Sep 26, 2016

21 years ago today.... by Amy Andrews

So.....this is what I was doing 21 years ago today -

Yes, I'd just had my first baby, a boy we called Jack. I can't believe how that time has flown!

21 years ago I was 25. My husand was 29. We'd been married for 6 years and we'd lived overseas for 2 of those. I'd been a nurse for 9 years and I was working at the Royal Children's Hospital in their PICU. I wasn't yet published although I was writing - I think I'd completed two books at that stage. We were still living in the first house we'd bought together. My car was a Nissan Pintarra. My husband was working for a bank. My mother was still alive. My father hadn't retired yet. My sister, Ros, was at uni and doing her social work placement at the same hospital where I'd given birth - she was the first family to see Jack, he was about 4 hours old. He was the first grandchild on my side of the family and the 7th grandchild on the other. His cousin Jessica had been born 11 days prior. We only had one computer and NO internet!! NO Facebook. I didn't even own a mobile phone!!!

Yep. Times have changed!

This is the boy now -

 a truly fabulous - smart, intertested, witty, engaged, passionate - young man who I am so proud of. I only wish his grandmother was around to celebrate with us.

So tell me, what were you doing 21 years ago??

Sep 25, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Clare Connelly

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a guest smooch from Clare Connelly but first 

....... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Nadia!

Can you please contact amy (at) amyandrews (dot) com (dot) au to receive your copy of Playing It Cool.

 And now for today's Sunday Smooch from The Sheik's Christmas Mistress which appears in Clare's A CASACELLI FOR CHRISTMAS  anthology - four stories featuring one dynamic and powerful family. 

Charlotte Faber falls head over heels for Sheikh Malik Desara the first time she sees him. And she thinks he's falling for her too. Until their holiday comes to an end and he proposes... for her to be his mistress!

 Malik might be all-powerful and super wealthy, but he isn't at liberty to marry a wife of his choosing. His future's been mapped out for him since birth. But the beautiful Charlotte captivates him in a way he's never experienced, and he will stop at nothing to keep her in his life, and in his bed. 

Charlotte Faber’s in a Swiss ski village to look into the mystery of her parentage. She doesn’t want to be derailed from her research, but when she walks into a bar and hears a tall, handsome man singing the most beautiful version of Hallelujah imaginable, every single cell in her body is intrigued … Later, in the warmth of his limousine … 

“Fancy,” she said with a dry tone, as he effortlessly uncorked the bottle, smothering the loud ‘pop’ with the palm of his hand.
“You don’t like champagne?” He asked, pausing in the act of filling a glass for her.
“It’s just a bit of a step down from the Ukrainian wine I usually drink.”
He laughed throatily. “You are being sarcastic.”
She shrugged. “This is so not the norm for me. Riding in the back of some space-ship car, drinking a bottle of champagne that probably costs a month’s rent on my flat, with a strange man I can’t decide if I’m annoyed at or...” she tapered off, her cheeks warm as she realised what she’d been about to say. Wildly attracted to.
“Yes?” He urged, his lips tilted in undisguised amusement.
“Even more annoyed at.” She substituted crossly, but his mocking glance showed he understood exactly what she’d been thinking.
The silence was anything but comfortable for Charlotte. Every second she spent in his company was doing strange things to her central nervous system. She could have sworn her skin had actually begun to tingle. Finally, he spoke. “So because this is unusual you want to end it?”
“No,” she contradicted. “I’m not ending anything. You kindly returned my coat, and that’s the end of our business together.”
“I think you’re wrong,” he said quietly, handing the champagne to her.
“Oh, do you?” She was surprised that her fingertips wrapped around the stem of the glass. Even more so when she lifted it to her lips and tasted the incredibly fine liquid.
“I think our business together is just beginning.”
She laughed, in spite of the way her bones seemed to melt at his softly spoken words. “That’s such a cheesy line,” she chided. Who cared that it had the exact effect he’d intended? Her heart was racing, her nipples straining against the soft fabric of her shirt.
She was excited. Very excited.
“Not one I’ve ever used before,” he promised huskily.
She found his declaration difficult to believe. He was too effortlessly charming. Too confidently suave. “That doesn’t matter. I’m not the kind of woman you think I am.”
“Oh? And what do I think you are?”
She rolled her eyes, self-conscious suddenly. “I know the way I look. I know that men see big breasts and blonde hair, and think I must be lining up for one night stands.”
“And you’re not?” He asked, leaning forward, so that his face was only an inch from hers.
“God, no!” She shook her head, but when she realised that it brought her mouth within striking range of his, she cleared her throat and pressed back in the seat. “Look, to each their own. I think it’s great that women can have a healthy sex life in this day and age. I’m not a prude. But I don’t appreciate being hit on by men I’ve just met. Even if you are as sexy as they come.”
Malik didn’t know whether he wanted to laugh in amusement or groan in frustration. He was not accustomed to being turned down. Even before he’d ascended to throne of Ashan, he had never found it difficult to entice women into his bed. The problem had been kicking them out when they no longer interested him. But the desire this woman had flared in him was intense. He wanted to explore it.
And yet, there was something about her that was even more appealing than the way she made him feel. She was fascinating. Like a bug under the microscope, he was enjoying watching her squirm.
“You think I’m sexy,” he repeated, and this time, when he moved closer to Charlotte, his mouth hovered just above hers.
Charlotte gulped nervously. “Yes.” It was just a whisper. A soft admission of thought-guilt.
“Good.” He took possession of her mouth, as he had wanted to do from the first minute he’d seen her. He’d intended it to be a light kiss, but the second they connected, his body sparked with electricity, and the kiss blew out of his control. His hands hungrily ran the length of her body. He balled her shirt in his fists and lifted it, so that he could feel her warm skin beneath. Her heart shuddered beneath his touch as he skimmed his hands over the lace of her bra. He lowered his mouth, nibbling and tasting the sensitive flesh to the side of her neck.
Charlotte’s moan was almost his undoing, but he forced himself to remember who he was, and where he was. His driver was completely scrupulous but Sheikh Desara had a reputation and a code of honour to protect. Public love-making was not acceptable. With eyes that glittered with promise, he lifted his head, but he kept his hands where they were, in contact with her generous curves.
“Invite me into your hotel,” he demanded, moving his thumb in a rhythmic pattern across her sensitised nipple.
Charlotte was tempted. Oh, so tempted. But she knew she couldn’t do it. She shook her head. “I told you, I don’t go in for one night stands. One kiss isn’t going to change that.”
Malik’s respect grew, for he knew how torn she was. Her desire for him was as great as his for her, yet she was sticking to her original declaration.
“I understand,” he surprised her by saying. “I have no interest in a one night stand with you, anyway.”
“You don’t?” She squeaked, immediately regretting that she’d said ‘no’ to what would undoubtedly have been a night of mind-blowing sex with this guy.
“Oh.” She cleared her throat then handed the champagne back to him. The disappointment was gripping. “Then if you’ll just get my coat...”
“First, I want you to promise me something,” he said quietly.
“What is it?”
“Have lunch with me tomorrow.” He named the finest restaurant in the resort town, run by a famous French chef.
“I... but why?”
“I should have thought that would be obvious.” He said smoothly. “I don’t want a one night stand with you. But I do want you.”
Charlotte lowered her eyes, her mind buzzing with doubts. “So lunch is what? A pre-cursor to seduction?”
He reached over and lifted her chin with the pad of his thumb. “Yes.” He would have her. It was written in the stars as surely as her cheeks were flushed with desire and her pupils dilated with lust. Before he returned to Ashan, he would have conquered Charlotte Faber. Body, mind and soul, she would be his.

The Cascelli anthology is full of festive magic and traditions – and debate over what constitutes a truly great Christmas pudding! I’m a little torn on traditions. My husband’s family have a really old pudding recipe – as in seven generations. BUT it’s a wine-free pud, and that seems all kinds of wrong to me (my homemade fruit mince could drive a car on its fumes alone…). My mum used to make pomanders with us every year, so the smell of cloves makes me want to break out into carols regardless of the season. We also used to forage wild flowers and kindling to make our own wreaths – something I now do with my kids every Christmas. What’s your favourite festive tradition? Do you stick with the time-honoured or have you made up your own? 

Clare is giving away a signed paperback copy - open internationally - of the anthology (four books for your reading pleasure!!) to one lucky person who comments below!

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Sep 23, 2016

Reporting from London – Kandy Shepherd

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of catching up with fellow authors at the Association of Mills & Boon Authors (AMBA) in London.

I’m on holiday in the UK and I was fortunate enough to be here at the right time for the annual get together. The lunch is held in a lovely hotel in central London and is attended by authors from all over Britain and, this year, two Australians (one of them me!) and a New Zealander. The other Australian was C. C. Coburn who writes for Harlequin American and from New Zealand Alison Roberts.

Harlequin Romance, Cherish and Forever Romance authors, from left to right: Kate Hardy,  Christy McKellen, Jessica Gilmore, Kandy Shepherd, Scarlet Wilson, Sophie Pembroke, Ellie Darkins, Caroline Anderson, Alison Roberts, Fiona Harper, Nina Milne. (Sadly lovely Liz Fielding had to leave before we took the photo.)

It’s so enjoyable to meet with the authors who are all delightful company. (And it was a yummy lunch, too!)  In particular, it was great for me to catch up again with fellow Harlequin Romance authors, Christy McKellen, Scarlet Wilson and Jessica Gilmore as we all worked together on the four-book Maids Under the Mistletoe continuity, which launches in October. In fact it was fabulous to meet up with so many of the authors for the Romance line. 

Editors and executives from Mills & Boon and Harlequin also attended and we were glad to hear that the future of category romance is looking healthy!

The lunch was followed by a party for authors at M & B headquarters on the seventeenth floor of the News Ltd building at London Bridge. The view of London, both old and new, is magnificent. Sadly, I was having so much fun chatting with fellow authors as well as editors and support staff I didn’t take any photos of the view. Or of the cover of my November release Greek Tycoon’s Mistletoe Proposal (Book Two in Maids Under the Mistletoe) when it flashed up big on the screen. Other authors took photos of themselves next to their covers—why didn’t I think of that!

Have you ever missed the chance to take a photo of something special? I’d love to hear about it! (I’ll be doing my best to reply to your comments but am at the mercy of intermittent internet...)

Sep 21, 2016

Best Laid Plans...

I was going to blog about something different today but right now our household is crazy and chaotic as we deal with the aftermath of our oldest girls' wedding day.

(Photo credit: Sweet Events Photography - Wedding Dress by Tegan Joy NZ)

The day itself went swimmingly (despite the wind and rain that destroyed the girls' hair during photos after the ceremony!) And everyone there had a truly wonderful time--even the groomsman who had pneumonia and was only just released from hospital the day before the wedding and even one of the groom's other brothers who become violently ill on the Friday night with either food poisoning or a gastro bug and ended up in hospital on Saturday morning on a drip.

(Photo credit: Sweet Events Photography -Wedding and Bridesmaid's Dresses by Tegan Joy NZ)

What we didn't count on was the groom becoming even more ill the day after the wedding, necessitating yet another family member being taken to hospital and then the following day, his other brother and eventually the bride and the bride's Oma (my mum) all fell foul of the bug. Thankfully my mum hasn't had to be taken to hospital like the other four but, boy oh boy, this wasn't the post-wedding wind down we had counted on.

The honeymoon has had to be postponed (thank heavens for travel insurance!) and I'm almost beginning to wonder if we had a wedding. It seems so long ago already because we've been so busy racing to and from hospital and to the supermarket to stock up on gloves, disinfectant and hand sanitiser!

I'm looking forward to seeing more of the wedding photos because I think they will help take some of the tarnish off the past few days while the family recovers and sips ginger beer, electrolytes and has a very bland diet.

What are your tried and true remedies to recover from food poisoning or gastro bugs? I think I'm going to keep a file for future reference!

Sep 19, 2016

Stefanie London gets serious about body positivity

Usually I try to keep these blogs posts (and my social media, in general) fairly light. I think a lot of other people do that too—keep it positive, keep it light. But that can lead to the presentation of a false image. People might look at my social media I post and think everything is sunshine and rainbows all of the time.

It’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very happy person. Most days I’m extremely satisfied with my life, my career, and my relationships. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of self-doubt. One of the biggest thing I’ve battled with over the years is body image. It’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve actually had success in creating a more positive space in my head for how I view my body.

I know this a little different to what you’re used to seeing on this blog, but it’s something I feel is important and that people might be able to relate to. Today, I want to share some of the things that I’ve done to get closer being comfortable in my own skin.

I buy myself nice lingerie
For a long time I skipped out on buying pretty, lacy under things.  I’d think ‘I’ll do that when I lost weight’ (that statement has plagued me my whole teenage and adult life) and of course I’m a normal person, my weight has gone up and down. I went years without buying anything but functional underwear, despite really wanting the frilly versions. 

It was a form of punishment really, because I felt like my body didn’t deserve pretty things. Now I treat myself, because goddammit I like lacy things.

I surround myself with diverse, positive images
I have definitely have fallen prey to the recalibration of “what’s normal” (for lack of a better word) by reading too many fashion magazines. These day we have more control of the images we consume because we can choose what profiles we follow. So I’ve filled my Instagram and Facebook feeds with more body positive accounts. That way I’m seeing bodies of all types rather than just the ‘ideal’. I Heart My Body on Facebook is just one example.

I threw out my ‘skinny’ clothes
I had almost a suitcase full of stuff that doesn’t fit. Some of it was really old. But I brought that crap to Canada with me and it’s been this horrible ghost haunting my wardrobe ever since. Every time I had to go into the suitcase to pack for a holiday I felt bad about myself. I felt like a failure. So I ditched it I figure, if I do lose weight in the future I’ll treat my 
One of my veggie-filled dinners
self to new clothes then. But if I don’t, that’s cool too.

I focus on what to eat instead of what not to eat
For a long time, I focused on restriction and what to avoid. Guess what, that only makes you crave a bunch of stuff that’s supposedly off-limits. Now I try to focus on what’s good for me and trying to incorporate as much of that as possible. I think about how to eat as many different types of veggies as possible, I think about which fruit I’m going to have with my afternoon tea. I focus on nutrients instead of restriction.

I’d love to hear what you do to love yourself? Do you take bubbles baths, go for walks or indulge in nice body products? Let’s get some self-love happening in the comments.

Sep 18, 2016

Sunday Smooch with Amy Andrews

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Playing It Cool but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Kim Martin!

Can you please contact rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) come to receive your prize.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Playing It Cool by Amy Andrews.

Score one for the curvy girls!

Harper Nugent might have a little extra junk in her trunk, but her stepbrother calling her out on it is the last straw... When rugby hottie, Dexter Blake, witnesses the insult, he surprises Harper by asking her out. In front of her dumbass brother. Score! Of course, she knows it's not for reals, but Dex won't take no for an answer.

Dexter Blake's life revolves around rugby with one hard and fast rule: no women. Sure, his left hand is getting a workout, but he's focused on his career for now. Then he overhears an asshat reporter belittle the curvy chick he'd been secretly ogling. What's a guy to do but ask her out? It's just a little revenge against a poser, and then he'll get his head back in the game.

But the date is better than either expected. So is the next one. And the next. And the heat between them...sizzles their clothes right off.

Suddenly, this fake relationship is feeling all too real...Blurb and Cover

Harper is at work at the City Kids hospital where she's been employed as an artist to brighten up the old drab walls of the different areas with bright murals. Unbeknownst to her, Dex is also there with the Sydney Smoke on one of the team's charity engagements. He slips away from his duties to find her and say hi. When he does he finds her in her work clothes of paint splattered overalls and he's having a hard time concentrating on anything else other than the central zipper of said overalls that runs straight down the front of them.

“Well, come on woman, tell me about the damn mural before I do something impulsive.”

Impulsive? Like what?
The low growl twirled and twined itself around internal muscles with a gossamer touch, sparking to life all the pent up lust she’d been trying to control the last couple of days.
Harper wiped the scenarios in her mind’s eye with a quick clear of her throat. “This is my... under the sea mural,” she said, her legs jerking into action, wandering down to where it started, sucking in some much needed air as she fought to control the reaction of her body to the nearness of his.
It was insanity of the highest order how easily Dexter Blake could affect her body. No man had ever left her panting just from his presence alone.
Determined to keep this above board and professional in her workplace, she explained succinctly and methodically what she was trying to achieve. She pretended he was one of her school age art students and not a fully grown man who was emitting so much testosterone she was almost faint with it.
She discussed colour and technique and where she was going with the bare sketches on the unfinished section as her pulse fluttered madly. Some would have called it babbling. But she had to engage her mouth in something useful lest it develop a mind of its own.
She was too aware of him to relax. Too aware of his hands jammed in his pockets, his gaze on her mouth as she talked. His heated interest on her zipper.
His cursory questions and complete disinterest in the answers seemed merely an excuse to let his gaze wander freely over her. He didn’t touch her but she felt the hot, sticky fingerprints of his interest mark every part of her body.   
Christ. He was turning her on just by looking at her.
“Okay,” she said, her voice tremulous with desire as she ran out of scintillating factoids about the mural. He needed to stop or she was going to do something impulsive. “I think it’s time you left now.”   
To his credit he didn’t protest or pretend he didn’t know why she was kicking him out. He just nodded. “I really did come down here just to say hi but...Jesus...” His gaze dropped to her zipper. “Are you wearing anything under that?”
A twinge,  like the low sexy notes of a saxophone, undulated across her pelvic floor. Dex was looking at her like he wanted to peel her out of her overalls as if she was a ripe banana. God knew he could do it easily. He was only an arm’s length away. He could just reach out and yank if he wanted.  
Harper swallowed. Her breath hitched. “Well I’m not naked, if that’s what you mean.”
His low groan rubbed against her skin like the finest grade sandpaper, her nipples beading painfully against the fabric of her bra. “Damn.”
The word rumbled out of him, arrowing heat from her breasts directly to the bullseye between her legs. She should send him on his way for both their sanities. Push him out the door and tell him she’d see him on Sunday, but the desire darkening his usually light green eyes was a heady thing.
“I’m wearing underwear,” she clarified quickly as if it might give some protection from the incendiary gaze threatening to melt her overalls right off.
“Christ,” he muttered, his gaze zeroing in on the tab of her zipper as he reefed a hand out of his pocket and jammed it through his hair. “All I can think about is yanking that damn zip down.”
It was all she could think about too.
Harper’s breath was thick as fog in her throat, her pulse slowing right down. He took a step towards her.
“Tell me to go,” he murmured, his gaze almost feral on her mouth now.
Harper couldn’t. She was virtually paralysed with lust. How she was managing to stay upright under his thorough eye-fucking she had no idea.
She should. But she couldn’t.
It was like there was an invisible string between them pulling them inexorably together, and she didn’t have the power or the will to break it. He was going to have to man up if he wanted out of here unmolested.
Jesus, Harper,” he whispered, looking at her for long moments, looking into her eyes this time as if he was searching for some kind of lifeline.
She clocked the exact second he stopped searching.
“Goddamn it,” he swore, taking the one pace necessary to cover the distance between them, his hands grasping her upper arms, yanking her towards him as his mouth closed in on hers.
After days and days of sexual fantasies, the touch of his mouth was like petrol on a fire and she blazed with need. Harper had heard other women talking about hearing the hallelujah chorus when the right guy kissed you. Choirs of angels and all that jazz. But that wasn’t what she was hearing. There was music alright, but it was no glorious benediction. 
It was the bourbon-gravelly tones of Nickleback singing about pants around her feet and dirt on her knees. 
 She was vaguely aware of him walking her backwards in the direction of the wall, her legs moving automatically at the insistent push of his powerful thighs, and she had just enough sense in her rapidly devolving thought processes to protest.
“No, no,” she muttered, tearing her mouth from his. “The paint’s wet.”

Harper's job is one of the more unsual I've written. For a chance to win an e-copy of Playing It Cool, tell me if you've read any other heroines with unusual jobs or if there's a particular job/profession/calling you'd like to see a heroine doing. Who knows, I might just make it happen in one of my books! I'm always looking for intertesting things to write about!

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

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver