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romance novel reviews, views and interviews

Pin Up January Sales (Aka, what I've brought myself to celebrate The Barbershop Girl launch)

I have this gorgeous Bernie Dexter dress, it's lasted me 5 years and it's divine!

I have this gorgeous Bernie Dexter dress, it's lasted me 5 years and it's divine!

I love a bit of saucy clothing. Writing The Barbershop Girl was so much fun because I got to indulge in buying far too much of my favourite style of clothing under the banner of 'research.'

Since it's January sales. I thought it would be fun to list a couple of the online pin-up stores I love and that Amy Blaine, my little blonde barber would definitely shop at. So here you are:

Tatyana: These guys do amazing dresses from small to plus size.

Collectif: Best pencil dresses ever. Super affordable too. 

Bernie Dexter: Okay, so Bernie Dexter makes pretty much all the clothing I described Amy wearing, including the delicious Monet print dress Amy wears when Ben comes to dinner.

Review Australia: An Australian label making devine retro fashion that is great for one-off pretty dresses. They make tops that last for ever and ever too if you can pick them up on sale.

Alannah Hill: Another Australian label that makes gorgeous clothes. I would buy all my stockings from here. And when they have a sale, they're affordable for we mere mortals. 

The Barbershop Girl Launch Day!

It's been released in paperback form today! It's in the wild. I promise you it doesn't bite but it might snuggle up to you adoringly. It might even purr if you pat its delicious cover nicely. 

You can find Amy and Ben's book lurking on bookshelves at all good Australian Bookshops, Amazon, iTunes and other e-stores internationally. 

My not New Year's resolution list that is actually a New Year's resolution list.

Happy New Years! 

On the back of a bit of pondering, I have decided to make the following goals for 2017 so that I can look back on this post in 12 months and laugh hysterically at all the optimistic ambition that went kersplat!

Anyways, so here goes: 

1. Work out how to make a really rich, moist chocolate cake. 

2. Work out how not to eat the aforementioned rich, moist chocolate cake in one sitting.

3. Read more paperback books. So that I can:

4. Sniff more books.

5. Hug more trees... or at least get outside and admire more trees. Because they're beautiful and smell all nice and earthy and green and there are squirrels and birds in them. And squirrels and birds kickass.

6. Enjoy my wonderful friends, fellow writers and lovely readers more, which means...

7. Less social media and more meaningful conversation. With this in mind, I've taken the daring step of stepping off Facebook in my private life. I will however be updating my author page about new books and general shenanigans. (And you can always find me on Instagram and Twitter.) And hopefully this will mean...

8. Writing more, blogging more and generally having more fun!

9. Work out how to make that amazing apple cake I only had once when babysitting some munchkins when I was 16 but I still have daydreams about in the most salacious way... I might have eaten the entire cake. I might still feel a little embarrassed about it nearly twenty years on, but that doesn't mean that I don't still want to work out how to make the damn thing so I can relive that moment of wonder tinged with a suspicion of shame! (Made it taste so much better.)

10. Fly my kite more. Not figuratively but literally. Seriously, life is never shite when you're flying a kite! It's the most relaxing, fun thing ever. 

A year of Everything. 2016 in recap to make up for no posting for ages!

I know it's a bit of a cliche nowadays but 2016 was a huge year and I have been hopefully largely resembling the cute little fella to the left (wrinkles and all) while being a busy bee. I won't dwell on the sad stuff in the media from 2016 because everyone's read it but I will say that it has been one hell of a year on the Steamy Puddings/Georgina Penney side of things. Which is why you've seen a dismal number of blog posts the past year, which I indend to rectify right now by updating you in a year's worth of events in one go!

Here goes:

January 2016: A dear friend visited from Dubai and we reconsidered our fifteen-year-old scheme to become the next Oprah/Ellen double act. Things may have got slightly derailed when I started talking about singing and dancing cats but the scheming continues, hopefully for another fifteen years! 

February 2016: My novel Summer Harvest came out. Yay! Thanks to everyone who read it and sent me so many nice messages. You guys are awesome.

March 2016: I went to Japan and while I was there, managed to sign with a New York agent, the lovely Carrie Pestritto from Prospect Agency. (She wasn't in Japan, I was... she was in New York being fabulous and agenty, doing agent things.) While soaking up the euphoria, I also managed to see cherry blossoms and visit a volcano to buy milk from a gift shop with my lovely Japanese friend. (This tale will not be recounted here because it is something that you'd only believe if it was in a book, so I'm putting it in a book.)

April - June 2016: I worked my heiny off writing a rather funny and fabulous (she says with her lovely husband standing nearby with a pin for the ego) rom com set in the Napa Valley that riffs on Pride and Prejudice. 

July 2016: I attended the Romantic Novelist Association annual conference here in the UK, then  went to the Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego! Yay! There were so many wonderful people there and I learned so much my brain felt like it was gonna explode. I also got to eat a bunch of yummy food, see a lot of awesome sights including the San Diego Zoo where some Koalas were lurking, pretending to be alive or undead. If undead Koalas just snore and hug trees.

August 2016: Manic panic working heiny off again! (Actually, what am I saying? The panic is continuous and the working has happened through everything here but I'm just gonna pretend my life is glamorous and not mostly pyjamas, caffeine and ranting about characters not fitting plot if that's okay with you.)

September 2016: Went on a writing retreat with two amazingly talented friends. It involved trekking out to one of the most isolated parts of the Scottish Highlands, drinking whiskey (for creative purposes) and kayaking with seals! (For research purposes.) Came up with ideas for fantasy novel that was just finished two days ago. (Yay!)

October 2016: Visited the wonderful Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist at their amazing little house in France. (Graeme wrote the Rosie Project and Anne is one of my favourite crime writers. If you haven't got it, read Medea's Curse now!)

November 2016: New York, New York. Visiting my lovely agent, Carrie and catching up with an amazing friend from Saudi Arabia. In four days I think we managed to eat at every restaurant in the East Village and now my pants don't fit. Nothing fits. But I'm happy. Because I ate everything. 

December 2016: Whew. Okay at the end, where I've just returned from another lovely little getaway in the Scottish Highlands where I ate everything. (Noticing a theme here?) Much plotting and working was going on the whole time, but I'd prefer to emphasise the eating because the food was good!

So that was a big year. Looking at all this, I'm wondering what the heck I was thinking and how I managed to get two books and a couple of novellas written (to be coming your way soon!). Some interesting conclusions have come from it all to take into 2017 but I need another cup of tea and a biscuit to nibble before I face those... so I'll pop them in the next post. 

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 justinelewis.com.


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 www.carlacaruso.com.au or www.theunitalianwife.com (go on!).

Review: #singlebutdating

#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!