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:

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Helpful advice on leaving Amazon reviews

This is a very helpful blog post by reviewer and blogger Book Addict about what to do if Amazon deletes your reviews. It’s all about the Ps – politeness, patience and persistance. Here’s the link: Where’s My Slingshot When I Need It 

Getting the most from your publishing team

This week I started blogging monthly for RWA. My column is called Tips from an Industry Insider and you can read the full blog post here. I’ll be adding more reflections and insights every month on the 13th.

Amongst other things, I point out that as an author you most likely focus on one book at a time. No one in publishing works on one book at a time. Everyone is multi-tasking, from publishers and editors to cover designers, product and sales personnel, marketers and publicists. The production line never stops (as any indie authors reading this column know only too well). Even if the company only publishers one book a month, the relentless churn of the production schedule means that while they are editing book A, they are designing the cover for book B, typesetting book C and preparing book D for print. When sales reps sell in month 1, they are researching month 2 and reading ahead for month 3. While a publicist is on the road with you, she is contacting journalists to firm up interviews for Author F and preparing long lead pitches for Author G. … What does this mean for you? Understand the deadlines and timelines your team is working to, from editor to publicist. Stick to them. Be available. Plan. Communicate clearly.

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.

 

Diversity in Romance: US report finds only 7.8% of romance titles by people of colour

Diversity in romance is a hot topic at the moment. It’s fuelled by questions around cultural identity and sales.

Who has the right to create characters from different backgrounds? On the one hand, no one is better positioned to write a character with, say, an African American background than an African American. On the other hand, taken to extremes, that argument would mean no Othello, no Ophelia and no romance heroes with their own POV, at least not when written by female writers. And does this mean that a writer from an Asian background can’t write Regency Romance, even if she wants to? And what does it mean about aliens and shape-shifters? The world would be a much duller place if writers only wrote what they knew.

There is also, of course, the issue of unrepresented minorities in history. We think of medieval Britain as an island predominantly populated by white people, but what of the descendants of the African Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall before the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Then there is the thorny issue of sales. Which comes first, the demand or the story? I’m inclined to favour the perspective that the way forward is to ensure diversity within publishing houses. If editors and publishers have diverse interests and backgrounds, they will find those great books which have universal appeal regardless of the cultural identity, nationality or race of the characters.

The publishing industry certainly isn’t there yet. Bookseller and Publisher covered an 2rippedbodicereport2016Entertainment Weekly story on The Ripped Bodice’s report on the racial diversity of romance publishing in the US during 2016. The Ripped Bodice is a romance specialist bookstore. They found that only 7.8% of romance titles published were written by people of colour. ‘People of colour’ is a broadly descriptive term that not all writers of non-Anglo Saxon heritage will identify with. However, given that US census figures indicate that up to 28% of the American population identifies as either black or Hispanic, the diversity book is clearly not balanced.

Half of the 20 publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of their books authored by people of colour, and only three publishers had at least 10% of their books authored by people of colour.

The report co-authors and owners of The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch, said they were motivated to conduct the study ‘because they often found themselves short of options when customers come in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color’.

‘We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,’ said the Kochs. ‘For many years the common refrain from publishers has been “we’re working on it.” Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.’

The report notes that all of the publishers mentioned were invited to contribute statistics to the study. More than half engaged directly, with the missing data gathered from publisher and distributor websites.

I think this is an excellent initiative by The Ripped Bodice. I’m also giving a shout-out to all those publishers who participated willingly and all the indie authors who publish diverse romance but weren’t covered by this study. The more we talk, the more answers and solutions we’ll create and the more great romances we will have to read.

Australia has a very diverse, multicultural society. It would be interesting to see a similar study done here. I suspect the numbers would not look much better although I do know many publishers who actively hunt for and publish magnificent stories by individuals from marginalised or misunderstood groups, whether because of their cultural background, sexual preferences or other factors.

If you’re looking for a reading list of diverse authors and characters, try one of these four books, or have a browse on GoodReads, where there are many recommended book lists complete with comments.

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REVIEW: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Excellent review of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

Sam Still Reading

In brief: In the late 1970s, the Northern Territory is a rugged place, where the people are at the whim of the weather. Despite this, Sybil starts a book club to build friendships for her and her daughter-in-law.

The good: The friendships between the women and the look at life not that long ago in the Aussie outback.

The not-so-good: Some of the things that happen to the characters are very, very sad.

Why I chose it: Thanks to Hachette, who know I enjoy a good Aussie story.

Year: 2017

Pages: 425

Publisher: Hachette

Setting: Northern Territory, Australia

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Books set in Australia’s Northern Territory are few and far between, so I was really entranced by the premise of Sophie Green’s The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club. Not only is it set in the NT, but it’s set in the late…

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