Giveaway & Excerpt: Trust by Chris Hammer

I’m delighted to share with you an excerpt of Trust from bestselling Australian author Chris Hammer, courtesy Allen & Unwin.

The third book to feature journalist Martin Scarsden following on from Scrublands and Silver, I posted a review last week, describing Trust as gripping, dynamic, and thrilling.

Read the prologue below, and then scroll down to enter to win a copy of Trust.

If the file does not scroll please click here to read the Prologue


Courtesy Allen & Unwin

I have one copy of

Trust by Chris Hammer

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.


Congratulations M Tyack

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close November 8th, 2020

The giveaway will be random drawing on November 9th and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours


Review: House of Wishes by Jenn J. McLeod


Title: House of Wishes

Author: Jenn J. McLeod

Published: November 19th 2019, Wild Myrtle Press

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy the author


My Thoughts:

House of Wishes by Jenn J. McLeod is a captivating stand-alone novel with loose links to two of her previous five novels, House For All Seasons and Simmering Season.

Moving between two timelines, set forty years apart, House of Wishes offers an enjoyable and poignant exploration of grief, love, belonging and redemption.

The narrative shifts between Beth’s journey to understand her late mother’s wish to have her ashes scattered over an unmarked grave in the rural town of Calingarry Crossing in 2014, and farmer/stonemason/handyman Don Dawson’s connection to Dandelion House, a home for unwed mothers on the outskirts of town, and the two young women confined there in 1974, Lissy and Irene.

McLeod’s characters are vivid and appealing. An actress and dancer, mourning the loss of her marriage, a pregnancy, and her mother in quick succession, forty year old Beth is at a crossroads in life when she arrives in Calingarry Crossing, unprepared to discover a legacy of life-changing secrets, and find romance with local farmer, Tom.

Don is a sweetheart, a hard working young man who grows besotted with Lissy and is desperate to build a future with her and her baby. When tragedy strikes he does his best to hold on to that dream, but it eventually falls apart, and Don somehow has to find the will to go on.

The plot touches on several sensitive issues, such as the historical stigma of unwed motherhood, pregnancy loss, sexual abuse, suicide, and addiction, but at its heart I feel this is a story about family. Through the experiences of her characters, McLeod thoughtfully explores the strengths and failings of the family we are born into, and the family we choose, or who chooses us.

Well crafted with engaging characters, a strong sense of place and a thoughtful plot, House of Wishes is sure to delight both fans and new readers alike.


Learn more about House of Wishes by reading this guest post from Jenn J. McLeod

House of Wishes is available from 19th November.

For more information and special pre-release prices on both print and ebook, visit

Also by Jenn J. McLeod reviewed at Book’d Out 

Guest Post: Jenn J. McLeod and House of Wishes



I’m delighted to welcome Jenn J. McLeod back to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of House of Wishes.

You can read MY REVIEW  here.


A story for mothers, daughters, fathers and sons: about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the secrets we keep, and the power of a wish.

Dandelion House is ready to reveal its secrets.

Dandelion House, 1974

Two teenage girls—strangers—make a pact to keep a secret.

Calingarry Crossing, 2014

For forty years, Beth and her mum have been everything to each other, but Beth is blind-sided when her mother dies, and her last wish is to have her ashes spread in a small-town cemetery.

On the outskirts of Calingarry Crossing, when Beth comes across a place called Dandelion House Retreat, her first thought is how appealing the name sounds. With her stage career waning, and struggling to see a future without her mum, her marriage, and her child, she hopes it’s a place where she can begin to heal.

After meeting Tom, a local cattleman, Beth is intrigued by his stories of the cursed, century-old river house and its reclusive owner, Gypsy. The more Beth learns, however, the more she questions her mother’s wishes.

When meeting Beth leads Tom to uncover a disturbing connection to the old house, he must decide if the truth will help a grieving daughter or hurt her more.

Should Dandelion House keep its last, long-held secret?


Jenn J. McLeod

I confess to having a little trip down the Book’d Out memory lane before choosing my guest blog topic for today. When I found this very relevant excerpt from the 2013 House for all Seasons Q&A with Shelleyrae, my 2019 blog post was sorted.

In 2013, Shelleyrae asked this question about the setting in House for all Seasons:

Are Dandelion House and Calingarry Crossing based on real locations?

My answer at the time was . . .

I wish! Isn’t Dandelion House wonderful? It’s stuck out there in the middle of nowhere. The early draft did feature the house more, until the girls’ stories took over and the purpose of the house changed. Perhaps one day I’ll write a prequel that shows more of Gypsy and her life with Willow at the house, and her connection with Eli and people in town.
Hmm . . .
(I went on to write in that 2013 post) That’s got me thinking!

I’m excited to announce I finally stopped thinking and started writing book #6, House of Wishes, which means after four novels for Simon & Schuster and a fifth for UK publishers, Head of Zeus, I’m ready to take readers back to Calingarry Crossing and to Dandelion House with a third standalone story.

Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “Always leave them wanting more.” And I know readers want more stories set in Calingarry Crossing/Dandelion House because since 2013 I’ve been getting emails from people wanting to know the location so they could visit. For House of Wishes, I’ve had a blast reliving the mid-1970’s and I hope readers who are familiar with Calingrarry Crossing enjoy going back, while those new to my books—who enjoy their contemporary fiction with a backdrop of country life—will come home to the country and Gypsy at Dandelion House.

During the early stages of story development for House of Wishes, I would jokingly refer to the storyline as a sprequel. (i.e. not really a prequel and not exactly a sequel.) By the end, I’d written a loosely linked Calingarry Crossing story that no publisher was likely to want. I’d moved away from my original publishing house and no matter how subtle the link, no publisher would be interested in a novel connected to a previously published title. (That’s despite House for all Seasons being #5 top-selling debut fiction novel in 2013.)

So, I had a choice to make. Do I drop the story and write something on-trend, or do I stay with the book of my heart—as they say in the biz—and try self-publishing? While the latter would be risky and a huge step outside my comfort zone, you can’t score goals from the sidelines. Having watched author friends self-publish for years, I was keen to see if I could do the same, knowing the experience—successful or otherwise—would allow me to provide a more balanced view of publishing pros and cons to the aspiring writers I mentor.

As always, the hardest part is deciding to move forward, and while sticking my neck out on this occasion has been both daunting and enlivening, I could not be more proud of the end result. I also hope I’ve inspired others on the sidelines to give author-publishing a try.

Although I don’t consider myself a risk-taker, the last fifteen years has seen me make a few risky choices:

• I quit a cushy corporate career to buy a café in a small seaside town, even though I’d never worked a coffee machine. I mean, how hard could it be? (Okay, pretty hard!)

• I sold everything I own (and I mean everything) to downsize into 25 foot of caravan and hit the road.

• I’ve free-camp in Wolf Creek, driven The Nullarbor and Great Australian Bight (twice), swung across the Daintree rainforest on a zip line and snorkel with turtles and sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

But THE biggest bucket list item by far—both daunting and enlivening—was taking a story idea in my head and turning it into a book in my hands.

As Shelleyrae points out in her reviews of House for all Seasons and Simmering Season, the themes in those standalone stories see characters making peace with the past in order to move forward. In a way, I’ve had to do the same with my writing career and whenever I questioned my ability to see House of Wishes through to publication, I reminded myself the turtle only progresses when they take a risk and stick their necks out.

It’s kind of fitting, therefore, that I’ve turned Myrtle the Turtle (my mobile home) into Wild Myrtle Press to bring another standalone Calingarry Crossing story to the world. A story about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the secrets we keep, and the power of a wish.



House of Wishes is available from 19th November.

For more information and special pre-release prices on both print and ebook, visit

Also by Jenn J. McLeod reviewed at Book’d Out 


Weekend Cooking: ‘Sixty Summers’ in Six Dishes from Amanda Hampson

In my new novel ‘Sixty Summers’, the relationships of three old friends are put to the test when they retrace the steps of their youthful backpacking trip through Europe. I had my own memories of travelling in that era to draw on for the past story. The next task was to research the current day journey through Europe. I set off by train with my characters for company and share with you here a few of my food experiences.

Paris was my first stop in Europe. A city with many fabulous restaurants for those who are not on a tight budget, and know where to eat. I don’t fall into either category and had a couple of meals that were almost inedible. The best was one of my favourite French dishes, salade de chévre chaud. It is so simple it’s almost impossible to mess up. Grilled goat’s cheese on slices of baguette with ripe tomatoes and a little greenery – délicieux!

Next stop was Berlin. Known for wonderful breads and every kind of sausage, they also excel at knocking up a torte or two. Fresh and beautifully decorated, the slices are generous so the tricky part is deciding which kuchen to sample. One of my favourites is the unpronounceable zwetschgendatschi; a sponge cake topped with ripe plums and dusted with powdered sugar.

In Prague they are very keen on all things chocolate. It was 8 degrees below zero when I was there and I did indulge in a delicious hot chocolate to thaw my frozen hands out after a long walk. I didn’t have a chance to sample these rather strange concoctions. Chocolate rum I can understand, but chocolate wine and beer?!

In Vienna, I lashed out on lunch at the historic Cafe Central to check out the classic Viennese architecture. First opened in 1876, some of its regulars were Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler and Sigmund Freud – not sure if they shared a table! The cafe is justifiably famous for its exquisite pastries and gateaux. I had the Himbeer Harmonie – chocolate with raspberry and marshmallow – it tasted even better than it looks!

Bologna has some of the most amazing food shops anywhere in Europe and, after indulging in gateaux, it was time get into some fruit and vegetables. One fruiterer, unimpressed with my pronunciation of mela (apple) took it upon herself to give me some tutoring. Other customers stood around watching with interest as she corrected me and had me repeat the word numerous times until she was satisfied – no extra charge.

Crete was my last stop. There are so many classic Greek dishes that are good and the yoghurt and fruit I had in Chania was the best. This beetroot salad was one of those dishes that, when it arrives, makes you wonder what on earth you ordered. It was beetroot and was cold, so I guess that makes it a salad – but it was also very weird!


If you would like to read more about my research trip jump over to my blog:

BethFishReads invites you to share any food related post in the weekly Weekend Cooking link up.

(a very special) Guest Review: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning Vol. 1 by Jody Houser and Rachael Stott


Today I’m thrilled to host a review written by my oldest son, Makyah. He is a huge fan of all things Doctor Who so when I was offered this graphic novel for review, I accepted on his behalf.

Today’s release date also happens to be the date of his 15th birthday…I’m so proud of him!

Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning Vol 1

Author: Writer: Jody Houser, Artist: Rachael Stott

Published: May 7th, 2019 Titan Books



Makyah’s Thoughts:

“You know when you’ve seen your favourite film dozens of times? What’s the one thing you can do to make it feel brand new again?” Show it to someone who hasn’t seen it before.”

That’s what this is. A reimagining, a new take on the thirteenth doctor in all her timey wimey glory.

Temporal distortions aside this new story featuring our favourite TARDIS team is ingenious in its use of new aliens that follow well defined motifs despite the brevity of the medium. The images do well to express feeling and emotion in each of the characters and I believe this adventure perfectly encapsulates the positivity and boldness of the latest season of Doctor Who.

Numerous nods to past Doctors ensure fans of the series can enjoy the unique continuity of out time travelling hero (now heroine) as he (now she) shows to us the wonders of travel through time, space and the minds of people like Jody Houser who masterfully captured each character’s dialogue and opinionated natures with her writing and credit to Rachael Stott with Giorgia Sposito and Valeria Favoccia for

their incredible artwork throughout the volume. A brilliant addon to season 11 and an example of what creativity and passion can achieve.

“What’s the point of knocking around the universe if there’s nothing new to see?


Available to Purchase via

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© Copyright Titan Books, shared with permission.

Feature Guest Post: How Sally Hepworth came to write The Things We Keep




Sally Hepworth has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the U.K. and Canada, where she worked in event management and Human Resources. While on maternity leave, Sally finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to write, the result of which was Love Like the French, published in Germany in 2014. While pregnant with her second child, Sally wrote The Secrets of Midwives, published worldwide in English, as well as in France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2015. A novel about three generations of midwives, The Secrets of Midwives asks readers what makes a mother and what role biology plays in the making and binding of a family.

The Things We Keep is being published by Macmillan Australia in January 2016.

“Rosalind House might not be the first place you’d expect to find new love and renewal, but within the walls of this assisted living facility two women hav

e their lives changed forever.
Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years of age, knows that her twin, Jack, has chosen Rosalind House because another young resident, Luke, lives there. As if, Anna muses, a little companionship will soften the unfairness of her fate.

Eve Bennett also comes to Rosalind house reluctantly. Once a pampered, wealthy wife, she is now cooking and cleaning to make ends meet. Both women are facing futures they didn’t expect. With only unreliable memories to guide them, they have no choice but to lean on and trust something more powerful. Something closer to the heart.”


You can read my review of The Things We Keep later today. But first please read on to learn more about how Sally came to write The Things We Keep…


When It’s Not Personal

It makes sense that when a writer chooses a topic for a book, it’s personal. After all, if someone is willing to spend months (or years) on a book, the themes and issues must mean something to them. For some, it’s a memoir. A true tale of inspiration from the writer’s own life. For others, it is a work of fiction inspired by a piece of truth. A farm that has been in his or her family for generations; a culture they call their own.

When a book comes out, everyone wants to hear the personal angle. Why did you write this book? Why is this meaningful to you? For my first book, the answer was easy. The Secrets of Midwives was a novel about mothers and daughters. I wrote it while I was pregnant (with a daughter). For extra kicks, it took me nine months to write. Sure the book was fiction, but the inspiration came from the experience I was living.

My next novel, The Thing We Keep, was also a book I was itching to write. From the time, five years ago, when I watched a TV segment about a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 31, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing an Alzheimer’s love story. For years, it was a little kernel of an idea that refused to pop. Finally it burst open and became The Things We Keep.

But here’s the thing: it’s not personal. I’ve found myself struggling with this a little lately. At writer’s festivals, people gather to hear the true stories behind books. What, in your life, inspired this book? The truth is I have no personal experience with Alzheimer’s. There is no one in my family with the disease. I didn’t study neuroscience at university. I haven’t worked in dementia care. My main connection to the illness is a five-minute TV segment I saw years ago.

Of course, since then, I’ve watched a lot more news segments. I’ve read countless books. I’ve spoken to the families of people with Alzheimer’s, and I’ve spoken to the staff who care for these people.

And somewhere along the way, it has become personal.

For me, writing is never about the burning desire to tell a particular story … it is about the burning desire to explore topics that interest me, through fiction. I am at the beginning of what I hope is a long writing career. There are many, many topics that aren’t personal to me now. But they will be. And, for me, that’s what writing is all about.




The Things We Keep is available via

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Amazon US

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

Sweet Wattle Creek is available to purchase via

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and all good bookstores.


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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and all good bookstores.

#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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