#StrongRomanceHeroines, Reading, Uncategorized

Summer Reading

Summer

Summer’s hit and there’s nothing better than reading on Brighton beach in the sunshine.  I’ve been filling my days with the following books…

Countryside Perfection

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Is home always where the heart is?

When Ellie spent a summer with her mum on a Wiltshire commune in the 90s it was a bigger disaster than Leo DiCaprio’s trip aboard the Titanic – so fleeing to America seemed a perfect plan.

But now, with her marriage falling apart, running back to her mum seems like the only option for her and her son Josh.

She wasn’t expecting Art, the boy she once had a crush on to still be working at Willow Tree Farm…And still be as hot and bothersome as he was when they were teenagers.
Ellie came to Willow Tree Farm for a fresh start. But is she ready to risk sailing her life – and her heart – into another iceberg?

There’s something about Heidi Rice’s Summer At Willow Tree Farm that warms the heart:  adorable children; beautiful countryside; and that teenage crush that Ellie never quite forgot.  Turns out that Art never forgot her either, and the chemistry between the two of them practically set my kindle aflame.  Funny and utterly charming.

Old School Clinch

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A man like David Falcon – a celebrated writer. traveler and explorer, and good-looking into the bargain! – was almost bound to he plagued by adoring women; and in fact his female admirers made such a nuisance of themselves that at last he had to take some forceful action.

Fortunately there was one girl who disliked him strongly. so he engaged her as his secretary and instructed her also to act as watchdog to keep off any of the others who might track him down to his remote castle in Wales.

It was a move that was destined to defeat itself.

There’s something about properly old school Mills & boon novels that I can’t help but adore.  Rose Burghley’s The Sweet Surrender has my favourite romance novel cover of all time, and the insides match!

Take one feisty heroine, one alpha hero, a Welsh castle and any number of intense embraces, and you’ve got the recipe for a great read!

All About the Scandal

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Between the fall-out from his father’s latest shady business dealings and his wife Charisse’s alcoholism, Evan Murdoch has his hands full. But he should be most concerned about the scandalous affair Charisse is having right under his nose—with his half-brother. Evan’s being pushed to the edge, and no one knows that better than Leila Hawkins…

Leila is back in Chesterton, divorced, penniless, and desperate enough to do anything to save her mother’s home from foreclosure—including turning to Evan, her former best friend. But Evan isn’t interested in friendship. Instead he makes Leila a shockingly indecent proposal.

Meanwhile, Evan’s newlywed sister, Paulette, wants to be the perfect wife. But a blackmailing bad boy ex has reappeared in her life—and he’s threatening to reveal her most painful secret.

The scandals just won’t quit—and for everyone involved, desire, betrayal, and lies are all in a day’s work…

It’s all about secrets, scandals and seduction in Shelly Ellis’ Best Kept Secrets, the first book in the Chesterton Scandal series.  The intertwined narratives that follow the different characters balance the storylines well, and it’s clear that this is an epic saga in the making!

Romantic Getaway

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He’ll help her forget her past, and may just give her a future too!

Immi Marlowe ran away after she was jilted… and on arrival on Isola dei Fiore gorgeous billionaire Matt Stark sweeps her off her feet! On the island’s golden beaches they really connect but, when her past secrets are revealed, what will Matt do to prove they can go the distance?

Kate Hardy’s 75th book for Mills & Boon, The Runaway Bride and the Billionaire, is the third in the Summer at the Villa Rosa quartet.  I love Kate’s books; they’ve got heroes to swoon over and heroines to die for!

The novel’s setting is particularly delightful, and made me yearn for beautiful sandy beaches instead of the pebbles beneath my feet!

Halcyon Days

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Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves.

But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.

I have a real soft spot for John Allison’s Giant Days comic series.  Following three female friends through their time at university, I’ve laughed and cried and am constantly being taken back to my own university days – now a decade ago!  Where has the time flown?

Perfect for reminiscing about the ‘good ole days’!

Theatrical Exploits

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Tabloid scandals have driven TV star Ryan Hertzog to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he’s hiding out doing summer stock at his cousin’s seaside theater. When a hookup with local handyman Trey Donovan results in Ryan being photographed butt naked, he vows to keep his pants on and his hands off Trey. How was he supposed to know Trey would turn out to be the summer stock set builder?

Trey isn’t looking for a relationship; he’s still recovering from the emotional fallout of an abusive marriage. But Ryan’s laughter draws him in again and again, and he’s not about to say no to fooling around.

As the summer heats up, the paparazzi catch Ryan in increasingly compromising situations. Ryan might be too much drama for a summer fling—and Trey might be just an intermission from Ryan’s Hollywood life. But if they take their cues from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well.

I’ve written about Vanessa North’s Lake Lovelace series before, but none are quite as summery as Summer Stock (the season’s even mentioned in the title!)

The romance is well-developed and Ryan and Trey both deserve happiness, so it’s wonderful when they finally realise that what they truly need in life is each other.

Urban Fantasy Intensity

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Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

I’ve only recently discovered Ilona Andrews and Burn for Me, the first in the Hidden Legacy trilogy, had me hooked immediately.  Cue a magical hero with PTSD, a heroine whose family deserve a book all their own, and a romp of an adventure on which to follow them.

The third book, Wildfire, has only just been released and it is as exciting and as well written as the first two!

Romance Academia

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The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name…

We do it in the dark. Under the sheets. With a penlight. We wear sunglasses and a baseball hat at the bookstore. We have a “special place” where we store them. Let’s face it: Not many folks are willing to publicly admit they love romance novels. Meanwhile, romance continues to be the bestselling fiction genre. Ever. So what’s with all the shame?

Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan–the creators of the wildly popular blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books–have no shame! They look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of romance novels and tackle the hard issues and questions.

With insider advice for writing romances, fun games to discover your inner Viking warrior, and interviews with famous romance authors, Beyond Heaving Bosomsshows that while some romance novels are silly–maybe even tawdry–they can also be intelligent, savvy, feminist, and fabulous, just like their readers!

And now to Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan’s Beyond Heaving Bosoms:  The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels.

Doing research as an academic means that I read a lot of books which are quite full-on.  Wendell and Tan’s book – though still arguably academic – is hysterical.  Expect talk about the heroine’s ‘Magic Hoo Hoo’, the hero’s ‘Wang of Mighty Lovin” and the importance of snark when presented with the best and worst of romance novel covers.

Yes, it is a glorious as it sounds.

Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Romance, Sob-Inducing Stories, Tule Publishing

Responding to Reading: Tempting the Deputy

Heidi Rice‘s Tempting the Deputy

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Tough, taciturn and wounded in ways that no one else knows about, Marietta rancher and part-time Deputy Sheriff Logan Tate is a man in total control of his life. Until he catches British photographer Charlotte Foster hitchhiking and ‘insists’ she gets a ride into town in his squad car… 

After her run-in with Deputy Hardass, Charlie Foster is ready to ride her thumb right back out of Marietta the very next day. But that night, a trip to Grey’s Saloon fires up her imagination – and her wild side – when she overhears the town’s first responders panicking over how to come up with the money needed to repair Harry’s House in just 90 days. 

Charlie has an ingenious solution to their problem, that might just require her to photograph twelve smokin’ hot guys naked. And, as luck would have it, also involves getting some much needed payback on Deputy Hardass–who isn’t too enthusiastic about participating in the calendar shoot.

But as he spends more time with Charlie, Logan can’t ignore the chemistry sizzling between them. Can a man who lives by the rules fall in love with a woman who breaks all of his?

So I’m not entirely certain why it’s taken Heidi Rice so long to write a cowboy hero.  As heroes go, they’re usually fairly alpha – without fitting into the overbearing Christian Grey mould – fit as f— and are part of a close-knit community; all traits that I’ve seen in previous Rice heroes…but Logan is her first.

And is he a good one?

The short answer is yes.  He’s a great hero.  He’s kind, a little clueless about his own feelings at times (which I find unbelievably adorable) and has a backstory that makes your heart ache.

How about our heroine?  Charlie Foster’s a British photographer, passing through the adorable town of Marietta, who takes on a photography project to raise some money for a local cause.  Of course, it means she has to see certain male members of the community in various states of undress, but she’s not particularly complaining.  They’re all fairly easy on the eyes, and it’s good exposure for her work.

But the thing I really like about her, is her frankness.  She’s straight talking and there’s a scene where they’re out in the “wild”, with her taking photos of him, when she starts telling him what she wants to do with her.  Aside from it being rather hot (which all the sex scenes are – my eReader almost combusted in my hands!), it’s also something innately honest and open.  And there’s nothing quite as alluring as the frank articulation of desire.

The story itself has great heart.  There’s a moment when Logan comes in the door and smells Charlie cooking a dish his mother used to cook him, and that really resonated with me.  The smell and taste of food is something that can resurrect memories both good and bad, and I love how that simple moment was woven into the narrative.  It encapsulated all that Logan had lost, and all that his life could be.

And the ending made me cry.  This isn’t something that’s unique to this book – Rice is to blame for a large number of tears shed over the years – but it’s something that I appreciate nonetheless.  It’s the kind of catharsis that Aristotle refers to in Poetics that makes me very grateful for the romance novel.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, All About Pride, Romance

All About Pride: Lake Lovelace

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Vanessa North‘s Lake Lovelace series is a small town series that has its own wakeboarding competition and its fair share of local athletes.

Ben Warren used to be a wakeboarding champion, but it’s not until he meets Davis Fox in  Double Upthat he starts to embrace life again. Davis is trying to build bridges with his estranged brother by entering the competition, but he can’t wakeboard and soon Ben finds himself coaching the newcomer!

In Rough Roadwealthy flirt Eddie Russell finds himself rescued by a man half his age when he runs his Mercedes off the road! Wish Carver is fascinated by the duality of Eddie’s personality – even if the two of them seem to be on opposite sides of a local issue…

Tina Durham’s adjusting to life after her divorce in Roller Girlbut everything seems to be going wrong – from her career to the washing machine that’s flooded her kitchen! Thank goodness for Joanne “Joe Mama” Demario. Not only does she fix the offending washing machine in question, but she also invites Tina to join her roller derby team and really doesn’t care that she’s transgender. But soon sparks between them begin to fly; will coach and player be able to keep things strictly professional?

It’s a wonderfully intersectional romance series, and North’s ability to create charming and amusing characters works wonders!

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, All About Pride, Romance

All About Pride: Unspeakable

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Abbie Rushton‘s Unspeakable  follows Megan, who hasn’t spoken in months. She even communicates with her mother through writing little notes, but in some ways it’s for the best. Because if she started speaking, goodness only knows what secrets would come selling out.

The last thing she expected was bubbly new girl Jasmine to pay any attention to her; certainly know one else expected it, but gravitate towards her Jasmine does and this makes for fascinating reading, with us hearing Megan’s internal responses to Jasmine’s chattering dialogue…

The romance itself is heart-warming and brightening, especially when we slowly begin to realise the enormity of the trauma that’s caused Megan to stop talking in the first place…

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, All About Pride, Romance

All About Pride: Not Otherwise Specified

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Hannah Moskowitz‘s Not Otherwise Specified is a coming of age novel that follows Etta as she struggles with the categories that people want to put her in…

She’s not quite tiny enough for ballet, she’s not quite gay enough for her group of friends the Dykes – even though she’s always been open about being bisexual – she’s not quite sick enough for some people to take her anorexia seriously, even if she is in recovery, and she’s a black girl in a whiter than white Nebraska…

And it isn’t until she’s drawn to straight, white, Christian Bianca in her therapy group that she starts questioning her role within the labels that people have assigned her.

I think what’s truly remarkable about this book, is the strength of Etta’s voice. She’s funny and witty and goes off on tangents in a way that is really very endearing. Moskowitz approaches the darker issues with levity and practicality, and shows light onto the shadow. Utterly charmed by this book!

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Fortuity

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Cara McKenna‘s Desert Dogs series marries motorcycles with murder as a suspicious death jumpstarts a narrative that revs into life!

In Lay It Down, we’re introduced to Fortuity, Texas, and Vince Grossier.  When the town’s new mayor invites a casino development to town, and then Vince’s good friend turns up mysteriously dead, he decides to look into it himself.  Kim Paget, the photographer hired by the developers might hold a clue, but soon Vince finds himself becoming more and more drawn to her…

Raina Harper owns the only bar in town, and she’s not prepared to give it up in Give It All.  But when the casino developers’ fixer, Duncan Welch, needs someone to help clear his professional name, Raina can’t seem to turn him away – especially when he’s so damn sexy!

The prequel novella, Drive It Deep, looks at the romance and entanglement that Raina and Miah had before the series began…

When Vince’s brother, Casey, comes home settle down in Fortuity in Burn It Up, he cleans up his act and becomes co-owner of Benji’s Saloon.  But his new bartender, sweet single mum Abilene, needs help when the violent figure who haunts her past returns to Fortuity…

The series is gripping, with the murder mystery plot line running across all of the books, and I simply can’t wait to read the final book in the series!

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection, Tule Publishing

Small Town Perfection: Jumbuck Springs

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Amy Andrews‘ Outback Heat series follows four siblings as they grow up and start developing more relationships; as well as running sidelong with a narrative about forest fires and the impact that it can have on small rural communities.

In Some Girls Do, Lacey is fed up of being stuck out in the city.  Her mother has recently died and she wants to go home – even if her brothers are insistent that she finish design school!  So when she gets Cooper to bring her home, she finds herself pretending that she’s pregnant, in order to stay.  The only thing she didn’t expect, was for Cooper to stand up as her fake baby daddy!

Jarrod hasn’t really had a proper relationship since Selena left, all fifteen years ago.  In fact, when she comes home in Some Girls Don’t, he doesn’t want anything to do with her; so when they finally meet, that spark of chemistry is a shock to both of them.

Some Guys Need A Lot of Lovin’ sees Marcus batting PTSD after one of the young boys he coached dies in the forest fire that decimates their local community.  The last thing he wants, is to have to see a psychologist – even one as sexy as Juanita…

JJ grew up with Ethan, and she’s been in love with him for just as long!  But when they end up sleeping together in Some Girls Lie, after his ex-wife gets remarried, she’s terrified that they’ll have ruined their friendship.  But with her abusive ex back in town, and his ex wanting custody of his daughter, a fake engagement may be the best way to resolve all of their issues!

I think one of the real strengths of this series – aside from the writing and its deliciously sexy scenes – is its ability to engage with risks that real Australian rural communities face.  Outstanding.