Book Review: The Crossroads by Pamela Cook

Insightful review of The Crossroads by Pamela Cook, rural romance with a difference

Lauren Keegan Writer

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The Crossroads by Pamela Cook

Hachette Australia, November 2016

(Review copy provided by publisher)

Pamela Cook writes rural women’s fiction with romantic sub-plots. The Crossroads is her fourth published novel, and the third book that I’ve read. I’m an avid reader of the rural romance genre and every time I pick up a Pamela Cook novel I expect her stories to fall into that genre- but they don’t. I actually really like that the romance elements of the story aren’t at the forefront of the story. What Cook does so well is create strong, engaging women protagonists that face emotional challenges when their ordinary lives are uplifted by a catalyst that sets the premise for the story.

In The Crossroads, the narrative is told from the POV (point of view) of three women who are connected by their shared history. Rosie O’Shea struggles to maintain the rundown outback pub she inherited from her…

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Thief of Hearts, a Christmas novella

December. It’s time to feel the warmth and love of the Christmas Spirit. If she (or he) has not yet visited your home, I suggest you download Thief of Hearts, read it and be inspired to decorate, wrap and spread good cheer.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00016]Elizabeth Ellen Carter is one of my favourite Australian historical novelists. I am constantly amazed at her ability to switch time periods and write with the same level of authenticity, accuracy and passion regardless of whether she is writing about Ancient Rome, medieval England or, as in this case, Victorian England. Her last novella was the delightful Nocturne, a Valentine’s Day release, set in Regency England. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I thoroughly enjoyed Thief of Hearts, a historical suspense caper involving a Duke as a magician and a young lady as a sleuth. Elizabeth does always like to turn convention on it’s head!

I asked Elizabeth why this particular story. She said, ‘Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.

‘Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.

‘They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.

‘So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.’

Book DescriptionAWWC16

December 1890
London, England

Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.

To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.

While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.

He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.

As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Extract

He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.

“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”

Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.

“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”

“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.

“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.

“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”

Tobias stood.

“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”

Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.

“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”

“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.

“Call me Tobias.”

He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.

“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”

Want to read more? Go to

Author Bio

eecarter400h-203x300Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. Elizabeth loves to interact with her readers and you can find her at:

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Tell us Your Backstory with Pamela Cook

This is a lovely introduction to Pamela Cook, the ‘dark queen’ of rural romance whose new book The Crossroads is out tomorrow.

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Tell us Your Backstory with Pamela Cook

Well, as my bio says, I’m a city girl with a country lifestyle, but back when I was just a city girl, I grew up in the southern suburbs of Sydney and had a pretty ordinary Australian childhood. My father passed away when I was three years old, so I have no memory of him, and for a long time I thought his death had no impact on me, being so young. Since I’ve been writing though, I’ve come to realise that growing up in a house where everyone was dealing with grief had a huge influence on me – and on the themes of my writing. My first three novels dealt with the impact of losing someone close and my new release, The Crossroads also deals with issues of loss. So my own backstory definitely influences my plots!

In my early…

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Romantic conclusion to Chance Sisters Quartet

New book review: The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie

From the moment Anne Gracie introduce the Chance Sisters* in The Autumn Bride, I felt protective of Abby, Damaris, Jane and Daisy and worried about their futures. I particularly worried about heroic, spirited Daisy. In a society where birth, breeding and education still counted for almost everything, she was the most vulnerable. Even although I knew neither her sisters nor her ‘aunt’, the outrageous Lady Bea, would abandon her, I worried that her stubborn independence might rob her of her chance at love.

cover-summer-brideAt the beginning of The Summer Bride, Daisy is certainly resistent to the notion of husband hunting. She believes love is not for her and is determined to instead follow her dream of becoming dressmaker to the ton. In the process, she is working herself to death day and night.

‘I can make anyfing out of anyfing, but even I can’t make a silk purse out of a bloomin’ sow’s ear!’ Daisy Chance declared. ‘I was born in the gutter, raised in an ‘orehouse and I got a gimpy leg. I don’t look like a lady or speak like a lady and I ain’t never gunna be a lady, so what’s the point of––‘

Lady Beatrice cut her off. ‘Nonsense! You can do anything you set your mind to!’

Daisy rolled her eyes. ‘Maybe, but I don’t want to be a lady! I want to be a dressmaker – not just any dressmaker. I aim to become the most fashionable modiste in London – fashion to the tob nobs.’

The older lady shurgged. ‘No reason why you can’t be a modiste and a lady.’

Daisy stared at the old lady incredulously. ‘You don’t have no idea, do you? What it’s gunna take––‘

‘Any idea. It’s any idea.’

Daisy rolled her eyes. ‘Work, that’s what it takes – hard work, never-endin’ work. I’m workin’ every hour God sends as it is, and even so I’m barely managin’. There ain’t no time for me to prance around pretendin’g to be a lady.’

‘You are a lady!’

Daisy snorted and Lady Beatrice went on, ‘Your entire nature declares it. Inside you are a lady, Daisy – loyal, loving, honest, sensitive to others’ needs – all we have to do is teach you to be ladylike on the outside as well!’

‘Bugge that,’ said the budding lady …

Enter a most unconventional hero, Irishman Patrick Flynn. Flynn has made a fortune as a trader and is determined to find himself an aristocratic bride (one whose family will appreciate his money if not his orgins) and elevate his position in society.

Daisy makes Flynn’s flamboyant waistcoats, and he has promised her first pick off the materials on his newly docked ship. As a self-made man, he appreciates Daisy’s determination to create a business. As her friend, he doesn’t care at all for the fact that she is clearly in danger of working herself into the ground. And as he pokes his nose in where it is not wanted, at least not by Daisy, he comes to realise that, as a red-blooded male, he wants to be more than her friend. He wants passion, love – and marriage. Daisy will agree only to be his mistress, fearing she will lose her business, her independence, and her way out of poverty, if she marries. But Flynn didn’t create his business empire by taking the first ‘no’ as an answer. What Flynn wants, he will get, no matter how long he has to wait for it.

I liked how the story line for The Summer Bride overlaps with that of Jane’s romance in The Spring Bride without destroying the integrity of either book. It was interesting to see how the two romances overlapped, as those of our friends so often do in real life. It takes a skilled writer to drop a hint in one book and bring it to life in another.

I adore Anne Gracie’s sweetly sexy books. She is never afraid to explore the physical and emotional injuries of our pasts which plague our presents and threaten our futures. Yet she always offers hope; that the sum of a couple in love is greater than their individual natures; and that with the steadfast support of the one who loves us, we can rise above our pasts to be our best selves.

In The Summer Bride, she once again combines humour – sometimes wry, sometimes outrageous – with excellent historical detail and a deep understanding of our human fears, needs and desires to create a stand-out, memorable Regency romance.

This novel is one to keep. Actually, all the books in this series are keepers, and since all four books are now available, I plan to take advantage of the upcoming bad weather to read straight through the whole series. If you haven’t read them yet … lucky you! A treat awaits.

*If you are unfamiliar with this series, only two of the Chance sisters are related by blood, Abby and Jane. They met Damaris and Daisy during a perilous rescue of two of the girls from a brothel after which, having no family to turn to they swore allegiance to each other and attempted to support themselves in a shabby corner of London.  A chance encounter with old Lady Bea led to the girls rescuing her from abusive and neglectful servants, an act of goodwill which led to their re-entry into society.

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The four titles in the quartet are:

  • The Autumn Bride
  • The Winter Bride
  • The Spring Bride
  • The Summer Bride

Anne Gracie has a beautiful website well worth visiting to find out more about her and her books:http://www.annegracie.com.

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Queen of the Historical Novella triumphs again

Book Review: Stranded with the Scottish Early by Anna Campbell

I adore Anna Campbell’s romances, with their combination of wit and passion. Stranded with the Scottish Earl is a Regency novella and a delightful quick read perfect for a work-night evening escape or a weekend treat.

It opens memorably and so I was (once again) hooked from the start.

Stranded with the Scottish Earl‘A week before Easter, Ewan Macrae, Earl of Lyle, rode through a raging storm to reach Basington Grange – only to discover Cinderella guarding the the door.

‘Good afternoon,’ the lassie in the ragged brown skirt said coolly, holding the door open just far enough to speak to him. To keep the rain out? Or to fend off unexpected earls?

At twenty-eight, Lyle wasn’t a green lad to stammer in a lady’s presence. Still, he needed a few seconds to catch his breath and dredge some response from the mush that used to be his brain.

Cinderella was very pretty.

He swallowed, shifted on his feet like a yokel and located a word or two. Hardly original. ‘Good afternoon.’

Cinderella had creamy skin and rich honey-coloured hair, tumbing loose around her slender shoulders. Symmetrical streaks of dirt adorned high, slanted cheekbones. Half a dozen freckles set off a sweet, straight nose.

She really was a peach. Not even the half-closed door could hide .

‘You need to turn around and go back,’ she said after an awkward pause. From the depth of the house behind her, a dog yapped to warn off the intruder.

‘But I’ve only just arrived,’ he said, trying a smile. Despite his hat and thick greatcoat, a trickle of water traced a chilly path down his neck. ‘I’d love to come in out of the rain for a wee while. It’s hurtling it down in buckets.’

‘To confirm his statement, a gust of wind spattered raindrops across where he stood beneath the unreliable shleter of the portico. Damn it all, the weather was cold enough for Scotland.

He was used to his smile melting the frost off unwelcoming lassies. Cinderella was made of sterner stuff. Under gracefully arched eyebrows darker than her hair, the amber eyes remained wary. ‘No, you really need to go back.’

So begins Lyle’s madcap adventure and unconventional wooing of Cinderella, who he knows is really Miss Charlotte Warren. She attempts to conceal here identity knowing that he is the man her father thought would suit her as a husband, a fact he informed her of by letter from London. Charlotte does not wish to marry, and she is not sure who she is more annoyed with – her father for talking to this Scottish rake without her leave or said Scottish rake for daring to come and look her over when he knew perfectly well her father was not at home.

However, Lyle is decided. He fell in love the moment she opened the door. Now all he has to do is convince Cinderella Charlotte that the feeling is mutual and admit her identity –even if he has to rescue sheep in the pouring rain to do so.

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Cinderella may be the Queen of Lyle’s heart, but Anna Campbell is undoubtedly the Queen of the Historical Novella, seamlessly combining humour, period detail, passion and love in small parcels of story dynamite. Read and enjoy.

Stranded with the Scottish Earl is available as an ebook. You can find out more about the delightful Anna here: http://annacampbell.com/about-anna/

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Results from the Historical Romance Poll

Interesting blog from author Clare Delacroix on the results of her reader poll on covers.

Deborah Cooke & Her Books

About a week and a half ago, I posted a poll, to solicit your opinions about historical romance covers. It felt to me as if there was change in the wind, and your answers seem to support my suspicion.

About 500 people took the time to answer the questions, which is pretty awesome. Thank you, all!

I deliberately set this up so you’d have to choose a single best answer. I see from the comments that this bothered some respondents, but it makes it easier to draw % conclusions. Let’s have a look at those now.

The first question was:
Do you like to see people on historical romance covers?

The alternative, of course, is the “candy box” cover, which has tartan, flowers, ribbons, rings – pretty much anything except people. Only 6% of respondents preferred covers with no people on them.

Results from Claire Delacroix's reader poll on historical romance covers, question #1

Almost 94% prefer people on the covers. An…

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