Fate or Free-will?
I began my writing career in the niche sub-genre of magical-realism romance. Such books are usually set in the real world with real-to-life characters, but they also contain undercurrents of magic, otherworldliness, and fantastical elements.
So what does a magical-realism romance author do when their muse blasts a contemporary romance idea their way? Listen, act, and bend the rules ever so slightly.
In Australia, small-town/rural contemporary romance is incredibly popular. The red dust of the Australian Outback and the charming country towns dotted across the land evoke a strong sense of romance. Farmers and small-town heroes, if successfully portrayed by a skilful author, can become mouth-watering love interests.
After a recent move to a sleepy small town, a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Alpine region of Victoria, Australia, I simply had to write a small-town contemporary romance inspired by this beautiful region.
My Brothers of the Vine trilogy is the result.
My three heroes, the Mathews brothers, are tall, dark and sexy second-generation vineyard owners living in the delightful fictional small town of Alpine Ridge. Bittersweet, The Sweetest Secret, and Sweet from the Vine follow the emotive journey of the three brothers as they seek lasting love.
This contemporary romance trilogy is gritty and, at times, heartbreaking, but always hopeful.
Readers, when they see the covers and read the blurbs, will have certain expectations about the stories—that they are set in the modern day, contain real-to-life characters, and explore present-day romantic conflicts. Bittersweet, The Sweetest Secret, and Sweet from the Vine meet all those expectations of contemporary romance, but with a slight twist.
In stories that delve into the harsh realities of life, including grief, mental illness, and emotional abuse, it’s important to balance the darkness with light. And it’s this striving for balance that has required I draw on my magical realism roots and slightly bend the contemporary romance rules.
Enter Cupid. Or, to be put in another way—fate versus free-will.
Despite free-will and fate being extensively discussed and debated for millennia, to this day, we still have no definitive answers.
Are we in control of our lives, including the tragedies that befall us, or does fate play a part?
Are we destined to fall in love or is falling in love, and with whom, a choice we make for ourselves?
In Bittersweet, the heroine is a skilled pastry chef who moves to Alpine Ridge to run a cupcake shop. There, she bakes Cupid cupcakes, which soon become the store’s best seller. These sweet, delicious morsels earn the reputation of possessing match-making qualities, and each character has their own ideas, based on their beliefs and experiences, about the reality of that.
This Cupid theme is carried throughout the trilogy and offers a subtle hint of magic, light-heartedness, and hope in this contemporary romance. It illuminates the darkness. Whether Cupid or destiny have a part to play in the Mathews' brothers finding lasting love is left open, allowing readers to look inside their own hearts and answer that for themselves.
BITTERSWEET (Brothers of the Vine) Book #1
a contemporary romance novel
A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes...
Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt–ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.
The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over–looked and under–appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back–end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister–in–law's bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.
Amy's move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it's for the family, then she claims it's for the shop. But maybe, it's for her own heart...
THE SWEETEST SECRET (Brothers of the Vine) Book #2
a contemporary romance novel
Two broken hearts, one small town, and the secret language of flowers…
Ellie always falls for the wrong man. After her latest disastrous relationship, she needs a new start, a clean slate, and some time to figure out who she is and what she actually wants. So the opportunity to open her own florist shop in the small town of Alpine Ridge couldn't be more timely – or more perfect.
Sam Mathews understands bad relationships – he's only ever had one, and that was enough. Now he keeps to himself, throwing his efforts into the family vineyard and his greenhouse hobby, where it's quiet and calm and he can nurture beauty with his own two hands.
When Ellie arrives in town and discovers Sam's backyard nursery, a shared professional interest soon blossoms into something that feels very personal. But Ellie needs time to rediscover herself, and Sam has never regained his confidence. When they are both tied so strongly to the past, could there be a chance for a future?
SWEET FROM THE VINE (Brothers of the Vine) Book #3
a contemporary romance novel
A second chance at love in the beautiful Ovens Valley – if he just has the courage to take it...
Matilda James never thought she’d ever return to Alpine Ridge, the small town she grew up in and couldn’t wait to leave. But when her desire to have children proves too great a strain on her childless marriage, she heads back home for a tree-change, determined to find a partner with the same life goals. Good luck and good timing lands her a dream marketing role on a breathtaking vineyard. The only hitch is her boss – her old high school flame. But Matilda is a professional, and that relationship is old news.
Mitch nearly lost everything when he lost his wife, and he’s worked hard ever since to support and protect the most important people in his life – his two brothers and his beautiful, miraculous daughter. When his high school sweetheart, Matilda, starts working on the vineyard, he still feels the attraction, but the pain of his past is too close and too constant to ever consider acting on it.
But soon the sparks between Matilda and Mitch grow so bright they can’t be ignored. Matilda is forced to question what she truly wants in life and how far she is willing to push to get what she deserves. And Mitch must learn that moving on is not a betrayal and find the courage to fight for a future he could never have imagined.
Jacquie lives in Central Queensland, Australia, where it's always hot and humidity coats the skin, summer or winter. When she wrote her first novel ten years ago, she was working as an accountant. But it didn’t take long for the writing bug to take her over completely and she happily did away with her business career. Now she spends her days wrapped up in her imagination, creating characters, exploring alternative realities, and meeting a host of characters who occupy her mind at first, then eventually her books.
She has a business degree, studied post-grad writing, editing and publishing at The University of Queensland, and earned a Master of Letters (Creative Writing) from Central Queensland University.
You can find out more on her website at http://www.jacquieunderdown.com/