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Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
The Pros and Cons of a Friends with Benefits Relationship

Meet Connor Grey and Maggie Drummond from The Bottom Line. They’re long time friends and currently both single. To Maggie’s surprise, Connor suggests a friends with benefits arrangement out of the blue.

So, what are friends with benefit? What are the pros and cons of such a relationship?

A friend with benefits is someone who you can hook up with for no-strings sex. It’s more than a one-night fling, but it’s not a steady romantic relationship either.

These days it’s sometimes difficult to find time to do the whole dating thing and pursue a relationship, especially with full-on careers. Some adults choose to sleep with a friend they trust without any expectations. It’s a way of having string-free sex without the hassle of hitting the pubs and clubs—all the fun without the problems.

This type of relationship does come with problems.

One of the parties can become emotionally involved. Sometimes it’s difficult for a person to keep the emotional distance necessary to make this sort of relationship work. Women typically become more involved and feel everything more. This can present difficulties because the last thing the relationship needs is jealousy when one of the friends has a date with someone else.

The solution to this problem is to set ground rules before the start of the relationship. Safe sex is a must. Decide if you want to tell your friends, and talk frankly about your expectations. Honesty is key and both parties need to keep to the set boundaries.

The Bottom LineConnor and Maggie decide to go ahead with their friends with benefits arrangement, although it doesn’t quite turn out how they expect.

Here’s a short excerpt where they first discuss their arrangement.

“I have an idea, but I need a kiss first.”

Smiling, Maggie leaned close and pressed her lips against his cheek. She moved back before he had a chance to react.

“That wasn’t quite what I had in mind.” Blood rushed through his veins, his heart thudding against his ribs in an erratic manner. Hell, sex between them would be good, if this innocent little kiss was any indication. “A real kiss.”

Connor closed the distance between them and grasped her head firmly in his hands. She jumped at his touch, stared at him, a spark of indefinable emotion darkening the golden brown of her eyes to chocolate. His gaze dropped to her mouth. God, he’d always loved her mouth, fantasized about kissing it, seeing her lips wrapped around his cock. He snorted inwardly. Like that idea would score him points. Connor brushed his lips against hers. Soft. So soft. The rest of his body went on high alert, cock filling to press against his fly.

She sighed and he took advantage, slipping his tongue inside to taste her. Coffee and a faint minty flavor danced across his taste buds. At first he kept the kiss slow and gentle, then he lifted his head to study her. He liked the dreamy expression on her face, but he enjoyed kissing her more. He wanted her to respond to his kiss, needed to know she felt even a little like he did. Her eager lips and the hands threading through his hair, holding him in place as he wrapped his arms around her again, shot all his doubts to hell.

Slowly, he pulled back. They were both breathing fast. “Okay. That answered my question.”

Maggie smoothed her tongue over her bottom lip and watched him with a touch of confusion. Judging by her expression, she thought she’d taken a wrong turn from the bathroom and stepped into an alternative reality. “What question?”

“Would you be interested in a friends with benefits deal with me?” He held his breath and waited for her answer, knowing he’d never wanted something so much in all his life.

Her mouth opened and closed three times. “Friends with benefits? You mean…we’d sleep together?”

“If we weren’t seeing anyone else.” Damn, please don’t say no. His gut jumped with nerves. He’d pushed her too hard. Of course she’d reject his offer and wonder about his motives.

Maggie picked up her mug and took a sip of coffee, grimacing faintly. She stood and walked over to the coffeemaker, returning with the carafe. “Do you want a top up?”

“Sure.” He held out his mug.

She took a long time, fiddling with the coffee, the mugs and the Granny Smith apples sitting in the fruit bowl.

“Are you going to say something?” he asked.

“Doesn’t a deal like this have the potential to blow up in our faces?”

“Why should it?” he asked, trying to convince her. “We’re not kids.”

“I still don’t understand why you’d choose me.” She started pacing up and down, making him nervous.

“You’re a friend. I like you. I trust you.” Connor wasn’t going to ignore the many pitfalls. That wouldn’t be smart. “We’d set boundaries before we started anything between us. Stop pacing. Sit next to me. I’m not gonna bite.” Not yet, but if things went his way he would in the future. He’d enjoy marking her, leaving her body wearing his badge of possession.

Grab your copy: Samhain Publishing| All Romance eBooks| Barnes & Noble| Amazon|Koboicon| iBooks|
Order print: Samhain Publishing| Amazon| Barnes & Noble| Book Depository|

Do you enjoy reading stories about friends-to-lovers or friends with benefits?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Real Life Cat Burglars

A cat burglar is a thief who breaks into homes to steal personal property. They take their name from real life cats since cats are stealthy, quiet creatures that approach their prey without causing alarm.

The human variety of cat burglar slips inside unnoticed, taking what he wants and disappearing again before the victim notices a theft has occurred. Essentially, a cat burglar breaks and enters. It’s against the law yet cat burglars have appeared in some of my favorite romance stories and movies.

Today I thought I’d tell you about two real-life cat burglars.

Estate agent, Bill Mason plundered more than $70 million worth of jewels over three decades. According to him there was no thrill quite so big as hanging from a parapet 200 feet above the ground while a hoard of diamonds and gold was only a few feet away, his for the taking, if he could hold his nerve.

He was attractive, charismatic and debonair with old-age mystique and very good at his job, never once resorting to violence. He lived a double life for twenty-five years, married to his childhood sweetheart, Barbara. He drove his three kids to school and sports matches, invited the neighbors over for barbeques and worked in his legitimate property business. At night, he robbed the rich, sinking the funds from his heists into real estate and investments. His wife had no idea and assumed his money came from hard work and judicious borrowing. He always had a good excuse for his night time absences.

According to Mason, he had a good head for heights and worked to maintain strong hands because a thief needs to find one way to get inside that no one expects and that means climbing.

The FBI finally caught up with him and he did a stint in prison. You can read his story in Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief

The second cat burglar is of the feline variety. Frankie, a two-year-old cat has stolen 35 plush toys during the last year. He skulks into houses, steals their small stuffed animals and takes his ill-gotten gains home, sneaking them through his cat flap. His owner, Julie Bishop, says, “He doesn’t really play with them. He dumps them in the same spot at home and goes looking for more.”

Frankie has collected stuffed teddy bears, a giant squeaky hamburger but favors a small leopard toy. He has more than a dozen of the same spotted leopard toy. Here’s a link to the story plus a photo of Frankie with some of his stolen loot.

Because I’ve enjoyed reading cat burglar romances in the past, I decided to write my own. Let me introduce Cat Burglar in Training.

Cat Burglar in Training

Here is the blurb:

Eve Fawkner had no intention of following in her father’s footsteps. But when the thugs harassing him to repay his gambling debts threaten her young daughter, Eve is forced to assume the role of London’s most notorious cat burglar, The Shadow. The plan is simple: pull off a couple of heists, pay back the goons and go into permanent retirement. But things get messy during her first job when Eve witnesses a murder, stumbles across a clue that sheds some light on her past and, worst of all, falls for a cop.

Inspector Kahu Williams would be the perfect man, if Eve were looking, and if there wasn’t the little matter of their career conflict. The man is seriously hot—and hot on the trail of a murderer. A trail that keeps leading him back to Eve…

Grab your copy at: Carina Press| Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble| Koboicon|iBooks US| iBooks NZ

Monday, November 23rd, 2015
Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua is a city in the North Island, which sits on the banks of a lake of the same name. It is well-known for its thermal activity and the entire area smells of sulfur. I don’t mind the “rotten egg” smell, but some people dislike the stench. This is one of the entrances to Government Gardens, a park area with beautiful gardens.

Rotorua is a fun place to visit since there is so much to do. You can visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute to check out the carvings, see the thermal Whakarewarewa area, go luging down a hill or zorbing. Some people like to fish for trout or go boating on the lake. There is also a good sheep shearing and sheep dog show.

One interesting thing is that geysers and bubbling mud pools can appear at any time. It’s not a good area to dig in your garden!

Friday, November 20th, 2015
Donkey Sightseeing

Donkey Sightseeing

When we booked our trip to Egypt, this was the part that worried me the most—the donkey ride. I dreaded it, having visions of falling off, yet all these years later, it is the part I remember most. We got up early and it was barely light when we arrived at the donkey meeting point. We were assigned our donkeys and off we went, riding along flat roads toward the hills where the tombs are hidden. It was a leisurely ride along quiet roads, then up a hillside path.

At the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, we trotted past tourists in big coaches. I thought smugly of the fun they had missed out on. Ironic, when this was the part I dreaded!

After our exploration of the tombs, we mounted our donkeys and rode back to Luxor. By this time, my butt was a bit sore. The others were complaining too. Also, the donkeys moved a lot faster on the way home.

It was a brilliant and memorable excursion. I have a soft spot for donkeys.

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
13 Cinderella Romances

Thursday Thirteen

The fairy tale of Cinderella is one of my favorites, and over the years, many authors have taken the tale and given it their own twist. It’s a romantic tale with a handsome prince, a beautiful heroine, a villain and the traditional happy ending.

Beautiful girl dressed as Cinderella is sitting on the steps

Here are Thirteen Cinderella romances for you to try.

1. Fooling Around with Cinderella by Stacey Juba – What happens when the glass slippers pinch Cinderella’s toes? A blend of sweet romance, chick lit and fairy tale fun.

2. Spellbound Cinderella by Angela Ford – If you had your dream body for only 24 hours… What would you do? One magical pendant gives Tess one wish to use before the clock strikes twelve.

3. Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream – a twisted tale of a maiden cursed to be a loup garou and the werewolf prince whose fate lies in her hands.

4. The Cinderella Princess by Melissa McClone – A scandal-ridden prince must marry a royal if he doesn’t want to be disowned, but he falls for the American sent to find him a princess bride.

5. Amish Cinderella by Rachel Stoltzfus – Set in a whimsical Lancaster County of fantastic possibility grounded in strong Christian values, sixteen-year-old Amish orphan Ella faces constant abuse as she struggles to do all of her own chores as well as those of her two older cousins.

6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer – a gifted mechanic in New Beijing and also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

7. Savage Cinderella by P J Sharon – Kidnapped and left for dead, Brinn Hathaway survives for years in the wild, only to be drawn out of hiding by a young nature photographer who steals her heart. Now, Brinn must decide if coming out of hiding is worth the hope—and the danger—that may await her.

8. Pumpkin: A Cindermama Story by Ines Johnson – Having given up on fairytales after falling for her toad of an ex, Pumpkin is afraid to take a chance on town royalty Manny who believes she may be his soulmate.

9. Nobody’s Cinderella by Joan Reeves – A lie and a wish on a Christmas star…uh oh! This Cinderella should have been careful what she wished for!

10. If the Slipper Fits by Olivia Drake – Raised in a girls’ school, Annabelle Quinn longs for the world outside the walls of the academy. When she’s hired as the governess to an orphaned duke, Annabelle never expects the child’s breathtakingly handsome guardian to capture her imaginationor her heart.

11. The Cinderella Debutante by Elizabeth Hanbury- Lucy Sinclair’s London Season was cut short by tragedy. Now, five years later, she is returning but only in the shadow of her lovely step-sister. Belinda is determined to catch a titled husband and Alex, Lord Devlyn fits the bill perfectly.

12. Wishful Thinking by Lynette Sofras – A struggling single mother and a pop-icon turned Hollywood star meet in unusual circumstances. Fate drew them together, but the intrigue and trappings of stardom threaten to unravel love’s ties.

13. One Night of Misbehavior by Shelley Munro – He wears his scars on the outside. She keeps hers safe inside. Warning: Contains a conniving stepmother, selfish stepsisters, a grandmother with fairy godmother tendencies and a sexy masked man who is willing to face them all for the love of a good woman.

Do you enjoy Cinderella romances?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
Oat Cakes

Oat Rounds

I tried out two new recipes this week, and this is the first. This recipe for Oat Rounds, or what I like to call oat cakes, comes from 100 Sweet Treats and Puds by Mary Berry. I was pleased with the texture, but both hubby and I thought the final result was too sweet.


50 grams (2 oz) fine sugar

100 grams (4 oz) butter

100 grams (4 oz) porridge oats (oatmeal)

50 grams (2 oz) plain flour


1. Preheat the oven to 160C or 140C for fan oven and line trays with baking paper.

2. Combine the sugar and butter and beat until creamy.

3. Add the oats and flour and combine.

4. Lightly knead the mixture, flour work surface, and roll out to a thickness of 5mm or 1/4 inch.

5. Cut into rounds with a plain cutter and place on baking trays. Should make around 16 rounds.

6. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

7. Cool on a wire rack.

Shelley’s Notes

1. These biscuits were way too sweet. At least they were for my taste. I’d half the sugar the next time.

2. I have a fan oven, and I cooked my biscuits at 140C. They took ages to cook, far longer than the 20 minutes, so I think I’d increase the temperature a little.

3. My mixture kept crumbling when I was rolling it, so I pressed my biscuits into shape. That’s why mine look a bit ragged!

4. They taste great with cheese.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
The Alaskan Totem Poles

Totem Pole

We saw lots of cool totem poles while in Vancouver and Alaska. Totem poles are not religious in nature but tell the story of local families, the way they connect and their different rights within the family group. Sometimes they can be used to mock or berate a family or family member who has done something wrong.

Before the arrival of the white man, totem poles tended to be smaller, but with the availability of metal tools, the carvers became more ambitious and the totem poles much taller.

One thing I found interesting is that once a pole is erected it isn’t maintained, but is left to rot. It will be removed if it poses a danger and some topple during winter storms. The poles last for between 60 to 100 years.

We have similar poles in New Zealand, and I did a post about them earlier. You can find the post on pouwhenua here.

Monday, November 16th, 2015
A Marriage of Convenience

I’ve always enjoyed reading a marriage of convenience romance. This type of book is familiar and comforting and popular with readers like me. Since I snap up books using this premise, a marriage of convenience plot was the obvious choice when I decided to write my own historical romances. I’ve written two so far—The Spurned Viscountess and Mistress of Merrivale, which both feature this trope.

So what is a marriage of convenience? What are the characteristics of this type of plot?

In times past, love didn’t come into the marriage equation. Parents arranged marriages for their offspring, searching for the links that would bring land, finance and added prestige into the family. Marriage was all about connections and improving your lot in life.

For the romance writer, this is conflict served up on a platter. The hero and heroine start their marriage knowing little about each other, yet since they’re married there is no barrier to those hot sex scenes. The layers of the characters are peeled away as they struggle to find their place in the relationship and, because this is a romance, love.

Modern day marriage of convenience stories are harder to pull off, mainly because times have changed and sex before marriage is common. The modern way is to marry for love, and we generally choose our partners, rather than letting our parents do it for us.

The modern-day couple might marry for more practical reasons such as sealing a contract, securing an inheritance or to perpetrate a pretense of some sort.

If a child is involved, two people might marry to provide that child with a home and safety. Sometimes money comes into the decision, but immigration to allow one half of a couple to enter the country is a modern twist. The need for protection or the insistent tick-tock of a biological clock might persuade a heroine into marriage or even the modern version of mail-order—meeting someone on the internet.

These stories bring inherent conflict because the characters aren’t in love and they don’t have to pretend they’re head over heels for each other. The getting-to-know each other stage of the relationship becomes the conflict. Sexual relations are sometimes part of the deal and sometimes not, and the greater intimacy comes with time.

Mistress of MerrivaleIn Mistress of Merrivale, Jocelyn Townsend is a mistress to a titled man. When her protector no longer requires her services, she is desperate to find a replacement in order to keep her mother safe. Leo Sherbourne requires a wife to warm his bed, keep his house in order and to look after his young daughter. They agree that a marriage of convenience will work well between and that—in the spirit of a good romance—is when all their problems begin.

Here’s the blurb:

A marriage of convenience…full of inconvenient secrets.

Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.

Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.

Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.

As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…

Warning: Contains mysterious incidents, a mad mother who screeches without provocation, scheming relatives, and a captivating husband who blows scorching hot and suspiciously cold. All is not as it seems…and isn’t that delicious?

What do you think of the marriage of convenience trope?

Sunday, November 15th, 2015
Make it a Paranormal Christmas

If you enjoy paranormal romance and like to get into a festive mood by reading a few Christmas stories, then I have a treat for you.

Naughty, Nice and Paranormal and the sister box set Sugar, Spice and Shifters is out today. Both box sets are 99c and feature 15 stories. That’s 30 sips of Christmas paranormal magic for $1.98.

I have a House of the Cat story in Naughty, Nice and Paranormal. Learn how Camryn, Ry and their friends spend their first Christmas on Viros.

Naughty Nice and Paranormal

Sugar, Spice and Shifters

Purchase Naughty, Nice and Paranormal and Sugar, Spice and Shifters and start your romantic and relaxing journey toward Christmas Winking smile

Friday, November 13th, 2015
The Lure of Body Parts

Body language is a fascinating subject and a writer can do a lot with their characters in this respect. I’ve read a few books on the subject, and I always enjoy the TV program Lie To Me, which uses body language as a focal point for the show.

The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease has a section on the things men and women first notice about prospective partners.

Male Torso

When men look at a woman they’re generally attracted to certain parts of the anatomy—the butt, breasts or legs. And believe it or not, this attraction is all tied up with reproduction.

So here’s the low down on each choice:

Butts – men find rounded, peach-shaped buttocks the most attractive. Female primates display their buttocks when they’re ready to mate. It shows they are receptive and available. Human females display their butts all the time, and this gives males the impression she’s available. Women also store fat in their buttocks for breastfeeding and as an emergency food storage in lean times. Note to self – remember this when complaining about current butt size!

Breasts—they serve as a sexual signal. Men are attracted to cleavage.

Legs—long legs are a non-verbal signal telling males that a woman is sexually mature and capable of childbearing. Men like women who wear high-heels because it gives the illusion of fertile looking legs.

When we women look at male body parts a sexual response is triggered in us too. Here’s the low down from the feminine prospective:

We like chests—a wide chest tapering to narrow hips allows a man to lug heavy weapons for long distances and to carry home their kills. Always handy, I think!

We like small, tight butts—a tight, muscular butt is necessary to make a strong forward thrust that’s needed for sperm transfer during sex. A man with a flabby butt has problems with this and tends to throw his entire body into the thrust, which isn’t comfortable for his partner.

We also like hips and muscular legs. They’re symbols of masculine power and endurance. Long, muscular legs allow a man to run swiftly, chase and hunt. Ladies like a man who can provide for them.

Interesting stuff, isn’t it? I tend to check out a man’s butt—don’t tell hubby. I had no idea I was thinking about forward thrusting. Really! No idea at all…

If you’re looking at a person of the opposite sex, which part do you check out first?