Winter Heat chic lit anthology

It’s wild weather up here in the Adelaide Hills at the moment. We’ve even seen snow at Mt Lofty, and plenty of hail and frost everywhere! So what better excuse than to curl up with some hot romance? Seasoned with Romance, my virtual writer’s group has just released its latest anthology of bite-sized, chic lit treats – perfect for heating you up in this cold, cold weather.

Winter Heat

Download your free copy here: Winter Heat

Here’s what you can expect:

Wish Upon a Star by Sarah Belle
Abby can’t wait to marry her gorgeous fiancé, Xander – until she realises they’ve never had an argument. How can she expect their marriage to weather life’s storms when their relationship has never truly been tested?

A Friend in Need by Laura Greaves
When her best friend announces that it’s not possible for people in committed relationships to have single friends of the opposite sex, Megan is determined to prove her wrong. But are her feelings for her boyfriend’s best mate, Rye, purely friendly – or is Megan playing with fire?

The Reject Club by Carla Caruso
Tired of being rejected in both her personal and professional lives, Maya has retreated to her grandmother’s seaside cottage to clear her head. The last thing she needs is a man to complicate matters – especially one as alluring as Garrett…

The Getaway by Vanessa Stubbs
When Dominique heads to the Tasmanian wilderness with husband Ricky, it’s a make-or-break weekend for their struggling marriage. Is Ricky the same man she fell in love with – or is rugged Cal what she really needs?

Bad Things Come in Threes by Belinda Williams
First her marriage collapsed. Then she lost her job. Wynter isn’t sure whether she can cope with another disaster. And when Marty enters her life, she doesn’t know whether he’s the best thing to happen to her – or the very worst.

by Samantha Bond
Washed-up pop star George would do anything for another crack at the big time, and when he discovers talented young singer Annabella he sees his chance. There’s just one problem: Annabella’s feisty mother, Catherine.

Book review: Far From True

Book review: Far From True

Books & Poetry

Best-selling crime writer Linwood Barclay’s new thriller is set in the small, upstate New York town of Promise Falls, where it seems bodies are appearing as fast as local businesses are closing.

On its last night of operation, the iconic Constellation Drive-In folds in a literal sense when an explosion causes the four-storey movie screen to collapse onto cars in the front row.

Four people are killed and this is just the start of the awful things in store for the folk of Promise Falls.

It seems someone is unhappy with the local populace and is out to wreak revenge. There’s a strange fixation with the number 23: it featured on the hoodie of a recently shot university student who had been terrorising women, there’s 23 dead squirrels strung up on a fence, and three mannequins appear hanging from cart 23 on a Ferris wheel).

There’s also the discovery of a secret adult “play room” and missing home movies, a particularly brutal child custody battle, a former mayor out to regain his position, and some unsolved gruesome murders. Safe to say, there’s a lot going on in this little town.

Far From True is the second in a trilogy set in Promise Falls, something that’s not apparent from the book blurb, although the sense of arriving late to the party soon becomes apparent.

Barclay recycles characters from previous stories, including private investigator Cal Weaver, Detective Barry Duckworth, and former news reporter turned political hander David Harwood. These characters’ back-stories, including how Cal’s wife and son were tragically murdered, are filtered in as the reader needs to know them. The effect is a little discombobulating, because every step forward in the current goings-on requires reams of explanation about what’s already transpired – and as already mentioned, there’s a lot going on.

Barclay is a story master, so despite the vast number of plot lines, the reader doesn’t get lost and the effect is a pacey, plot-driven story. The downside, however, is that it’s difficult to connect with and really care about any of the characters in this story. Just as I was forming a bond with the protagonist in the first chapter, he disappeared; the same thing kept happening throughout the novel.

If you’d like character “buy-in”, it’s probably advisable to start with the first in this trilogy (Broken Promise). If you don’t care about that, and just want a fast-paced, well-written thriller, go ahead and jump straight into Far From True.

Grant news- new anthology

If you write, you’ll know it’s not glamorous (many hours alone at a keyboard in isolation while your friends and family are having fun or, better yet, sleeping!) and it’s the little wins that keep you going. You need to be your own biggest cheerleader because, let’s face it, no-one cares more about your work than you do.

So, it’s great to celebrate the “little wins”. Those bits of validation that tell you you’re doing a good job, and to just keep going. This is one of those happy dance,” woot-woot”, moments, so apologies for being self-indulgent, but who else is going to indulge me? I mean, you can if you like…

My virtual writers group, Seasoned with Romance, has been awarded grant funding for our next anthology. We’ve put out two free anthologies of our short stories so far, and now one of Australia’s biggest and best writers’ organisations, Romance Writers of Australia, has recognised the quality of our work with a grant. The money will pay for those professionals who, to date, have donated their services, to get paid. That includes our extremely talented book cover designer, Daniella Caruso (, and payment for editing and promo services.

The new anthology, Winter Heat, will still be free for readers and I hope you’ll take this stamp of approval as a sign that it’s worth reading and get yourself a copy when it comes out in June.

Contributors to Summer Daze which is free to download here ( are all wonderful Australian writers and you can learn more about them through their websites:


I’ll keep you updated as the release of Winter Heat nears!

The Unkown Woman: book review

The Unknown Woman, Random House, $32.99, is the second novel by Jacqueline Lunn (left).

The Unknown Woman

The Unknown Woman, Random House, $32.99, is the second novel by Jacqueline Lunn (left).<br /><br />

The Unknown Woman, Random House, $32.99, is the second novel by Jacqueline Lunn (left).

BOOK REVIEW | Lilith Granger is an upper-class Sydneysider and stay-at-home mum who has the perfect life – or so it would seem.

At 44, Lilith lives in a mansion, spends the mornings at yoga, drives her kids to their expensive private school in her SUV, has had the luxury of not working for more than a decade and can afford to spend more than $2000 on a designer pink coat. But somewhere along the way, she has lost her sense of self. Once a gifted actuary who earned more than her husband, she’s now a mum, wife, daughter, friend and neighbour. But will the real Lilith Granger please stand up?

This second novel from Australian novelist Jacqueline Lunn is quite simply stunning.

Neither Lilith nor any of her other characters are particularly likeable, but perhaps that’s the point.

Told from alternating points of view – first that of Lilith, then someone in her life (friend, daughter, neighbour, etc) – this story is set over the course of a day with significant flashbacks to provide context. In a way, the novel is like a series of interconnected vignettes in which each character provides new perspective on Lilith and also tells their own story.

Some of the stories have little to do with Lilith’s life (such as the nurse who works in the aged-care home where Lilith’s father lives) and are really self-contained short stories. It doesn’t matter, they’re still imminently readable and demonstrate Lunn’s gift for characterisation.

The author seems to have a fascination with the impact of one’s past on their present. This was the theme of her first novel, Under the Influence, and again presents itself in The Unknown Woman. Lilith has had it tough, and as a result her actions in parts of the book are disturbing. Entitled and deranged would be another way of describing them. But that is the stuff of story – characters who do odd things, unlikeable things, and yet make us want to read on.

Lilith had a difficult childhood, her best friend is both abused and narcissistic, her brother a hapless bachelor who dabbles in sexual harassment, her teen daughter a selfie-obsessed pain in the butt, and her husband an absent workaholic. No wonder that to all of them, including herself, Lilith is the unknown woman.

This is top-end literary commercial fiction. The writing is so sharp, the imperfect characters so well drawn that it’s not an oversell to rate it as one of the best releases of 2014.

Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy

Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy

BOOK REVIEW | “A text is gone at the brush of a fingertip, like a nuclear bomb or Exocet missile.

Dating Rule Number 1: DO NOT TEXT WHEN DRUNK.”

Helen Fielding, creator of the legendary Bridget Jones, has again unleashed her calamitous heroine on devoted fans in Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that in this book, beloved hero Mark Darcy has died –– it was all over the media upon its release, and the revelation is made early on in the story. But that tragedy, which caused so much controversy, helps Fielding establish Jones as a more mature, in-depth character than the hapless, 30-something woman with whom we’re all familiar.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding, Random House, $19.99

In this latest addition to the Bridget Jones saga, we encounter Bridget as a widow, mother of two young children, writing professional, techo-bimbo and, at last, a grown-up. The story begins as Bridget is emerging from her depression over Mark’s death and again feeling ready for love. Another bonus of doing away with Mr Darcy is it has allowed Fielding to maintain the ultimate chick-lit premise: single woman seeks love.

Complicating Bridget’s goal are the presence of her two children, and the author expertly conveys the constant seesaw of emotions a parent feels toward the young and demanding: one minute overwhelming love, the next minute overwhelming desire to lock oneself in the bathroom with a bottle of gin. Their Godfather is Bridget’s still sexy, bad-boy ex, Daniel Cleaver (the Hugh grant character in the movies), with whom the Darcys made-up after the children were born. His one-liners and unrelenting skirt-chasing are highlights of the book.

Another factor affecting Bridget’s quest for love is her weight (those familiar with the previous stories will know it is a constant in all her diary entries), which this time lands her in an obesity clinic. And she is not as young as she once was – now 51, Bridget flirts with Botox with disastrous results; she also tries to come to grips with Twitter and master the art of turning on her overly complicated entertainment system.

That brings us to the romance plot. Never one to make the sensible choice, Bridget lands herself a 29-year-old toy boy. Their flirtations and romance are hilarious, and the character of Roxster is adorable, but it wouldn’t be chic-lit if all ended well.

You know what you’re in for when you pick up Mad About the Boy. Fielding again utlises the breezy shorthand style she perfected in previous novels, and once the reader becomes accustomed to the missing pronouns, the book provides an excellent read. Overall, it’s witty, excellently written chick-lit with depth and humour.

To borrow Fielding’s way of writing: well worth reacquainting oneself with Ms Jones.

Frank Woodley: Fools Gold

Presented by Token Events Reviewed 20 February 2014Frank Woodley

If you want to spend an evening with ultimate jester fool, Frank Woodley, you’d better be quick because he’s only here until Sunday.

Woodley is back to his comedic best in his new show, Fool’s Gold. If the sold out Arts Theatre was anything to go by, his fans have been clamouring for a bit of Frank. Renowned for being a physical comedian, Woodley didn’t disappoint in this aspect, acting the lovable clown throughout. More than this however, the content of Woodley’s comedy was simultaneously witty, adolescently puerile, and a little bit wrong. (Does anyone think it’s okay to start a sentence with: “What I like about the Nazi’s is…?”)

Topics covered ranged from musings on whether animals engage in impressions of other animals, the nature of swearing in different countries, and the hilarity of accents different from one’s own. Then there were the original songs with lyrics about the end of the human race, physical comedy featuring ribbon dancing and mouth-popping ping pong balls, and an impressive magic trick or two.

The highlight for me (and from the audience reaction, I suspect for most there) was a short ‘play’ necessitating audience participation called “The Country Squire and the F*&^%nuckle“. Said ‘play’ was written in ye olde worlde English, and involved a feud over a Squire’s sister sending a ‘revealing’ selfie to said F*&$nuckle. The feud culminated in (nerf) pistols at dawn.

This was very funny stuff from an Australian legend of comedy. There was a bit of blue language, so probably not one for the whole family, but it should be okay for teens. It’s one of the pricier Fringe comedy acts, but if you want guaranteed laughs, go to this show.

Reviewed by Samantha Bond

Venue: Arts Theatre, 53 Angus Street, Adelaide Season: 21-23 February 2014] Duration: 1 hour Tickets: $30.00 – $40.00 Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or phone 1300 621

 Samantha Bond | 14 February 2014

FRINGE REVIEW | Welcome to the world of – where singletons meet and mingle online, at d&d balls, in the company gym and even in Bali.

Presented by Matt Byrne Media, is a comedic skit show with a spattering of musical numbers that put witty, original lyrics to hits such as “You’re Simply the Best (You’re Simply Dateless) and “My Boot Scootin’ Baby” (My Internet Baby).

We meet Rhonda Backseat (Kim York), a single mum in her 50s who’s just up for a bit of fun; Kendra Catley (Sophie Lee Hamilton), a time-poor career girl who only owns one cat; George Carpet (Matt Byrne), who is divorced but seems to forget that; and Jack Lovegun (Marc Clement), an alpha-male Romeo whose goal is to love many and often. tells these characters’ stories as they search online for love, sex and that special someone – you know, the one who will give you the mobile phone number that’s still connected.

The skits are witty and often resonate as they get too close to the ugly truth of kissing many frogs to find one’s prince. A series of speed-dating skits is summed up well by the line: “Speed dating is like being rejected by the entire universe in one hour and paying for the privilege.” There is a cameo appearance by “Kaput” as Rhonda holidays in Bali, and a great performance by the whole cast as they portray first the women at a d&d ball, then seconds later, the drunken farmer men they’ve been paired with.

As well as poking fun at the world of dating, also explores the sad side of being single and lonely and wondering why you can’t find just one person to love who will love you in return. Warning: if you’re recently single, or hating being single, this aspect of the show isn’t likely to lift your spirits.

Overall, is a funny and fun night out. My only criticism is that it went too long (two hours with a short break at half time), but others may consider this value for money.

Be warned, there is some audience participation and, upon arrival, you will be asked to pick a stop-light paddle-stick with either a red (taken), amber (unsure) or green (very single) sticker to indicate your availability. is at Maxim’s Wine Bar, 194a The Parade, Norwood, from February 14-March 16.

The Spectacular Now


FILM REVIEW | The Spectacular Now is part coming-of-age story, part teen romance and part precautionary tale against alcohol abuse.

Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a charismatic, life-of-the-party 18-year-old, wakes up on an unfamiliar lawn the morning after being dumped by his girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson from The United States of Tara). Standing over him is Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), a nerdy girl from his school.

Hungover to hell and with no idea where he’s left his car, Sutter accompanies Aimee on her paper route so he can find it. From here, a friendship blossoms between the two teens – who, amazingly, look like real teenagers and not some Hollywood airbrushed-to-perfection clones. Sutter tells his mate he wants to help out the intelligent but socially awkward girl, and so begins taking her to parties and making promises about prom dates.

However, this isn’t your stereotypical young romance.  The two do fall in love, but Sutter – whose motto is to live for the now – has significant emotional baggage; if not constantly drunk, he’s on the verge of it. He carries around a monogrammed flask to spike his sodas, goes to school and work drunk, and drives drunk. Hence why the original girlfriend dumped him.

Aimee doesn’t see this. Instead, the girl who has been ignored by boys all her life is infatuated with Sutter and more or less comes down to his level. On the upside, he does help her to value herself and stand up for herself, but when Aimee demands Sutter do likewise, things go badly.

This film starts a little slowly, yet soon picks up pace. It is also a refreshing change from many blockbusters in that the kids actually look and speak like real teenagers, with the story inherently character-driven rather than plot-driven. Aimee is even without make-up for most of the movie – imagine that!

The screenwriters have done an excellent job of bringing Tom Tharp’s novel to life, and I would highly recommend The Spectacular Now to teens and adults alike. You’ll like it if you’re into great dialogue and acting; you won’t if you prefer your movies peppered with car chases and explosion scenes.

Published in Indaily:

2 Guns

2 Guns hits its target

 Samantha Bond | 17 October 2013


FILM REVIEW | This new buddy cop movie starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg delivers much  more than you’d expect from this familiar genre.

Washington plays Robert “Bobby” Trench, an undercover Drug Enforcement Agency agent, while Wahlberg is undercover naval intelligence officer Michael “Stig” Stigman. Problem is, neither knows the other is an agent, assuming instead they are the criminals they’re impersonating.

Trench has been tasked with bringing down a Mexican drug cartel, and Stig is his sharp-shooting, wise-cracking muscle. All plans go awry when Trench’s snitch ends up inside a bowling bag – well, his head at least – and the Mexican drug lord pays for forged passports in cash instead of cocaine.

Trench has been working on this case for over 12 months, and so to salvage the operation, he agrees to Stig’s suggestion that they rob a Mexican bank where the drug lord supposedly has $3 million stashed to smoke him out.

It’s about here that things get twisty. A series of hitches sees both Trench and Stig on their own, outside of the law, with only each other to rely and the baddies in hot pursuit.

The main problem with this movie is that all the promos give away one of the biggest plot twists – that Trench and Stig are undercover agents. So when the movie makes a big deal out of this revelation, it’s not a big deal at all, and it should have been.

Still, this is an excellent piece of entertainment with an abundance of plot twists and plenty of bad guys to run from to keep up the momentum. Car chases, shootouts and blowing things up are par for the course in this genre, but they’re not overdone or gratuitous. Washington and Wahlberg’s characters have great chemistry, and Wahlberg’s smart-arsed one-liners add comedy.

This is a fun action caper with a decent storyline, really bad bad-guys, heroes you root for and some scary-looking bulls. You’ll know what to expect for the first third of the movie, but it is one of the better buddy cop flicks to be released in a long time.

The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van

 Samantha Bond | 9 October 2013

The Lady in the Van

THEATRE REVIEW | The Stirling Community Theatre was filled to capacity for the opening night of new Stirling Players’ production The Lady in the Van.

Based on Alan Bennett’s diaries, the play tells the true story of how the award-winning British playwright offered Miss Shepherd a place to park the van in which she lived. He thought she’d be in his London yard for a few months when the offer was made in 1974, but she stayed until she died in 1989.

Bennett first meets Shepherd when she begins to park her van in front of houses on his street, moving ever closer to his home as neighbours find ways of ousting her. Witness to her harassment at the hands of local hoodlums, police and council workers, he finally offers her sanctuary. People call him a saint, but he disagrees – the initial invitation is made out of guilt, and then he allows her to stay because he can’t tell her to go.

The play tells the story of the unusual relationship between Bennett and Shepherd, a character of the type usually reserved for fiction. Renowned for her multifarious odour – urine camouflaged by the scent of lavender talcum powder – and for her rants verging on insanity (at one point she petitions for a taller Pope), this woman is as frustrating and endearing as she is funny.

Directed by Dave Simms, the Stirling Players put on a, aherm, sterling  performance.  The cast is excellent, especially the three main actors: Lee Cook, Tim Edhouse and Jill Morrell. Cook and Edhouse both play Alan Bennett , with one the narrator recalling the story, and the other “in” the play. The device of two Alans, while unusual, works well and allows the Jiminy Cricket-type narrator to express frustration at the situation in which he finds himself. Jill Morrell is so believable as the itinerant van lady that she brings to mind another great lady of the stage, Ruth Cracknel.

This probably isn’t a production for younger people, especially in terms of the issues it deals with: ageing parents in need of full-time care, the challenges of ageing yourself and how one continues to survive in this world, and the obligations and guilt faced by carers. There’s not much in the way of plot, but it is an excellent character study.

The Lady in the Van is funny in parts, and moving throughout. If you enjoy memoir-style entertainment, you’ll get a lot out of this excellently performed stage production.

The Stirling Players are presenting the play at the Stirling Community Theatre on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until October 19.