February is the month for lovers – especially lovers of books!

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Kat MayoHello, romantical readers!

February is the month for lovers - especially lovers of books! This month, Kresley Cole has a new erotic story out, and we'll finally get our hands on Julia Quinn's final Smyth-Smith Quartet book!

This month, the wonderful Victoria Dahl joins us in the Romance Buzz to answer our Nine Naughty Questions. Victoria will be in Australia in March for the Australian Romance Readers Conference. So if you're a fan - and why wouldn't you be?? - make sure you come along to ARRC (details below).

What I just finished: Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen, and I loved it so much I'm declaring it my book of the month!
What I'm reading now: I'm glomming some backlist Black Lace titles. There's nothing like a bit of smut to start off my reading year!

What I can't wait for:
So many books! Check out the March pre-order list for Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs and It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long - two of my autobuy authors!

If you love romance books and haven't yet registered for the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Canberra, it's not too late! If you're on a tight budget, at least consider popping by for the author signing, where you can meet some of your favourite authors, including Victoria Dahl, Sylvia Day, Kelley Armstrong, and Helene Young. You can find details here.

As in previous years, Booktopia is a proud sponsor of ARRC, so if you do come along, make sure you stop by the trade stall and say hi!

Kat Mayo

Rapacious Reader of Romance Books

Follow me on Twitter: @BookThingo

For exclusive offers, news on upcoming romance titles and general romance goss, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @LoveAtBooktopia.

Australian Romance Readers Convention

Earls Just Want to Have Fun
by Shana Galen

Kat says: Shana Galen kicks off her Covent Garden Cubs series with a Pygmalion-esque story featuring a thief and the earl who (accidentally) caught her. When Marlowe is nabbed mid-racket by a Bow Street Runner looking for a missing noble woman, Maxwell, Earl of Dane finds himself harbouring one of his brother's projects. There's nothing attractive about a screeching, smelly, sullen thief, but when Marlowe gets a makeover and attends her first ball, the very proper Earl finds himself compelled to do very improper things indeed!

I loved this story, from the moment we see Marlowe preparing for a heist, to the moment she stuffs her face when presented with more food that she sees in a month, from her first swoon-worthy waltz with Dane, to the moment he realises he can't let her go. I mean, how could you not love a heroine who ranks tea cakes above sex? (Because priorities, people!)

And as for Dane...I'm a sucker for an aristocrat hero whose world view is upended by love. His growing recognition of how much privilege he takes for granted, as he sees himself through Marlowe's eyes, is lovely to read. Fans of Regency romance can't go wrong with this book!

RRP: $15.99 $12.50 Save 22%

Flirting with Disaster / Fanning the Flames
Girls' Night Out Series : Book 2

by Victoria Dahl

Kat says: Isabelle West's life is turned upside-down when US marshal Tom Duncan starts digging into her background as part of a protective detail for a local judge. Isabelle's father is a fugitive, and for fourteen years Isabelle has lived a carefully crafted lie to avoid trouble. Tom knows that Isabelle has a secret, and that getting involved with her means risking his career, but when his investigation starts unraveling the life she has built, it's not just his career or their relationship on the line - it could well be her life.

Victoria Dahl writes contemporary heroines that pack a punch. Isabelle is an artist, but despite some stereotypical absent-mindedness, there's not a peasant skirt to be seen in this book. What's more, Isabelle has friends - female friends who get together for drinks, perve on sexy law enforcement officials, and trade smutty jokes.

The author is also known for sexy, explicit love scenes, and witty dialogue. The second book in the Jackson: Girls' Night Out series satisfies on all counts.

Author Victoria Dahl is this month's featured author. Scroll down to the end of the Romance Buzz to read her answers to our Nine Naughty Questions! You can also meet her at the Australian Romance Readers Convention (proudly sponsored by Booktopia) in March.

RRP: $15.99 $10.75 Save 33%
Operation Valentine (eBook)
by Loretta Hill 

Kat says: Sarah Dubert is determined to shake off her Valentine's Day curse (not an exaggeration - one previous date ended up dead) and agrees to sign up to an online dating site in order to find The One. Or even just one who will survive February! Or even just one who will last longer than one drink at her favourite bar.
Sexy bartender Owen Black isn't looking for commitment - he has enough obligations to worry about - but it's fun to watch Sarah's disastrous dates...right up until he realises he wants to be the one drinking and flirting with her.

I've enjoyed Loretta Hill's rural romances, and this novella is a change of pace. Readers who have navigated the world of online matchmaking might relate to some of the more mis-matched dates that Sarah endures. Owen and Sarah agree to be friends before they become lovers, and honestly, this is my favourite set-up for short romances. Pick this one up for a quick hit!

Quarterback Draw
Play-By-Play Series: Book 9

by Jaci Burton
The ninth sizzling instalment in the bestselling Play-By-Play sports romance series.

Grant Cassidy knows how to be a football star - Flash that dazzling smile, throw the winning pass, get the girl. But while the hot quarterback loves the game and the lifestyle, no woman has come close to catching his heart. Then he matches wits with a smart...
RRP: $16.99 $13.50 Save 21%
Living in Secret (eBook editon)
by Jackie Ashenden

Kat says: Connor and Victoria have been separated for a year, but he inexplicably refuses to sign the divorce papers. Their relationship was built on control and perfection - neither of which can withstand the passion that explodes when Victoria demands his compliance. They agree to assuage their lust for one week, but there's more than at stake than the divorce. This time, they're fighting for their happy ever after.

I had the pleasure of meeting New Zealand author Jackie Ashenden last year (over meat pies and beer, if you must know; I'm shamelessly smug about this), and I'm glad I hadn't read this book yet because if I had, well, I might have embarrassed myself.

Unlike many erotic romances, Living In Secret starts with a threesome and then explores the emotional barriers between hero and heroine. I'm not big on infidelity in my romances, but this one is fully consensual and super hot. (The second guy, Raphael, is also yummy and I hope he gets his own book!) If you love your erotic romances to be filled with secrets and skating the edge of darker fantasies, make sure you grab this book!


The Master
by Kresley Cole
A need colder than Siberian winter meets an attitude hotter than the Florida sun in No.1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole's sultry new Game Maker novel.

Everyone fears the Master...
Rich, irresistible politician/Mafiya boss Maksimilian Sevastyan prefers tall, obedient blondes to fulfill his...complicated desires. That is, until the icy Russian encounters a disobedient brunette whose...
RRP: $19.99 $15.95 Save 20%
Secret Confessions:
Sydney Housewives: Christa (eBook edition)

by Keziah Hill
From the hottest writers in Australia comes a scintillating new series. Enter the world of Sydney's elite, and find out what goes on behind the doors of the most exclusive addresses in the country...

In business, as in pleasure, Christa has two rules: ask for what you want, and be prepared to get a bit creative. She and her husband, Marc, are infamous for their charitable soirees and the obscene amount of money that they raise...
Wicked Confessions
by Viveka Portman
Regency England: appearance is everything...but underneath lies a seething world of unexpected desire, unshared fantasies and uncontrollable lust. Three deliciously erotic stories to indulge the...
RRP: $15.99 $12.50 Save 22%
Unbound :
7 Tales of Seduction

Be careful what you wish for...these seven erotic short stories will have you enraptured from the start and leave you begging for mercy.

Jennifer hoped she'd meet someone while...

RRP: $15.99 $12.50 Save 22%

Runaway Lies
by Shannon Curtis

Kat says: You know what I love in my crime fiction? Lots of plot twists. Aussie author Shannon Curtis certainly delivers those in her latest romantic suspense, Runaway Lies. When Darcy Montgomery saves business tycoon Dominic St James's children from drowning, she inadvertently puts his family in danger. But Dom has his own enemies, and as one murder plot unravels, another is dangerously brewing.

Look, if I had to go on the run, I would want to be just like Darcy. She's a survivor with a heart of gold, and if she has some sexy times with Dom along the way...well, surely she deserves to have some perks!

RRP: $29.99 $23.95 Save 20%
Beyond Limits
by Laura Griffin
An FBI agent and a Navy SEAL race against time in New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin's newest Tracers novel.

FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc is still caught in the aftermath of her last big case when she runs into the one man from her past who is sure to rock her equilibrium even more. Navy SEAL Derek Vaughn is back home from a harrowing rescue mission in which...
RRP: $15.99 $10.75 Save 33%
Obsession in Death
by J. D. Robb
There's a thin line between hero worship and dangerous obsession . . . the explosive new Eve Dallas and Roarke thriller

A crisp winter morning in New York. In a luxury apartment, the body of a woman lies stretched out on a huge bed. On the wall above, the killer has left a message in bold black ink: FOR LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS, WITH GREAT ADMIRATION Eve Dallas is used to unwanted attention. Famous for her...
RRP: $29.99 $23.95 Save 20%
At Wolf Ranch
by Jennifer Ryan
After years on the rodeo circuit, Gabe Bowden wants nothing more than land of his own and a woman who will claim his heart for more than one night. When he has the chance to buy the enormous Wolf Ranch spread, he snaps up the incredible deal...
RRP: $12.99 $9.95 Save 23%
Taking Fire
by Lindsay McKenna
She dances on the edge of life...and death

Not all are meant to walk in the light. Marine Corps Sergeant Khat Shinwari lives among the shadows of the rocky Afghani hills, a Shadow Warrior by name...
RRP: $15.99 $12.50 Save 22%

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The Sultan's Harem Bride
by Annie West
Sultan Asim of Jazeer has hundreds of women at his beck and call. So why does he want the only one who threatens to reveal his family's shameful secrets?

Journalist Jacqui Fletcher jumped at the chance to write a history of the harem- not to become a sultan's plaything! But it's hard to remember her assignment when the sultan's sensuous caresses spark...
RRP: $7.99 $5.50 Save 31%
Texas Born : Also includes the story Maggie's Dad
by Diana Palmer
Texas Born

Gabriel Brandon had been her hero ever since she was a girl and he'd rescued her, an orphan, from sure ruin. And Michelle Godrey had loved him forever, the mysterious rancher with the dark eyes, her protector and guardian angel. Now she'd blossomed into a woman. Could Michelle ever cast aside the shadows between them? Could she show...
RRP: $27.99 $22.50 Save 20%
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
by Julia Quinn

From New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the final, dazzling installment of a four-book series featuring the Smythe-Smiths.

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can't be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family's infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She's...

RRP: $12.99 $9.95 Save 23%

A Sinful Deception
by Isabella Bradford

Kat says: Miss Serena Carew is hiding a secret that would ruin her. When Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy, second son of the Duke of Breconridge steals a dance from Serena, she knows she must stay away. But fate is determined to throw them together. What begins as a harmless flirtation for Geoffrey becomes a matter of honour, especially when he finally learns the truth about Serena's past.

It's not difficult to guess Serena's big secret, but that's not really the point, is it? Regency romance is about flirtations that get out of hand, reputations at risk, and grand gestures. I stayed up all night reading A Sinful Deception, the second book in the Breconridge Brothers series, and I'm pretty sure fans of Isabella Bradford won't be disappointed.

RRP: $15.99 $10.75 Save 33%
Diary of an Accidental Wallflower
by Jennifer McQuiston
Here I sit, brought low by a turned ankle at the height of the Season, my carefully planned world crumbling around me. How, from the tedious confines of my drawing room, will I ever secure the attentions of my future duke?
RRP: $12.99 $9.95 Save 23%
Never Surrender to a Scoundrel
by Lily Dalton
A Reckless Desire . . .

Lady Clarissa Bevington is in trouble. A reckless indiscretion has left her with two choices: ruin her family with the scandal of the Season, or marry Mr. Kincraig, the notorious scoundrel mistaken as... 

RRP: $12.99 $9.95 Save 23%
My Lord and Spymaster
by Joanna Bourne
A daring beauty, she's infamous for taking chances... Now she'll risk everything for love.

Raised as a poor but cunning pickpocket, Jess Whitby has grown into a wealthy...
RRP: $16.99 $13.50 Save 21%
The Black Hawk
by Joanna Bourne
He is her enemy. He is her lover. He is her only hope.

Joanna Bourne returns to the French Revolution, pairing espionage and burning romance to create an unforgettable love story...
RRP: $16.99 $13.50 Save 21%
Debt Of Love
by Lynne Graham
The Sicilian's Mistress

After three long years Gianni D'Angelo has found Milly Henner! However, Milly doesn't remember Gianni, or what she was to him. All she knows is that she was found after...

RRP: $14.99 $10.50 Save 30%
O'Hurley Born
by Nora Roberts
Come two remarkable tales of the O'Hurleys' dynasty of dazzling talent and sizzling passion

The Last Honest Woman

If sex sells, then so do lies-especially when...
RRP: $15.99 $12.75 Save 20%

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Nine Month Countdown
by Leah Ashton
Kat says: You might recall that Leah Ashton, winner of the prestigious RITA ward, was featured in the Romance Buzz last year. Her December release, Nine Month Countdown is yet another great read and turns the one-night stand set-up on its head. This time around, the heroine proposes a marriage of convenience to the hero! You'll have to read the book to find out his answer, but let me just say that Leah Ashton is quickly becoming one of my favourite category romance authors!
RRP: $14.99 $10.50 Save 30%
Author: Victoria Dahl This month's featured author will need no introduction for fans of contemporary romance. Bestselling Victoria Dahl writes steamy romances with strong, funny, sexy, and just plain interesting heroines who are supported by equally wonderful girlfriends. Her new book, Flirting With Disaster, is no exception, and I loved the many times the hero of this book is scandalised by girl talk. (Check out my review of the book under 'Contemporary' above.)

After reading Victoria's answers to the Nine Naughty Questions, it's clear that she's just as wonderful as her heroines. I can't wait to meet her in Canberra!

You can find out more about Victoria Dahl and her books by visiting her website at victoriadahl.com, liking her on Facebook, or following her on Twitter at @VictoriaDahl.

Photo credit: Anne Pearson

1. Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or the vaguely kinky object against a dark background - what's your favourite type of romance cover and why?

Of these, my favourite type is the headless washboard abs cover. Because abs! Also, it signals that the book will be hot, and I like a hot romance. And personally, I like the decapitated shot (sorry men), because the hero I have in mind while reading rarely looks like the cover model.

2. What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?

Oh god, my secret life involves a lot of yoga pants and no yoga. This is the perfect career for an introvert. I can go weeks communicating with the outside world solely via text or email. It's beautiful.

Most of my writing time is spent either staring blankly at the screen trying to think of the next scene or typing out that scene as quickly as I can before I lose the idea. But I do come up with some brilliant (ridiculous) ideas when I'm lying in bed late at night, and then I send weird emails to myself like, "Have him slip his thumb into her mouth." These emails are even weirder when I accidentally send them to my best friend. I hope they're fun for her to wake up to.

3. At the heart of a romantic story is the way in which the main characters reveal their true natures to each other. How much of yourself do you put into your characters, and Looking for Troublehave their stories been affected by your personal experiences?

Absolutely! There's a little of me in every heroine I write. Sometimes there's a personal detail from my past, but more often she has some of my quirks or vulnerabilities.

Every book I write is about that revelation you describe, of learning to let someone see the real you. I think most of us struggle with that, and I think it helps to read about those fears from someone else's perspective.

4. I'm interested in how you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?

Romance readers are definitely getting naughtier! Or romance novels are finally catching up to how naughty readers really are. ;-)

Definitions vary, but personally I classify a story as erotic if the plot and arc of the story are based on the sex. Meaning, if you pulled the sex scenes out, there wouldn't be a journey. A romance can be super hot, but still have a complete storyline without the sex, though it might be a boring one!

I suppose I'd classify porn as having only enough story to facilitate sex scenes. We might know that the man is a plumber and the woman's faucet stopped working during a pyjama party, but you won't get any motivation or backstory or internal conflict. We just need to throw these people together so they can get to the dirty!

5. Please tell us about your latest novel! Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?

Flirting with DisasterMy latest release is Flirting with Disaster, though my working title was "Girls' Night Out 2," as it's the second in my Girls' Night Out series.

The heroine is Isabelle West, an artist who lives in a cabin in the mountains in Wyoming. She's satisfied with the independent, solitary life she's built for herself, though she does miss sex. Still, with the secrets she has, she can't afford to get involved with anyone, particularly not a US marshal.  Unfortunately, a sexy US marshal shows up at her door and he's not inclined to leave.

Tom Duncan is utterly intrigued by Isabelle, who arouses his suspicion and his desire. She's pretty and grumpy and she clearly doesn't want him poking around. While Tom is providing protection for a neighbor, he falls further under Isabelle's spell, but his interest in her will spell disaster for both of them.

This book is full of hot cabin sex and secrets and a heroine who makes the hero blush! I confess, a blushing hero is one of my favorite things.

6. What's the most memorable reaction you've received after a friend or family member read one of your books?

I've honestly never received very strange reactions. I do have a ninety-year-old conservative grandmother whom I refuse to give a book to. In fact, I refused to tell her my pen name for years, but somebody in her small town spilled the beans. I finally told her that if she really wants a copy of one of my books, I'd send her a Russian translation. No, she doesn't speak Russian.

7. Romance writers are sometimes denigrated and asked when they'll write 'real' books - what do you tell the haters?

I say maybe they should look at the market share for romance before they start talking about real books. I also point out to people that when you're getting to know a new couple, one of the first questions asked is "How did you two meet?" so let's not pretend that romance isn't part of real life either. People are interested in love and romance and sex, whether in books or at dinner parties!

Perfect Couple8. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.

Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols - great YA by my best friend. I love this book!
Bare Knuckle by Katie Porter - very sexy erotica
Dirty by Megan Hart - another very sexy erotica, this one is a little darker

Come Closer by Sara Gran - spooky horror story with an intriguing female protagonist. Or is it antagonist?
Hounded by Kevin Hearne - fun urban fantasy with a cute druid hero
9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it's particularly delicious!

My favourite is a post-sex pillow talk scene. Tom tells Isabelle that he finds it really sexy that she's comfortable with her body and confident about sex. It's a great thing to hear from any man, but what I love is that Isabelle explains to him how long it takes for a woman to get to that place. How long it takes for some women to even enjoy sex.

She poses a question I think most men have never considered: "What if you had sex your whole life and never had an orgasm?" That's a truth a lot of women live with, and honestly, this is one of my favourite things about romance novels. The stories are about women finding fulfilment, not just in love and life, but in bed. That wasn't a story that society cared much about until romance novels came along.

Victoria, thank you for playing.
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