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.

5 hearts all

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/

5 hearts all

 

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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New book review: The Most Scandalous Ravensdale by Melanie Milburne

The Most Scandalous Ravensdale by Melanie Milburne (Harlequin Sexy) is book four in Milburne RavensdaleAWWC.jpgMelanie’ Ravensdale series. The Ravensdales in question are the sons and daughters of famous theatre actors Richard and Elisabetta Ravensdale – except for Kat, the heroine of book four, who is Richard’s illegitimate daughter.

Kat’s mother tells her on her deathbed that Richard is her father and that he paid her many years ago to have an abortion to preserve his reputation and his marriage. Now the press has found out about her existence, and Richard is trying to make amends. Kat wants nothing to do with him. She knows he is only interested in ‘damage control’ not in her. In fact, she’s furious the press has found out because her dream is a career in theatre, but she wants to make it on her own not on the back of the family name. Is that even possible in a world where image is everything and the gossip of the gutter press knows no bounds? When Kat is labelled the most ‘scandalous’ Ravensdale, it is not a synonym for outrageous but acceptable behaviour from yet another famous-for-being-famous celebrity but a hurtful tag reflecting the damage done to both Kat and Richard’s acknowledged family.

However, Richard is a man who believes all problems can be smoothed over, and he is not about to take no for an answer. He sets his hotshot lawyer Flynn Carlyon the task of changing her mind. Flynn is both charming and cynical and he relishes a challenge. He understands the nature of his client but he is also arrogant enough to think he knows what is best for Kat and that she will benefit from meeting the brothers and sisters she never knew.

The chemistry between Kat and Flynn is instant; it smoulders between them waiting for one small spark to trigger combustion. Flynn sets the scene. After all, he is willing and able to use all his charms to change Kat’s mind. He knows and she knows it. Kat’s mind may be strong but her body is tempted, so very tempted. Meanwhile Kat gets the audition of a lifetime only to find out it will pair her with Elisabetta, the one person in theatre with a good reason for wishing she doesn’t exist. Could her life get any more complicated?

Flynn is also finding his life unexpectedly complicated by his latest assignment. As he gets to know Kat, he realises he couldn’t (and doesn’t want to) force her into the decision to acknowledge Richard, no matter how much he thinks she deserves a place in the Ravensdale family.

As a reader, I was conflicted as Kat closed in on an inevitable meeting with her father. Part of me wanted to encourage her to turn her back and walk away in the hope it might teach him a long overdue lesson. However, another part of me knew that there is little point in cutting of your nose to spite your face. Pride alone cannot change facts and, as a rule, the earlier those facts are faced, the better. Sometimes there are even unexpected bonuses to meeting challenges head on. Would that prove true for Kate. Could her fledgling relationship  with Flynn withstand the assault of everyday complications and conflicting loyalties, especially with the whole world watching? You’ll have to read The Most Scandalous Ravensdale to find out.

Within both the confines of Kat and Flynn’s relationship and the series as a whole Melanie Milburne has examined the concept of family and what it means. Her view is prosaic and not at all rose-coloured. An adopted child who is always the ugly duckling of his family. A single parent family where the daughter is the caregiver. A tight-knit but dysfunctional family where the façade displays one truth and the occupants know another. The varied reasons why people remain tied by by blood and need. The happy family which offers hope that others can build their own. Can love conquer all? How?

It’s difficult to develop a passionate happy ending for two characters and include thoughtful observations on the nature of family, the ties that bind and the way those ties influence and affect us in a short novel; somehow Melanie gets it right.

I enjoyed Kat and Flynn’s story very much; I just wish I could have spent a little more time with
them.

I won a copy of The Most Scandalous Ravensdale via Harlequin Junkie and was delighted to read the final instalment in this series.

4 hearts

 

 

About the author

Melanie MilburneAustralian Melanie Milburne is a USA Today bestselling author. She started reading Mills & Boon romances when she was seventeen. Luckily, reading is the best form of research for a writer so she is able to combine work and pleasure. Melanie has won several awards including the Australian Romance Readers Association’s (ARRA) most popular category series romance in 2008 and the prestigious Romance Writers of Australia RUBY award in 2011. You can find out more about Melanie, her books and how to connect with her on her website.

Link

Five fabulous Australian romance novels with five winning cover designs as awarded by Romance Writers of Australia.

  • Contemporary romance: Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards
  • Erotic/ Sexy romance: The Veiled Heart by Elsa Holland
  • Historical romance: The King’s Man by Alison Stuart
  • Young Adult/ New Adult romance: The Finn Factor by Rachel Bailey
  • Paranormal romance (including sic-fi and fantasy): The Shattered Court by MJ Scott
  • Romantic Elements: Pretty Famous by Carla Caruso
  • Romantic Suspense: Storm Clouds by Bronwyn Parry
  • Rural Romance: Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn Hein

Romance Writers of Australia

As writers, we pour our hearts into choosing just the right words to tell our stories – but to put a finished book into the reader’s hands, we need to rely on others’ skills.  Chief among these others is the cover designer.  A good cover can entice a reader and add to the pleasure of the story – and the best ones thrill authors!  Each year, to celebrate the blessings of the cover fairies, our published members submit their favourite recent covers for fellow members to choose the ones they like most.

The contest is over for another year, so without further ado, here are our favourite covers for this year, as judged by our members in the following categories:

Contemporary Romance:

  • Title: Operation White Christmas
  • Author: Nicki Edwards
  • Cover Design: Unknown Artist

Operation White Christmas-Nicki Edwards

Erotic/Sexy Romance

  • Title: The Veiled Heart
  • Author: Elsa Holland
  • Cover Design: Hang Le

The Veiled Heart-Elsa Holland

Historical Romance

  • Title: The…

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Author Earnings Report May 2016

The future is full of opportunity – especially for self-published indie author!

Romance Writers of Australia

A million-title study of US author earnings from Amazon.com reveals indie authors outperform Big Five authors in terms of percentage market share of ebook unit sales and author income but Big Five still hold edge in gross $ sales, despite declining percentage.

For some time now I have been on the mailing list of AuthorEarnings, a website by authors for authors whose purposes is to gather and share information so that writers can make informed decisions.

They’ve taken on a big challenge given how difficult it is to extract data from different sources within the publishing industry to cover the sales of all book formats – hardbacks, paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks. As they say in their most recent report, ‘Data in the publishing biz is hard to come by. Without widespread sharing of data by retailers, publishers, agents, and authors, we are all left like the blind to describe different…

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