Down Under: Alissa Callen

 

Book cover RHBeneath Outback Skies by Alissa Callen

A captivating rural romance featuring an indomitable young woman determined to save her family farm, and the city-boy who is not all he seems…Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her wheelchair-bound father, Connor, and fighting for her remote, drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile. Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions.It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs.”

 

 

Beneath Outback Skies was a wonderful rural Australian novel. Alissa Callen has a way of describing things that you can almost feel the red Outback dust on your face and smell the diesel fumes of her Ute.

Reading the from grey skies of a spring that is yet to sprung; Beneath Outback skies transported me to a drought ridden Banora Downs with no rain in site. Alissa Callen give real gravitas to the drought that plagues most of the Outback. It is the realism that strikes me because most of us never have to worry about where to get the next drink to survive from.

Paige and Tait’s relationship slowly builds over the course of the book and in true country style, love set its own pace. Of course the path of true love is never easy. Tait has a hidden secret that when found out could ruin everything. Paige’s life is just as complex. Her father is stuck in a wheel chair from a farming accident and is of limited help to her.

Paige is such a strong female character, who knows exactly what she wants and refuses to settle for anything less. Since her father’s accident she has almost single-handly taken over running her families farm and I think that made her a bit isolated.

I loved this book. I loved Paige and Tait, and I loved peaking behind the curtain of Outback life. I found Beneath Outback skies tender and touching romance. I fell in love with Banora Downs, Glenalla and all its inhabitants.

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alissa3Down Outback Roads by Alissa Callen

An enthralling rural love story. Sometimes you need to give yourself permission to fall in love.Kree Garrett’s younger brother Seth is all the family she has left, so when he goes missing in the Australian outback, she doesn’t think twice about leaving her American home to find him. When Seth is rescued Kree vows to find a way to thank the small town of Glenalla. It isn’t long before she falls in love with the tight-knit rural community. But is it really the town she’s falling for?Ewan Mackenzie has given up everything for his brother’s family, but he can never give enough to assuage his guilt at what happened one dark night, years ago . . . Ewan knows he doesn’t deserve a second chance at happiness, but when beautiful, open-hearted Kree stays to fight to save his home town, he finds it hard to keep his distance. Can Kree and Ewan leave their pasts behind for long enough to find a future together?”

There is no place like Glenalla….

Thrown right into the middle of the action, this book hooks you in from the first line. Kree travels to Australia to find her brother who went missing while backpacking. She soon finds her brother and the beauty that is the Outback of NSW. While stepping into her brother shoes while he recuperated to full fill his commitments to a local family; she experience Glenalla first hand. Kree going to Glenalla was no mistake- it was her destiny.

She hatches a plan to save the very town that came to her aid when her brother was in life threatening peril, and along the way discovers her own family’s secrets.

Ewan and Kree’s attraction brews slowly like an electrical storm, building in intensity; but he quickly puts on the breaks as he feels he is unworthy of her.

Ewan is a flawed character who blames himself for his family’s misfortune. He resigns himself to live the bachelor life as a penalty- that is until he meets Kree. They have issues getting off the ground but there was no denying they were in love.

Glenalla was first featured in “Beneath Outback Skies”. Although, I suggest you read that book first, it isn’t necessary- “Down Outback Roads” is a stand alone novel.

Glenalla is such a wonderful setting, full of down home charm and community spirit. Come and fall in love with Alissa Callen’s Glenalla for yourself.

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I loved Alissa Callen’s books so much that I had to find her to do an interview. I was very lucky that Alissa Callen found time in her busy schedule to answer all my Glenalla questions:

Alissa Callen xEPBR: What was your inspiration for Glenalla?

AC: The small town of Glenalla, and the surrounding red earth countryside, is very much based on my local area. I live in rural Australia and even a trip to my grocery store provides inspiration. It isn’t unusual to see a horse truck parked in the car park or hear talk about how much rain people have, or haven’t, had. Australia is a land of great natural beauty but also a continent of extremes. Living where I do, I’ve experienced floods, drought and fires plus also the resilience, cohesiveness and compassion of outback communities. All of these things then seep into my writing. I hope readers enjoy visiting Glenalla as much as I enjoyed bringing this fictional town to life.

EPBR: You were a 2013 ARRA Finalist- what did that honour mean to you?

AC: It was a thrill to final once, let alone four times, but at the end of the day a reader leaving me a face book message about how much they loved my book makes me feel just as honoured and as thankful.

EPBR:What are you working on now?

AC: In between playing taxi to my kids, I’m working on two things. I’m planning another full length novel set around Glenalla plus a series of small town novellas set in the rugged snow-dusted mountains of Montana. The hemispheres may be different, but the challenges rural and remote towns face are very similar as too are the qualities that make close-knit communities such a special place to live.

When Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing in the US and UK. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take and her books are characteristically heart-warming, emotional and character driven. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales, Australia. You can visit her blog for more news and updates on your favourite town and characters.

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NEW- EPISODE 2

NEW- EPISODE 2

Resources Down Under:

On Steam Puddings : “Rachael Johns Drops By And Talks Writer’s Block (And There’s A Competition Too!)”

Over at The Naughty Ninja’s blog : The Rhyll ‘the Lady’ Biest and Cate ‘Man-eater’ Ellink get married”

Here are a few Aussie to Pom translations:

Pom: Stands for Prisoner of the motherland or person from the UK

Akubra: A felt hat often worn in the Outback

Esky: An Eskimo cooler container

Smoko: Teabreak, or smoking break but since smoking is now passe- any kind of break will do.

 

Who remembers Rebecca Gibney from The Flying Doctors? For some years she has been staring in a family drama called “Packed to the Rafters”. It is avaible on DVD in the UK if you can find it, but has never been televised in the UK. If you can get a hold of it, I thought it was a very entertaining series:

 

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Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover

What happens when you can fly, but you just can’t hide?
Only Jessica Pearson knows the truth when the press portray her as the woman who betrayed her lover to escape prosecution. But will her new job flying an outback air ambulance help her sleep at night or atone for a lost life?
Doctor Adam Gilmore touches the lives of his patients, but his own scars mean he can never let a woman touch his heart.
Runaway Ellen Parkes wants to build a safe future for her two children. Without a man – not even one as gentle as Jack North.
In Coorah Creek, a town on the edge of nowhere, you’re judged by what you do, not what people say about you. But when the harshest judge is the one you see in the mirror, there’s nowhere left to hide.”

 

 

The first thing I said when I finished Chapter One was Wow!. From the first line you were transported right into the middle of the action. Within a few pages, you felt like you knew these characters and were revisiting old friends.

Queensland is described in such vivid details that you can almost feel the heat of the sun and the outback dust in your throat. The Outback is like a character in its own right because it is depicted with it is own personality and vibrancy.

I felt immersed into Coorah Creek’s world. It is a world where life has a slower pace, neighbours care about each other and good old fashion country charm – that never goes out of style.

The main characters are all impossible to believe they are fictional. I identified and bonded with Jess immediately, because we all know what it is like to be in love and blind. Dr. Adam, all I’m going to say is I wish he was my doctor. Watching Jack and Ellen’s romance unfold was breath-taking. I don’t believe in spoilers, but there were a few times I cried.

Janet Gover’s writing is phenomenal, she can make something as complicated as flying a plane easy to understand and visualize.I didn’t even feel like I was reading a book because a film played in my head. It was a perfect book from the start to the last line “…broken only by the distant laugh of the kookaburra.”

I fell in love with Coorah Creek and it’s in habitants and so will you. This book has the Wow factor.

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Feature: Katie Oliver- Prada and Predjudice

To celebrate Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary of publishing Mansfield Park, we are having a full week of a special theme “After Austen”. For over 200 hundred years, fans have delighted in Jane Austen books and even added their own special touches to it. To kick off the week, Katie Oliver stopped in for a chat to discuss her books. Let’s start with my review of Prada and Prejudice.

prada-and-prejudice    Prada and Prejudice is loosely based on Sense and sensibility. There are familiar themes and even some familiar character and names, but the rest is all Katie Oliver’s wonderful imagination.

The book starts off with Natalie, who is heir to a failing department store and London socialite. Spending more money than she can ever hope to make, her grandfather puts her to work on the sales counter.

After being dumped by her train wreck of a rock star boyfriend, she meets Rhys Gordon. I’d say more like ran into Rhys. Rhys was called in to save the store and as soon as he met Natalie, it was handbags at dawn.

It is love/hate relationship between Rhys and Natalie, with a sexual tensions you can not miss. Rhys has this stoic Scottish thing, that is totally irresistable. He manages to tell Natalie off a few times but in such a charming way, you could almost see a glint in his eye.

It is a glitzy world of “WAGs and Eurotrash” that is so recognizable as real life but so detached from our own life, that it makes the book pure escapism.

im free

“I’m free” John Inman as Mr. Humphries in “Are you being served?”

Katie Oliver adds so much humour that I found myself laughing out loud . The book really is a light-hearted romp. It is filled with designer labels, stroppy fashion designers and iconic London locations – It made me feel as if I was actually there.

Natalie’s grandfather reminded me of Mr. Grace from “Are you being served?” and whenever I pictured the declining Department store, I always thought of Grace Brothers.

With financial whiz kid Rhys Gordon on the case, and with Natalie’s help they get things off the ground. Things escalate between them and it gets very steamy.

Prada and Prejudice isn’t just a book, it is an adventure. There is intrigue, blackmail, buried secrets, and back stabbing. There are quite a few bombshells along the way and you will be kept in the action right to the very end. You don’t have to be a fan of Austen’s to appreciate this fresh, funny and exhilarating  romance.

Also by Katie Oliver:

love and liaSometimes your sensibilities make absolutely no sense!

Holly James is looking for her big break. A young journalist for BritTEEN magazine, she is dying to write about something more meaningful than pop stars and nail varnish. So when she spots a homeless teenager outside the office, she feels compelled to tell her story. But her evil boss Sasha has other ideas…
Holly is sent to interview a city solicitor she has never heard of. But Alex Barrington turns out to be the very opposite of fusty and boring and Holly’s interest struggles to stay strictly professional!
With Sasha sabotaging her every move, and her story about teens on the street leading her into London’s dark underworld, Holly is chasing both love and success at the same time. But happy endings like that only happen in books don’t they…?

manslark

NEW RELEASE ON MARCH 3rd 2014:

Gemma Astley has succeeded where so many others have failed. She has somehow managed to tame tearaway rock star Dominic Heath and stop his womanising ways for good. But just as they  find happiness, Dominic’s secret aristocratic past becomes public knowledge, and jeopardises everything.

Dominic is actually Rupert Locksley, heir of Mansfield House, a crumbling stately home that needs major financial investment to save it from ruin.

Dominic’s mother pleads for his help, but his father, the Earl, is on the verge of disinheriting him. Meanwhile Dominic’s new status as Mansfield’s long-lost heir attracts the
attention of cut-throat socialite Bibi Matchington-Alcester, who means to make him hers at any cost.

Gemma and Dominic will need to test the strength of their foundations – as well as those of Mansfield House – if either are to remain standing.

 

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Katie Oliver.

janebbc The BBC is also commemorating the anniversary in a new radio production:

The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen Episode 1 of 5

Duration:
15 minutes
First broadcast: Monday 24 February 2014

Twenty-six years have passed since the death of Jane Austen. Armed with a lock of Austen’s hair as perhaps her best clue, Anne Sharp, former governess to the Austen family and Jane’s close friend, has decided at least to tell her story-a story of family intrigues, shocking secrets, forbidden loves, and maybe even murder.

Upon its publication in the UK, Lindsay Ashford’s fictional interpretation of the few facts surrounding Jane Austen’s mysterious death sparked an international debate and uproar. None of the medical theories offers a satisfactory explanation of Jane Austen’s early demise at the age of 41. Could it be that what everyone has assumed was a death by natural causes was actually more sinister? Lindsay Ashford’s vivid novel delves deep into Austen’s world and puts forth a shocking suggestion-was someone out to silence her?

Andrew Davies, who has a phenomenal track record in adaptation, has collaborated with Eileen Horne in recent years, first as writer and producer on a new TV version of Room with a View (2007) and as writer and editor on The Purple Land for Radio 4 (2011).

Written by Lindsay Ashford Adapted by Eileen Horne and Andrew Davies

 

alan rickmanFor many of us, Emma Thompson’s 1995 film is the version we most identify with. There were a lot of great actors such as Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Greg Wise. Emma Thompson later married fellow Greg Wise- Lucky girl!

Each of us has our favourite Darcy, but who is your favourite your favourite Col. Brandon? For me it is David Morrissey from the 2008 television adaptions. I asked Janet Gover author of Flight to Coorah Creek, and was featured last week in two articles and reviews- Who was her Austen hunk? She is a big Alan Rickman fan, so for her it is him every time.  I have to admit, he does look very dashing .
There have been many adaptions over the years and each of them have their own merits. I found a television version from 1981 that features Tracey Childs of Howard’s way fame and babe of her day.

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Now what we have all be waiting for my exclusive interview with Katie Oliver:

katie oliver

EPBR: Will there be anymore Dating Mr. Darcy books after “Mansfield Lark“?

KO: I’m currently furiously scribbling away on a new story featuring Natalie and Rhys, Gemma and Dominic, and a couple of brand new characters. The book is set in a small village in the Scottish Highlands.

It’s just before Christmas, and a blizzard has brought everyone together at Draemar Castle, the ancestral home of Natalie’s friend Tarquin Campbell. There’s conflict – Gemma is insisting that Dominic set a wedding date, now – and newly-married Natalie wants to have a baby straight away, but Rhys is adamant that they should wait.

Add in a mysterious groundskeeper, a female guest who isn’t quite what she seems, and a family secret, and you have the makings of…well, I can’t reveal the title just yet. But I promise, it’ll be a fabulous read!

EPBR: What else are you working on and how is it different?

KO: I have a couple of other books on the back burner, each featuring an American heroine and a sexy European hero. The first book is set in Baltimore, Maryland, and features an Irish-American family. Shauna has a brand new degree. But jobs are few and far between, and she’s returned home to work in the family’s sports bar, waiting tables until she finds something better.

When Declan Quinn comes in with a rowdy group of Irish rugby players, Shauna’s life is turned completely upside down…

The second book takes place in Manhattan. Lauren is an art director who falls for the sexy Italian barista who owns the coffee shop around the corner. Their chemistry is through the roof. But will Luca’s secret stop their romance in its tracks before it even gets started?

These books are different from my others (Prada and Prejudice, Love and Liability, and Mansfield Lark), in that they’re set in the USA, not the UK; but they still promise to be fun, romantic, page-turning reads. That will never change!bridget

EPBR: Which is your favourite Jane Austen Book?

KO: Oh, unquestionably Pride and Prejudice. I never tire of the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. My heart aches for Elizabeth, who believes herself cruelly snubbed early on by Mr Darcy; but I feel even more for Darcy himself, who comes across as snobbish and judgmental, despite the fact that he’s a fine and honourable man who gradually grows to love Elizabeth with all his heart.

I love Emma, too – because even though Emma Woodhouse is a terrible snob and an incorrigible busybody, I can’t help but root for her, as she always means well. As most busybodies usually do…

wetcol

EPBR: Which is your favourite Jane Austen film, and it can also be an after, like Bridget Jones?

KO: Oh, how can I pick anything but Bridget Jones?

Colin Firth as handsome-but-stuffy lawyer Mark Darcy is comedic perfection, and Renee Zellweger as Bridget…well, she’s hilarious and she gets it exactly right. Add Hugh Grant as the office sleaze, Daniel Cleaver, and you’ve got a perfect, funny film. The blue soup…the granny knickers…the Tarts and Vicars party that isn’t, actually…who will ever forget those scenes?

EPBR: Which actor makes your Darcy?

KO: Colin Firth. He’s number one. That white shirt…that pond…that damp, manly chest…LOL!

Coming in at a very close second, however, is Matthew Macfadyen. In fact, I prefer the film with Matthew and Keira Knightley over the BBC miniseries (although it’s very good, too).

Thank you so much Katie Oliver, and remember Mansfield Lark is being released on March 3rd, 2014. Pre-order it today.

Please visit the Facebook site for other Austen themed books and links. Tomorrow we have more treats in store, but for now I will leave you with a Vicar of Dibley Sense and sensibility joke.

 

Review: Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover

ImageThe first thing I said when I finished Chapter One was Wow!. From the first line you were transported right into the middle of the action. Within a few pages, you felt like you knew these characters and were revisiting old friends.

Queensland is described in such vivid details that you can almost feel the heat of the sun and the outback dust in your throat. The Outback is like a character in its own right because it is depicted with it is own personality and vibrancy.

I felt immersed into Coorah Creek’s world. It is a world where life has a slower pace, neighbours care about each other and good old fashion country charm – that never goes out of style.

The main characters are all impossible to believe they are fictional. I identified and bonded with Jess immediately, because we all know what it is like to be in love and blind. Dr. Adam, all I’m going to say is I wish he was my doctor. Watching Jack and Ellen’s romance unfold was breath-taking. I don’t believe in spoilers, but there were a few times I cried.

Janet Gover’s writing is phenomenal, she can make something as complicated as flying a plane easy to understand and visualize.I didn’t even feel like I was reading a book because a film played in my head. It was a perfect book from the start to the last line “…broken only by the distant laugh of the kookaburra.”

I fell in love with Coorah Creek and it’s in habitants and so will you. This book has the Wow factor.

I highly recommend to anyone who loves reading.

kanga

I caught up with the wonderful Janet Gover last night for a little Q&A to answer all those questions I had.

janetgoverMe: Is Coorah Creek a real place?

Janet: No, but if it did exist it would be in western Queensland, midway between Mt Isa and Birdsville. Birdsville (also in book) is real.

Me: Where can you suggest for an authentic Outback experience?

Janet: Visit Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach for outback experience.

hotelIn the book Flight to Coorah Creek  the team head out to Birdsville races, I only just learned about through Janet Gover’s book but it is a yearly event. There is still time to check it out and book tickets. If like me, you have no chance of making it to Australia any time soon, the website offers many pictures and links, so you know exactly what you are missing.

Now you can not mention the land down under without mentioning Lamingtons.

300px-NZ_LamingtonLamingtons are a quintessential part of every Australian’s childhood. The little sponge cake is dipped in chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

These little treats are sold at school fairs and bake sales around the country.

 

outbaxk I had a wonderful time reading and reviewing Flight to Coorah Creek and learning more about Australia. I would Like to thank Janet Gover and the RFDS for all their support with my features. Read all about the RFDS in my article, The Royal Flying Doctors. I hope all of you enjoy the book as much as I did. It is the perfect holiday read.

I have one final treat for you. In my interview with Janet Gover she mentioned Longreach Outback experience. I found a video for you. For now we will have to make do with being an armchair explorer. I leave you with the distant laugh of a kookaburra. Have a great weekend.