Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mistletoe Kisses

Do you like Christmas stories? I love them, and this year I have a story in a Christmas anthology by The Word Wenches — the group of historical romance authors I regularly blog with —  Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Patricia Rice, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott and Susan King. 

My story is called Mistletoe Kisses, and it's about Allie Fenton, a young woman who, for various reasons, has never been able to attend a ball. Now orphaned and on the shelf, she's planning to become a teacher at a girl's seminary in Bath. But first there's her last Christmas at home and then, Lady Holly's famous annual Christmas ball. 

Here's a short excerpt:

"You'll come to my Christmas ball, then," Lady Holly told her. "Don't bother trying to think up any excuses — you're coming and that's that. Your year of mourning will be up, and you have no reason to stay here moldering away when I've gathered an excellent range of eligible gentlemen for your perusal."

Allie laughed. "For my perusal? As if I'm going shopping?"

"That's exactly what you'll be doing."

"Don't the gentlemen have any say in it?"

The old lady sniffed. "Women have been making men believe they have a choice for generations. Now don't be frivolous, Allie — I am determined to give you one last chance to find a husband before you go off and bury yourself in this, this school of yours." She pronounced 'school' as if she really meant 'zoo.'

Allie smiled. For all her caustic tone, Lady Holly had a very kind heart. "I would love to attend your ball, Lady Holly. . . "

The old lady frowned. "I hear a 'but' coming."

"Not really—I would truly love to dance and flirt and be madly frivolous, and your Christmas balls are legendary, and you know I've never been able to attend. But the only ball dresses I have were made for the eighteen-year-old me, and not the seven-and-twenty version. Alas" — Allie indicated her hips and bosom and grimaced — "I'm no longer the slender young thing I was."

Lady Holly snorted. "You were a scrawny young twig back then — no bosom or hips to speak of. Now you've a fine womanly figure. Besides, I've thought of that. Took the liberty of getting a dress made for you — left the box with Meadows. It should fit — got Mrs. Meadows to take your measurements from one of your current dresses."

Allie blinked in surprise. "You had a dress made for me? A ball dress?"

"Now don't get all stiff-necked on me, Allie Fenton," the old lady said in a fierce tone that didn't deceive Allie for an instant. "I was very fond of your dear mother and this is for her, as much as for you. She was so looking forward to your making your come-out and was devastated that her illness prevented it." 

"I'm not being stiff-necked, truly I'm not. I'm just. . . surprised." There was a lump in Allie's throat. She was deeply touched by the old lady's brusque kindness. And thoughtfulness. A ball dress. . . 

Lady Holly reached over and patted her hand. "Now don't look like that, my dear — I promised your mother I'd see you dancing in the arms of a handsome man, and though circumstances have prevented it in the past — and I quite see that it would have been the height of impropriety for you to go dancing when first your mother and then your father lay dying — there is nothing to prevent you now, and you will come to my ball!" 

Allie smiled mistily. "Just like Cinderella. And you've even provided the gown." 

SNIP . . . . 

The parcel, tied with string and wrapped in brown paper, lay on her bed. She untied the string and under the wrapping paper found an elegant box with a stylish gold emblem on the front. She swallowed. This was no dress from the village seamstress — it was from Lady Holly's own London mantua maker.

She eased off the lid, parted the layers of protective tissue paper and gasped. Almost holding her breath, she drew the dress from its nest of tissue. It was beautiful. 

The underdress was a light shimmering lilac shade that she just knew would go perfectly with both her recent mourning, and also her coloring. But the lovely silk underdress was quite cast in the shade by the delicate overdress in some kind of gauzy fabric through which the lilac silk shimmered. Embroidered here and there with tiny rosebuds in silver thread, it was finished with bands of delicately gathered silver lace around the hem and at the elbows of the puffed sleeves, and a line of silver embroidery around the neck.

In the box, hidden beneath the dress, was underwear — not the kind of underwear that Allie had ever in her life worn — delicate, lacy, flimsy, exquisite underwear — a chemise, a petticoat, the daintiest, most feminine drawers, and even a corset. All were trimmed with lace, and everything but the corset was practically transparent. Almost scandalous. 

She remembered Lady Holly's comment that she had the figure of a woman now, not a girl. Allie had never really given it much thought. But now . . . these were certainly underclothes for a woman, not a girl. Smiling to herself, she put the lovely, naughty underclothes back in the box. She'd probably die a spinster, but she would treasure these forever.

She picked up the dress again, held it against her body and turned to gaze at her reflection in the looking glass. It was the most beautiful dress she'd ever owned. And it suited her perfectly. The lilac color complemented her pale complexion and her dark hair, and even seemed to make her very ordinary gray eyes look almost exotic. The silver thread gleamed and shimmered in the light. It was a dress made for dancing. . .

How many years since she'd danced? And never at a ball.

Delight bubbled up in her. After what felt like years wearing mourning black and gray, this dress felt like a breath of spring. And yet even the highest sticklers could not look askance at her — lavender and lilac were approved colors for half mourning.

But would it fit? She stripped off her old black gown and, holding her breath, she carefully slipped the ball gown over her head. And breathed. It was perfect. It was more than perfect.

She gazed at her reflection, gave a sudden laugh and twirled around and around, as if she were a giddy, carefree girl again.

She felt just like Cinderella. And she was going to the ball.


The LAST CHANCE CHRISTMAS BALL comes out on 29th September 2015. 
Buy it from your favorite bookshop, or try one of these links:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Newsletter Bouncing

I just sent out a newsletter yesterday and there have been an abnormal number of bounces, mainly from g-mail and Big Pond (a popular Australian email server) -- and since this particular newsletter is partly about Australian readers finally getting access to my early Harlequin historicals, it's very frustrating.

So I'm posting a web link to my newsletter here. Sorry for the inconvenience.


I'll be blogging soon about the Australian romance conference but in the meantime, here are a couple of photos as an appetizer. That's me, at the costume party, which was themed "Fresh, Flirty or Famous" and I chose "famous" and went as Dame Barbara Cartland, complete with dogs — that's a dog on my foot as well as one on my arm. Also with me is crime/thriller writer Kathryn Fox, and the sinister fellow holding onto his beard with his knife is Harlequin author Marion Lennox -- who came as Johnny Depp, also carrying dogs.

Below are Fiona McArthur who writes medical romance for Penguin Australia and Harlequin, Trish Morey who writes Rural romance for PanMcMillan and Harlequin Presents, and Bronwyn Jameson, who writes for Harlequin Desire. Trish is dressed as the conference logo.

 And here is Stephanie Laurens with Harlequin editor Princess Sue Brockoff.

Until next time

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fame at Last! — I think I've 'nailed' it!

I received an email yesterday from romance writer Stef Ann Holm, who I've never met, but who clearly is a kind and lovely person, telling me my book was featured on page 10 of the August 3 issue of WOMAN'S WORLD.  She sent me this picture and this email:
I was eating lunch this afternoon, and glancing at the August 3 issue of Woman’s World magazine (The one with Dr. Oz on the cover and how to lose up to 400 lbs. by eating almond butter—going to pick me up almond butter in a moment. LOL)  Anyway . . . on page 10, they show how to make manicures special.  They used a paperback to imprint pages on your nails. I’m a romance writer too, and I always look at book titles.  Saw “SPRING BRIDE” and did a Google search.  There you are!  And this is YOUR book.  Thought you’d enjoy knowing that.  Here’s a picture of the page you’re on.  May all women use your book to paint their nails.  But only after they read it and post 5-star reviews on Amazon. 

And lo! Yes, that's text from my book, THE SPRING BRIDE on that model's nails.  So do you think I've nailed the Fame thing? Or am I trying to gloss over the destruction of a book? Do you use my books to paint your nails? Should I? And wasn't it lovely of Stef Ann Holm to let me know?

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Harlequin Australia has reissued my first two books -- Gallant Waif and Tallie's Knight in a two-in-one collection they're calling Courage & Circumstance. It's due on the shelves in August, so let's hope people can find it. Booktopia (Australian on-line bookshop) currently has it on discount.
When these two books were released in the USA All About Romance gave them both Desert Island Keeper reviews, and said "Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint which books are really getting a lot of buzz on the Internet. But when six AAR reviewers and editors (and publisher) independently buy two books by the same author over one weekend and four more rush out to get them in the next few days, well, that's buzz like I've never seen before. Anne Gracie is an author worth getting excited about, and Tallie's Knight is the best Regency Romance I've read in years. (The other book we all rushed out and bought? Anne Gracie's other U.S. release - Gallant Waif - which received DIK status earlier this week.) "

You can still read these reviews: here's the review for Gallant Waif and here is the one for  Tallie's Knight.

I'm so pleased, because people have been writing to me for ages, asking when/how they can get hold of my old Harlequins. Ironic that they've been easily available as e-books in the US and Uk, but in the country I live in, we can't get them. But I've been informed they'll now be available on kindle etc, too, which will be great.

In September, Harlequin Australia will release my other two historicals — An Honorable Thief and the Christmas novella, A Virtuous Widow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The blessing of parkland

I am blessed in having a nearby off-lead park in which to walk my dog.  I live quite close to the city, but I believe at some stage this land was planned to become a freeway. Luckily it never eventuated, so now we have a lovely half-wild park.

One side of the creek is fairly natural and "bushlike", except they mow the grass, and the other contains ovals and a bike path and a big area of wild-ish parkland. 

Since the planting of gum trees and other native vegetation, the native birdlife has been returning and now we regularly see ducks, kookaburras, currawongs, magpies, rainbow lorikeets, and many others— well a lot of them we don't so much see as hear— so it  can feel more as though you're in the bush, rather than a fairly short distance from the city.

If you want to hear the sounds they make, here are links: kookaburras, currawongs, magpies, rainbow lorikeets.  I'm assuming you know ducks. 

And this is my dog surveying her domain. She jumps on this old chunk of concrete every single night.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Wrap bracelets

They've been around for ages, and hadn't particularly appealed to me, but then a friend of mine came home from a trip to the US with one and it was fine and so pretty and all faceted semi-precious beads — much nicer "in the flesh" than the pics I'd seen on line. My friend said, "You should make one of these."

So I did. I made the first one with leftover beads — some semi-precious, some antique beads and various others. And I wore it and liked it and decided I needed another one in greens, because I'm very fond of wearing green. And then I saw some pink freshwater pearls with large enough holes for a needle to pass through —  I love pearls, but all mine are so finely drilled a needle and thread won't go through them — so I bought them and made a third bracelet.

Here they are tastefully displayed on a paper towel roll. A few friends have delicately hinted they wouldn't object to a wrap bracelet coming their way, so I guess I'll be making them for a little while longer. I don't make jewelry for sale, only for friends and only to entertain myself if I'm watching TV or  mulling over a plot problem. I think if I sold it, it would take all the fun out of it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

At Dymocks

Here's a pic of last night's Fantasy & Romance panel at Dymock's bookshop in Melbourne -- from left to right, Keri Arthur, C.S. Pacat, Melanie Scott, me and Sarah Fairhall, the panel moderator. Pic taken by the wonderful Maria Matina.
Don't you love the panels behind us? They're from the adult coloring competition that Dymock's ran — apparently coloring books for grown-ups is the latest thing, and seeing them all displayed here I can see the appeal -- such bright and lovely designs, like a wall of fabulous tiles.