Review & Giveaway: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.


Title: Sweet Wattle Creek

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin AU October 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from September 30 to October 01, 2015   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.

When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle’s questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.

Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town’s fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.

Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.

Dobbie’s portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930’s is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as ‘travellers’ pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle’s status as an outsider.

The mid 1980’s is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.

Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.

Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I’m happy to recommend it.

To learn more , CLICK HERE for a guest post from the author published earlier today

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Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie I have

1 Kindle edition of

Sweet Wattle Creek

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Leave a comment on this post and then


*Sorry, entry is for Australian residents only, and must have a valid account*

Entries close October 11th, 2015

#SweetWattleCreek #KayeDobbie @HarlequinAUS #JAMPR



Blog Tour: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie


I’m delighted to welcome Kaye Dobbie to Book’d Out today, celebrating the release of Sweet Wattle Creek. Kaye Dobbie is an Australian author living on the central Victorian goldfields. She has been writing professionally ever since she won the Grafton Big River short story contest at the age of 18. Her career has undergone many changes, including writing Australian historical fiction under the name Lilly Sommers and penning romance novels as Sara Bennett. Kaye has written about, and been published in, many countries, but her passion for Australia shows in her current Harlequin Mira novels.

In Sweet Wattle Creek, the chance discovery of an antique wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

It’s 1931 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.

Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?”


To read my review of Sweet Wattle Creek and for a chance to win a copy, please CLICK HERE.  But first, please read on to learn more about the novel…

Animal Characters in Sweet Wattle Creek

by Kaye Dobbie

I happen to be an animal lover. Over the years I’ve had more pets than I can remember. Well, that’s not true, because I can remember them, they all hold a special place in my heart, every one of them. So it makes sense that I have animals in my books. Usually the animal plays some role, it isn’t just there to up the word count. And sometimes I like to write about a pet I have loved and lost.

In Sweet Wattle Creek I have three main Creature Characters.

cockatoo-583921_640In 1904 Martha and her daughter Belle are waiting on the platform at Spencer Street Station, Melbourne, for Martha’s brother Rory. Four year old Belle sees a pigeon that reminds her of Nellie, her pet sulphur crested cockatoo, and the bird is introduced to readers. Later on, in 1931, Belle returns to claim her inheritance in Sweet Wattle Creek, and this time we meet the real Nellie. She becomes part of the story, sitting on Belle’s shoulder, even participating in one of the crucial scenes in the book. And near the end, if you read very carefully, she’s there, a part of Belle’s family.

In 1986 Sophie Matheson comes to Sweet Wattle Creek to hide from a frightening past. Her son Dillon has always wanted a dog but their circumstances meant it was impossible. Now they are settled in the small country town, and suddenly fate throws Smithy in their path and into their home.

Smithy is a black and white border collie, and he belongs to an elderly woman who has had a fall and been taken to hospital. Dillon and Smithy immediately bond, and his arrival gives the reader an insight into the sort of boy Dillon is and how his life has been affected by the trauma of his, and Sophie’s, past. Smithy also gives a bit of comic relief from what is a serious subject.

border collieThe third Creature Character in Sweet Wattle Creek is BC, which stands for Black Cat. BC arrived on the doorstep of Sophie’s work place, the Sweet Wattle Creek Herald, with a litter of kittens. Sophie managed to find adoptees for the others, but BC was left and now he is her cat. BC is the boss of the house, very used to getting his own way, until Smithy the border collie arrives. Suddenly BC undergoes a character change, shedding his aloofness for the sake of more pats.

BC is a pseudonym for a real cat called Aussie, who later on became Old Black Cat. She arrived one Christmas, dumped in our street, and found her way to our house. She was my cat for twenty-two years, and for the last part of her life kept me company in my study while I wrote. I got so used to seeing her on the chair behind me, or stretched out in front of the heater under the desk, that when she grew so ill we had to let her go, I felt as if my writing partner had died. At times, during those last weeks, I was worried she wouldn’t make it to the end of the book, so afterwards my sadness was tinged with gratitude that she did.

I believe animals are important in real life, so why not in fictional life too? Are you an animal lover? Do you have a special Creature Character in your life?

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

Sweet Wattle Creek is available to purchase via

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#SweetWattleCreek #KayeDobbie @HarlequinAUS #JAMPR


Review: Starcrossed by Carla Caruso




Title: Starcrossed

Author: Carla Caruso

Published: HarperCollins August 2015

Status: Read from September 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.

Newly divorced and struggling with writer’s block, romance author Simona Gemella agrees to accompany her best friend, Nessie, to an astrological health and wellness retreat on Kangaroo Island. Simona is hoping to relax and find inspiration for her next book, but she is unsettled by the presence of handsome marine biologist Denham Cobalt, and a series of odd, and increasingly sinister, events that begin to plague the guests at the Sea Star Manor.

Written in the third person, most of the story is related through Simona, however the narrative is also shared by fellow guests at the Manor; Nessie, Raquel and Jordana, and a fifth perspective identified only as ‘Him’.

Caruso gradually introduces the idea something is not quite right at the Manor, building the suspense slowly, advancing towards the showdown on the night of the ‘Blood Moon’. But while the author neatly links the fantastical elements to the retreat’s focus on astrology, I thought each of the women had a little too much going on externally, which is a distraction to the main thrust of the plot.

Nessie is hiding a secret while flirting with the Yoga instructor, heavily pregnant Raquel is worried about her partner’s fidelity, and Jordana, accompanied by her husband, with his own drama, is struggling with infertility. Simona, on top of being newly divorced, suffering from writers block, and stressing over the release of her debut novel, also has to contend with the anticipation of meeting her writing ‘idol’, Astrid’s revelations, and of course, her attraction to Denham.

Overall I thought Starcrossed was a quick and engaging read, but needed a little more focus.

Click HERE to learn more about Carla Caruso and Starcrossed

Star-Crossed is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: Carla Caruso, Starcrossed and Shadow Signs

Carla Caruso, author pic, HarperCollins


I’m delighted to welcome Carla Caruso to Book’d Out today to talk about her novel Starcrossed.

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to her twin boys and writes fun frothy reads.

Starcrossed is her tenth book.


“Is love really written in the stars?

Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).
She’s joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.
Though Simona’s sworn off men, she can’t help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo – Denham Cobalt – who’s also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.
It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive – with her heart intact?”

My review of Starcrossed will appear today, in the meantime please read on to learn more about this novel fun contemporary romance…

Shadow Signs

by Carla Caruso

I’ve always wanted to write a novel with an astrology theme. My mum (though Catholic) loves her New Agey stuff and has passed on the fascination to me – I always read my daily and monthly horoscopes via and consider myself the quintessential Capricorn.

Hence, my novel, Starcrossed, was born. It surrounds four women who go on a cosmic retreat on rugged Kangaroo Island in South Australia…and strange things start to happen. The main character, Simona Gemella, is a newbie romance author – don’t know where I got that idea from ;) – and on the island, she meets a darkly handsome guy, Denham, who has a scorpion tattoo on his neck. Hello, Scorpio! The story blends romance and suspense.

In researching the novel, I came across the idea of ‘shadow signs’, which became an integral part of the story. Your ‘shadow’ being the dark side of your Sun sign, or the negative traits that could overtake your astrologically-determined positive qualities…if you let them.

Queensland astrologer A.K. Leigh (who also happens to be an author with a debut novel out, See Her Run) says: “The sun sign represents your core self, who you really are deep down. So knowing this from the get-go will tell you who a person really is.”
So how do we stop our murkier traits from overshadowing our good points? Leigh reckons: “Balancing your positive and negative traits is the greatest challenge of life, isn’t it? However, being aware of the placement of planets, houses, aspects etc. in your birth chart can give some insight into this. For instance, the north node (a mathematically-derived location on your chart, not a physical object) shows the lessons you are supposed to learn, Pluto’s placement represents areas that need to be transformed, and the asteroid, Chiron, indicates where you need to be healed.”

Below is a list of ‘negative’ personality traits for each sun sign, according to Leigh. See if you recognise any of your own mannerisms in there – or your lover’s ;)
Aries: Selfish, quick-tempered, impatient, impulsive, takes foolish risks.
Taurus: Stubborn, possessive, resentful, inflexible, self-indulgent.
Gemini: Superficial, inconsistent, cunning, anxious, low tolerance for boredom.
Cancer: Moody, overly sensitive, emotional, clingy, prone to deep depressions.
Leo: Pompous, bossy, patronising, interfering, intolerant.
Virgo: Perfectionist, fussy, critical, self-denigrating, worrier.
Libra: Indecisive, gullible, too flirtatious, beliefs easily swayed by others, lazy.
Scorpio: Jealous, compulsive, obsessive, secretive, obstinate.
Sagittarius: Preachy, overly optimistic, careless, irresponsible, tactless.
Capricorn: Too pessimistic, miserly, manipulative, rigid, workaholic tendencies.
Aquarius: Unpredictable, unemotional, detached, eccentric, rebellious.
Pisces: Escapist, too idealistic, vague, weak-willed, deceitful.

Despite this list, though, Leigh says: “It’s important to remember that every person is more than their sun sign. In the ancient days, people exchanged information on their rising (and/or moon signs) rather than their sun signs. This was because the rising sign tells you characteristics that are observable in a person straightaway. The rising sign shows who somebody is on the surface.”
She continues: “The other benefit of knowing someone’s rising sign is: once you have it, you can work out what their 8th and 12th house signs are. The 8th house will give you a glimpse at their attitude towards life, other people, sex and death. The 12th house is where you are going to find their secrets, inner darkness and ‘skeletons in the closet’. Both of these houses explain a person’s shadow side better than the sun or rising sign.”
As an aside, Leigh adds: “The rising sign (surface personality) is the reason when you meet a shy person and they tell you they are Leo, you think ‘but aren’t Leo’s extroverted?’ Watch that person once you get to know them, then you will see their Leo sun (core personality) firing!”


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AWW Feature: Susan Johnson on Landing an Idea



I’m happy to welcome Susan Johnson to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of The Landing.

Susan is the author of ten books; eight novels; a memoir, A Better Woman; and a non-fiction book, an essay, On Beauty.  Several of my books have been published in the UK, the US, and in European translation (French, Polish) as well as in Australia. She has also written for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Times, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Q Magazine of The Courier-Mail).

She has lived in the UK, France and Greece but returned to Brisbane, Australia, to live with her two sons in 2010.

The Landing is a funny, delightful and poignant novel that lays out the human condition – looking for love in all of its many forms with secrets, polite lies, desperation, compromise and joy.

“Jonathan Lott is confused. His wife has left him for a woman and he doesn’t like living alone. Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife? Would Penny Collins do, divorced herself, school teacher and frustrated artist? What about beautiful Anna, blown in from who knows where, trailing broken marriages behind her? There’s a lot happening at The Landing, where Jonathan has his beach house, and he’s about to find out how much love matters.”

Please read on to learn how Susan got the idea for The Landing…

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

by Susan Johnson

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ is one of the most common questions asked of writers. I always say, well, it’s like dreaming: how do you get your dreams? How is my dream so different from yours and why is your dream yours alone?

The answer to the question is really that a book – or an idea – comes from everything that makes a writer up, where he or she was born, who they love, what his or her mother was like. In other words, a book represents the sum of the whole, a kind of outcrop of personality.
The idea for The Landing came to me in a rush, following a visit to a friend’s beach house on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland, Australia. Driving into this little hamlet near a lake, he started pointing out who lived in which house, and all the scandals of the town, how so-and-so had run off with so-and-so and how that guy had gone broke and how that woman was a drunk.
I got home and immediately wrote a scene in which a heartbroken man drives into a little hamlet. Suddenly it was as if the little hamlet was as if on a brightly lit stage, with all the action happening, like a play. It gave me a perfect framing, if you like, a nice fence around the yard: I just had to find out exactly what to put in it!
I’ve lived away from Australia for a long time now – in London for ten years, France and Hong Kong for a couple years more – and returning to Queensland, to Brisbane, the city where I started my young adult life was fascinating to me in lots of ways. I was born in Brisbane, but grew up in Sydney, returning to Queensland to finish my last years of school and to start uni and work as a cadet reporter on the local newspaper, The Courier-Mail. I came back to Brisbane to live in 2010.
There’s been lots of changes since I last lived here in the 80s, and as a writer I was keenly observant of those changes. Soon my little idea started fanning out into a comedy of manners about contemporary Brisbane life – everyone in Brisbane asks where you went to school, for example. I love small English novels – Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Penelope Fitzgerald – that take a slice of existence and examine it for its griefs and foibles – while also managing to be funny.
I’m also interested in the idea of shame, and its many impacts. In one of my earlier books, The Broken Book (2004) inspired by the life of the late Australian writer Charmian Clift, I did a lot of research into unmarried mothers, and the shame and grief those women experienced. I wanted to write a bit more about that and, over time, a French character developed, a woman who has effectively re-invented herself, powered by a deep shame.
I guess everything I am goes into a book: my own knowledge of exile, my personal history, and yet a book is never just an autobiographical expression. The act of writing is above all an act of empathy, and so I believe a woman writer can write a male character, or a male writer a woman, a straight writer can write a gay character or else a writer in the present moment can write about a character from the imagined past or the imagined future.
The books I love best tell me something of the great mystery of existence. I want that – something of the pain and grief and joy and wonder of being alive – but I also want to make my dream as recognizable and truthful as your dream. It won’t ever be the same dream, but in the end I hope it resembles yours just a little.

Available to purchase from

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Review: The Crushing Season by Peta Jo



Title: The Crushing Season

Author: Peta Jo

Published: August 2015

Status: Read from August 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Peta Jo’s second novel, The Crushing Season, is an engaging story about friendship, family, love and loss.

Leah, May, Tate, Alex and Benny are the best of friends. They met in high school and more than fifteen years later, despite the separation wrought by their busy lives, remain close. When May is hit by a double crisis, her friends rally to support her, but none of them realise how badly she has been affected, until she does the unthinkable.

I became quite attached to all of the Crushing Season’s protagonists, who are wonderfully developed characters. Tate is a feisty news editor, struggling to balance her commitment to her work and new motherhood. Leah runs her own successful restaurant, but is plagued with a history of bad relationships. Benny is a frustrated writer on the verge of giving up on his dreams. Laid back Alex is suddenly anxious about his future. May is the linchpin of the group, whose gentle and caring nature never hints at the dark secrets she holds close.

The dynamic between the friends is skilfully rendered. I enjoyed their rowdy reunion, their affectionate ribbing and bickering, and of course the way they supported each other in times of crisis. Even when their bond is complicated and strained, the connection is clear. In many ways, they remind me of my own close circle of friends whom I don’t see as often as I would like.

Peta Jo’s exploration of the books somber issues such as abuse, depression, suicide and guilt, are thoughtful and compassionate. Most importantly, the characters emotions are sincere, and their behaviour genuine. Though there is real sadness in The Crushing Season, there is also plenty of heart and humour, which often made me smile.

Well paced, with excellent characterisation and a strong plot, The Crushing Season is an affecting tale, both achingly poignant and truly heartwarming.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Peta Jo and The Crushing Season

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AWW Feature: Peta Jo and The Crushing Season

I’m happy to welcome back Peta Jo to Book’d Out today to celebrate the publication of The Crushing Season, her second novel.

Peta Jo is a seasoned journalist and subeditor who shamelessly embraces the side of her that writes fiction. Her first book, Feral Bells, was released in 2011 under the original title of Wedding Etiquette For Ferals at the Queensland Brides’ Wedding and Honeymoon Expo before being picked up for distribution by Bermingham Books in 2012. She currently works from home as a subeditor for regional Queensland newspapers whilst simultaneously feeding, entertaining, educating and, above all, loving her two children (and husband, though he requires far less educating).

About The Crushing Season

In the smoky haze of a small town’s cane harvesting season, May grew up as the silent bearer of her father’s vicious beatings. But four schoolmates save her with the simple act of their friendship.
Now in their thirties and busy with their own lives, the four friends are unaware how important they still are to May: Tate, a ballsy newspaper subeditor is struggling with her new role as mother; Alex, a bohemian soul has let his anxiety get in the way of his future happiness; Leah, the “boy mad” gal is one French backpacker away from her next heartbreak; and Benny, a die-hard romantic is about to give up his dreams and surrender the fantasy of being with the one girl he’s ever loved… Leah.

But it’s May that holds their friendship together and she is up to something that will change their lives forever. “


My review of The Crushing Season can be viewed HERE, in the meantime please read on as Peta Jo shares her personal connection with her story…

Seven People by Peta Jo

It had been a bad year for us. Two family members had attempted suicide.
It got so that, when the phone rang, I braced myself for more bad news.
The first call was like a blow to the side of the head. He was en route to the nearest ICU, hours away. It wasn’t looking good, and I rang another town’s hospital, desperate for information to disseminate amongst our shocked family.
He survived.
The second call, one month later, was like stomach pain. Miraculously, they found her in time (she’d driven away and hidden herself, to spare her family the pain of finding her).
She, too, survived.
But that’s not the case for many. Lifeline studies showed there are almost seven deaths by suicide in Australia each day. That rate more than doubles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
My second book, which dealt with suicide, languished as we focused on family and tried to even our keel.
What was to be a short sabbatical from writing stretched out though, as my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died soon after.
We slipped quietly into mourning. I’m kind of still there two years later.
In fact, I can barely fathom the masses of families and friends of SEVEN people each day, suffering in such a way.
How the world continues to function at all, with so many people grieving, confounds me.
But there is nothing to be served by pretending these things don’t happen. There’s nothing weak about someone’s struggle with poor mental health.
So while this was written before our own experiences with suicide, I hope The Crushing Season opens up a supportive dialogue for everyone, helps those dealing with the fallout to feel less alone.


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Review: The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth




Title: The Beast’s Garden

Author: Kate Forsyth

Published: Random House AU August 2015

Status: Read from August 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers fairytales, most notably ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, a variant of Beauty and the Beast, Kate Forsyth weaves a compelling tale of romance, war, heartbreak and courage in The Beast’s Garden.

The Beast’s Garden opens in 1938 as Hitler begins to persecute the Jewish population of Berlin. Nineteen year old songstress Ava Falkenhorst is stunned by the violence, and horrified when close family friends, the Feidlers are targeted simply for being Jewish. When Ava’s childhood friend Rupert is transported to Buchenwald, and her father threatened with arrest, Ava permits the attentions of Leo von Lowenstein, a high ranking handsome Nazi officer torn between duty and honour. Though their marriage secures Ava’s father’s safety, Ava, who is determined to help the Feidlers and others like them, can’t trust that Leo will not betray her and hides her subversive activities, unaware that her husband is also working against the regime he serves.

With authentic and compelling detail Forsyth explores life under the Nazi regime in the lead up and during World War Two. The terrible suffering of the Jewish population and their attempts to defy Hitler are exhaustively documented, but rarely is mention made of the Germans who rebelled against the Gestapo in both small and significant ways. Forsyth acknowledges the efforts of the German people who risked their own lives to mitigate the attrition, and real historical figures, such as Admiral Canaris, and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the Red Orchestra Resistance, who actively worked to disrupt Hitler’s rule.

Not that Forsyth shies away from illustrating the experience of Nazi rule for the Jewish. Threads of the story illustrate the harrowing experiences of Rupert, imprisoned in Buchenwald, a concentration camp ruled by Karl-Otto Koch and his sadistic wife known as The Witch of Buchenwald; and life for Rupert’s sister, Jutta, in Berlin as she becomes involved in the resistance and struggles to stay one step ahead of the SS.

It is the relationship between Ava and Leo that echoes the fairytales we are familiar with. Ava, the innocent, brave beauty, Leo the ‘Beast’; an unlikely love, besieged by tragedy, that blooms, like the roses that feature in their courtship. Rich characterisation ensures neither Ava nor Leo are mere cliches, and though there is a happy ending, it is hard won.

Skillfully crafted, The Beast’s Garden is another magnificent historical novel seamlessly melding truth and fiction, from Kate Forsyth. A wonderful tale of daring and courage, of struggle and survival, of love and loyalt, this is a ‘must read’.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Kate Forsyth and The Beast’s Garden

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Also by Kate Forsyth


AWW Feature: Kate Forsyth, Fairytale Retellings and The Beast’s Garden

Forsyth, Kate

I am honoured to welcome Kate Forsyth to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of her latest book, The Beast’s Garden.

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride fantasy series for adults. She completed a doctorate in fairytale retellings and the novels that have come out of this fascination include the winner of the 2015 American Libraries Association Prize for Historical Fiction, Bitter Greens, and  The Wild Girl .

Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ ‘Beauty and The Beast’, is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.


“It’s August 1939 in Germany, and Ava’s world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler’s spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it.

Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo’s hang in the balance.”

My review of the The Beast’s Garden can be read HERE but first please take the time to read Kate’s guest post…

Fairytale Retellings

by Kate Forysth

I have loved fairy tale retellings ever since I read Eleanor Farjeon’s enchanting ‘Cinderella’ novel, The Glass Slipper, in primary school. Back then, there were only a few fairy tale retellings around – Eleanor Farjeon’s The Silver Curlew and Nicholas Stuart Grey’s The Stone Cage and The Seventh Swan among them.

In my late teens I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip, and then read Jane Yolen’s heartbreaking retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set in World War II. I also loved C.S. Lewis’s retelling of the Eros & Psyche myth, Till We Have Faces, told from the point of view of Psyche’s ugly sister.

I began to be fascinated by the idea of using old tales in new and unexpected ways – telling the story from the point of view of the villain, for example. Each new reimagining illuminated the tale in surprising ways.

Retelling old tales is not a new fad.

Fairy tales, myths and legends have never been static. For as long as they have been told – which could well be more than 300,000 years – tales have been shaped and changed and altered by whoever told the tale. As humans explored the world, making contact with other cultures and other storytelling traditions, their tales travelled too … and were adopted and transformed for their new audiences.

Writers such as the 16th century Neapolitan courtier, Giambattista Basile, took old tales from the oral tradition and spun new stories out of their threads. He was a soldier in the service of the Venetian Republic, the heart of the Renaissance trade routes, and so is likely to have heard stories from many different cultures.
The French fairy tale writers in the 17th century did the same. They invented their fabulous tales … but were inspired by older tales that they had heard or read. Even the Grimm brothers – who began by wanting to record folktales as close to the oral tradition as possible – ended up rewriting them.

Hans Christian Anderson sometimes wrote new tales in the style of the old, and sometimes retold old tales in the style of the new. Oscar Wilde did the same.

Sometimes all that is left of the old oral tales are echoes – a god who must not be seen becomes a hideous beast, for example. A goddess who reawakens each spring becomes a sleeping princess.

So fairy tales have inspired and influenced writers as long as people have been taking up their quill to create. And they continue to retold, reimagined, subverted, and invented by writers to the present day.

Sometimes fairy tales are retold in such a way that their hidden messages about sexual desire are made explicit. Some turn the tales inside-out so their bloody lining is revealed.

Others prefer to modernise and sanitise the tales to make them more palatable to a modern-day audience (which is now commonly young children in a way that was not true in the early days of oral storytelling).

One famous Disney reversal of a fairy tale is its version of The Little Mermaid.

The original story – written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1836 – ends with the little mermaid flinging herself into the ocean after her prince marries another.
Disney’s 1989 version ends with the little mermaid turning into a human and marrying the man of her dreams.

Which is the right version, the true version?

The answer is … both of them and neither of them.

For fairy tales belong to all of humanity, and they survive – like a virus – by adapting to the culture that hosts it. A fairy tale that is not retold eventually dies, powerless and forgotten. A fairy tale that is retold, however, goes on living as long as someone continues to retell it.


The Beast’s Garden is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I  via Booko

Amazon US I Amazon UK

and all good bookstores.

Blog Tour: A Time To Run by J.M. Peace


jm-peace-c-sheree-tomlinson-webI’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for debut novelist J.M. Peace today, introducing A Time To Run. 

An avid reader and writer from an early age, JM Peace wanted to be a writer. So she studied journalism figuring this would be a way of turning a passion into a job. Her career as a print journalist failed after a single year, and the experience completely sucked the joy out of writing for her. So she took a complete change of direction and became a police officer. Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities, including Intelligence and CIB. After her children were born, the dangers and stresses of the job made it unappealing. In the search for a new career path, she returned to her childhood dream. Carving a spare hour out of every day, she wrote the manuscript for A Time To Run whilst juggling her family commitments, police work and running a household. Jay currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her partner, wrangling her two cheeky children, a badly behaved dog and an anti-social cockatiel.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.

Please read on to learn more about J.M Peace and A Time to Run


Why a Serial Killer?

My book involves a serial killer. I feel somehow inadequate by saying this. It seems like a bit of a cliché – that one murder is not enough these days, that you have to raise the body count. But it was the way the story unfolded and I’d like to explain why.

In my early twenties, I went backpacking around the world travelling solo a lot of the time. Yes, I used to hitchhike (shh, don’t tell my mum), and I put myself into some astoundingly stupid situations. If the wrong person had found me at the wrong time, things could have turned out very badly for me. It was before the days of email and global interconnectivity. I don’t know how long it would have been before I would have been reported as ‘missing’.


Ivan Milat convicted of the Belangalo State Forest Murders

This was around about the same time that backpackers were being dispatched in Belanglo State Forest. When I got home nearly four years later, I read a bit about the Belanglo crimes. This is where the seed of the idea for this story began, with this question – what if it had been me? What if I had naively climbed into the wrong car and been taken out to some secluded forest by a psychopath? What would I have done? Could I have possibly survived it?

The story bounced around in my head for years. I used to dream up all sorts of possibilities. Could I have killed him? How? How could I have escaped? Who could find me? Could I trust them? These musings were still going on when became a police officer. This added a dimension to my ponderings. Would being a police officer give me an edge with my imaginary madman? What sort of advantage? What had I learnt as a cop which could help me?

After a few failed attempts at writing children’s stories, I realised I should be writing crime. And in a bit of a light bulb moment, I realised this story that I had been prodding at for years was the one I should write. It was just a matter of choosing which storyline was most engaging and believable. And so A Time To Run was born. The plot was pretty much in place before I even sat down at a keyboard. As I wrote the dual storylines of the abduction and the investigation, I’d switch between my backpacker experiences and my police officer experiences. But the question I’d ask myself was the same – “what would I do?”

I’ve written the sequel to this book and the plot for a third in the series exists. The body count is steadily dropping with each subsequent book. The serial killer idea has been done now and it’s not one I intend on revisiting. But this was how A Time To Run came into existence.


Want to know more? Follow the tour!

A Time To Run is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.


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