#StrongRomanceHeroines, Reading, Uncategorized

Summer Reading


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Fortuity


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


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.

Mills & Boon, Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Larkville


The Larkville Legacy follows the aftershocks of a letter that affects the ranching Calhoun family in Larkville, and New York high society family, the Pattersons…

In The Cowboy Comes Home by Patricia Thayer, Jess Calhoun’s been avoiding men in Stetson’s since her young son’s father left them, but when Johnny Jameson swaggers into town, she can’t help but notice him!  Their attraction is fiery and soon Johnny starts wondering whether he could put down roots in the quiet town of Larkville, of all places…

When ex-ballerina Eleanor Patterson discovers that her family history is a lie, she heads to Larkville for answers in Nikki Logan‘s Slow Dance with the Sheriff.  But she’s not exactly country material and ends up getting rescued from a herd of cattle by handsome Sheriff Jed Jackson…

In Marion Lennox‘s Taming the Brooding Cattleman, Alexandra Patterson heads to the Australian outback to work with stallions on a ranch.  Only rancher Jack Connor’s in for the shock of his life when the man he thought he hired, Alexander, turns out to be Alexanda!

Holt Calhoun hasn’t said anything other than “no” since his marriage ended.  But in The Rancher’s Unexpected Family by Myrna Mackenzie, that’s put to the test when he’s faced with pregnant Kathryn Ellis, who’s determined to get him to save the local clinic…

After years of hiding in the shadows, Megan Calhoun finally reaches Hollywood in His Larkville Cinderella by Melissa McClone.  Her role as costume designer brings her together with A-list actor Adam Noble, and soon their chemistry threatens to deconstruct the facade he shows to the world…

In Lucy Gordon‘s The Secret That Changed Everything, a devastating family secret sends Charlotte Paterson to Italy, fed up of being in the shadow of her prettier, more popular sisters!  But when she seeks solace in the arms of widower Lucio Constello, their one night of passion has more consequences than they could possibly have imagined.

Soraya Lane‘s The Soldier’s Sweetheart sees Special Forces soldier Nate Calhoun return to Larkville, accompanied by traumatic memories and bourbon.  It’s only his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Anderson, who can see the pain beyond his gruff exterior…  Will racing horses and relaxing together on the ranch bring old emotions back to life?

When Matt Patterson, businessman extraordinaire, finds himself guardian to baby Bella in The Billionaire’s Baby SOS by Susan Meier, he needs help – and fast!  Social worker Claire Kincaid agrees to help out, but soon Matt finds himself drawn towards their fake little family…

Even though not all of the books in the series are set in Larkville, the impact of the letter and secret on the two families resonates through every book.  Utterly charming.

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Mercy


Joss Wood‘s Men of Mercy series centres around Caswallawn Security, a business set up by best friends Kai, Sawyer and Axl, named for their fallen friend Max.

When Kai discovers that partners want to make Mercy, Virginia their business headquarters in Inescapable, he doesn’t understand why.  It’s a crazy, quaint, meddling town and its the antithesis of everything he knows and understands.

Still, all work and no play isn’t good for anyone, and when he sets eyes on feisty local baker Flick, the two of them are instantly drawn together.  It’s just fun, as he’s not going to be around long, and the two of them are fine with that.  Only, when an emergency means that Kai’s going to be in town for longer than he thought, they just can’t keep their hands off each other!

In Undaunted, Axl is faced with a conundrum.  Regan, the little sister of his fallen SEAL teammate and best friend Max, is working for Caswallawn Security, and he can’t cope with it.  He’s constantly torn between his promise to Max to look after her, and the desire that spikes every time he’s near her.

When a dangerous stalker threatens the client that she’s working with, Regan knows that she can deal with it – even if Axl keeps on hovering around, implying that she can’t.  But when she eventually gives in to the passion between them, she struggles to keep the control that she’s held onto all her life…

It’s a delightful series, and I simply can’t wait to read the next book, and follow Sawyer’s romance!

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Redemption


Nicola Marsh‘s Redemption series follows characters who need just that:  redemption.  There’s something about small towns that allow us to fully believe in the possibility of a fresh start, and Marsh’s series captures this perfectly.

In Saving Sara, Sara Hardy needs to start again, completely on her own.  After the death of her daughter, her marriage fell apart, and when she inherits a cottage in Redemption, it seems the perfect way to get away.  But when her neighbour’s nephew, Jake, arrives with a nephew of his own in tow after his sister ends up in rehab, Sara withdraws even more.  It’s far too painful to spend time with children.  It’s a story of healing, of heartbreak, and of hope.

Jake’s sister, Rose, is starting over again in Rescuing Rose.  She’s back in Redemption after time in rehab, reunited with her son.  But not everyone’s pleased to see her return, and her reputation has most definitely preceded her.  So it’s all the more surprising when she finds herself drawn to Caden, the preacher’s son from her childhood.  Rose is the last person his friends and family want him to spend time with, but yet there’s something about her that he’s drawn to…

These books are beautiful.  Sometimes you need to read something that’s uplifting and hopeful, and if so?  These are the books you should be reading.

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Cape Cod


Lisa Marie Perry’s Meant to Be Mine is a story of returning home, and facing the preconceptions people have of you.

When Sofia Mercer’s aunt dies, she has no choice but to return to Cape Cod – the town that turned against her when she was a teenager.  She may have been ill then, but she’s more than strong enough to face them now.  Only the old memories she’d pushed aside, and the gossip that she faces on her return, impress upon her how quickly she needs to just pay her respects and then leave once more.

But her aunt has left her a quirky little boutique, and she bumps into Burke Wolf, an old friend, and sparks fly!  The two of them were best friends and a shoulder to cry on for each other back then, and all of a sudden she’s strangely drawn towards staying…

I think what really resonated with me, was the fact that Sofia’s heart condition has really impacted on the way she lives her life now – and the way in which it colours her memories of the past.  It can’t possibly be easy to have issues like this when growing up, but