Monday, 19 February 2018

Scandalous Women in History

By Cassandra Samuels

Hi everyone. Can you believe we are halfway through February? I hope everyone has had a fabulous start to the year.

For this post I’ve chosen to talk about a particular aspect of the research I did for my debut novel A Scandalous Wager.  Lisbeth Carslake (my heroine) and Caroline Norton are both scandalous women, and both were abused by their husbands.

Caroline is a fascinating woman for many reasons. Born in 1808 as Caroline Sheridan she became the face of justice for women, but she didn’t start off that way. When her soldier father died in Africa, the family was left penniless. They were granted a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace. Caroline and her sisters were highly accomplished and were accepted everywhere due to their upbringing at court.
Hampton Court Palace - copyright (c) Cassandra Samuels 2010

In 1827 she married George Norton, a barrister and MP. Caroline was witty and clever and used her skills to win favour for her husband and his political ambitions. However, he was a controlling husband and often had fits of rage and drunkenness. He physically and emotionally abused his wife throughout their marriage.

Caroline wrote prose and poetry to vent her emotions and earned money doing so. George disliked his wife’s success. In 1836 she left him. He took her earnings from her writing, so she racked up bills in his name. In turn, he decided to hide her children from her, a cruel blow to a woman who lived for her sons.

Her husband was insanely jealous of her friendship with the then Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and sued him for Criminal Conversation (accusing him of having an affair with his wife). Melbourne took him to court and won.
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Caroline campaigned relentlessly for the rights of women to their children. Her intense efforts culminated in the Custody of Infants Act and the Married Women's Property Act. These acts gave women a legal identity where before they had none. I think we owe a lot to Caroline Norton.

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Do you have a favourite scandalous woman in history or even in the present?

Love to Love - watching documentaries on all things historical. This YouTube video on Caroline Norton and other scandalous women is just great.

Love to Laugh- At comedian Michael McIntyre - whose outlook on parenting and middle age is just hillarious.

Love to Learn - Listening to Podcasts by the History Chicks. If you love learning about women in history you will love this podcast.
Go to their website here

Monday, 12 February 2018

Romance Around The World: Scotland

The Romance of Scotland

Scotland is such a romantic place. The majesty of Edinburgh Castle set atop towering cliffs in the centre of a bustling city. The beauty of the deep blue and green lochs, surrounded by rolling hills, carved by ice eons ago. Tiny villages in the high country accessed by winding roads passing fast flowing streams and craggy hilltops. A colourful history of strength and fortitude that so many Scotsman and women have displayed in the face of adversity.

It is unsurprising that so many romance novels have been set in this beautiful country. As you may have guessed, I’ve been reading romance novels set in Scotland lately, and would like to share two of my favourites with you.

On Dublin Street

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young, tells the story of Jocelyn Butler who has never come to terms with the sudden loss of her family. She copes by avoiding getting close enough to anyone to need to confide her past, and thus succeeds in blocking it out. This works reasonably effectively, until she leaves the USA for Scotland where she meets Scotsman, Braden Carmichael. Realising that Jocelyn is terrified of commitment, Braden proposes a sexual relationship with no expectation of anything else. Jocelyn agrees. I loved getting caught up in their passionate romance cleverly woven by Samantha Young, and observing the characters’ growing love and self-knowledge.

When a Scot Ties the Knot

When a Scot Ties the Knot: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare introduces us to socially anxious Madeline Gracechurch, who avoids her London season by inventing a Scottish sweetheart, Captain Logan MacKenzie. She writes him letters over several years, talks about him with her family, and eventually invents the death of her fictitious love. It turns out that the army has forwarded her letters to a real man named Logan MacKenzie, an army captain, who needs to find a home and means of support for his men following the war. The Captain arrives at Madeline’s property to claim his bride and her assets.

Have you read any romances set in Scotland lately? Which was your favourite?

I love to love: We spent several wonderful days with our extended family over the Christmas period.

I love to laugh: I’m watching the mini-series Cranford at present. The antics of the ladies of the town always bring a smile to my face.

I love to learn: We had a mini-break in Mudgee earlier this month, and visited the town of Rylstone. It was fun wandering through the town, reading the historic notices, observing the old sandstone buildings and imagining how life was in the past.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Winter in Wales Writers Retreat with Tess Woods

by Enisa Haines

'Twas a cold winter's night in Wales at yon writers' retreat
Seven writers eager they did journey there and in joy did they meet.'

After a year of planning and anticipation, so began my sojourn in Criccieth, a seaside resort town on the north-west coast of Wales in the United Kingdom. I, and five other writers, joined Tess Woods (award-winning Harper Collins author of Love at First Flight and Beautiful Messy Love), her husband Paul and teenagers Tom and Lara, at Mynydd-Ednyfed Country House, a luxurious, heritage-listed property.

Enthusiastic greetings, a guided tour of the property and gifts given in welcome, then a week of delicious dishes for every meal and an endless supply of snacks and drinks...Tess and her family ensured we were comfortable. But it was more. We felt very special.

Each morning began with opening a happy pill fortune cookie. With messages like 'step with confidence onto a new path' as inspiration, we gathered together for the daily workshops Tess held. Using her own experiences as an author, she talked of the common elements in page turners, of the mistakes she'd made since becoming an author, and of sex scenes, editing, marketing and the importance of social media.

Free time to write or work on edits followed the workshops. We gathered in the lounge room and focused on our own work. If being together was too distracting and focus turned to talking, our individual rooms provided silence and privacy.

A bonus was the one-on-one professional critique session with Tess to discuss the work we'd sent her prior to the retreat (first 40 pages of our manuscripts). For me that session was the highlight of the week. Two hours spent going over every page, complimented at times and others shown in ways so clear how to make the writing tighter and more powerful.

A second bonus was the session we each had with Tom. Learning our likes and dislikes, he updated or created our websites. And they all look amazing!

From day 1 to day 6 we spent many hours quietly writing and when we weren't writing we joined together for chats, frolicked in the falling snow, explored the gorgeous scenery of Criccieth or the more populated town of Porthmadog, the home of a local pub The Australia. Then day 7 came, the day we said goodbye. So hard to do when we all wanted to stay.

December 9 - 15, 2017. A week when inspiration and encouragement flowed. A week when our writing took a giant leap forward on the path to publication. And a week when seven writers became friends in friendships that will last for life.

Have you been to a writers retreat? I'd love you to share your experience.

Love to love: the fun times we writers (and a few family members) had at the retreat.

Love to laugh: six Aussie ladies invading a Welsh shop one cold afternoon and loading the counter over and over with purchases. It was closing time but the smiling salesman sure didn't mind!

Love to learn: Tess Woods' Winter in Wales Retreat was worth every moment.

If you'd like to know more about the retreat, (and I definitely recommend that you do) watch this video (made by Tess's daughter) of us being interviewed by Tess's husband Paul.

And if you'd like to know more abut Tess Woods, her books and her retreats, visit her website at

Congratulations Helen Sibritt! You are the winner of our giveaway from last week. A copy of A Very Aussie Christmas will be on your kindle soon.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Breathless List - Our Favourite Reads for 2017

We're back!

Every January we Breathless Bloggers choose our favourite romantic reads from some wonderful Aussie and New Zealand authors to share with you in our Breathless List. 

It's never easy, but here are our top picks for 2017. You are in for a treat!


Link to buy
I was delighted to discover Marry In Haste by Anne Gracie, Book 1 of her new 'Marriage of Convenience' series - my favourite romance trope! Returning war hero Major Calbourne Rutherford discovers he's unexpectedly become Lord Ashendon, with duty of care for a neglected estate, two unmanageable half-sisters and a wild niece he didn't know he had. Wrangling the girls is a bit like herding cats, so he tries to engage the services of their previous teacher, Miss Emmaline Westwood - and unexpectedly offers marriage when she refuses 'the job'.

Anne Gracie creates a wonderful family for us to enjoy, one that prickly Cal didn't realise was ever possible, aww... So fabulously heart-warming. A little bit unusual because Cal and Emm don't really fire off together until about halfway through the book - then, wow! Another stunner, Anne. 💞


Link to buy
Every now and then, as a reader, I’ve been lucky enough to find a book that hits that sweet spot inside. In 2017, that story was Sasha Wasley’s Dear Banjo.

It’s a poignant ‘friends to lovers’ story; the tale of Tom and Willow (nicknamed Banjo), childhood bffs who grew up on neighbouring cattle stations in the Kimberley (a spectacular setting I’m particularly partial to 😉). The pact they made as teenagers, not to let anything destroy their special connection, is broken when Tom attempts to kiss Banjo before she leaves for university. She sees it as a betrayal of their friendship and the letters he sends her, one each month for the next year, go unopened.

Ten years later, Banjo returns home where she must confront the past by finally reading Tom’s letters.

I’m a sucker for epistolary narrative and Tom’s letters are heart-rending (such a gorgeous hero). The book is filled with gentle humour and heartfelt emotion, and I loved every minute spent with Banjo and Tom.


Link to buy
 A Love to Remember by Bronwen Evans is a story full of emotions, guilt and steamy love scenes. Evans pulls the reader into the story from the first page and tugs at the heartstrings the whole way through to the end.

Rose is a widow with a young son, and Phillip is her best friend's brother. When she offers condolences and support at his brother's funeral they become lovers. At the time, the terms of their affair were clear. Neither of them ever wanted to marry again, but years later they have both fallen in love with each other. Rose wants to marry Phillip and have more children but when he refuses to even discuss marriage she ends the affair, breaking both their hearts.

This is when the story takes the reader on an emotional journey through jealousy, guilt and heartache that made me yearn for the 'happy ever after' these destined lovers deserved. Thankfully, Bronwen Evans gives the sigh-worthy ending that only a great book can give. 


Link to buy

Nineteen Letters by Jodi Peri is a beautifully constructed, sweet romance novel. It tells the story of Gemma and Braxton, childhood sweethearts who are separated by fate when a car accident causes Gemma to lose all memory of her past life.

Braxton shares his most powerful memories of their time together by writing Gemma a series of letters – nineteen in all. He hopes that she will learn to love him again, and that they may once more live as man and wife.

The sheer emotional tension woven by Peri, together with the well-constructed characters, made me struggle to put this novel down.


Link to buy
After a wild night out, football star Nick Harding meets Anna, a waitress. She’s smart, gorgeous, different to the usual women flocking around celebrities, and Nick is instantly attracted. An attraction that threatens his career. Still, he pursues her. Anna, a refugee haunted by a horrific past, won’t risk hurting her conservative family, but Nick draws her.

Nick’s sister, Lily, a medical student conflicted about completing her degree, crosses paths with Toby, a man grieving his estranged wife’s death. Intense emotions pulling them together, they fall into a passionate affair that soon overwhelms them.

Beautiful Messy Love grabbed my attention from the first sentence and wouldn’t let go, even after I’d reached the last word. Though everyone wishes it, love isn’t always happily-ever-after. It’s complex, at times hilarious and at other times sad, and often messy. Beautiful Messy Love reveals this so captivatingly.

This contemporary tale of four characters intertwined by tragedy, family and duty, hit me hard. Not only for its roller coaster of emotions, but also because Tess Woods shows that love can overcome the social issues of today. Beautiful Messy Love is a 5-star read for me, a book I will always treasure.

Well, there you have it - our favourite reads of 2017. What a fabulous selection from some great Aussie and New Zealand authors! 

Was your top pick among ours? If not, what was your favourite book from last year? Leave a comment and you'll be in the running to receive a copy of A Very Aussie Christmas, our anthology of short stories.