Archive for the 'reading' Category


The Australian Romance readers conference 2009

As I type, it’s Saturday night and I’ve just spent over a day with 200+ lovers of romantic fiction in Melbourne for a weekend of talk, gossip, laughter, info, books and general merriment at the Australia’s very first Romance Readers Convention.  As a veteran of writers conferences, I was prepared for a slightly different experience – and boy, is it ever!    Driven as I am by deadlines, I find I don’t spend as much time reading for pleasure and this weekend gave me back that simple joy of discussing reading (as opposed to plot, character arcs, GMC yada yada).  Plus it’s a great way to meet readers who love your books and meet new ones.   

So, let’s start at the beginning.  I flew into Melbourne on Thursday and checked into the lovely Jasper Hotel, our venue of choice.  After getting over the shock of my blood-red hotel walls (each floor is different – lime green, bright blue…), I scored a jackpot – dinner with the conference organizers and Mary-Janice Davidson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Susan Grant and Dianna Love!  😀  We ate at a great Greek restaurant on Londsale Street, I broke my shoes and we stumbled back to the hotel to rest up for the big day tomorrow.  

Friday was spent shopping (Borders was an obvious stop!) then Friday night and the welcome reception soon rolled around.  A few hours of greeting old friends, chatting to new ones and I was ready for bed (unfortunately my roomie Sandra and I spent a few more hours gossiping and watching The Wedding Crashers…)

Saturday – and a hilarious opening welcome speech delivered by Mary-Janice Davidson.  That woman does have a way with words and soon had the whole room in stitches.  The mood was contagious, with our local academics discussing “what they really think about romance”.  I moderated a panel on “Aussie Voice – why the whole world loves our accent” and then ate a way-too-quick lunch before jumping into a hilarious talk on where authors get their ideas, featuring Liz Maverick, Amy Andrews, Mary-Janice Davidson and Susan Grant.  (and good news – all sessions were taped so everyone can enjoy the ARRC!)  Then came the fabulously attended book signing.  Despite the massive queue for Sherrilyn Kenyon, everyone was so happy to be there and Sherrilyn smiled all the way through.

The Awards Dinner was heaps of fun, with awards for 2008 given to:

Tomorrow should be another full day with lots of talking, industry news and laughter – and of course, books!  The buzz overall is one of joy and  camaraderie, with everyone thrilled to be talking about romance books.  The  organizing committee have done a wonderful, professional job considering they only had around a year to plan and put on this event.

Now, here’s a question for you – if you could meet your favorite author, who would it be and what would you ask them?


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.


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.

Novella Love

I have a novella (Stroke of Enticement) coming out this Tuesday in The Magical Christmas Cat anthology. I had so much fun writing about Zach – talk about a sexy, playful changeling – and his heroine, Annie. (If you want to check out an excerpt, follow the link above!)

I enjoy writing novellas for a number of reasons – but today, I thought we’d chat about why we love reading novellas.

For me, novellas are perfect reading material for when I don’t have a ton of time, but I’m still craving a good read. I can get that satisfying full-story feeling in a bite-sized amount of time.

Some novellas have even become keepers for me, like The Prince of Ebon Rih in Anne Bishop’s Dreams Made Flesh. I adore this novella – I’ve read it over and over. (And incidentally, if you haven’t read Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy, run and grab it now! It’s completely amazing).

So, how about you all? Do you enjoy novellas? What are some of your favorites?