harlequin

Mysteries in The City of Jasmine

It sounds very much like Carolyn was completely transported by this exciting, exotic adventure. Here’s what she thought of The City of Jasmine by Deanne Raybourn (Harlequin)…

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It’s the 1920s, Europe still hurts from the Great War, but despite this people are embracing life during this golden era. Interestingly, Deanne Raybourne’s The City of Jasmine is not just another story set during this fascinating era, one in which many authors indulge us with elaborate costumes, glitzy parties and sophistication normally associated with this glorious time. Rather, Raybourn’s story is quite different. It is set in Damascus, a city at the crossroads of history. A place often in the today’s news as a city of unrest and violence; Raybourn’s Damascus is rich, exotic and ancient.

city of jasmineThe heroine of the story is Mrs Evangeline Starke (Evie), a young widow who has risen to fame by becoming an aviatrix flying her way across the seven seas of the ancient world. Accompanied by her eccentric Aunt Dove, they collect countless stories and admirers throughout their journey. Their adventures change course somewhat when Evie receives an anonymous letter, an envelope with nothing in it but a recently taken photograph of her late husband. Evie believes her husband to have perished with the sinking of a passenger ship five years earlier, but this recent photograph would seem to suggest otherwise. Evie, never one to shy away from adventure, steers her Aunt and her journey towards the country she believes this photograph was taken – Damascus.

It is once Evie arrives in the City of Jasmine that the story really came alive for me. Raybourn describes the alleyways and the markets of Damascus in such vibrant detail that I, as a reader, was taken back in time to this ancient city, with all it’s captivating scenery, it’s intriguing characters and enticing aromas.

Once in Damascus Evie meets a group of archaeologists who are overseeing a dig taking place in the Badiyat ash-Sham, the great Syrian Desert. Knowing her late husband’s obsession with this part of the world and his fascination with priceless historical artefacts, Evie insists on accompanying them back to the dig in order to try to uncover the mystery of the photograph. Upon arriving at the dig, Evie’s former world of glamour, sponsorships and parties abruptly changes to one of danger, thievery and murder.

Love and passion are also central to this story with Evie dealing with the deception from her past.

 

“’If you wish it,’ he replied as coolly as if she’d asked him to pass the nuts,’” Gabriel quoted softly. ’For would keep no girl in the Neverland against her will.’” He looked directly at me then, his eyes piercing in the soft lantern light of the tent.

I swallowed hard. “I don’t think I remember the rest.”

Gabriel’s eyes held mine. “Yes, you do. Peter takes Wendy home. And he tells her to leave a window open for him. Because he always comes back in the end.”

 

This book is great fun to read, with adventure at every turn of a page. I loved each of the characters, including the baddies! I would love to see this book turned into a film; I imagine it to be like Indiana Jones with a female as the lead. This wild ride is full of mystery and aerodynamic stunts, all occurring during a time of political unrest in Syria. At the same time, Raybourn manages to capture the stillness of the Syrian Desert at night – oh how I wanted to emerge from a tent in the middle of the night and gaze up at the millions of stars, even if it was after a day of turmoil and angst!

I recommend that you look out for this book and lose yourself in a story of intrigue, danger and love. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will keep my eye out for future Deanna Raybourn novels.

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 You can find out more about Deanne Raybourne’s The City of Jasmine here.

Two Stories in One: Driftwood and Poppy’s Dilemma

Earlier in the year, Tam J got on a bit of a roll, enjoying a few rural romances back to back. Lucky for us too, as it means that today I can bring you two reviews for the price of one! Here’s what Tam has been reading, first up, Mandy Magro’s Driftwood (Harlequin)…

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Taylor is a city girl, born and bred, but deep down she knows there is more, something a little more country. It’s always been her dream to be a jillaroo and to sing country songs. Despite pretty unrelenting pressure from her mum and step-dad to forget these dreams she loads her guitar and her beloved dog, Floyd, into her car and hits the road. Taylor doesn’t have a plan…she just drives.

driftwoodTo Taylor Whitworth, knowing that she’ll never meet her biological father is devastating. All she knows is that before he died, he was a stockman. Taylor yearns to be like her father — and to become a jillaroo. So she packs her bags and hits the road, destination unknown, until she happens upon the country township of Driftwood.   

Life-burdened Jay Donnellson is a cowboy through and through. Both his passion for the outback and bad boy image have been inherited from his forefathers. The whole town whispers about him but Jay doesn’t care…until his rough and tumble lifestyle is stopped dead in its tracks when he happens across Taylor on a deserted country road.   

When Jay offers Taylor a job as a jillaroo on his cattle station, their mutual love of horses helps to form a bond between them. It’s not long before they find their wonderful friendship developing into something more.   

Mandy Magro cleverly tells two stories within Driftwood. The first is set in the mid 1800s and focuses on a bushranger named William who is on the run after being falsely accused of the murders of a local family. William is in love with Anne, landlady of the local hotel and he plans to take them both away from their troubles.

The second story is set in the present day and Magro very comfortably places these two stories alongside one another. Each tale has its own cliffhangers set to keep you reading.  She entwines both narratives until they each meet at Waratah Station.

Heartbroken and troubled, Jay is in charge of Waratah Station and he has faced his fair share of tragedy. He has vowed to protect himself from more hurt. As you might expect, this includes shutting out Taylor. Still, he can’t help by wonder if this will only deny himself happiness? And even if he tries to block her out, would it even be possible? They seem destined for each other from their very first meeting!

At times this story was a little clichéd and the writing was a little messy, but I enjoyed the two takes on this story, giving the reader a touch of the historical as well as injecting real-to-life and easily relatable characters.

I love a good bit of ‘Chook Lit’, and this story ticked all the boxes. If you’d like to find out more about Mandy Magro’s novel, you can visit Harlequin’s website here.

Shortly after reading Driftwood, I moved onto Poppy’s Dilemma, by Karly Lane (Allen and Unwin).

I completed adored this novel! This was partly due to the story of Poppy and of Maggie, but also because it took me back to a place of my childhood, a place of beautiful memories of growing up spending time with my Nan, learning to bake, being part of a small town and hearing Nan’s own childhood stories.

poppy's dilemmaPoppy Abbott seems to have it all. Bright, successful and attractive, she lives in a beautiful apartment with sweeping views of Sydney. However, since the recent death of her beloved grandmother, she’s been struggling to come to terms with her grief.

Feeling nostalgic one evening, Poppy decides to sort through her grandmother’s belongings, which she hasn’t been able to face before. She’s hardly started when she comes across an old leather diary with the name ‘Maggie Abbott’ written in the front. It’s not long before she’s drawn into Maggie’s life and her fears for her soldier boyfriend during the First World War.

As her interest in Maggie’s diary intensifies, Poppy decides to spend some time at her grandmother’s house in the country. Away from the city, Poppy begins to wonder if all the things she’s always valued so much are what she really wants out of life. And then love intervenes…

Karly Lane manages a beautiful balance within the story between present and past. When Poppy begins to read Maggie’s diary we are taken on a trip back to the 1910s, and it is nothing short of fascinating. As a reader, I was given an way into sharing their experience; the pressures that the Australian families were put under when their loved ones went away to war; the roles that would have traditionally been filled by men that needed to be filled by women in their absence; the judgement reserved for the men who, for whatever reason chose not to go and fight; and the tragic and all too frequent loss of the men who didn’t make it home alive. The tragic love story of Maggie and Alex had me completely captivated. Perhaps the much of my fascination about Maggie’s story came from the fact that it was based on a true story that the author read about in an old newspaper clipping. As it happened, the story had taken place in her own home town… hence inspiring this novel.

Poppy’s Dilemma also follows the blossoming romance between Poppy and Jim. Poppy has been hurt and lives life without attachment so as to avoid being let down again. But her handsome country-boy neighbour may just change all of that…

This story has it all; mistakes, intrigue, history, healing and of course romance! And to top it all off it was set in a small town of Australia so it was easily relatable. It was truly beautiful.

To find out more about Poppy’s Dilemma, check out the Allen and Unwin website here…

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Tam is currently reading Charlotte’s Creek by Therese Creed (Allen and Unwin) and she’s promised to let us know all about it soon! Find out more here

A Lucky Life: Where Earth Meets Water

It always amazes me how some authors are able to capture colour, movement and feeling, to tell a story so rich and real. Today’s review from Jennie Diplock-Storer tells us of a story that captures all these things and more. Here’s her thoughts on Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone (Harlequin)…

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Pai Padukone’s debut novel, Where Earth Meets Water, takes us to dichotomous parts of the world and introduces us to the lives of four intrinsically linked people. Pia has written a novel that successfully wraps the reader around it’s finger, and all within the first few paragraphs.

where earth meets waterTelling the story of Karom Seth involves more than Karom alone. His life holds several traumatic events, some of which we are made aware of very early in the book. Despite this trauma, if fact almost as a result of it, Karom appears to have lived a very lucky life. As a college student in New York, he remains behind on campus when his class attends a conference at Tower One on September 11th, 2001. That day the world is changed for ever by two planes hitting the Twin Towers. Karom, of course, survives, but loses many friends from his student group.

As a senior at college, with his final exams coming up, a family reunion is organised at the coastal town of Bhupal in India. Seth relatives are flying and travelling from all parts of the world and Karom is excited at the prospect of meeting all of these blood kin, many of whom he has never met before. As fate would have it, he delays his arrival in India by one day, so as to complete his study. When he gets to the airport he finds flights to India cancelled but can find no information as to why. Phone calls to family members are unanswered and he ultimately returns to college.

After a time, Karom is notified by a cousin that a “freak wave”, emanating from an underwater earthquake has hit coastal areas of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka & India, decimating the region. His parents and most of his relatives are lost in this disaster.

Fortunately, Karom’s room-mate, Lloyd, is there for him during this time. He hears the nightmares and Karom’s cries in the night and supports him as best he can. This relationship is a pleasure for the reader to share. The two men become best friends and years later, Karom is to be Lloyd’s best man in his wedding to Malina.

We are introduced to Gita, Karom’s long term girlfriend. Although she wasn’t in Karom’s life during these earth-shattering events, she is certainly impacted by them. They are a very happy couple and enjoy their life together – all but for one behaviour pattern of Karom’s. He plays, with worrying regularity, what he terms “a game”. We see an example of this ‘game’ in the first few pages of the book…

While waiting at a train station in India with Gita, Karom edges himself closer and closer to the edge of the platform until finally, he jumps down onto the track and walks up the train line. It takes some time before Gita realises what he has done and drama ensues as Karom returns to the platform unharmed. His words of reassurance to Gita fall on deaf ears, as she is scared and sick of the game, behaviour which she only sees ending in tragedy.

new york trainWe learn that in New York Karom often stands as close as possible to the edge of the station platform and also plays “chicken” with cars on the road. It appears that in escaping death, dodging terrorists and earthquakes, Karom feels he is either invincible or he is tempting fate.

Where Earth Meets Water is written in components dedicated to the major characters involved in Karom’s world.

We start in India, where Gita and Karom are staying with Gita’s Ammama, her Grandmother. Gita shares her anxieties about Karom’s behaviour to Ammama and Ammama herself sets upon the problem in her own way. There is much love and colour here and we are fortunate to be gifted  by the author, Ammama’s story.

We learn about Lloyd’s relationship with Karom also, how Karom’s fears have influenced their friendship.

Gita’s story shares with us the complexities and vulnerabilities involved in being in a long term relationship with Karom. What does this mean to her? How is his fears and behaviour affecting them as a couple?

As a reader I was grabbed by Where Earth Meets Water in the first paragraphs. Padukone writes with colour, melody, vibrations and deeply exposed emotions. Many sections of the book are pure prose. We, the reader, are where the characters are, at any given moment. On occasions I found myself holding my breath, unable to turn pages fast enough. At other times I was wary moving on, scared to travel with a character on the path they had chosen.

There are phrases of pure beauty, with Padukone having the gift of putting on paper movement and touch that the reader can feel.

Every character is so completely developed, it is impossible not to be fully invested in them. This makes the reading of the last half of this book riveting. Secrets are exposed, fears are shared and feelings confessed. I raced to the last pages and was not in the least bit disappointed.

I highly recommend Where Earth Meets Water. Although intense feelings and events are contained, there is nothing threatening or difficult in the reading of this book. I truly hope that this is the first of many for Pia Padukone.

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You can find out more about Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone here…

The Returned

After reading the blurb of Jason Mott’s The Returned (Harlequin) I felt certain that it would be just the ticket for our reviewer, Tam Jenkin. I told her about the plot, and she agreed… she loves a good ‘undead’ tale as much as I do… and happily took the book off my hands.

It was, nonetheless not at all what she or I expected it would be…

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I have to start by saying I was a little torn by Mott’s novel – it was not at all what I was expecting. I was very excited, being a bit of a fan of zombie stories, the prospect of the dead returning had me intrigued. Interestingly though, The Returned is not a story about the undead at all. Rather it is about segregation, about people fearing the unknown and about how people deal with, and heal after losing a loved one.

the returned‘Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.’

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

Whilst reading this novel, we find that Lucille and Harold have lived long unhappy lives since their eight year old son Jacob died in a tragic accident. Rather than remembering Jacob and leaning on one another as family, they have shut out their memories of him, in the hope that they wont hurt any more. This however changes, one random day, when their son arrives at their door, 50 years later. Only Jacob is still exactly as he was when he died – an eight year old boy.

Interestingly, Jacob’s arrival brings with it a twist to the story. Before his return home, aware of the arrival of these ‘returned’ loved ones, Lucille believes that the people who are coming back are devils, that they aren’t natural. But now that her son has returned she can’t deny that Jacob feels real, that he feels like her son.  It brings the reader to think ‘what would I do? Could I accept the returning of my loved one?’

At this point, the government gets involved and takes over the small town of Arcadia to fence The Returned in. The government don’t know how these people have returned, why they are here or what threat they may pose, and so they gather them together and lock them up.

I felt as though I was reading about a concentration camp. It felt as though it were about race and about civil rights. The Returned were treated poorly, the food was slop, the facilities were blocked and smelly and there were not enough places for them to sleep. They were denied visitors and they were denied their freedom, even though they had done nothing wrong.

Jason Mott tells this story in two perspectives, the “True Living” and “The Returned”. This was a clever way of showing the reader how those who’d lost and regained loved ones reacted and also showing how the ones who had returned felt, about their experiences on their return and also in the camp.

I did find the story flow a little clumsy at times and I was also left disappointed at the conclusion. There was no real resolution as to how the government resolved the situation of The Returned’s containment, and no explanation on how these people came about to return in the first place.

In saying that, the last few chapters of Mott’s novel did focus nicely, really effectively, on how The Returned had helped their loved ones to heal, to have a chance for one last moment together, to say what they had wanted to say since their passing, to amend regrets.  I was left wondering – how would you spend your time over if a loved one returned?

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If you’d like to find out more about Jason Mott’s The Returned visit the Harlequin website here.

 

Searching: The Sweetest Hallelujah

I’m always thrilled to read stories of readers being really moved by a book, being drawn in and touched by the plight of the characters.  It’s not surpising then that I very much enjoyed today’s review from Kate, of the wonderful period piece The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey (Harlequin)…

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It is 1945 in Mississippi, America is in the midst of racial violence and prejudice, it’s the time of KKK, lynch mobs and segregation. It is here we meet the once beautiful and renowned jazz singer Betty Jewel Hughes, who, now ravaged by cancer, is desperately and heartbreakingly looking for someone to take care of her 10 year old daughter, Billie, when she dies.

sweetestRecently widowed Cassie Malone lives on the ‘good’ side of town and despite her wealth and white upper class privilege is outspoken and sure of her beliefs against racial discrimination.

Desperate and feeling helpless Betty Jewel does the unthinkable and puts an ad in the local paper:

Desperate. Nowhere to turn. Dying woman seeks mother for her child. Loving heart required….

Cassie has had her fair share of heartbreak, and unable to have her own children is instantly captivated by the ad. Billie herself just wants to be a ten year old girl, playing hopscotch and dolls without having to think about her mama dying. She sets off on her own adventure to find the man who she believes to be her father, hoping that he might be able to take care of her and make things better.

Against all odds and a society that is defined by racial tension, a remarkable friendship is forged by an unrelenting quest to protect and save a little girl. Elaine Hussey has written a beautiful portrayal of friendship and love and the bond that can be formed between women amidst heartbreak and betrayal.

Littered with reference to the brilliant jazz musicians of the time against a backdrop of the beautiful American South, we are transported though time and place to another period altogether.

The characters are believable and memorable, and the story is written with humour, heartbreak and at times, brutal honesty. The Sweetest Hallelujah is a lovely read, but you will need a box of tissues at the ready! If you loved The Help and The Secret Life of Bees, this book is definitely worth the read.

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Find out more about The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey here…

Friends like these: The Book Club

Today’s review is from TBYL Reviewer, Stephanie Hunt and by the seems of it, her latest read had her wanting more…

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When I began reading Mary Alice Monroe’s The Book Club (Harlequin) I was expecting a story of sisterhood, of camaraderie and shared interests. That’s not exactly what I found…

the book club”On the surface it’s a monthly book club. But for five women, it is so much more. For Eve whose husband’s sudden death cheats her of every security she has planned on, the club is a place of sanctuary. For Annie, a brilliant attorney intent on starting a family late in life, it is the chance to finally let down her guard and dream of other possibilities. For Doris, it is her support group as she acknowledges her dying marriage and finds the ultimate freedom in her husband’s betrayal. For Gabriella, the ‘perfect’ wife, mother and friend who offers support to everyone but is afraid to ask for it herself, it is a sense of community. And for Midge, an artist who has always lived her life against the grain, it is a haven of acceptance.”

It’s the story of five women, all going through good and bad times, their stories intertwining. It sounded great, and I was very excited to read this book as I wanted to find out about these characters. Having previously read books that worked with the stories of multiple characters, I was looking forward to a good read from a New York Times bestseller.

The book introduces the characters well and I was hooked straight away, I wanted to find out more. At the beginning of the story, Eve’s husband unexpectedly passes away and when she fall in a heap her friends try to pull her through. As a reader, I felt as though I was able to sit on the sofa with her as she struggled to pull her self out of her all-encompassing grief. The book club members rally to bring her round and as she continues on with life, a chance presents itself, to explore the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death and his history. As it happens, it would seem that Eve was in fact only a small part of his life.

The problem was, I felt that this really fascinating thread of the story was glossed over a bit, and not really elaborated upon. This disappointed me as it had intrigued me, and I was left wondering if it would come up further into the book. It was not to be.

This was not the only time I felt as though opportunities to explore great storylines were passed by. The characters of Gabriella and Midge were beautifully written and had some excellent topical issues challenging them in their lives, but these topics were not explored. These two characters, who I felt the most sympathy for and connection with, were really secondary characters to Doris, Annie and Eve.

Further, this trio of characters were not supportive of the others in the group, I felt that they whined a lot, were selfish and competitive and frankly quite shallow. Heaven help you if you were part of their book club!  At various stages I felt like giving them a slap. In short, I felt no empathy with these characters. Each time a chapter came up dealing with their lives I felt like skipping it to see if the next chapter dealt with Midge or Gabriella.

In saying this the story had me drawn in, even if it was out of some degree of frustration with these fairly unlikable characters, and of course, others may find the characters delightful, empathise with their troubles and be satisfied with the storylines. Still, I was left wanting more… more empathy, more details, more resolution.

If you’d like to find out more about Mary Alice Monroe’s The Book Club you can visit the Harlequin website here…

A Match Made in Heaven: Red-Hot Reads

It’s midweek, it’s windy and cold, and all I can think of is how much I need a little reading break.

You too? Then here’s a great new initiative that’ll be sure to float the boat of you raunchy romance readers out there…

Screen shot 2013-08-14 at 1.41.59 PM

Cosmopolitan Magazine & Harlequin Australia join forces to bring you the publication of number one bestselling author Sylvia Day’s newest work, launching Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin eBooks.

Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin is a new eBook program published by Harlequin in association with Cosmopolitan, the world’s largest women’s magazine.

“Cosmopolitan and Harlequin is a match made in dating heaven. Cosmo readers love a sexy read and they don’t come better than those penned by #1 bestselling author Sylvia Day. We’re excited to introduce this sexy collaboration to the Australian market and we know our readers will devour this fun, fearless fiction,” said Bronwyn McCahon, Editor of Cosmopolitan.

afterburnSylvia Day, a multi-award winning novelist whose titles have been bestsellers in Australia and  New Zealand as well as around the globe, will launch the first Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin eBook, Afterburn, tomorrow, 15 August 2013. The follow-up title, Aftershock, will be released on 12 November 2013.

You can find out more about getting your hands on this book, here…

Both titles will feature characters newly created for the Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin program. Afterburn and Aftershock will also be released as a two-in-one paperback in November 2013, the first Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin title to be published in print format.

“I’m thrilled to be launching theCosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin series of fresh and sexy contemporary romances,” said Day. “My stories are known for featuring fun, fearless and Cosmopolitan-type heroines as well as delicious, dangerous heroes synonymous with Harlequin. Afterburn and Aftershock will be no exception. I’m excited to share these sizzling new romances with readers and to do so hand in hand with Harlequin andCosmopolitan, beloved brands known for giving women exactly what they want.”

So if you’re looking for something fun and sexy to read, a perfect way to wind down at the end of the day or help you take a moment out of your busy week, just for you, why not check out this great new partnership?!

Find out more on the Harlequin website.

 

Saturday Catch-up Part 2

Today I bring you Part 2 of the big catch-up. These five titles have been sitting on my reading pile for a little while now and although I hope to still read them properly, I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about them in the meantime.

First up, some top class action writing…

ghost reconTom Clancy’s Ghost Recon – Choke Point by Peter Telep (Penguin) is an original novel based on the bestselling game of the same name. It promises all the fast-paced action that has made the game so popular…

Special Forces operators are renowned for their highly specialized training and courage behind enemy lines. But there’s a group that’s even more stealthy and deadly. It’s composed of the most feared operators on the face of the earth – the soldiers of Ghost Recon.

When a CIA agent operating in Colombia is kidnapped, the Ghosts battle their way through rebels to rescue the man. But during the operation, they discover evidence of a new terrorist group that’s being backed by South American drug cartels and rebel groups.

The Ghosts follow a trail that leads them around the world in a struggle to uncover the group’s true purpose, one that could mean billions to the South Americans, aid terrorists seeking to wreak havoc on US soil, and cause economic chaos all over the world.

But as the team chases down their quarry, they soon realize that their true foes have yet to reveal themselves . . .

Perhaps this book might be a good way to encourage that reluctant male reader in your life to put down the controller and pick up a book? You can find out more here.

Next is another title from Tom Clancy, written in conjunction Mark Greaney. Threat Vector (Penguin) is a hard-hitting, hardcover novel that’ll keep any Clancy fan thoroughly entertained…

threat vectorJack Ryan has only just moved back into  the Oval Office when he is faced with a new international threat. An aborted  coup in the People’s Republic of China has left President Wei Zhen Lin  with no choice but to agree with the expansionist policies of General Su Ke  Quiang. They have declared the South China Sea a protectorate and are planning  an invasion of Taiwan. 

The  Ryan administration is determined to thwart these Chinese ambitions, but the  stakes are dangerously high as hundreds of Chinese anti-ship missiles thwart the  US Navy’s plans to protect the island. Meanwhile, Chinese cyber warfare experts  have launched a devastating attack on American infrastructure. It’s a new combat  arena, but it’s every bit as deadly as any that has gone before.  

Jack Ryan, Jr. and his colleagues at the Campus may be  just the wild card that his father needs to stack the deck. There’s just one  problem: someone knows about the off-the-books intelligence agency and may be  ready to blow their cover sky high.

And if hardcover books aren’t your thing, it’s being released in paperback in September this year. Find out more here.

If you’re after something a little more lady-like, how about The Forbidden Queen, by Anne O’Brien (Harlequin). I read the first couple of chapters of this book, but got called away (more’s the pity, I was really enjoying it) and even in that short read, I could tell that this story promised to be an absolutely luxurious period-piece full of romance, betrayal and royal intrigue…

forbidden queen1415: The jewel in the French crown, Katherine de Valois, is waiting under lock and key for King Henry V. While he’s been slaughtering her kinsmen in Agincourt, Katherine has been praying for marriage to save her from her misery. But the brutal King is one of war. It is her crown he wants not her innocent love.

For Katherine, a pawn in a ruthless political game, England is a lion’s den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when the magnificent King leaves her widowed at twenty-one she is a prize ripe for the taking. Her heart is on her sleeve, her young son the future monarch, and her hand in marriage worth a kingdom.

This is a deadly game; one the Dowager Queen must learn fast. The players — Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor — are circling. Who will have her? Who will stop her? Who will ruin her?

This title, and many more stories from Anne O’Brien are available here.

Next is something a little more modern. I’ve had Too Hot To Handle by Victoria Dahl (Harlequin) on the Reading Pile for a few months, and although it’d be fun to go along for this romantic ride, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet…

too hot to handleMerry Kade has always been the good girl. The best friend. The one who patiently waits for the guy to notice her. Well, no more. Merry has just scored her dream job, and it’s time for her life to change. As the new curator of a museum in Wyoming, she’ll supervise some — okay, a lot of — restoration work. Luckily she’s found the perfect contractor for the job, and even better, he lives right next door.

Shane Harcourt can’t believe that someone wants to turn a beat-up ghost town into a museum attraction. After all, the last thing he needs is the site of his dream ranch turning into a tourist trap. He’ll work on the project, if only to hasten its failure…until the beautiful, quirky woman in charge starts to change his mind.

For the first time ever, Merry has a gorgeous stud hot on her heels. But can she trust this strong, silent man — even if he is a force of nature in bed? When Shane’s ulterior motives come out, he’ll need to prove to Merry that a love like theirs may be too hot to handle…but it’s impossible to resist!

A perfect will-she-won’t-she story, I’ll just have to keep wondering whether Merry will give into that hot stud ‘on her heels’! You can find out more about Victoria’s latest title here.

Finally, I’ve one more Harlequin Teen title that I’d like to mention. I’m still hoping to read and review this book properly, as it only came out in June, but in case I don’t get to I’ll mention it now. The book is Dare You To, by Katie McGarry and it promises to be steamy, secretive and pretty dramatic…

dare you toIf anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail. And who knows where they’d send seventeen-year-old Beth. So she protects her mum at all costs — until the day her uncle swoops in, and Beth finds herself starting over at a school where no one understands her. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her…but does

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular jock with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him! But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction.

Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image is risking everything for the girl he loves. And the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

I’m sure that you’d agree that there’s no shortage of romance in the air with these four titles. I hope that something here tickles your fancy, but if not, never fear, I’ll have a catch-up full of adult fiction next Saturday.

I reviewed Katie’s Pushing the Limits last year (you can read the review here) and really enjoyed it, it was a great mystery and really multifaceted. I’m looking forward to taking a look at her most recent novel, but in the meantime you can find out more about it here.

Five new titles, five books closer to caught up! Anything tickle your fancy?

 

Phew! The Look of Love

On my journey to read differently, I’ve experienced all kinds of stories – adventures and suspense, drama and biography, chick lit of all shapes and forms – and out of all of these genres, it’s romance that continues to surprise me.

I like a good love story as much as the next girl, but until TBYL I’d never read a ‘romance novel’ as such, especially the type that feel like a one night stand, lusty, exaggerated and alway happy ending.

lookofloveThe Look of Love by Belle Andre (Harlequin) is one such book. It’s the first of Belle’s books that I’ve read, although I’ve it on good authority that her Sullivan’s series are staples of the romance genre, and the Sullivan famiy are super stars of the digital publishing revolution.

This instalment, the first in printed format, focuses on Chase Sullivan (what a name!) a talented and handsome photographer. After a chapter of introductions, bringing the reader up to speed as to where the rest of the Sullivan clan are at, we join Chase on a bitterly cold, stormy night on the road. Travelling to his brother’s boutique winery for a fashion shoot (of course) Chase comes across Chloe Peterson, forlorn, drenched, battered and bruised, her wrecked car useless in a ditch by the side of the road.

As you might expect, Chase rescues Chloe, and after only a moderate degree of resistance, their hot tryst begins.

This steamy tale, taking place in luxurious bedrooms, inviting spas and spring grapevines will have your heart beating a faster, and I’m sure it’ll make you a little breathless. Sure, it’s formulaic and a little bit predictable, but it’s saucy, and hot as hell. If you’re a fan of romance literature, this will be just your thing.

“Chase took her hand, hurried up the front steps and kicked open the front door, not stopping in the living room even though it meant waiting another few seconds for the pleasure he’d been craving. He wanted her in a bed, the way he’d been picturing her for forty-eight straight hours, naked and flushed with desire – and pleasure – for him.”

Phew!

As you know, I’m always interested in the process of writing, almost as much as the story itself, in particular when an author is as prolific as Belle Andre is. I was fortunate enough to find out a little more about how she puts her steamy stories together…

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What made you decide to pursue writing as a career?
I’ve been a huge romance reader all my life, devouring a book-a-day whenever I can. I was a professional musician for ten years (I played guitar and piano and also sang and wrote songs) until one day two fictional characters started having a conversation in my head. I wrote it down and then the next day when their conversation continued, I wrote that down, too! Before I knew it, I’d written my first romance. Two years later, I realized I needed to decide between playing/writing music and writing romance. It was an easy choice to pick books and every day I give thanks for having the most fantastic job in the world.


Your success in self-publishing has been extraordinary. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing journey and how you ended up pursuing self-publishing?
Thank you! It’s been a very exciting journey. When I first began to self-publish in the middle of 2010, ebooks and digital readers were still fairly new. I was excited about the opportunity to write the books my readers had been asking for – and as soon as I self-published my first book, I was stunned by how much fun the process was. I had always wanted to write a big series of connected books about a family, so I decided in the summer of 2011 to launch my Sullivan series with 8 books about the San Francisco based family, The response from contemporary romance readers for these sexy, emotional stories blew my mind.

Once my Sullivan series took off in a huge way and sold more than a million copies as self-published ebooks – because of my awesome fans around the world! – I was thrilled to have the chance to work with Harlequin on the print launch of the Sullivans, starting with THE LOOK OF LOVE, FROM THIS MOMENT ON and CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE this summer.


Have you got a favourite place or time of day to write?
I can – and do – write at any time of day or night, and I will write absolutely anywhere, as well. When the weather is good, I write outside. If it’s cold outside, I’ll curl up on the couch with my laptop. I write in airports and on planes and in the car while waiting for my kids to finish soccer and ballet practice.

I listen to music when I write and all I need to get into the zone is to pop in my ear buds. Within seconds, I can usually be right back in the thick of the emotions of my characters.


Can you tell us a little about your writing process, are you a plotter or a let the characters take the story where they will author?
I’ve always thought of my self as a writer who let the characters take me where they want to go! But then, by the time I get to the end of each book, I realize I’ve written a 50-100 page outline along the way. So I guess that means I’m a hybrid of both styles – I outline as ideas come to me, but I’m always open to my characters and scenes changing direction when they need to. I write between 10 to 25 pages a day in a fairly quick first draft and then I revise each book at least a half-dozen times before publication.

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If you’d like to find out more about The Look of Love by Belle Andres, you can visit the Harlequin website here…

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Pen pals: I’ll Be Seeing You

I didn’t know that I was giving TBYL Reviewer Kate Barber such a uniquely constructed book when I handed over I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan (Harlequin) but by all accounts this novel is something new – both in its subject matter and in how it was put together – and it certainly seems to have won Kate over…

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It’s January 1943 and the war is in full swing… normally a book that started that way would have sent me running, but from the first page of I’ll Be Seeing You I was completely hooked, so much so that I had it finished it in two sittings!

I'll be seeing youSuzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan share with us the story of two women, complete strangers, living on opposite sides of America, who, by a twist of fate begin to correspond with one another through letters. In the beginning, the only thing they have in common is that their loved ones are fighting in the war.

Rita Vincenzo – the ‘Garden Witch’ – lives in Iowa and has been married for 21 years to Sal, a professor. She has a wicked sense of humour, a love of gardening and abundant generosity. Both her 18 year old son and husband have gone to fight in the war. In contrast, on the other side of the country, in Massachusetts, lives high-society Gloria, aged 23, 7 months pregnant and mother to a 2 year old boy. With her husband also at war, she is bored and lonely. To ‘pass the time’ Gloria attends a ladies group on Wednesday afternoons in which, on one occasion, they are  asked to choose a name of a stranger out of a hat to correspond with if they began to ‘feel lonely or desperate’.

Over the next three years the two women regularly write, forging a true and beautiful friendship. Fighting their own separate battles of loneliness, temptation and desperation, their humour , honesty and in the end, deep affection for one another helps them get through the toughest time in both their lives. They share gossip, recipes, remedies for ailments, gardening tips and their histories, passions, fears and worries in the time of war.

Their journey sees them both facing incredible hardships and loneliness but through their bond and a bit of ‘girl power’, their friendship grows and is unwavering.

This book is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the two authors themselves have never met. Suzanne was blogging and connecting with other writers (no ladies group on a Wednesday here) and came across Loretta. They started writing to each other, a friendship was forged, a year later they talked on the phone. By writing emails back and forth to each other the book was formed. The method of of construction of course mirrored the story of Rita and Gloria, as their friendship grew despite never having met.

I have to say, I loved this book. It is beautifully written and outlines two very different characters and different styles of writing. The humour and honesty is lovely, the characters engaging. Get this book, make yourself a cuppa and nestle into your favourite reading chair…

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You can find out more about I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan here…

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