Tuesday, 31 December 2013

I've Won an ABC Award!

Shehanne Moore  writes sensational smexy historical fiction, with female lead characters who carry more fire in their bellies than a number of volcanoes I could name (and have been known to be just as volatile). On January 17th, she has a new heroine to add to her stable of Lady Fury and Kara McGurkie. Her name is Cassidy Armstrong and the novel is Loving Lady Lazuli.
In a couple of weeks, Shehanne and her cast of characters will be gracing this blog with their presence, but ahead of that, she has just awarded me an ABC.

"What's that?" I hear you cry (well, actually I don't because you're probably a few thousand miles away and things are getting pretty noisy here in Vienna ahead of tonight's New Year's Eve (Silvester) celebrations. But, wherever you are, I'm sure you are curious - and I hope you are also having a great time. Of course, if you are in Australia or New Zealand, this so last year because you've already had it and are probably sleeping off the after effects already. I'll speak softly.

The Award is given for 'Awesome Blog Content'. Well, I don't know about that, but thank you Shehanne. Of course, it comes with rules. The first is that I display the logo and link back to the person who awarded it to me. Job done already. Next, I must work right through all 26 letters of the alphabet (whew!) and select a word or phrase about myself, things I like and/or associate with myself. Finally, I must nominate some other bloggers and pass on the award to them.

OK, here goes. It may not be pretty. I may bend some rules. It may not always be in English, but I'm going in...

A is for Austria. My adopted and spiritual home. I was always fated to be here .

B is for Beethoven Frieze. An amazing picture, painted directly onto the walls of the art space known as the Secession building, in Vienna. here, in the 19th century a group of artists rebelled against the artistic establishment and created the movement they named Sezession. The building of the same name was intended to display their work. A leading light of the movement was Gustav Klimt (more of him later) and he painted this incredible picture directly onto the wall.

C is for Coffee Houses. I love to linger over coffee in one of Vienna's traditional venues, such as the Cafe Mozart

D is for Dinner - my favourite meal of the day

E is for English Theatre in Vienna. This charming little theatre has premiered some major plays prior to their European tours and has a unique atmosphere all of its own.

 F is for Falco. My favourite, late lamented Austrian rapper-singer.

G is for Gemütlichkeit. There is really no adequate translation for this. It describes a joyous feeling of peace and wellbeing and 'all's right with the world' and stems from great food, great wine and great coimpany.

H is for Hapsburg.

I is for Imagination. I love to use it whenever I can!

J is for - well, see for yourself. Shehanne will appreciate this especially.

K is for Klimt. One of my favourite artists, although his best known painting (The Kiss) is not my favourite painting of his. I prefer Love

 L is for Lord Frederick Leighton - and this is another of my favourite paintings 

 M is for Mae West - amazing lady born way ahead of her time, always ready with a witty turn of phrase..

 N is for Norse gods. I'm very partial to a strong Norse god, aren't you? And they don't come much stronger than...

O is for Odin

P is for panthers - sleekest of the big cats 

Q is for Queen Marie Antoinette - born Maria Antonia, daughter of formidable Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. It's true to say she had a sheltered upbringing. It is not true to say she said, "Let them eat cake."

R is for Rock Me Amadeus. Falco, R.I.P.

S is for Seducing Amanda. I admit it, I have no shame! A palpable plug if ever there was one.

T is for Tirol. If you love skiing, mountains covered in snow and looking as if they've been plucked from a fairytale. Or even if the mere sight of a pair of skis gives you the shivers and you simply want to curl up in front of a log fire with a glass of steaming, fragrant Punsch, the Austrian Tirol has it all.

U is for UBahn. It's a quirk of mine, but I love travelling on the UBahn in Vienna. It's fast, efficient and I've discovered all sorts of interesting places just by heading out and getting off at a stop I like the sound of, or which intrigues me. That's how I discovered Gasometer, once upon a time, long ago...

V is for Vienna - my home.

W is for Wiener Schnitzel. It may not really be Austrian, but who cares? I love it!

X is for xylophone - well, I had to put something didn't I? 

Z is for zither. Remember the Harry Lime theme from The Third Man?

And now for my nominations:

Suz deMello 
Milly Taiden 
Tara Lain
Nikki Dee Houston 
Renea Mason 
Rhonda Laurel

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Traditional Christmas in Austria

All the seasons are celebrated in Austria and none more so than Christmas. But before that comes Advent - the magical four week period where everyone prepares for the festival to come.

In Vienna, the Christmas markets are in full swing now. The largest and most famous in the Christkindlmarkt held in the Rathausplatz and while, so far, the weather hasn't turned the pavements white with snow, the mingling aromas of mulled wine, spiced punch, roasting chestnuts and fried potatoes waft through the air and bring memories of crackling fires and toasty warm toes.


You won't find a town or village that doesn't do something special at Christmas. There is always a massive tree and local folk will gather around it to sing traditional Christmas hymns and carols. My own personal favourite is Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. In English this is, of course, Silent Night, Holy Night. I remember one evening I was outside the Schönbrunn Palace, where there is another large Christmas Market. A choir was singing and I heard the first few familiar bars. Then they - an Austrian choir - proceeded to sing it in English. I felt robbed! To console myself, I absolutely had to drink a mug of Glühwein. Strangely I felt much better after that. Wonder why...

It is the tradition in Austria to place, or hang, an advent wreath in your living room. This is woven from evergreen twigs, decorated with ribbons and four candles. I always place mine on the dining table, but everyone has their own preference.

On December 4th, so tradition has it, St Nicholas, accompanied by the devil (Krampus), asks children for a list of their good and bad deeds for the year. If the devil hears of any misdeed, he will try and hit the offending child with a stick, but St Nicholas intervenes, sends the child running and protects them from the devil. In fact, St Nicholas and Krampus are frequently young men of the neighbourhood, dressed suitably for the occasion, as in the picture.Then, on December 6th, good children are rewarded with sweets, nuts and toys.

In Austria, despite the attempted coup by the American commercial version of Santa Claus, children believe that it is the Christkind (Christ child) who brings their presents. The same emotional blackmail is used by parents though. If you're not a good boy or girl, the Christkind will pass you by and you won't have any presents! Traditionally, on Christmas Eve, the children wait until they hear a bell tinkling. They can then enter a room, where they will find the Christmas tree beautifully decorated and their presents underneath. Families then gather and sing carols together before wishing each other Frohe Weinachten and opening their presents.
There is also a tradition for a procession of carol singers carrying a manger, from house to house - a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter. 
Turkey may be the traditional dish for many in Britain and elsewhere but Austrian families who like to stick with tradition will be enjoying a feast of baked carp. Trust me, cooked properly, it's delicious. If that isn't to your taste though, you'll find another fine old Austrian tradition is roast goose. If you follow this LINK  you'll find great recipes for both.
 For now, all that is left is for me to wish you all:

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Whatever Happened To...The Original Blonde Bombshell?

 Mention the name Jean Harlow and what do you think of?

A waif thin, sassy young woman with gleaming platinum blonde hair, dressed in slinky, skimpy gowns that left little to the imagination. She's a Hollywood legend. A fully paid up member of the 'they don't make 'em like that anymore' brigade that also numbers Garbo, Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe to name but three.

She is so universally well known, you could be forgiven for thinking she had a long, illustrious career spanning many dozens of films and the odd Academy Award, but the actress born Harlean Harlow Carpenter on Match 3rd 1911, in Kansas City, had a career spanning just 8 years before her untimely death (from acute renal failure) at the tender age of 26.

Her screen persona was the wisecracking, unconventional broad with a line in suggestive remarks and a talent for displaying her body to its best advantage. She rarely, if ever, wore a brassiere - a fact not lost on her many adoring male fans. In fact, it has been stated that she never wore any underwear, slept in the nude and put ice cubes on her nipples immediately before shooting a scene, in order to appear sexier! Yet, in much the same way as Marilyn Monroe a couple of decades later, she counted thousands of female fans among her admirers. As Harlow herself said, "Men like me because I don't wear a brassiere. Women like me because I don't look like a girl who would steal a husband. At least not for long."

Harlow packed a lot of living, not a little tragedy - and three marriages - into her 26 years. She ran away from home at 16 to marry businessman Charles McGraw, but their marriage lasted less than three years and ended in divorce. Actor Paul Bern fell for her charms and they were married in 1932. Shockingly, just two months later, he was found dead of shotgun wounds in his dressing room. A verdict of suicide was delivered, although this was subject to much speculation and controversy that he might have been murdered. 

Harlow's third husband was cameraman Harold Rosson, who worked with her on her most famous films - Red Dust, Red-Headed Woman and Blonde Bombshell. He captured both her looks and effervescence with perfect insight into what made Harlow unique. Sadly, it seems professional admiration wasn't enough to make this marriage stick and it lasted less than a year.

Harlow was a natural comedienne and there is probably no better example of this talent than in her only major starring role in which she failed to appear with her trademark platinum hair. Anita Loos wrote the perfect script for her in Red-Headed Woman.

Most of us, when we imagine Harlow, think of her in black and white. Hardly surprising really, for this most colourful of characters only appears in glorious Technicolour for eight minutes of her acting life - in the 1930 hit film, Hell's Angels.

She made six films with Clark Gable who adored her. While the rest of the studio called her 'Baby' (she was only 5' 1"), he called her 'Sis'. Perhaps fittingly, her last film was with him. While filming Saratoga, she became increasingly ill, until she was unable to continue. Gable said he felt he was holding a ghost in his arms. The final scenes had to be shot using her stand-in and employing long and wide camera angles.

Poor health had dogged Harlow most of her life. As a teenager she had suffered from scarlet fever and meningitis and this had left her permanently weakened. In the last year of her life, she contracted an apparent case of acute sunburn. a throat infection and influenza. She collapsed in May 1937, but seemed to be rallying when, on June 6th, she fell into a coma from which she never awoke. She died on June 7th 1937 with her fiance, actor William Powell, at her side, along with her mother, stepfather and cousin. It was widely reported - and even shown in a film of her life made many years later - that her mother's Christian Scientist beliefs had led to a refusal to allow medical intervention which might have saved her life. This has now been discounted as without foundation.

Her legacy lives on and she has inspired generations of blonde bombshells. Marilyn Monroe was one of her greatest fans and was approached to play her in a biopic of Harlow's life. When she saw the script, she declined, saying, "I hope they don't do that to me after I'm gone."

Jean Harlow was ranked 49th Greatest Movie Star of All Time by Entertainment Weekly.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Goodlooking? Yes. But Does He Smoulder?

Is it me? (Probably). I can't help feeling today's leading men have lost something.

I mean, they have the good looks and they work out, have biceps on their triceps (or is that the other way round?), have six packs, permatans and sparkly teeth so white you need sunglasses. But, I ask you, in all seriousness...

Do they smoulder?

You know what I mean. Gable had it. When he looked into Vivian Leigh's eyes and swept her up in his strong, manly arms, he smouldered so much women in the cinemas fainted. Has Brad Pitt ever made you faint? Didn't think so, and I do so love a good smoulder, don't you?
The one who started the Art of the Smoulder has to be the Sheikh himself, Rudolph Valentino. All across the land, wherever his films were played, could be heard the sounds of women sighing, swooning - while another sound, that of grinding teeth, emanated from their frustrated boyfriends. They couldn't smoulder. When Valentino died at the tender age of just 31, from peritonitis, thousands of women were left devastated and inconsolable. For some, it was all too much.

But in true Hollywood style, the studios lined up worth successors to his crown. Over the years, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Ramon Navarro would send female hearts (and a few male ones too) fluttering, pounding and skipping a beat. Girls would dream of a kiss with the suave Cary Grant and a night of delicious debauchery with the ever-so-wicked Errol Flynn. I can't imagine the sophisticated and thoroughly nice Mr Clooney debauching, can you?

The demise of the smouldering male lead seems to have gone hand in hand with the end of cinema's Golden Age. Not that there aren't some gorgeous looking guys up there on our screens and, as an added bonus, many of them are far better actors than their forebears. More realistic and true to the characters they are portraying and herein may lie the answer. Real men don't smoulder. Johnny Depp plays an astonishing array of larger than life characters, but he plays them for real. Brilliant, versatile actor and great cheekbones. But if I was awarding him a smoulder factor, it would be a 1 (out of 5).

Higher up the smoulder stakes (for me anyway) and deserving of at least an A- for effort come Antonio Banderas (it's the dark Latin looks and those deep brown eyes) and (one for my friend, Shehanne, here) the ever hunky Josh Holloway. These guys don't smoulder, but they are more than easy on the eye - and they can act.

So, could today's generation of hearthrob actors once again recapture those magical seductive smouldering moments? Or are they gone forever, along with Garbo's amazing eyes and Dietrich singing Lilli Marlene? I fear so. But you never know...Any candidates?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Keep Calm When You Love A Bad Boy - with Shehanne Moore

Today, I'm delighted to hand over to my friend and fellow author, Shehanne Moore, whose two historical romances - The Unraveling of Lady Fury and His Judas Bride are absolute must-reads. In the New Year, her third - Loving Lady Lazuli - will be published, and promises to be just as rollercoaster riveting as her previous stories. So, over to you Shehanne - but first here's a taster: 

“No. Lord Hawley it’s all right. I’m going to stay.” Her gaze edged to what stood on the bedside cabinet. “If we pour some of that brandy there in the basin, we can at least clean that wound with it. Maybe even get some down his throat.”
“’E will be all right in the morning, Miss. Truly.”
Why did Charlie hesitate? His face turned a little paler in the candlelight?
“’E always is. But I don’t think you should give ‘im any of that. Knowin’ Dev, ‘e’s probably ‘ad a bucketful already. Do you want ter make ‘im worse?”
“Whether he has or not, I don’t see it would do any harm to clean this wound up, Charlie. We can’t leave him like this.”
Reaching for the bottle she pulled the cork off. The smell wasn’t exactly what she expected. It was brandy. Yes. But there was an underlying odor she couldn’t quite place. She sniffed. Then she held it to her nose and sniffed again.
Before Charlie could stop her she yanked the cabinet drawer open. Why she reached for that particular one she didn’t know. Only that she did.
What greeted her, clinking about inside, the bottles, were things she did not need to have had any personal experience of to know what they were and why Charlie didn’t want her seeing them. She lifted her chin.
“Just how long has Lord Hawley been an opium addict, Charlie?”

I wish I didn’t have this "oh give me a Rhett Butler" fascination for bad boys--in literature anyway. I really wish I didn’t write them. I especially wish I didn’t have this need to make them even badder. A drug addict? For a hero?  No kidding. 

Did I also say he drinks like a fish and has more women than Primark has bargain wooly jumpers?  Well, I have now. There is, of course, a plot here. A notorious jewel thief trying to escape her past. A lost inheritance. A man bent on wreaking revenge on the family who fed him to the wolves.  But what this book is really about is how two people—he is a drug addict, she self harms—can save each other, through the healing power of love –it is a romance after all—a love each would rather die than let into their lives. Personally I do like a challenge. 

So there’s Devorlane, addicted to sex, addicted to drugs—drop dead gorgeous by the way. 

There’s Sapphire...

....stubborn as a mule, with a huge belief in her own abilities –I do think it’s important when you write the ruthless anti alpha you find the reason a man like that might fall in love. In this instance there’s unfinished business between them. 

The scenario between them.

There’s also the fact he never wants a woman again after he’s had her. Unfortunately he’s never had a stubborn cuss like Cass - which is what she calls herself - whose determination not to surrender to him, even when she does, makes for open war. Her determination to pour his opium out the window too. . 

Opium and opium mixtures such as laudanum (tincture of opium) or paregoric was of course readily available in Regency England. This advert is from later and for a different substance but I think you get the drift. 

This one too. 

Nice little reference there to His Holiness—His Jolliness no doubt after a few glasses of cocaine wine.  

Heroin—that was a 'non addictive' substitute for morphine. 

I chose opium for Devorlane—what a kind author I am – because many who were in chronic pain would develop an addiction.  And he is in pain...of every sort really. 

Does he sort himself out? Does she? Do they save each other? 

Sorry, you’ll have to read the book. 

Only one man in England can identify her. Unfortunately he’s living next door. 

Ten years ago sixteen year old Sapphire, the greatest jewel thief England has ever known, ruined Lord Devorlane Hawley’s life. Now she’s dead and buried, all the respectable widow, Cassidy Armstrong, wants is the chance to prove who she really is.

 But not only does her new neighbor believe he knows that exactly, he’s hell-bent on revenge.  All he needs is the actual proof.  So when he asks her to choose between being his mistress, or dangling on the end of a rope, only Sapphire can decide…

What’s left for a woman with nowhere left to go, but to stay exactly where she is?

And hope, that when it comes to neighbors, Devorlane Hawley won’t prove to be the one from hell.

You can connect with Shehanne here:

Furious Unravelings
Shehanne Moore 
Kilting The Book 

Antonia, thank you so much for inviting me to your lovely blog today.

Friday, 1 November 2013

It's All About Chemistry...All Fired Up with Nikki Dee Houston. Win a Free Copy!

 I'm delighted to welcome a new author. She's Nikki Dee Houston, with a sizzling new erotic romance, All Fired Up. It's published today (November 1st). Now, the story centres on the relationship between the two main characters - Firefighter Cindy Reece and Fire Captain Dave Johnson, who has featured in a certain calendar...

He's hot and macho, and she's a woman determined to make it in a man's world. So what is it that draws these two very different characters together? Well, as Nikki Dee says:

It’s all about chemistry.

What’s going on with Cindy?

Cindy is captivated by the bright green eyes peering out at her from the male firefighter calendar laying in the mess on the table. She picks it up to take a better look—then she sees the body.  Her heart races, her loins flicker. She just has to study the gorgeous torso properly. While she’s ogling it, she gets caught out by some red-necked, red haired, loud mouth. Heck, she might as well have a trickle of drool running down her chin, for the way he’s carrying on. She’s annoyed and embarrassed by her reaction.

But it gets worse. She spins around to see the real life version of the pinup standing behind her. And – it turns out he’s her new boss!
Great start! Heat creeps up her face. She better take care that she keeps her hankering for hot fire fighters in check.

What’s Dave thinking?
Captain Dave Johnson has been mentally preparing for the new rookie’s arrival at Hillwood. He never wanted any female fire fighters at his station. Not because he doesn’t think they’re as good at their job as a man, but because of the distractions it would cause to his men. OK, so he admits that it would be a big distraction to him too.
His job is everything. That’s why he’s still single. No woman could ever understand the utter devotion he has to doing his job well. Unless, perhaps, that woman is a firefighter herself. 

He’s about to enter the room when he hears Warner mention his name: “Ah, it’s Dave—Mr. April himself.” 

The first thing he sees when he walks into the day room is a distinctly female ass clothed in dark blue drill work trousers. The horizontal indentation across the back of the tight white T-shirt confirms his suspicion. This is the new female fire fighter. 

A spark of anxiety courses through him. Trust Warner to act like an ignorant fool right now! Trouble in the camp already! 

When the rookie turns to face him, his peripheral vision acts on auto-pilot, and scans the fullness of the breasts contained in her T-shirt. His groin tingles. He forces himself to look into her eyes. Her face is pink, and red blotches mottle the delicate skin of her throat. She’s blushing? Already? Oh great!

He forces a friendly, welcoming smile to his lips.

OK, are you ready for the blurb?

Fires aren’t all that’s sizzling at Hillwood Station… 
Cindy always wanted to be a fire fighter. When she tops the class in the rookie academy, she takes her first job at the small but busy Hillwood Fire Station—as their first female firefighter. Some of the crew don’t appreciate a woman trying to do a man’s job. But when the crew risks their lives in a series of factory fires, Cindy’s determined to not just keep up, but to excel. 

But the fires aren’t the only thing smoldering at Hillwood. When Cindy comes face-to-face with the real-life, fireman-calendar pinup, she’s left feeling shaky and gasping for breath. Their attraction is white-hot, the sex is sizzling, and there’s no such thing as enough when it comes to their lovemaking. But things turn nasty when a dark past comes back to haunt Cindy, jeopardizing her career before it’s even really begun…
Buy Links:


Win a Free Copy of All Fired Up!
Just leave a comment below and you could be the lucky winner!
(Don't forget to let us know how we can contact you)

Wow! Well, I'm off to take a cooling shower. Meanwhile, here's how to contact Nikki Dee:

Twitter   https://twitter.com/NikkiDeeHouston  She tweets under @NikkiDeeHouston

And now, why not pop over to my friend and fellow author, Shehanne Moore's lovely blog. Nikki Dee is also there and the subject is - you've guessed it - firemen. Only...well see for yourself. It's fun! Just click HERE