romance novel reviews, views and interviews

The Barbershop Girl coming 2017

Marvellous news at Steamy Puddings. Irrepressible You, my 2014 e-book will be released in print on January 3rd 2017 as The Barbershop Girl with an absolutely gorgeous cover. I'm all smiles! If you've already brought Irrepressible You, you'll just find the cover and name updated on your reading device. 

For anyone else who would like to stroke the cover lovingly (as I fully intend on doing in a kind of dodgy but awesome way) I'll be posting the pre-order links soon!

Authors That Inspired Me Series: Justine Lewis on Jane Austen

We love a bit of Jane Austen at Steamy Puddings, maybe because Persuasion was the BEST BOOK EVER... yep, that's right, you saw those caps and we're game to defend them with perfume bottles at ten paces if you disagree. But today there shall be none of that because the lovely Justine Lewis has dropped by to tell us how much Jane Austen has influenced her career. Read on!

When Georgina put out a call for a post about an author that had influenced me, my first thought was, ‘Jane Austen? No, not Jane Austen. Everything has already been written about Jane Austen. All the words. Too many words. She is the woman who launched countless adaptations and who is indirectly responsible for a whole genre of romance fiction. And Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’

There’s nothing more I could possibly add to all that. And there are so many other authors who have influenced me. Plenty. Heaps.

So I went to my bookshelf for inspiration. I found lots of great books, lots of terrific authors, but none I felt like writing 600-800 words about. Now I should explain. I moved house six months ago and three-quarters of my paper books are still in boxes. I’m dreaming of a gorgeous built in bookcase to put them in, but that hasn’t miraculous appeared yet. So my boxes of books are waiting for bookshelves as lovely as they are to be unpacked onto. And in the limited collection I have unpacked I didn’t find the other authors I was looking for. But I did find two copies of Pride and Prejudice. And two copies of Emma. And I took that as a sign.

I remember the first time I read Pride and Prejudice clearly – I was on holiday but can still vividly picture the room I was lying in when I first read that Lydia had eloped with Wickham. A few weeks later I groaned and shut the book when Emma insulted Miss Bates, ‘Ah! Ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me-but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.’ A line that still makes me laugh and cringe.

I was also travelling when I first read Persuasion, in the Scottish highlands during a Scottish ‘summer’, which totally matched Anne’s mood. Or maybe it was the other way around.

If you ask me to name my favourite Austen book it will be which ever book I read last. I re-watched a BBC adaptation of Persuasion last week, so it’s on my mind. But I do think Emma is one of the most perfect novels ever written – and this is reinforced with each reading.

Northanger Abbey must be one of the most underrated. Catherine Morland getting lost in gothic novels and being lead astray by her overactive imagination. Because aren’t we all just a bit like that? Though maybe that’s just me… I have an audio book of Joanna Lumley reading Northanger Abbey and it makes me laugh out loud. An inspired pairing.

My reaction to Fanny Price changes with each decade I grow older – from ridicule when I was a teenager to tears now I am, you know, just a couple of years older.

And the Big P&P is so familiar, so entrenched in our psyche. Even if you’ve never read it you will already have met Elizabeth Bennet who lives on countless romantic heroines. And you would already know Mr Darcy, who is the archetypal hero. You can’t have escaped the influence of this couple, even if you’ve never gasped when Elizabeth accidently runs into Mr Darcy in the gardens of Pemberley or cheered when Elizabeth tells Lady Catherine to go stick it. I’m paraphrasing, of course. But I’m sure that’s exactly what Elizabeth was thinking.

I don’t write regency or historical novels – I write contemporary romance. Jane Austen did too.

Set in her present, concerned with the worries and goings on of the people in her circle and in her own time. Her novels were contemporary and yet timeless.

The main way she has influenced me is by showing me that the concerns of a small group of people are worthwhile. That a village, or two or three families are enough for a compelling story. That books don’t have to be about war, or crime, or vampires to be great. That concerns that are often dismissed as trivial, such as love, money, happiness are important enough to base a novel around. Most of all Jane Austen showed me that stories about women, where women are the protagonists and where the reader never sees the male point of view, can also be classics.

Jane Austen has only become more and more popular over the last two centuries. After nearly going out of print, a biography by her nephew revitalised her fame in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, apparently her place in the English cannon was secured during and after the First World War, when she a favourite of soldiers in the trenches and prescribed to shell shock victims as an antidote. I’m not sure how apocryphal this story is, but it reminds of one of the reasons why romance is so important – it comforts us in times of stress and hurt as well as bringing us pleasure in times of happiness.

About Justine

Justine is the award winning author of fun, contemporary romances. She has spent her professional life writing legal advice – which some may say is similar to creative writing– but the lack of sexy heroes and happy endings led her to try writing romance. She loves Earl Grey tea, talking about which of Jane Austen's novels is her favourite, and searching for the perfect frock. She will read anything, but loves romance most of all.

She is published with Destiny Romance and her third book The Reluctant Lover, is out on 15 March 2016. You can find out more and connect with her at

Summer Harvest Release Day!

It's been a little quiet here over at Steamy Puddings. 2015 was a pretty big year that ended with a lot of sogginess due to huge floods where I live, so needless to say, things have been somewhat distracted. HOWEVER, I'm incredibly chuffed to announce today is the launch of Summer Harvest! You can buy it in all good bookstores in Australia in paperback or in e-format internationally. Just to be helpful, here are some links! 

Available from BooktopiaAmazoniTunes and all good bookstores or use the Penguin app below to read some sample chapters for free! Yay!

Authors That Inspired Me Series: Carla Caruso talks Judy Blume

It's been a busy year over in the Pudding camp and unfortunately that means that not much blogging is taking place, however, a lot of reading has! It has got us thinking about all the types of things that inspire us and in order to launch into 2016 with a bit of style, we've asked Carla Caruso and a series of our other favourite writers to contribute posts on the authors that inspired them to write in the first place. Take it away Carla!

I’m a daughter of Italian-Australian parents, who were prone to wrapping me in cotton-wool (not literally, but you know what I mean).

Hence, there was no talk of ‘the birds and the bees’ when I was a kid. I think my olds even believe my children today are the result of an immaculate conception. (Okay, maybe that’s taking things a bit far, but my twin lads are an immaculate collection, at least – bad Madonna pun.)

The point I’m getting at is that I had to get my puberty lessons from elsewhere as a youngster. And in between devouring the Sweet Valley and Baby-Sitters Club series and Enid Blyton’s books, I got that education courtesy of Judy Blume. The American writer gave me and my gal pals a lot to giggle about (and learn from) in our primary school years – even though we were kids of the eighties and a lot of Blume’s well-known titles came out in the seventies. It seems the central themes remained relevant.

There was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, in which the 12-year-old heroine buys her first bra, gets her first period, and tries to boost her chest size by doing exercises with her mates, chanting, “We must — we must — we must increase our bust!”

In Forever… we meet the bloke the heroine loses her virginity to: Michael and his infamous trouser snake, ‘Ralph’. (Forever... was banned from many schools due to its detailed descriptions of sex, implications of homosexuality for one character, and the protagonist’s birth control use.)

Deenie is another Blume title I remember Mum plucking from my fingertips in the lounge one night. After flicking through a few pages, my mother deemed the book too old for me, though, crucially, didn’t take it away. Phew! (Deenie follows a 13-year-old girl whose mum is determined to have her become a model, but she’s diagnosed with scoliosis and is prescribed a body brace to wear for four years. Masturbation also gets a mention.)

Blume books like Just as Long as We’re Together and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t inspired me to hand-write manuscripts with equally vague titles during my school holidays.

One time, I borrowed Blume’s non-fiction tome, Letters to Judy: What Kids Wish They Could Tell You, and left it open to a page, at my bedside, about a kid wanting help with facial hair removal (the poor kid must have had Italian heritage, too). I hoped my mum would notice it when she was making my bed. It took her one loooong, nail-biting week before she did pull me aside for a chat.

I’ve read many other Blume books (Summer Sisters, Superfudge, Freckle Juice, Blubber… I could go on), without ever knowing a huge deal about the author. Thank the stars for writerly mystique pre-social media – I much preferred it that way. As a writer, I appreciate Blume’s minimalist, honest, conversational style.

I’ve heard Blume has a new novel out – In The Unlikely Event (about three plane crashes) – but I must confess I’m not keen to taint my teenage memory by reading it. I just thank her for the education she provided me in my coming-of-age years and for helping shape me into the person I am today. Blume, I salute you!

Carla Caruso is an Adelaide romantic comedy (and sometime cosy mystery) author. Her short tale, Six-Star Weekend, features in the new ebook anthology, Hot Stuff: Surfing Love (Harper Impulse). Visit or (go on!).

Review: #singlebutdating


So, recently the lovely people at Random House contacted me and asked me if I wanted to review a book and after having a look at it, I was rather excited to give it a read. Relationship advice? Sex advice? And a down to earth expert giving her take on the current dating scene? Sounded peachy to me.

I wasn’t disappointed either.

However, before I go any further, I should note that I am not #singlebutdating’s target audience. In fact, I’m pretty much the woman it sounded like Nikki Goldstein was before she ended a relationship at 24 and ventured forth into the wide world of casual relationships, so this was like exploring an alternate reality of what my life might have been like if I hadn’t met my lovely gentleman and we hadn’t decided to go off exploring the world together.

What I found most surprising about #singlebutdating was the sound overall advice on self-esteem and relationships that make up the first part of the book. The whole premise is to be the best you can be as you, rather than trying not to be someone else and I whole-heartedly gave that a thumbs up. I was also on board with the suggestion that therapy is a good thing for any woman wanting to feel the best she can about herself. I happen to like therapy. (It might be because of the comfy chairs and the fact I love talking a lot but hey, it floats our boat.)

As I’m also a devoted disciple to the Betty Dodson line of self-love being first and foremost in getting the most out of sexy times, the advice on masturbation and communication being the keys to getting the most out of sex in the dating game in the long run were very welcome.

The second half of the book plays out like a practical how-to for getting out there and giving the dating life a go and while it wasn’t written for me, I found the advice on how to deal with rejection, how to end relationships and how to stay positive overall useful.

Goldstein is highly likeable, has a down to earth tone of voice and doesn’t hammer you over the head with this whole dating idea. In fact, the entire book feels like a chat with a knowledgeable friend who’s been around the traps and knows their business.

If I was going to be giving out a rating this one would be 5 Hitachi Wands out of 5. 


Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

So it's been a little quiet in the Steamy Puddings lounge where it's all been backside up and head down writing but a little while ago I tootled off to London for a weekend. There, I managed to see one of the best shows ever. Okay, I'm biased, because I loved the movie. But the show is truly excellent. If you're in London or might be in London any time soon. Watch it good!

A little short story just for you:)

Autumn Leaves

We've been busy writing over here at steamy puddings. Well, when we say 'we,' we mean... me. Okay, so I wrote a short story. It was a fun, naughty little diversion and I had the pleasure of having it included in an anthology with a lot of my favorite authors.  And guess what, you can get it free. Free you say? Oh yes, if you go to Smashwords you can download it without paying a penny, a riyal, a baht or a dong. Because we (not third person, we but collective author we) love our readers and want to give you something nice. So, present!

Perth Writers Festival and Bunnies!

My copy of Shore and Shelter:)

So I attended the Perth Writers Festival and it was one of the most amazing weekends of my career as a writer so far. So many wonderful people, so many books! I'll be getting a bunch of reviews out in the next little while, which I think would be the best way to go about sharing with you who I met rather than a long list of names. I also got to go down south to Margaret River, Bunbury and Busselton to meet some lovely bookshop owners and readers. Unfortunately, as usual, I am dire at taking pictures because I get too busy talking but if anyone is in Western Australia and going down to the wine region, do drop into the Margaret River Bookshop, Barefoot Books in Busselton, Dymocks in Busselton and Collins in Bunbury, because they're awesome!

An absolute highlight was being given a copy of Shore and Shelter by Keith McLeod. I made the mistake of starting it when I really should have been sleeping and ended up not sleeping at all!


Dear Sugar is now a podcast!

So anyone who knows me by now will know I love podcasts. And I've already written here on Steamy Puddings about my love of the Rumpus. (I drink religiously from my Write Like A Motherfucker mug when first drafting.)

I discovered The Rumpus through Stephen Elliot's book The Adderrall Diaries a couple of years back. I loved the book and wanted to see who this dude was and came across the site he'd set up. It's been my go-to procrastination ever since. One of my favourite things about the site used to be the Dear Sugar column written by Cheryl Strayed who is a plain spoken, poetic down to earth broad. And I just found out yesterday that there's now a Dear Sugar podcast. Do go check it out. And if you haven't read Cheryl Strayed's books or seen the movie Wild, what are you waiting for?