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Friday, June 27, 2014

Regency with the heat turned up... Meet Amy Rose Bennet

It is always exciting to interview a debut "new to you" author.  Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favourite genre.  She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Devonshire Rex cat with attitude. 
Ms. Bennet, you are most welcome to join me today. I love your author picture but I suspect that is a cup of coffee you are clutching… so what will it be today, coffee or tea?

Most definitely coffee, Ms. Stuart if you don’t mind. And thank you so much for having me. (Although I might be tempted to partake in a gin and tonic with you if it’s later in the day…I have some Tanqueray Ten stashed nearby… ) And thank you also for your kind remarks about my author picture. This photo has special significance for me as it was taken on an overseas holiday in Scotland—a happy snap at breakfast whilst staying at a Victorian hunting lodge in the Speyside area. I so love Scotland.
(AS:  Oooh... Tanqueray 10 is my favourite! George, fetch the tonic water and the slices of lemon!)

What or who inspired your love of historical fiction and do you have a particular period of history you are passionate about?

Charlotte Brontë was the writer who inspired my love of historical fiction—which I suspect is the case for many other historical authors! (AS: It certainly was with me... Jane Eyre remains my "go to" story)

I have a vivid childhood memory of seeing a 1970’s movie version of Jane Eyre. I was so entranced by the story, I borrowed the book from my primary school’s library and read it (I think I was only 9), probably not understanding half of it I’m sure. Nevertheless, I just loved the characters and the gothic nature of the story. I’ve been enamoured of historical set novels ever since.

I love reading and writing stories set in the Regency and Georgian periods. I particularly love anything and everything to do with the Jacobite Rebellion—the ’45. Scottish history, the clan system and the rugged beauty of the country fascinate me. I recently discovered that my great grandmother was Scottish so perhaps that helps explain my obsession…plus who doesn’t love a Highlander in a kilt? (AS: As long as he's had a bath!)

Holyrood Abbey, Scotland
What kicked off the decision to stop tinkering and start writing seriously?

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take some time out from my usual day job as a Speech Pathologist in 2012, so it was then that I decided to finish writing my first book—a Jacobite Rebellion tale—that I’d started 8 years before. It just felt like the right time to give into my inner muse. I’m so glad I did!

Is there still a ‘day job’ to distract you from writing?

I worked last year, but for now I’m just focusing on my writing. I’m looking at moving interstate at the end of this year so I’ll most probably go back to my day job, in my new location. But now I’ve written two full length novels, two novellas with a third book on the way, I know I’m completely addicted to writing and will keep at it, regardless.

You are an emerging historical romance writer… That all important “first toe in the door” is your steamy historical novella, AN IMPROPER PROPOSITION.  Do you enjoy writing on the hot side… and do you think that will be the path your writing will take you? 

AN IMPROPER PROPOSITION—published by Steam eReads—is a story that I wrote for a bit of fun, as well as to challenge myself to write something that was a little different i.e. a short story that was essentially an erotic romance. My other two novels are both over 100, 000 words with quite complex plot lines.

I definitely prefer reading and writing stories in which the bedroom door is left wide open. I love how a really well-written love scene has so many layers to it—it’s not just about describing the physical side of the relationship. There’s a certain challenge (for me as a writer) in ensuring the scene furthers the plot in some way, as well as showing how the emotional connection develops between the hero and heroine. AN IMPROPER PROPOSITION’s love scenes are a tad hotter than the scenes in my other stories—although not by much. I don’t see myself becoming solely an erotic romance author though. I have too many full-length stories running around inside my head!

When I look at the formidable number of contests in which you have been successful in a very short period, apart from being green with envy,  I cannot help but wonder how long until we see your “Dark Regency” LADY BEAUCHAMP’S PROPOSAL on our bookshelves?

LOL! I have entered quite a few contests haven’t I? Not only have I grown as a writer through entering contests, I certainly think that my successes have helped me on my journey to publication. Which leads me to say I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve recently signed with Secret Cravings Publishing! LADY BEAUCHAMP’S PROPOSAL –a full length ‘Regency noire’ style novel—is scheduled to be released in August this year. I can’t wait!
(AS: Excellent news! Congratulations!)

Fraternizing with one’s footman—no matter how young and handsome he is—is not the done thing…but Lady Bianca Wells is going to do it anyway…
Widowed countess Lady Bianca Wells secretly lusts after her much younger, rakishly handsome footman Harry Blake. Even though he has been in her employ for six months, she has not succumbed to her indecorous urges to take him as a lover… until one wicked night at an isolated country inn when she throws caution to the wind and offers Blake a wholly improper proposition.
Harry Blake, the bastard son of a duke and governess, is the epitome of the perfect footman, except for one thing—he fantasizes about seducing his beautiful mistress. When Lady Wells proposes that they become lovers for one night only, he is torn. Even though he wants her with every fiber of his being, he suspects that forbidden fruit once tasted, can be awfully addictive. He wonders if one night of passion will be enough, for either of them—especially now that he realizes he might very well be falling in love with his bella Bianca.
But when all is said and done, Blake can hardly refuse such a tempting proposition, no matter how unwise or improper. He just prays that he can put a smile on his mistress’s beautiful face…

AN IMPROPER PROPOSITION is available from SteameReads, Amazon and all reputable Ebook retailers. 

You can visit Amy Rose Bennett at her website Facebook or follow her on Twitter
GIVEAWAY: if you like your historical romance on the warm side, pop in a share a gin with Amy and I and go in the running to win  an Amazon copy of AN IMPROPER PROPOSITION.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Any Excuse for a Party! A good old fashioned book launch...

Book launch 2007
When my first books were published - way back in the dark ages (2007), a friend insisted that there should be a proper book launch for the two books and promptly went ahead and organised one for me. I realised then that writing a book is a big thing, getting it published even bigger but celebrating it is so important.  This is the book baby you have slaved for months if not years over and it deserves a rite of passage that marks its transition from hope to reality.

There followed a long hiatus while I laboured away at the OTHER career which meant that my next book did not come out until 2012 (GATHER THE BONES). What a difference 5 years had made. This was to be a digital only publication but remembering that actual book launch, I felt it still needed a party to mark its entry into the book world so I organised my first "virtual" book launch - on my Facebook Author Page and I have to say I had as much fun as I did at that first actual book launch but by the time books 3 and 4 came out, everyone was doing FB parties and it was hard to engender the same sense of fun.  

So LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR came into the world on 1 May with very little fanfare... until my friend Beverley Eikli emailed me with a suggestion I could not refuse... a REAL book launch but with a bit of a difference. Let's make it an event to remember - books, music, wine, cheese... and so the ideas started flowing.

Beverley and I write similar books - historical romances with meaty plots so we are a natural fit - the only difference being her MAID OF MILAN has a print edition (and it will be in bookstores), while LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR lives in the cloud which meant I only had copies of my other books to sell on the day, not the book I was actually launching.

What the hell... let's do it anyway! 

Paramoor Winery was booked, a fabulous string quartet (La Fraternita Solisti) organised, cheese (Gippsland Cheeses) and chocs (from Daylesford's Chocolate Mill) purchased, my dear friend, award winning poet, Chris Ringrose bludgeoned into agreeing to read a couple of poems and on a cold, damp winter's afternoon the crowds arrived for the Eikli/Stuart book launch.

The lovely venue at Paramoor winery - perfect for a cold winter's day

It must have been a good party... because I can hardly remember anything about it! One glass of wine and one cracker with cheese was all I ate but so many people to talk to... so many wonderful friends who had made the trip up from Melbourne. Wonderful friends and family who helped out... children having a great time, people talking about books and writing. Chris set the mood with his poems and my lovely friend and multiple award winning writer, Fiona Lowe did the honours, officially launching our books.
Beverley and Alison standing in the wings...

Fiona Lowe sending the book babies out into the world.
Thank you Beverley for making the suggestion and thank you to everyone involved in contributing to such a fabulous afternoon - there are too many of you to mention by name but you know who you are! Two days later and I am still buzzing. 

And best of all, thanks to the generosity of our guests and our sponsors, we raised $300 for a cause close to my heart, Alzheimers Victoria

A brilliant day and I heartily recommend an actual book launch, even if your book is virtual!  And it is much more fun sharing the event with someone else. Thank you Beverley!

Eikli/Stuart... so excited they can't stand still long enough to get their photo taken!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

On Tour: Jessica Jefferson - Compromising Miss Tisdale + Giveaway

"Not since the Bennett's have sisters enjoyed such romantic escapades!  Mother-hen Ambrosia, the warm and witty Lillian, hoyden Tamsin, and mild-mannered Rose try to navigate through their own respective romances while weaving in and out of each other's.   Follow each of the Tisdale sisters as they stumble through love. "

Basking in the warm glow of Regency Romance, it is my pleasure to introduce debut Regency Romance author, Jessica Jefferson.

Jessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it – almost Chicago.  Jessica originally attended college in hopes of achieving an English degree and writing the next great American novel.  Ten years later she was working as a registered nurse and reading historical romance when she decided to give writing another go-round.   

Jessica writes likes she speaks, which has a tendency to be fast paced and humorous.  Jessica is heavily inspired by sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy to transport the reader into a story they miss long after the last page is read.  She invites you to visit her at and read her random romance musings. You will also find her on Facebook and Twitter

COMPROMISING MISS TISDALE is the first book in a series of four on the escapades of the Tisdale sisters... beginning with Ambrosia.


Ambrosia Tisdale is the very picture of propriety and the epitome of what a respectable young lady should be. Haunted by a memory and compelled by her family, she pursues perfection to a fault.

The Earl of Bristol, Duncan Maddox, has returned to London after years of familial imposed exile. As the second son, he has led a life filled with frivolity, leisure, and a healthy dose of debauchery. Now his older brother has died, leaving the family’s flailing legacy in Duncan’s unwilling arms.

At the behest of his uncle, Duncan is advised to do the one thing that could provide instant fortune and respectability – he must marry. But there is only one prospect who meets the unique requirements to solve all the Earl’s problems – the lovely Miss Ambrosia Tisdale. But securing the prudent daughter of a Viscount’s hand proves to be more challenging than this scandal ridden second son of an Earl has bargained for.

With scandal, extortion, treachery, and even love itself threatening to keep him from his goal, will Duncan succeed in compromising Miss Tisdale?


He stepped forward, a twig snapping under the force of his right boot. 

 She startled and turned.

She had been crying.  Even in the shadows he could see that her eyes were red and face blotchy from the trails of tears.  For once, Miss Tisdale did not look her best, and in that imperfection he found her to be the most enticing she had ever been.

Duncan fell into her eyes, endless pools framed with wet clumps of black lashes that drew him towards her.  And then her lips, already full, now swollen from her sobbing, parted slightly. 
He was lost.  God help him, he was no longer intoxicated by brandy alone, but rather the beauty of one woman. 

Duncan reached up and cupped her face in his hands.  Without any words or pretense, he simply swooped down and kissed her.  It wasn’t a gentle kiss, nor was it rough.  It was certain and decided.  He kissed her ardently, holding her face and savoring the salty taste of her tears still wet on her lips. 

He waited for it to stop, for her to slap him or push him away.  But then she did something totally unexpected.  She grabbed his arms and kissed him back.  The action left him disarmed and completely infatuated.  This was the woman from the library whom he had come to remember.  And her kiss was not tentative as it once was - but now firm and without trepidation.  



Friday, June 20, 2014

To Russia with Love...the Regency World of Ally Broadfield

As winter settles in on chilly Melbourne, over in Texas, my friend Ally Broadfield is sweltering. Don't you love our cyber world?

Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, five dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband.  She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia.

Ally I know you and I share a fascination for Russia (having visited it for the first time last year) so I am eschewing tea today in favour of vodka.  Na zda-ró-vye” (which means “Thank you” and in this context…thank you for being my guest today).  Do you have a favourite drink (alchoholic or not!)?

Thank you for hosting me today, Alison!

This choice is heavily influenced by the fact that I live in Texas and it’s summertime, but I’d have to say lemonade. There’s something so refreshing about its tart, sweet taste. I think it would be even better with a splash of vodka. (AS:  Definitely improved with vodka... although Ms. Stuart's preference for a hot summer's day would be a gin and tonic or a Pimms)

What or who inspired your love of historical fiction and do you have a particular period that ignites your passion?

I’d have to give credit to author Jennifer Blake for my love of historical fiction. She wrote the first romance I ever read (when I was twelve), Royal Seduction. I like to read in many different periods, but Regency England and Imperial Russia during the reign of Alexander I are my favorites. (AS: It was a fascinating time in Russian history!)

Ballroom: Catherine's Palace at Tsarkoe Selo
 Like you, I have visited the incredible palaces of St. Petersburg. I thought I had seen the world’s great palaces such as Versailles and Schonnbrun but nothing prepared me for Catherine’s palace at Tsarkoe Selo, even though, sadly, it is now a recreation (the original interiors having been destroyed during World War II) the grandeur was just intimidating. Will we be seeing a story set in Imperial Russia?

Ally in ST. Petersburg in 1987 (brave woman!)
It is sad that nearly all of the palaces in St. Petersburg suffered heavy damage during World War II. You will definitely see some future stories from me set in Imperial Russia. For now, I can share that though the setting is Regency England, the sequel to Just a Kiss features Princess Anna Tarasova and a mysterious man from her past.

When you’re not writing, what is a typical day in your life?

I am lucky to be a full time writer, so there are very few days when I don’t write. The bulk of my non-writing time is occupied giving the appropriate amount of attention to my five dogs (as determined by them) and shuttling my three kids around to various activities. I manage to fit in time to read almost every day, and also enjoy watching movies. My oldest son has enlisted us all to watch the 100 greatest movies of all time during our summer break, but since there is some disagreement among experts as to the top 100 films, we will be watching closer to 115. So far we’ve managed to watch six.

Your debut story, JUST A KISS, was released by Entangled Edge on April 28th.  What was the inspiration for this story and is it going to be part of a series?

The idea for this story came from a short story I entered into a Jane Austen inspired contest in the spring of 2011. It was a continuation of Sense and Sensibility focusing on the youngest sister, Margaret. I didn’t win the contest, but I loved Sebastian so much I decided to write Just a Kiss so I could expand his story, and Charlotte gladly took over the role of Margaret.
Just a Kiss is part of the It’s in His Kiss series and will be followed by three full length novels. As mentioned above, the second story in the series will feature Princess Tarasova from Just a Kiss, and will release in the spring of 2015.

It is always exciting to get that first sale… What is your “call story”?

My call was an email, but that didn’t make it any less exciting! I happened to stumble across a blog that was hosting a pitch event with editors from Entangled Publishing, so I wrote up a pitch for the story and posted it for the editor who was acquiring historical. She requested the full manuscript and I waited about twelve v-e-r-y l-o-n-g weeks before receiving the message that it had been accepted. The funny part was that I read the email while on my way out the door to take my boys to see Top Gun on Retro Movie Night at the local theater. I’m pretty sure I had a huge, possibly creepy (think The Joker), smile plastered on my face the entire time.


Charlotte Lightwood has one season to find a husband or she'll be forced to marry her guardian's loathsome cousin. With no title or dowry, she doesn't have much hope of making a good match. Sebastian Wilkinson, the Earl of Marley, has been the most eligible bachelor on the marriage mart for more years than he cares to count and is very aware of his duty to marry a woman who will add to the wealth and stature of his title. 
Sebastian makes Charlotte an offer she can't refuse: he will pretend to court her to help her attract more suitors in exchange for her advice about which ladies he should pursue. As they work together, their mutual attraction grows. When they realize they just might be perfect for one another, they must decide whether to bow to the dictates of society or follow their hearts.


Charlotte studied the man standing next to Elizabeth. Something about him instantly drew her to him, something in his confident bearing and the way a mischievous smile played across his lips. Laughter danced in his eyes.
Elizabeth smiled brightly. “Lord Marley, may I present Miss Charlotte Lightwood.” She gestured to Charlotte. “Charlotte, this is Lord Marley.”
Lord Marley took her hand, sending an unfamiliar sensation buzzing through her. They both froze for an instant before he bowed. “It is a pleasure to meet you. Lady Lightwood has assured me you are available for the next dance. Please soothe my nerves by confirming she is not mistaken.”
Elizabeth nudged her, and in a whisper that could surely be heard on the other side of the ballroom, said, “Lord Marley is one of the most eligible bachelors on the market this season. He requested the introduction, though I can’t imagine why.”
Heat rushed to her cheeks. “I am not engaged, my lord.” She surreptitiously glanced around them to see if anyone had heard Elizabeth.
 Lord Marley clenched his jaw before leading her onto the dance floor. When the warmth of his touch penetrated the fabric of her gown, she inhaled the scent of sandalwood with a hint of citrus, and her pulse thrummed. She couldn’t prevent herself from flashing him a smile. The noise of the ballroom faded into a harmonious cacophony as they settled into the waltz.
Overly wealthy, overly charming, overly good-looking, he could have any woman he desired. As she lacked both title and dowry, she could think of no reason why Lord Marley would have any interest in her. She narrowed her eyes.
Lord Marley nodded to the couples surrounding them, but when he met her gaze, his serene countenance disappeared. “Why do you look at me with such abhorrence? I assure you I have no nefarious designs upon your person.”
“I’m certain you have no designs, nefarious or otherwise, upon my person.”
He smiled widely, but made no response.
She lifted her brows. “Which begs the question, my lord, why did you request to dance with me?”
He deftly swung her away from a collision with an encroaching couple. “Miss Lightwood, you are one of the most beautiful and sought-after ladies in attendance. I merely seek my turn to be the object of your attention. You must stop frowning at me or everyone shall think I’ve said something inappropriate.” His knee brushed against her leg through the thin silk of her gown, and the intimate touch sent a shiver through her.
Though she couldn’t discern what he might want from her, she knew she couldn’t afford to alienate one of the richest and most powerful men in London. She softened her expression and immediately became lost in his clear blue eyes.
His gaze captured and held hers for several heartbeats before he cleared his throat and spoke again. “I have a proposition for you.”

JUST A KISS can be purchased at AMAZON, Barnes & Noble and all reputable Ebook retailers

Connect with Ally:  

Friday, June 13, 2014

From Rome to the Outback - the world of Eva Scott

It is always a pleasure to welcome one of my peripatetic writing friends to take tea with me. Eva Scott is an Australian writer of contemporary, coastal and historical romances and a stable mate of my publisher Escape Publishing. 

She may have a branding problem... but I prefer to call it diversity of subject! Whatever Eva Scott book you pick up you will love!

Welcome to my tea table, Eva. What is your preference? English Breakfast or something a little more exotic!

I’m rather partial to French Earl Grey – smells heavenly and tastes delicious.
(AS: I confess I have never tried French Earl Grey... it certainly looks pretty but does it have bergamot?)

You have lived and worked “overseas” but I am intrigued… where have you lived and what took you to foreign parts?

Love took me to Britain where I lived for 6 years (not with the same man I hasten to add). Boredom took me to Papua New Guinea. I was in a job I hated so I emailed everyone I knew and asked if anyone knew of a job for me. An old friend from my London days was living in PNG and there was a job…so I went…

And how did you meet your husband?

…and met the love of my life who was stationed in Port Moresby with the Australian Defence Force. It was pretty well love at first sight although it took us several years to actually get together.  Now he’s a writer too!

I thought I had difficulty putting a “label” on what I write but you are quite diversified… contemporary, coastal and historical romance (not all in the same book!).  How do you describe yourself and of the sub genres you write in, which really holds your passion!

Loads of people say you must define your brand – and on paper I agree with them.  I saw Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) speak once about story ideas being like birds which come to roost with you. If you don’t manifest them they leave and find someone else who will. All the stories which come to roost with me are very different from one another. Which means my branding is a train wreck! I really must do something about that…

You seem to be working on several stories at the same time. How does your writing process work?

I have a 3 year old boy so my process goes like this – put the computer on the kitchen bench and leave it on, opened on the current MS, write in snatches whenever there is a chance. Luckily for me my little lad is independent and doesn’t need my constant attention. In fact he often tells me to go away and work on ‘combuter’.  In the early stages of developing a storyline I do lots of character work and some basic plot work. I find that despite my best intentions my characters often ignore the plotline and do their own thing.
(AS:  I didn't start writing until my children were well past that stage. I think I would have driven myself around the bend!)

I love the concept of your Roman historicals,  THE LAST GLADIATRIX and THE BARBARIAN BRIDE which revolve around the concept of female gladiators. Where did the idea for these stories come from and will there be any more in the series?

THE LAST GLADIATRIX was completely different when I first wrote it. Titus was a god disguised as a Centurion. It was awful. The rewrite is much better and some say Titus is my best hero ever. BARBARIAN BRIDE spun off of THE LAST GLADIATRIX in response to a request from my editor to know what happened to Klara, a minor character. The very last book in the series (currently being polished) is about one of the hero’s sister, Alexandra, and how she navigates the treacherous waters of Roman society when she finds herself alone and under threat.

Moving away from the world of Roman Gladiators back to the present, I know you are very excited about the re-release of your three contemporary stories, THE RELUCTANT WEDDING PLANNER, MARRIAGE MAKEOVER and T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. How did this come about? 

These three books were my first foray into writing. The Reluctant Wedding Planner originally made the finalist list for the Romance Writers of Australia's Emerald Award before being contracted by Musa Publishing. Another two books followed and this year Musa Publishing decided to give them some new covers and let them loose on the world once more. My editor has a soft spot for Marriage Makeover while T'was The Night Before Christmas got terrific reviews on the college circuit. There is something for everyone in this trilogy and I'm delighted they've been given a fresh life.


Dr Camden James is a rural vet, not a wedding planner, so he quickly feels out of his depth when, in a fit of generosity, he offers to glam up his sister's budget wedding in a secret move designed to surprise her. With only six weeks to make this the wedding of his sister's dreams he needs to move fast.
Stumbling around in the largely female world of weddings he gets a lead on the go-to girl for wedding flowers - Georgiana Mac Intyre. Georgi, reeling from a very public breakup, is not interested in men in anyway shape or form. Not even super-cute vets - even when they are clearly interested in her. 
Cam shamelessly uses his story to get her to help. It has all the elements; romance against the odds, true love, orphans (you can't have good story without an orphan or two), and a bride.

Nick and Talia Carmichael were childhood sweethearts. Grief over the death of their baby daughter from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome crushed their marriage. Talia moved to a new city, with a new career and life. Now it’s time to close the door on the past and ask Nick for a divorce.
Nick has other ideas. Once his wife, always his wife. He has no intention of letting Talia off so lightly and proposes terms and conditions to his agreement. It will mean moving back into their marital home, and force her to face long buried grief. Can she do as he asks?
Being with Nick causes her to question everything she thought was true. Has she made a mistake thinking her love for Nick is dead? Can he still love her? More importantly, can he again trust after everything they’ve been through?

During her Christmas Eve performance, part time Burlesque dancer Miss Ginger Snap looks out into the crowd to see her first and only love, Clay Roberts. The man who broke her heart and betrayed her. The man who caused her to flee her home town to Sydney and never look back. Desperate to avoid him, she makes a mad dash for the last train back to her home town in time for Christmas.
For Clay time stands still as he recognises the dancer. He’s certain it’s Jessica King. She ran out on him at their high school graduation and he’s been searching for her ever since. After missing her train, Clay convinces Jessica to travel home with him.
Can Clay convince his one true love to give him the opportunity to atone and a second chance? Can Jess risk being hurt again by the man she loved?

Eva lives on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland Australia in the town which brought the world the Bee Gees. When she’s not writing romance you can find her out on the water kayaking, fishing or swimming. When on dry land it’s all about the shoes and the coffee (and old Bee Gees records).

You can find Eva on her Website, Facebook and Twitter

Her books are available directly from MUSA PUBLISHING or Amazon (see direct Links below)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Out of Africa... meet Beverley Eikli

BE and AS hamming it up...
Sometimes in life we meet people with whom there is an instant connection. I have known about Beverley Eikli (or Beverley Oakley) for a long time through the writing circles, but we never really got to talk until we went to the Phryne Fisher Costume Collection last year. Not only did we discover we were both big kids who liked dressing up, but also discovered some of the most amazing coincidences in our lives... beginning with the fact we were both born in the dying days of the colonial presence in Africa: me in Kenya and Beverely in Lesotho and moved to Australia at about the same age (Beverley to Adelaide and me to Melbourne) etc.  However what Beverley did, that I have never quite had the courage to do, is return to Africa and her life from there reads like a Girl's Own Adventure.

Beverley and I are doing a shared book launch on June 22nd and all of those (in the general vicinity of course!) are more than welcome to join us for an afternoon of wine, cheese, chocolate, books, poetry and music. (Proceeds will be going to Alzheimers Victoria). Details at the end of the post. 

So many questions I could pose, Beverley, but first let us compose ourselves with a cup of tea. I have been teaching George Swahili… “Peleke chai kwa Mgeni” (Take tea to the guest).  The question is what sort of tea is your preference?

Ah, there’s nothing like a good strong cup of tea, first thing in the morning when I sit down to work. Thank you so much for having me, Alison. So, tea? I’m a traditionalist and a ‘when in Rome…. ’ sort of person. In Australia it’s English Breakfast with no milk or sugar. However when we visit Norway, which we do quite frequently as my husband is Norwegian and I lived there for a year, my favourite is Jul Te or Christmas Tea (pronounced yule, as in yuletide), a fragrant fruit and spice tea, taken black and unsweetened, which I bring home in large quantities after every visit.

The reason I mention Swahili is because you and I have a very similar background. I was born in Kenya and you in Lesotho (formerly Basutoland) during the dying days of the British Empire. What took your family to Lesotho?

BE's grandfather on a survey trip of the Okavango 
Ah, Africa and the good old days…. Well, my dad, Ted Nettelton, had been born andbrought up in Botswana during the 30s and 40s and had studied anthropology at Cape Town University before he joined the British Colonial Service. They sent him to Cambridge University to do a District Commissioner’s Course, and then to the mountainous African kingdom of Lesotho in the mid 50s where he became a District Commissioner in Mokhotlong, known at the time as ‘The British Empire’s most remote outpost’. I was born ten years later during what mum and dad considered the happiest years of their lives in this far-flung region. Shortly afterwards dad was transferred to the capital, Maseru, where he took up the post of Private Secretary to the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan. We emigrated to Australia a few years after Independence.

Garden in the mountains of Mokhotlong in Lesotho
Your own life reads like a girl’s own adventure or at the very least the plot of a romance novel. Again, like my family, yours emigrated to Australia but unlike me, Africa has drawn you back and that in itself is a story. Can you give us a potted history of your African adventure?

Thanks Alison… I love telling this story because it’s a reminder that real-life romance is just as interesting as fiction. So, how did I end up back in the land of my father’s and grandfather’s birth, a whole generation later?

BE with microlight in Botswana
In my late twenties I came upon my grandfather, Gerald Nettelton’s pictorial diary, which details his extraordinary adventures as a young District Officer between 1916 and 1922 in the Okavango Delta in Northern Botswana. About that time, an unexpected freelance windfall gave me the funds to see the country for myself on a fly-in safari, so I persuaded dad to come along, and we had a brilliant time, the icing on the cake being a job offer to return later in the year to do two months relief management at Okavango Wilderness Safari’s luxury camp, Mombo. I leapt at the opportunity and took leave from my job as a journalist on Adelaide’s The Advertiser to immerse myself in bush life. This was twenty years ago so communications were basic. There was nothing as sophisticated as wifi or GPS or fax machines, though we had a two-way radio. Delivering fresh supplies and tourists to camp was done by light aircraft due to the floodwaters which turned so many camps into islands for six months of the year, but those  floodwaters attracted vast herds of game to the area which the tourists paid big money to see. Botswana’s successful economy is based largely on high cost, low impact tourism, in addition to revenue from its diamonds which were – fortunately for Botswana – discovered after they gained independence from Britain. (I later had some exciting times working in survey in the closed diamond town of Orapa, several years later, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, back to my own fairy tale in the pristine, romantic environment of the Okavango, where fate intervened the evening before I was due to fly home to resume my old life. After dining around the large table with the 14 guests staying in our small camp, we all convened around the campfire, and this is when I got talking to the handsome Norwegian bush pilot who’d just flown in four tourists.

Eight months later, after a whirlwind courtship consisting of these six hours of conversation around the camp fire, dozens of long-hand snail-mail letters three faxes and two long-distance phone calls, Eivind (pronounced Ivan) boarded a flight from Botswana and jetted over to Australia to ask me to marry him. It’s been a brilliantly successful 20 years, as that was only the beginning of our adventures around the world.

How has Africa influenced your writing?

I’ve always felt part of me stayed in Africa, though I’ve lived in many countries and Australia is home. As a child I wrote childish, dramatic stories about kidnapped earl’s daughters, and, as an adult, more sophisticated stories of kidnapped earl’s daughters, but a novel with an African setting has always been something I’ve wanted to do.

A poaching background might have been an obvious choice due to my having worked in the safari industry. I’d heard so many stories from Dad who’d grown up in the bush, and hunted for the pot during boyhood expeditions. Tragically, his brother, my uncle Gerald, was trampled to death by an elephant in Tanganyika; later, when I worked in Botswana, and then when I returned once more to live with Eivind in a tiny thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest by a flood plain, I formed a very healthy respect for elephants, and for the other African wildlife which surrounded me.

However, although I was working and socializing with pilots who flew for photographic safaris, and pilots who flew for hunting safaris, and also game rangers, documentary makers and long-time game hunters, I wanted to set a story in the country where I’d been born during the final years of the Colonial Administration.

Dad had prosecuted many medicine murders and Illegal Diamond (IDB) Buying cases in Lesotho, so I decided to make my hero a bush pilot who becomes embroiled in IDB to save the reputation of the District Commissioner’s daughter, whom he loves, but who has set her sights on a more illustrious match: an up-and-coming Cape Town lawyer. In addition to the dramas of conflicted love and how many risks a man will take for honour, despite the fact his ultimate goal seems hopeless, I also wanted to explore the nuances of the class structure amongst both blacks and whites in a country that has never experienced Apartheid yet which was surrounded by Apartheid South Africa.

The Sani Pass - one of the world's great mountain passes - was just down the road and separated us from South Africa. I returned several years ago and remembered all over again how terrifying it was to negotiate those hairpin bends in a 4x4

You are best known for your wonderful cross genre historical novels (indeed you write spicy historical under the soubriquet Beverley Oakley). Do you have a particular period that holds your passion?

I enjoy so many, and I have to admit that when I set a book in a particular time period, it’s often a good excuse for me to make a full costume, with all the corsetry and underpinnings to wear in order to promote it. The two favourite settings for my spicy stories are the English Civil War (The Cavalier) and the 1880s during the pioneering years of Photography (Saving Grace). Pan Macmillan Momentum have just included Saving Grace in a bundled collection of their Hot Down Under series, which was launched a few days ago on May 27th. And I have to say, that although my Beverley Oakley stories were classified erotic, most of them were more an exploration into how desperation motivated my heroines during key historical moments, rather than a celebration of eroticism, though the descriptions were reasonably explicit, as the heat level of my Beverley Oakley stories always are.

Your latest book (and your second with Choc Lit) is THE MAID OF MILAN. What was the inspiration behind this story?

I worked on this story over many years, while other stories of mine were published. Honour and redemption are key themes, as is generally the case with my books. As almost every reviewer remarks, The Maid of Milan is ‘not your typical historical romance’, and that the ending isn’t what any of them expected. I love to keep readers guessing and to lead them to expect a certain ending, but to get another.

I also wanted to explore the issues of wrongdoing and manipulation, and how far love and forgiveness will stretch. I agonized over getting the nuances just right in this book and I strove for an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1944 mystery-thriller movie ‘Gaslight’ starring Ingrid Bergmann. In the beginning of The Maid of Milan, everything at first seems obvious. The reader knows that Regency party-girl Adelaide has come a cropper and, following four years of unspectacular marriage, she’s just begun to appreciate her noble, energetic and reformist MP husband, Tristan, who’s nursed her through her darkest hours.
Then Adelaide’s former lover, (who happens to be Tristan’s boyhood friend), turns up, and Adelaide is forced into a series of lies and counter-lies to hide the secrets of her past, while being thrust reluctantly into the limelight as the celebrated muse of a famous painter.

But that’s when everything stops being obvious as, hopefully, the reader grapples with who, in fact, is manipulating Adelaide, and why? The answers are definitely not as clear-cut as first appears and  Adelaide finds herself spiraling into a world where, despite all her best intentions and efforts to be the woman her husband deserves, she is trapped, a pawn in someone else’s game.


How much would you pay for a clear conscience?

Adelaide Leeson wants to prove herself worthy of her husband, a man of noble aspirations who married her when she was at her lowest ebb.

Lord Tristan Leeson is a model of diplomacy and self-control, curbing the fiery impulses of his youth to maintain the calm relations deemed essential by his mother-in-law to preserve his wife’s health.
A visit from his boyhood friend, feted poet Lord James Dewhurst, author of the sensational Maid of Milan, persuades Tristan that leaving the countryside behind for the London Season will be in everyone’s interests.
But as Tristan’s political career rises and Adelaide revels in society’s adulation, the secrets of the past are uncovered. And there’s a high price to pay for a life of deception.

The Maid of Milan is available in ebook, paperback, Large Print and audio book from: Amazon USAmazon UKiBooksKoboBarnes & NobleBook Depository

Beverley Eikli is the award-winning author of eight historical romances, laced with 
mystery and intrigue.
She has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, a safari lodge manager in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and an airborne geophysical survey operator on contracts around the world.
Beverley loves exploring complex issues such as the consequences faced by characters who make errors of judgment in a punitive society. Her own experiences have provided rich fodder for her books, the highlight of her tumultuous past being the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire in Botswana and married after a whirlwind romance, twenty years ago.
Beverley teaches in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University. She lives with her husband, two daughters and their Rhodesian Ridgeback, in a pretty country town near Melbourne, Australia.

You can visit her website at: or follow her on Twitter @BeverleyOakley or Facebook:

It’s been a pleasure to be here, Alison. Thank you. I’d also like to offer a copy of my Regency romantic mystery/suspense Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly to a randomly selected reader who can tell me what year France’s Madame Guillotine beheaded its last victim. (I ask this during my History Through Costume talks, because my last book, The Reluctant Bride, was partly set during The Reign of Terror in 1792.)