RITA Nominees Announced

The nominees for the 2017 “Oscars” of romance fiction have been announced. The list is below. I recognise one of the books listed there as something I picked up in the past year – ONE. As prestigious as the awards are, I really do question some of the RWA’s decisions.

I’m sure that there are many brilliant books there, however!

2017 RITA Finalists

Best First Book

Alterations by Stephanie Scott
Bloomsbury, Spark
Meredith Rich, editor

Before Goodbye by Mimi Cross
Amazon, Skyscape
Miriam Juskowicz, editor

Close to You by Kara Isaac
Howard Books
Beth Adams, editor

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Annie Berger, editor

Once and For All: An American Valor Novel by Cheryl Etchison
Avon, Impulse
Priyanka Krishnan and Rebecca Lucash, editors

Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods
Penguin Random House, Crown BFYR
Emily Easton, editor


Contemporary Romance: Long

Always a Bridesmaid by Lizzie Shane
Kristan Andrews, editor

Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long
Avon Books
May Chen, editor

Make Me Sin by J. T. Geissinger
Montlake Publishing
Maria Gomez, editor

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Harlequin, HQN
Flo Nicoll, editor

Pansies by Alexis Hall
Riptide Publishing
Sarah Lyons, editor

Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin, HQN
Gail Chasan, editor

Tender Is the Night by Barbara Freethy
Hyde Street Press


Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

Back in the Saddle by Karen Templeton
Harlequin, Special Edition
Gail Chasan, editor

Barefoot at Midnight by Roxanne St. Claire
Kristi Yanta, editor

Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra
Berkley Publishing Group
Cindy Hwang, editor

Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Lone Heart Pass by Jodi Thomas
Harlequin, HQN
Brittany Lawery and Susan Swinwood, editors

Off the Hook by Laura Drewry
Penguin Random House, Loveswept
Junessa Viloria, editor

Once and For All: An American Valor Novel by Cheryl Etchison
Avon, Impulse
Priyanka Krishnan and Rebecca Lucash, editors

Tell Me How This Ends by Victoria De La O
St. Martin’s Press, Swerve
Eileen Rothschild, editor

The Turning Point by Marie Meyer
Grand Central Publishing, Forever Yours
Megha Parekh, editor

Wanderlust by Roni Loren
Penguin Random House, Berkley
Kate Seaver, editor


Contemporary Romance: Short

APB: Baby by Julie Miller
Harlequin, Intrigue
Allison Lyons, editor

Breaking Good by Madeline Ash
Tule Publishing, Holiday
Sinclair Sawhney, editor

Christmas on Crimson Mountain by Michelle Major
Harlequin, Special Edition
Gail Chasan, editor

Falling for the Rancher by Tanya Michaels
Harlequin, American Romance
Johanna Raisanen, editor

Far from Home by Lorelie Brown
Riptide Publishing
Gwen Hayes and Sarah Lyons, editors

His Stolen Bride by Barbara Dunlop
Harlequin, Desire
Kathryn Lye, editor

A Malibu Kind of Romance by Synithia Williams
Harlequin, Kimani
Shannon Criss, editor

Overwhelming Force by Janie Crouch
Harlequin, Intrigue
Allison Lyons, editor

Searching for Disaster by Jennifer Probst
Pocket Books, Pocket Star
Lauren McKenna, editor

Two Doctors & a Baby by Brenda Harlen
Harlequin, Special Edition
Susan Litman


Erotic Romance

The Dirty Secret by Kira A. Gold
Carina Press
Libby Murphy, editor

The Master by Tara Sue Me
New American Library
Claire Zion, editor

Off the Clock by Roni Loren
Penguin Random House, Berkley
Kate Seaver, editor

Ravenous by M. S. Force
HTJB, Inc.
Linda Ingmanson, editor

Three Sweet Nothings by Nikki Sloane
Lori Whitwam, editor


Historical Romance: Long

Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase
Avon Books
May Chen, editor

How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrington
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Michele Bidelspach, editor

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon Books
Erika Tsang, editor

Susana and the Scot by Sabrina York
St. Martin’s Press
Monique Patterson, editor


Historical Romance: Short

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare
Avon Books
Tessa Woodward, editor

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing
Amy Pierpont, editor

A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Alex Logan, editor

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Mary Altman, editor

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Books
Micki Nuding, editor

Taming the Highlander by May McGoldrick
St. Martin’s Press, Swerve
Elizabeth Poteet, editor


Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

The Color of a Promise by Julianne MacLean
Pat Thomas, editor

The Depth of Beauty by A. B. Michaels
Red Trumpet Press
Rachel Daven Skinner, editor

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel
Sourcebooks, Landmark
Shana Drehs and Anna Michels, editors

Now That It’s You by Tawna Fenske
Montlake Publishing
Krista Stroever and Christopher Werner, editors


Paranormal Romance

Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert
Harlequin, Nocturne
Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor

The Beast by J R Ward
New American Library
Kara Welsh, editor

The Champion of Barésh by Susan Grant
Mary Moran, editor

Enchanted Warrior by Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin, Nocturne
Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella
Montlake Publishing
Alison Dasho, editor

The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre
Sasha Knight, editor

The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Peter Senftleben, editor

Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper
Pocket Books
Abby Zidle, editor


Romance Novella

Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan
Lindsey Faber, editor

“The Husband Maneuver” by Karen Witemeyer
in With This Ring
Baker Publishing, Bethany House
Charlene Patterson, editor

Let It Snow by Jeanette Grey
Grand Central Publishing, Forever Yours
Megha Parekh and Lexi Smail, editors

“Let Us Dream” by Alyssa Cole
in Daughters of a Nation
Nina S. Gooden, editor

Searching for Mine by Jennifer Probst
Evil Eye Concepts
Liz Berry and M J Rose, editors

Tycoon by Joanna Shupe
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Peter Senftleben, editor

Wild in Rio by Lyssa Kay Adams
Elaine Kulhanek, editor


Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

Close to You by Kara Isaac
Howard Books
Beth Adams, editor

Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Ami McConnell and Leslie Peterson, editors

My Hope Next Door by Tammy L. Gray
Amazon, Waterfall Press
Amy Hosford, editor

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post
Amazon, Waterfall Press
Erin Calligan Mooney, editor


Romantic Suspense

All the Dead Girls by Rita Herron
Montlake Publishing
Alison Dasho, editor

Atone by Beth Yarnall
Penguin Random House, Loveswept
Sue Grimshaw, editor

Field of Graves by J. T. Ellison
Harlequin, MIRA Books
Nicole Brebner, editor

Killer Countdown by Amelia Autin
Harlequin, Romantic Suspense
Carly Silver, editor

Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon
Penguin Random House, Loveswept
Shauna Summers, editor

One Minute to Midnight by Nico Rosso
Carina Press
Rhonda Stapleton, editor

Repressed by Elisabeth Naughton
Montlake Publishing
Charlotte Herscher and Christopher Werner, editors

Tall, Dark and Damaged by Sarah Andre
Anya Kagan, Touchstone Publishing, editor


Young Adult Romance

Affective Needs by Rebecca Taylor
Ophelia House
Maya Packard, editor

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Annie Berger, editor

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin, HQN Teen
Margo Lipschultz, editor

Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods
Penguin Random House, Crown BFYR
Emily Easton, editor




2017 Golden Heart Finalists

Contemporary Romance

Always Sunny by Kimberly MacCarron

Far-Fetched Love by Priscilla Cook

Framed by Susan J. Bickford

Mounting the Marquis by Kelli Newby

No Man Left Behind by Penelope Leas

Sometimes You Need a Sexy Scot by Melonie Johnson

Take the Lead by Alexis Daria

Tempting Fate by Jeri Black

Things I’ll Never Say by Christina Hovland

This Child Is Mine by Jo Anne Banker


Contemporary Romance: Short

Job Opening: Billionaire’s Wife by Susannah Erwin

A Love Wide Open by JoAnn Sky

Princess of Meridian by Catherine Stuart

What Would Ginger Do? by Kimberly MacCarron


Historical Romance

Confess, Your Grace by Scarlett Peckham

The Governess’s Glance by Jennifer Henderson

How to Train Your Baron by Diana Lloyd

Lord Lion and the Lady Publisher by Laurel Kerr

The Lost Chord by Suzanne M. Turner

The Price of Desire by Emily Sullivan

Unmasked by Elizabeth Rue

With Love in Sight by Christina Britton


Paranormal Romance

Beryl Blue, Time Cop by Janet Halpin

Bless Your Heart and Other Southern Curses by Heather Leonard

Constant Craving by Kari W. Cole

Fire’s Rising by Grace Adams

The Mer Chronicles: Love’s Diplomatic Act by Kate Ramirez

Soul Affinity by A. Y. Chao


Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

Dangerous Exposure by Dianna Shuford

Fair Haven by Laura Conner Kestner

Wings of Love by Pamela Ferguson


Romantic Suspense

The Fire Beckons by Lynnette Labelle

The Guide by Sarah Morgenthaler

Seductive Strokes by Patty Hoffman

Semper Fi by Meta Carroll

Shot Down by Tracy Brody

Vengeance by Diana Belchase


Young Adult Romance

All the Feels by Kimberly MacCarron

Listen by Jennifer Camiccia

Mouthful by C R Grissom

Swimming through Fog by Nicole Hohmann

The Week: 13th – 19th March

What you see above are two shots driving home – Jugiong to Canberra – from the book festival yesterday evening (obviously the second picture was taken before the first one – the sun was setting as we drove). This whole section of Australia looks like this: dry, yellow, bright light.

So, I spent Saturday afternoon  moderating at the wonderful, friendly Jugiong Writers Festival. I was stunned that a book festival in a country town could pull in both so many celebrities, and SUCH big crowds. It was a little bit intimidating!

The wonderful book launch at the end of the day (with essential, free sparkling wine!) was a nice bonus.

Also – they have a GREAT pub! I’ve already planned a weekend trip back with my brother and his partner.

I stole a couple of pictures from Sulari Gentill’s Facebook page.

Here is the worst photograph ever, of me (and also Margareta Osborn), looking like we want to murder each other. It was put online by ABC reporter Pip Courtney. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it!

(That weird stripe across my face is actually the pot plant next to me!)

Autumn light on Friday evening in Canberra.

Thursday evening.

Finnish Ski Troops in 1940

Monday was the anniversary of the end of the Winter War, when Moscow decided to randomly invade Finland and steal regions of their country while the world was distracted by Hitler. (Anything about this situation seem relevant to 2017 – just change Finland to Ukraine and Hitler to Trump!). The Kremlin’s hybrid warfare tactics then are near-identical to what they are currently doing to their neighbours.

History is constantly running on repeat.

My review of Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh

My review of Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Follow-up on Mem Fox

Happy Canberra Day!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

I have an Irish surname, so…

For St Patrick’s Day, here are some books I can think of with an Irish main character, or are actually set in Ireland:

The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters book 4) by Anne Gracie

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

IGNORE the AWFUL cover and trashy title! It’s a very good book.

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

Secrets in Scarlet by Erica Monroe

Secrets in Scarlet (Rookery Rogues Book 2) Erica Monroe

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Finally: If you want a book with a hero who came from Ireland centuries ago, you could always try this very popular vampire read!

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh


Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…

Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh

Since discovering – VERY belatedly! – how talented a writer Mary Balogh is with the first book in this Westcott family series, I have been waiting anxiously for the second instalment.

I was VERY surprised when I discovered the heroine of the next book was Camille, the half-sister of the heroine of book one. In the first book she discovers that she isn’t, in fact, the legitimate daughter of an earl, and when her illegitimacy is discovered she reacts very badly (understandably), loses her fiancé, and refuses to have anything to do with her newly-discovered sister.

She is not a particularly likeable person and the author makes certain we know it.

However, there is much more to her than that, and I was excited to see how Balogh had her grow and change into a worthy heroine over the course of the book. As one of her relatives observes, while also noticing how she is changing:

‘I do not believe anyone really likes Camille.’

Someone to Hold takes place not in London, but entirely in the spa town of Bath. Camille is trying to understand who she is now she is not Lady Camille, and she takes a job at the orphanage where her half-sister grew up. There, she meets her sister’s best friend, Joel, the art teacher, and he takes an instant dislike to her.

This is no ordinary orphanage; it’s the sort of establishment where aristocrats dump their illegitimate kids and then pay for them to stay hidden.

Of course, things change over the course of the book, and I really appreciated the difficulties the two characters went through to reach a point where they fell in love.

This is a very different type of Regency romance to many. Instead of a heroine rising up to get everything she could ever have wanted, she has to learn to be a commoner, and find out who she is when she isn’t titled and extraordinarily rich.

The aristocrats are on the fringes of the story still, as they publicly recognise Camille, her sister, and their mother. So there’s still a touch of the rich and sparkly people. This series is, after all, all about family.

One thing I really loved was the orphanage setting – this came as a surprise.

The children are written realistically, and there is one little girl whose evolution as a character is as complex as Camille’s. She also starts off as an unlikeable character, and I loved seeing how that changed. Some scenes are a little heartbreaking.

Joel, our hero, also grew up in the orphanage (he discovers his origins over the course of the book), and it was great seeing him interact with the children.

Mary Balogh writes books with “more” in them. It is amazing how some authors can fit a complex story into the same word count where others simply give us people romping from ballroom to ballroom.

What fascinates me the most about this series is how imperfect the characters are. The hero of the last book was small, full of affectations, not at all the way romance heroes ever are – and also a very powerful duke. This heroine? Even her family has their doubts about her at the start, but she is memorable and tries very hard to become someone different. I never thought I’d be so engrossed in such unconventional characters.

I am impatiently waiting for the next book.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

All of Eugenia Snowe’s problems start when Edward Reeve, an arrogant bastard son of an earl, bursts into her registry office. He wants a governess and he wants her. She gives him the governess he demands, but she refuses to give herself.

No question that Eugenia enjoys crossing wits with the brilliant inventor, but she will never tarnish her reputation with an affaire, particularly with a man who doesn’t realise she’s a lady!

She holds her ground…until he kidnaps her.

Ward will stop at nothing to convince Eugenia that they’re meant to be together. He promises her heaven.

She gives him seven minutes.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

I don’t understand the “Desperate Duchesses” name for this series. Nobody is desperate, nor is anybody a duchess!

There is no question that Eloisa James can write beautifully, and that her characterisations (particularly for the child characters) are fantastic. This was my first Eloisa James book, and I will seek out more of her work, but Seven Minutes in Heaven didn’t work that well for me for a number of reasons.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book. On one hand, all I could think after reading the blurb was: Will this fad for governess agency stories EVER end?!

On the other hand, Eloisa James is one of the best-known names in the historical romance genre, and I knew that had to be for a reason. I figured that if anyone was going to manage to interest me in yet another governess agency story, it was probably her.

You never know when starting with a new HR author what end of the spectrum they’ll land on. Light and fluffy? Dark and serious? I found James to be towards the lighter end, but what grounded her work were her more complex characterisations. In fact, the characters I liked the best were the hero’s two much younger half-siblings.

Children in books can be disastrous, or sickly sweet. I thought the various quirks and insights from these two kids made them fascinating, rather than annoying (I know I’m not alone in being wary of “romance novel children”).

Unfortunately, though, there are some standards of behaviour that, when broken in historical romance novels, I can’t overlook. Hero and heroine openly – and frequently! – discuss sex while they are in public places and surrounded by members of the aristocracy. It was a little obscene, and people today wouldn’t have such inappropriate public conversations.

And then when the characters blatantly referenced Fifty Shades of freaking Grey, the magic was broken for me. I don’t want that sort of thing in my books ever, but especially not in historical fiction.

To be honest, by the 30% mark I was a bit bored.

What surprised me a lot was the fact there were so many obvious Americanisms. This is, after all, a prolific author of fiction set in England. For example, it was incredible that neither author nor editor is aware the season after summer is AUTUMN, not “the fall”.

I don’t think this was the best introduction to Eloisa James’ work, and I will try another book. She is clearly a brilliant writer, but this was not the book for me.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 6th – 12th March

Bright Blue Sky Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Autumn 6th March 2017

First day back home. Blue sky, sunshine, summer temperatures – and half a new deck!

We went to Canberra’s Enlighten festival last night. The national buildings (National Library – above, National Science and Technology Centre, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Old Parliament House etc.) are lit up. There are also bars and food stalls and opera performances and a whole lot of things.

I will find some better pictures tomorrow.

This possum has moved in (not our first one, but the smallest so far), right outside my bedroom window. The night-time fights with other animals kept me awake all night a few nights ago!

It has been absolutely gorgeous in Canberra this week. Temperatures up around thirty degrees, bright blue skies, sunshine. It feels more like summer than autumn most of the time.

Chris Miller 11th March 2017 Russia invaded Ukraine

A timely reminder from a very respected journalist in Europe.

A Ukrainian woman is behind bars in the United Arab Emirates at the moment because doctors found out she is pregnant to her fiancé. They are “testing” her to find out how long she has been sexually active, which sounds like an appalling abuse of a woman’s basic rights.

You’re not allowed to have premarital sex in the UAE, and women are imprisoned for reporting rapes. Please be aware that just because Dubai and Abu Dhabi look shiny and tourists love them doesn’t mean it isn’t an Islamic country with some terribly restrictive laws – especially for women.

I have to travel through there are few more times this year, and I really wish I wasn’t. Qantas sends their flights through there a lot now, and codeshares with Emirates, which is one of the worst airlines I have ever experienced.

Also on my list of “things that annoyed me this week”, this article:

Pope may allow married Catholic men as priests

The reason it annoys me? Ukrainian Catholic men – married, soon to be married, planning to be married – have ALWAYS been able to become priests. For centuries. Most of the priests I’ve ever known have been married – with children.

This is allegedly such a groundbreaking idea, but once again people totally ignore the fact this is already, and always has been, a thing.

Nobody knows anything about Ukraine, but you’d think a journalist or two might mention this extremely relevant fact!

And then there’s:

Muhammad Ali’s son detained at US airport for second time

He’s a flipping US citizen! What is wrong with Trump’s version of America??!

My review of Outback Cowboy (Hot Aussie Heroes Book 1) by Margareta Osborn

My review of Devil in Spring (Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas

My review of A Temporary Family by Sherri Shackelford

Patricia Briggs’ New Book

Excuse me, cover designers…