Dec 4, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Annie West

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is ANITA H.

Can you please contact to receive your copy of MILLIONAIRE UNDER THE MISTLETOE.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Annie West's THE DESERT KING'S SECRET HEIR.

The child she hid… 
Surrounded by society's glitterati, Arden Wills finds herself staring up into the eyes of her first and only love. But Sheikh Idris Baddour has a surprise title and heavy responsibilities…so she clings to her precious secret even tighter.  

Time has done nothing to dampen the intense ardor between them. And when their kiss is blasted across the world's front pages, Arden's truth comes to light—the sheikh has a secret son! To avoid further scandal, Idris must legitimize his heir and make English rose Arden his dutiful desert queen!

Scene set-up
Four years earlier Arden had a holiday affair with Shakil, a student on vacation. Circumstances tore them apart but, discovering she was pregnant, Arden tried unsuccessfully to trace her lover. Now, against all odds, she meets Shakil in London, except he's not Shakil, he's Sheikh Idris of Zahrat, wealthy, powerful and about to become engaged to a beautiful Middle Eastern princess. Now, the morning after their surprise meeting, Arden finds Idris outside the door of her London home, accusing her of having an affair with his cousin, who'd accompanied her the night before.

Smooch  -

‘Ridiculous?’ Idris’s eyes narrowed to ebony slits. Those carved cheekbones loomed threateningly high as his face drew taut. ‘You call me ridiculous?’
Fire branded her neck as hard fingers closed around her nape, moulding to skin turned feverish at his touch.
Arden swiped her suddenly arid mouth with her tongue, searching for words to stop the fury in that glittering gaze.
But his touch didn’t feel like anger. That was the problem. She could have withstood it if it did.
Arden trembled as the hand at her neck shifted and long fingers speared her hair, spreading over her scalp, massaging. Shivers of delight rippled through her and her eyelids hovered, weighted, at half mast. Tendrils of fire cascaded from her scalp down her spine and around to her breasts where her nipples peaked.
She swallowed convulsively and forced herself to straighten away from the door, even though it meant brushing against him.
‘I didn’t mean—’
‘Of course you did.’ His mouth twisted. ‘You’re right. It is ridiculous. Impossible and inconvenient…and inevitable.’
Then, while Arden was still absorbing his words, his head lowered.
His mouth on hers was just as she remembered. A huge, tearing fullness welled in her chest as his lips shaped hers, not hard and punishing as she’d expected from the glint in his eyes, but gentle, questing. As if seeking an answer to a question she hadn’t heard.
Shakil. The taste of him burst on her, rich and delicious. It was the one sense memory she hadn’t been able to recall in the years since he’d left her. Now it filled her, evocative, masculine and, she feared, potently addictive. For her head was lolling back, lips open to allow him access.
Somehow her hands had crept up to brace on his chest. The steady thrum of his heart was a reassuring counterpoint to her sense of disorientation.
His other hand slipped around her waist, pulling her against a body that was all hard power, making her feel soft and feminine in ways she’d almost forgotten.
And still that kiss. No longer quite as gentle. Arden heard a guttural sound of approval as her tongue met his in a foray into pure pleasure.
He shifted and delight filled her as her nipples grazed his torso. She pressed closer, absorbed in heady, oh-so-familiar delight, till a long hard ridge pressed against her belly.
Arden’s eyes snapped open and she saw his eyes had narrowed to slits of dark fire. Then, over his shoulder, high up at street level, came a burst of light, a glint of sunlight off something. It was enough, just, to bring her back to reality.
‘No.’ No-one heard her protest since their lips were locked.
She had to shove with all her might for him to lift his head, blinking as if unable to focus. That might have made her feel better but for the realisation just five minutes in this man’s company had obliterated every defence she’d spent years constructing. 
‘No,’ she gasped. That full feeling behind her breastbone turned to pain. ‘This is wrong. We can’t…’
She didn’t need to go on. Sheikh Idris of Zahrat agreed completely. It was there in the dawning horror sharpening his features and the unsteady hand that swiped his face. He shook his head as if wondering what he was doing.
Nor did Arden need to shove him again. One swift pace backwards on those long legs took him almost to the base of the area steps and left her feeling appallingly alone.
Chest pumping, Arden stared at the dark gold face of the man she’d once adored. The man who now looked at her as if she were his personal nightmare.
Desperate, she put her palms to the door behind her, needing its support.
Despite it all, the anger, hurt and betrayal that had shaped her life for four years, she’d harboured a hope that if they met again he’d admit he’d made a terrible mistake in leaving. That he’d missed her, wanted her, as she’d missed and wanted him.
In her dreams he’d never looked at her with horror.

Have you ever been tempted to kiss someone you knew you shouldn't? If you don't want to admit to that, maybe tell me what your current favourite temptation is to go in the draw to win a signed copy of THE DESERT KING'S SECRET HEIR.

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Amy Andrews will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Dec 2, 2016

If Music Be the Food of Love...

I’m an aural writer, meaning the silence that most writers crave drives me nuts.

I need noise.  White noise. Cafe noise.  TV noise.   I often joke that I could write at a Bon Jovi concert.

I wonder if that’s why my husband often complains that I don’t hear the lyrics the way he does. Because I experience sound differently.  More in a kind of diffused osmosis than any kind of purposeful way.

(I know!  Gasp!  For a writer of words to admit that!) 

But just like those singular, bittersweet, sigh-worthy moments in romantic movies that make your heart clutch, or beautiful phrases in books that put words together in such a unique and heartfelt way you literally swoon - for me, for a song to have a real impact, it’s more about a feeling.  It can be a few shiny lyrics that make me sing or move or smile or cry.  Or a clanging chord that makes my stomach sink.  Enough that it was able to break through the constant chatter inside my head and make a mark.

And I use that in my writing all the time.  For some books I’ve listened to the one song over and over to tap into the feeling it creates inside of me. wrote a musician hero once; the aptly titled Resisting the Musician :).  A rocker type - bruised and battered emotionally - the hero could no longer pick up his instrument.  I listened to a lot of Bruce that year.  Some INXS. And even a little One Direction!  I got what I needed where I needed to get it.

Here are a few of the songs that always take me somewhere other, elevating me to a higher plane when they dance into my day.  Songs that take me to that wonderful magical place that makes it human to need art:

Kissing a Fool” by George Michael – I have listened to that song a zillion times while writing heart-clenching scenes in my books.  It takes me there so well.

We Are Young” by Fun – dark subject matter within the confines of a raging anthem that makes me want to stage dive (even when I’m in the car)

Viva la Vida” by Cold Play – this song feels like summer to me.  Like the car windows are down, my feet are on the dashboard and we’re going…wherever we want to go.

Bad Things” by Jace Everett.  The theme music to True Blood.  It’s dark, and sultry and red.  Just so much red.

 “Jolene” by Dolly Parton – oh the yearning and heartache of that song.  It makes me tear up every time I hear those first plaintive notes.

Do you have any songs that always make you cry, or dance, or suffer, or think, or wind down the car window and sing at the top of your lungs?

Nov 30, 2016

Spreading the Christmas Cheer

I like to do something for a charity at Christmas. One year a friend of a friend was organising a Christmas present for each child at a school in Cambodia she'd visited - the little packages were mainly stationery supplies and a few personal grooming things. We loved that one. Another year I took my niece to the shops and we bought toys and treats for the dogs at the local RSPCA then dropped them off. (The lovely staff let my niece give treats to a few of the dogs herself to say thank you. That was awesome.)

This year - and last year - I've been involved in Share the Dignity's It's in the Bag campaign. In case you haven't heard of it, here's a little intro:

My sister did a collection at her work and brought the goodies to me, and I was the assembly point. I went through all the donations, put the bags together and bought the things that we needed to fill out each bag. It was so much fun! The photo below is the day she dropped the donations off (the shelves at the back are full of things donated as well.)

I've been making the bags up and dropping them off in batches, ensuring each one is brimming with good stuff. My last drop off will be this Friday (just slipping under the wire of the cut off date: Saturday), and it will take us to our grand total of 30 bags. Here are a few in their batches:

Of the thirty bags, five were for teenage girls - who also need sanitary supplies (and who often miss out in the present drives because people tend to give more for younger kids). The bags for teens have yellow ribbons so they can be sent in the right direction. Here's the contents of one of our yellow ribbon bags:

Do you have a favourite charity at Christmas? Or do you find it too busy and prefer to give at other times of the year? Or, if things are tight, which charity would you give to if you could?

Nov 28, 2016

Treadmill desk - 1 month down!

With the full knowledge of how bad a sedentary lifestyle is and, in an effort to get my butt out of the chair more often, I decided, after talking to LoveCat Bronwyn Jameson who also has one, I was going to get a treadmill desk.

My hubby suggested to just get a standing desk but I figured if I was going to stand I might as well walk, right?

I've had my treadmill desk for a month today.

This is how it arrived -

This was the sexy dude who put it together for me. I think I'll keep him :-)

This is it, all pristine and new and ready to go. It looks quite glorious in the sunshine there, doesn't it? Welcoming. Beckoning, even. Go on, step on, you know you want to try me....

And this is me on it the other day. Multi-tasking my butt off. Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming. Answering emails. Checking out Amazon and Goodreads and generally spending two hours a day on it doing my usual rounds of social media/procrastinaton enabling tools.

They recommend that you go 2k/hr as a good walking/typing speed but its actually much slower than my normal walking pace so it was just too weird. I walk at 4k/hr and its just right. I'm not writing any creative words, mind. Just short social media stuff. I dont think it would work for me actually trying to write. I'd definitely have to slow it down more just for the typos and I think I'd get frustrated with the speed. But I've gone from maybe walking 2k/day three days a week on my street walks and doing about 3-8k steps according to my fitbit to walking 8k most days (4-6 on interrupted days) and achiving about 14 -15k steps every day.

Do I feel fit and healthy and vital and springing around with energy? Maybe that'll come. But I know it's good for me and I really like being able to walk so many k's without feeling like I'm doing any exercise (which I really really hate!) all while accomplishing the things I would normally do sitting on my butt. There's something about the efficiency that is addictive to this multi-tasking addict. 

So its win/win all round for me. I'm just hoping I stick with it and its not some fad that will soon lose its gloss....

What about you? Ever been on a diet or a fitness kick or started a new hobby only to have the gloss wear off and abandon it a few weeks later. I know I have....

Nov 27, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Stefanie London

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Stefanie London but first ... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Amy Casey!

Can you please contact amy(at)amyandrews(dot)com(dot)au to receive your copy of Tis The Season to be Kissed.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Millionaire Under the Mistletoe.

It’s so nice when he’s naughty

Stella Jackson would rather stab herself in the eye with her own stiletto than return to England. Especially in winter. But to fulfill her grandfather’s last wish, she has to spend Christmas at the estate she inherited from him…with the one man she wishes she could forget.

Self-made millionaire Evan Foss wants one thing from Stella—her estate. But thanks to their rocky past, he’s the last person she’ll sell to. So when she takes him up on a bet, with the estate as the prize, Evan can’t believe his luck. The only problem is that seeing her now, sexy and all grown up, tempts Evan to finish what started years ago between them.

Set up:
Evan and Stella were childhood friends, but their relationship dissolved four years ago when they decided to sleep together and things didn't go according to plan. Now Stella is staying at the estate while she plans to sell it to anyone but him. Evan isn't prepared to take no for an answer. But there's a lot of UST (unresolved sexual tension) between them, which is getting in the way of business...


She placed the first few ornaments on the tree, spacing them out evenly and creating a subtle pattern. He followed her lead and they worked in silence. Occasionally, she would move one of the baubles he’d placed on the tree, if it didn’t look right. He smirked at the concentration with which she appraised their work. The process relaxed her. She knew each step and could focus on doing something rather than sifting through the confusion in her head.

You’re supposed to remember how it felt to be rejected. Not how good his hands or his lips were. Not how you were falling head over heels for him.

The tree came together slowly, piece by piece. They added the collection of old fashioned wooden ornaments that matched the set that Stella had back home; each piece finding its perfect spot among the bristles of the tree. The angel, the drummer boy, the rocking horse, the reindeer—they all had a place.

“I always put the decorations up here,” he said. “Though the staff aren’t nearly as fussy as you are.”

“Nothing wrong with doing it properly.”

“Nothing wrong with a little mess,” he countered. “It keeps life interesting.”

“I don’t like mess.” She frowned. “It’s…”



What were they even talking about anymore? He didn’t know just how much he’d shattered her poor, virgin heart back then…or maybe he did.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said.

She opened her lips to reply but his hungry kiss enveloped her, hot breath filling her mouth where a protest should’ve been. He crushed her to him, one arm snaking around her shoulders so that there was nothing between them but the clothes on their bodies. He tasted of tea and cinnamon.

A groan passed between them as their tongues met, and Stella melted against him. His tongue danced with hers, probing and exploring her with a gentle yet insistent curiosity. She tilted her head back, feeling him catch it in one hand. His fingers tangled in her hair, tugging her head back farther so that he could gain greater access to her mouth.

She was dizzy with lack of air and the pressure of his body against hers. Beneath her T-shirt her skin tingled, alight with the long-forgotten feeling. Her nipples beaded against the lace of her bra and she ached. Everywhere, she ached. 

It had been a long time…a very long time.


Ahhh sexy smooches and Christmas, what more could you want? I'm giving away an ebook copy of Millionaire Under the Mistletoe to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is answer the following question in the comments below...

What's the best/wackiest/most unique holiday tradition that you partake in? If you don't celebrate Christmas you can absolutely pick a tradition from your favourite holiday :)

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and another smooch will be posted!

Nov 25, 2016

There she blows...!

Well, the lovecats are a well traveled lot and have been to some very interesting places...following on from Kandy's blog about her fabulous swimming holiday I wanted to share with you my recent experience of walking on/in a volcano!!

For years my husband has been saying he wanted to visit Hawaii's Big Island because of the active volcano there and for years I've been resisting it because geology doesn't interest me. But I finally capitulated, agreeing to volcano-watching in exchange for a nice beach and some R&R.

Being in New Zealand I'm used to volcanoes...the city I live in has over 50. All dormant. All quiet and now just dome shaped green hills. I can see one from my kitchen was going to take a lot to impress me!

Like swirls of cookie dough that have hardened
But the volcano in Hawaii is HUGE and slow and has been erupting for decades. It dominates the whole island, really. There is a tourist industry that thrives on it and even the weather is affected by a 'vog' (volcanic fog) that causes most afternoons to be overcast.

There is an actual village called Volcano which we reached via our lovely red mustang and a few hours driving from the main town on the island, Kona-Kailua. You can tell you're getting closer because the whole landscape changes completely from green rolling hills speckled with coffee plantations to dry black rock and...nothing. It is pretty barren and hot.

But we saw the active crater from a safe distance. Real lava!
Erupting volcano- a tourist ventured down there one drunken night a few years ago and it took 3 days to rescue him because it's so dangerous! (he wasn't in a good state when they finally found him)

Then we drove some more and cycled for 8 miles (and returned in the dark by the light of a head torch!) to see where the lava meets the sea in a fiery blast and plume of steam. It was absolutely amazing. Such a force of nature. And the cycle back in the dark was definitely a challenge!

A very hot day cycling!

When lava meets the ocean- mesmerising!

Lava Tube

On the second day we walked through lava tubes...where lava had once flowed then cooled and hollowed. They were taller than my husband!

We did a 6km walk around a crater rim and then onto the crater floor. This was a crater that had been created by an eruption in 1959. It took a long time for the area to cool down. It's safe to walk on now  but we were told that it was still warm deep down... It was like walking on a chocolate brownie with the crisp topping that crunched underfoot.
The crater aka chocolate brownie
It was an amazing place. I was totally blown away, particularly the lava in the ocean...I could have watched for hours...but it was dark and starting to get cold so we had to leave.

More crater floor

The Big Island is also the place where explorer Captain Cook was killed, so we trekked a few kms to see the memorial site of the exact spot where died. (side note: we had to go through a lot of bush on an overgrown path that was frequented by wild pigs. Of which there were a couple!! A little scary, but we were fine because I'd read in the guide book that you just had to bark at them and they'd run away. Cue: Mrs George barking wildly at a piglet and the Doc hanging his head in embarrassment....I won't live that down for a while!!)
Captain Cook memorial
The Big Island does amazing sunsets!

All in all it was a place that took me completely by surprise...amazing geology that I found I was completely enthralled by. Have you ever been to somewhere/done something you weren't enthusiastic about and been pleasantly surprised?

Nov 23, 2016

In the swim – Kandy Shepherd

They say an author reveals more about her or himself in what they write than they might realise. I have to say that I find this true of myself. For example, it surprises me how often my love of water and swimming seems to sneak into my stories. I’m not doing this on purpose—it just happens!

Curl Curl beach in Sydney on a flat surf day

 My first three books for Harlequin Romance are set in the fictional beachside town of Dolphin Bay (to be published together as an anthology Heart of the Bay by Harlequin Australia on December 12 in Australia and New Zealand.) Beaches and swimming pools, Sydney Harbour, the Yarra River, a fountain and even a bathtub have been significant in other stories, too, whether set in Australia, Indonesia, Greece or a fictional European principality. That the hero and heroine are usually not wearing much in the way of clothing while they’re in the water or on the beach adds to the sensuality of the story too!

North Sydney Pool, a favourite place to swim laps

 I’m not long back from enjoying a fabulous swimming holiday in Crete—my second with a company specialising in Greek open water swimming holidays. It’s an organised tour where you swim with a fully supervised group, divided into smaller ability groups, in the most glorious blue seas. The swim averages five kilometres a day, divided into two swims before and after lunches in Greek tavernas reached only by sea. (The group is The Big BlueSwim if anyone is interested.)

The beautiful blue waters of Crete

 People tend to react with shock when they hear this as I tend to be a somewhat indolent person, happy to loll about reading at any opportunity. Then they wonder if I’m a fantastic swimmer. I’m not. But I’m competent, can stay in the water a long time and am not frightened of deep water. On both the swims I’ve been in the slowest of the groups and very happy with that.

I swam with other swimmers from the US and Israel but mostly British folk where the swim holiday seems to be very popular. Why would an Australian want to swim in Greece they ask? No sharks or other scary creatures is one reply—another is that swimming in such a history soaked country as Greece is something special. I can’t wait to go again!

I couldn't stay out of this hotel pool on the Gold Coast, Queensland
But in the meantime the weather is heating up Down Under and there is no shortage of wonderful places to swim here at home.

How about you? Do you like swimming? Or have another favourite summer activity? Or winter activities? I’d love to hear your comments!