Highland Games

by Frances Housden

The early idea for this blog was something with a humorous vein, but for a dark medieval romantic series that began with a ‘Curse’ you can see the irony. It took me until book three ‘The Chieftain’s Feud’ to come up with any sort of high concept for them—‘Game of Thrones’ meets ‘Outlander’.

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So back to book one ‘The Chieftain’s Curse. That began with Morag Farquhar, her son Rob and our cursed hero, Euan McArthur. Strangely enough I hadn’t intended their story to be the first in a series yet as I wrote, all these interesting but unexpected characters began to show up. Starting off with Nhaimeth, then Jamie, then Gavyn all of whom—now that I’ve finished the series with book six—have had their own happy ending. Like they say about life—one thing leads to another.

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Gavyn Farquhar, ‘Chieftain by Command’ who popped up in the last third of the first book as Morag’s long lost brother, took me and my readers on a wild chase in book two. An adventure that incidentally doesn’t end until book six, Chieftain’s Rebel—confused—how do you thinks it felt writing a series that seems to have a life of its own and refuses to tell you what will happen next?

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Of course, considering what I put Jamie Ruthven through in Gavyn’s book, I had to fix it by making him the hero in book three, ‘The Chieftain’s Feud’. And I have to admit he deserved a little love after the villainess trampled on his heart in the previous book. As for the other lads, Rob and Nhaimeth, their turns came in ‘Chieftain in the Making’. I will admit I wasn’t particularly easy on Rob, and as for Nhaimeth—a favourite with readers—I always thought he deserved to have his own sweet romance. That said, weaving all their different threads together into one picture was difficult, but ‘very’ satisfying, especially as this book also managed to point me in the direction of a potential second series.

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I had to be very careful with the time-line while using historical facts, waiting until my characters grew old enough to fit the plot, which was particularly true of book five, my November release and Maggie McArthur’s story. If you read book one, you will remember she was the baby born to Morag and Euan at the end of The Chieftain’s Curse. I brought her back again as a tomboyish teenager—more interested in swordplay than needlework—in ‘The Chieftain’s Daughter‘. I will admit I’m not always kind to my heroes and heroines, but I did love writing Maggie’s story. Perhaps that’s why I was slightly easier on her—slightly.25327

In November I will have five books in The Chieftain Series available at all the usual sites through Escape Publishing, with one more book to come ‘Chieftain’s Rebel’, this is Gavyn’s son Rory’s story—‘Chieftain’s Rebel’ out in March. So where do we go from there? I’m not exactly certain but if it’s anything like the other books in my Chieftain Series I’m sure it will be an adventure.


The Chieftain’s Daughter will be released on 8 November, and is available for pre-order now. 

The other Chieftain books are available for download now for your highland pleasures!

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Try one of Escape’s Rising Stars of Romance – for Free!

Apple iBooks Australia is promoting the Rising Stars of Romance for the next two weeks, and many Escape Authors are featured. The best part? You can get the first book in one of their series for free!

Most of these titles are also free on Amazon AU. So check them out!

House on Burra Burra Lane – Jennie Jones

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Just ten days after her fresh start in the isolated Snowy Mountains, Samantha Walker trips over a three hundred pound pig and lands in the arms of Dr. Ethan Granger — and the firing line for gossip. It was hardly a ‘date’ but sparks of the sensual kind are difficult to smother in a community of only 87 people. Now there’s a bet running on how long she’ll stay and what she’ll get up to while she’s in town.

Ethan has his own issues — Sammy’s presence in his childhood home brings with it painful recollections of family scandals and a bad boy youth. When the gossip around them heightens, his life is suddenly a deck of cards spread on the table for all to see. Then Sammy’s past catches up with her… and it looks like all bets are off.

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In Safe Hands – Lee Christine

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She thinks she needs him, but she doesn’t know the secrets he keeps…

Threatened with the publication of naked photographs taken in her law student days, defence attorney Allegra Greenwood enlists the help of former SAS Commander Luke Neilson, unaware of his involvement in her brother’s death in Afghanistan.

In a race to stop the photographs appearing on the Internet, Luke battles a hidden enemy, his growing feelings for Allegra, and his conscience, which demands he protect a fallen comrade’s sister. As the stakes increase and more sinister motives unfold, Luke not only has to fight to save her career, he has to fight to save her life.

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Treasured Secrets – Kendall Talbot

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From Romantic Book of the Year winner Kendall Talbot comes an adrenaline-fuelled new series with sexy characters, exotic locations, and action-packed adventure.

The last place Rosalina expected the clue to a 700-year-old mystery to lead is back into the arms of Archer, the one man who broke her heart. But neither can solve the puzzle without the other, so together they set off on a new adventure, weaving from Tuscany’s underbelly to Archer’s luxurious yacht in the Greek Islands, trying to ignore the sparks that still fly unhindered between them.

Archer desperately wants to salvage the relationship he shattered years before, but fighting for Rosalina’s love soon takes a back seat to fighting for their lives. They aren’t the only one on the trail for the treasure, and their competition isn’t bothered by ethics and morals to achieve their goals. With evil close on their trail, and Archer wrestling with the remnants of a childhood tragedy, Rosalina begins to wonder if perhaps there are some secrets that were never meant to be revealed.

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A Life Worth Living – Amanda Canham

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For lovers of Marion Lennox and Fiona Lowe comes a sweet, touching novel about secret desires and second chances, set in the intriguing world of sleep medicine.

Dr Cameron Lewis has been running from his past for a long time, so when a career opportunity opens up in his hometown of Brisbane, he takes it as a sign to move home and pick up the pieces of his life. But his vow to never have a child remains steadfast — it’s the one thing he can’t compromise on.

Nurse Stacey Carter has always craved a family of her own, and, following a bitter divorce and the death of her mother, she finally decides to make her dreams come true. She doesn’t need a man to help, but she can’t help thinking that the new doctor in the Sleep Medicine ward might be the ideal alternative…

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Bound By Her Ring – Nicole Flockton

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Luciano Morelli has perfected a plan to get revenge on his runaway wife; confronting her at the opening gala for her father’s hotel. What he didn’t plan on was the flaring of emotions the moment he sees her again.

Jasmine Anderson has no memories of her husband. Her only link to him is the wedding rings she wears. Luciano storms back into her life announcing he is her husband, demanding she join him on a business trip or see her father’s livelihood crumble.

Passion reignites as they rediscover what first drew them together. But more than just memories are lost. Can their bond be rebuilt or will secrets infect their already shattered trust?

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The Chieftain’s Curse – Frances Housden

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Nominated for the 2014 RITA Award for Best Historical Romance
Euan McArthur is a chieftain in need of an heir.

While still a young a warrior, Euan incites the fury of a witch. She retaliates with a curse that no wife will ever bear him an heir. As he buries his third wife and yet another bonnie stillborn son, Euan can no longer cast her words aside.

Morag Farquhar is a woman in need of sanctuary. With a young relative in tow, Morag flees the only home she has ever known to escape her brother, Baron of Wolfsdale, and find sanctuary in the MacArthur stronghold. Pronounced barren by a midwife, Morag is of little value to her family, but a Godsend to Euan, a lover he can’t kill by getting with child.

Years ago, chance drew them together, and tangled their lives in ways they could never have imagined. This time their destiny lies in their own hands, but it will take courage and strong hearts to see it through to the end.

(iBooks)
(Amazon AU)


Insecure – Ainslie Paton

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The worst thing a man can do is not be with the woman he loves.

She could have him sacked quicker than licking her lips. He could ruin her reputation with an email.

Jacinta was the CEO in waiting. Mace was the geek from IT. She had an office suite on the top floor. He worked in cubicle hell.

She had power, influence, her life mapped out. He had big dreams, and an appetite for risk.

They had one hot night written all over them, except the city conspired to turn that night into a weekend of unexpected passion and deep connection.

Will love be enough when Jacinta’s star falls and Mace’s dream takes flight, or will ambition, expectation and insecurity pull them apart?

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By The Sword – Alison Stuart

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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. 

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?

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The Secret Diary of Lady Catherine Bexley – Viveka Portman

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In the vein of Portia Da Costa and Charlotte Featherstone, Regency England gets just a bit raunchy in this novella about a gently-raised lady who wants to feel like a woman…

“I have never seen fit in my life to divulge my secrets in a diary, yet now, after today’s proceedings, I do…”

Lady Catherine Bexley is new to marriage and the marriage bed, but surely there must be more to it than this? Her husband is proper and perfunctory — treating her with careful respect but leaving her aching for more.

When she witnesses a gentleman disciplining a maid at a house party, the ache explodes into ravenous desire. She finds herself no longer willing to wait for her husband’s stiff and passionless attentions — and soon develops a naughty plan to finally get what she wants.

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Words Once Spoken – Carly Drake

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YA meets high fantasy in this lush series debut about a girl who never quite fit in — and the reason why…

Evelyn might not love the confines of her village life, but she takes her small freedoms where she can get them. But everything changes when her parents decide it’s time for her to wed. Suddenly she loses her tunic and breeches, her bow, her horse, and gains rigid gowns, restrictive manners, and carriage rides.

The best way to escape is through her dreams, but as they become more and more real, Evelyn begins to worry that she is losing her grasp on reality. It is only when she makes two new friends that the truth is revealed: she is destined for far, far more than even she could imagine.

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King Hall – Scarlett Dawn

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A fresh, meaty, sink-your-teeth-in-and-hold-on-tight new adult fantasy series kicks off with King Hall…

King Hall — where the Mysticals go to learn their craft, get their degrees, and transition into adulthood. And where four new Rulers will rise and meet their destinies.

Lily Ruckler is adept at one thing: survival. Born a Mystical hybrid, her mere existence is forbidden, but her nightmare is only about to start. Fluke, happenstance, and a deep personal loss finds Lily deeply entrenched with those who would destroy her simply for existing — The Mystical Kings. Being named future Queen of the Shifters shoves Lily into the spotlight, making her one of the most visible Mysticals in the world. But with risk comes a certain solace — her burgeoning friendships with the other three Rulers: a wicked Vampire, a wild-child Mage, and a playboy Elemental. Backed by their faith and trust, Lily begins to relax into her new life.

Then chaos erupts as the fragile peace between Commoners and Mysticals is broken, and suddenly Lily realises the greatest threat was never from within, and her fear takes on a new name: the Revolution.

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Legend Beyond the Stars – SE Gilchrist

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Seeking redemption from a mission gone terribly wrong, Captain Alana Knight volunteers to aid a dangerous operation to transport colonists between Earth and alien traders. But on board the spaceship, she learns of a galactic war raging for power. A power that can be transformed into a terrible weapon.

When the colonists are betrayed and sold, Alana’s mission is re-defined. Nothing will stop her from keeping those in her care safe and finding a passage home. But her new captor is nothing like she expects…

Commander Tarak El Rajan is human, male and equally determined to retain his payload. With his race on the brink of extinction he is under strict orders to transport all females to the planet Isla for research purposes.

In a world of uncertainty, where the wrong decision could mean the death of an entire race, the last thing either of these two soldiers expects or needs is to fall in love.

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(Amazon AU)


Out of Rhythm – Shona Husk

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They might be one of the hottest up-and-coming bands in Australia, but the members of Selling the Sun have a lot to learn about life, love, sex, and each other.

Coming off a successful Australian tour and prestigious industry award nominations, Gemma Field’s life should be perfect. Instead her parents want her to get a real job, the second album isn’t coming together, and her best friend, Kirsten wants nothing to do with her.

Falling for her best friend was never going to make life easy. After an almost accidental drunken kiss almost six months ago, they aren’t even talking. Gemma can’t even talk about it with anyone – not her family, not her bandmates, not even the one person she used to share everything with. Instead she lives in a space of indecision and pain, and it’s affecting all aspects of her life, including the band.

Kirsten Vincent missed Gemma like crazy, but did she miss her as a friend or as something more? She’s confused and Gemma is hurt, and the consequences of a bad decision will affect more than their personal lives. Will another kiss, a sober kiss, a kiss with intent, do more damage, or could it be the start of something more?

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The January Wish – Juliet Madison

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From Escape’s queen of ro-magic comedy comes a sweet, emotional contemporary romance about the pleasures of making a wish and seeing it come true.

When Dr Sylvia Greene makes an impromptu wish at the Tarrin’s Bay Wishing Festival, it’s the most out of character action she can think of. Hers is not a life of wishes. Hers is a controlled life of order, plans and preparation…of science and research and diagnosis and treatment. But her past has been weighing on her mind, and decisions made long ago have far-reaching consequences.

A week later, the daughter she secretly gave up for adoption at sixteen arrives in Sylvia’s small coastal town with secrets that can’t be shared. Between feelings of guilt, gossip, and a growing attraction to an emotionally unavailable colleague, Sylvia’s well-ordered life is soon thrown into chaos. She is no longer alone, and for the first time she feels as if her world is open to possibilities.

They say be careful what you wish for, but, for Sylvia, the unexpected consequences may be just what the doctor ordered.

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(Amazon AU)


Children of the Mist – Jenny Brigalow

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An original paranormal YA about an unconventional girl, an unconventional boy, their extraordinary transformations, and the secrets of the Scottish Highlands.

When skater girl Morven Smith turns sixteen, she develops boobs, acute appendicitis…and a pair of pointy teeth. While she is stunned by her metamorphosis into vampire, her best mate, the enigmatic Zest, is not. For the young werewolf, Morven’s transformation is an answer to his lonely prayers.

But they are unable to celebrate their mutual paranormalcy for long — there are too many dangers, too much suspicion, and too many questions. It’s only in Scotland that Morven can learn the truth about her past. But she discovers more than she bargained for when she meets her birth family — an ancient feud between vampires and werewolves. They may both be Children of the Mist, but only one species can survive.

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(Amazon AU)


Beckoning Blood – Daniel de Lorne

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A gripping,  blood-drenched saga about twin brothers, the men they love, and the enduring truth that true love never dies  — no matter how many times you kill it.

Thierry d’Arjou has but one escape from the daily misery of his work at a medieval abattoir — Etienne de Balthas. But keeping their love a secret triggers a bloody chain of events that condemns Thierry to a monstrous immortality. Thierry quickly learns that to survive his timeless exile, he must hide his sensitive heart from the man who both eases and ensures his loneliness…his twin brother.

Shaped by the fists of a brutal father, Olivier d’Arjou cares for only two things: his own pleasure and his twin. But their sadistic path through centuries is littered with old rivals and new foes, and Olivier must fight for what is rightfully his – Thierry, made immortal just for him.

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(Amazon AU)

Do You Believe in Fate? – Frances Housden

I have to confess to regularly reading my horoscope. My husband laughs, ‘How can it be true for everyone in the world born in the same month?’ I don’t care. I do believe in fate—that there is something guiding us but we have the option to follow the advice or not. Right now my horoscope says the next 12 months will be the best period for my career in decades. Who wouldn’t want to believe that, but it’s what we do about it that counts.

Going back to fate, Euan the hero of THE CHIEFTAIN’S CURSE came to me in a dream. He was yelling, ‘Will this bluidy curse never end?’ Now tell me, what red-blooded author wouldn’t want to find out more?

Discovering Euan took me on a journey into my past, into the history of Scotland, my homeland. It was exciting using a lot of what I learned at my grandfather’s knee, but more than that, many places and characters simply popped into my head, especially Nhaimeth the dwarf—a favourite with readers—and this, long before A Game of Thrones reached our screens. I gave a detailed description of the clan castle in my book and discovered it really existed—fate or latent memories from my childhood? I don’t care, why should I? Everything worked to drive the plot of the very first book in my ‘Chieftain’ series.

This is where I accept that we need to give fate a hand. I went to a clairvoyant shortly after I finished ‘Chieftain’. She told me I had a book that would do really well and since the publishers weren’t liable to coming knocking on my door, I left it to my agent to find one who loved the book as much as I did. Years past, editors did love the book, but didn’t know where to place it—yes it’s a wonderful romance but I like to think it is more. I have to admit the wait was disheartening. Then at the annual Harlequin dinner in 2012, I was sitting near Haylee Nash who told us all about Escape Publishing, Harlequin Australia’s new digital imprint. I asked if I could email a book to her and, when she agreed, I sent it off that very night as well as a lot of good vibes.

The rest as they say is history—Scottish History. Without any reviews THE CHIEFTAIN’S CURSE hit #3 overall on iBooks, stayed #1 in Historical Romance for weeks and was an Amazon bestseller, which led to a print edition being published by Harlequin MIRA Australia. Two weeks ago Chieftain was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards and two days ago, it won RWNZ’s Koru Award. How’s that for fate?

I don’t remember the speech I gave, though I’m told it was good. I do know I thanked Kate Cuthbert and Harlequin Australia for having the guts to publish Chieftain, enough said.


8883Nominated for the 2014 RITA Award for Best Historical Romance
Winner RWNZ inaugural Koru Award for Outstanding Long Romance

Euan McArthur is a chieftain in need of an heir.

While still a young a warrior, Euan incites the fury of a witch. She retaliates with a curse that no wife will ever bear him an heir. As he buries his third wife and yet another bonnie stillborn son, Euan can no longer cast her words aside.

Morag Farquhar is a woman in need of sanctuary.Pronounced barren by a midwife, Morag is of little value to her family, but a Godsend to Euan, a lover he can’t kill by getting with child.

Years ago, chance drew them together, and tangled their lives in ways they could never have imagined. This time their destiny lies in their own hands, but it will take courage and strong hearts to see it through to the end.

Available Now!


22037From the bestselling, RITA nominated author Frances Housden comes the gripping, sensual, suspenseful follow-up to The Chieftain’s Curse…

Gavyn Farquhar’s marriage is forged with a double-edged blade. Along with the Comlyn clan’s lands, a reward from the King, he is blessed with an unwilling bride, Kathryn Comlyn, and an ancient fort with few defences that desperately needs to be fortified before it can act as a sufficient buffer between Scotland and the Norsemen on its northern borders.

Gavyn needs wealth to meet his king’s demands, and he knows of only one way to get it — with his sword. Leaving his prickly bride behind in the hands of trusted advisors, he makes his way to the battlegrounds of France and the money that can be made there.

Two years married and Kathryn is still a virgin. A resentful virgin, certain that, like her father before her, she is perfectly capable of leading the Comlyn clan. In her usurper husband’s absence, she meets the clan’s needs, advising and ruling as well as any man.

But she is an intelligent woman, and she knows the only respect and power she will ever hold will be through her husband. And to wield it, she needs to make him love her. An easy task to set, but impossible to complete, when said husband has been gone for two years, and there is no word of his return. But Kathryn is undeterred. After all, a faint heart never won a Chieftain.

Frances’ next Chieftain book, Chieftain by Command is available for pre-order now, and releases September 1.

Recognition For Writers Across the Pond

We are so thrilled and delighted to announce the Escape nominees for the Romance Writers of New Zealand’s inaugural Koru Award!

According to the website, The Koru, Māori for loop, is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace. It’s also known as a symbol of creation.

RWNZ LogoThe Koru is a reader’s choice award, and will be awarded in four categories, for the first time at this year’s RWNZ conference.

We are so pleased to announce that three Escape Artists have been nominated:

8883From Frances:

The last time I was nominated for an RWNZ Award was when I won the Clendon Award and began my career as a published writer, so win or not I’m looking forward to the experience of sitting with like minded friends while the winners are announced.  Anything shared with friends has an added piquance,  and romance writers are the best.


8902From Julie:

I think the absolute best feeling in the world that a writer can experience is the knowledge that someone likes what we’ve written. (It’s even better than the warm, wonderful feeling we get when we type, The End.)

That someone else enjoys our story and gets tied up with the characters’ emotions is the reward that makes those hours at the keyboard so worthwhile. So I’m very happy and humbled to be a finalist in the Romance Writers of NZ’s Koru Award. Thank you to the judges and organisers, and of course, to Escape Publishing.


18889From Mary:

Finalling in the RWNZ 2014 Koru Award is particularly special as it is the first time RWNZ has run a competition to recognise published NZ romance writers. There are so many amazing NZ romance writers selling all over the world, but we are generally little known or recognised within NZ. The Koru changes that! Being told by your own people that what you are doing is good and being included among such a list of talented writers  – it doesn’t really get much better.