March is finally here, and you know what that means – yes, it’s time for the Australian Romance Readers Convention!

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Kat Mayo

March is finally here, and you know what that means - yes, it's time for the Australian Romance Readers Convention! In keeping with the occasion, this month's featured author is Helene Young, who will be a keynote speaker at ARRC, along with Sylvia Day, Victoria Dahl, and Kelley Armstrong.

We have also listed some of the finalists for the Australian Romance Readers Awards - nominated and judged by your fellow readers - you can find the full list here.

If that's not enough, this month brings us a new Pennyroyal Green book by Julie Anne Long (and it looks like Olivia and Lyon's books will be out in October - I can't even tell you how exciting that is!), the next Alpha and Omega book by Patricia Briggs, as well as new titles from Rachael Johns, Stephanie Laurens, and Bec McMaster.

What I just finished: Trade Me by Courtney Milan (check out my review below)

What I'm reading now: The Vanished series by Meg Cabot - a young adult series with woo-woo and romantic elements

What I can't wait for: Fifty Shades of Grey on the big screen!

It's not too late to register for ARRC, but if you don't think you can spend the entire weekend with romance readers and authors, you can just pop in for the author signing. You can find more details here. And don't forget to say hi to the fabulous folks at the Booktopia stall!

Kat Mayo

Fifty Shades of Romance Fangirl
(blingy handcuffs pending)

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 @LoveAtBooktopia.

It Started with a Scandal
by Julie Anne Long

Kat says: Let's cut to the chase: I loved this book. Julie Anne Long can be hit or miss - unsurprising given how many books now make up the Pennyroyal Green series - but this one of the best in the series. It Started With a Scandal is an intense and intimate romance, built on the smallest of details. Lord Lavay, haughty and dismissive, is undone by his housekeeper, Elise Fountain, who finds the most delightful pleasure in - of all things - a comfortable brown chair. Sometimes I treasure a book for its grand gestures; other times, I savour its quiet moments. This book delivers both.

You can read this as a standalone book, but fans of the series will enjoy revisiting some previous couples. There's also an excruciatingly exciting teaser to Olivia and Lyon's book on the last page. If you're shipping Olivia and Lyon hard, hold on to your heart because it will be a long wait until their book, The Legend of Lyon Redmond, comes out in October!

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Wicked, My Love
by Susanna Ives
Wicked, My Love : Wicked Little Secrets Series : Book 2 - Susanna Ives A smooth-talking rogue and a dowdy financial genius

Handsome, silver-tongued politician Lord Randall doesn't get along with his bank partner, the financially brilliant but hopelessly frumpish Isabella St. Vincent. Ever since she was his childhood nemesis, he's tried-and failed-to get the better of her.

Make a perfectly wicked combination...
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Married to a Perfect Stranger
by Jane Ashford
Married to a Perfect Stranger - Jane Ashford Brand new Regency romance from RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award Nominee Jane Ashford

Time and distance have changed them both...

Quiet and obliging, Mary Fleming and John Bexley marry to please their families and John immediately leaves on a two-year diplomatic mission. Now John is back, and everything they thought they ...
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The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
by Stephanie Laurens
The Tempting of Thomas Carrick : Cynster Novels : Book 22 - Stephanie Laurens #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to Scotland with a tale of two lovers irrevocably linked by destiny.

Thomas Carrick is driven to control all aspects of...
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Forgotten Fragrance (eBook)
by Tea Cooper
Forgotten Fragrance - Téa| Cooper Only one woman can confirm his innocence, and release him from the torments of his past.

Determined to throw off the shackles of her convict past, Charlotte Oliver accepts her employer's...
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The Road to Hope
by Rachael Johns
The Road to Hope - Rachael Johns Bestselling author Rachael Johns takes you back to Hope Junction and the characters from Jilted.

Nurse Lauren Simpson is known in Hope Junction for the wrong reasons - and she's over it. Watching the man she's always loved marry someone else is the last straw - she decides to get out of Hope. But her resolve is tested when the hot new locum...
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Bring on the Dusk : The Night Stalkers Series : Book 6 - M. L. Buchman
Return to You : Montgomery Brothers Series : Book 4 - Samantha Chase
When It's Right : A Montana Men Novel - Jennifer Ryan
Becoming Rain - K. A. Tucker
Dead Heat
by Patricia Briggs

Kat says: It's no secret that I love Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series. This book is part of a spin-off called the Alpha and Omega series, but set in the same world. It's less romancey than previous books, given that Anna and Charles are fairly settled in their relationship. Still, they have issues to work out - in this case, Anna would like children, and she hasn't quite convinced Charles yet.

The plot centres on a mystery surrounding a child who has been replaced by a fetch - an inanimate object magicked to create an exact replica of a human. Along the way, we also see a human undergoing the Change into a werewolf, an old flame of Charles's, and some robust world building that hints at yet more trouble between Fae and human worlds.

I love how this series has progressed. The human investigators seem to be improving their competence in dealing with supernatural beings, and the romantic arc between Anna and Charles is moving to a different phase in their lives. I think fans of Anna and Charles will love this book.

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Of Silk and Steam : London Steampunk Series : Book 5 - Bec McMaster
Married to a Perfect Stranger - Jane Ashford
Vampires Never Cry Wolf : Dead in the City Series : Book 3 - Sara Humphreys
Hammer and Bone - Kirby Crow
by Megan Hart
Vanilla - Megan Hart It's an acquired taste...he just has to acquire it.

Elise knows what she wants in the bedroom and she makes sure she gets it. Her thirst for domination has long been quenched by a stable of men only too happy to bow down before her.

But sexual satisfaction isn't the same as love, and she's been burned in the past by giving her heart...
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Served Sweet (eBook)
by Marie Harte
Served Sweet : Best Revenge Series : Book 3 - Marie Harte It's all or nothing, and to the victor go the dirty sweet spoils.

As if buried in their respective DNA, Riley Hewitt and Anson Black have been rivals since grade school. Always trying to one-up the other...until Anson left town right after graduation.

Fast forward a few years. Just as Riley is thinking of ...
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The Millionaire's Proposition
by Avril Tremayne
The Millionaire's Proposition : Sexy S. - Avril Tremayne 1. 2 nights a week

2. Strictly confidential

3. One month only...

It might have been his proposition, but lawyer Kate Cleary is so buttoned up she whipped out a contract for them both to sign! With her high heels and stockings, all Scott Knight could do was sign and move to the...

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Those Sexy O'Sullivans
by Kathleen O'Reilly

Kat says: It's been a while since Kathleen O'Reilly released a new book, so you're forgiven (maybe) if you haven't heard of her before. Confession time: I have all but one of her books.

This reissue includes the Sexy O'Sullivans trilogy. Shaken and Stirrred features a bartender and a heroine determined never to rely on a man. Sex, Straight Up belies its rompy title not only by beginning with a reference to September 11, but also by featuring an accountant hero. (This is sexier than it sounds, I promise!) The trilogy is worth getting for this story alone. Nightcap rounds off the trilogy by featuring the brother most popular with the ladies...and the lady who leads him to true love.
Kathleen O'Reilly is a brilliant writer, and what she can do with the category romance word count is just amazing. If you love so-called beta heroes, she writes some of the best. I love her work, and I'm so pleased to see these books back in print for more readers to enjoy!

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Yes, Chef!
by Lisa Joy 
Yes, Chef! - Lisa Joy Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations for one of London's most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef...
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Fifty Shades of Grey
by E. L. James
Fifty Shades of Grey : Movie Tie-In Edition - E. L. James The multi-million copy bestseller soon to be a major movie starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Romantic, liberating and totally...
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Four Nights with the Duke - Eloisa James
Paradise City - C. J. Duggan
The Immortal Who Loved Me : An Argeneau Vampire Novel - Lynsay Sands
A Scoundrel by Moonlight : Sons of Sin - Anna Campbell
Trade Me (eBook)
by Courtney Milan
Trade Me - Courtney Milan Kat says: You might have already heard the buzz around Courtney Milan's debut into new adult fiction. Trade Me is the new adult romance for readers who don't like new adult romance. It features diverse characters, gets the strugging uni student right, and isn't afraid to be political.

When Tina Chen challenges billionaire darling Blake Reynolds during a class discussion, he proposes a swap - he'll live her life for a month, and she'll get a taste of his. It's a classic set-up, set in a contemporary world, and Courtney Milan doesn't give her billionaire hero a free pass into romantic fantasy. Blake has flaws and challenges, but they never quite match the precariousness of Tina's circumstances.

Although Trade Me is most definitely a romance, it's biggest appeal is that it aims to be an honest and unapologetic portrayal of what it means to be in your early twenties struggling to balance personal desires with a seemingly insurmountable set of obligations and expectations. The hype is definitely well-earned.
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The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
by Julia Quinn
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy - 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...

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Flirting with Disaster / Fanning the Flames
by Victoria Dahl
Flirting with Disaster / Fanning the Flames : Girls' Night Out Series : Book 2 - Victoria Dahl There's no hiding from sizzling chemistry...

Artist Isabelle West has good reasons for preferring a solitary life. Tucked away in a cabin in the woods, she has everything she needs...
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The Secret His Mistress Carried - Lynne Graham
The House at the Bottom of the Hill - Jennie Jones
Cartel : Cartel Trilogy : Book 1 - Lili St. Germain
Match Pointe - Indigo Bloome
The Governess Club : Louisa - Ellie Macdonald
Breaking All the Rules : An Erotic Novella - Cynthia Sax
The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane : Rhymes With Love - Elizabeth Boyle
The Sunnyvale Girls - Fiona Palmer
The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella
Nora Roberts CD Collection : Hidden Riches / True Betrayals / Homeport / The Reef - Nora Roberts
The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks
Fifty Shades of Grey : Fifty Shades : Part 1 - E. L. James
Leap Year - Matthew Goode
The Lucky One - Riley Thomas Stewart
Made of Honour / My Best Friend's Wedding
You've Got Mail - John Randolph
Author Helene Young Our featured author this month is the fabulous Helene Young. When I read Helene's debut novel, Wings of Fear, I knew it would be the start of a promising career. When I heard her launch her second book, Shattered Sky, at ARRC in 2011, everyone I talked to at the convention wanted to buy the book. She hasn't stopped being fabulous, and readers have eagerly awaited each new release. Helene is in that perfect niche between crime, rural and romance fiction - a killer (boom-tish) combination for Australian readers.

I'm super stoked to have her as our featured author this month, leading up to the Australian Romance Convention. She is an excellent ambassador for romance fiction and romance readers, and I love introducing readers to her work!

You can find out more about Helene Young and her books by visiting her website at heleneyoung.com, liking her on Facebook, or following her on Twitter at @HeleneYoung . Helene will be a keynote speaker at the Australian Romance Readers Convention in March. You can find more information about ARRC here.

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?

I have to admit I'm a sucker for a Regency cover. There's something so seductive about a woman in a sumptuous gown with a hint of forbidden bare flesh.

But then, like a lot of readers, I'll always pick up a book with a cover starring a girl in an akubra, with a hunky guy, and a horse in the background. Call me fickle...

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

Between me and my keyboard there's a 12-hour day filled with aviation, a gazillion phone calls, and Capt G!

I write when and where I can, which usually involves early mornings or late nights. If we've cast off Roobinesque's mooring lines, and are under sail, I can happily write for hours with the sound of the water against the hull helping me slip into my imaginary world.

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 have their stories been affected by your personal experiences?

I think all writers use some of their own experiences to colour their characters. Wings of Fear opens with Morgan finding a dead body on the beach. That happened to me so a lot of the emotion in the scene was exactly what I felt.

In my upcoming novel, Northern Heat, my characters survive a cyclone. I lived through Cyclone Yasi ripping North Queensland apart and I know I've shared many of those same sensations and emotions with my characters.

On the romance side of the story, one of the things I love most is seeing how the characters grow and change so that they can admit their feelings. Capt G and I have been married for a relatively uncomplicated 27 years, but I can still remember the fresh rush of new love - strawberries and champagne mellow into fine wine and dark chocolate.

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

Well I can't comment on whether my readers are getting naughtier, but I hope they're having fun!!

For me, sex in a romance should be all about emotion. It can be explicit or not, but it should show me the connection between the characters. Erotica does that, but there's a whole lot more raunchy loving going on and for some readers that's very important. Australia has some truly awesome erotica writers who were telling great stories long before Fifty Shades of Grey took centre stage.

Porn? I think of porn as something more harsh, unemotional and all about the physical. I'd rather read a story with a whole lot of heart than a whole lot of flesh.

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

Northern Heat, due for release in May, had a working title of 'Conor's Story' because it's all about redeeming Conor. He kept trying to muscle in on Safe Harbour, but he needed to learn some tough lessons before he could find his ever after. He's sailed to Cooktown in search of his family's killer and finds himself caught up in a cyclone, defending a woman and her daughter from a psychopath. The research into domestic violence was harrowing, but Conor stole my heart.

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

That would be my husband's reaction when he found my first manuscript in a filing cabinet when I was away flying. His first question when he rang me was, 'when did you write this' and his second question was 'when are you going to get it published?'

Like most first manuscripts it's unlikely to see the light of day but, six books later, my husband's support is still as steadfast as it was fifteen years ago.

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

I love this question. Being a Captain in a regional airline and flying a 74 seat aircraft has made me immune to it. People regularly ask me when I'm going to fly a real aeroplane... Well pardon me, but I think the Dash 8 is a certified aircraft!

So when people ask me when am I going to write a real book I smile serenely and point out that romance outsells every other genre and that many of my friends who write those heart wrenching, enlivening, emotion-filled stories actually make a living out of it - unlike many of my literary friends.

There's so much doom and gloom in the news there's more than enough room for some optimistic escapism with strong heroines and sexy heroes.

themaxwellsisters102158. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.

Ronan's Echo by Joanne van Os, is a wonderful Australian drama set between modern day Sydney and Fromelles in the First World War.

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney, is a heart warming story that spans two continents and is all about the truth.

The Maxwell Sisters by Loretta Hill , is a departure from her FIFO stories, but it made me want to pack my bags and head back to Margaret River.

Bronwyn Parry's latest release, Storm Clouds, grabbed me from the opening pages with her trademark gritty romance with a feisty female lead.

The Hunger Games - all three of them  - by Suzanne Collins. Far too eerily real and so well drawn. They are almost prophetic...

9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it's particularly delicious!

My favourite scene has to be the rescue that opens Safe Harbour. It's the moment when Noah and Darcy feel that familiar tug of attraction as they work side by side to save Conor's life. It takes a whole lot more than that to make them open their wary hearts and acknowledge their feelings, but the connection in that opening scene smoulders and almost, almost bursts into flames. Sigh... I do so love Noah.

Thanks so much for having me over to visit Booktopia and March Romance Buzz!!

Helene, thank you for playing.
Safe Harbour
by Helene Young
Safe Harbour - Helene Young When Darcy Fletcher drags a handsome sailor from a stricken yacht, she finds herself drawn into his mysterious world. Having saved his life, can she now rescue him from his dark past? Or will...
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Half Moon Bay
by Helene Young
Half Moon Bay - Helene Young  International photojournalist Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of her home town call for help she knows it's time to stop.

Nicholas Lawson walked...
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