Category Archives: Contemporary romance 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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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:

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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New book review: Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne

I’m delighted to feature Escaping Mr Right as my first book review for the Australian Women Writers 2016 challenge. I was hooked right from the opening lines:

Nick Savage was like the human incarnation of a heat-seeking missile. Unfortunately, his target was me. Always, always me.

Aside from the immediate introduction of humour, I got an intriguing glimpse into Chloe, a AWWC16 Escaping Mr Rightwoman clearly attractive to others (or at least to A.N. Other) who didn’t want to be in the limelight. Interesting. In addition, first person is unusual in a romance, so I curled up in my favourite chair in happy anticipation of a great story.

Avril Tremayne lived up to the promise of that opening sentence, delivering a smart and sassy romance with a dark heart that lingered long after I read ‘the end’. The story packs the emotional punch of a black forest cake layered with kirsch-infused cherries and topped with cream – rich, melt-in-your-mouth sensuality with a powerful kick.

Escaping Mr Right moves between the glamour of a high-paying sports code and the desperate plight of orphans in the Phillipines. Chloe Masters is a television presenter whose boyfriend Marcus is the high profile captain of the Sydney Scorpions rugby league team. As the story opens, she is trying to work out why she is not as content as she should be with her perfect relationship while also avoiding the attentions of Marcus’ teammate Nick Savage whom she is convinced is a typical sports sleaze and to whom she will tell anyone who listens that she is not attracted. When she is assigned by her network to cover a charity drive by the team, she finds herself heading to the Phillipines, but with Nick not Marcus after an impulsive break up.

As Chloe and Nick embark on a passionate, secret affair in the Phillipines, their personal histories and fears come to the fore, driving their actions. Because the narrative is told from Chloe’s point of view, it was easy to understood her fears and needs and prejudices. Her carefully constructed and immaculate façade is a glossy shell designed to protect her from the world. It never occurs to Chloe that she and Nick have more in common than she thinks. She just knows that Nick has the power to penetrate her shell and that makes him very, very dangerous.

A dare-you-to-lose-it look was in his heavy-lidded eyes. ‘I don’t share all my toys Chloe. Remember that when the time comes.’

Despite the fact that it is Chloe who tells the story, the complexity of Nick’s character is immediately apparent. As the story unfolds, I felt increasingly sorry for him. His attraction to Chloe is always apparent, as is his perception and understanding of the less-than perfect individual beneath the façade. The flames of passion burn away their differences but also open old wounds. As Chloe and Nick draw closer, she says too much and him not enough; disaster breaks along with a terrifying storm. One of them has to find the courage to break the impasse.

There were so many elements of this story I loved. I really liked the support crew, especially Evie, Jack and Drew. I like the break-up haircuts and the seriously hot sex. I liked the snappy dialogue and genuine emotion. And I really loved the way the author peeled away the layers of character to reveal the hurts Chloe and Nick carried and hid and nursed. We all carry something dark that tortures us. Something we try to hide away and overcome. Something that threatens to destroy us, our happiness and our future if not dealt with.

Escaping Mr Right will make you laugh, cry a little and sigh with happiness. Highly recommended.

5 hearts all

 

 

Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne (Random Romance) is available as an ebook. It is the second novel in a trilogy which starts with Wanting Mr Wrong (Evie and Jack’s story) but it can be read as a stand alone novel. I can’t wait for book #3.

Avril Tremayne

 

The feisty Ms Avril Tremayne writes sexy, funny modern romances. Find out more about her and her books at http://www.avriltremayne.com/#!books/cnec.

Related post.

New Book Review: A Vow to Secure His Legacy by Annie West

Annie West writes wonderful heart-warming and sexy romances so I was delighted toA Vow To Secure His Legacy by Annie West hear she has a new book out this month from Harlequin Presents. A Vow to Secure His Legacy is the story of shy, conservative account Imogen Holgate and sexy Parisian Thierry Girard.

Sensible Imogen has always been a long-term planner, saving for a home in the hope of building a family. During the past year, she has lost her flamboyant twin sister in a road accident and her mother to a terminal illness. Now she believes she is living on borrowed time with the same illness that claimed her mother. Isabelle’s words keep echoing in her head: ‘You need to get out and live, Imogen. Try something new, take a risk, enjoy yourself. Life is for living!’ On impulse, she drops everything and spends her life savings on a once-in-a-lifetime around-the-world trip. In Paris, Isabelle’s favourite city, she meets Thierry Girard.

Playboy Thierry loves high adrenalin sports, fast cars and beautiful. Since his first love refused to marry him he has resolutely refused to love again. When the family business that has made the Girard’s a household name amongst the French elite is in trouble, he is obliged to step in to save it. Looking for a distraction from city streets, cocktail parties and business commitments, he finds Imogen fresh, alluring and irresistible. A holiday romance fits the script for Imogen; after all, it is her year for doing what she never In praise of A Vow to Support His Legacywould otherwise. However, after she leaves Paris, she finds herself pregnant, and with no one else for support and worried about her child’s future, she turns to Thierry for help. To Imogen’s surprise, Thierry asks – practically demands – that she marry him. As they work through the early days of a marriage fuelled by passion but complicated by her illness and cross-cultural differences, Imogen realises how big the gulf is between her world and his. She isn’t sure she will ever fit in. And how does Thierry really feel about her?

I fell in love with both the characters in this romance. Imogen is far braver and more beautiful, inside and out, than she ever gives herself credit for. While Thierry is a typical playboy on the outside, he has far more substance than that: intelligence, a quiet strength, compassion, generosity and humour – and I haven’t even mentioned he looks fabulous in everything from a dinner suit to a pair of jeans. To make their marriage work and achieve their happily ever after, Thierry needs to open his heart and Imogen needs to trust hers.

A Vow to Secure His Legacy is a superb read. Annie West uses the attraction of opposites to explore issues of risk and trust and how every couple must overcome these hurdles if they are to find love and happiness.

Available from 11 February. To read an extract and for buy links, visit Annie’s book page.

5 hearts all

 

 

USA Today bestselling author Annie WestAnnie West is the USA Today bestselling author over 30 books for Harlequin Mills & Boon. In her teens, she got hooked on romance and never looked back. The boys at school couldn’t compare with all those strong silent flashing-eyed Italians, haughty Spanish aristocrats and the rest. Fortunately, she found her own tall, dark romantic hero while at university, where despite the distraction she completed an honours degree in Classics. She lives with him and her family north of Sydney, Australia.

Postscript: I reviewed A Vow to Secure His Legacy before I signed up to review 12 books for the 2016 Australian Women Writers challenge.  However, it obviously belongs in the challenge, so I am making it my lucky 13th review.

New release: Christmas Down Under box set

Spend some time Down Under this Christmas, where the weather is hot and the men are hotter.

Christmas Down Under is the perfect box set for your Christmas Down Under.pngDecember holidays. It’s a delicious confirmation of exactly why those of us who live in the Southern hemisphere love the heady partnership of summer sun and prawns on the barbie on Christmas Day. If you’re currently snowed-in and shivering somewhere up North, these stories will warm your heart with their combination of long lazy summer days and Christmas cheer.

This contemporary romance collection features five New Zealand and Australian authors and one honourary Kiwi, American Rosalind James, who gets a nod after a 15-month stint in Auckland. It’s a weighty collection of over 900 pages that will comfortably keep you going through a 10-day holiday as it contains five full-length books and novella. These sweet-sexy romances range from a little bit steamy all the way to OMG.

Although I loved all the stories in Christmas Down Under, my personal favourite was Annie Seaton’s novella Christmas with the Boss. It has sun, summer, loving, and a cheeky ghost who helps Jilly and Dominic to straddle the hurdle that is their office relationship. There’s a long tradition of Christmas ghost stories including A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and I like the way a ghost story links this collection to Christmas in all countries regardless of climate.

Another aspect of the collection I really enjoyed was how each author made the location of her story come to life, giving me a feel for cities and places all over New Zealand as well as the NSW north coast of Australia.

The Christmas Down Under box set is only available until the end of December, so download your copy asap. It’s great value for money at only 99c.

Rating

3.5 hearts

 

 

More about the stories (in order of appearance)

A Festive Treat by Serenity Woods: Haunted Skye Graham only wanted a one-night stand, but Owen Hall’s an expert at finding lost people, and he’s determined to search the whole of the Northland until he tracks her down.

Christmas with the Boss by Annie Seaton: Jilly Henderson had been looking forward to five days of bliss at the beach: alone, no work, and with no one to bother her over the Christmas break. The last thing she expects is to find her sexy boss, Dominic, holidaying in the beach shack next door. This surf god looks mighty different from the uptight executive she’s used to–and mighty hard to ignore.

Christmas Holiday Hearts by Kris Pearson: Ellie McKenna’s dream job becomes her worst nightmare when she discovers the man she’ll be working for is her long-ago holiday fling. He gave her the hottest memories of her life – and a son he knows nothing about. How will Ellie carry out her Christmas holiday contract now?

Just for Now by Rosalind James: Just for Now is part of Rosalind James’ Escape to New Zealand series. Jenna McKnight has run from heartbreak into a new body, a new city, and a new job. But the gorgeous Auckland villa isn’t really her home, rugby star Finn Douglas and his kids aren’t really her family, and playing house can be a dangerous game.

Promising Penny by Joanne Hill: Penny Portman works in her parents’ Auckland cafe and dreams of running her own place one day. When old friend Michael McGuinn shows up, her feelings for him resurface, and she wonders if he will ever think of her as more than an honorary sister and if this could be the Christmas all her wishes come true.

Hide Your Heart by Tracey Alvarez: Lauren Taylor has returned to her New Zealand hometown, hiding from her famous past. Nate Fraser plans to fix up the property next door and sell it as a celebrity retreat. As passion ignites between them over the Christmas season, can Lauren trust Nate with her secrets, and her heart?

More about the authors (in order of appearance)

Serenity Woods is an award-winning author who lives in the sub-tropical Northland of New Zealand with her wonderful husband and gorgeous teenage son. She writes hot and sultry contemporary romances and much rather immerse herself in reading or writing romance than in doing the dusting and ironing, which is why it’s not a great idea to pop round if you have any allergies.

Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing and has been delighted to discover that readers love reading her stories as much as she loves writing them. She worked in education for most of her working life, completing a Masters Degree in Education before she took up a full-time writing career.

Kris Pearson grew up surrounded by orchards in Hastings, New Zealand, and always knew she was going to be a writer. In addition, she has worked in radio, as a copywriter, in television, and in advertising. These days she and her husband own a décor company and are proof that happily ever after does exist.

Rosalind James met her husband Rick at UC Berkeley when she was 21, so she really does believe in True Love and Happily Ever After, a fact which helps a lot in writing her stories! Their home base when they’re not adventuring is in Berkeley, California. During 15-month stint in New Zealand she fell in love with the country, the beauty and diversity of the landscape (not to mention the seascapes), the Maori culture and its integration into the country’s life, and, perhaps more than anything, the people: modest, good-humored, unfailingly polite and hospitable, and so very funny.

Joanne Hill is a writer of contemporary fiction with romantic elements. Besides writing fiction, Jo blogs about pop culture and heritage and has written feature articles for local magazines.

Tracey Alvarez lives in the Coolest Little Capital in the World (a.k.a Wellington, New Zealand) where she has yet to be buried under her TBR book pile by our infamous wind – my Kindle’s a lifesaver! Fuelled by copious amounts of coffee, she is now the author of contemporary romantic fiction set predominantly in New Zealand. Small-towns, close communities, and families are a big part of the heart-warming stories I love to write. Oh, and hot, down-to-earth heroes—real Kiwi men, in other words.

 

New release: Play Me by Kimberley Kincaid

Mischief Under the Mistletoe banner
This is my stop during the book blitz for the box set Mischief Under the Mistletoe. I am going to focus on Kimberly Kincaid contribution, Play Me. However, it would be remiss of me not to let you know that  Mischief Under the Mistletoe includes 19 short stories by 19 different authors. The stories are adult romance books varying from sweet to super steamy. The box set will be on sale for only $0.99, that’s 19 stories for only $0.99, which is a bargain guaranteed to raise your spirits and get you swinging to that holiday vibe well ahead of the Christmas holidays. The fact that the stories are short means you can dip into them whenever you get a free moment, whether it’s baking, waiting for the school Christmas carols rehearsal to end or grabbing a quick coffee in the midst of holiday spending frenzy. Here in Australia, of course, you can also nip out to the beach and luxuriate in sun and stories. I advise you poor folk up north to stay indoors and grab a chair close to the fire.

I haven’t read Kimberley Kincaid’s books before, and I am so glad I have had the chance to review one. It’s been one of those occasions when you finish a book by a new (to you) author and think, ‘That was fabulous!’ and then promptly hit the internet to find out what kind of backlist she has available.

Sophie Drayton has run away from the family nightmare that is the music industry. She is studying to become a librarian and working part-time in an all-night diner to pay her bills, which is where she first sees Emilio Barrett, doodling in a journal of some kind. Sophie has certainly seen enough of the wild life to know that Emilio is bad news, and she is determined that this time around her head – and not her heart or her hormones – will rule her decisions. But somehow she can’t seem to keep the sexy stripper from invading her thoughts. Perhaps that’s because Emilio has a mind of his own, and he has decided Kimberley’s the one for him. Now he just has to convince that his part-time job is just that; a job to keep him earning enough money to look after himself and his mum and siblings until he can get his chosen career as a musician off the ground. But when he figures out Sophie’s connection to the music industry, he stalls on telling her about his dreams and desires. She seems to hate the business. Will Sophie’s past come back to haunt them, or will Emilio prove that a bad boy can be also be a good man?

This was a thoroughly enjoyable romance touching on important contemporary issues as well as sizzling between the sheets. The characters were well rounded. Sophie’s passion for books made her come alive. Emilio’s smouldering Latino looks and his comfort inside his own skin made him a good foil for Sophie’s cerebral approach. I also found the way Kimberley Kincaid explored the issue of family and how it moulds us very interesting. Sophie’s family is wealthy but damaged. Emilio’s family has always struggled and yet they are bonded in a way that Sophie envies. Emilio is afraid Sophie will think he is trying to abuse her connections if she finds out about his hopes and dreams to be a musician. When things go pear-shaped – as was inevitable with both of them keeping secrets – both of them believe their worst fears have come true. How do they manage to work through their fears and find the courage to reach out to one another? You’ll have to read Play Me to find out!

Heat rating:
Mischief under the Mistletoe: sweet to sexy
Play Me: hot!
4 hearts

 

 

More about Mischief Under the Mistletoe:
This box set contains is composed of nineteen contemporary romance novellas about holiday hotties just waiting to be unwrapped! The stories are written by a range of  NY Times, USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award Winning Authors. This anthology won’t last long. Grab it while it’s HOT!

Mischief Under the MistletoeMischief Under the Mistletoe
By Kristin Miller, Claudy Conn, Melanie James, Mindy Klasky, Holly S. Roberts, Stephanie Rowe, Diane Rinella, Kate Angell , Kimberly Kincaid, J.D. Tyler, Robin Covington, Suzanne Ferrell, Kathy Ivan, Selena Laurence, Jennie Marts, Teri Riggs, Jennifer Theriot, M.J. Fredrick and Deb Julienne

Note:
This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 17 till 23 November, you can view the complete blitz schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours. I was provided with a free advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.