New in Town!

Dulili is suffering a people drought. Over the years more people have moved away than have arrived to stay in this old New South Wales farming town, and now only a handful of young families and elderly residents are left. The locals put a plan into action to entice newcomers: offering the town’s empty houses to people from anywhere in Australia. Who could resist renting a beautiful homestead for a dollar a week?

Three writers, one town, three stories…

How do you make a collaborative writing endeavour work? Take Catherine Evans, Lisa Ireland and Jennie Jones and have them like each other! Then have them wrangle the necessities of creating one fictional country town in need of help. Give them a few weeks of emailing back and forth across three states and hey presto! Dulili, a forgotten town in NSW is born.


The series A Dollar for a Dream is made up of three stories, each a stand-alone book, but each set in the town of Dulili (which means Together).

All three stories will be available together in a paperback called Last Chance Country in all the usual places at the end of March.

We wondered what kind of inspiration our authors had for writing their story, and they said: ‘being new in town’. We couldn’t resist asking why…


Jennie Jones—A Heart Stuck on Hope

heartstuckComing from a countrified town in Wales, my biggest ‘new girl in town’ moment was moving to London when I was 18 to spend the next three years of my life in drama school. London is a big city. It seemed to me like all the suburbs were simply one large town themselves.

And in all the 15 years I lived in London, I only got to know about seven or eight suburbs really well, although I could drive through London without a problem, and without GPS, I might add.

But that was when I was young—and everything is so much easier to handle (mainly) when we’re young, because we’re enthused and adventurous even if a bit shy, like I definitely was.

When I reached what people think of as ‘adulthood’ (I refuse to think I’ve truly grown up—where would the fun be if that happened?) it got a lot tougher.

Remember joining the new book-club group? The mothers and babies group? Or nodding hello to a group of women in the local grocers who were chatting, and having to walk on when nobody asked you to stop and talk because you were the new person and they hadn’t sussed you out yet?

Scary stuff! And yet everyday ordinary stuff that everyone has to go through.

Living in London taught me many things that are valuable to me now as both a person and a writer of small town country stories. For starters, I discovered that I don’t ever want to live in a city again.

But living in a big city taught me to venture out and discover what’s on offer when I moved to smaller towns. It taught me to see, understand and appreciate friendships, no matter how fleeting— even a great conversation in the local deli about the weather makes you feel part of something when you’re the new person in town.

I remember so many fleeting friendships or acquaintances from the varied new towns I’ve had to live in. People in corner shops. Odd characters who lived in my street. The lady I met on a bus. They all touched my life in some way. I thank them for that.


Lisa Ireland—Honey Hill House

honeyWhen I took up a teaching position in the small town of Longford, Victoria, I wasn’t too worried about moving from the city to the country. In fact, I relished the thought of all that fresh air and beautiful scenery. I was sure I’d adapt easily. After all, I was from farming stock. My dad grew up on a dairy farm and I’d been holidaying in the country all my life.

Turned out, living in a tiny country town wasn’t quite as I expected! (Are you surprised?)

My introduction to the harsh realities of living in the bush came in my second week of teaching. I was at the school’s annual ‘Welcome Bush Dance’ when a lightning strike started a grassfire nearby. The fire siren sounded and half the school’s parent population disappeared to go fight the fire. I had no idea what I was supposed to do in such a situation.

Fortunately the grassfire was short-lived, because of the torrential rain that followed the lightning. Unfortunately this created a new problem—flooding that cut us off from the nearby regional centre. The usual ten-minute drive into town was now a 100-kilometre round trip. The locals were all well prepared for this, but with no groceries, a near-empty fuel tank and no petrol station in town, I was in a spot of bother.

It was then that I learned the true beauty of living in the country. Offers of help came from far and wide for the new girl in town. Sure, I had to cop a bit of good-natured ribbing about being such a city slicker, but my fridge was filled and I had a ride anywhere I needed to go for the few days the flood persisted.

Evolving from a certified city chick to a bone fide country gal took some time, but I had a lot of fun learning and, thanks to some old-fashioned country hospitality, I was never short of company (or advice!) along the way.


Catherine Evans—The Healing Season

healingWhen I was preparing to leave home I got some advice from my family that has always stuck with me—not saying it was all good though *big grin*.

Mum’s advice: It’ll take at least three months before anything feels familiar. You can’t come home for 12 months; you have to give it a fair go.

Grandma’s advice: Always have fruit cake in the cake tin so you can offer it to visitors.

Da’s advice: It’s bloody cold in winter so wear thick socks and have a damn good coat.

Those first few months in a new town were hard. Mum was right—nothing was familiar. I could have been in a foreign country for all that was recognisable to me. But I was desperate to learn, so I asked questions, devoured the local newspaper, shopped locally, joined clubs, and went out to events in town.

Almost to the day of being three months in Wagga Wagga, I was doing the groceries and I met a lady from work also shopping. I almost fell over myself saying ‘hello’. She must have thought I was nuts but to me it was a sign that I was beginning to settle in. And that was a huge relief!

Winter was cold, and thick socks and a coat were a good thing. Not so sure about the fruit cake, though it may have been applicable if you were the new bank manager’s wife, as Grandma was in her day. But country hospitality was amazing—it just took a while to kick off. I think Mum’s advice was the best I was ever given…except she should have said those first three months could feel like years!

Feed Your Reader: first March releases

Released March 5…


One last Chieftain meets his match in the final book in Frances Housden’s best-selling, award-winning series…


Good fences make good neighbours, but in Dulili, it seems like barriers might instead be breaking down…

Book 2 in the new Dollar for a Dream rural romance series

Move to the country for $1 a week… 

Dulili is suffering a people drought. Over the years more people have moved away than have arrived to stay in this old New South Wales farming town, and now only a handful of young families and elderly residents are left. The locals put a plan into action to entice newcomers: offering the town’s empty houses to newcomers from anywhere in Australia.  Who could resist renting a beautiful homestead for a dollar a week?

A Heart Stuck on Hope

Honey Hill House

The Healing Season

Fish out of Water: Wandin Valley edition

by Lisa Ireland

When I read romance I find myself reaching for certain storylines over and over again. I love a good reunion story, and I’m a sucker for ‘best friends to lovers’, but my absolute favourite trope is ‘fish out of water’. Whether it’s a novel, a movie or a TV show, when the main character finds herself in unfamiliar territory—a stranger in a strange land, so to speak—I’m hooked.

If you grew up in Australia in the 1980s like I did, it’s a fair bet you’re familiar with the TV show A Country Practice. Molly Jones, the quirky city girl who moves to the country with her husband, is one of my favourite TV characters. Molly is a classic example of a fish out of water. Her romance was not with a man but with the town of Wandin Valley. She was in love with her new home, but the townsfolk were not in love with her—at least not at first! Molly’s antics got her into trouble at times, but eventually her big heart won over the people of Wandin Valley (and the rest us watching on at home!).


A Country Practice wasn’t the first fish out of water story I fell in love with. That honour would have to go to The Sound of Music. Who could possibly resist the story of a naïve almost-nun thrust into the world of a wealthy family? Maria might have been out of her depth at first, but we all knew the captain was falling for her despite her penchant for dressing his children in discarded curtains.

As a reader or viewer, I love these stories because I can often identify with the main character. Who hasn’t found themselves in the position of being the odd one out, struggling to fit in somewhere they didn’t belong? As a writer I find the fish out of water trope loads of fun. Putting a character in an unfamiliar setting provides instant conflict and also the opportunity to provide the reader with some comic relief from the drama unfolding.

In my debut novel, Breaking the Drought, city girl Jenna is a fish out of water, struggling to survive a week in a tiny country town. Poor Jenna, I really put her through the wringer in my story. She has to face some hard realities of country life (and she gets to reap some of the rewards too, of course!) Here’s a snippet of Jenna’s arrival in town, as seen through Luke Tanner’s eyes:

For the first time in his life he noticed a pair of women’s shoes. Bright orange platforms made their way out of the yellow Volkswagen as he approached. The shoes were fastened to the wearer’s feet by the tiniest of straps. Luke stared at them, wondering how anyone could manage to stand upright, let alone walk, in anything so impractical.

beakWhen the car’s occupant emerged, Luke found himself transfixed. The shoes belonged to the most extraordinary woman he had ever seen. She wore a tiny pair of shorts and some sort of fancy cape thing as a top, the likes of which Luke had never encountered. Her clothes certainly weren’t like anything he’d ever seen Maggie wearing, or any of the local women for that matter.

She pushed her large framed sunglasses on top of her head and stared back at him.

‘Can I help you?’ she asked.

Inexplicably his pulse quickened as she spoke. ‘I was just admiring your…shoes.’

‘Jimmy Choos.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘I picked them up on my last visit to New York. Don’t think they make them in…’ her gaze shifted to his feet, ‘cowboy size.’

Inappropriate footwear is the least of Jenna’s problems as she struggles to reconcile her growing feelings for Luke with her reluctance to live in his hometown. Despite her head telling her it will never work, her heart has other ideas.

Because I love this trope so much I’ve just written another fish out of water book. Honey Hill House is part of a three-book series set in the fictional town of Dulili, New South Wales.

Despite being a city girl, Bea Elliott is confident of making a go of country life when she moves into Honey Hill House. Her neighbor Callum ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, is not convinced she has what it takes to survive small-town living.

Here’s a snippet of their first meeting.

Mitch nodded. ‘Yeah, it’s going to take a bit to fix this place up. Mum says you’re planning on turning it into a B&B.’

‘Yeah, something like that.’

Something like that? Didn’t she know? What was the committee thinking, giving Honey Hill House to a girl who looked like she’d be more at home on a commune than running a small business? Beatrice Elliott mightn’t look the way he’d expected but so far she’d done nothing to contradict his prediction that she wouldn’t last six months in Dulili.

This was such a fun book to write and I loved collaborating with fellow Escape authors, Jennie Jones and Catherine Evans, whose books, A Heart Stuck on Hope and The Healing Season, complete the series.

I’m always looking for a good fish out of water book to read so if you have a suggestion drop me a line in the comments.


Good fences make good neighbours, but in Dulili it seems like barriers might instead be breaking down…

June Blooms New Titles – New Releases Today!


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


From Anna Clifton comes a sweet, emotional, beautiful romance about a man whose life has been derailed and the unexpected woman who can help him get it back on track.


He’d been an outcast his whole life, but it never mattered with her by his side. Then she betrayed him in the worst way possible, and he will have his revenge.


Lisa Ireland, a brilliant new voice in rural romance, invites you to Linden Gully and the wedding of the year…

AusRomToday – Reader Choice Nominees!

We are thrilled to be super well-represented in the inaugural AusRomToday Reader’s Choice Awards! Voting is so simple, and we would absolutely love it if you found the time to support your favourite Australian authors by visiting the AusRomToday facebook page.

Here are the Escape Publishing nominees:

Best New Author21471Lisa Ireland

Best Established Author

21489Amy Andrews

22839Juliet Madison

22579Fiona Palmer

Author of the Year

21489Amy Andrews

8864Alissa Callen

Cover of the Year

21767Engaging the Enemy – Susanne Bellamy