Cover Reveal for my next book The Dating Game

Today I am sharing the cover of my next book, The Dating Game!

This is a standalone set in the world of Reality Television and here’s the blurb:

Abby Jones has a secret identity …

She is the Anastasia Blabbergasted, Queen of Snark and illustrious recapper of British reality television shows for online magazine, Feed Your Mind. When a recap of reality dating show, The Stag, goes viral, the show’s producers practically insist that she joins next season’s cast, undercover as a Doe – won’t that make her recaps all the spicier! Abby’s editor is all for the idea, but Abby can’t think of anything worse – even though next season is filming in Sydney!

That is until Abby meets scrummy Australian, Jack – rescuer from murderous elevator doors and the producer of the show.

Join Abby and the latest cast of The Stag for madcap fun and romantic adventures in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

And here’s the gorgeous cover!

Cover of The Dating Game by Sandy Barker
A man and a woman sitting on side by side sun-loungers drinking cocktails

Told ya, it was gorgeous! With huge thanks to my editor, Jennie Rothwell, for the concept and to the cover artist, the brilliant Lucy Bennett.

It’s out September 10 (ebook) and December 9 (print) and you can preorder now!

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon CA

Kobo | iBooks | Google Play | Nook

Waterstones | Foyles

Publication Day for Leonie Mack

Huge congrats to Leonie Mack on the publication of Italy Ever After. I was fortunate enough to get an early read and absolutely LOVED this book – it’s romantic and whimsical and is set in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, Northern Italy. To celebrate the occasion, I asked Leonie a few questions about writing the book and about her author life.

Cover of book Italy Ever After. Man and woman riding scooter along coast of Lake Garda in Italy.

Tell us what inspired you to write Italy Ever After?

As with most of my ideas, it started with the setting and the character dynamic. I had the idea for a romance between a divorced mum and her daughter’s teacher. The music camp setting allowed them to get to know each other in close confines (while having a lovely summer holiday) and then the characters exploded from there.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing with a serious intent to publish about three years ago, although I’ve always written as a hobby and finished my first experimental novels in my early twenties. It took me more than ten years to realise I had to put in a bit of hard work if I wanted to make something from it! My first book, My Christmas Number One, came out last year and now I have two coming out in 2021 and another already contracted to my publisher for 2022!

What do you love most about being an author?

I love spending my days in amazing places with my characters. I love dreaming up people and crafting situations that bring that satisfying tension. And I love that moment when the book is getting really complex and I feel like I have a universe in my brain.

What are you working on now?

It’s very exciting. My next two books are a little series set in Venice, so I have spent winter (virtually) on the canals, watching glassblowers, going to a ball for Carnevale and eating lots of delicious fish and fried pastries. One day we’ll all be able to go there for real!

What do you hope readers will take away from Italy Ever After?

I want readers to feel like they’ve been on a holiday to Italy with their best girlfriend and a handsome love interest!

More about the book

TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

Where you can get it

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Google Play

More about Leonie

Smiling woman in her 20s or 30s with long brown hair and brown eyes

Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.

Follow Leonie

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks for visiting Off the Beaten Track, Leonie and all the best with Italy Ever After.

Cover Reveal for Lucy Knott

Very excited to be part of the cover reveal for the next book by the fabulous Lucy Knott, The Little Barn of Dreams.

Book Cover: Woman reading a book in front of a bar on a farm; dog and stack of books in the foreground

About the book

Boy meets girl meets… happy ending? Flo has one summer to make it happen…

Quirky bookworm Florence Danver spends most of her time lost in whimsical daydreams about characters from her favourite books. Who wouldn’t rather be fighting dragons or falling in love with impossibly perfect heroes than stuck behind a computer doing boring data entry all day? But when she loses her job, Flo knows it’s time to make some changes.

Her beloved Nanna Margot encourages her to spend a week at Camp Calla Lily, but this is a place she hasn’t been since she lost her mum and dad, and her return is bittersweet… until she meets Jo Hadlee.

Fellow dreamer Jo is a writer and soon the pair are inseparable as they talk books and build castles in the air. But what happens when the fantasy bubble bursts and real life comes roaring back in? The real world is a place of pain and loss where bosses frown upon her distracted air, where people tease her, and where nothing ever has a happy ending.

If Florence wants to turn her fairy-tale summer with perfectly imperfect Jo into a happily-ever-after of her own, she will have to accept that love, like life, is best when it’s messy and very, very real.

Release date: July 8 (ebook) & October 14 (print)

Pre-order now:

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

About Lucy

Lucy Knott lives in Manchester England, just around the corner from her childhood home and less than five minutes from her twin sister Kelly and brother-in-law Chris. She loves spending time with her family in addition to writing, reading and cooking Italian food. When not buried in a book, scribbling in a notebook or having dance parties for one to Harry Styles, she works as a teaching assistant where the majority of her days are spent talking about dinosaurs and making Godzilla out of just about everything, from Blu Tac to cardboard boxes, and she loves every minute.

If she could up and move to the stunning Amalfi Coast, San Francisco or live in a cabin surrounded by fairy lights, she would, but for now she’s quite content writing about those magical places. Lucy loves to write uplifting stories that she hopes will put a smile on your face, fill your heart with joy, encourage you to embrace the awesomeness that you are and believe that any dream is possible.

Follow Lucy (and Kelly)

Twitter | Instagram | Website

Catching up with Author Kate Smith

A very happy publication day to debut author, Kate Smith, and thank you very much for having me on your blog tour for You’ve Got Mail!

Cover of You've Got Mail, a man and a woman. The woman is holding a phone,

Tell us what inspired you to write You’ve Got Mail?

It was the idea of receiving an anonymous email that sparked the premise of You’ve Got Mail. And the story blossomed from that. I love the romantic story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the writing of love letters anonymously, the pretence of being someone else. So, I toyed with the idea in my head of what would happen if, instead of wooing people anonymously, my main character dumped them instead.

When did you start writing seriously?

I was thirty, had just had my daughter and become a single mum, and I needed an outlet. I wrote a romcom that will never see the light of day (thankfully) and I found the whole process really cathartic. I could give my characters the happily ever after that I was craving in real life, I guess. I had an agent read it and say she loved my style of writing but that the story didn’t have a ‘hook’ so I went away and started on a new project that ended up being You’ve Got Mail.

I work part time as a therapist in social care, so between that and looking after my daughter there’s not a lot of time for writing. But I make sure I give it as much priority as I can.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love getting to know my characters. They tend to have a life of their own and often I find that I’m veering away from my (very loose) plan because they’re having none of it! I also love the hope and joy that writing romance brings. I know that whatever my characters have to deal with they will come out of it with their own happily ever after, and this is comforting for me.

And, especially at the moment as a front-line worker, I love being able to completely switch off from the real world and immerse myself in pure romantic fantasy.  

What are you working on now?

My deal with Orion Dash was a two-book deal, and I have just sent my second romcom manuscript to my agent and editor. So, while I wait for the feedback on that one (I’m not sure I can give you any more details yet) I am finishing up a third romcom manuscript I started during lockdown 1.0! Watch this space!

What do you hope readers will take away from You’ve Got Mail?

I would love readers to grow with Gracey, my main character. To be with her on her journey of discovery as she learns she’s more than the sum of what others think of her. But mostly, I would love readers to enjoy the book and the escape it hopefully provides; with a little laughter along the way.

This sounds fabulous. Here’s more about the book:

It’s been fun, but I think we should stop seeing each other. Thanks for a great laugh x

When Grace Wharton is dumped by email from a relationship she isn’t even in, she adds it to the list of ways her life hasn’t quite panned out: twenty-five, single, and working a dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy. She fires off an angry response to Mr Obnoxious – how dare he try to dump someone over email?! – knowing that telling off a random stranger online means she has reached an all-time low.

Everything changes when her boss asks her to go to a big sales conference to secure an important client. Her partner is Jack Lockett, company Casanova and Grace’s long-time crush. What’s more, he seems very interested… But Mr Obnoxious keeps sending her emails and Grace keeps replying. Only to make sure he doesn’t send any more heart-breaking emails, obviously.

Grace’s life has suddenly gone from stagnant to brimming with possibilities. But is it all too good to be true?

A witty, charming and all too relatable debut romcom, You’ve Got Mail is perfect for fans of Sophie Ranald, Mhairi McFarlane and Joanna Bolouri.

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Kate:

Kate Smith smiling woman seated in a garden

Kate Galloway Smith is a writer, editor, and an HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Kate can be found writing romantic comedies in Norwich, where she lives with her daughter and their cat and an increasing number of house plants.

You’ve Got Mail is her debut.

Catching up with Author Davina Stone

I am very excited to welcome Davina Stone to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as it is publication day for her debut novel, The Alice Equation! I have been fortunate to read an early copy and absolutely loved it. Here’s my review on Goodreads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Alice Equation?

I love the idea of how love can change us, make us a better version of ourselves. So it started with Alice, the painfully shy bookworm and her unrequited love for her charming but womanising friend, Aaron. And it grew from there. In fact it went through a complete rewrite before either Alice or Aaron (particularly Aaron, he kept behaving very badly), were ready to be introduced to the world!

When did you start writing seriously? 

I’ve always written stories and I won a prize in a young writers competition with a novel I wrote when I was twelve. (Painstakingly hand-written it was called Grandpapa’s Secret, and was all rather “gothic”  if I remember rightly.) But I can pin-point when it became serious. I was diagnosed with a large hole in the heart four years ago. I had to undergo open heart surgery and that was a wake-up call that life is short and we need to live our dreams. I’d always wanted to write romance so I closed my health counselling business, my husband and I moved  away from the city to a bush block near Margaret River and I focussed “whole-heartedly” on my goal of becoming a writer.

What do you love most about being an author? 

The wonderful quirky characters my mind comes up with. I love sending them out to play, watching them tie themselves – and each other – in knots, then helping them fathom out how to get to their Happily Ever After. When you write romance the world you build is a world of emotion and the five senses. Nothing is more intense than truly falling in love. And that’s probably what I  enjoy about it most of all.

What are you working on now? 

I’ve just finished the second book in the series, about Alice’s best friend, Polly. It’s more enemies to lovers, because Polly is very feisty, and Solo her love interest, well, let’s just say he’s got some secrets in his past he’s running from. The Polly Principle will release in April 2021. And I’m now working on the third book, The Felicity Theory which is set in London and Sydney, two of my favourite cities.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Alice Equation?

I hope it leaves a smile on their face. It may sound a very simple goal, but I really just want to write stories that make people happy. Because we need a whole heap more happiness in the world right now, and I reckon writing romances is the best way I can contribute to that.

About Davina

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.

Davina’s short stories have been published in five Romance Writers of Australia anthologies. Her first novel, The Alice Equation was a finalist in the 2020 Valerie Parv Awards. Her second novel, The Polly Principle (release April 2021), took second place in The Romance Writers of Australia 2020 Ripping Start Competition.

Follow Davina

Facebook | Instagram | Website

More about The Alice Equation

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party – hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious – but conservative – law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast – and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about.

Author confession: Okay, things do get a bit hotter than kissing. Heat level: 3–4 sizzling flames.

Where can you get The Alice Equation?

Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Books2Read

Cover Reveal: The Christmas Swap

So, the cat has been out of the proverbial bag for a while, but today is the official cover reveal for The Christmas Swap my next novel with One More Chapter.

And here it is!

The Christmas Swap

Yes, I love it too. 😉

I had so much fun writing this book. Here’s the blurb:

Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.

Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams.

And here’s an excerpt from my acknowledgements:

It’s hard to believe I am writing the acknowledgements for my fourth book, but here I am. I have dedicated this book to my parents―my mum, Lee, my dad, Ray, and my step-mum, Gail. I am extremely fortunate to have parents who not only love me, but champion me and inspire me. They have also instilled in me the importance of family―including the family members we choose―as well as having a sense of adventure and following your dreams.

Family is a prominent theme in this book and as I write these acknowledgements amid the second round of COVID-19 lockdowns here in Melbourne, ‘family’ has become more important to me now than ever. And for me, a person who has lived on three continents, that word encompasses all the people I love, all the people who inspire me, lift me up, confide in me, and ease my path. Thank you, family―wherever you are. Stay safe and we will meet again someday soon.

Preorder now! Out October 16 (ebook) and November 26 (print)

Amazon AU | Amazon UK| Amazon US | Kobo | Dymocks(AU) | Booktopia(AU) | A&R(AU) | Waterstones(UK) | Foyles(UK)

Why Schitt’s Creek is the perfect TV show

I have a confession. I came very late to the Schitt’s Creek party, but in doing so, it has proven to be the perfect isolation viewing―and I consumed all six seasons in a matter of months. It was like molten chocolate for my brain.

schitts_creek_cast

But that’s not what this blog post is about.

Schitt’s Creek is the perfect TV show for a romantic comedy author, and here’s why…

[SPOILER ALERT: I will be as judicious with spoilers as possible, but if you hate them entirely, stop reading now.]

Character arcs

Having devoured the entire series over a short period of time―seriously, how did early adopters wait out those long periods of no new episodes for the past 6 years?―the character arcs were heightened for me.

When we meet the Roses, they have just lost their billion-dollar empire to a Ponzi scheme and when they realise they ‘bought’ a town in the middle of nowhere on a lark―just because the name was funny―Schitt’s Creek―they move there. They take up residence in two adjacent motel rooms, parents in one and adult children in the other, as though they are not in their late-20s and early-30s.

The Roses are spoilt, entitled, vacuous, and completely unlikeable―fish out of water in the most perfect, beautiful way.

What ensues over the course of 6 seasons is an unveiling of humility, humanity, and tight familial bonds. And, as a viewer, you come to love them all.

I posted recently about ‘Writing the Unlikeable Character‘ and there are two factors that are key in winning over the reader or viewer.

First, the character―initially repellent―must transform. They must self-reflect, learn lessons, and decide they want to be a better person.

Second, we must see the character’s vulnerabilities, their motivations and objectives, the backstory that explains why they are the way they are. It’s the chinks in the armour that that endear these characters to us as readers or viewers.

Schitt’s Creek accomplishes this perfectly.

I cried so many times watching this show, but here are some fave moments of vulnerability.

  • Moira and the Jazzagals singing unexpectedly at Alexis graduation
  • Johnny seeing how hurt Stevie is by the travelling Lothario and treating her just like he’d treat his own daughter
  • Patrick singing ‘You’re Simply the Best’ to David and tears streaming down David’s face
  • Alexis and Ted’s ‘I love you’ dinner at the cafe in Season 6

The final episode of the series had me weeping. I loved these characters entirely and I championed their happiness.

Character arcs―booyah! This show is like a masterclass.

Comedy

I love a good ensemble, character-driven comedy (Brooklyn 99 is a fave) but (for me) what sets this show apart from others is that all four lead actors―and many of the supporting actors―are, quite simply, comic geniuses.

Their skills as actors lead to authentic comedy. There aren’t snazzy rim-shot one-liners, there’s no need for a laugh track. It is just hilarious. I laughed aloud―like a proper, throw my head back laugh―every episode.

The comedy in Schitt’s Creek comes from the whole (character) self―the vocal tones and intonations, the facial expressions, the gestures and postures, the pauses―as much as it comes from the lines.

Though the lines are brilliant.

David to Moira after she is insensitive to Alexis’ break-up: “I have never heard someone say so many wrong things one after the other, [pause] consecutively, [pause] in a row.” You can get that quote on a T-shirt. But what makes the line is the pause Daniel Levy (as David) incredulously takes before he says it, the pauses in the line to drive home David’s meaning, and the horror on his face. Genius.

Catherine O’Hara’s Moira is incredibly funnyher appearance, her dialogue, her gait, the intonation of her bizarre affected accent. There’s a whole compilation on YouTube of every time she says ‘baby‘. I laugh when she appears on screen, girding my comic loins for whatever is to come.

Moira

And Alexis’ posture, gestures and facial expressions, Johnny’s raised eyebrows and confused smileall of these comic nuggets is a masterclass in developing a fully-fleshed-out comedic character.

As a writer of romcoms, I aim to pepper my stories with authentic comedy―the humour coming from the ridiculous real-life situations that make us laugh at ourselves, either in the moment or in retrospect. And I can enhance comedic moments by hitting on all the details that make them up, not just the dialogue―just like in Schitt’s Creek.

Romance

Romantic love is one of the dominant themes in Schitt’s Creek.

At the heart of the show is the great love affair of Johnny and Moira―forty years and counting―and every time Moira mentions how they met, or remembers a romantic interlude, her eyes sparkle.

And, surely, only someone who is completely in love with Moira would be as patient and loving towards her as Johnny is. Moira tells Alexis, when she’s facing a love conundrum, that she and Johnny work so well despite their differences, because they want the best for each other and they love and respect each other. Swoon.

[Major spoiler]Patrick is the perfect love interest for David. Their love story is so romantic, so genuine, that when David doubted he was worthy of Patrick’s love, I wanted to reach into the TV and shake him. These are two people who truly see each other, and they are both better people for the love they share. Swoon.

first kiss_0

[Major spoiler]Watching Alexis fall in love was like watching a toddler take their first steps. Her relationship with Ted begins superficially―he’s the hottest guy in town, so ‘obvs’ she is going to pair up with him. It’s only when she loses him that she realises how kind, thoughtful, generous and incredible he is. When she gets a second chance, she does everything she can not to screw it up―including agreeing to live overseas in a tent―and ultimately realises that she loves him enough to let him go. Selfless, real, and heartbreaking love. Swoon and sob.

Even Roland and Jocelyn are madly in love, which provides it’s own comedy, because, really, Jocelyn? Roland???

At some point (probably soon, as we have just gone into our second lockdown here in Melbourne) I will start at the beginning and watch it all again―this time with fresh eyes as a masterclass in the romantic comedy genre.

 

 

 

Catching up with Author Kiley Dunbar

To, I have the great pleasure of catching up with a fabulous author who I met through UKRomChat. Like me, Kiley writes love stories set in beautiful places, exploring the themes of self discovery and love. And, also like me, she is proudly a MASSIVE Shakespeare geek (dips head to The Bard). Today, we will be chatting about her latest book, Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, the first in a new series.

Tell us what inspired you to write Summer at the Highland Coral Beach?

I spend a beautiful week in Plockton, a seaside village in the Scottish highlands, in August 2018. The whole family was there, including my kids, husband, parents and Amos the dog. We stumbled across a little bay made of white coral pieces and with turquoise blue water to rival any tropical bay. I knew as soon as I set foot on that beach I was somewhere magical and the story ideas started fizzing.

When did you start writing seriously?

Surprisingly recently. I wrote as a child and teenager but when I got to uni I stopped and focused on an academic career. So I published lots of articles and book chapters about the Victorians, suffrage campaigners and their writings, but gave up on my creative writing. The need to write kept niggling away at me until August 2017 when I couldn’t hold back any longer and I started writing One Summer’s Night which turned out to be my debut novel.

What do you love most about being an author?

I get to make people up, give them a world to inhabit, threw problems in their way, then soothe away all their sadness with love and romance. Then I get to share them with other people. What’s not to love about that!

What are you working on now?

I’m editing my fourth book, One Winter’s Night (that’s the working title anyway). It’s the sequel to my debut novel and it follows my heroine Kelsey Anderson as she stays in Stratford-upon-Avon over autumn and winter and sets up her photography studio. There’s a lot of steamy romance and festive feels in this one. It was a blast to write. (out September 2020)

What do you hope readers will take away from Summer at the Highland Coral Beach?

The message of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is that there is always sweetness after difficulties and rainbows after storms, so hold on. Things will get better.

Also, I hope readers will take away an indelible impression of my craftsman hero – the grumpy, redheaded Scot, Atholl Fergusson, who is hotter than the sun.

Blurb

Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed.

Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.

But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Pea themed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.

But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?

Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands with this utterly romantic, feelgood book; one visit to Port Willow Bay and you’ll want to come back! Fans of Sarah Morgan, Carole Matthews and Holly Martin will be captivated.

Buy links (currently on sale in all countries!)

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

More about Kiley

Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places for Hera Books.

Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her partner, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme. She’s was a ‘Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers’ finalist in 2019 with her debut novel One Summer’s Night.

Follow Kiley

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Romance Tropes Part 1: Enemies to Lovers

I was thinking about romcoms recently – films, rather than books – and I realised that some of my absolute faves are those based on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.

Boy meets girl, she thinks he’s a dick. He thinks she’s stuck up. Hilarity and, eventually, love ensue.

For this trope to work, however, those initial perceptions have to be just a little bit true – he is a bit of a dick and she is a little stuck up – but both traits are about self-preservation. As the audience or reader, we see that each character’s exterior self is a defence mechanism.

And, as we’re familiar with the trope, we just know these characters will shed those prickly layers because they’ve met the other person.

Some of the best romantic comedy films do this perfectly.

  • French Kiss (Kate and Luc)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Andie and Ben)
  • Overboard (Annie/Joanna and Dean)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Kat and Patrick)
  • Sweet Home Alabama (Melanie and Jake – also a ‘lovers reunited’ story)
  • Clueless (Cher and Josh)
  • The Proposal (Margaret and Andrew – although he’s not a dick; he’s kinda terrific, actually)

Even Harry and Sally, the main characters in a ‘friends to lovers’ story start out as enemies. He’s an arrogant dick. She’s a snooty cow. They become friends, then lovers, but this film – the perfect romantic comedy and my favourite ever – leans heavily on the ‘enemies to lover’ trope.

Engaging with the other person brings out something special in each character. Sally sees Harry’s vulnerable side, getting at the root of his arrogance, and drawing out his better self. Harry appreciates something in Sally that no one else does, and she can be her truest, best self with him.

French Kiss – definitely in my top 5 romcoms – explores the depths of the trope. Yes, it is a lighthearted comedy, but when Kate and Luc are offered (very appealing) alternatives to each other (spoiler) they realise that they have fallen in love – the uptight American and the dodgy Frenchman. And (more spoilers) if that last shot of them kissing passionately in a vineyard doesn’t warm your romantic cockles, perhaps nothing will.

In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie and Ben are unknowingly pitted against each – enemies of circumstance – yet loves conquers all. And yes, Andrew in The Proposal is an unwitting victim to Margaret’s arrogance and entitlement – so bending the trope slightly – but they are still at cross-purposes for much of the story. By pretending to be with Andrew, Margaret’s vulnerable side shines through.

Admittedly, although I love this trope, I have yet to write it.  Wait! I have an idea …

Catching up with Author Fiona Leitch

I am very excited to welcome fellow author, Fiona Leitch to my blog. Her debut book, Dead in Venice, is hands-down the funniest book I’ve read in years―I was laughing out loud on page one. It is also one of the sexiest and most gruesome! yes, you read that correctly. Dead in Venice is a romcom meets crime thriller. You can read more about the book below, but first, let’s chat to Fiona!

Tell us what inspired you to write Dead in Venice?

I’ve always been fascinated by Venice, even before I went there. I’ve always loved the sea, and the thought of a city surrounded by water just really appealed to me. When I finally visited in 2015, I fell madly in love with it. It was like every picture, every movie, every painting you’ve ever seen of Venice, only more so. Beautiful. But what really got to me was the atmosphere. It’s a city of contrasts. You’ve got the touristy areas that are absolutely rammed with people, it’s complete madness – but take a few back streets and you can soon be absolutely, utterly on your own. It’s really easy to get lost in the little passages and alleyways – even the locals get lost, because not all the streets are signposted, or the name was changed 200 years ago but everyone still uses the original name, and the house numbering is eccentric to say the least. I loved the idea of losing yourself there, not just physically but emotionally. And at night, take a wrong turn and you’ll find yourself in a dead end, with a deep dark canal blocking your way. It was easy to imagine nefarious shit going down!

When did you start writing seriously?

I first started to take it seriously 20 years ago. I wrote a sitcom pilot and sent it off to a few TV production companies in the UK – this was in the days when you could do that and they’d actually read it! I had a few meetings and phone calls, with Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick and Anne Mensah at Noel Gay (she’s now a Very Big Cheese at Sky). It all seemed to be on the verge of happening for me…and then it just didn’t. Then real life took over. I met my husband, got married and became a mum, and I didn’t write seriously again for about 14 years. I got back into it after seeing (of all things) a Marvel movie with my daughter. I’d started writing sitcoms again, low budget TV stuff, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I watched Thor and Avengers Assemble and decided I would write my own blockbuster superhero movie, just to see if I could write 90 minutes of material. And I could! I decided I was going to write movies. Dead in Venice started life as a screenplay, then a friend of mine told me they thought it would work really well as a novel. The thought of having to write all those words was terrifying, but she nagged me until I started the book and that was it – I’m hooked on writing novels now! Then Audible picked it up as one of their Crime Grant finalists and the rest, as they say…

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being able to escape, not just to different places but into different peoples’ heads. I like setting my books in exotic locations – Paris, Barcelona and Berlin to name a few – and I always like an excuse to travel. I also love writing funny female characters and getting them to say all the witty, sassy comebacks that in real life I only ever come up with two hours too late.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished novel number 4, which is the follow up to Dead in Venice, and am hoping novels 2 and 3 find a home soon! I’ve also got an ideas list as long as your arm, which I am slowly working my way through.

What do you hope readers will take away from Dead in Venice?

Without giving away any spoilers – I hope it will surprise people (I think the end twist is definitely unexpected!) and I hope it will maybe make readers ask themselves what they would do in that situation.

Here’s the blurb for Dead in Venice

AUDIBLE CRIME GRANT FINALIST 2018

Award-winning crime novelist Bella Tyson has it all: a successful career, devoted fans – and a bad case of writer’s block. So when a fan sends her a book of Venetian ghost stories and offers her the use of an apartment near Piazza San Marco, Bella jumps at the chance to get her Eat Pray Love on, consume her bodyweight in gelato and explore the atmospheric canals of Venice.

She meets Will, a mild-mannered, middle class Interpol agent working in the city, and is swept away by him. And when a series of gruesome murders occur he’s on the case – with Bella in tow.

Her writer’s block is well and truly cured, her new novel is under way, and she’s madly in love. But Bella realises that not everything in Venice is as it seems…

Praise for Dead in Venice

“Absolutely stonking book. Rom-com meets crime in such a fresh and refreshing way. Dirty laughed through half of the book and cried at the end. Amazing book.”

“Bella is the kind of heroine most women would love to be and Will the kind of man we’d love to meet. Funny, loud-mouthed, mature protagonists with flaws, curves and the kind of wit that makes Fiona Leitch’s writing reminiscent of Richard Curtis’ films.”

“Oh what fun! Hilarious and witty protagonist in one of the best cities in the world. Suspenseful and kept me hooked.”

“Ms Leitch’s light tone contrasts with the very serious subject matter, which makes it all the more emotional and powerful. It is in turn horrifying, funny, tender, hopeful, or sad. This is a courageous book, devoid of sentimentality but full of sentiment.”

“A combination of gritty crime thriller, hilarious romcom, with a splash of the heart-wrenching emotions. And it works.”

“An entertaining mash-up of romcom and crime.”

“DEAD IN VENICE made me fall in love with fiction again.”

Buy Dead in Venice 

Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US | mybook.to/DeadInVenice

Follow Fiona on socials (she’s just as much fun online as she is on the page)

Twitter | Instagram | fionaleitch.com