harlequin books

Oh Emily: Time Will Tell

TBYL Reviewer Tam Jenkin was very excited when this book came her way…


This beautiful story, Time Will Tell by Fiona McCallum (Harlequin) is the second instalment in The Button Jar series by Fiona McCallum. I read the first story, Saving Grace last year and loved it and after eagerly awaiting the second book, I was not disappointed.

time will tell

Emily Oliphant has made some drastic changes in her life. She’s ditched her abusive husband and embarked on her own adventure, renovating a dilapidated property and starting up her own business. Against all odds, she’s found a sense of place and purpose, but is still too scarred by her past to form any romantic attachments, regardless of who’s vying for her attention.

Now she’s received an offer from the elderly owners of her beloved rented home to buy the property, land and all. Hopeful and tentative, Emily feels she is taking a step in the right direction, although is unsure how she will raise the money.  Except Emily holds a button jar – a gift from her recently deceased Granny Mayfair – which, unbeknownst to her, could contain the solution to all her problems…

But just when Emily thought things were beginning to go her way, everything takes a turn. Soon, she’s involved in a romance she thought she had no time for and dealing with the shock of two unexpected deaths, forcing her to make some difficult decisions. With her finances, her property, her friendships and her budding relationship now hanging in limbo, Emily is once again drawing on her inner strength to overcome a new set of challenges.

I was extremely impressed that this book picked up at exactly the place that Saving Grace finished, meaning that I didn’t feel that I had missed out on any of the journey, and I was quickly drawn back into the story. Again, Emily is our leading lady and her story is filled with tragedy, tough decisions, and a further journey of self discovery.

Emily has to decide whether she should take up the offer to buy the old house she is living in and possibly make her dreams of running a Bed & Breakfast a reality. She just can’t work out how she will afford it. Emily’s mother is still making her undermine her own abilities, but with the help of her Dad, her best friend Barbara and the handsome Jake who comes visiting again from Melbourne, she begins to learn how to stand up to her mother and stop listening so closely to all whispering voices of self-doubt.

Just as she thinks decisions have been made tragedy strikes, leaving Emily in shock and also with the possibility of a farm to care for. Emily finds she is a topic of town gossip again and this has her making some decisions which leave her lonely and questioning everything all over again!

While reading, I did feel that sometimes Emily needed a good shake to get her to see clearly – I really didn’t want to mess up her budding new relationship with Jake. I felt slightly anxious about all the issues that Emily had to deal with and wanted to tell her ‘just one thing at a time, Em’. Fiona McCallum writes beautifully and again she swept me away with her descriptions of country living. I wanted to take early morning walks on the farm with Emily, and I wanted to sit down and have a cuppa with her and Barbara. This book very nearly had me packing my bags to make the country move myself!

We get answers about Emily’s Gran’s button jar and the mystery of “seven of Golconda’s finest”. Jake continues to take a stronger role in Emily’s life and in the story. I enjoyed watching this character develop. I also enjoyed the way Fiona McCallum tells a love story without it all being pages of description about what happens in the bedroom. A beautiful novel filled with romance, inner strength and above all, friendship.

Meant To Be is the third instalment of The Button Jar series, and is due for release in November 2014…and I can’t wait!!!


If you’d like to find out more about Time Will Tell by Fiona McCallum check it out at Harlequin Books today.


TBYL Events: The Next Step

I’m thrilled to be able to reveal the details of the next TBYL Event, which will be held on Wednesday 22 May 2013, 7pm – 8pm at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne.

“The Next Steps” is a perfect session for all of us who dream of one day being published, but who aren’t quite sure where to start…

the next step

It’s your chance to get some tips, straight from the source, on how best to achieve your dream of being a published author. TBYL Events is proud to present Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor from Escape Publishing (the exciting new digital publishing arm of Harlequin) and two successful Escape authors Rhian Cahill and Charmaine Ross.

They’ll be sharing their experiences of writing and publishing, offering advice on everything from pitching your ideas, developing your story, manuscript presentation, and hints on the submission process.

This one-hour session is an opportunity to tap into the exciting world of publishing, to ask questions and to share experiences with other aspiring authors.

If you’d like some take-away information, you can download a brochure here and you can find out more about Escape Publishing and our special guests Kate, Rhian and Charmaine on the TBYL website.

Tickets are just $20 ($15 concession) and seats are limited. You can book now…

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Escape with Chaos Born

Yesterday, we had a chance to meet editor Kate Cuthbert, from Escape Publishing and so today, I thought it fitting that we have a bit of a chat with one of Escape’s talented authors, Rebekah Turner.

Chaos BornRebekah’s novel, Chaos Born is one Escape’s first releases and offers up a teasing romance against a dark, gas-lit setting:

A fresh and exciting debut novel introducing the Chronicles of the Applecross. Lora Blackgoat, smuggler and mercenary, has been lying low after a job gone bad made her a laughing stock in the industry. When a childhood friend turns to her for help, Lora leaps to restore her reputation and starts hunting a killer who is stalking the gas-lit streets. She never expects that her path will lead her to the Order of Guides, a sadistic militant religious organisation – or to Roman, a deadly and dangerously attractive half-angel warrior who also hunts the killer. When Lora discovers that the killer has broken fundamental laws of magic to enter the city, she also uncovers a conspiracy that leads back into her own dark past.

I had a chance to ask a few questions of Rebekah, and got to know her and her writing a little bit better…

Would you like to introduce yourself a little?
I live in Brisbane with my husband, two kids and a nervous Boston Terrier. In my past I’ve worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world. I now work part-time and spend rest of the week being a child-wrangler.

How did you get involved with Escape Publishing?
I attended the 2012 Romance Writers Convention at the Gold Coast. A panel of different publishers pitched to the conference attendees on why they should submit their manuscripts to them. After hearing the Escape editor say they had a two week response time, I jumped at the chance to submit. I got a request for a full very quickly, then an offer of publication after three weeks.

What does the establishment of Escape Publishing mean to you?
I think Escape Publishing is an exciting publishing model, with a fast response time and supportive editors. Being part of Harlequin Australia also means they have a well recognised brand name already in place.

Do you have any suggestions for other writers who think that Escape might be a good option for their manuscript?
Escape is focused on Australian writers, with a world-wide audience. So, it’s a great opportunity to get your novel out into the world and you don’t have to wait six months for a response.

Your novel is wonderfully visual, very cinematic in many ways – it reminded me quite a bit of films such as Bladerunner and Underworld. Where did you draw your inspiration from when writing ‘Chaos Born’?
My characters came first, then the world crystallised around them in the re-writes. I used a few techniques I found online to flesh the world out and also compiled a very detailed scrapbook to help me visualise what Harken City looked like. I wanted the world to be dark, moody and fantastic, but with a realistic baseline.

What do you hope your readers will enjoy most about your new novel?
I hope readers will have some fun reading Chaos Born and enjoy Lora’s misadventures as much as I did writing them.

What’s next for you? More Lora or something different?
I’ve been writing book 2 in The Chronicles of Applecross series, with a focus on Lora’s deepening relationship with the half-angel, Roman. I’ve also working on a sexy paranormal romance. The working title is Biker Werewolves in Tasmania and involves a burnt out, ex-homicide detective and a disgraced werewolf pack enforcer.

If you’d like to check out this title and many others pop on over to the Escape Publishing website today!
What would you pick from the Escape Publishing offering?

Should she or shouldn’t she? Speechless

I’ve read a few Young Adult titles lately, and I’ll admit to have enjoyed them probably more than I had expected that I would. They’ve been absorbing, complex and pretty unique.

But, I’m well aware of the fact, as I review these books for TBYL that I’m reading and reviewing them as an adult. My view of them could possibly be quite different to that of an actual teen. And so…

I’m really happy to introduce a brand new TBYL Reviewer, Clea Boyd-Eedle. Clea is a teen, and has kindly offered to give us her perspective on this really exciting genre. This month, Clea has read Speechless, by Hannah Harrington (Harlequin Teen). Here’s what she thought…


“Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret…”
I suddenly think I am about to read another story about another silly teenager who again did something she shouldn’t have. And in a way it is, but it’s also more than that.

“Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast – and nearly got someone killed.”
That’s when I started to listen, what secret could have been so dangerous? To me, it seems as if no real debatable topics are ever presented in chick-lit young-adult fiction, just glossy versions; usually never anything serious. What could this story have that was different?

“Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence – to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting everyone else. And if she thinks keeping a secret is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence and in new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way. People she never noticed before. A boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends forgive what she’s done.”

Hannah Harrington’s second novel, Speechless(Harlequin Teen) is refreshing to read – the teenaged characters have been portrayed as they really are, without fine-coating everything. It is written in a language actually relatable to teenagers.

Speechless is set in your average American community, complete with parties full of red solo cup scenarios, one of which turns very ugly. What makes this book really interesting is just how a public issue is addressed and presented to the teenagers in the story.  I haven’t read of a situation like this before in any young-adult fiction.

The stories main character, Chelsea Knot is under the wing of the top girl, Kristen, making her somewhat popular and in with ‘that’ crowd. Red-headed, but not exactly fiery, Chelsea is clumsy with her words and is notorious for saying everything and anything her ears come across, which up until ‘that night’ hadn’t caused her any serious consequences, surprisingly. Since things turned bad, Chelsea has made a vow of silence and an effort to make things right. This in turn earns her the hatred of half her school, but also relationships blossom with people she would never have considered as friends.

Meeting Chelsea in detention, Asha is the friend everyone wants. Asha is quirky (she actually knits…seriously), an incredibly loyal and defensive friend (even though Chelsea didn’t speak a word to her) and a real people-person. I admittedly fell in love with Asha before Chelsea, envying her characteristics and wondering what made her so admirable.

And of course, where there’s girl’s teenaged fiction there is almost always, and inevitably, boys; and the choice between two. Sam is an artsy character, quite similar to Asha, who decides to help Chelsea out despite clearly having problems with her original popular position – will the relationship work or not?

Speechless was a great book, perfect for your typical teenaged girl looking for more insight into high school life, how to overcome problems (although not talking may not always be the solution) and more assurance that their issues are normal.  If you like Louise Renninson or Sarah Dessen you’re sure to enjoy Hannah Harrington’s, Speechless.


I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Clea in the future, what a great way to work out what’s good in the world of YA fiction!

You can find out more about Speechless here…

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No sound sleep here: Goodbye Lullaby

I’m having so much fun at the moment, building a team of TBYL Reviewers! These guys really love to read, and it’s so wonderful to have some different voices on the blog!

This week, I’m really pleased to introduced you to Fiona Boyd, who’s recently read Goodbye Lullaby (Harlequin) by Jan Murray.

By all accounts, it sounds like quite a read…


How much did I love Jan Murray’s first novel Goodbye Lullaby? A Google search reveals Murray as a woman who’s lived a big life, full of quite amazing experiences, and who has a huge amount of various kinds of writing under her belt. The writing in Goodbye Lullaby is so fresh and captivating, like the vibrant greens of the Daintree vegetation, she describes. You can truly experience the complex smells and sounds of rainforest country of her story.  Murray’s descriptions of the landscape in the early chapters of this novel are so tactile and compelling, I literally wanted to jump on a plane and head up to Cairns.

Goodbye Lullaby contains many stories that weave delicately into each other, however my reading of the novel was as a girls’ road story. I found it incredibly refreshing – how rare it is for the central characters leaving behind home and hearth, convention and tradition, expectation and role, to be young women and not rascally boys! That’s right, this story brings us two girls on the run from a belligerent and noxious conservatism dictating that which a teenage girl should do, in particular if she finds herself pregnant in 1950s Queensland.

The truth of this time, as noted in the introduction to Goodbye Lullaby is that between the 1950s and 1970s, over 150,000 Australian unwed mothers had their babies forcibly removed from them by government agencies and religious institutions. As horrendous as this is, it doesn’t even take into account The Stolen Generation, babies and young children being taken from their aboriginal mothers. The numbers are staggering.

This novel is a road story and a statement, and it’s also a story about the possibility of making a decent and independent life beyond trauma and tragedy. In turn, it’s about the timelessness of  girls’ bonds of friendship and camaraderie forged under high pressure in teenage years.

The lynchpin of Murray’s story is the conscription lottery and the drawing of the lottery marbles on ABC television across the nation. This lottery will determine whether Caroline ‘Miki’ Patrick’s son, who she gave up for adoption after failing to make life on the road work, will serve. His number is drawn, he is conscripted and so unfolds a series of events that allow the various threads of the story to weave into each other.

Australia has a number of issues from its not-so-distant past that have until recently been thoroughly swept under society’s rug, a rug that was not be lifted. Even worse, we’ve perpetuated a society that has done terrible things to its citizens, particularly its young ones and its mothers. To add insult to injury, those wronged were in turn forbidden to speak, to tell their stories. Jan Murray does some big talking for those who’ve had their stories suppressed. Goodbye Lullaby unpacks the forced adoption era – there’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene of aboriginal children being taken from their family’s camps for not being ‘fully’ black, there’s the confusion that was the conscription years of the 1960s and 1970s, and then there’s the illustrations of the general mistreatment of young woman of the era.

The action of the story takes place in Queensland in the 1950s and 1970s. As I was reading, I kept hearing the strains of the Go-Betweens “Cattle and Cane” and “Streets of Your Town.”  Like this book, they were songs looking back on a time in Queensland when men threw their weight around and everyone else cowered, and the only powerful women seemed to be the Catholic nuns running the schools, orphanages and hospitals.

As well as the character of Caroline ‘Miki’ Patrick, the second major character in Goodbye Lullaby is Jude Brenner, a Jewish girl who has lost her parents in a car accident and is being brought up by her aunt who’s moved to suburban Brisbane from Brooklyn to care for her. Jude Brenner is a strong character, full of teenage chutzpah and with a joyful nonchalance towards the bully in the schoolyard. Her refusal to bow to the authority of the schoolyard bully is a motif that is repeated through the novel as Jude becomes the one character whose lust for life is not dimmed by her experiences and environment and who continues to go at life full tilt and with maximum joy. Here strength sees her become a politics professor in New York and like Miki Patrick, a known protestor of the Vietnam war.

I must say, even though the novel was written from the point of view of Caroline ‘Miki’ Patrick, my favourite characters were the Americans – Jude Brenner and Rex Lapari, the ex-US marine with one leg who runs the Resistance Bookshop in Fortitude Valley Brisbane. They’re the energetic and outgoing outsiders in the claustrophobic conservatism of 1950s to 1970s Australia. They’re both fresh, irreverent and caring. These two characters present a new way to deal with social issues. Discussing them, tackling them head on, dealing with them, and not submitting to a higher force.

Goodbye Lullaby is a terrific read. Jan Murray draws on her own experiences and those of peers and relatives to give the reader an inside view on the social conditions in 1970s Australia that gave rise to a number of social movements – feminism, aboriginal rights, the peace movement. All of these elements are packed into a single girls’ road story, it’s impressive! My only sadness was that Miki and Jude failed in their adventure, and that the conditions of their era bore down so completely on them. How cool would it have been if they’d succeeded? I was so willing them to do so, however I realise that that would have been a story of our times and not theirs.

And the lullaby – well you’ll just need to read that book to find out what that means!

Goodbye Lullaby, by Jan Murray is due to be released by Harlequin Mira in September. You can find out more here…


Fiona lives in bayside Melbourne and has a background in the street press and radio. She worked at ABC Radio in the mid 1990s and from 1996 has been involved in co-founding various online publishing ventures. She has three children and is working on her first novel. You can find out a little more about Fiona here.

I’m really looking forward to bringing you more of Fiona’s reviews in the near future.

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Opportunity Knocks with Harlequin

From time to time, opportunity knocks. Maybe the newly launched Harlequin Escape is just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for…


Harlequin Australia, the leading publisher of romance and reading entertainment has announced the launch of its very own digital‐first imprint, Harlequin Escape. Harlequinescape.com is now open to new manuscript submissions!

Authors – it’s your time to shine!

Do you have a burning idea that keeps you up at night?

A cross‐genre experiment looking for a home?

A rule‐breaking character lurking in your pages?

Now is the time to submit, as Harlequin Escape jumps head first into the innovation and freedom of digital publishing!

Harlequin Escape is an exciting new initiative to take Australian authors to a global audience. The call for open manuscript submissions will enable Harlequin Australia to expand its local author programme and unearth new Australian writing talent.

“For many, the traditional publishing model can be daunting and difficult to navigate. By creating a website where authors can openly and easily submit their work online, we believe we are opening up the publishing opportunity to many more potential new authors,” Managing Director of Harlequin Enterprises, Michelle Laforest, explained.

The signing up of Australian authors is an extension of Harlequin’s successful publishing programme. As experts in Romance for over 104 years, Harlequin can now leverage their experience in the world of digital publishing. Harlequin Escape will help discover new Australian talent and allow greater speed in delivering eBooks to market.

It’s an exciting time for publishing and with this initiative Harlequin will continue to lead the way in providing readers with new and interesting stories.

Visit http://harlequinescape.com for more information and submission guidelines.

For media inquiries contact:
Jane Morey
morey media
Ph: 02 9954 7955 or Email: jane@moreymedia.com.au

If you’d like to download these details, you can get the PDF here.  And, happy writing!

True entertainment: The Good Father

I’ll admit that in the past I’ve steered clear of most genre lit. I’ve been a bit sceptical, about the obvious focus on ‘entertainment’ and the general popularity of writers like Picoult etc. They seemed to me a little bit mainstream, to be a little too matter-of-fact, even a little tele-movie for my liking… but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t read any and as such I’m not sure what I was basing these assumptions on.

As you know, this past year and a half I’ve challenged myself to read differently… more widely, and this has in turn help me to lighten up a bit and embrace a lot of different types of writing and writers, popular or otherwise.

As a result, I’ve recently enjoyed my first Jodi Picoult, Lone Wolf, I was drawn in by Carol Marinelli’s Putting Alice Back Together and most recently, I was completely sucked in to Diane Chamberlain’s The Good Father (Harlequin).

Described as; ‘Essential reading for Jodi Picoult fans’ Chamberlain’s newest novel is about a young father, Travis, and the difficult decisions he is forced to make:

“Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown made the choice to raise his newborn daughter on his own. While most of his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home, changing diapers and worrying about keeping food on the table. But he’s never regretted his decision. Bella is the light of his life. The reason behind every move he makes. And so far, she is fed. Cared for. Safe. But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he’s worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble…”

The choice of main protagonist, and his subsequent dilemma is gripping. Travis is very likeable, honourable and a father with the best of intentions. This set-up is really interesting and a nice change from so many stories where fathers are cast as cads, as disengaged or at the very least ineffectual in their children’s lives. Travis, on the other hand, shows a love for his daughter Bella that will see him do anything. And of course, that’s where his trouble begins.

In addition to Travis and Bella, Erin’s role in this accidental adventure is also an important one. Her guilt and overwhelming grief at the loss of her daughter is palpable, and provides Chamberlain a vehicle to explore the deep horror of loosing a child; the very thing that Travis is trying so hard not to do.

The story itself is pretty complex, but the storytelling is clear and tidy. It’s not wordy or overly sentimental, a very interesting study of the complexity of peoples lives as they accept their responsibilities, question loyalties and make difficult, life-altering decisions.

All of these things put together saw me read this novel quickly, hardly putting it down. It made me sad, worried, happy and reflective. I think too, I’ll be going back to take a look at some of Diane Chamberlain’s other titles, particularly when I’m after some bookish entertainment.

Has anyone else read any Chamberlain? What did you think? Do you have a favourite?


Tomorrow, an invite extended to you all… stay tuned!


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Poor Alice…

As with most books, the first thing I did when I received Carol Marinelli’s Putting Alice Back Together was to flip to the back cover and read the blurb. This is what I found…

“I have a fantastic wardrobe, brilliant friends, massive credit card debt – all the usual stuff. I don’t think about it at all. I’m too busy being normal.”

Mmm, normal. I was hooked. No such thing, is there? I knew I was in for a good story, and Alice had me fascinated…

“Alice is the friend you wish you had. The girl who makes a party more fun, pulls a funny face to make you feel better, drinks wine out of a mug and makes you laugh while you’re crying over an ex. Alice is totally happy, everything is amazing and there is nothing at all to worry about…except, well…”

It became clear fairly early on in this read that not everything was sunshine in Alice’s world. Her inner thoughts and outer life were hopelessly at odds, and despite trying incredibly hard to appear in control, at this stage in her life she seems to be barely coping.

On the face of it Putting Alice Back Together might seem to be straightforward chick lit, and in some ways it is – it’s very character driven, it’s pretty reliant on (very clever) dialogue and includes a level of detail that would have driven my husband a bit batty. But, I must emphasis that this novel is quite bit more than ‘just’ chick lit. It’s quite dark, it’s challenging (Alice’s character is at times very hard to like) and it’s intent is wonderfully honourable.

Carol’s story really is largely about being honest, true to yourself, so to speak. It’s about cutting yourself some slack and living a good life by challenging yourself to be who you really are, and in turn to do what you really want to do. This is a sentiment I can most definetly relate to. Although I did at times find Alice difficult to identify with, by the end of the book I found I was very endeared to her. Her journey was a difficult one, but she rose to the challenge – enjoyable to see as a reader, and I felt very good for her as the story concluded.

I read this book in a weekend, and had trouble putting it down. In someways it was a bit like good TV (I was reminded a bit of Offspring) and it was equally entertaining. Great holiday reading maybe?

Carol was kind enough to let me quiz her on her book and on how she fits writing into her busy family life:


How would you describe “Putting Alice Back Together”? Have you found it difficult to categorise?
I do find it difficult to categorise Putting Alice Back Together. I think it is a gritty read, but there are funny parts too.  Dark chick lit maybe?

I was, when I started, expecting something a bit closer to simple entertainment, some romance perhaps, but I got so much more than this from your novel. What do you hope people will get out of your book?
I hope that the reader feels they have been on the journey with Alice – through both the good and bad parts of her life and that they feel proud of her as she emerges. I would love it if it made someone look at where they might be holding themselves back.

Alice as a character is not always likeable. Perhaps justifiably, she judges people harshly and herself most harshly of all. Was it difficult to write a character like Alice?
Alice was very hard to write at times – my friend would read it and say “she can’t say that”, but then she fell in love with Alice too. As you say, Alice was so judgmental and at times downright rude that it held me back. However, in her defense, Alice rarely voiced her horrible thoughts. There is so much prejudice around and I wanted Alice to be a real person, not necessarily a perfect one. I really wanted to see her change.

I know that you’re a busy, writing, working Mum. What are your tips    for maintaining a balance between work and family?
I’m still struggling with that balance!

I think losing the guilt is the main thing. It is so easy to burn out trying to get everything done and then leave nothing in the tank for yourself, yet it is important to pursue your own interests, friendships and goals – the same way we would want our children to.

What do you most like to read? How do you fit reading into your busy days?
I read anything and everything. I love romance, contemporary fiction, biographies, fashion, cooking….. I have the biggest TBR pile in the world. I am loving Marian Keyes Saved By Cake and am making her Lavender and White Chocolate Cheesecake this weekend and I have The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh waiting for me this evening. I always have a ‘real’ book on the go at home and I have my E-Reader in my bag for unexpected times when a reading opportunity arises.

Finally, what’s next for Carol Marinelli?
Well, I am working on revisions at the moment. It’s linked to Putting Alice Back Together, but it’s probably not the characters people will be expecting. Oh, and my friend is reading it and shaking her head and saying “She can’t do that.”


You can find out more about the book, the author, and about how to get hold of a copy here…

This book is very entertaining, without being frivolous. I’d recommend it, and I’d trust you’ll get a few good messages out of it, as well as it being a great reading break from the daily grind.

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