gone so long.’

‘Eight years, four months, five days.’

He frowned. ‘What?’

Grace threw up a smile, even though she knew she was doomed. ‘That’s how long you’ve been gone.’

She exhaled slowly, waiting, just waiting for the penny to drop. He studied her face, her hair. ‘Grace?’

spiritbThe Sydney coven is suffering from a man drought – some witches complain, and some witches just get creative.