#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.

Mills & Boon, Romance, Whatever Happened to Modern Tempted?

Whatever Happened to Modern Tempted? A Spotlight on…Heidi Rice

In 2013 Mills & Boon relaunched their RIVA line with Modern Tempted (called Harlequin KISS in the States), an imprint that held echoes of the Temptation novels of the 80s and 90s, and the sexiness of the Modern Heat series from the 00s. 

Whether as RIVA or as Modern Tempted, I adored the books and was incredibly upset when the line stopped publishing two years ago.

So this month I’m taking a look back at the authors of Modern Tempted, at the books they wrote then, and what they’re up to now…

Heidi Rice

Heidi Rice is entirely to blame for my addiction to Modern Tempted books, from the very first that I picked up (in its RIVA incarnation) Cupcakes and Killer Heels:

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Ruby Delisantro is the queen of cupcakes and salsa 

She is in charge, with a great repertoire of quick retorts and snappy one-liners, and even sharper moves on the dance floor. And then Callum Westmore comes crashing into her life. One glance from those infuriatingly luscious bedroom eyes and she’s close to losing ­control.

Something tells her that Callum sees straight through the tough attitude to her soft-as-buttercream heart beneath. Is Ruby in danger of falling for him and – worse still – of liking it?

This is the perfect example of why I loved the Modern Tempted line.  Ruby is smart and sassy, she’s got a good career and she gives as good as she gets when she meets Callum.  And Rice’s voice shines through.

This is witty and clever and kind hearted – everything I want from a romance.  Additionally, it’s got outstanding character development, which is emphasised through the conflict and also through the secondary characters.  Adored it, and it’s no wonder that I was hooked from then on!

Rice’s other Modern Tempted books include:

  • The Good, the Bad and the Wild  (Nick is renowned for both his scripts and his bad boy ways…but when he meets quiet, shy Eva, he can’t get her out of his mind!)
  • On the First Night of Christmas  (When Cassie decides to let her hair down, she decides that Jace would be the perfect Christmas fling!  Only, what will happen once she’s unwrapped him?)
  • Maid of Dishonour  (It’s been years since the night that Gina slept with her best friend’s brother, but when they meet at a wedding, she can’t help but be drawn to Carter once more…)
  • Beach Bar Baby  (Coop never flirts with tourists, let alone anything else, but when he meets sweet Ella, he can’t get her out of his head!  Only when he visits her after her holiday is over, he finds her much curvier than he expected!)

So what’s Heidi been up to since the end of Modern Tempted?

She wrote a duet for Cosmopolitan’s Red-Hot Reads series with Mills & Boon:

  • 10 Ways to Handle the Best Man  (Sabrina’s the maid of honour for her best friend’s wedding, and she’s got the to-do lists and spreadsheets to prove it!  But best man Connor’s intent on loosening her up…)
  • 10 Rules to Sex Up a Blind Date  (Tally’s been having the worst spate of first dates, and she’s been tweeting all about them to her sizeable following!  But when she sleeps with #EpicHotLover Brent, how will she disentangle herself from her social media nightmare?)

She’s also written two contemporary romances for Tule Publishing:

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  • Tempting the Knight  (In this rewriting of Rapunzel, Zelda is the ultimate wild child!  But when she finds herself in a police station, she turns toTyrone Sullivan, her schoolfriend’s older brother.  He agrees to bail her out and let her stay, as long as she doesn’t stick around forever…)
  • Daring the Bad Boy  (Both Rosie and Caleb are allergic to Valentine’s Day, so when they hook-up in an attempt to avoid the saccharine holiday, they couldn’t expect to become close!)

Heidi’s also published her first single title contemporary romance, So Now You’re Back:

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Halle is the perfect television baker, and she’s incredibly proud of everything she’s done since her ex walked out on her and her two year old daughter Lizzie all those years ago.  Only now he’s a famous journalist and is planning on writing a tell-all book!  In So Now You’re Back, she hightails it across the globe in an attempt to persuade him to keep their private life private!

It also focuses on her teenage daughter Lizzie, and her blossoming romance with her ten year-old brother’s au pair Trey; something that I thought was as gorgeously written as the main romance!

She’s also got a book being published with Mills & Boon’s Modern imprint, Vows They Can’t Escape, which is due out in January 2017 (and having had an advance copy, I can definitely recommend!):

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Xanthe can’t believe that she’s actually still married to her ex, and she’s determined to put that to rights before he realises that he can take half of her business!  Dane’s just as shocked as Xanthe when she walks back into his life tells him that she wants a divorce, but soon they’ll both realise that they’ve been hiding secrets from each other for all these years…

Author Heidi Rice’s first love was watching movies so, not surprisingly, her first proper job was as a film journalist. But after spending years sneaking off to read romantic fiction when she was being paid to watch some crappy B-movie or other, she decided to try writing a novel of her own.

After several false starts, her first book, Bedded by a Bad Boy, was published by Harlequin Mills & Boon in 2007 (try telling that title to your mother with a straight face!). Nine years and 23 published novels, novellas and short stories later, and she has nabbed a couple of RITA nominations, had her work translated into over twenty languages, become a USA Today bestseller and sold almost two million copies of her books worldwide. In 2016, she’s particularly excited about the release of her first full-length women’s fiction novel with Harlequin Mira UK, So Now You’re Back and the fact her books now have titles people don’t laugh at unless they’re meant to.

As you can probably tell, she loves her job, because it involves sitting down at her computer each day and getting swept up in a world of high emotions, sensual excitement, funny flawed women, sexy tortured men and glamourous locations where laundry doesn’t exist.

She lives in London with her husband and two sons, and lots of other gorgeous men who are entirely in her imagination (unlike the laundry, unfortunately).

Find out more about her and her writing on FacebookTwitter, and on her website.