Christmas Earworms: White Wine in the Sun

by Louise Forster

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Christmas at our place is focused on the youngest members of the family, ages 10, 5, 3, and 11 months. Way before the big day we make a date to string the fairy lights outside. Never as simple as it sounds, is it? Last year it called for nimble fingers and good eyesight. But we had the perfect solution. Bribe the teenagers into helping us untangle the lights. To make sure there were no distractions, we gathered their phones, put them in a zip-lock bag and hid them in the crisper bin amongst the vegetables … yeah.

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After a hearty breakfast we gave them the ball of lights. And they gave us, ‘What the …?’ faces. Pretty soon there was laughter, giggling, elbowing and pointing, because inevitably someone wanted to take a shortcut, which made the untangling even more exasperating; just because it was fun to frustrate those who were too serious. Ignoring urgent suggestions because they were all talking over each other … the mess only worsened.

In the end one of them threw his hands in the air and gave his younger siblings, who were messing about a dirty look, but with an added smirk, showing them they were going to cop it later. Suggestions kept flying out from those that were determined to see this through, despite the fact that by now brains were starting to curdle. ‘No, this bit goes through there, and then that end loops through this gap here, you f-wit …’

I saw my ancient aunt sneak off, a knowing wicked grin on her face as she turned up the volume on Christmas carols. Funnily enough kids started to bob around, adding their own colourful lyrics, and eventually, the untangling lights took a string of grinning, triumphant teenagers down the driveway and back. The fairy lights became a stunning display at night. More so for the adults because we saw them through a haze of great food, wine, and sheer bliss because our family had gathered together, and we were safe. And the littlies thought it was all very magical. And there’s nothing more fulfilling than that.

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Our favourite carols:

Chevy Chase, Lampoon Christmas Vacation and Hallelujah because his lights finally work.

Perfect lyrics for Australia. Christmas photo, by John Williamson

How to make Gravy  by Paul Kelly

And the end of the day, White Wine In the Sun by Tim Minchin.

 


28381In the sequel to Home Truths, Louise Forster returns to the sleepy country town of Tumble Creek with the story of a cop, a teacher and a mystery that will bring them together—or tear them apart.

Art teacher and occasional life model Sofie Dove wants to know what’s up with Brock Stewart. Everything about the ex SAS soldier turned police officer seems to scream passion—and it’s all for her—but he just won’t express it. All she knows is that he has a past that still keeps him up some nights.

After a semi-trailer crashes through Sofie’s house and the driver disappears into thin air, Brock insists he’s the only one who can keep her safe—but can he, when they can’t seem to trust each other?

While Sofie works on figuring out why this man keeps giving her mixed messages, Brock is determined to find out who’s out to get her—as they both find out why falling in love is a bit like being hit by a truck.

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Friday Five: Catherine Evans

Evans_CatherineAuthor: Catherine Evans
First published with Escape: 2016
Favourite romance trope: Friends to Lovers
Ideal hero (in three words): Honest, fun, generous
Ideal heroine (in three words): Independent, down-to-earth, loyal
Latest book: The Healing Season, and in February, Long Game

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

I wanted to write, but I had no idea what I wanted to write about, other than Australia. I read romance, but not only romances, as I read anything with writing on a page. I was writing stories, a member of the NSW Writers Centre, and entering contests in writing associations and not winning. I entered a Romance Writers of Australia contest and they gave feedback…using terminology I didn’t even understand! I became a member, learned all I could about writing, writing romance, and the romance genre. I was hooked.

How do you write? What is your process like?

My process is a mess, but it’s my mess! I get an ideaoften just a scene with two peopleand I start to write. Then I start thinking about what happened, and why, and who are these people. Things get tossed around in my head, or on paper, and I see where it goes. Then I stop at some point when I’ve messed it up. I go back to the start and try to work out what’s wrong. This continues until I get to the end of the story—sometimes I need help from writing friends or editors to un-mess myself!

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

When you finish, put it in a drawer for a while. I see so much more when I’ve got some distance from my story. I can edit it with some perspective. Flaws and holes jump out at me, making them easier to fix.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I write mostly in my ‘office’, but I also like to go outside if I’m stuck to get some fresh air and nature inspiration, so the back yard or the beach are my go-to places. I usually write straight to my desktop, but if I’m stuck, I’ll scribble in a notebook and I’ve been known to send emails to myself from my mobile device, especially if I’m in bed and half asleep when an idea hits me!


Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at? 

Swimming. I love it and always have. A swimming teacher told Mum when I was kid, “She may not be fast, but she’d swim all day.” Stick me in water and I’m happy. I began scuba diving at age 20. Diving and snorkelling are magical. It’s a completely different world below the surface and I’m so comfortable in that world. I find it the most relaxing activity…until I have to waddle back up the beach!

 


32510 (1)Does 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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Christmas Earworms: River

by Amanda Knight

I didn’t realise how tricky I’d find the task of narrowing down my faves Chrissy song… I’ve realised the ones that came to mind first are the more melancholy ones, and the gleeful, wide-eyed wonder tunes that remind me magic happens were later!
Fave One:
Robert Downey Jr – River – sung on Ally McBeal (original Joni Mitchell)
Why: I always find the Christmas season a mix of emotion… the year I heard this song (and this version) had been one where some of those very serious ‘life’ experiences that make their dark mark on your heart and soul had happened.  Starts with Jingle Bells and reminds me of the few years as a little person where magic truly happened, a time when things were simpler but also how life just doesn’t play out as expected, and Christmas always makes me think about that.
 Fave Two:
Gene Autry version – Here Comes Santa Claus
Why: In movies, department stores and over PA systems in schools – this song makes me smile, jiggle and wiggle and imagine myself in a perfect christmas scenario with snow, glitter, hot cocoa and the smell of cinnamon everywhere! It is my heart happy christmas song!

 


31096 (3)A taut debut novel about a wounded soldier, a courageous doctor, and a dog in desperate need of a rescue

Soldier, surgeon, traitor, dog…

When Sergeant Nate Calloway is carried into the field hospital with no memory of how he got there or where the other members of his unit are,  Australian army surgeon, Captain Beth Harper cares only about repairing his broken body. But it’s clear that something went terribly wrong on the other side of the wire, and as Nate slowly recovers, he becomes more and more anxious to return to duty, go back into the field, and rescue his friends, his unit, and the bomb detection dog that he loves.

The only way Nate can be released to active duty is if a doctor agrees to accompany him, and Beth surprises everyone by volunteering. Her role is to monitor Nate and take him right back to hospital the instant that his health deteriorates enough to put their rescue operation at risk. But as she stays close, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to his courage, his determination, and his commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Instead of a straightforward recovery, however, Nate and Beth soon realise they’ve stumbled on a tangled web of deceit and danger, and the enemy is no longer outside the wire. He is one of their own, a traitor, and he has them in his scope.

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Christmas Earworms: White Christmas

by JC Harroway

It’s pretty brutal challenge to choose only ONE Christmas song, because I am a total Christmas-o-phile…(the internet failed to provide a real, scientific term for this condition) and adore all things Christmas. My obsession generally begins in November, when I force myself to hold off decorating the house and playing the Christmas playlist (which contains everything from traditional carols to Michael Buble and Mariah Carey) until the first of December. After that, all bets are off!

So, after much consideration, I have chosen White Christmas—the 1954 movie version sung by Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye/Rosemary Clooney/Vera Ellen.

My grandmother loved this movie, and watching it with her became a favorite Christmas tradition of my childhood. We would snuggle on the sofa, crack open the tin of Christmas chocolates and have a good old sing-a-long. I love the vintage glamour of the film, even now—the costumes, the locations, the soundtrack—so magical in every way. Like my Nana before me, I own a DVD version of the movie, continuing the tradition.

Enjoy!


32235 (2)Before you can heal, you must accept that you’ve been broken…

When an accident leaves her with severe burns, Captain Eden Archer has one goal — to get back to full fitness and her duties at her United Nations job. Eden is not a joiner, but the Ruby Challenge — a four-day hike across Nevada’s Ruby Mountains — seems like a great way to boost her rehabilitation, and to prove herself ready and able to move on. She just has to get through the pre-challenge medical.

As a doctor in Accident and Emergency, Dan Barbour is used to dealing with people in pain, people in denial, and people who don’t much like doctors, but the prickly servicewoman who dismisses his medical skills awakens an interest that has long been dormant.

The Ruby Mountain hike is as much about the emotional challenge as the physical, and as Eden and Dan find themselves getting closer and closer, they both face enormous obstacles. Eden protects her heart with distance and reserve; Dan keeps everyone at bay by being wholly unavailable. But if they stay true to their old course, they will lose the one chance at a real connection, the one chance to really find someone to love.

A broken-hearted doctor and a reluctant patient should be a match made in heaven, but are Eden and Dan strong enough to find courage outside of their respective battlefields and expose their hearts?

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Footy Fever

by Catherine Evans

I remember my first AFL game. It was not long after the Sydney Swans ‘invaded’ Sydney. I grew up in Sydney in a sports-loving family who believed rugby league was the best game. We watched the AFL Grand Final on TV, but didn’t follow it otherwise. Then in the 1980s, South Melbourne packed up and moved into Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. It caused quite a stir in Sydney.

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We didn’t often attend live games for any sport. There were lots of reasons for this, but cost was what was always mentioned. Now I think back, I have three younger sisters who weren’t as sports mad as I was, and although they would have come for the day out, they wouldn’t have been quite as caught up in whatever sport we watched. That may have been a contributing factor.

I was into new experiences, and I wanted to go to the SCG and see what all the hype was about a live AFL game. I wasn’t old enough to head off on my own, yet no one I knew was interested.

Until Sister M.

Yep, a nun, religious sister.

I didn’t pick her for a sports nut, but she’d come from Victoria and had been an Essendon fan. So when the Swans played Essendon, we decided we’d go. We knew her through church, and my parents often had her visiting, so I knew her quite well, or I thought I did!

She parked in some nearby convent and we walked to the SCG. I didn’t want to be seen as a convert to AFL, so I wore my rugby league gear (the colours of neither team I was to watch). On the way to the ground, there were a lot of men running around in a grassy area. Sister Margaret grabbed my arm, gasped and stopped dead.

Nuns, perving, who knew?

But then this voice yells, “Sister M?” and this guy came flying over. He wrapped her in a hug and deposited her back on the ground. A guy in red and black. A guy who towered over both of us, with shoulders a mile wide full of muscles. A guy whose face I knew (I didn’t know many) because he was the blooming pin-up boy (possibly captain) for the Essendon team.

They chatted, I tried to keep my eyes inside my head.

It turned out that in Melbourne, his family had been very good friends with her, kind of similarly to my family. Except rather than just meeting at church, she’d taught this Essendon star and his brother, who by this stage had also appeared.

The game? Yeah, I can’t tell you much about that. I remember Essendon won. I remember Sister M was horrified that the Sydney crowd didn’t yell enough, or at the right things. I also remember that she, a huge fan, could not answer a simple question for me about the game – why does the time clock count the wrong way? It took me years to get that answered!

Have you been to an AFL game? Do you remember your first?


32510 (1)Does 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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Feed Your Reader: A Royal Affair

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A chance meeting, a misunderstanding, and a second chance for a royal love affair…

Once, King Gabriel was bewitched by a violet-eyed beauty at a masquerade ball, but she left the function without a trace…not even a slipper. Now, Cinderella has a name. Fate has thrown India Hamilton right in Gabriel’s path, and he’s determined to expose her as the gold-digger he knows her to be.

But Gabriel’s attempt at revenge soon loses its appeal as he spends more time with India. Her generous actions and smart control of his sister’s foundation suggest a strong, kind woman, undeserving of his scorn and anger. It soon becomes clear that this is not a Cinderella story at all: India is a beauty, and Gabriel has been behaving like a beast.

“Really loved their romance … couldn’t put the book down.” – Sissy H, NetGalley

“The attraction and chemistry of these characters pulled me in … I couldn’t put it down! There is so much to say but, I believe this book is better enjoyed without divulging too much information about it.” – Sue, NetGalley 

“Wow, just wow, couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting. I can’t wait for more from [Alyssa] as always her books only get better with each one.” – Melinda S, NetGalley

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Friday Five: Darlene Fredette

2230Author: Darlene Fredette
First published with Escape: December 2013
Favourite romance trope: Returning Home
Ideal hero (in three words): Strong, Charismatic, Dependable
Ideal heroine (in three words): Determined, Feisty, Independent
Latest book: Winter’s Kiss

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

In my teenage years, I read Harlequin romance novels, and I was hooked. From that point, characters came to life in my head and demanded to have their own stories told.

How did your latest book come to life? What was your eureka moment?

I’m currently stranded in a small town called Redford Falls, but loving every moment. The residents in this town make the stories real. Winter’s Kiss was created for the guy who didn’t get the girl in One Sweet Christmas. The cold and snowy theme was the perfect setting for him to get his happy-ever-after.

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

I stop and take a breath or two, or three. Doing house work always give me my ‘ah-ha’ moment. By the time the house is clean; the scene has unravelled and is as clear as the glass tabletop.

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

I love all animals, especially dogs. So my mascot would definitely be a dog. Their strength and loyalty goes above and beyond. I have a Yellow Labrador Retriever who is my shadow. He follows me everywhere, and when I’m sitting at my desk writing, he’s close by, lying at my feet.

DarleneFredetteYellowLab

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

I enjoy painting, and people have said I’m good at it. I paint for the enjoyment and the escape it allows. I can’t replicate another drawing or painting because my own style needs to be released. I take the image and turn my own spin on it.

DarleneFredettePainting


30327Return to beautiful Redford Falls: a woman who knows what she wants and a man who knows what he needs…

Nothing thaws the chill faster than a warm winter kiss…

She’s been on a flight from hell for over eight hours, lost four hours of daylight, and arrived in temperatures twenty degrees lower than accustomed to. Disliking winter for a reason she refuses to discuss, Danielle Lerato would rather be anywhere than in Redford Falls. She needs to get the job done and return home before getting caught up in the small town’s charm…and the arms of the handsome, brown-eyed restaurant owner.

Andrew Haley’s first encounter with the buttery blonde didn’t go so well, and he well-remembers the chill of the glass of water she dumped over his head. Now, two years later, a raging storm drops Danielle back into his life. She’s determined to leave, but he’ll do whatever it takes to convince her to fall in love with Redford Falls…and him.

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Women to Watch

The Women of W.A.R. series is set in a fictional universe, so our teams and characters – though they feel real – don’t really exist. But Women’s AFL is very much real, and the players and their teams on the field are playing their hearts out and inspiring girls and women all over the country.

So while we hope that you enjoy the stories of Angelica, Cress, and Darcy, we thought that we should also pay homage to those players who inspired them.

daisy pearce

Daisy Pearce

Already a stellar player in VFL Women’s league, Daisy set the AFLW league on fire in the inaugural season, winning the inaugural Melbourne best-and-fairest winner, the AFLW Player’s best captain award, AND captained the inaugural AFL Women’s All-Australian team.


Moana_Hope_19.03.17

Moana Hope

Moana is born on Valentine’s Day (which as romance readers, you know we love), but more importantly, she is an incredible goal kicker: the first player to ever kick more than 100 goals in the VFL Women’s, and winner of her AFLW team’s inaugural leading goalkicker award.


Kirby+Bentley+AFL+Women+Rd+4+Fremantle+v+Adelaide+hUfHEegMijyl

Kirby Bentley

Kirby won’t be playing in 2018 due to an injury, but she hasn’t let that slow her down: she has created the Kirby Bentley Cup to provide young indigenous girls aged between 13-17 the opportunity to put their footie skills on display. Also, just when she couldn’t get cooler, off field, Kirby works in mines as an explosives expert.


Erin_Phillips_AFLW

Erin Phillips

Not content with dominating on the basketball court (where she’s an Olympic silver medalist and a player in the US WNBA), Erin also co-captained the Adelaide AFLW team and won the AFLW best and fairest medal and the AFLW Player’s Most Valuable Player award.


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Brianna Davey

Another over-achiever, Brianna played international soccer with the Matildas before becoming co-vice-captain of Carlton and being listed in the 2017 All-Australian team.


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Meg Hutchins

Meg not only plays for Collingwood, but she is involved in the management team as well, in her role as Women’s Football Operations Manager, where her experience benefits the Collingwood board.


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Ally Anderson

Part of the Brisbane Lions team that made it to the Grand Final, Ally is also a coach for the AFL KickStart program and mentors the Queensland under-15 women’s Indigenous side. She’s also training to be a paramedic, and has swapped her boots for a microphone, commenting on the NEAFL for NITV.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in Indigenous players in the AFL/AFLW, there is a great map here  with information about players and their identified language and cultural groups.


hannah mouncey

Hannah Mouncey

Hannah isn’t an AFLW player – yet – but we wanted to include her on our list as she fights to be the first transgender player in the AFLW. Hannah was excluded from the draft, due to concerns that her physical disparity would give her unfair advantage. Mouncey’s testosterone levels fall between those required by the International Olympic Committee, the same guidelines followed by the AFL.

There are so many other inspiring athletes, and you can check them out for yourself here http://www.afl.com.au/womens/player-profiles.

And, for a fictional account of the lives and loves of Women’s Aussie Rules players – on and off the field – remember to check out the Women of W.A.R. series. Pre-order now!

 

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All Women of W.A.R. titles are available for pre-order now!

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The Stuff of Fantasy

by Nicola Marsh

If you follow AFL you’ll know there’s a thing called Fantasy Teams, where anyone can choose their favourite players and create their dream team. Each week players are assigned points according to performance and your score is tallied so you can see how your fantasy team performed, with mega prizes involved.

But as I’m a romance author and totally shallow when it comes to eye candy, here are a few players who could make the cut of ‘Fantasy Team’ of a different kind…(as voted by Herald Sun readers in 2015, Who is the AFL’s sexiest player?)

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Andrew Swallow (past captain of my football club, the North Melbourne Kangaroos, who’s gorgeous inside and out, a true gentleman of the game.)

LF

Lance Franklin

TB

Travis Boak

AR

Alex Rance

Now it’s over to you.

Who would you choose to be in your Fantasy Team?

Any sport, any player, let’s see who would make the grade in your dream team.


32509 (1)Are they playing to win…or playing for keeps?

Angelica Bryant has a dream. The only child of a soccer legend, she pays her bills by working at her father’s bar while pursuing her goals: a role in sports management and a place in the newly established Women’s Aussie Rules league. Football is her passion, and she won’t let anything get in her way: including an ill-advised one-night-stand with one of Australia’s most successful agents.

Jaxon Flint thrives on success. His workaholic lifestyle keeps his agency and the athletes he represents at the top of their game – and all of his emotions at bay. Until he meets Angie, W.A.R.’s newest star, who undermines his carefully laid plans and gets under his skin. Is he willing to relinquish his careful control both in and out of the bedroom?

When Angie and Jaxon end up working together, it’s game on!

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Get more information about this title on Nicola’s blog!

Women of WAR 1

The Love of a Tortured Hero

by Alyssa J Montgomery

Most of us admire those who’ve endured some form of physical, emotional or psychological trauma and used those negative experiences to propel themselves into a stronger future. We generally have even greater respect for those who go on to use their experiences to help others.

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As readers, this translates into our empathy for the tortured hero or the imperfect heroine. There’s something satisfying about journeying alongside a character who is deeply emotionally scarred—sharing their fears and insecurities through their healing process, and ultimately sharing their happiness as they overcome their adversities or emotional angst.

I particularly enjoy complex back stories where there is a dangerous secret or an element of intrigue involved. I think this adds greater dimension to the character, and can provide more profound internal conflict for the character to have to overcome. I want the character to move on from the loss they’ve faced and I’m satisfied when they find the strength to ensure that their lives soar instead of spiralling downwards.

In The Formidable King, both Gabriel and India are outwardly strong but have deeply scarred psyches due to tragedy and trauma they’ve endured. Be warned, this story touches on some sensitive subject matters. The discovery of one dark secret will probe the boundaries of reader compassion as it tests the depth of Gabriel’s and India’s love.

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Compassion and sensitivity in a volatile and dangerous situation prove the depth of unconditional love in Gabriel and India’s relationship when serious imperfections are revealed. The stakes are high and huge obstacles mount against seemingly impossible odds as demons from the past resurface.

Gabriel’s world is thrown into chaos as he realises circumstances may force him to choose between the woman he loves and the one responsibility that has always been central to his existence—the throne of Santaliana.

Against the odds, and through the magic of romance and love, both Gabriel and India are the key to releasing each other’s burdens and the salve to heal emotional scars. As their love triumphs, they forgive each other and learn to forgive themselves.

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We all face challenges in our lives, and some of us face trauma. It’s how we respond to those challenges that causes us to grow—or causes us to lose our way. As the saying goes ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ There are so many people in our world who’ve experienced trauma and become an inspiration to others. Who are some of your favourite tortured heroes and heroines in the world of fiction and can you pinpoint just what it is that’s been so appealing and memorable to you?


32513 (1)A chance meeting, a misunderstanding, and a second chance for a royal love affair…

Once, King Gabriel was bewitched by a violet-eyed beauty at a masquerade ball, but she left the function without a trace…not even a slipper. Now, Cinderella has a name. Fate has thrown India Hamilton right in Gabriel’s path, and he’s determined to expose her as the gold-digger he knows her to be.

But Gabriel’s attempt at revenge soon loses its appeal as he spends more time with India. Her generous actions and smart control of his sister’s foundation suggest a strong, kind woman, undeserving of his scorn and anger. It soon becomes clear that this is not a Cinderella story at all: India is a beauty, and Gabriel has been behaving like a beast.

Pre-order now! The Formidable King releases on 12 December 2017

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