Category Archives: book review

Our Five Favourite Spring Reads

So many Spring reads to choose from but here are my five favourites, all five star reads:

The Pursuit of by Courtney Milan

tpo-smallI loved this story of same sex romance in the late 1700s set against backdrop of the American War of Independence. It’s a prequel to her Worth Saga series and features the couple that set up the family business, English officer Henry Latham and African American corporal John Hunter. Chance sees them meet on the battlefield, where they almost kill each other, before becoming friends and then lovers. Both face different challenges in their personal lives and they must overcome societal restrictions and personal concerns before they reach their happy ever after. The Pursuit Of  is tender, funny and meaningful. Vintage Courtney Milan.

 

One Night Wife and Fool Me Forever, The Confidence Game books 1 and 2 by Ainslie Paton

Ainslie PatonThis series from Ainslie Paton is Robin Hood for the twentieth century. It is funny, sassy, smart, seriously sexy contemporary romance with a twist for our morally ambiguous age. The Sherwood family are professional grifters in the name of causes not supported as they should be by government and business. They con money from those who have too much, especially if they’re slack about paying tax and morally reprehensible, and give it to responsible charities. They’re one of four families committed to the con. In One Night Wife, Cal Sherwood falls for Finley Cartwright, the queen of lost causes. The problem is she’s not part of the four families. I absolutely loved it and book two, Fool Me Forever, featuring youngest brother Halsey and Fin’s friend Lenore Bradshaw.

Lionheart by Thea Harrison, Moonshadow book 3 (Moonshadow andSpellbinder)

Lionheart_HiRes_1800x2700-768x1153Lionheart is the final book in this trilogy which forms part of Thea Harrison’s Elder Races world. It is paranormal/fantasy at its finest, combining the creatures of mythology and lore with the Arthurian legend and others. Magical worlds overlap with earth creating more opportunities for cross cultural conflict, war and love. Moonshadowwas my introduction to Thea Harrison, and I was hooked. She became an immediate feature on my autobuy list. Lionheart is the story of King Oberon of Lyonesse and the Wyr earth trauma surgeon and magic user, Dr. Kathryn Shaw, sent to save him.

 

Neanderthal Seeks Human, A Smart Romance by Penny Reid, Knitting in the City bk 1

neanderthal-seeks-humanThis is not a new title, but it was a lovely introduction to Penny Reid’s delightful rom-coms. I’ll be reading my way through all the Knitting in the City as well as the Winston Brothers books. *happy sigh* Discovering a new-to-me excellent author with a long backlist is one of the best things that can happen to an avid reader. Neanderthal Seeks Humanintroduces Janie Morris, who is awkward, anxious and uncertain. Quinn Sullivan, aka Sir McHotpants, is anything but. Can they really make it work?

 

The Laird’s Christmas Kiss by Anna Campbell, Laird’s Most Likely book 2

TLCK-FOR-WEB-1-683x1024After six delightful novellas, Anna Campbell has returned to full length novels with her Laird’s Most Likely series. The Laird’s Christmas Kisshas landed just in time for Christmas, a time Anna writes about particularly well. Shy wallflower Elspeth Douglas has had a crush on Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie, for five years – and he has never noticed her. Just when she decides to grow up and move on, he decides to show interest. Unfortunately his reputation as a rake means Elspeth is uncertain as to whether she can trust his newfound interest. With interfering friends and a crate of imported mistletoe thrown into the mix, the stage is set for a house party rife with secrets, clandestine kisses, misunderstandings, heartache, scandal, and love triumphant.

 

If you’re looking for something different, perhaps try other members of The Writers Dozen:

 

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Cross-cultural Victorian romance alive with heart, hope and strength

After the Wedding: A Worth saga romance by Courtney Milan

The only thing more inconvenient than Camilla’s marriage at gunpoint is falling in love with her unwilling groom…

So begins the story of Camilla Worth and Adrian Hunter. I’ve always enjoyed Courtney After the WeddingMilan’s Victorian romance but I really loved this one. Humorous. Passionate. Angry. Heartfelt. As I read the final words, I was filled to the brim with the happy, bubbly, lighter-than-air feeling I get from a truly beautiful book. 

There is something heartwarmingly-everywoman about the heroine Camilla (Cam) Worth, her unquenchable spirit and hope for the future despite the fact that deep down, she doesn’t believe she deserves love. Camilla is the daughter of a treasonous earl, trying to stay hidden so as not to bring any further shame on her family. The hero, Adrian Hunter, is the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, an artist and a businessman, strong but gentle and always willing to believe the best of everyone. Brought together by circumstances beyond their control, they work together to wrest their futures back from the men who want to deny them control of their own destinies.

Adrian gives Camilla the right to be herself, and she finds the strength and anger to fight back against with the people who would put her – and Adrian – down. He helps her to look back, and she helps him to look forward. The result is a love match started for all the wrong reasons but finding all the right reasons to continue.

Aside from her memorable characters, Courtney Milan also always digs below the surface of Victorian England to uncover bits and pieces of history that still influence us today. In this case, it is china, as in crockery.  Britain was the workplace of the world for several decades of the nineteenth century, fuelled by a rise in domestic demand thanks to a growing middle and upper working class. There’s a delightful sub-plot in After the Wedding about the creation of a fine china design for display and sale at a trade exhibition.

After the Wedding got me thinking about diversity in Victorian England. A little bit of digging on the web got me the information that there were roughly 10,000 black men and women in London at the time, more around the country, as the result of English tentacles stretching into every continent. They were a distinct minority, under threat of slavery before 1833 even although slavery hadn’t been legal in England since the time of William the Conqueror. However, they were probably not as feared or hated as the Irish. As always in England, class played the largest role in social standing. If you would like to do more research about Black Britain, I found this article from History Today, a helpful overview, although, of course, it does not delve into all the ethnic minorities that make up British society.

After the Wedding is book 2 in the Worth Saga but can be read as a stand alone novel. I did, although I have remedy this fault in my bookshelf by downloading book 1, Once Upon a Marquess, to read immediately.

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Blurb

Adrian Hunter, the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, is determined to do whatever his family needs-even posing as a valet to gather information. But his mission spirals out of control when he’s accused of dastardly intentions and is forced to marry a woman he’s barely had time to flirt with.

Camilla Worth has always dreamed of getting married, but a marriage where a pistol substitutes for “I do” is not the relationship she hoped for. Her unwilling groom insists they need to seek an annulment, and she’s not cruel enough to ruin a man’s life just because she yearns for one person to care about her.

As Camilla and Adrian work to prove their marriage wasn’t consensual, they become first allies, then friends. But the closer they grow, the more Camilla’s heart aches. If they consummate the marriage, he’ll be stuck with her forever. The only way to show that she cares is to make sure he can walk away for good…

Courtney MilanAuthor

Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets and smartwatches. As one does. You can find out more about her and her  books here.

 

Our Five Favourite Reads

Welcome to The Writers’ Dozen Top 5 Reads Blog Hop

I fortunate to belong to a fabulous writers’ group of women of diverse tastes and interests. If there’s one thing you know about writers, it is that they are also readers. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading this past two months along with links to all their favourite reads. Whilst mine are all romance (this time), the others feature a broad range from crime to non-fiction. Enjoy!

I’ve been meaning to give Jo Beverley’s books a go for quite some time now. I read Christmas Angel as a post-Christmas indulgence and then went back to start her Company of Rogues series from book 1. To date, I’ve glommed my way through An Arranged Marriage, An Unwilling Bridge, A Christmas Angel, A Dangerous Joy, and Forbidden. They are dark Regency romances exploring the ugly underbelly of reality for women in 19th century Britain. Initially, Jo couldn’t get them published but after she achieved success with lighter Regencies, her publisher relented and they were published to popular acclaim. She won a RITA for An Unwilling Bridge.

I love the range of characters and the way the heroine and hero have to fight so hard for their happily-ever-after. The women face the realities of rape, poverty, prostitution, and the dilemma of being married ‘off’ as possessions, to good men, well-meaning men and blaggards. The men, too, are vulnerable, to bullies in boarding schools and the dangers of war, including post-traumatic stress, loss of limbs and the death of dear friends. I’ve got at least another five to go in this series and then another series from her to lose myself in.

Another fortunate discovery of 2018 has been the work of Kiwi Lucy Parker. She’s writes delightful, funny, heart-warming rom-com set in London’s West End theatre world. They are glorious. Arrogant, vulnerable, handsome heroes. Witty, hardworking, beautiful yet insecure heroines. Definitely drawn minor characters. The reality of celebrity gossip. It’s your average working world with the drama of the stage adding an additional layer of glamour. The first book in the series is Act Like It starring Richard Troy and Lainie (Elaine) Graham, an enemies to lovers novel.  Pretty Face, book two, is just as good, but in this case the stars are Luc Savage and Lilly Lamprey. Rather than a behind-the-scenes look at deserved and undeserved reputations, it looks at how we judge people on appearance.

An out-of-the-ordinary read is Addicted to Love by Jennifer Wilck which has in common with Pretty Face a big age gap between the hero and heroine. Some of Jennifer’s contemporaries have Jewish characters, and this is one of them. Hannah and Dan work through the difficulties of loving someone older/younger, the accompanying ‘baggage’ and the different faces of addiction. It’s about love and the power of forgiveness, both external and internal. Addicted to Love is thought-provoking, well written and utterly absorbing and won’t be what you expect at all.

 

 

I have eventually grabbed Amy Andrew’s No More Mr Nice Guy off my TBR pile and couldn’t put it down. No wonder it made her a USA Today bestselling author. It’s a sexy, funny romance between two best friends, Josie and Mack, who become lovers for the purpose of dealing with her list of unexplored sexual experiences. Only when it becomes time to part, neither one of them wants to let go, but neither has the courage to speak up either. No More Mr Nice Guy is published by Entangled Brazen, and,  yes, it really is hot. If you like the bedroom door kept closed, this is not the book for you.

 

 

My final recommendation is Erica Ridley’s audiobook, Lord of Chance. I’ve been ‘reading’ Erica Ridley’s Rogues to Riches series on my to and from appointments. I think it is her best series ever. She writes non-traditional Regency romances. Not every hero is a duke. In this series one is even – GASP – working class. Her heroes and heroines deal with problems from gambling addiction, illegitimate birth in a class conscious society, the stigma of prostitution, the problems of being typecast. However, they all get their Happily Ever After. I recommend starting with book 1, Lord of Chance, Charlotte and Anthony’s story. This is followed by Lord of Pleasure and Lord of the Night, and, I hope several more, as there are characters I still wish to get to know better.

Want to see what other members of The Writers’ Dozen are reading? Stop by their blogs and find out:

Laughs and home truths abound in the Jewel Sister series

Monique McDonell writes delightful romantic comedies that poke and prod at her Jewels 1 and 2characters’ weaknesses until they ‘fess up and earn the right to their happily ever after. Book 2 in her new series came out on Boxing Day, providing me with perfect holiday reading. I started with Book 1 (not necessarily ‘of course’ in my case) and devoured the two books.

Monique McDonell’s new series is set in the small coastal town of Caudal Bay, Australia and centres around  the Jewel sisters, so named because their loving but OTT mother named them Amethyst, Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby. Yes, really. Just imagine!  And aside from their names they have to deal with each other. Sisters! Sometimes you love ‘em, sometimes you fight with them, but you always want them to get their HEA.

Something of a Spark is book one. I really loved this first story about Saffy (Sapphire) and Cam. Cam is super sexy and just all round nice, while Saffy is complicated and overthinks everything in a totally relatable way. She likes to hide all her talents under the proverbial bushel. Cam, on the other hand, is open about his life, his talents and his not so nice family. Their blooming love story is threatened by Saffy’s determination to hold on to her secrets, as is her family’s unity.  The tension creates a page-turning romance written with Monique McDonell’s trademark humor. This is rom-com at its best.

Book two, Something to Sing About is Ruby’s story. She’s the youngest sister and currently AWW-2018-badge-rosein turmoil. I mean, what would you do if you had a crush on your sister’s best friend  – a crush that has lasted 10 years despite the fact that said sister has strictly forbidden either flings or relationships between her sisters and best friend. Ruby has accepted that country music star Ryan Swan will never break his word to her sister Sapphy, but she’s promised herself one night with the man to treasure. Only now there’s a baby on the way. And said crush (aka lifelong love) lives in Nashville, a looong way from Caudal Bay and her comfortable life. Ruby has to overcome her desire to stay in the shadows to win Ryan, who has to overcome his fear of his past to win Ruby. It’s messy and funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming.

I am loving this series and can’t wait for the next sister’s story, which I am hoping will be Emme’s.

If you like romantic comedy, Monique has another series, The Upper Crust, set in New York. You can find out more about her and her books on her website.

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Tasty twist on marriage of convenience trope

A romance set in New YorkAny Way You Slice It is my first novel by Monique McDonell, but it certainly won’t be my last. This funny and uplifting story set in New York pairs Piper, an Australian in need of a green card so that she can keep running the business she has established, with Aaron, an American lawyer in need of a wife so that he can get promotion within the law firm he works for. Throw in a friend with a warm and fiery Italian family and some combustible (if occasionally unwanted) chemistry and you have a classic New York romance that works its way from ‘I must’ to ‘I do’.

I’m a fan of witty writing and clever packaging. Monique McDonell provides both. I adore the series title ‘An Upper Crust Romance’ with its promise to keep the wolf from the door. I am also delighted to report that there is more than just delicious pie on offer to keep you drooling – and I’m not even talking about the delicious Aaron. There are seven more books in the series. Yes, SEVEN! I do love a nice, long series.

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About the author

Monique McDonell writes fun, flirty women’s fiction. Her books include Mr Right and Other Mongrels, Hearts Afire, A Fair Exchange and the Upper Crust series. Monique lives on Sydney’s Northern beaches where she writes, drinks coffee and runs a small PR firm (not necessarily in that order). You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.