Friday Five: Lena Dowling

Author: Lena Dowling
First Published with Escape: March, 2013
Favourite Romance Trope: Marriage of Convenience
Ideal Hero: The only non-negotiable qualification is that he loves the heroine more than life itself (even if he doesn’t know it yet).
Ideal Heroine: Determined, resourceful, feisty, and fiercely loyal. She doesn’t need a drop dead gorgeous hero but she sure deserves one.
Latest Book: Convict Heart (Book 3 in the Convict Series)

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

Inspiration came reading  a Mills and Boon romance set in the South Island of  New Zealand (on the wild and rugged Otago Peninsula in Dunedin) when I was a teenager. Up until then all the books I’d ever read were written about impossibly far away places by American and British authors. That book made the setting and characters hyper-real. Writing suddenly seemed like something someone living at the end of the world could do. And it is truly the end of the world – there’s not a whole heck of a lot of land between Dunedin and the Antarctic. Sadly I can’t recall the name of the author or the title of the book. It would have been written in the nineteen eighties and if any reader recognises it, I’d love to know who I owe my writing career to.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Be mean to your characters, put them through the wringer and then build them up so they can pull themselves out of it.  Agonising to do when you care about your characters, but it makes for the best stories.

Which book written by someone else do you wish you had written?

Any of Jane Austen’s books but particularly Persuasion.  Some say it’s semi-autobiographical and its the thought that perhaps Jane was giving herself the HEA that she never got in life that makes it so poignant.

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If you could cast anyone for the movie/stage adaption of your book and characters who would they be?

Clare Bowen – who plays Scarlett on the television drama “Nashville” to play Nellie in Convict Heart the third book in my Convict series. Clare is Australian, but she is also brilliant with accents so she could do Nellie’s Irish accent beautifully, plus she has a wonderful singing voice and when she wears her hair long she’s Nellie to a “T”. And then there’s the fact she works on “Nashville” – love it, love it, love it. 

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Snacks while writing, yes or no?

There are people who don’t eat snacks while writing? Who are these people and what sorcery do they use to fuel their muse with thin air? Potato crisps, salted peanuts, salted cashews, milk chocolate, white chocolate… during the day… segueing to evening… which includes all of the above plus wine.


30777 (2)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.

Convict Heart is available now!

 

Feed Your Reader: Weddings and Kings!

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The Belshaw brothers are back in Balkissoch…

Bridie Porter is wearing her Vera Wang gown and veil in the back of her wedding limo when she receives a compromising text about her hotelier groom. Panicked, she tells the driver to keep going and she flees from Melbourne to the small town of Balkissoch in the Adelaide Hills.

It’s the perfect pit-stop to hide from her ex and the press and to earn enough cash to stay out of sight. Unfortunately, the admin job she gets is for a wedding photography business and she’s had her fill of weddings lately. But it’s slim pickings on the work front in a town so teeny. And her new boss is strangely compelling…

After the rush and adrenaline of his job as an LA paparazzo, the last place Cody Belshaw wants to be is back in the small town where he grew up. But thanks to a clause in his father’s will that amounts to blackmail, Cody and his two brothers are stuck running a wedding business for at least a month. If there’s one thing that he’s learned in LA, however, it’s to keep business and pleasure very, very separate. Which makes his new admin employee the definition of temptation.

Bridie is desperate to stay anonymous. Cody seeks out secrets for a living. As they delve into the world of brides, boutonnières and dogs-as-best-men, both Cody and Bridie will have to decide if this is a fling…or forever.

Available now


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From award-winning author Alison Stuart comes a stirring historical trilogy about soldiers, spies, and the strong women that love them.

By The Sword

England 1650. In the aftermath of the execution of the King, England totters once more on the brink of civil war.

Kate Ashley finds her loyalty to the Parliamentary cause tested when she inherits responsibility for the estate of the Royalist Thornton family.

Jonathan Thornton, exiled and hunted for his loyalty to the King’s cause now returns to England to garner support for the young King. Finding Kate in his family home, he sees in her a chance at a life he doesn’t deserve.

But love is fragile in the face of history. What hope can one soldier and one woman hold in times like these?

The King’s Man

London 1654: Kit Lovell is a disillusioned Royalist who passes his time cheating at cards, living off his wealthy and attractive mistress and plotting the death of Oliver Cromwell.

Penniless and friendless, Thamsine Granville has lost everything. Terrified, in pain and alone, she hurls a piece of brick at the coach of Oliver Cromwell and earns herself an immediate death sentence. Only the quick thinking of a stranger saves her.

Far from the bored, benevolent rescuer that he seems, Kit plunges Thamsine into his world of espionage and betrayal – a world that has no room for falling in love.

Torn between Thamsine and loyalty to his King, Kit’s carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. He must make one last desperate gamble – the cost of which might be his life.

Exile’s Return

England, 1659: Following the death of Cromwell, a new king is poised to ascend the throne of England.

Imprisoned, exiled and tortured, fugitive Daniel Lovell returns to England, determined to kill the man who murdered his father. But his plans for revenge must wait, as the King has one last mission for him.

Agnes Fletcher’s lover is dead, and when his two orphaned children are torn from her care by their scheming guardian, she embarks on a perilous journey to save them. She didn’t plan on meeting the infamous Daniel Lovell.

Thrown together with separate quests – and competing obligations – Daniel and Agnes make their way from London to the English countryside, danger at every turn. Will they find the peace they crave, or will their fledgling love be a final casualty of war?

Available Now

Feed Your Reader: A Bluestocking Historical!

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She 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.

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?

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.

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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).

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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 Reader: Men in Kilts and Witches in Sydney

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From best-selling author Allison Butler comes a brand-new Scottish historical: A charming rogue, a woman with responsibilities, a highland romance you won’t forget…


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The final bewitching story in a trilogy about sexy witches and second chances…

Horse of a Different Colour

It’s Melbourne Cup day, but not everyone gets in on the Spring Carnival.

If you’d like to celebrate horses, may we humbly suggest taking your day off and enjoying a good rural story?

Here are some of our favourites with equine secondary characters.

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From Escape Publishing’s Queen of historical Australian romance comes a new story about a privileged member of Australian’s colonial squattocracy, a bushranger, and a very special horse.


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For readers of Jenny Downham, John Greene and Maureen McCarthy, a poignant young adult romance about following your dreams and realising what really matters.


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A book about the first Melbourne Cup race! Can she save her family’s horse stud and reputation?


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Shirley Wine takes us back to Darkhaven, where secrets and scandals can’t stay hidden for long…

Hallowe’en Series: Alison Stuart’s Soldier and Spy

by Alison Stuart

When you are next stuck in a traffic jam on Queens Road in Melbourne and find yourself looking at this old Victorian mansion (now part of a hotel), spare a thought for Albert whose restless spirit is still causing mayhem (by all accounts).

So, you ask, who is Albert? Settle down, pour yourself a stiff drink and listen to the sad tale of Netherby’s last resident.

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Netherby House c1999 The orderly room was to the right of the front door, officers mess to the left

 “Netherby” House, in Queens Road, Melbourne is one of the few remaining Victorian mansions that once lined that street. The building has a chequered history having been variously a private residence, a maternity hospital, ASIO headquarters and since the 1960s had been the home of the Australian Army’s Headquarters 3rd Training Group.  

When I was a young pay clerk (Army Reserve) at Headquarters 3rd Training Group in the early 1980s (don’t you love the uniform?) there were stories of boarded up cellars and secret rooms, reputedly a legacy of its use by ASIO (the Australian equivalent of the CIA).

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Alison in her days as pay clerk at Netherby – HQ 3 Trg Gp – 1981

Even while I was working there, staff posted to Netherby during those years complained of cold rooms and unexplained trips on the smooth linoleum floor.  I was just one of a group of youngsters and while we may have wasted time looking for the boarded up cellar and wondered why there was a room  (used as the Officers Mess wine cellar), secured with a safe locking mechanism that any bank would have been proud of, we never saw or experienced anything vaguely paranormal. 

In the mid 1980s a couple of members of the regular army staff, attending a late dinner in another part of the city, returned to retrieve a car one of them had left parked at the back of the building. To their surprise the hallway light was on and as they neared the building they saw a figure sitting near the window in the orderly room. The man wore what looked like a red checked shirt. Concerned about the security, the staff members unlocked the front door and, entering the orderly room, saw the PABX light on the phone in glowing red, as if the Commander was on the phone – unlikely as it was 1.30 in the morning. Thinking it had been left off the hook in his office, they went upstairs and found the phone in place on the hook. Back in the orderly room they noted the light still glowed red so they went back upstairs and this time found the phone off the hook. They replaced it, switched off the lights, locked the door and fled!

I had left Netherby in 1982 to do officer training (that’s another whole story – no ghosts!). In the early 1990s I returned as a student on a promotion course.  It had not changed at all, still the same linoleum floors and cold, dusty offices I remembered.  The chief clerk at the time was a mild mannered regular army Sergeant who in the latter part of his posting was quite often the only person in the building for days on end.  This is his story.

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Alison, seated front row middle, outside Netherby 1992

The sergeant lived quite a distance from Queens Road so he began the practice of sleeping overnight after the Wednesday night parade.  The first night he did this, he chose a small, quiet room at the rear of the building.  About 3.00 am he was woken with a start.  The room was icy cold, despite a heater that was still on.  Struggling to focus, he had the distinct impression of a figure at the foot of the bed staring down at him.  He leapt out of bed, switched on the light and with his heart in his mouth did a tour of the house.  The room and the building were deserted.  He never slept in that particular room again but chose instead another room affectionately called “Netherby Hilton Suite 69”.  

3 Training Group was in the throes of moving and this meant that during the day only one or two of the regular staff were present. One of the officers worked with him in the orderly room for company in the large empty building.  On one occasion the Major brought his dog to work.  The dog dozed contentedly in front of the heater.  Suddenly and without warning the dog leapt up, heckles raised and began barking and growling at one of the pillars which extended from the front verandah into the orderly room.  This continued for about 5 minutes before the dog returned to its slumbers in front of the heater.  Both men jokingly began referring to the third resident of Netherby as “Albert”.

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The massive front door to Netherby

Once the Major moved to the new headquarters building,  the sergeant was on his own during the day for the next twelve months and perhaps thinking the sergeant was lonely and in need of company, “Albert” began his haunting in earnest.  One fine spring morning while working in the orderly room (which was adjacent to the front door), the front door suddenly opened and slammed shut.  Footsteps were heard stomping up the rear service staircase to the area which would have been the old servants quarters.  Upstairs doors could be heard slamming shut and the footsteps descended the stairs again.  The front door, which I recall as being a large, heavy door (see picture), opened and slammed shut again.

Frozen to his desk during this visitation and wondering if he was suffering from an over active imagination, the sergeant went to investigate.  Upstairs he found three office doors which had been left open were now closed.  The front door, which was kept locked to deter salesmen, was still firmly locked and could not be opened without turning the handle.

One Saturday evening after a mess dinner at “Grosvenor” (55 Queens Road- also haunted), the sergeant and his wife retired to Netherby to save the long drive home to Frankston.  Alone in the empty building, they made a cup of coffee and sat on the bottom step of the back staircase drinking their coffee and talking.  His wife removed her high heels and left them with the coffee cups on the staircase as they both retired to the “Netherby Hilton” for the night.

During the night they were awoken by the sound of a door slamming, but dismissing it as just the noise of an old house, they went back to sleep.  When they awoke the next morning, they found the high heeled shoes neatly placed at the foot of the wife’s bed and the dirty coffee cups back beside the urn in the Officers Mess.  

Shortly after this incident “Albert” began to show himself.  The sergeant described him as a grey shadow with a lot of detail.  He appeared to be Caucasian and although his facial features were not easily distinguishable, he was about 175 -180 cm tall and wore a long coat of the style of the 50s and 60s.  I recall the sergeant speculating that he may have been a Romanian “diplomat” who died while being “questioned” by ASIO.  “Albert” was also seen by the sergeant’s young son who was visiting during the holidays.  Both sightings were at the foot of the service staircase, over the sealed trap door that allegedly led to the cellars.

“Albert” was not without a sense of humour and would occasionally play tricks.  One Tuesday evening the sergeant and another army reserve member were moving a filing cabinet.  The sergeant recalls that the office they were moving it from was icy cold on this particular evening.  The two men picked the empty cabinet up and as they carried it towards the door, the other man stumbled and fell.  When he recovered himself, he grumbled that it had felt like someone had tripped him.  When the sergeant looked out into the corridor, he had a fleeting glimpse of “Albert”.

The telephone system in Netherby was a “PABX Commander” system.  At about 4.00 a.m one morning after a parade night, when the sergeant was quite alone in the building, the phone in his bedroom rang.  Blearily he picked it up.  The voice on the line was more of a grunt than anything else, so dismissing it as a crank call, he hung up.  As he closed his eyes, he realised that the call was an internal call made from another extension in the building.  He shot out of bed, turned on all the lights and did a thorough search of the building.  It was just as he had left it, locked up and secure and quite deserted.

Convinced by now that “Albert” had singled him out for special attention, the sergeant began to acknowledge his existence, greeting him cheerily in the morning and bidding him good night in the evening.  He even invited Albert to accompany him when he had to go out during the day, although whether he ever did is a question for speculation.  I rather like the idea of the spectral “Albert” occupying the passenger seat of an Army vehicle on little excursions.  

Once Albert’s existence had been acknowledged the sergeant found that the hauntings ceased and the building became noticeably warmer.  Not long afterwards, the last elements of 3 Training Group moved out.  Netherby was locked up and left empty for many years before being bought by the hotel next door.

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Netherby today

Interestingly, the story of Albert reached the staff at the hotel and some years later, the sergeant and I were invited by the manager of the hotel to lunch and to view the restoration of the lovely old house. Albert, it seemed, had not taken kindly to the disturbance to his home. The builders complained about their tools being moved and unexplained cold spots in the house. One member of staff was on crutches having broken an ankle after being, in his words “tripped”. 

Many years have now passed but I still think of Albert when I pass by Netherby and wonder how he has taken to living in a hotel.


23545From award-winning author Alison Stuart comes a stirring historical trilogy about soldiers, spies, and the strong women that love them. 

England 1650. In the aftermath of the execution of the King, England totters once more on the brink of civil war. The country will be divided and lives lost as Charles II makes a last bid to regain his throne.

Kate Ashley finds her loyalty to the Parliamentary cause tested when she inherits responsibility for the estate of the Royalist Thornton family. To protect the people she cares about, she will need all her wits to restore its fortunes and fend off the ever-present threat of greedy neighbours.

Jonathan Thornton, exiled and hunted for his loyalty to the King’s cause now returns to England to garner support for the cause of the young King. Haunted by the demons of his past, Jonathan risks death at every turn and brings danger to those who love him. Finding Kate in his family home, he sees in her the hope for his future, and a chance at a life he doesn’t deserve.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Worcester, Jonathan must face his nemesis, and in turn, learn the secret that will change his life forever. But love is fragile in the face of history, and their lives are manipulated by events out of their control. What hope can one soldier and one woman hold in times like these?

 

Bundles of Joy!

Do you like big books and you cannot lie?

So do we.

So. Do. We.

So we put together some bundles, just for readers who won’t deny…

Australian Historical Bundle!

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Two thrilling stories about Australia’s convict past and the path to true love.


Billionaire Bundle!

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From the passionate, pacy pen of Alyssa J Montgomery comes a trilogy about powerful men, and the women who own their hearts.


A Bundle to Treasure!

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For the first time in one place, award-winning Kendall Talbot’s fresh new Treasured series is available in one convenient box-set!


The Next Season of Outlander is still months away Bundle!

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May we humbly suggest Allison Butler’s Sexy Scots as a more than suitable stand-in?


The I Really Only Read For The Heroes Bundle!

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From the critically acclaimed Ainslie Paton comes three men you’ll never forget – in one convenient package.


We Want More Billionaires Bundle!

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Look, we get it. We can’t get enough of the high stakes romance of billionaires either. So we put together three of our top authors for a billionaire sample pack – satisfaction guaranteed.