Feed Your Reader: Small Towns and Second Chances

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He’ll never come back to stay, unless someone asks him to…

Funerals can bring people together who are best kept apart. Ethan Foster, home to mourn his sister-in-law, finds himself as unwelcome as ever in the town that once meant the world to him. For more than a decade he’s been saddled with a bad reputation – a drunk, a deserter – and he’s lived with it, will keep living with it, because the only way to clear his name is to share his secrets. But the secrets are not his to tell and their telling would destroy the family he loves and the woman he’s never forgiven himself for leaving behind.

Samantha O’Hara once loved freely, but now she doesn’t. Now she leaves before she’s left and keeps her vulnerabilities tucked away. But when Ethan Foster walks back into town, finally looking at her the way she always wanted him to, she finds her hard-won armour developing chinks. She can’t – won’t – have anything to do with any reinvention Ethan is going through. But maybe this isn’t a new Ethan… Maybe he’s the same Ethan she fell in love with all those years ago.

And maybe, just maybe, this time their love will be strong enough to make him stay.

*Originally published as Ask Me To Stay. This edition is expanded and revised.

“this book has something for everyone: love, family, conflict, acceptance and forgiveness” – Goodreads

“You need to read this book” – Goodreads

 

Available from your favourite e-tailer: Booktopia, Amazon AU, Amazon US, Amazon UK, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google

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Exclusive Excerpt: Summer Return by Elise K Ackers

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He’ll never come back to stay, unless someone asks him to…


Samantha O’Hara stood so close to the window that her breath fogged the glass. She wiped it clean with her sleeve, her eyes never leaving the men she’d known longest in her life. She’d expected Ethan to return. Significant events consistently drew him back to town. From where, no-one knew. He always arrived in the same ute, never a rental, always looking irritable and tired, but never exhausted. She guessed this meant he was about three or four hours away.

Too far to be called upon, but too close to convince her that he truly wanted to forget.

He held a glass tumbler. Mona’s. Even from this distance, Sam could tell it was empty. She hoped the rumours weren’t true. Four beers and a bourbon did not equal a drinking problem, but it surprised her that he would consume so much on such an occasion.

He was only twenty-nine, a mere month older than Cal and a year older than she, but he’d looked tired and beaten down for a long time now.

He wore the old suit that typically hung in the wardrobe of his old room. It barely fit anymore, and she wondered if there was another suit somewhere, hanging in a faraway wardrobe—one that did fit him and that never came to Denman. He was broader in the chest and shoulders than he had been, thicker in the arms and legs. More solid than she’d ever seen him. If he was going to keep coming back here for occasions, that suit was going to need to be retired.

Not wanting to be caught staring, Sam stepped away from the window and looked for something to do. She collected empty bottles, used plates and food scraps. Mingled when cornered, nodded politely and excused herself at every opportunity. Twice she rearranged the fridge and freezer to accommodate the dozens of meals, desserts, snacks, and finger foods the mourners had prepared for the fractured family.

All the while she wondered about him.

The long-awaited reunion occurred at the buffet table. Ethan drew alongside Sam as she was scraping pavlova into a plastic container. She would rather have been doing something a touch more glamorous or poignant, but she had to appreciate life’s sense of humour.

‘Hi, Sammy-doll.’

She prickled at the old nickname, the long-ago endearment that used to be whispered in her ear or cried against her throat. She looked up and smiled, and made sure the welcome extended to her eyes.

‘Hi, Ethan.’ She didn’t trust herself to say more. Just standing this close to him made her heart feel heavy. It was foolish to miss a man who had left so long ago and stupid to let his occasional returns unbalance her so much, but she’d never been able to control that.

‘You look good. Your hair’s got long.’

Sam continued to scrape, unsure how to respond. He didn’t look good, and she wouldn’t pretend he did.

He paused, slowed by her lack of answer. ‘It’s good to see you.’

Her hand stilled. She looked up, measured her tone and removed the sting from the words before she said, ‘One day you’ll say that on a normal day. But it’s good to see you too. How’ve you been spending your time?’

‘Poorly,’ was his unsatisfying answer.

Summer Return is the expanded and revised version of Elise’s Ella-nominated novella, Ask Me To Stay. It releases in July, but is available for pre-order now!

Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon US, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google, Booktopia

Spring into spring!

To celebrate, we’ve compiled as many spring idioms as we could think of, and paired them with a book that embodies their spirit. It’s like wine and food, but with spring and books.

…we’ll do wine and books later 🙂

A spring in (one’s) step

Nothing says a spring-y step like a good dance. Like, say, the one that Dan and Alex dance together in Ainslie Paton’s Grease Monkey Jive.

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Spring into action

Neither Merry or Jack can afford any hesitations in their life-or-death pursuit of priceless jewels across the world, in Tory Hayward’s breathtaking adventure romance.

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Spring chicken

She’s a spring chicken – until she isn’t. Explore both ends of the hen with the hilarious time-travel novel from Juliet Madison.

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Spring to attention

Soldiers – fighting against a corrupt government, sent to destroy those who most need their protection. I’m sure a few of you sprang to attention too…24680

Spring Fever

“Fever – I’m afire, fever yea I burn forsooth.”…Shakespeare knew it was true, and so do Ben and Trix in this light-hearted, re-envisioned twist on Much Ado About Nothing.

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Spring to life

Nothing springs quite like a newly minted vampire – or, maybe, say, twin vampires?

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Spring to mind

Unfortunately, what with his temporary retrograde amnesia, not much is springing to Connor’s mind – and his best friend Emma is desperate to keep it that way.

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Hope springs eternal

All that Sherise has is hope in the spin-off novel of SE Gilchrist’s Darkon Warrior SF series – hope that they’ll survive, hope they can find a way home, and hope that humanity’s future is secure.

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Lovely Reads for a Love-ly Holiday

Looking for a little art-imitates-life action this weekend? We have two Valentine’s day short reads that are sure to put you in the mood for love! Take an hour to love yourself this weekend, and enjoy some happy-ever-after.


8882She’s done with the dating scene. He wants a lifetime of Valentine’s Dates.

Brent had his chance to be Valentine’s date and he blew it. But loving his best friend’s little sister from afar isn’t working. When she calls him in tears Brent’s only choice is to come to her rescue. And now that he’s got her safe in his arms he’s going to make sure she stays there.

It doesn’t matter how much Vee tries to convince herself her feelings for Brent were destroyed years ago. He is still the first person she calls when she needs help. Breaking down in his arms wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was kissing him.

Forced to face their past, Brent and Vee must forgive each other – and themselves – if there’s any hope for the love still burning between them.


19914A beautiful love letter to the most troublesome of holidays…

Soft-hearted Reese Ahearn is single for Valentine’s Day. Again. But that’s not going to stop her from spreading the holiday’s sentiment on the streets of Melbourne with short, sweet, anonymous love letters, left for strangers to find.

The last thing she expects, however, is a reply…

Don’t You Forget About Me…

Have you ever wondered why amnesia stories are so popular in romance and why they work so darned well? All of us have things in our life that we treasure and others that we wish we could forget, but amnesia stories push that concept to the edge. Let’s hear what three Escape authors have to say on the subject.

Ms Rogers029+ copyNina Blake, author of Forget Me Not

What drew you to write an amnesia story?

I’ve always been drawn to extremes and amnesia is an extreme. On one hand it’s much more rare than we’ve been led to believe by movies and the media but, on the other hand, the reason it’s in the movies is because it’s so fascinating and opens up so many questions. What would it be like to wake up and have no idea where you are, where you’ve been or who you are? How would you feel if you couldn’t recognise anyone, for there to be no familiar faces? And how would it feel for the people who care about you?

Confession time – when I wrote Forget Me Not, I didn’t think I was writing an amnesia story, silly though that sounds. For me, the book was based on my love for my husband. Sometimes I feel a stab of fear if I think about what it would be like to lose him and that’s where the story came from. I wondered what would happen if you lost the person you loved but then had the chance to have them back again? What if they were different? What if they didn’t want you any more?

Why is it that music features strongly in Forget Me Not?

I always have music playing when I write. That may be one reason. The Beatles song Oh Darlin’ plays a significant role because when that song is played in the story, it’s a turning point for my heroine, Claire. She realises she can never have her husband back because whether his memory returns or not, he’s still going to leave her. Also, this is another area where my husband inspired me because he’s an expert in useless information and rock trivia. I’m still not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing when he knows all the answers on Rockwiz!

Speaking of amnesia, what would you like to forget?

I wish I could forget how bad I was at sport as a kid. I couldn’t run, catch or throw. I still can’t! School sports carnival day was a killer. Everyone had to participate in at least one event so every year I had to go in the running race and every year I came second last. I was always grateful there was one girl who was worse than me and she was always behind me.

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Elise K. Ackers, author of Unforgettable.

Amnesia can sometimes giveElise K. Ackers a person a second chance. Did clearing your character’s mental slate give them an opportunity for change?

In Unforgettable, Connor Abbott’s head injury wipes years from his life. He loses the successes and trials of friends and family, milestones and setbacks at work, and all conscious trace of the woman he loved. But what first appears as a tragedy soon transforms into a second chance. Not just for Connor, but for the woman who wishes she could forget him.

Connor’s supervisor, Emma Kitchener, has a curious amount of familiarity with his life, but when he asks for her help all she can offer are filtered truths.

Before Connor’s accident, the pair were secretly in love but their relationship ended when he caught her out in a lie and couldn’t forgive the deception. Now they’re drawn to one another again and Emma’s facing an ethical dilemma: protect her secret and lie her way into a happy ever after, or confess and lose him again?

In Unforgettable, the amnesia trope is a much longed for reset button. It’s an opportunity to change behaviour, and to better navigate a path already travelled before. Connor’s mental slate was cleared, but his emotional one was not. Emma still resonates with him, and without all the mistakes of their past clouding his judgement, he has the opportunity to change what it will take for him to walk away.

What drew you to write a story with amnesia?

The amnesia trope is an exciting one because of the gross imbalance of power. One person is armed with the past, one is not. One person can move forward having learned from previous mistakes, and one is in many ways starting again. Writing Unforgettable taught me that there can be many victims of a single head injury, and many opportunities for self-discovery.

Amnesia gave my characters a second chance, but there was still an enormous temptation to let history repeat itself. In Emma’s case, she was responsible for rebuilding Connor’s sense of identity. That level of responsibility intrigued me. Add in that an ex is in the driver’s seat, and the stakes become even higher!

What memory/memories would you least like to lose?

So much of my past is backed up on hard drives – pictures, videos, diaries, stories – and I have a close circle of friends and family who could put the most important pieces of my life back together with me. So maybe my ideas. Plans for my life. Books yet to be written. Complex outlines stored in my head that I would be bereft to lose. There are so many of them and I’m so passionately attached to each – it would be losing a part of myself that nobody could help me get back.

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Nicole-7502-LR-ColorNicole Flockton, author of Bound By Her Ring

What drew you to write a story with amnesia?

I wouldn’t say I was drawn to writing a story with an amnesia trope more that it found me. I was just starting out on my writing journey and I had an image of a woman dressed in a gorgeous dress in a room surrounded by people but alone, standing apart from the party going on around her. Immediately I was asking the question why? Why is she standing alone? Why isn’t she joining in with the festivities?

The character of Jasmine and her amnesia evolved from there—she was alone because her husband wasn’t there, standing by her side and the reason he wasn’t there was because she couldn’t remember him, and it seemed no one else did either.

But standing on the steps of the ballroom was a sexy man impeccably dressed in a tux watching her. He didn’t look happy to see her, but he knew he wanted to get close to her again.

With those thoughts and images not leaving me alone, Bound by Her Ring was born.

Do you like amnesia as a trope?

Yes, I have to say amnesia stories have always been a favourite of mine to read. The characters can, like Elise said, start over. They have the opportunity to be a better person. To change their destiny. One of my all time favourite books is a book by Sandra Marton called “The Second Mrs Adams”, the characters were on the verge of a divorce until the heroine lost her memory and turned back into the woman she was when she first met the hero. Of course, she had changed her personality on the advice of another woman who wanted the hero for herself. It’s a book I can read over and over again.

I also remember, way back in the late ‘80’s amnesia was a great tool for the hero to ‘trick’ the heroine into thinking they were married so he could achieve his goal of having her. Amnesia is such a great plot device. I think I might have to write another one!

What memory/memories would you most like to lose?

Oh there are so many things I’d like to forget. I’ve done many an embarrassing thing. One memory could be when I followed my school girl crush onto the dance floor at a school dance, and then having him leave me standing on the dance floor and all the cool kids snickering at me.

Or it could be the time when I was in 7th grade and it was the end of 1st term assembly and the Principal announced the names of students who had improved academically during the term. Naïve me thought, when my name was called, I was going to get a certificate—umm no. I walked up and the Principal took pity on me and shook my hand, but man I wish I could relive that day and just keep sitting on my butt.

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Let’s Talk Romance Tropes: Amnesia

amnesia

by Kate

Readers, amnesia is making a comeback.

Once the purview of Presents titles, amnesia became associated with over-used plots, fainting heroines, and dated heroes, and has been mocked mercilessly since both inside the romance world and out.

But there’s a seductive quality to the opportunity of a do-over, a second chance to do it right – especially when it comes to matters of the heart.Who hasn’t thought wistfully of a past relationship or lover and thought, ‘if I had the chance to do it again…’

Life doesn’t often give us that chance. Fiction, however, and romance fiction in particular, does. Amnesia, when done right, in the hands of a controlled author, can be a very powerful tool.

Like any reader, I’m susceptible.

Escape has two titles that deal with amnesia currently out, and one coming out in a few months’ time.

8865First – Elise K Ackers’ January release, Unforgettable, is an Australian-set, urban, down-to-earth, contemporary romance about Connor, left with blank space where three years of his life should be, and  Emma, his colleague, best friend, and ex-lover, who takes on the task of re-introducing him to his life. Tensions arise when their mutual attraction becomes stronger. Connor wants to pursue it, but Emma remembers the path they went down before – and the reasons they broke up. Connor’s accident is her fault, and not having him in her life is her punishment.

But…if it ended there, it wouldn’t be a romance 😉 Emma gets that coveted do-over, learns from her mistakes and creates a new ending – one much happier than the last.

As an added bonus, this fictional story takes place against the non-fictional renovations of Melbourne’s famed Hamer Hall, adding a strong touch verisimilitude to Emma and Connor’s story.

Our second amnesiac story is…I don’t remember.

No, just kidding. It’s Nicole Flockton’s Bound By Her 8874Ring, out as of the 1st of February. This title has a very Desire/Presents-esque feel to it, with its ultra alpha hero, with his wealth and his power and his control. Luciano has every intention of making his wife pay for the hurt she has caused him – except she doesn’t remember it. Not the hurt, not their marriage, not even him. After a car accident leaves her with memory loss, the only thing she knows is that she wears a beautiful wedding ring – one that she can’t bear to remove, even if she doesn’t remember who gave it to her. And, we all know that powerful men love powerfully, and this is a very powerful story about revenge, redemption, and renewal.

Our third amnesia story is tentatively titled Forget Me Not, and will be released later this year. Until then, be sure to tell us: does an amnesia story work for you? What do you like? What don’t you like?

And what are some of your favourite amnesia stories?