Mar 29, 2017

Romance Novel Bingo

Have you ever played romance novel bingo? 

I've been watching Shallow Reader's bingo games for a while now and have been wanting to join in, but never seem to get around to it. So I was wondering - what if we all played a hand together? There's nothing the LovCats and our readers can't achieve if we put our mind to it!

Here's how we'll play - just leave a comment if you've read a book in March that covered one (or more) of the boxes. Just name the book and the square in your comment. You can cross off as many squares as you want / are able to. Let's see if we can get the whole board between us!

So, who wants to join in? Also, if you think you can get a line on your own, feel free to jump over to Shallow Reader's post and leave her a comment.

Edited: Here's the updated bingo sheet, showing which squares we've already crossed off. Thanks, Michelle, Susanne, Louisa, Helen, Bron, Lyn, and Ally!

Mar 27, 2017

What would you do for love? by Amy Andrews

Allow me to introduce you to Lee. 

Lee is an Australian idiot. 

He fully deserves this pisstake media report for his actions which involved jumping into a river, well known for it's crocodiles, all to impress a girl who didn't really look that impressed. 

Go ahead and watch the video (there's some language in it that's a little bit fruity) and judge for yourself. 
I'll wait....

Lee was damn lucky it was only his arm that got munched. It could have been ripped off, he could have been pulled under and I don't even want to estimate how much money he cost the taxpayers of Australia because he let a carton of goon and what was in his underpants do his thinking. does beggar the question... just how far would you go for love? Just how far should our heroes in our books go? Have *you* done something outrageously risky for love or know anyone who has? Have you read a hero who did something hold-your-breath stupid to get the girl?

PS The moral of the story is, dont be like Lee. No girl is worth being shoved under a log by a prehistoric beast.

Mar 26, 2017

Sunday Smooch - The Desert King's Captive Bride by 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 Michelann Oboyle.

Can you please contact stefanie(at)stefanie-london(dot)com to receive your copy of 'Taken by the CEO'.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Annie West's THE DESERT KING'S CAPTIVE BRIDE. was blackmailed into this marriage. I will not be blackmailed into bed.”  

Princess Ghizlan of Jeirut has returned home to find that warrior Sheikh Huseyn al Rasheed has seized her late father’s kingdom. With her sister held hostage, Ghizlan has no choice. Her barbarian captor is determined to tame her, rule her—and make her his own!

Forcing Ghizlan’s hand in marriage will not be enough to conquer her body and soul: Huseyn’s iron will is challenged at every step by her magnificent beauty and fierce pride. It won’t be long before they both fall prey to the firestorm between them…

Scene set-up
Princess Ghizlan returns home to Jeirut following the sudden death of her father, to discover herself under house arrest. The palace has been taken over by supporters of Huseyn al Rasheed, sheikh of one of the desert tribes, also known as the Iron Hand of Jumeah. Huseyn claims the throne and, to expedite his claim, he demands Ghizlan becomes his wife. But Ghizlan doesn't trust him or his claim that his actions are for the benefit of their people.

Smooch  -
'I’d simply never marry a man I despised on sight.’
‘Despised?’ His voice dropped to that bass rumble. Thunder to the lightning she’d seen a moment ago. She felt its vibration shimmer across her nipples and thighs.
‘Absolutely.’ Her chin notched even higher. Had he moved closer?
He had moved closer. She drew in that tangy scent of stable and man as he stepped in, toe to toe.
‘Then how do you explain this, my lady?’
Big, warm, implacable hands closed around her upper arms and his face lowered to hers.
Ghizlan whipped her head to one side but only succeeded in baring her cheek to this…this…bandit.
Whiskers brushed her in a totally unfamiliar caress, sending little shivers dancing across her skin. Warm lips, far softer than she’d imagined, nuzzled her cheek, stealing her breath.
She wouldn’t scream. She wouldn’t give him the pleasure of revealing fear. Instead she stood ramrod straight. Frozen.
Yet it wasn’t fear she experienced as his lips moved in a tantalisingly slow trail up to her ear. Ghizlan blinked, surprised at the odd sensation of warmth curling in on itself deep in her belly.
This had gone on long enough.
She yanked her arms back, trying to break his hold, but it was like wrestling a boulder. A huge, warm boulder scented not just with the stables but with an enticing, unfamiliar tang that she suspected was essence of Huseyn al Rasheed.
Teeth nipped her earlobe and she jumped, horrified at the fiery trail zapping from the spot straight to her womb, as if he’d jerked a string and she, like a puppet, responded. Her nipples budded hard and achy against her bra. Did he feel that as his big body pressed against her?
‘Stop it, you lout!’
Hands braced on his chest, she leaned back, trying to escape, but he was taller and stronger. In one swift movement he clamped both her hands against that brawny, powerful chest. His other hand grabbed the back of her head, inexorably turning her face towards him.
Ghizlan saw a flash of smoky blue beneath straight dark brows, then his mouth was on hers.
Heat, power, the rich, zesty scent of male skin. The soft prickle of his whiskers against her flesh contrasted with the sheer force of his mouth grinding down on hers. It was a predictably ruthless assault on her senses by a man determined to dominate.
Fear filtered into her stunned brain. Until she realised, astonished, that despite the power in that massive, muscled body, he’d pulled back a fraction. Even as the thought formed, the pressure on her lips eased and his hand in her hair gentled, cradling and massaging.
Ghizlan stared, trying to focus on the blue of his eyes, but he was too close. He shifted his stance, drawing her lower body in against him until there was no mistaking the monumental evidence of his arousal.
She gasped, stunned, and too late realised her mistake. For Huseyn al Rasheed took the opportunity to invade her mouth.
Not to ravage this time but to seduce. His movements were sure but gentle as his tongue swiped hers, learning the feel and taste of her, just as she discovered he tasted like almonds and something else impossibly, horrifyingly delicious.
Her chest cramped as she realised she enjoyed the sensation of his tongue tangling with hers.
Foggily she fought the drugging pleasure of those slow, sure, sensual movements of lips and tongue, no longer forcing but inviting.
A shiver passed from the back of her skull where his fingers caressed her, down to her curling toes.
She’d been kissed before. Perfectly pleasant kisses from perfectly nice men. Sweet kisses, even eager kisses. But none like this. None that demanded so imperiously then gentled to seduce her into feelings that surely were more dangerous than anything else he could unleash on her.
His kiss invited her to relax and follow the unfamiliar lure of pleasure. To be selfish, just once. His hand cupping her head supported but also caressed, sending whorls of languid delight through her.
And his hard body against hers—that was a totally new, electrifying experience. Ghizlan had kissed, and dated while a student, but, ever conscious of the high expectations placed on her, and the possibility for scandal if caught out publicly in a love affair, she’d never progressed beyond that.
No man had ever made her feel this potent longing for more.
Ghizlan tried to be strong, tried not to respond. Until she heard, and tasted, Huseyn’s low humming growl of satisfaction. It was a sensual assault, as real as his hand in her hair or his tongue stroking hers. The way it vibrated through her, sparking an answering excitement, was unlike anything she’d known.
His kiss slowed, deepened, became positively languorous, and Ghizlan’s bones began to soften. Her hands twitched against that powerful chest and before she knew it they’d slid up, over hard shoulders to tangle in tousled locks, tunnelling and tugging then clamping tight on his skull.
She shifted, angling her mouth to kiss him back and losing her breath as his erection aligned provocatively against her.
Another growl from the back of his throat and he roped one muscled arm around her, lifting her against him so the contact became even more blatantly sexual.
And devastatingly delicious.
Ghizlan gasped, her mind, like her body, running on overdrive. One part of her was aware of curving in, inviting more of that heavy, outrageously improper contact. Another revelled in the strength of a man who could lift her with one arm as if she were made of gossamer. But mainly she was focused on the provocative, delicious kiss she didn’t want to end.
Except this was wrong. On so many levels she couldn’t begin to count them.
The part of her consciousness that had been trained from birth to focus on duty, to be a good example, to do the right thing always, suddenly burst awake and screamed in horror.
Ghizlan dropped her hands to his shoulders and shoved with all her might.

What temptation would you most like to give in to right now? I'd love to hear. Leave a comment to be in the draw to win a signed copy of THE DESERT KING'S CAPTIVE BRIDE

I'm including here a photo of the yummy UK cover of this book. The winner gets to choose which edition they'd like - North American, UK or Aus/NZ!

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

Or if you can't wait to read CAPTIVE BRIDE you can order it from the usual places including
Barnes and Noble
and Harlequin

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Mar 24, 2017

Street art...or graffiti?

Is it graffiti? Is it art?

It's becoming a thing. Whichever city I find myself in these days there's always an enclave of art, storeys high.  Someone must have commissioned it-surely? Or is it a movement to make the streets more pleasurable to walk along?

I have to admit I'm becoming a bit of a fan and look forward to seeing what the flavour's going to be wherever I'm going.

A couple of years ago in San Francisco we made a special journey to have a look at a couple of streets famous for their art (actually, the only reason I knew about them was because I'd been watching a series on TV called Sense8 which had a scene with characters running down these alleyways). We were amazed at the detail.

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco- this is on a wall! Wow!

San Francisco- yes, this is someone's garage

San Francisco - where is the door handle??

Hahndorf, Adelaide Hills
Recently we visited Adelaide and were very pleased to see the movement is catching on there too! And the next two photos are from toilet walls in one of the cafes...all hand drawn. Amazing!

Toilet Art!

Toilet Art 
In Adelaide our Airbnb apartment looked straight onto this scene. We loved the funky feel and wondered who the woman is?
Street art is taking off here in Auckland too. In one of the more 'vibrant' areas of the city an artist was commissioned to do a huge piece on a wall, ten feet high. We bought a print copy, because it was funny and funky...and there are only 69 copies available.....I'll leave you to work out why. (Sorry the photo isn't great, I couldn't stop the light from getting in).
Wall Art made into a print (wall art in our house)
So, do you have anything like this where you live? Do you like it? Is it 'art' or just graffiti?

Mar 20, 2017

Stefanie London's Top Travel Packing Tips

By the time this blog post is live I'll be on my way back from a trip to Vermont, USA. I'm heading to a writer's weekend where there's going to be plotting, brainstorming and general writerly shenanigans. Since moving to Canada, I've started travelling a lot more as Toronto is a hell of a lot more central to things than Melbourne.

So, I thought it might be fun to share some of my top travel packing tips.

Tip #1 invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones
Yes, they're expensive. But plane engine noise gives me a shocking headache and I seem to be a magnet for screaming children on planes. Now I simply pop on my headphones and either watch a movie, play music or use a white noise (or rain sounds) app to block out the world and keep my headache at bay.

Tip #2 less is more
Since travelling more often, I've started to get a hang of this whole 'packing light' thing (which in my case, is more packing lighter than light, but I digress). This means I try to take carry-on luggage only, for shorter trips. One area where I'm strict is shoes: they're heavy, they take up a lot of space and it's not necessary to have four pairs of shoes for a long weekend. I try to wear my heaviest shoe (usually a boot, unless I'm travelling in summer) and then pack things like sneakers, flats and heels (if I even need a pair of heels. Blasphemy, I know) in my suitcase.

Tip #3 less is more (makeup edition)
Being a makeup lover, I used to travel with makeup for all occasions: multiple lipsticks, false eyelashes, different types of eyeshadow, foundations and powders. Then all the brushes required to apply those products. The list goes on. These days I look for products that can be used for all situations (like a nude lipstick that will go with any eye look) and aim for ones that don't require a blush for application (like a cream blush instead of a powder one).

Tip #4 use a colour palette
This is one of the best things I've started doing with my wardrobe in general, but it definitely applies to travel. Stick to a colour palette for your clothing by using 1-2 neutral base shades (e.g. black and grey) and then add 1-2 accent colours (e.g. light blue and yellow). That way, each item you bring will work with every other item in your suitcase and you won't get stuck on the last day of your trip with a top and a pair of pants that don't go together.

Tip #5 always pack a durable plastic bag or two
You never know when you'll need one. They work great for containing dirty laundry or for wrapping up shoes with dirty soles. They can act as a shopping bag for food items or gifts, or as a way to keep items separate in your suitcase. Then can even be used for extra carry-on space if you need it.

Tip #6 use your socks and shoes to protect delicate items
I'm one of those people who always travels with a bottle of perfume. I can't be without a pretty scent! If I'm packing my perfume into checked baggage, I encase it in a sock for protection against breakage. Then I add the second sock over it as another layer, and stuff the whole thing inside a shoe. This works great for delicate items like an souvenirs, as well. Just remember, if you're only taking carry-on luggage your perfume will need to be in a clear bag with all your other liquids!

That's it for today. I hope you found something useful in this post. What are your best packing tips? Leave them in the comments below.

Mar 17, 2017

Gentle(wo)men Prefer Blondes!

Actually, I'm not really sure that's true. But when I was recently trolling Google images for snaps of hunky men, a friend of mine pointed out that I always seemed to stop and ogle the one's of the fair haired variety.

Now, this came as something of a surprise to me, because I have always insisted I was more in the tall and dark and handsome corner. More Greek god, than Nordic Prince. But then my friend pointed out that my husband was in fact, blonde....and so the self-reflection began.

As an author, and in the need to create effective characterization, at any given time I have several of what my husband calls my "Hollywood Boyfriends". Not that I only write fair haired heroes...I've had heroes with Italian heritage and in the book I just handed in to my editor that comes out in August, my hero is African American. At the moment though, my favorite is the lovely Armie Hammer. I just love this scene from The Man From Uncle....

My next favorite fairish haired hero type is Chris Pratt... usually more of a funny guy and in this scene from that awful movie Jurassic World (sorry to any fans out there) he gets to briefly lock lips with Bryce Dallas Howard...I love the look on the kids faces as they watch their usually uptight aunt Claire kiss the roguish Owen.

My fair-haired favorite number three is, of course, Chris Hemsworth. Okay, so anything with Chris Hemsworth is worth watching. Whether he's Thor, a race car driver, trying to catch a white whale or when he's playing the tortured Huntsman...really, the man is so beautiful he can do no wrong. And by all accounts he's a great husband and dad too, so he gets extra credit!

So, what's your poison? Tall, dark and handsome? Or fair and fabulous? Would love to hear which way you swing!

Mar 13, 2017

To Be or Not to Be…Alone

Writing can be a very solitary occupation. I find if I spend too many days in my office by myself, I go a bit nuts!  So, I often head into Byron Bay or Bangalow (another beautiful little village near my house) and write in a café. 

I find I can screen out the noise and chatter around me very easily.  This way I still feel part of the community and the constant stream of freshly brewed coffee is also good. My local library is another great place to write and I’ve even set up shop at a picnic table by the beach. The sound of the waves is such a joy.

But there is one part of the story I can’t write in public. I can’t write those sex scenes when surrounded by strangers. I’m always worried someone will read over my shoulder and get a shock, or I’ll blush and people with wonder what I’m up to!

How about you? When you are working, do you like the solitude or do you operate best in the midst of the action?

News Flash: My best-selling story, The Billionaire’s Pursuit of Love, is still on sale for $0.99. For a passionate read, pick up a copy from Amazon, iTunes and other etailers.