Friday Five: Juanita Kees

1495Author: Juanita Kees
First published with Escape: 2013
Favourite romance trope: Second chances – because everyone deserves one
Ideal hero: Strong, sexy, compassionate
Ideal heroine: Strong, kind, independent
Latest book: Under Shadow of Doubt

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

I fell in love with romance in the seventies when my aunt introduced me to Mills & Boon. I wrote the first draft of Under Shadow of Doubt when I was sixteen. It’s had many edits since then!

I write romance because I believe in HEA and that somewhere out there is the perfect match for everyone (even if it is a book boyfriend).

How do you write? What is your process like?

I’m a pantser trying to be a better plotter. I have an idea and get the basics down on paper then I write the first chapter and go from there. The end result is never anything close to those basics I got down on paper. Scrivener is slowly training me to be a better plotter.

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

How to retrieve a dismembered body from a dam and how to murder someone with the oleander plant. I really hope the AFP never look at my browsing history!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Australians have a fantastic sense of humour and our country is filled with colourful characters. I try to harness as much of my love for this land and the people in my stories as possible.

Where is your favourite place to write?

We recently put in a koi pond in our back garden. I have a bench in a lovely shady spot where I can sit and write, and enjoy a cup of tea or glass of wine. The sound of running water and fish splashing about is soothing, but can be a little distracting too. Koi are like mischievous children .


30495She might be the biggest star in Australia, but she never forgot the small town she came from, or the man she left behind…

Peta Johnson may be rich, famous, and adored, but it doesn’t protect her when the man she married turns out to be a monster. With her little girl missing, Peta will do anything to get her back — including returning to the small Western Australian town she vowed never to see again.

Jaime Caruso left his heart in Williams when he left to pursue a military career, but it soon shrivelled and died when he discovered the girl he loved didn’t love him enough to wait. Back in town to help his ailing father, Jaime struggles with the memories and plans to leave — permanently — as soon as possible.

But then Peta returns and Jaime gets swept up into the nightmare she is living. Feelings long buried soon bubble to the surface, and as they race to save the life of the daughter Jaime doesn’t know is his, they must decide if life — and love — really does give second chances.

 

 

Feed Your Readers: Workplace Romance and Rural Suspense

30495

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


30494

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

December Gift Guide: Community and Cookbooks

by Juanita Kees

cover_cwa

Great reading and fabulous for rural readers and authors alike, this collection of true small town stories really warms the heart. For me, it epitomises the true spirit of Australia and small towns. These brave, big-hearted women are about so much more than just cake stalls and fundraisers. They are the backbone of support for rural communities no matter what the circumstances – drought, fire, education or immigration. The book includes 90 classic CWA recipes and stories from all over the outback.


29692For readers who love stories about communities, we also recommend Juanita’s latest story, a rural romance about a man who’s shouldered the burden of caring for the small town – and the woman who might come to care for him.

A Second Chance at Love, part 1

by Juanita Kees

What if your first love isn’t the one for you? What if there is someone else out there who is your true soul mate?

Many of us remember the rush of our first love, The One with whom we dreamed of having the fairy-tale wedding, building our house complete with the white picket fence, having the perfect pigeon pair—a boy and a girl—and living happily ever after. Then reality checks in and life doesn’t go the way we’d planned it, and suddenly we find ourselves alone again.

Everyone deserves a second chance at love, which is why I love writing this trope. I have the power to give my characters the second chance they desire in a relationship with a guaranteed Happy Ever After. The challenge in writing it comes from finding ways to put a fresh spin on the ways second chances come about. There are so many life experiences to explore and ways for our characters to find love again.

In Under Cover of Dark, Lily Bennetti is the victim of domestic abuse. When her husband is shot and killed, it’s a relief as much as it is a tragedy. Any love she had for him has been beaten out of her, both physically and mentally. This leaves her wary of men and, with her son in trouble with a street gang, she has no plans to trust another relationship or fall in love again.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds Detective Mark Johnson easy to trust and before long, he changes her mind about men and second chances. He is strong, reliable, kind and builds her up rather than bringing her down. When things get tough he’s there for her, and when the case is finally solved he’s earned her trust and she gets her second chance at love.

But sometimes first loves deserve a second chance too, and again we get the opportunity to put a fresh spin on how they get it. What if your first love was the one who got away, the one you set free? I don’t think there is anything more magical than the person who holds that special place in your heart coming back into your life again. In the prequel to the Tag Raiders series, Detective Mark’s sister, Peta, finds herself face to face with the past when she returns to her home town to find her missing daughter. It’s not long before she realises she still loves him, has always loved him. I’m pleased to say they work it out and yes, live happily ever after.

Ever wondered why reading romance feels so familiar? That’s because we’ve lived it in some form or another, and dream of a happy ever after or, at the very least, a second chance at love. Some of us have achieved it; others are still looking for it. May you all find it and live it, both in the pages of a book and in real life.


 

keesLily has secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears, and Detective Mark is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, even as their friendship blossoms into more.

5 Ways to Disguise a Saucy Secret

by Juanita Kees

In Book 1 of the Tag Raiders Series, Under the Hood, teenage gang leader, Tiny Watts can’t afford to be caught telling his story in graffiti on walls—drug ring leaders Gino Bennetti and Nic Albero will kill him. Instead, Tiny keeps a diary filled with graffiti sketches that contain clues to the drops, ringleaders and their crimes. In book 2, Under Cover of Dark, deciphering his diary becomes a job for the sexy Detective Mark Johnson when Tiny is murdered and the case becomes a whole lot more complicated.

Whatever it is your hero or heroine want to hide, here are 5 ways to disguise their saucy secret:

  1. In a Crossword Puzzle

Homer Simpson fans might recall the episode where Homer gets a job breaking up couples, and Lisa becomes an expert crossword puzzle solver, but Homer bets against her in a competition and she ‘divorces’ him as her father. Homer commissions Merl Reagle and Will Shortz to create a special puzzle for the New York Times, with his apology to Lisa hidden in the clues and solution.

Picture from IMDB.com (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1291170/)

Picture from IMDB.com (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1291170/)

  1. In a Coded Message

I love cryptology! Plain text is transformed to a code that needs a special key to decipher it—a bit like the dots and dashes of Morse code. My favourite code is the Idiot code (I know, right?), similar to hand signals used by armies in the field.

In Book 3, Under his Protection (my current WIP), our fourth Tag Raiders member, Connor, receives a coded message from another gang member—Lurk’s come a gutser. Yobbo’s been on the turps and carked it. No hope man. We’re toast. Plain Text: the deal is off. Gino Bennetti is dead and we’re next.

Encoded message from weathermen in Alaska (http://www.powder.com/stories/skiing-and-the-shutdown/)

Encoded message from weathermen in Alaska (http://www.powder.com/stories/skiing-and-the-shutdown/)

 

  1. Through Phonetic reversal

Here’s a way to get tongues twisting! Quite simply words that are spelled or sound the same, only backwards, example ‘cheat’ and ‘teach’ or ‘kiss’ and ‘sick’.

Cheat em sick … Mmmm, okay then.

  1. Via Radio communications

Whip out the old CB Radio and take to the airwaves. Breaker! Breaker! No-one did it better than Chuck Norris (!) although just recently Formula One Racing banned teams from sending their drivers coded messages through the use of radio communications at the Singapore Grand Prix.
chuck

  1. Get Arty with Graffiti

This is my favourite art form and a great way to disguise a saucy message (not that I can draw at all!) Thanks to technology, I designed this banner for the release of Under Cover of Dark. Those who have read The Tag Raiders series might recognize some of the clues hidden in the picture.

graffitiHave you ever sent a coded message? Let me know how you did it …


21769New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts, and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer Gino Bennetti and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’s murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom and her life.

What a Weekend!

Freshly back from the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Romance Rocks, this past weekend in Sydney, with our heads still spinning and enormous grins on our faces.

Here are the highlights:

  • Kicking off the conference with a Literacy High Tea, where librarian Vassiliki Veros charmed the pants off everyone in the room with her romance journey, her study of librarian-heroes and heroines, and the work she’s doing now for her PhD.

    Nobody knew this book existed, and now everyone is desperate to read it...

    Nobody knew this book existed, and now everyone is desperate to read it…

  • The Harlequin Author dinner where we celebrated with our Harlequin family, including lovely international guests Flo Nicholl and Malle Vallik
  • We also celebrated with our lovely (shirtless) guests for the evening, Marco and Jeremy.

    Marco, R*BY nominee Juanita Kees and I, you know, hanging out, talking

    Marco, R*BY nominee Juanita Kees and Managing Editor Kate Cuthbert, you know, hanging out, talking

  • Escape has had an amazing year, so it was fantastic to be in one room together, sharing our highs, and supporting each other.
  • The Leather and Lace opening cocktail party was a chance to catch up with people we haven’t seen for awhile (or have never actually seen in person!) While the lighting was decidedly purple (very strange), the food was great, the costumes inspired (hello Ros Baxter!), and the good times had by all.

    Managing Editor Kate engaged with Engaging the Enemy author Susanne Bellamy!

    Managing Editor Kate engaged with Engaging the Enemy author Susanne Bellamy!

  • Cherry Adair was an absolute delight and joy as an international guest. She was present, hilarious, generous with her time and her expertise, so very personable, and swore like a sailor when she realised we weren’t going to get offended. What a treat it was to spend time with her and listen to her speak.
  • The Saturday workshops were also really well-run, and we have to offer congrats to everyone who stepped up to share their expertise and teach what they know to others. This kind of resource sharing is a hallmark of RWA and one of the reasons that the conference and organisation is so successful, so should never be downplayed.
  • The day sessions also allowed for more chatting with less ambient noise, so a greater possibility of having a conversation with someone, rather than just a yelled greeting.
  • The Australian Romance Readers Association held their annual book-signing event on Saturday. This in an incredible (and incredibly well-organised!) organisation, and they do amazing things for the romance community in Australia. They also have a new website: www.ireadromance.com.au,so check them out if you are interested in talking about romance (yes), meeting other romance readers (yes), and attending fab reader-focused conventions (yes!).
    Alison Stuart and Kate Cuthbert at the ARRA book signing with Alison's first book with Escape - Lord Somerton's Heir

    Alison Stuart and Kate Cuthbert at the ARRA book signing with Alison’s first book with Escape – Lord Somerton’s Heir

    the fabulous Amy Andrews and gorgeous Sandra Antonelli at the ARRA book signing

    the fabulous Amy Andrews and gorgeous Sandra Antonelli at the ARRA book signing

  • Saturday night – WHAT A NIGHT. First we have to offer the biggest, hugest, most enormous congrats to our three Escape nominees: Julie Mac, Juanita Kees, and Kendall Talbot, and also to all the other nominees, including Amy Andrews, who was nominated for a book with another publisher.
  • Emma Darcy had us all in laughter and tears as she accepted her induction into the Hall of Fame. No one, and I mean no one, will ever forget her Five Fs.
  • We also have to congratulate Kat Mayo on her Romance in the Media Award (ROMA) for her article on ABC’s The Drum: Dear Columnists, Romance Fiction is not your bitch. We’re pretty much sure she’s the only person to ever have the word ‘bitch’ etched into a glass award.

    Seriously, the pink lighting was very, very odd

    Seriously, the pink lighting was very, very odd

  • Then this happened:
    Kendall Talbot wins the R*BY for Best Novel with Romantic Elements

    Kendall Talbot wins the R*BY for Best Novel with Romantic Elements

    OMG!

    OMG!

  • We are so so so so beyond thrilled to congratulate Kendall on her win – the first win for her book after countless award nominations, and the first win for Escape Publishing.
  • I’d like to show you photos of what the rest of the night looked like, but what happens at the Escape After Party (and the after-after party), stays at the Escape After Party.
  • Except these photos. These totally get distribution:

    Frickin' A, man!

    Frickin’ A, man!

  • Sunday was for recovering, and more learning from generous and talented presenters. Malle Vallik’s presentation on building an author brand was very well received by those brave enough (and smart enough) to be up at 8:30am.
  • The conference for next year has been announced, with very exciting new partnerships, and a beautiful venue in Melbourne. International guests are a bit hush-hush, though the Friday workshop instructors have been lined up.
  • Finally, the conference close with Anne Gracie’s now legendary Stand-Ups, which always leaves attendees feeling engaged, excited, and downright warm & fuzzy.
  • We cannot give enough props to Shannon Curtis and her crack team of conference organisers for a well-organised, well-run, fantastic conference, and to all the attendees who made it an amazing experience all around. We’ll see you all again next year!

Inspiration Behind the Story: Juanita Kees

8903

Raising teenagers is hard, no doubt about it. The challenges they face in the modern world can so easily lead them down the wrong path. Temptation surrounds them: drugs, alcohol, nightclubs, parties, driving a car, peer pressure. I dragged mine through those dark times, sometimes kicking and screaming. Luckily, he came out the other side relatively unscathed.

I’ve worked with teenagers and children from all backgrounds, broken homes, alcoholic or drug- addicted parents, first as a volunteer for the Salvation Army and then in the Motor Industry with apprentices. One of their biggest concerns was there was nowhere for teenagers to ‘hang out’ and that was why they got into trouble. They were bored.

It got me thinking. What if there was somewhere they could go? What if there was a magical place, filled with love and a family atmosphere where they could just ‘be’. Where they could find themselves, express themselves, all under the watchful eye of someone on their side, a champion.

My inspiration for Under the Hood came from Australian businessman and politician JJ Simons who founded the Young Australia League and established a holiday camp deep in the shaded Roleystone valley in 1929.

Simons called his camp Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning ‘singing waters,’ or ‘place of lilies’. Using local timber and stone, League members and volunteers built a number of cottages designed by Perth architect WG Bennett. They created a park filled with native and imported plants, shady pathways, stone steps and water terraces that flow all year round. Now owned by the government, Araluen Botanical Park attracts tourists all year round. The Grove of the Unforgotten still remains, as magical as ever, built in memory of Young Australia League members killed in World War I.

How wonderful it would be if young people could return to this peaceful place while they search for themselves through the trials of growing up, a place that would keep them off the streets and out of trouble. JJ Simons provided the perfect place to teach young Australians life skills, gave them stability and taught them respect for the land and their peers. It seemed a fitting background for Under the Hood, the story of an extraordinary woman who has her own goals, commitments that know no boundaries, and a man by her side who shares her dream of saving the world, one teenager at a time.


21769About the book: When Scott Devin buys a struggling car dealership in semi-rural Western Australia, the last person he expects to see in charge is a stilletto-wearing, mini-skirted foreperson. Exactly the distraction a struggling, male-dominated workshop doesn’t need! But there’s more to TJ Stevens than meets the eye.

TJ Stevens has two major goals in life: to preserve her grandfather’s heritage and protect her teenage rehabilitation program — and she’ll go to any lengths to do it. Scott Devin’s presence is a threat to everything she’s worked hard to achieve, so keeping him at arms length shouldn’t be a problem…or will it?

 

Under the Hood is nominated for a Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY) award. The sequel, Under Cover of Dark is available now.

Alluring August Additions from our Amazing Authors

Sure to set your TBR pile groaning. Many of our authors will be attending the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Sydney this month, and participating in the Australian Romance Readers Association Book Signing. If you’re there – come say hi!

Now, to the good stuff:

21764From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.


21769New Australian romantic suspense follows the R*BY Nominated Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.


21763From fantasy writer Lara Morgan comes the second in her engrossing, enchanting, exciting Twins of Saranthium trilogy, perfect for curbing Game of Thrones withdrawals.


21770The sequel to the critically acclaimed Red Moon, about a playboy werewolf, his shy room mate, the ties that bind and a battle for true love.


21768What happens when fairy tales get the romantic suspense treatment? A cross-genre mash-up with enchanting results!


21767One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.


21765She mixes more than flour and sugar into her cake batter, and he’s about to find out if a little bit of magic is to his taste…


21766From bestselling, groundbreaking author Ainslie Paton comes a groovy romance about changing times, growing up, breaking out and second chances. Set in Sydney in 1975, when pants and collars were wide, hair was big, eyelids were blue and neighbours shared each other’s lives.

Two heroes and the women they love…

Escape welcomes Susanne Bellamy, Juanita Kees, and their delicious heroes to the blog…

Players:

Matt Mahoney, Engaging the Enemy

Matt Mahoney, hero, Engaging the Enemy

Andie de Villiers, heroine, Engaging the Enemy

Andie de Villiers, heroine, Engaging the Enemy

Mark Johnson, hero, Under Cover of Dark

Mark Johnson, hero, Under Cover of Dark

Lily Bennetti, heroine, Under Cover of Dark

Lily Bennetti, heroine, Under Cover of Dark


 

Setting: Clare Valley, winery restaurant.


Scene: Matt Mahoney and Mark Johnson meet at the bar. Shake hands and start chatting.

Matt: Hi, I’m Matt Mahoney. Yonder is Andie, my wife. Is that your wife she’s talking with?

Mark (grins widely): Mark Johnson, good to meet you. Yes, that’s my Lily. We’re on honeymoon.

Matt (grins back): Now there’s a wee coincidence. So are we. Andie didn’t want to leave Australia when I suggested visiting Ireland. Even Hawaii didn’t tempt her. Actually, I don’t think she wanted to leave the house.

Mark: So, how did you meet the love of your life?

Matt: I was at a charity function, you know the sort—black tie and glitter—and Andie finagled a waitressing job so she could meet me. You know the woman deliberately doused me in champagne to get my attention?

Mark (chuckles): That’s one way of doing it. I met Lily under somewhat sadder circumstances, unfortunately. I’m a detective, and I met her while working on a murder investigation. It seems like a lifetime ago now we’re here enjoying the Clare Valley sunshine together.

Matt: Glad you worked out she was the right woman for you even under those circumstances. Andie called me ‘Wrong Matt’ when we met. I called her ‘Trouble’ without knowing how true it was! I should have read the signs—red hair and a firebrand to boot. When that woman puts her mind to achieving something you’d better grab your hard hat and boots because there is nought you can do but go along for the ride.

Mark: I hear you, mate, nothing quite like a strong-willed woman to keep a man on his toes. Lily’s one tough lady. She might be as beautiful as the flower she’s named after, but there’s nothing delicate about her. She’s the bravest woman I know.

Matt: Tough situations do that. What do you do now your murder investigation is over?

Mark: Lily and I volunteer at the Tiny Watt’s Teenage Rehabilitation Centre. We help kids involved in street gangs and drugs. Our weekends are spent teaching the kids life skills or getting them involved in sports or artistic activities to keep them off the streets. What do you do for fun?

Matt: I own a development company and work on heritage restoration. Andie was running The Shelter on a shoestring. It’s protected housing for women and children in crisis and she’d been trying to meet with me to talk about it. I bought the building from her dad without knowing of her work. You could say we clashed over ownership but now we manage the centre in a new location out Williamstown way.

Mark: That’s the best-looking pair of women I’ve seen.

Matt: Aye, and we’re two of the luckiest men alive. Andie’s like a morn in Spring. She’s beautiful both inside and out. She gifts me with her love and she’s helped me find peace. If not for her, I would still be blaming myself for my brother’s death. Of course, I still tease her by calling her ‘Trouble’ sometimes. Do I love making up to her after that!

Mark: Sounds like Lily and Andie will get along just fine. How would I describe Lily…beautiful, brave, strong. When I met her, she was going through a difficult time. All I wanted was to hold her and make her problems and fears go away. The more determined I was to save her, the more determined she was to handle everything herself. It took some persuading but she came around in the end.

Matt: My greatest fear is failing Andie in some way. I cannot imagine a life without her in it. What’s yours?

Mark: My greatest fear would be losing Lily and her son Luke. They’re everything to me. We’ve been through so much together and I want to spend the rest of our lives together making them both happy.

I’ve never lied to Lily. Her late husband was a miserable scoundrel who lied and scammed his way through life. She deserves so much better than that. I’ve vowed to always tell her the truth, no matter what the consequences. Have you ever lied to Andie?

Matt (rubs the back of his neck): I’m ashamed to admit that I have, though in my defence it was more a lie by omission. I told her my mother would only come to Australia if she thought I was engaged to be married. Andie has such a soft heart she agreed to help me. Andie can’t lie to save herself. Our parents believed her because, in spite of everything, she fell in love with me.

Mark (takes a sip of his wine before he answers):The lengths we go to for our ladies, hey? I was happy being a bachelor, watching my mates take the plunge. I convinced myself I was married to my job. It takes a special woman to put up with a cop’s hours.

Matt: Between you and me, bro, I’m one heck of a convert. Before I met Andie, I thought men who married were just suckers for a pretty face. That woman has shown me how wrong I was. Thank goodness! Do you believe in love?

Mark: Yeah, I’m a convert too. I never thought I’d meet the woman who could sweep my feet out from under me. Lily did that and more.

Matt: I’d do anything for Andie. Our next step is moving house. The hard part won’t be Andie’s clothes, that’s for sure. Tools now, that’s another matter. She’s got more tools than most men I know. We have to build a shed as soon as we move to house her new hobby. As for me, I may have to put some of the paintings I’ve collected into storage for a while. Leave room for Andie’s creations. She discovered the Sunday craft markets and she’s begun making decorative things out of wood. Driftwood, the old tree stump we pulled up from our new property, recycled pieces of furniture… Lovely, they are, but big, if you know what I mean. Maybe I’ll build her a gallery to show off her work.

Mark: Lily and I have bought a property up in the Perth Hills close to the rehab centre. Lily’s discovered she has a green thumb and is replanting the gardens at the centre for our friends TJ and Scott. I’m building her a greenhouse to propagate her plants in and a studio where she can paint her scenic canvases. My challenge will be being a father to a teenager I’m only just getting to know. Thank God Luke is a good kid but he’s had a rough time of it, so I have my work cut out for me.

Matt: Good luck with building your relationship. Children are precious.

(They drink their wine. Gales of laughter burst from their spouses and they lean against the bar observing the two women. Mark lightens the mood)

Mark: What is your favourite memory of Andie?

Matt: My first memory of Andie is probably R-rated! But begorra if that woman doesn’t make a man want to sharpen a few tools and put on a hard hat. When we met, she tipped her tray of champagne over me. Accident or not she got my attention. I squatted beside her to pick up a champagne flute and damn, if that woman didn’t present me with the best view. Yeah, I’m a bottom-man through and through, and Andie’s is a peach.

Mark (leans back to admire Lily’s bottom): Oh yes. Lily’s is just perfect. Everything about her is perfect. My strongest memory of her is in the interview room down at the station. She looked like an angel, despite the mess she was in. I never want to see her looking that haunted again, though. Look at her now—isn’t she beautiful with that halo of golden hair and angelic smile? She does have a mischievous side and I do love it when she’s a little naughty. Ah, it looks like they’re coming over. Would you like to join us for dinner?

Matt: I don’t think we’ll be separating our ladies before bedtime! Thanks, love to. Wouldn’t we, Andie?


Want more?

21767One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.

Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.

But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.

But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?


21769New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts, and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer Gino Bennetti and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’s murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom and her life.

“I bled oil from my veins to write this story” Lily Malone interviews Juanita Kees

Juanita Kees is part of my beta reading team of three, with me (Lily Malone) and Jennie Jones. We have a heck of a lot of fun, as well as very serious discussions about how to describe men’s abs with a fresh twist. Very serious. We also discuss wine. And usually somewhere in our discussions is the requirement for a visit to lovely Margaret River for a far more in-depth discussion about men’s abs, writing, and wine…

One day this spring I think we will get our Margaret River visit together. Until then, I will have to get my share of men’s abs from Juanita’s wonderful new cover to Under Cover Of Dark (due out on August 1) which is the story in which hunky Detective Mark from Juanita’s previous books in the Tag Raiders’ series, gets to strut his stuff. (I’ve beta read Detective Mark and I assure you he is very good at strutting.)

I was so very proud when Juanita’s book Under The Hood made the finals of the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award (R*BY).  Good luck, ladies!

Juanita, in your wildest dreams, WHO would play your characters when it’s made into a movie?

Mmmm…I’d have to go with my all-time hero, Hugh Jackman in the role of Scott Devin. Nicole Kidman would make a good TJ, I think, and those two have already had sparks flying in Australia.

Hugh_Nicole

Tell me WHEN you came up with the idea for your R*BY nominated book.

I’m a Holden fanatic—there was always going to be a story featuring an FJ Holden. My dream of restoring one happened around the same time as I was raising a teenager about to get his driver’s license and up to all sorts of mischief a mother doesn’t want to have to think about.

Tell me WHERE your story is set.

Australian businessman and politician JJ Simons founded the Young Australia League and established a holiday camp deep in the shaded Roleystone valley in 1929. Simons called his camp Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning ‘singing waters,’ ‘running waters’, or ‘place of lilies’. Together, League members and volunteers built cottages, designed by leading Perth architect WG Bennett, using local timber and stone. They created pathways, roads, steps and terraces and filled the dream garden with native and imported plants to create a garden heaven.

I chose a similar setting for TJ & Scott’s story, because of its history and original purpose. How wonderful would it be if young people could return to this peaceful place while they search for themselves through the trials of growing up?

Tell me WHY you think your story is a R*BY finalist?

Unfortunately, my story is fiction and TJ is no relation to JJ Simons, but his dream and my love for his creation provided the perfect background for this story of an extraordinary woman who has her own dream, and a commitment to young offender rehabilitation that knows no boundaries.

Why might I win? I have poured my heart and soul into this story, bled oil from my veins to write it, shed tears with my characters, and celebrated their happiness. I’m already a winner to be in such amazing company in this competition. The real winners would be the cast of Under the Hood. I dedicate this award nomination to every mother out there who has needed a TJ and Scott in her teenager’s life.