Archive for the 'guest blogger/interview' Category


Jan Colley and her Friday Night Mistress

Thanks so much to the Desirabelles for inviting me to blog with you this week. And hello to all my old pals from the Diamonds blog. I am excited to announce the release of my sixth book for Silhouette Desire.

jans-bookFriday Night Mistress began life around Christmas 2007 when for some inexplicable reason, I began to hear Strauss waltzes in my head from morning to night. I have two very old CDs of Strauss’s Famous Viennese waltzes, but suddenly, I couldn’t get the music out of my head so I figured I was meant to write a ball story. My first idea didn’t fly but we eventually wrangled something from the ashes, which turned into two books about Kiwi brothers, Nick and Adam Thorne. I did stage a ball in Friday Night Mistress but as it turned out, the real ball bonanza was relegated to the second story, Adam’s book, which is set in England and Vienna.
Friday Night Mistress takes place mostly in Wellington, New Zealand, a pretty city at the bottom of the North Island.   wellington

msoundsNick and his love interest, Jordan, also take a trip on a chartered boat to the Marlborough Sounds, one of the loveliest parts of the country in my opinion. 

Nick Thorne is a financier, a serious, rather conservative man. I fell in love with the Venezuelan supermodel, Enrique Palacios, when I saw him on the Armani Code ad.  A little more delving delivered a wonderful You Tube clip of him in many poses.

armaniThis is one of my favourites (left) – and there actually was a steamy stairwell scene in the book…Gorgeous, intense, purposeful,   he clearly needs a shake-up.   Who better than the flashy, flighty heiress, Jordan Lake, who just happens to be the daughter of Nick’s father’s most hated enemy?

mischa-bartonThat’s Mischa Barton of OC fame (right). Aside from the problems that arise between their families, Jordan has exactly the right amount of flair, notoriety and vulnerability to rock Nick’s ordered and organised world. Nick prides himself on his sense of honour and duty. So much more responsible than his playboy brother, Adam, whom we meet in Friday Night Mistress, and who has Nick shaking his head over the relentless pursuit of his prim and proper PA…

You’ll be happy to know that since I finished writing Adam’s story – which was THE BEST to research – the Strauss music has subsided to an occasional treat.

Now a little story. My neighbor has told me she got goose bumps when she heard Strauss blaring from my house. Apparently the couple who built this house fifty years ago were keen ballroom dancers. We have a lovely big, long lounge with a huge curved window. They used to have dancing afternoons where their friends would come around and they would move the furniture back and waltz around the room. I like that! I always love hearing about different eras in a house’s life. One of our houses was built in 1848 and had a most interesting history – including a suicide – but even Google can’t help me with this place.

I was going to kick off the comments with a question pertaining to family feuds but let’s have some fun. 

house::Shines torch under your chin::  Do you have a snippet of fascinating history from a house you’ve lived in? It can be as creepy, crazy or cuckoo as you like. And if you raise the hairs on the back of my neck or tickle my funny bone, or even just dazzle me with the truth, I have two copies of Friday Night Mistress to give away. Good luck!


Tempting the Devil AND Anna Campbell

This week our guest is ANNA CAMPBELL, down-under author of hugely popular and always-desirable historical romances for Avon. Her first two novels, Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched won plaudits from reviewers, readers and contest judges–both were RITA finalists, amongst numerous other awards–and with her much anticipated Tempt the Devil now available (run, don’t walk, to grab your copy!) we invited Anna in for a quick chat over a glass or two of bubbly.

Welcome, Anna. Let’s start with a quick introduction. Who is Anna Campbell?

AC:  What can I say about Anna Campbell? International woman of mystery. Black belt in karate. Danced with the Bolshoi. Modeled for Picasso. Fought off Japanese whalers on the coast of Greenland. Worked for the CIA… Oh, you mean me? THAT Anna Campbell! Sigh. She’s much less interesting! Book nut. Always wanted to be a writer. Completed her first novel after finishing high school and then it took her 27 years to get a publishing contract (during which time she COULD have done all that other stuff!). First book came out in 2007, CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. Second book UNTOUCHED. Third book TEMPT THE DEVIL has just hit the stands in America. I live on the Sunshine Coast in subtropical Queensland in Australia.

Have you always written historical/regency era romance or have you dabbled in other genres as well?

AC: The nice thing about having 27 years to play around and experiment is that I got to try an awful lot of genres! The book I finished after high school was a medieval romance (the romance element has stayed pretty constant). I tried to write Harlequin Presents and completed eight manuscripts that will never see the light of day, a fact for which the world ought to be grateful! I tried family sagas, both contemporary and historical. I tried romantic suspense – believe me, not my strength! I tried historical romance set in a variety of periods and places including Elizabethan England, Renaissance Italy, late 19th-century Australia, 18th-century Hungary. Anything but the Regency in fact! Then one day, I sat down and wrote a comedy set in the Regency and felt like I’d come home. The period suits the way I use language and the larger than life stories I want to tell.

What is it that makes the Regency era so popular with readers?

AC: I think the Regency period is so popular largely because Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer set stories during that time! Since then, because those two writers were so influential, thousands of books have been set in the Regency and I think readers love the familiarity of it now. The Regency is popular because of the clothes (especially the men’s!), the elegance, the wit, the style. Not to mention that anyone who married in the Regency in the British Isles had a long period of peace and prosperity to look forward to. So the happy ending could be just that! The Regency is long enough ago to still have that fairytale flavour that historical romance readers love. But it’s also modern in many ways – there was a proto feminism, for example, the rise of companionate marriage as the ideal, the industrial revolution, people speaking in a way that’s generally intelligible to a modern reader.

Your books have been described as “regency noir”; how would you describe your style?

AC:  I love that phrase ‘Regency noir’. Stephanie Laurens coined it when she gave me a quote for CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. It makes me smile to realize it’s since become the name for a whole genre of darker historicals. I think the books I’m writing now are dark and tackle powerful themes. Regency noir for some reason also makes me think of dark, delicious chocolate – and I hope my books are a luscious, sensual experience too!

Tell us about your new book, Tempt the Devil? What will tempt us inside that cover (which is gorgeously tempting, BTW)?

AC: I’m billing TEMPT THE DEVIL as a Regency noir AFFAIR TO REMEMBER. It tells the love story of Olivia Raines, London’s most notorious courtesan, and the infamous rake, the Earl of Erith. Falling in love is the greatest risk these two jaded, sophisticated people can take. Hey, thanks for saying that about the cover – it’s pretty delicious, isn’t it? I’m hoping that aside from the cover, the rich sensuality and deep emotions of this story will tempt you! Not to mention that I actually got to write some banter between my hero and heroine. That was fun and took me back to when I used to write comedy!

Courtesans: are they the new black? (And did you start the new fashion?)

AC:  LOL. I’m not sure if I started it. I’ve certainly noticed more courtesans gracing the pages of historical romance. I do think modern readers like a more sexually experienced heroine. Mind you, I’ve just handed in my fourth book and it features my first virginal heroine so I’m hoping readers like the younger, sweeter ones too!

What temptations can’t you resist?

AC:  Sadly, far too many! A good book. Smith’s barbecue chips. My email inbox! Etc. Etc.

We know you read widely and often; what do you look for/get from a good book?

AC:  Oh, I’m still a voracious reader but sadly, since I’ve been published, I don’t seem to have nearly as much time to lose myself in a great story. I look for something that sweeps me away to another world. I love a writer whose words sing to me – Shana Abe comes to mind! I like something that engages my brain and my heart. I want to believe in those characters so strongly, it’s like they’re flesh and blood, and I want to be sorry when I close the cover on the last page because I’m leaving a place where life was vivid and engrossing.

What was your best read of 2008?

AC:  What a great question! I love to talk about great books. I re-read Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM for a review and rediscovered what a masterpiece it is. I hadn’t read it since I bought it in the mid-90s and it was a revelation just how much depth and intelligence and emotion that book contains. Otherwise I’ve read great books by Annie West, Christine Wells, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Tawny Weber, Nicola Cornick and Madeline Hunter. New authors I’ve discovered and now love are Elizabeth George, C.S. Harris, J.D. Robb and Kathleen O’Reilly.

What are you looking forward to in 2009?

AC:  The first thing is the release of TEMPT THE DEVIL. I didn’t have a book out in 2008 so it’s been a while between drinks! I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the new story. I’m looking forward to visiting Washington for the RWA National Conference in July. In Australia, I’m looking forward to the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Melbourne in February and the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Brisbane in August. I love to catch up with readers and my romance-writing friends.

What can we expect next from Anna Campbell?

AC:  My next release is in November 2009 and it’s another Regency noir (the virginal heroine story). As yet, it hasn’t got an official title but the book’s all approved and at Avon. It’s about a runaway heiress who finds shelter with a man suffering from PTSD after being tortured in India. A lot of this book is set in Cornwall and I had great fun writing the house which is like Manderley in REBECCA. The book I’m currently working on is, like TEMPT THE DEVIL, set in London and it’s one of those “oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive” stories.

Thank you, Anna. As always it’s been a delight to sit and chat. We’re all looking forward to reading about Olivia and Erith, and wishing we were eligible for this week’s giveaway. :-/ That would be an autographed copy of TEMPT THE DEVIL, awarded a TOP PICK! by Romantic Times and described as “an unforgettable powerhouse romance.” Read more at Anna’s fabulous website.

Talk to us about your greatest temptation at the moment — have you discovered a new favourite author you can’t get enough of, a new TV fascination, a new shop, chocolate, wine? — and you’ll be in the draw to win. (One entry per IP address; winner drawn Jan. 10.)


Robyn Grady introduces Rachel Bailey!

There have been several talented Australian and New Zealand authors bought for the fabulous Desire line over the last couple of years. I’m delighted, and excited to introduce here our very latest Downunder Desirabelle, Rachel Bailey!

Rachel, can you tell us a little about your journey toward publication? How long were you writing? Had you always aimed at Desire?

Hi, Robbie and everyone! Thanks for the invitation. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here! To answer your question, I’m not a lifelong writer – I read stories about authors who’ve been writing since they were children, and I feel as though I’ve missed all the fun! I started only a few years ago and couldn’t decide between my love for romantic comedy or category romance. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I decided to focus on category romance, specifically Desire, and then everything seemed to click into place. I’m so excited to join such a great line and some of my favourite authors!

We’d love to hear about your first book. When is it due out?

My first book follows Lily and Damon’s story – ex lovers coming to terms with a pregnancy, a scheming uncle, a big old mansion, and some conditions on a will that will turn their lives upside down. It was heaps of fun to write!

Ooh, sounds like my kind of story J

I’m not sure what the title will be – I called it His Convenient Marriage of Revenge, but I’m not sure if the editors will change that. It’s due out in September next year, which seems so far away, but people keep assuring me that the time will fly by.

Rachel, what do you like most about the Desire line?

The intensity. There’s nothing wishy-washy about these books, they drag you in and hold you until the very last page. And the heroes have that same gorgeous intensity. What more could I want in a story? J

I’m with you there! Who are some of your favourite heroes from TV and movies?

I have heaps of favourites! Colin Firth as Darcy, of course. But most of the other Jane Austen heroes as well, like Johnny Lee Miller as Edmund in the movie of Mansfield Park.

And I love Richard Armitage as Mr Thornton in North and South. Oh, and Spike in Buffy. I was never an Angel girl, it was always Spike for me. I could probably go on about this all day!

Sounds like a fantastic idea for a Desirabelle blog! A serious question now…are you a dog or cat person?

LOL. Both, but mainly a dog person. I have four at the moment, and have had up to six in my pack. I can’t imagine my life without a dog in it.

What’s your favourite colour, favourite food, favourite thing to do?



Read a great book.

Picture me lying on a purple satin bedcover, reading one of my favourite authors, eating Lindt chocolate  (happy sigh).

Rachel, what are you working on now?

A story involving chocolate. Perhaps I should try to involve the colour purple and have the heroine reading a great book while being fanned by Richard Armitage…

Sounds heavenly! The perfect Rachel Bailey fantasy. If you could be anyone, who would that be?

Me, but with some upgrades. J

Rachel, congratulations again on your sale to Desire! You’ll be here this week to tell us more?

You bet!


Now, my latest Desire Baby Bequest is out in NA this month and in Australia and New Zealand in December. I’d love to give a couple of copies away. Please tell us about your ultimate fantasy and I’ll give a copy of Baby Bequest to Rachel’s two top picks!!

Can I mention that a certain Spartan warrior would feature in my fave fantasy? Anyone like to guess?

Visit Robyn’s website to read excerpts and news on her upcoming releases.


The Lure of the Sheikh Hero by Annie West

Thanks, Desirabelles, for inviting me to your fantastic site! It’s so exciting to have such a strong group of Aussie and New Zealand Desire authors. I’ve been reading your books with enormous pleasure!

For those who don’t know me, I’m another girl from Down Under and I write for Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern. I’m absolutely hooked on reading (and writing) romance and I’m thrilled to say my ninth book for Harlequin has recently been accepted.

In the meantime, since my latest release is about a desert prince it was suggested I talk about the lure of the sheikh hero. I wonder how many of you share an appreciation of that particular hero?

It took me a while to come to the sheikh hero. In my early days of reading romances the heroes I discovered were usually European or American or occasionally from Australia or New Zealand. There were swashbuckling men in boots, regency rakes, businessmen, boys next door, bad boys on motor bikes, occasional cowboys, aristocrats or gothic antiheroes. Why would I need a sheikh with that sort of variety on offer?

But somewhere on my radar I was aware of the fact that sheikhs (or sheiks, depending on where you’re from) loomed large on the list of potential romance heroes. I knew women had swooned in droves when Rudolph Valentino appeared on the big screen in ‘The Sheik’ in the 1920s, but I couldn’t quite see what the fuss was about.

My curiosity was aroused and I sought out books featuring desert princes. I watched Valentino and ‘Harem’ and read more on the subject. Soon I was in no doubt why so many women love a sheikh hero.

Dangerous and Delightful
There’s something scintillatingly dangerous and delightful about the sheer escapist fantasy of being swept into the arms of a mysterious, handsome stranger and carried off to his lair. What a set up for wonderful conflict and tension! What heroine worth her salt wouldn’t revel in the challenge of a man who can have whatever woman he wants, yet chooses her?

In these stories the sheikh is so intrigued by the heroine’s beauty/character/defiance/intelligence/ stupidity in venturing into this domain that he has to have her for himself. He rules his world with absolute power. He has utter dominion over the woman he’s lured/seduced/kidnapped/rescued/found. We sit on the edge of our seats wondering whether he’ll use that power for his own ends, or will he refrain, and meet her on her own terms? Will he relinquish that power for love?

Or perhaps they meet elsewhere, in her home town for instance. He stands out from other men as different, intriguing and compelling. He’s drawn to her, whether he likes it or not. Even though she’s not obviously the right woman for him, instinctively he knows there’s something in her that calls to him and he can’t ignore that. His single-minded focus on learning more about her can lead them both into dangerous waters where attraction and duty collide.

The quintessential male
The sheikh is the quintessential male, won over despite himself. Initially he holds the power in their relationship and he may be ruthless in using it, which can put the heroine in a terrible situation – something we romance readers adore.

The heroine is likely to be vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean weak! After all a strong hero needs a strong heroine. Even if she’s usually self sufficient and even if her sheikh isn’t the rampaging, ride-across-the-desert-to-kidnap-her sort, something about him will challenge her – her freedom, her perceptions or her plans for the future. Whether he wears Armani and runs a multi-national company, or lives the life of a nomad, he’s a threat, the most powerful man she’s ever met, and the most fascinating. He threatens her peaceful world.

If you love a strong alpha hero then these romances may be perfect reading for you. If you enjoy stories of Cinderella transformations or the tug of duty versus love or the strong man brought to realise love is a force he can’t conquer, you may want to pick one up.

For centuries sheikhs, sultans and pashas have intrigued audiences, perhaps in part because of Western perceptions of the sexual power play associated with harems. Maybe too because they just seem so exotic! Think of Mozart’s ‘Escape from the Seraglio’, Edith Maude Hull’s ‘The Sheik’, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Which reminds me – did I mention the clothes and the terrific horses?

The Settings
Then there are the settings: desert strongholds, romantic oases, sprawling palaces with hidden treasures, or perhaps a penthouse apartment in the heart of an exciting metropolis. The world is this man’s oyster. For background colour there are silk carpets, souks, glittering jewels and an exotic ‘Arabian Nights’ aura.

I’ve read desert princes who are men of action in thrilling stories of adventure, or honour-bound men whose primary aim is to protect those they’re responsible for. I’ve read sexy seducers who have the tables turned on them and suave, powerful captains of industry who learn to their cost that one woman can disrupt all they’ve planned.

In part it’s the power play between two apparently unequal characters that fascinates me. There might be a clash of different worlds with all the challenges that can throw up. Above all there is sense of the power of love overcoming difficult circumstances to bring our heroine and hero together in lasting happiness.

Have you read a sheikh story? Was it what you expected? What stood out for you? And if you don’t read them, why not? I’d be fascinated to hear (and I’ll give away a copy of one of my sheikh stories to someone who posts a comment, chosen at random).

ABOUT ANNIE: Annie’s third sheikh hero is making his appearance right now. Khalid is a man on a mission to save his country from years of mismanagement. He has no time for complications like love or marriage. But a chance encounter with Maggie, the most unlikely of potential brides, brings consequences neither of them expect. Their marriage will be one of duty and convenience. At least, that’s the plan…

THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE is available now in Australia and New Zealand or you can buy it on the web from the UK. It will be released in North America (Harlequin Presents Extra) in April 2009. In the meantime you can read more about it on her website.


Meet guest blogger, Fiona Lowe

It’s so cool to be over here at the Desirabelles blog, so thank you for inviting me!!

I’m Fiona Lowe and I write for Harlequin Mills and Boon Medicals. There! I’ve said it 🙂  I’ve admitted my addiction… everything to do with romance and Medicine and wrapped up in the glorious colors of the Australian outback.  There’s something about health professionals in far flung places working for the greater good that I find really romantic. They face all sorts of hardships both professionally and personally but their love for the people and the place keep them there.

The outback is a place full of challenges but the big two would be the heat and the isolation. Things we take for granted in the city are not automatic in the bush ranging from no internet (yes, shock horror!) to the more serious lack of access to health care. 

My current book, The Playboy Doctor’s Marriage Proposal is my second story set in the outback town of Warragurra, and on a nearby outback station.  Take one country nurse with bright pink hair, raised with five brothers and who can shoot pool and hotwire cars. Put her on the same page as one sibling-free urbane citified doctor without who has never got his Italian leather shoes muddy, and watch the sparks fly between them. But no matter what is going on, one thing never changes….they’re professionals through and through.

Everyone has their own reading faves…my son loves fantasy, my husband enjoys a good crime story but I like a bit of real life tinged with hope and I think that is why I write Medical Romance.  I get to create entire towns and cast them with all sorts of people, and pull in some real life grit . But I can also sprinkle it with fairy dust at the end to give them their own “happy ever after.”

What type of stories do you enjoy most?

Fiona Lowe loves Australia and infuses her books with all things quaint to ‘down under’.   You can buy her books on shelf in Australia and NZ, and online from Mills & Boon UK, Amazon CA and UKHer current release, The Playboy Doctor’s Marriage Proposal is available Down Under and from Amazon CA right now.  Visit her at her website and blog.


Bronwyn Jameson chats with…

Lilian Darcy, Alison Roberts, Meredith Webber and Marion Lennox

Earlier this year, while blogging about multi-author series, I interviewed the clever brains behind the Crocodile Creek series for Harlequin Medical Romance. At that stage the first two Croc Creek series had been and gone. With the third and final series out now in America, Australia and the UK, I decided it was time for another chat with these talented down-under authors.

First, let me introduce the awesome foursome. Between them they have published 270 books (!!!), celebrated 14 RITA finals and 2 wins (!!), 23 RBY finals and 1 win (!), while still finding time to fossick for outback gold, dance in Barcelona, cook for pony-club camps, build sheds, work in (and evacuate!) information centres, raise families (and dogs!), drink wine, and swim with dolphins. Count the exclamation marks – yes, I am in awe! – but I shall attempt to pull myself together and act coolly nonchalant despite being in the company of goddesses.

Let’s start with the backstory… How did the Crocodile Creek series come about?

Alison:  It all started with the first ever writer’s retreat I went on, which was just me and Marion having a few days on South Stradbroke Island before the 2003 Romance Writers of Australia conference. We roped in Meredith once we got to the conference and got Lilian on board via telephone conferencing. We missed all the scheduled conference things and sat round bouncing ideas and making notes and getting exciting!

I think Harlequin was a bit gobsmacked at being given an author-generated idea for a series and it actually took a long time and quite a bit of modification before we got the green light, but then we started work on the first series and it was amazing. As Marion put it at one point, “It’s like having three extra brains”.

Tell us about Crocodile Creek…

Marion:  Croc Creek is its own fabulous world. Our stories revolve around Croc Creek’s Search, Rescue and Medical Base in the far north of Australia, and the C. C. doctor’s residence where young medicos live while they experience the thrills and dramas of emergency medicine in the outback.

Crocodile Creek, the series, in a nutshell is…?

Marion:  …human drama, a fabulous tropical setting, sizzle, heat and loving.

Where is this fabulous, fictional setting?

Lilian:  On the tropical coast of far north Queensland, with the Great Barrier Reef out to sea, and a couple of hours inland, beyond the rainforest and the mountains, vast tracts of beef cattle country.

Was Croc Creek always going to be a twelve-book series?

Lilian:  We did make the initial mistake of trying to put too many eggs in our basket — tons of murder and suspense and international intrigue as well as medicine and romance — way too many bells and whistles. Various editors hosed us down with blasts of cold water and cured us of all that.

Meredith:  Yes, we started with the majestic 12 book series idea, murder and mayhem set on a tourist island. The whole idea was squashed flat by editors, so we shifted the location north and finally won approval to do four books. Then a long wait until the powers-that-be decided that since they hadn’t tanked, we could do four more. So although we had a lot of the same characters between series, it really ended up as three series of four books.

Apart from that first meeting, did you get together to plan the other series or was it all done by email?

Meredith:  We planned all three series face-to-face, taking time out at conferences, but then followed up with lots of email and reading of each other’s stuff.

Alison:  Emails flew back and forth as we discussed characters, backgrounds and plots. It was so much fun, working in little bits and pieces of the other books, like snatches of conversations overheard or even just the expression on someone’s face.

Marion:  It was indeed fun. It felt a bit like a free book cos there were four plotters rather than one. I think the fact that we totally respected each other as writers and we knew each other’s characters would be treated sympathetically was the key.

Meredith:  Yes, it was like a free book because we’d plotted together but weaving the stories together so bits of one fitted seamlessly with bits of another was the best fun. We even wrote little passages for each other’s books so the stories melded.

Tell us about the series out now…

Lilian:  Series three is the tropical island holiday, in which taking time out from normal life not only gives special needs kids and their families a much-needed break, but allows our heroes and heroines to see life and love in a whole new way. In the universe of Crocodile Creek Series Three, life is a beach in the best possible way, but there’s still some trouble in paradise.

The Crocodile Creek books available now and in coming months from eHarlequin, eHarlequin Australia, and Mills & Boon UK, are:


A final word on writing with friends…

Alison:  This was a collaboration in more than just a professional sense and we tried to write the best books we could because we wanted them to be as good as we knew the others would be. The “x” factor that came from our friendship gave these books an edge that made them special.

If you’d like a taste of that “x” factor, join us this week in discussing the allure of medical fiction. (This week’s giveaway* is a two-book pack of medical romances set down-under.) Do you have a favourite medical/emergency character from book, TV or movie? Do you read medical romance? Do you have a question for Lilian, Alison, Meredith or Marion about Crocodile Creek or any of their 270 (!!!) books?

*Prize drawn from the comments on Oct 18, one entry per IP address.

Helen Bianchin – Then and Now

Helen Bianchin’s romance novels have been taken to heart by romance readers all over the world. She is the Australian doyen of 56 Harlequin Mills and Boon books, and is a much-loved and respected writer by many romance writers everywhere. In this interview, Helen tells us how it was back then, and what has changed since.

Maxine: Helen, tell us about your introduction to romance novels

Helen: I started reading Mills and Boon as a teenager at the local library attached to the newsagency. When I was finally able to afford them, I knew when they were due in the shops and I’d be there waiting at the newsagency to pour over them and select which ones to buy. I think there were 8 or 10 M&B’s released each month in the ’70’s. Those were the days when there was only one line!

Maxine: What made you decide to write a romance?

Helen: I was an only child, a dreamer and a romantic with a very vivid imagination. I loved to read, and it was only after marriage and living in Australia that I wrote many letters home and to friends. One of those friends loved my anecdotes of my life married to an Italian tobacco sharefarmer, and suggested I should write a book.

Maxine: Tell us about the journey to selling your first book?

Helen: I had my first book accepted in September 1974, and it was published in June 1975. The title was “The Willing Heart” whose authenticity owed much to my own experience as an Italian tobacco grower’s wife. In real life, my husband was a sharefarmer and we were poor. Of course an M&B hero couldn’t be poor, so in the book he owned the farm, was rich etc!

Maxine: Who was your first editor? And how did you communicate with her? Was there a Harlequin Sydney office to support their authors like there is now?

Helen: Alan Boon guided me through my first three books, followed by Frances Whitehead.  There was a Sydney office, and a representative in Auckland, New Zealand.  But minimum staff, and nothing at all like there is today.

Maxine: How did you get it so right when there were minimal guidelines? 

Helen: I had no idea what the publisher wanted, for the guidelines in the ‘70’s were limited to one page. I loved to read, especially romance, and I simply wrote the book I’d most like to read … as a reader.  The first attempt was deemed too short, the second too long with too much extraneous detail.  I made it with the third attempt!

Maxine: Did you know any other writers back then?

Helen: I was very fortunate to be introduced to Essie Summers via letter, and we corresponded until she retired.  As Essie lived in Napier at the time, and I resided in Auckland, it was many years before we met in person, but Essie kindly introduced me via letter to Gloria Bevan, who also resided in Auckland, and we met every few months for lunch.  In the late ‘70’s Robyn Donald was in Auckland, looked me up in the telephone book and we met the same day.  We kept in touch and continue to do so, meeting up whenever we can at conferences, or during holidays.

Maxine: Did you get to keep any of your titles back then? What about now?

Helen: Authors were encouraged to provide their own titles until the late ‘80’s, when marketing decided the titles should reflect the theme of the book. Hence, there was “Mistress by Contract”, “The Greek Bridegroom” etc.  In recent times, the titles have become even more specific … a recent release is titled “The Martinez Marriage Revenge” … indicating the hero is Spanish, the plot involves marriage and the focus is revenge!

Maxine: What’s the biggest difference in writing romances back then and now?

Helen: When I began writing, there was only one line. Today there are many beneath the Harlequin Mills & Boon umbrella. Consequently it’s very important to write within each specific line.  Presents focuses on glamour, sophistication and wealth … intense sensuality and passion.  Therefore, it’s important for the author to deliver and meet readership expectation. A Presents is different to a Blaze. A Sweet Romance is not a Desire.

Maxine: And now for the fun question, Helen. What did you spend your first advance on? 🙂

Helen: Would you believe an aged secondhand Landrover for my husband!

Thank you, Helen. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I wish you many more years of writing such fabulous romances. Note: A list of all Helen’s books are available at


Helen has generously offered some of her books as prizes. Tell us how you first came to read romance and winners will be chosen at the end of the week. There’s a major prize of a signed hardback copy of Helen’s latest “Purchased: His Perfect Wife”  due for paperback release in Australia in November; a further prize of 3 autographed books from Helen’s Ultimate Collection (The Wedding Ultimatum/The Pregnancy Proposal); (The Marriage Arrangement/The Seduction Season); (Mistress by Contract/The Husband Test); and another prize of The Greek Tycoon’s Virgin Wife and The Martinez Marriage Revenge. Thank you, Helen!