Tag Archives: contemporary romance

Release Day Celebration

To celebrate the release of my romance The Millionaire Mountain Climber, I am hosting a party on Facebook with the 1-Click Addict Support Group and a clutch* of other authors. Join us for the chance to meet  new people, discover new books and win prizes.

Date 24 – 25 October (depending on where in the world you live)

24th 3-10pm American EST OR 25th 6am – 1pm Australian AEDT

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*Is clutch the right word for a group of authors? Happy to take suggestions.

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Our Five Favourite Winter Reads

Can you believe it’s July already? This year is running towards the finish at a crazy pace. However, I always make time to read. It’s my safe place, my fun place, and the way I refill my creative well. Here are five five-star romance reads I recommend. At the bottom of my post you’ll find links to the other, very different, recommendations from The Writers Dozen.

July books composite

First up is The Lingerie Wars by Janet Elizabeth Henderson. I fell across this delightful The Lingerie Warsromantic comedy in the best way – as a recommendation from an author newsletter. It’s the first in a new-to-me seven book series set in the small Scottish town of Invertary. Englishman Lake Benson, ex-special forces, is forced to take control of the lingerie shop he helped his sister buy – or watch his life savings go down the drain. The problem is the competition directly across the street run by former model Kirsty Campbell. Lake campaigns for victory with military precision. Kirsty takes a more creative approach. Aided and abetted by a cast of quirky characters, they are each determined to win the right to be the town’s sole lingerie shop. When the sparks fly, all bets are off. The Lingerie Warsis great escapism; funny and silly but with depth in all the right places. I’m slowly reading my way through the entire series.

Stand and DeliverStand and Deliver is the latest book in Rhenna Morgan’s Men of Haven series. I adore this family of self-proclaimed brothers, their two mums and the women they fall in love with. Stand and Deliveris Beckett and Gia’s story. Gia’s a kickass Southern belle who has built a reputation in Beckett’s male-dominated security industry. Beckett knows his brothers have his back. He wants Gia to know that he has hers; that she can let down her guard once in a while. Gia’s afraid of being overwhelmed by Beckett, but when it becomes clear someone is trying to sabotage her professional reputation, she needs to take a chance on letting Beckett guard her back – and her heart. As usual, there is an element of suspense to keep your heart racing. I love all the books in this series. They are dark and dirty but with heart and humour in all the right places. And the covers are drool-worthy.

OMG. I have to confess that before May this year, I had never read a Sarina Bowen novel. SpeakeasyThat’s the bad news. The good news is that there is a Sarina Bowen shaped hole on my bookshelf which I am rapidly filling up. Don’t you love it when you find an author you haven’t read with a great backlist?! Speakeasy is new, book five in her True North series. It’s filled with the fabulous vistas and great organic food of the series’ rural Vermont setting, the backdrop for May and Alec’s story. May Shipley is an alcoholic. Alec Rossi owns and runs a bar. Their families are intertwined on one level, competitors on another. On the surface it’s not a great combination, especially given that May is on the rebound, but Alec makes her feel good and she’s not ready to give him up just yet. Sarina Bowen explores tough contemporary issues such as sexuality and addiction, but she wraps it all up in the warmth and love that is the Shipley family, giving us a vision of what modern life should look like. And the covers are great too.

The Right TrackOn The Right Track is Penelope Janu’s follow up to In at the Deep End. The books can be read as stand-alone novels but are linked by Per and Tor Amundsen, twin Norwegian brothers destined to fall in love with complicated Australian girls. Tor is the hero of On The Right Track. He’s a diplomat (read spy) investigating murky dealings in the world of horse racing, which brings him into Golden Saunders orbit. Tor is casting aspersions on the reputation of her grandfather, and Golden doesn’t want anything to do with him – or the chaos his appearance creates in her small but manageable circle. However, Tor falls fast for the combination of fragility and fierceness that is Golden. Can Tor persuade her to extend her boundaries? Can Golden take another risk on the world? Penelope Janu’s books are funny, heartfelt, tender and beautifully descriptive. I love them.

I didn’t however, love the cover for On the Right Track. It’s pretty enough but it’s deceptive. A large property two hours from the heart of Sydney does not a rural/country romance make, especially when fifty percent of the action takes place in the city suburbs. It is also so different to the cover for In at The Deep Endthat readers would be forgiven for thinking that there is no connection between the two books and that, indeed, they are in different genres. Nothing could be further from the truth. The publisher has done their author a disservice. Hopefully readers will not be distracted. I recommend both books.

Shadow Keeper is book three in my favourite Christine Feehan paranormal series, The Shadow KeeperShadow Riders. The Ferraro family of Chicago dispenses justice when the law cannot. However, business and family cannot be separated, making it hard for the Ferraros to find love, especially when their life partner must also be a shadow rider, someone with the potential to both read and ride shadows. Giovanni is on the Ferraro equivalent of desk duty, forbidden to ride the shadows until his leg is healed. He’s sick of his role as a playboy, but then he meets Sasha, a warm-hearted, smart and sassy country girl with a shadow that reaches out and touches his. She thinks she’s tough. She thinks she can look after her brother and herself. But the predators in Chicago are not as easy to fight off as the ones on the family farm. Giovanni must overcome the initial bad impression he made and persuade Sasha to trust him – and love him. Gritty, edgy and magical romance.

For more recommendations:

 

Getting a manuscript ready for submission

In the not to distant future, my romance novel will be published. This is the first in a series of blog posts about my path to publication. I hope it is inspiring and helpful to other aspiring writers out there.

I’ve wanted to write a novel worthy of readers’ delight since I first went to university, saw creative writing on the course list, and realised that real people wrote books. Maybe, just maybe, I could be one of them.

I struggled on my own for years before I found my tribe at the Romance Writers of Australia. With the support and guidance of various members, I’ve made steady progress. I finalled in one competition, learnt from others, and eventually finished my first manuscript. It placed second in the Emerald Award for unpublished manuscripts. I was thrilled but still plagued by doubts. The praise received was consistent; readers liked the setting, my heroine and the dialogue. The criticism coming back was also consistent – my hero was hard to know. Although I spoke to a few publishers, I never submitted, choosing to rework it instead. I say ‘choosing to rework’ and that’s partly true. Part of me was also retreating. If I wasn’t good enough to win, was I really good enough to publish? Would I make a fool of myself submitting it to publishers? Fear of failure can be crippling. It can also be a strangely comforting bedfellow, one which makes sure you never move out of my comfort zone.

But … I really wanted to be a published novelist. I wanted it more than I feared failure and humiliation. So I set myself a goal. By the next year’s conference I would be ready to pitch my revised and improved romance to publishers. I added 30,000 words to the story and thought about the story a lot, what worked, what didn’t. I also thought about what I would do if no one wanted it. I could self-publish. However, I really wanted to take my first steps in publishing with someone more experienced holding my hand. I wanted the support and the learning curve an author gets when working with an experienced editor and publisher. I’ve worked in the industry for years, so I know how valuable that experience can be.

When the annual RWA conference came around again in 2017, I was ready and prepared to face the threat of rejection again. I’d changed my title from the sweet-sounding Alpine Kisses to the sassier The Millionaire Mountain Climber. I put in my pitch request for the speed dating sessions with editors and agents. As a backup, I also made myself a list of romance publishers who accepted submissions direct from authors. I composed the list from the names of publishers who have attended RWA over the years as well as those who publish the books I like to read. I went online to their submission pages and copied their requirements. If the pitches didn’t go well, I had a plan B.

The pitches went okay. One agent was, frankly, rude, but said I could submit anyway. I did so, but didn’t hold my breath. Just as well because neither I, nor anyone else who pitched, ever heard back from her. One publisher was delightful and enthusiastic, and I submitted with some confidence. Another publisher said I didn’t fit their criteria, so that was a no.

However, with only one genuine show of interest, I didn’t like my odds. A month after conference, I hauled out Plan B and submitted to another ten publishers and one agent. It took time. Each one had different submission criteria. Some requested only the first five pages. Some wanted the first three chapters. Some wanted the whole manuscript. Everybody wanted a synopsis and to know a little about me, but not a one of them matched another. Each submission was unique. Some of the publishers I targeted were Australian; others English and American. I changed spelling according to the submission. While I didn’t get it all right, I reckoned it was respectful to at least make the effort. Those submissions took me another month, to the end of October 2017. I meant to submit to more agents, but decided to first see what came of round one. I also decided that if I didn’t get interest from anyone by end February, I would self-publish. I felt my story had legs now.

Next time: The call … make that the email.

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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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.

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.