Cover Reveal for The Christmas Trip!

I am very excited to share the cover of my next book with One More Chapter, The Christmas Trip.

This is the follow-up to The Christmas Swap (2020) and I SO loved reconnecting with your favourites from Book 1.

About the book

It’s a year on and our three May Ladies are all loved up but still living worlds apart.

Chloe has had a whirlwind year amongst the glitz, glamour (and demanding work) of Hollywood. She’s taken on the role of Assistant Producer on the film, ‘An Extraordinary Woman: The Eloise Capel Story’, Archer’s passion project and as Archer’s girlfriend, she’s now schmoozing with A-listers.

Jules is immersed in her Melbourne life, working for a non-profit and sharing an increasingly crowded flat on the waterfront with flatmate, Ash ― and their frequent visitors: Ash’s boyfriend, Davo, and Jules’ love, Matt, and his dog, Dexter. She’s considering moving out on her own, only Matt keeps hinting at Jules moving to his vineyard down south.

Lucy, meanwhile, is stuck in long-distance-relationship hell. While her career is flying high ― a promotion and frequent trips to the US for work ― her relationship with Will has stalled. She doesn’t want to be a part-time girlfriend, finding their time apart agonising, but Will seems perfectly content.

When Archer’s planned Parisian proposal at Christmastime is derailed by an ash cloud over Europe, he hatches a plan to bring all six of them together for a Christmas ― and a marriage proposal ― to remember. In Hawaii!

I invite you to join the May Ladies and their loves in the most beautiful destination yet for a Christmas filled with mayhem and misunderstandings, and rocking romance around the Christmas tree!

And check out this stunning cover! I am in love with it! Huge thanks to cover designer, Lucy Bennett.

Cover of The Christmas Trip: Couple sitting on a Hawaiian beach on the lower half, a cove covered with palm trees in the distance. At the top, a snowy scene of an English village; a cottage and a fir tree decorated with Christmas lights and a couple standing admiring the cottage.

Where you can preorder

It’s out in ebook on November 10th and print on December 8.

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | Amazon US

iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google Play | Waterstones

(Coming soon) Foyles | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia

I hope you love it as much as I do!

Publication Day for Lynne Shelby

It’s my pleasure to welcome Lynne Shelby to Off the Beaten Track today to celebrate the publication of her latest book, Rome for the Summer. Not only am I a huge fan of her books, but I LOVE Roma! It is one of my favourite cities in the world and look at that cover! The perfect romantic read for those of us who love a little armchair travel!

Cover of Rome for the Summer:
A dark-haired man and woman riding on a red scooter past the Victor Emanuel II monument in Rome. Tagline: There's no better place to mend a broken heart. Quote: 'A wonderful fresh new talent' - Katie Fforde.

And now over to Lynne.

Tell us what inspired you to write Rome For The Summer.

Rome For The Summer, was inspired by a snatch of conversation between two girls – one American, one Italian – that I overheard some years ago when I was walking through Rome with my husband, heading back to our hotel after a day’s sight-seeing. The American told the Italian girl that ‘the job will only be for six months.’ I still have the notes I wrote that day as soon as we reached our hotel: ‘American in Rome. Why? Tourist? What job? Is she working in Rome for six months? Or going back to the States for six months? Does she have an Italian boyfriend who she’s leaving? Or is there an American boyfriend pining for her return?’ Not that I wrote the book immediately – I was half-way through writing another novel at the time – but some months later, back in England, I happened to fall into conversation with a woman sitting at the next table in a restaurant who turned out to be a professor from an American university with an extremely interesting reason for visiting Europe, which gave me the answer to what the American girl was doing in Rome, and sparked off my ideas for most of the plot for what was to become Rome For The Summer – although I visited Rome again, and wrote another novel, before I wrote this one! The American girl has become my English heroine, Kate, and the Italian girl has become her English colleague, but the novel’s location in Rome, and the first question I asked myself – What is this girl doing in Rome? – led to all the rest. 

What’s your most recent read that you’d like to recommend?

My most recent read that I’d like to recommend is The Duke And I by Julia Quinn, the first of her Bridgerton Regency romances. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first and second Bridgerton TV series, but have only just got around to reading the books. I found The Duke And I a wonderful read and I’ll certainly be reading the other books in the series.

What has been your author highlight over the past year?

My author highlight over the past year was having my novel Love On Location shortlisted for a Romantic Novelists’ Association Award. I was thrilled to be nominated, and I was particularly pleased that the award I was shortlisted for was the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, as I was lucky enough to attend one of Jane’s writing courses at Chez Castillon some years ago, and her advice was invaluable. The Awards ceremony itself was a glittering event held at a London hotel, and it was a fabulous evening.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing the first draft of a novel set in the world of the theatre, and doing some research for a novel set in Venice. Both novels are contemporary romances/romcoms.

What do you hope readers will take away from Rome For The Summer?

Most of all, I hope readers will enjoy the romantic elements in the book, and that they will be willing my heroine to find her happy-ever-after-ending. I also hope that readers will take away a sense of what it’s like to visit Rome. It’s one of my favourite cities, with so much to see and do, whether you enjoy sight-seeing or looking at art, or simply exploring the narrow streets, soaking up the atmosphere, and discovering a fabulously romantic restaurant for dinner.

More about the book

Kate Harper has always loved the painting that has hung in her parents’ dining room for years, never suspecting that it is worth a fortune. When her art dealer boyfriend cheats her family out of the proceeds of the painting’s sale, she is left devastated and alone.

Kate discovers that two hundred years ago, the girl in the painting, Charlotte Browne, ran off to Rome with the artist who painted her portrait, but her eventual fate is unknown.

Hoping to uncover the mystery of what happened to Charlotte, Kate seizes the chance of a summer job in Rome, where she strikes up a friendship with Jamie Taylor, an English artist. As they explore the city and start to piece together the surprising secrets of Charlotte’s life, Kate finds herself wondering if a summer in Rome can mend a broken heart…

Where to get it (ebook & print)

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon CA

Google Play | Nook | Kobo

Waterstones | Foyles | Barnes & Noble

More about Lynne

Lynne Shelby: A dark-haired, smiling woman with shoulder length hair and wearing rose-coloured lipstick and a blue blouse.

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary romance/romcoms. Her debut novel, French Kissing, now re-published in ebook as Meet Me In Paris, won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city, writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Follow Lynne

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon | BookBub | Goodreads

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Lynne, and so looking forward to this one.

Catching up with Author Alana Oxford

Today, I’m pleased to welcome author, Alana Oxford, to Off the Beaten Track to celebrate the upcoming release of her lovely romcom, Scotsman in the Stacks, which is out on June 14! And check out that cover! How sweet is that?

Cover of Scotsman in the Stacks. In foreground a librarian with a dark reddish brown bob, holding a stack of books. In the mid-ground, a redheaded man with a goatee reading on a sofa, one leg crossed over the other. The background is the silhouette of books.

Now let’s chat to Alana …

Tell us what inspired you to write Scotsman in the Stacks?

The very first seed of inspiration for this story is the real-life love story of my friend, Karen, and her husband, Rhys. Karen and I were both working as circulation clerks at a public library when a good-looking guy with a delicious accent walked in and asked Karen how to get a library card. After that, he came in all the time to talk to her. The whole staff got to know him and he was so kind and friendly to all of us, but it was clear from the beginning that he and Karen had something special.  They always said I should write their story someday. And here we are, quite a few years since they met. They’re happily married with kids and are still the love of each other’s lives. Scotsman isn’t the Karen and Rhys story, but their adorable relationship inspired my fictional exploration of how a beautiful international romance can be sparked at the library.

When did you start writing seriously?

Ever since 2nd grade, I loved to write and knew I wanted to be a writer someday. My wake-up call came when my daughter was born. At that time, I had a lot of ideas for picture books in my head and I remember sitting on the couch with her, reading a board book and thinking, “Awww, one day I’ll be reading my own books with her.” Then it dawned on me. What books was I planning to read with her? I wasn’t actually writing them down. How would they ever exist if I didn’t put my dreams into action? So I started right then and there – yes, with a new baby in the house. I wrote while she napped. On the good writing days, my husband would do the bedtime routine so I could squeeze in some more writing time in the evenings.

My first book came out in 2011. It was a digital picture book written under a different pen name, and I haven’t looked back since.

What do you love most about being an author?

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories or enjoying books. My favourite thing is when I see a review from someone who really enjoyed my work. It’s that connection with readers that makes it all so special. An idea from my mind, that I worked on, usually for years, has resonated with someone who doesn’t know me. It’s mind-blowing every time.

What are you working on now?

I have a few things fighting for dominance of my writing time right now. I’ve been working on a women’s friendship story on and off for a few years now. I’m also working on a short story. Then, as writer brains love to do, I got hit with a quirky cast of characters who just popped into my mind and said, “Write about us. Now!” I couldn’t think about anything else until I grabbed my notebook and pen and started taking notes on who they are and what their story might be.

What do you hope readers will take away from Scotsman in the Stacks?

It’s been a very difficult couple of years for everyone. I finished my first draft of this book in March 2020, just before the world shut down. All of my revising and editing took place in the throes of lockdowns, virtual life, and near-constant worry. The world was an uncertain, difficult place with new brands of terrible news everyday. I want my book to put the opposite energy out there. I purposely wrote this book to be a low-angst, happy place for readers. It’s meant to be a feel-good love story to escape into for a little while.

More about the book

Paige wants two things: to land a full time librarian job and find the man of her dreams. On the cusp of thirty, she finds herself suddenly single and working part-time in a Michigan library. A handsome patron with a delicious accent appears at the reference desk, inadvertently sparking an idea that might help her land the promotion she so desperately needs. But that’s not the only thing he sparks.

James is in town from Glasgow, Scotland, on a summer artist residency. Luckily, the trip got him away from the pressure he feels to take over his uncle’s river tour business. He only wanted to clear his head and make his art in peace, but he wasn’t counting on finding an attractive librarian to fill his days.

With only eight weeks before James goes home to Scotland, Paige knows she should protect her heart. After all, she already wasted years with her commitment-phobe ex. But the more she gets to know James, the less she can stick to her plan to just be friends. Is she just wasting her time again, or can they bridge the ocean between them to find a happily ever after of their own?

Where you can pre-order:

Readers who pre-order, can win a fun prize pack – see details on Alana’s website (link below).

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon CA

Kobo | iBooks | Nook

More about Alana

A smiling woman with straight brown hair that falls just below her shoulders. She is wearing pink lipstick, a stripy shirt (vertical, various shares of pink) and glasses.

Alana Oxford is a Michigan author of romcoms, sweet romance, and humorous women’s fiction. She wants her stories to bring sunshine and smiles to her readers. She enjoys improv comedy, moody music, everything book related, and has an ongoing love affair with the United Kingdom.

Follow Alana

Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Website

Thank you so much for being on the blog, Alana, and wishing you all the best for the launch of this book.

Guest Blogger: Davina Stone – Authors for Mental Health

Today I welcome the lovely Davina Stone to Off the Beaten Track for another in the Authors for Mental Health blog series.

Davina Stone writes romances about flawed but lovable characters who get it horribly wrong before they finally get it right. They also kiss a fair bit on the way to happily ever after.

Davina grew up in England, before meeting her own hero who whisked her across wild oceans to Australia. She has now lived half her life in both countries, which makes her a hybrid Anglo-Aussie.

When not writing she can be found chasing kangaroos off her veggie patch, dodging snakes, and even staring down the odd crocodile. But despite her many adventures in her heart, she still believes that a nice cup of tea fixes most problems—and of course, that true love conquers all.

Over to you, Davina!

Mental Health – Sometimes We Need to Laugh About It

My current day job is writing sweet, steamy romantic comedies. But for well over two decades, I worked as an occupational therapist (O.T.) in mental health settings. So, when I saw the Beyond Blue initiative, Authors for Mental Health, I had to put my hand up and get involved.

For me there is a close link between what I write and the work I was involved in for most of my adult career. Often writers are advised to write what they know and so I guess that is what I have done. My work as an O.T. has been in hospitals, in people’s homes, in GP’s surgeries and at times on locked wards. I have seen hundreds of people in the depths of a mental health crisis, but more importantly, so much more importantly, I have seen hundreds of people come through those dark times.

I started writing after a health crisis of my own involving extensive heart surgery and a subsequent visit for many months by that unfriendly critter, the black dog depression (Science has proven the link between our heart and mind, a fact writers and artists have known forever—but I digress.) I knew that I wanted to write about characters who struggled with their mental health at times. I knew also that I wanted to write in the romance genre where happily-ever-after is guaranteed. In other words, I wanted to write happy books that weren’t afraid to touch on hard topics.

My characters deal with anxiety and panic attacks, depression, PTSD, and OCD and in my latest manuscript I am writing about self-harm. These are not light topics. But my aim is to write with a light touch, to take the heaviness and shame that often accompany a mental health diagnosis out of the mix. For people to read my books and say—as they have —”I felt like that was me, or I know exactly how it feels to act that way… and I loved the book, it was so much fun,” then I feel in some small way I have achieved what I aimed to.

I have run many group programs to treat anxiety and depression over the years, and what remains clearest in my memory is the resilience, strength and humour of my patients/clients. Life may have dealt them some heavy blows, but they weren’t defeated. They may have been admitted to an in-patient psychiatric ward, but that was not the sum of them. They were not their diagnosis. And they taught me more, I am sure, than I could ever teach them, despite all my training.

The fact that most of us—at least one in four, but honestly, I think that figure is still too low —will experience a crisis in our mental health at some time in our lives means that we are most definitely not alone. And yet the stigma remains; we may be fearful of putting a diagnosis of depression on a job application for example, and even sharing with those closest to us can be a struggle when we are in the depths of psychological pain. So, I guess, by writing these romances, I wanted to be part of a conversation that needs to be open and frank and normalised.

I also truly believe there are times when it is appropriate to laugh about our mental health struggles. Sure, mental health is a very serious topic but our conversations about it do not have to be grim and heavy, as my group participants would testify as we all laughed together at the vicissitudes of life. As one of my closest friends, who has had several incidents of major depression, says very matter-of-factly, “Yeah, I was barking mad at the time.” And then we laugh. What a relief it is to share like this.

So, let’s keep talking, having the conversations we need to have about our mental health, openly, courageously and with humour too in the mix.

And meanwhile, I’ll keep writing my romcoms …

ID: 4 female friends in a car, laughing.

Cover Reveal for A Wedding in Tuscany

I am SO excited to share this with you all, the beautiful cover for my next book, A Wedding in Tuscany.

A Tuscan villa (yellow walls and a terracotta tile roof) sits on top of a hill with a bride walking through an grove of olive trees in the foreground, and another villa and rolling hills covered in vines in the background. Tagline: The ultimate adventure is about to begin.

I mean, seriously, how gorgeous is that? (I think it is my fave cover since Santorini).

This is the final book in the Holiday Romance series and here’s the blurb:

The Parsons sisters are all loved up.

Sarah is living in Sydney with Josh and their cat, Domino, but is anxious about her fast-approaching fortieth birthday.

And Cat is still living in London with her flatmate, Jane, but is in a long-distance relationship with Jean-Luc, her childhood sweetheart and recently re-discovered love.

One of the sisters receives a surprise wedding proposal – it’s a yes! – and everyone heads off to Tuscany for a destination wedding.

Reunite with favourite characters from the Holiday Romance series in one of the most beautiful locations yet for love, laughter, wedding vows, and just a smidge of sisterly mayhem.

I had such a blast writing this book, especially setting it in one of my favourite places in the world. Here’s a few shots from the last time I was there.

A Wedding in Tuscany is out on June 17 (ebook) and September 15 (print) and you can pre-order now. Buy links found here.

Cover Reveal for Nina Kaye

I am thrilled to be able to share this gorgeous cover for Nina Kaye’s wonderful new book, One Night in Edinburgh. I absolutely LOVED this book. It clever and romantic and made me think as much as it made me laugh. Steph is a character I warmed to immediately and I couldn’t help falling for the lovely Jamie. This book will warm your heart and is an absolute must read.

Cover One Night in Edinburgh by Nina Kaye. Subtitle: Will it be enough?
Tagline: The fun, feel-good romance you need this year.
A man and a woman in the foreground, facing away as they stand at the back of a celebrating crown below Edinburgh castle. There are fireworks overhead.

The blurb

One night. But how many second chances?
Heartbroken on Hogmanay, Steph wanders through the Edinburgh street party until she bumps into Jamie. He’s funny, attractive and clearly interested. In a word, he’s perfect – but she didn’t get his number. All she remembers is his lime and mango beer.

Determined to be reunited, Steph tracks him by a milk carton style campaign, sticking a message to his favourite beer across local pubs. Although eventually reunited, Jamie is frequently uncontactable and evasive, and Steph worries she’s on the path to heartbreak once more.

There’s a fine line between being patient and being gullible, and Steph’s reaching her limit. When a chance encounter with Jamie reveals his secret, she faces an even tougher decision. Should Steph give love another chance, or was one night in Edinburgh all she and Jamie were meant to have?

Where you can buy it (out June 23rd – pre-order now)

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon CA

Waterstones | Foyles

Kobo | Nook

About Nina

Smiling woman with shoulder length dark curly hair, wearing a red top and black cardigan.

Nina Kaye is a contemporary romance author who writes warm, witty and uplifting reads with a deeper edge. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and much adored side-kick, James. In addition to writing, Nina enjoys swimming, gin and karaoke (preferably all enjoyed together in a sunny, seaside destination). Nina has previously published The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating and Take a Moment and has also been a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayson Award.

Follow Nina

Amazon| Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Catching up with Author Lizzie Chantree

Lizzie not only a prolific author, but she’s an inventor, a mentor and a wonderful supporter of the Romance writing community, so it is a great pleasure to welcome her to Off the Beaten Track today to mark the publication of The Woman Who Felt Invisible. And she’s even sharing an excerpt with us! First up, let’s talk to her about all things authoring.

Cover of the book as shown on a phone. The phone is sitting on a soft pink background and surrounded by roses. The cover is a woman sitting at a desk and working on a laptop as seen through a window.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Woman Who Felt Invisible?

This story is about a woman in her forties who feels like the world doesn’t see her at all. People bump into her at work as if she’s not standing there and she has forgotten who she is as a person after the loss of her dad. She used to have a successful career, but now lives in a tiny rented flat and has two jobs just does to survive. She meets her boss’s wife at a Christmas party and they become unlikely friends. The book is about trusting your instincts and following your dreams.

When did you start writing seriously?

I have always loved writing but my daughter was unwell for ten years and I decided to write my first book as a way to keep myself awake at night to listen to her breathing. It’s so hard to stay awake when you are sleep deprived. I wrote a book full of sunshine and happiness to try and bring some light into a very dark time in my life. My daughter is fine now, although she has serious allergies, but she proudly tells everyone that she helped me start this amazing new career. 

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the book community, chatting to other writers and most of all, the brilliant readers who pick up my books, read them and then tell their friends and family. I love talking to other book lovers and it inspires me to write more books. I always say that writing a review of a book you love is like handing the author a rainbow.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the sequel for my book, The Little Ice Cream Shop by the Sea. I am really enjoying all of the shenanigans between the pages and revisiting some of my favourite characters.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Woman Who Felt Invisible?

I hope that the story makes my readers smile, as this is why I write books. I like to feel as if a good book can give us a big hug. It’s about knowing we aren’t alone and bringing some sunshine into our hectic lives.

Oh, I love that – thanks Lizzie.

About the book

A gorgeous romantic story of love and new beginnings. Learning to love herself and be content on her own is the first step. But will Olivia be able to leave her past behind, follow her heart and find lasting happiness? A read full of humour, romance and tear-jerking reality, from international bestselling author, Lizzie Chantree.

Have you ever felt invisible? 

Working as a stationery supervisor and a sitter to a pair of internet famous, delinquent dogs, wasn’t how former cyber-specialist, Olivia, imagined her life turning out. 

Working in a tiny cubicle with a decrepit computer and being overlooked had suited her for a while, but now she’s fed up, lonely and determined to make the world ‘see’ her again. 

Old school friend, Darius, wants to fill Olivia’s days with romance, but their love of technology has taken them on very different paths. 

Gorgeous undercover policeman Gabe, is steadfast in finding out if Olivia was part of an online scam, but something doesn’t feel right and he suspects someone else was manipulating her life. 

Can love blossom from the most deceptive of starts? And can someone who feels lost, find a way to flourish against all odds?

Where you can buy it

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon CA

An excerpt from the book

This was it. This was Olivia Tenby’s life, now. This was how low she had come. At the age of forty-one, she was sweating her guts out in a house that felt like a furnace, babysitting two delinquent Labradoodle dogs called Bertie and Belle, while their owners swanned around getting even richer somewhere else. Wiping her palms across her face, feeling glad she’d discarded her top so that she couldn’t drip on it, she pressed a button. Music blared out of speakers set into the ceiling. This house had everything – lights that came on when you spoke to them, a vacuum cleaner that tripped you over while it scurried along the floor of its own accord, and a fridge that dispensed perfectly shaped ice cubes into crystal glasses.

Olivia looked around furtively for a moment, and then laughed and decided to go for it. Her job as dog sitter extraordinaire had begun two weeks ago. She’d been told to entertain the excitable animals in any way she could think of, as they were naughty and destroyed everything while the owners were out – which they always were. Olivia hadn’t even met them, which was baffling. They left her notes with instructions on how to stop the dogs eating the walls and making a mess of the thick pile carpets. She actually quite liked the job, it was as easy as walking in a straight line. Then she thought about how wobbly she always was after three vodka and cokes, and quickly pushed that picture aside. The dogs were bored and, although her job included giving the house a cursory swipe with a duster, it was always immaculate when she arrived. Something was a bit weird, though, as the place was incredibly hot. The dogs liked to slobber all over her, making her even hotter. So she’d taken to stripping off as soon as she sat down with the pooches, otherwise she’d probably pass out and be found weeks later, mummified in dog hair.

About Lizzie

Author photo
Lizzie has long blonde wavy hair and dark eyes. She is smiling and holding a mug. She is wearing a black top and has pink nail polish on.

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Follow Lizzie

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Facebook Group | Pinterest | Goodreads | BookBub | YouTube | LinkedIn

Congratulations again, Lizzie, and all the best for your latest release!

Recap of The Bachelorette with Guest Blogger Anastasia Blabbergasted

What an absolute delight it is to welcome Anastasia Blabbergasted to Off the Beaten Track today. Those of you who have read The Dating Game will be familiar with Anastasia and for everyone else, Anastasia is well-known across the UK for writing witty recaps of reality TV shows for the online magazine, Feed Your Mind.

Welcome, Anastasia, and over to you!

Cast of The Bachelorette - 8 women and 8 men vying for Brooke, who is a 26-year old Indigenous woman centre of group, wearing a black gown.
Image from 10Play

Well, thank you, Sandy, and what an absolute treat to be invited back Down Under for another season of ‘love amongst the film crew’ – only instead of The Stag, this time I’ll be recapping The Bachelorette! Now for those who aren’t familiar, The Bachelorette riffs on the tried and tested format of The Stag, swapping out Pin Rituals for Rose Ceremonies, the Manor for a Mansion and Soirées for Cocktail Parties, but you get the gist. It’s a ‘reality’ show where one unlucky person seeks love amongst desperate, hopeless, attention-seeking hopeful contestants.

And this season’s Bachelorette (Bachina?) is attracted to both men and women, so we have eight of each – how fabulous!

Aside: With eight women in the Mansion who are attracted to women, will we see love amongst the contestants? I’m no mathematician but one Bachelorette divided by 16 contestants equals 15 disappointments (or a lot of blood and gore but this is a TV show, not a slasher movie). Or does it? Perhaps we will see some pairings amongst the cast offs. Isn’t that how Jamie-Lee ended up on this season – but let’s come back to that later.

We commence the season with our host, Osher (rhymes with Posher – and really, what is posher than an enormous velvet bowtie? No really … did he borrow it from his grandfather? I mean, I’m into retro fashion too, but I draw the line at wearing my nana’s bloomers), speaking ominously to camera as though he’s delivering a report on climate change. Oh dear. Perhaps he left all his enthusiasm in the Masked Singer studio. Come on Osher, buck up, it can’t be that bad. Surely, they are paying you a mint to wander about the Mansion casting forlorn looks and speaking in hushed tones.

We are so relieved when bubbly Bachina Brooke shows up that we immediately forgive that horrendous ‘Alexis Carrington called – she wants her gown back’ dress. No seriously, she’s 26 for crying out loud. Iris Apfel’s outfits are more youthful than this debacle. And please don’t get me started on the gloves! Does Halloween come early in Australia?

(Aside for Gen Y and Z readers: Alexis Carrington is a character from Dynasty, a night-time soap from the 80s, and she is an icon of 80s fashion for middle aged women of means. Go ahead and Google her. I’ll wait.)

Moving on!

The set is rather lovely with all those trellises covered in faux blooms – someone on the crew must be handy with a glue gun – and outdoor illumination that would make West End lighting designer proud. And aren’t the producers getting their money’s worth out of that drone! There are so many fly-over shots, I’m getting vertigo. Must be a b-i-t-c-h for the sound editors though.

A serious moment to acknowledge the beautiful Welcome to Country, with this recapper reaching for the tissues faster than you can say, ‘This show is sponsored by Kleenex.’ Truly extraordinary.

And now it’s time for our contestants to walk the red carpet. Aside: those ‘insider’ shots from the limousines are hysterical. Did they script those or are our contestants just well versed in awkward patter while holding aloft a bizarre prop and trying not to come across as desperate, bitchy or a bit of a muppet? I wonder.

A few standouts on the red carpet:

Bombshell Holly – honestly, I adore anyone who can slow dance like that and it looks like I’m not the only one. Brooke nearly called a halt to the whole proceedings. ‘Stop the show, I wanna get off … with Holly!’ Well done to the producers for trotting her out first!

Speaking of trotting … Emily shows up with a horse! Albeit a teeny one, but oh how I wish we’d seen the inside of her limo ride. How do you get a (teeny) horse into a limousine? More to the point, how do you get it out!

Carissa brings another tear to my eye – though I’m not sure if it’s her earnestness or concerns about how close we are to shifting from a PG to an R rating. Just one itty bitty sneeze and (literally) all will be revealed. Thank god those aren’t real flowers! Let’s just hope she’s not allergic to horses!

Darvid rolls up on a mower. I’m fairly certain the grass is as faux as the flowers, lovey, but you do you. And then they have tea! Zzzzzz. Oh, sorry – dozed off for a moment there. I’d love to know why the producers have turned the meet and greet into a parade of mini dates. Just imagine how many times those limousines are having to lap that circular driveway. No wonder Jess is tetchy. One bump in the road driveway and she’ll sprinkle that black velvet with icing sugar.

Aside: I wondered why anyone would bring a plate of brownies to the red carpet, but with Brooke sitting down to tea and building furniture while the others drive round in circles waiting for their turn, it was actually a spark of genius for Jess to bring a snack.

I’ve lost count by the time we get to the last man, but I think 7 out of 8 are carpenters. Very handy for when those trellises start to buckle under the weight of dried glue and silk flowers.

And I don’t often choose favourites – all right, I do – but I absolutely adore Konrad and here are the reasons why:

  • He’s ridiculously handsome in that boy-band-of-the-90s meets male model way
  • His million-watt smile could light up the Mansion should there be a power outage
  • No other man in the history of the world has ever made high visibility wear look so good (honestly, you could pop a fluorescent orange vest on Chris Hemsworth and even he wouldn’t be as gorgeous as Konrad)
  • He’s a perfect gentleman when Jess (in a totally cowish move) usurps his plan for the inaugural sitting on the love seat
  • He ridiculously handsome (have I already mentioned that?)

Beau – This poor chap is hilarious but, unfortunately, not on purpose. The only way he could be more narcissistic is if he showed up with a cardboard cut-out of himself as a gift to Brooke. It’s too bad he didn’t, as it would have had far more depth than he has. Fairly certain he won’t be around for long, which is a shame. Every season needs a buffoon – so entertaining.

The final standout on the red carpet would have to be Jamie-Lee – former contestant on The Bachelor, former Brooke bestie (though only distanced, not estranged) and former (potential) crush. No guessing who the plant is this season – plant as in ‘deliberately cast to ruffle feathers’ rather than foliage, though there is an awful lot of that, as I’ve mentioned.

And I’m (not) sorry, but her note to Brooke sounded like she was reading out bumper stickers while driving along the motor way. But you just be true to yourself and have faith in the universe, Jamie-Lee. You deserve every happiness – natch.

And then onto the Cocktail Party, which reminds me of Christmas lunch with the family – the menfolk huddled around the fire while the woman do all the work. There’s so much collective terror in their eyes, they look like fourteen-year-olds at a school dance. Meanwhile, the women are as bolshie as and line up to sweep Brooke off her feet faster than any of the men think to say, ‘Sorry to interrupt, but …’

The tete-a-tetes unfold in a series of handholding and relocating, each new pairing off to explore a different part of the garden as though we’re having a guided tour of the Chelsea Flower Show. The men eventually grow some … er … courage and some time around 3:00am (my best guestimate), the assembled hopefuls set down their (hideous) red and green champagne flutes (seriously, where did the producers get those? The £2 Shop’s post-Christmas sale?), and head to the Rose Ceremony.

Ah, yes, the Rose Ceremony – just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be a faux flower left in all of Australia, this set will set you straight. It looks like a showroom at a funeral home.

Our contestants assemble in rows, as though readying for their class photograph, while Darvid of the ride-on mower holds aloft the ‘First Impression’ rose and tries to not to look smug. One by one, the producers whisper names in Brooke’s earpiece and with only a few hours to get to know the rest of the cast, she does a stellar job of remembering which one goes with which person. Finally, there is one man standing and we say goodbye to Johann – though, not a total loss as we still have six carpenters left.

So! At this early stage, who are the frontrunners for ‘Bride’ or ‘Groom’? I do think Jamie-Lee is one to watch, though she may have peaked too early by snatching that kiss at the Cocktail Party and she’s already showing signs of ‘jealous girlfriend’ with all those side-eyes at the others. Darvid is also an early front runner, but a sneak-peak at Episode 2 reveals an almost unforgiveable wardrobe choice – a 70s style turtleneck – ghastly.

So, I’d have to say Holly. She seems as smitten as Brooke and no doubt, she’s already choregraphing the bridal waltz when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Catching up (again) with Author Fiona Leitch

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for the wonderful book, Falling in Louvre by a favourite author (and person), Fiona Leitch.

Book Cover: A Parisian street with two people kissing on a balcony and the Eiffel Tower in the background. Through a window across the way, there is the Mona Lisa.

Tell us what inspired you to write Falling in Louvre?

Back in 2016, there were huge floods in Paris. The Seine burst its banks, Metro lines were closed after tunnels flooded, and the basement storage area of the Louvre also ended up under water. In order to protect the artefacts stored in the basement, the Louvre was closed and everything moved onto higher floors. I thought, what a fantastic time for an art heist! While everything is topsy turvy! I was working as a cleaner at the time, and I liked the idea of someone who was constantly underestimated and almost invisible being responsible for a massive art theft (which the Netflix show Lupin has done brilliantly since). But I also wanted them to be sympathetic, to not be your usual criminals, and so I decided to tie it in with a love story. Plus I’d been to Paris the year before, and it’s such an atmospheric city – no wonder so many stories are set there! I wanted to use some of the less well known parts of the city.

What do you hope readers will take away from Falling in Louvre?

I hope they fall in love with Sylvie and Philippe, as well as Paris. I hope they see as well that no problem is insurmountable, but you can’t always do it on your own and there’s no shame in asking for help.

What’s your most recent read that you’d like to recommend?

I recently read Richard Osman’s debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, and loved it. Great to see some older characters take centre stage, and not all be doddery old dears! I love the gentle humour and the twisty plot too. Plus I’ve lived in some of the places in the book, which was nice.

What has been your author highlight over the past year?

There have been several! Probably the first three books in my cosy mystery series being released, and signing a contract for three more. And co-writing something completely different with you, Sandy!

What are you working on now?

The next three books in the Nosey Parker series – editing number 4, writing number 5, and planning number 6! I also have another, very different, completely standalone novel set in New Zealand that I want to write.

Blurb for Falling in Louvre

Bertrand is King of the Pigeons…

Unofficially. From his perch atop a gargoyle on Notre Dame cathedral, he surveys his kingdom. He sees Sylvie Cloutier, art lover and ex-antiques dealer, making dinner for her bullying husband Henri, trapped in their loveless marriage like a bird in a gilded cage. He sees security guard, hopeless romantic and bookworm Philippe Moreau cycling through the streets of Paris in his crumpled uniform, late (again) for his night shift at the museum.

When Sylvie begs her husband to let her go to work, he gets her a job as an evening cleaner at the Louvre. He thinks such a menial position will dispel any ideas about independence she might have, but his plan backfires when she falls in love with kind, gentle Philippe. They decide to run away together, but there’s a major problem: neither of them has any money.

One stormy night in the Louvre, the answer to their prayers falls into their lap… But is it really the solution, or just another, even bigger problem?

What follows is a romantic, wistful but madcap adventure through (and under) the city of lights, involving a stolen painting, an art heist in reverse, and Eric Cantona. Will love find a way?

My review of Falling in Louvre

This is a wonderfully written book, with moments of humour, a slow-burn romance, and a deep dive into an important issue all wrapped up in a heist. Terrific mashup from the Queen of Mashups – highly recommended for romance readers, cosy mystery readers, and those who want to read something special.

Where to get it

All online bookstores: mybook.to/Louvre

More about Fiona

Author Fiona Leitch. A middle-aged blonde woman with shoulder length hair and dark rimmed glasses and a pink-lipsticked smile.

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Follow Fiona

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Great to have you on Off the Beaten track, Fiona. I loved Falling in Louvre and no doubt your readers will love it too.

Publication Day for The Dating Game!

Today is publication day for my 5th book, The Dating Game! You can read about my inspiration for the book here and today I thought I would share the acknowledgements. It always takes ‘a village’ to publish a book and this one was no exception.

The Dating Game Acknowledgements

As we all know, 2020 was an incredibly trying year across the world (and 2021 has already had its challenges too), but something that came from that difficult time – when my home city of Melbourne was strictly locked down for the better part of the year – was this book.

The idea came from a sweepstake at work. The Bachelor (or Bachie, as we call it in Australia) was starting and for some mid-pandemic light relief, my colleagues created a sweepstake, with the pot going to whoever drew the winning Bachelorette. To add to the experience, I started writing recaps of each episode – snarky, funny recaps – which I would post in our group chat the morning after each episode aired.

I mentioned the recaps to a close author friend, Andie Newton, one of my fellow Renegades. She asked to read one and immediately replied with, ‘This needs to be a book.’ I couldn’t imagine how a recap could turn into a book, but she came back with, ‘Write the story about the woman who writes the recaps.’ Genius. I bounced ideas off her and the other Renegades, Nina Kaye and Fiona Leitch, sent a sample chapter to my agent, Lina Langlee, and we pitched it to my editor at One More Chapter. Once I had the ‘thumbs up’ from my publisher, I researched, researched, researched – meaning I watched every episode of The Bachelor and continued to write my recaps. When the season was over, I sat down and wrote this book.

An enormous thank you, Andie, for sparking the original idea and for being a brilliant sounding board in the planning stages. For a historical fiction author, you certainly have excellent ideas for romcoms. Thank you also to Nina and Fi, who have been right there with me throughout the entire authoring process and particularly for answering my endless ‘Does this sound British enough?’ questions. And thank you to Fi and Andie for being early readers and giving me (incredibly) helpful feedback.

Thank you also to my lovely colleagues (and work friends) who ran the sweepstake, LOLed at my recaps (which spurred me on), and encouraged me, especially Carla, Natalie, Amanda, Dee, Shileen, Sam, and Keely.

A huge shout out to my wonderful editors. Hannah Todd was still at One More Chapter when we pitched this book. Hannah, thank you for advocating for me and The Dating Game – I so appreciate it – and thank you for all I learnt from you while working on my first four books.

To Jennie Rothwell, although you are new to One More Chapter, I already know that we are going to be a great team. Your inciteful feedback and your vision for this book have elevated my writing and I so look forward to working with you on my next books with One More Chapter. And speaking of … thank you so much to the incredibly hard-working team at One More Chapter, especially Charlotte Ledger and Bethan Morgan for being champions of my writing and for working so hard through the toughest of times.

A big thank you to my (fabulous, talented, and dedicated) agent, Lina Langlee of The North Literary Agency. I so appreciate the leap of faith you took with me on this book, and your early feedback was instrumental in setting me up for success. And another big thank you to Julie Fergusson, also of The North, who stepped in while Lina was on maternity leave. Thank you for your expert guidance and unwavering support to help me get this book across the line.

As always, I am grateful to my fellow authors for their support, their empathy, their trust, and their inspiring work. It is an honour and a privilege to be part of your community and I am constantly in awe of how generous you are and of your incredible work. A special mention and thank you to the volunteers who run our associations, the Romance Novelists Association (UK) and the Romance Writers Association (AU) for continuing to support and elevate the Romance genre. And thank you to my fellow #AusWrites-ers and #6amAusWrites-ers – I love our catchups on the socials and sometimes even in person!

A special thank you to Julie Houston, who provided the cover quote for this book. Julie, I admire you as a writer, but also as a person – you are so generous, thoughtful, and talented. Thank you for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to read my book. It means the world to me that you loved it.

And when I cheekily asked some other fellow romance authors if they’d like to do an early read, they all said yes! Thank you, Jessica Redland, Katie Ginger, Lucy Knott (and Kelly too), Rachael Stewart, Nikki Moore, Kiley Dunbar, and debut novelist and writing community maven, Anita Faulkner. I am also grateful to belong to the incredibly supportive (and aptly named) Author Support Network.

Thank you also to the reading and reviewing community – the bloggers, podcasters, and reviewers who generously share their thoughts on reading and books – especially to the community of Chick Lit and Prosecco (particularly for supporting my cover reveal and the lead up to publication day); the Australian Romance Readers Association (particularly you, Debbie, for all your incredible work); Australian Book Lovers (Darren and Veronica) who have generously hosted me on their podcast twice; Kim the Bookworm (Kim Nash) for inviting me on Book Chat with Kim – you are not only a wonderful author in your own right, but a terrific supporter of our community; and to the Australian Writers Centre for hosting me on their podcast, ‘So You Want to Be a Writer?’ (thank you, Valerie and Allison). And I have worked with the wonderful Rachel Gilbey several times – Rachel, it is a pleasure to work with you and thank you for all you do to organise such incredible book blog tours.

I always rely heavily on the support of my close friends and family, and my partner, Ben, to get through each stage of launching a book – from conception to publication and beyond. Ben, thank you for understanding that even minor milestones should be celebrated (and usually with bubbles). Thank you to my sis, Victoria, my mum, Lee, and dear friends, Lindsey, Jen, and Kate, for being early readers of this book and supporting and encouraging me. Thank you to the best, most supportive and loving parents and family a woman could ask for – your unwavering support is such a large part of why I get to do this wondrous thing, be an author. A special shout out to my Aunties, Linda, Candyce, Fran, Carmel, Karen, and Jenny – and especially my Great Aunt Joan. I am so fortunate to have such incredible role models in my life.

And lastly, thank you, dear reader, for coming on this fun and fabulous journey with me, Abby, and the gang. I hope you had a blast!

Out now in ebook and print to come on December 9. Buy links can be found here.