Queenslanders have an appetite for rural romance novels, and some of the best writers of the genre come from the Sunshine State.

Which authors set the romance world on fire?

BARBARA Hannay has sold millions of books. Mandy Magro is on bestseller lists. Helene Young has won countless awards.

They live quiet lives in Tarzali, Brinsmead and Trinity Beach, but their tales of love and lust are flying off the shelves at airports, department stores and bookshops around the country.

City folk are lapping up the steamy romantic sagas and sweeping outback love affairs of our homegrown authors who are getting all the inspiration they need for their sensual page-turners right here at home.

The Far North is home to at least seven published romance writers whose tales range from the hot, saucy and downright erotic to the paranormal and slowly seductive.

Some write under their own names. Others use pseudonyms. But all share a love of romance and the place they call home.

International best-selling author Barbara Hannay has won America's most prestigious award for romance writers and did it from her country cottage on the Atherton Tableland.


Mareeba's best-selling Australian rural romance author Mandy Magro.
Mareeba's best-selling Australian rural romance author Mandy Magro. Heaven on Earth Photography

"My stories are almost all set in North Queensland and the last few I've written have been set on the Atherton Tableland," she says.

Barbara says there is a real thirst among Australians for rural romance. "I think we look at bush people as living the legend for us."

Her interest in writing was sparked while teaching Year 11 students in Townsville. Within five years she was being published by Harlequin Mills and Boon and has now sold more than 50 titles and 12 million books in 26 languages.

She switched from the shorter Mills & Boon formula to longer novels a few years ago.

"I write a book for Penguin every year. I'm on my seventh now. I'm a fairly slow writer and include historical threads as well. I really enjoy getting more layers into the story and deeper into the characters."

Barbara's books slot into the romantic saga category.


Renowned romance author Barbara Hannay
Renowned romance author Barbara Hannay Wesley Monts

"I like what's going on in people's heads and hearts rather than the physical details of their sex lives."

Mandy Magro is a country girl who has lived the life she writes about.

Born in Mareeba, she has worked as a station cook, rodeo worker and fruit farmer. Today, she is nestled in suburban Cairns, but produces two rollicking Harlequin romances a year about the strong cattle station characters she is so familiar with.

She hopes some of them will one day find their way into a television mini-series or a Hollywood blockbuster.

Writing began as a hobby for QantasLink pilot Helene Young, of Trinity Beach, but has now turned into a second career after vertigo grounded her.

Helene's forte is romantic suspense and she is a multiple winner of Australia's Romantic Book of the Year and Favourite Romantic Suspense Award. Her next book, due out next year, will be about three generations of women on a station west of Cairns.


Successful author Helene Young.
Successful author Helene Young.

Former oilfield engineer Eric George took on the persona of Jacqueline George after advice from his American publisher and has put out a string of steamy titles from his home in Cooktown.

With 19 books under his belt across the genres of erotic romance, history, thrillers and non-fiction, Eric is currently writing a shared novel with Tasmanian author Debbie Prewer.

"It's set in 18th century England and America and will be about two people writing a fun, historical, erotic romance with the interchange between the two authors, as well as the story. It should be a lot of fun."

Erotica specialist Joy Fulcher lives a double life, writing under a pseudonym in the guise of a fiery redhead who flirts with lifeguards on our tropical beaches. A long-time Cairns resident, she's actually brunette and works discreetly in a health-related role.

After releasing two books in quick succession in 2014, Joy has taken a break from writing, but followers are hoping for a return to the keyboard soon.

Harlequin's head of digital and marketing communications, Adam van Rooijen, says the Sunshine State's insatiable appetite for rural romance has finally come of age.

Roz Pulley