The Week 22nd – 28th April

Happy Easter – again! (I know – those aren’t pysanky in the bowl, but at least the embroidery is from Ukraine!)

The way the calendar works this year, it’s all too much in one go. Four days of Easter a week ago, and then Anzac Day here in Australia on Thursday, and now four more days of old-calendar/Ukrainian Easter – and then it’s Mother’s Day here a few days after that!

Winter just refuses to arrive in Canberra. Nearly two-thirds of the way through autumn, and the temperatures are still in the mid-twenties. No rain, either – which I’d be really happy to see at the moment…




At the Australian War Memorial (which is here in Canberra), after the national Anzac Day service. That’s my Vietnam veteran father, and in the second picture you can see me looking at a Vietnam War display inside the museum with him. (I need to brush up on this stuff; I’m currently editing another veteran’s book!)

It was shocking this year to see all extra security and all the concrete barricades along the length of Anzac Parade (the giant boulevard that connects the War Memorial to the rest of the city, and the place the service happens). Terrorism is changing the world very fast.

Autumn Colours Autumn Leaves in the Garden Tuggeranong Canberra Australia April 2019 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney 3


Some autumn colours in Canberra.

New Book for Mary Balogh


Another Cover for Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh's next book Someone to Honour the sixth book in the Westcott family series UKAustralian Cover.

Nora Roberts sues Brazilian author, cites ‘multi-plagiarism’.

Cristiane Serruya has plagiarism scandal 1

Anzac Day Reads: Karina Bliss

A Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss

Anzac Day Reads: Helene Young

Wings of Fear (Border Watch #1) by Helene Young

Anzac Day Reads: Brynn Kelly

Edge of Truth by Brynn Kelly

Out Now: A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

A Modest Independence (Parish Orphans of Devon #2) by Mimi Matthews

Anzac Day Reads: Helene Young

Wings of Fear (Border Watch #1) by Helene Young

With Anzac Day coming up on the 25th, I’m recommending some Australian and New Zealand authors who have written about war veterans.

Anzac (“Australian and New Zealand Army Corps“) Day is our main day to commemorate those who served in the military.

Shattered Sky (Border Watch #2) by Helene Young

Today I’d like to recommend Australian author Helene Young, who has written romantic suspense books featuring military and former military characters.

You can read about her books HERE.

The Week: 26th November – 2nd December

This has been a dramatic week both personally and for the world, and so I’ve run out of time to even take a picture of my Christmas decorations! Maybe next week…

Darth Putin is a parody account the Russians periodically try to get banned.

This week Russia’s war in Ukraine finally made it back into the news.

Tomi Adeyemi apologises to Nora Roberts

Tomi-AdeyemiTomi Adeyemi apologises to Nora Roberts

My review of The Good, the Bad, and the Duke (The Cavensham Heiresses #4) by Janna MacGregor

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke (The Cavensham Heiresses #4) by Janna MacGregor

Release Day for Mary Balogh

Someone to Trust (Westcott Book #5) by Mary Balogh

Helene Young: ‘I chose a career as a pilot over motherhood. I don’t regret a thing’


Behind the Scenes of a Harlequin Cover Shoot

Go Behind the Scenes of a Harlequin Cover Shoot Falling for the Wrong Brother,

Helene Young: ‘I chose a career as a pilot over motherhood. I don’t regret a thing’


There’s a great article over at ABC featuring Australian author Helene Young. It focuses on her career as a pilot:

‘I chose a career as a pilot over motherhood. I don’t regret a thing’

There were early warning signs that I wasn’t destined to be a mum. Growing up, babies were more likely to cry than settle contentedly into the crook of my arm…

Anzac Day – Recommended Reads

Vietnam War Memorial Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 30th May 2015

Me on Anzac Parade, the huge, memorial-lined road that leads up to the museum.

Today is Anzac Day, Australia and new Zealand’s biggest day for our war veterans. The national ceremony at the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra is televised, and before that there’s a dawn service (which I have never been to, despite coming from a family of veterans, but I always hear the neighbours getting up at about 4am!).


We usually drop by the War Memorial a little later in the day and spend some time at the Vietnam War section.

I was trying to think of romance and suspense reads that involve Australian military or veterans, and came up with a few authors.

Hélène Young writes suspense books with some romance, and featuring Australian military characters.


Barbara Hannay’s The Secret Years is set half in the Second World War and half in the present, and I really enjoyed it. The woman in the WW2 part is posted to the consulate in Canberra.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Sarah Mayberry has a really good book about a female veteran.

More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry

Joan Kilby’s Protecting her Son involves an Australian Special Forces veteran, and has a scene at the end set at the War Memorial above!

Protecting Her Son

Fiona Greene’s Home For Christmas – well, the cover and title tell you what you need to know!

Home For Christmas by Fiona Greene

Karly Lane writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction, with some themes involving veterans.


And, for Kiwi veteran heroes, there is Karina Bliss’ New Zealand Special Forces series, beginning with Here Comes the Groom.


The Week: 16th – 22nd January



Wednesday evening in Canberra


Canberra’s heatwave continues…


And kills our garden!

So, apparently the new thing people do when they turn seventy is go on trips to Europe – or, at least my relatives seem to think so. With two people in my family turning seventy this year, both decided to celebrate that way – and take me along!

This week we booked a trip to southern Spain and Barcelona for August. I get to spend more time in one of my favourite places in the world: Seville. The trip came completely out of the blue. I still have to go to Italy in a few weeks, and to London after that!


We went to the National Museum on Saturday to see the visiting exhibition from the British Museum: A History of the World in 100 Objects.

We had to queue for over an hour – I don’t even want to know what it’s going to be like when we go to the Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery!

It is much more “the history of the world according to the British Empire”. There’s so much from certain parts of the world, and NOTHING from the whole eastern half of Europe (including the Black Sea and the whole of Slavic civilisation – none of my heritage!), huge parts of Africa, etc.


The fires active on Wednesday afternoon.

Our region of Australia has had bushfire, after bushfire, after bushfire this week. Hot weather and strong winds make the worst fire conditions.

Firestorm in Canberra, Australia. 18th January 2003.

This week was the fourteenth anniversary of the firestorm that destroyed huge parts of Canberra. The picture above is what my city looked like for a whole day (except the sky turned black after a while – and then bright red). We had those water-bombing helicopters right over us. They saved our street.


I could go on about the terror of Trump – but what’s the point? I am TERRIFIED for Ukraine.

His wife steals Obama speeches, and the man himself steals an Obama cake!


We’re a day ahead of the US (so I’d done this post before the Women’s Marches across the world), so I’ll just add this on at the end!:





Recommended Read


Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian


My review of A Woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday


Cover Love

The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

Reindeer Romance?


Recommended Read

Burning Lies

With yesterday being the anniversary of the Canberra firestorm, I was thinking about natural disaster books, and remembered there’s one that actually begins with that particular series of bushfires.

Hélène Young‘s Burning Lies features Canberra on that insane, terrible day in 2003.

It’s so hard to find any suspense books with romantic elements set in Australia, but Young is one of the few -and is a reliable bet for a good read.

Burning Lies

Kaitlyn Scott is searching for the truth about her husband’s death, even if that means revisiting the most painful day of her life. But what she uncovers is a criminal willing to stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Ryan O’Donnell, an enigmatic undercover cop, is investigating arson attacks when he is drawn into Kaitlyn’s world. He tries to fight his attraction for her, hoping the case might put his own demons to rest, but it only threatens to push him over the edge.

With Kaitlyn and Ryan on a collision course, the arsonist seizes the chance to settle some old scores. As the Atherton Tableland burns, the three of them are caught in a fiery dance of danger and desire, and not everyone will come out alive.

The Week


Big, blue skies here, and lots of sun in mid-winter.

A pretty warm, sunny week for winter.

Happy thirty-second birthday to my little (but bigger) brother.

I have been having 2-3 hours’ sleep a night, and because of that I actually fell asleep at the computer while typing the other day! I remember having my eyes closed, but my fingers kept going on the keyboard. The only other times I’ve been this exhausted were after trips overseas (such as my thirty-six hour marathon from New York City to Canberra).

We spent many hours this week (including seven hours both on Tuesday and Friday) cleaning and moving furniture and things at my grandmother’s house. I was sort of drooping by the end, but who knew I could carry enormous items of furniture on my own? I feel like Superman.

I lost my Kindle (again!) on Friday the week before, and it wasn’t found until Tuesday. So I’m a bit behind on my reading, and especially on my review books.

It was also a week of terror, and I’m not just talking about the Islamic extremists. Russian car bombs in the far west of Ukraine, right near the EU border, in a city I have family in, and a city we’re supposed to be returning to in a few months – a city that was considered very safe. Shootings on buses in other major cities. Threats to kill Obama. Russian gangs attacking Ukrainian community centres in other countries – including here. Hate crimes everywhere.

And the world reacts:


What is “Snarky”?

My review of Northern Heat by Helene Young

Northern Heat by Helene Young  by Helene Young

 My review of Wicked White by Michelle A. Valentine

Wicked White by Michelle A. Valentine

My review of Afterburn (After #1) by Sylvia Day

Afterburn (After #1) by Sylvia Day

My review of Ross Poldark by Winston Graham


Northern Heat by Helene Young

Northern Heat by Helene Young  by Helene Young

In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is living under an assumed name and rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown’s youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and a chance to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark.

After tragedy tore her family apart, Kristy fled to Cooktown with her feisty teenage daughter, Abby. She hoped being part of the small community would help them both heal, but Abby’s sports coach is turning out to be a compelling distraction. When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger in Cooktown. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they’ll both lose someone they love.

Northern Heat by Helene Young by Helene Young

It sounds odd, but the thing that really struck me about this book is how well-structured it is. The information comes out gradually, but not too gradually. Characters are introduced as they need to be, but the story never seems crowded with them. Writing this kind of crime/suspense/romance book can be tricky because it is hard to find the right balance. So few authors do.

From a technical point of view, I’m sure this is Helene Young’s best book so far. Another great thing about this author is that she uses settings that she knows and clearly loves. It’s not possible for an author to always use places they have been to (Middle Eastern warzones, for example!), but you can always tell when someone is using a setting they care about and haven’t just looked up on Google.

There is a mature romance at the centre of this book. Not that the characters are old, but that they’re grounded, and have realistic backgrounds, and know a thing or two about life. Reading about them really illustrates how unrealistic a lot of characters in other books are. I think there are a few Australian authors around at the moment who approach their characters as people rather than “romance novel people”. It makes a difference.

Young writes books that are a good balance of all the elements of a suspense story with strong romantic elements. I never feel like the romance is getting in the way of the plot, and I never feel like the plot is getting in the way of the romance. Because of that, I think this is the sort of romantic fiction that appeals to a wider audience.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

ARRC 2015

ARRC 2015 Canberra

So, I’ve covered my biggest issue with the 2015 Australian Romance Readers convention in Canberra, but here is some more general stuff.

There were three or four sessions running a number of times a day, with authors speaking about particular genres and themes. I mostly attended the sessions about suspense, rural romance and historical romance.

There were plenty of other activities, but I wasn’t having any part in author speed dating, poker or bingo! In fact (sorry, Christina Brooke!) at one point I felt so awkward I didn’t even go up to collect a prize I won! There were morning and afternoon teas and lunches with authors, but I could not for the life of me figure out how any of that worked!

Romance is an odd genre, because it is almost exclusively about girls and women from their mid-teens to their mid-thirties. We still live in a world where a happy ever after means to almost everyone that you marry and have babies, and because of this there are restrictions on the ages the characters can be.

This convention could really have done with some input from women in those demographics, but I guess the way it’s structured didn’t attract many people under forty. It’s a shame, because these younger readers really do exist – me, for example. Half the romance readers I interact with online are in their twenties and thirties.

You’re writing books about us. You’re reading books about us. But you forgot to invite us to the party!

It would have been nice if sessions on YA and NA books, for example, could have been attended by the target audience.

This could possibly be achieved by allowing people to buy tickets to individual sessions rather than charging a few hundred dollars for people to attend everything, as there were definitely parts I was uninterested in and skipped, and I’m sure there were even fewer attractive events for women younger than me.

There was also the issue of marketing. You’re not going to reach us by advertising the event the way you did. Hell, I LIVE IN CANBERRA and I only heard about it at the last moment – and only then from my sixty-three year old mother.

There were a hundred authors attending the convention, some from Canada, the United States and New Zealand.

The four keynote speakers were (in order) Helene Young, Kelley Armstrong, Victoria Dahl and Sylvia Day.

Helene Young

I already knew plenty about Helene Young before this. I enjoy her books, liked her speech, found her panel interesting, and was happy (in a twisted way!) to hear one of her books was inspired by the 2003 bushfires here in Canberra.


From the moment she turned up beside me at the welcome drinks (and BOY, didn’t I do a double-take when I read her nametag! – she’s much prettier in real life, so I didn’t recognise her immediately!), I decided Kelley Armstrong was great.

I’ve strayed far from paranormal and urban fantasy books in recent years, but a basic conversation – and an inspiring keynote speech – encouraged me to pick up her books again, and to get going on the TV show that has been made from them.

I don’t know whether it was the author or my changed tastes, but I’m really enjoying them this time round. More than the first time.

 Victoria Dahl

I have to duck for cover when it comes to Victoria Dahl, as I missed her speech and didn’t attend the session she was part of. So I can’t comment!

 Sylvia Day

Now, I’ve not really jumped on the Sylvia Day bandwagon. One novella and a DNF’d historical (I found it too anachronistic) are all I’ve tried so far when it comes to this author.

However, she’s a fascinating, classy person to listen to, and I have a lot of respect for her having listened to her talk about her work.

Maybe I’ll give her Crossfire series a go, even though it’s as far from my favourite genre as you can get!

There was plenty to like about ARRC 2015, but I can’t help wondering if the romance community can’t see the forest for the trees. Much more engagement is needed with MUCH more variety in the type of people such events are attracting (this goes for age, race, everything). Younger readers need to be engaged, included and LISTENED TO. This is, after all, a genre entirely about them!