Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Aussie Book Review: In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones

“A moving, sweet and uplifting novel of love, grief and the heartache of letting go, from a wonderful new Australian author.

Cate Carlton has recently died, yet she is able to linger on, watching her three young children and her husband as they come to terms with their life without her on their rural horse property. As the months pass and her children grow, they cope in different ways, drawn closer and pulled apart by their shared loss. And all Cate can do is watch on helplessly, seeing their grief, how much they miss her and how - heartbreakingly - they begin to heal. Gradually unfolding to reveal Cate's life, her marriage, and the unhappy secret she shared with one of her children, In the Quiet is compelling, simple, tender, true - heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure."

We’ve all experienced grief at some stage in our lives but what does it mean to lose a wife and mother? What does it feel like to be that same wife and mother who is able to linger on watching over her family as they come to terms with their grief? Hopefully (and God-willing) none of us will ever have to know this tearing apart at the seams of a family but this is the territory which Eliza Henry-Jones, in her debut novel, In the Quiet, explores.

As Bass and the children attempt to get on with their lives on their rural Victorian horse property where the essence of her still lives, be it in the form of her pillow on the marital bed:

“He has left my pillowcase on. The blue and white patterns of it. He sleeps on it every night. It must smell more like him now than it ever did of me.”;

or the nail-polish that now sits abandoned on the coffee table:

“Jessa chips the nail polish off all her fingers but leaves it on her toes. It’s nearly grown out, just little flecks left on her big toes. Blue nail polish. I’d put it on for her, to cheer her up over a miserable day at school.”

or even the flowers that still reside on top of the sideboard:

“The roses I picked from the garden and set on the sideboard in the living room have lost their colour, are rotting in water that is now mostly green. Their petals are papery and brown, under lounge chairs and puffed down the hallway and into other rooms. There are other flowers, set into corners and on tables. Flowers I haven’t seen before. Dying flowers, some with cards still attached. On shelves and in dirty vases on the verandah.”,

Cate comes to them every day -  silent, unseen – and watches over them while still trying to make sense of the recollections that assail her current ethereal form. It’s difficult because there is so much for her to take in and she doesn’t want to miss anything that’s going on in the present, but slowly, in her slightly disjointed way of thinking, she makes her way to the day it all began, as her poignant memories illuminate the novel.

You might wonder after reading the blurb, as I did, how Eliza was going to pull off writing a book from the perspective of the deceased Cate Carlton?

Well, pull it off she did in this gentle and tender story told in quiet words, with scenes set in muted colours, about a family who are grieving the loss of the glue that held them together – someone who should have been around to be a loving companion to Bass as well as help Rafferty, Cameron and Jessa navigate their adolescence and coming-of-age with sound advice and the love and understanding that only a mother can give.

Eliza’s background in psychology and counselling, combined with her expertise in equine therapy and her own love of horses, places her firmly in a position to capture not only life on an Australian horse property but the way that grief affects each of us in such different ways and I was really taken in by the portraits she painted of these bereaved children’s interactions with the horses, specifically Cameron and Jessa, as they searched for a connection to their mother through her horses.

The setting is evocative, her prose rich and Eliza has captured well the sense of isolation in their grief giving us a stunning story about memories, love, loss, family and the burden of a secret left on the shoulders of a child.

This is an absorbing, thoughtful and langorous debut told in such a compelling voice that I have no doubt it will linger in your thoughts long after you have turned the final page.

I wish to thank the publisher, HarperCollins Australia for providing me with an eGalley proof of this novel for review.

For enhancement of your reading pleasure, I would suggest strains of Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls and Angel by Sarah McLachlan playing in the background.

About the Author

Eliza Henry-Jones was born in Melbourne in 1990

In 2012 she was a young Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre and was a recipient of a Varuna residential fellowship for 2015.

She has qualifications in English, Psychology and Grief, Loss and Trauma Counselling and is currently completing honours in creative writing - exploring bushfire trauma.

Eliza has been published widely, with work appearing in literary journals and anthologies across Australia, including Southerly, Island and Award Winning Australian Writing.

She works in community services and lives in the Dandenong Ranges with her husband and too many animals.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Aussie Book Review: Seduced by the Baron by Amy Andrews

“Once upon a time, Faith Sullivan dreamed of being a famous painter who lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park. Unfortunately, life had other ideas and at 26, she’s still running, working and living at Sully’s, her family’s traditional Irish pub in Brooklyn with her stubborn, ailing father. And she was perfectly fine with her lot until suddenly her three best friends each found their prince, and her own happily ever after seemed like another dream lost. Until one day a long, tall Australian walks into her bar and her loved-up besties decided to play Fairy Godmothers.

Ex pro-surfer turned beer baron, Rafael Quartermaine is in New York for a month on business. He’s looking for a pub to launch Baron lager on the American market and Sully’s is perfect. All he has to do is convince Faith, the traditionalist, to say yes. And once he’s done that, maybe he can convince her that all work and no play makes Faith a dull girl.

Faith’s connection to her family and Sully’s is absolute, and Raf’s business drive and itchy feet aren’t conducive to long term, so it should be an easy break when duty calls Faith back into the fold on the evening of the ball. But running out on the baron is harder than she ever imagined… Will their fling sizzle out, or become something more?”

I initially picked my Tablet up to read this book, not only because it was already on my TBR but because I knew that I needed something to distract me from thoughts of my next read which I thought was going to prove to be a difficult one in terms of subject matter. Well, Amy Andrews definitely managed to divert my attention and has once again blown me away with her witty, comedic, romantic and steamy writing.

These days I don’t usually get to finish a book in less than at least five or six sittings but this weekend just gone I said to hell with the washing and housework and simply enjoyed this one for a couple of hours.

I have only read one other book by Amy and that was Limbo (my review here), the first book in her new series, The Joy Valentine Mysteries but she has already become a contemporary romance author that I have added to my list of instant requests.

In Seduced by the Baron, Amy brings us a Cinderella-style story featuring Faith Sullivan. Faith is of Irish descent and has run the family pub, Sullys, since her mother died. When her father, JP, had his first heart attack, she undertook to be his carer, leaving her brothers to lead their lives but giving up all the dreams she once had so that she could help the business prosper.

One day, Australian Beer Baron Rafael (Raf) Quartermaine walks into the pub to meet (unbeknownst to Faith) one of her best friends from school. Raf has come to New York to try and market his newest Australian Lager which, of course, he should have known wouldn’t be that big a hit in an Irish Pub which serves Guinness. Thankfully, the luck of the Irish is on his side and he manages to win both Faith and JP over. It’s also not long before he begins to get under Faith’s skin and as their friendship progresses, developing into a passionate love affair, he, himself starts to wonder what it is about Faith that he is falling for, at the same time, making her think about everything she has given up for the love of her family.

Considering that Amy is an Australian writer and has an Australian character in her story, she has done a brilliant job at bringing a quintessentially Americanised novel to her audience and I never once felt out of place in her New York cum Brooklyn neighborhood setting.

The scene setting and exposition for the typically Irish Sully’s was, for me, almost like going to a pub “where everybody knows your name”, mixed with a little bit of Friends and certainly some Coyote Ugly (without the girls dancing on the bar) and I found myself constantly wanting Amy to take me back there just so that I could soak myself in its warmth. Not to mention the lusty and intense scenes that took place in the pub’s basement!

Amy has a wonderful talent and insight for creating well rendered characters who are grappling with meaningful situations in their lives and I enjoyed both Faith and Raf as well as her secondary characters who are all down-to-earth and real.

Faith is warm, smart, self-reliant, just a little feisty and filled with hopes and dreams that she thinks she has lost forever. Raf is just as memorable and I loved the fact that Faith, just by being herself, made him question what it was he was really looking for. Their interactions with one another and the secondary characters in no way came across as forced and the dialogue throughout is just spectacular, giving the reader a real feel for all of them.

This novel has a great sense of family, highlighting strong values and unity in situations that aren’t always easy to navigate.

It’s also Book Four in a series entitled Fairytales of New York published by Tule Publishing of which there is no need to read the first three in terms of plot, although you will be introduced to the secondary characters that add to the warmth and love that surrounds Faith. 

If you’re looking for a quick, light, sexy read with great characterisation and a good dose of humour with the stuff that modern day fairytales are made of, then you need look no further.

I wish to thank Tule Publishing for providing me with an eGalley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Multi-award winning and USA Today bestselling author Amy Andrews is an Aussie who has written fifty romances from novellas to category to single-title in both the traditional and digital markets for a variety of publishers. Her first love is steamy contemporary romance that makes her readers tingle, laugh and sigh. At the age of 16, she met a guy she instantly knew she was going to marry so she just smiles when people tell her insta-love books are unrealistic because she did marry that man and, twenty odd years later, they’re still living out their happily ever after.

Amy works part-time as a PICU nurse and spent six years on the national executive of Romance Writers of Australia where she organized two national conferences and undertook a two year term as president. She loves good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together. She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Book Review: Hidden by Emma Kavanagh

“The next novel from the author of Falling, a gripping psychological thriller by a former police psychologist. Perfect for fans of Nicci French, Tana French and S. J. Watson

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He's unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently. 

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman - before it's too late.

To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety - both for her, and her young niece who's been recently admitted. She's heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman's next target will be. But he's there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks...”

“He’s Watching” – but where is he watching from?

“She’s Waiting” – but what is she waiting for?

When I first started reading this novel, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be comfortable with the subject matter - we’ve all heard the terribly frequent news of a gunman going on the rampage, opening fire in schools, tourist hotspots or shopping venues, killing innocent people who leave their loved ones behind to deal with the aftermath – it’s not pretty news, made all the more worse by the media and their sensationalist tactics.

But hell, I do sometimes enjoy being placed out of my comfort zone (that's why I read psychological suspense) and it soon became apparent that Emma Kavanagh is a skilled writer who has written an intelligent and complexly plotted novel by taking a ripped from the headlines subject and making it personal – very personal!

The book opens with a horrific scene in a hospital where a lone gunman has just released a hail of bullets – bodies are strewn everywhere and those that are still alive have become caught up in the resulting pandemonium while a woman tries to assist a policeman who has fallen. And so it is that Ms Kavanagh starts her novel - at the end.

In the midst of a Welsh heatwave and, seguing into the six days before the shooting, we are slowly introduced to the three main protagonists who will lead the way in offering clues as to how this could have happened - Aden McCarthy, a policeman with the Firearms Unit whose life has been shaken up by one tragic event in which he didn’t pull the trigger fast enough and who has now been tasked with trying to track down a gunman prowling the hospital premises; Charlie, a reporter covering the story about the anonymous gunman as well as a young nurse who appears to have been knocked over on the highway; and Imogen, a hospital-based psychologist who finds herself dealing with not only a personal issue, that of her niece being admitted to hospital, but also in counselling the father of a young boy who lays in a hospital bed and the three Firearms Unit’s policemen involved in that shooting.

She also gives us the perspective of our antagonist, cleverly withholding his identity which makes the constant close proximity to the victims all the more menacing as it casts suspicion and doubt on all those close to the characters.

There’s definitely more at play here than just the hunt for the shooter though and we slowly begin to get a sense of her characters by giving us a great mix of their personal lives and how they are all connected to one another, while her realistic secondary characters add to the suspense as she shifts between the different perspectives and interactions, leaving plenty of red herrings in their wake.

Offering us an intense focus on the events leading up to the day of the shooting, we quickly make our way through to the end in an attempt to discover "the who" - “the why” is given to us from the Shooter's perspective and, for me, it quickly became about the psychology of the crime when he thinks back on his early life and how this has shaped him emotionally and I found myself (shockingly) empathising with him.

Along with her writing style, which places the reader in the thick of things, the short sharp sentences and chapter count-down kept the pace constant and the pages turning as I sensed the danger lurking in the pages that lay ahead.

This is an absorbing reading with intriguing characters that the reader will come to care about so, if you enjoy psychological thrillers that provide you with not only that growing sense of impending doom but characters on the brink of love and loss, life and death, despair and hope, then I suggest you pick this one up.

While the suspense element will keep you riveted, other elements of the story take a look at how a family is coping (or not) with the injuries suffered by their teenage son, the secrets that sisters keep from (and for) one another all the while suggesting that evil may not be as recognisable as we think. Perhaps it lurks in dark corners – perhaps it sleeps right next to you!

I wish to thank Random House UK (Cornerstone Publishing) for providing me with an eGalley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Emma Kavanagh was born in Wales in 1978.

She trained as a psychologist and after graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, started her own business as a psychology consultant, specialising in human performance in extreme situations.

For seven years she provided training and consultation for firearms officers and command staff in the police forces and NATO and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe.

Her first novel, Fallen, was published in March 2014.

Emma currently lives in South Wales with her husband and their young sons.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pass The Word #2

Pass the Word is a Meme hosted by me featuring some great books that I have either read and not had time to review or had not had time to read at all.

Don't forget:

"There is something wonderful about a book. We can pick it up. We can heft it. We can read it. We can set it down. We can think of what we have read. It does something for us. We can share minds, great actions and great undertakings in the pages of a book" - Gordon B Hinckley

Happy reading!

The start of a stunning new trilogy charting the life of the first High King of the Britons, sure to appeal to fans of George R R Martin, Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow

Flavius Magnus Maximus, a man of great ability and enormous charm, is hailed as one of the most influential Roman officers in Britain. When he befriends Caradoc Strong Arm, the King of the Dumnonii Tribe in Tintagel, he gains an understanding of the disunity that exists between the tribal kings of Britain and thus an ambitious plan ignites within Maximus's mind...

As the first High King of the Britons, Maximus gathers together a huge force of brave Roman and British warriors and leads them into battle at Gaul. He has cast his eyes on the throne of the Emperor of Rome and nothing will stand in his way...

QBD    Booktopia    Amazon

No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan is back - and the New Orleans nights have never felt so torrid or so dangerous . . .
Prepare to enter the lair of the Leopard People . . .

The No.1 New York Times bestselling author of Leopard's Prey returns to the feral underworld of her astonishing Leopard novels in an arousing new romance of forbidden animal instincts...

Cat Benoit has finally escaped the past - and the man who was the source of her nightmares. She's off the grid, underground but watchful, and creating a new life for herself in Texas, far from the torrid dangers of her native New Orleans. She's safe. He'll never find her this time. Cat has to believe that. It's the only thing keeping her sane.

Yet she can't escape the attention of Ridley Cromer, the instructor at the martial arts dojo where Cat takes lessons. She arouses the animal in Ridley-and something feral comes to life when their body heat rises. Cat is in no position to let her guard down with anyone, especially someone who could be endangered by her past. But Ridley has secrets of his own-secrets only Cat would understand. If she dares to trust him.

In this New Adult debut by Lia Riley, a college student embarks on a study abroad trip to Australia and learns if you never get lost, you'll never be found.
Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying goodbye to painful memories and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll pretend to be a carefree exchange student. Everything is going to plan until she meets a surly surfer with hypnotic green eyes, and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he slunk back to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defences. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. A single semester abroad won't cover something this serious. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

Amos Decker is a former professional football player whose career was ended by a terrible hit. Now a police detective, Amos is still haunted by a side effect from the accident he can never forget.

One night Decker comes home from a stakeout to find his wife, young daughter and brother-in-law horrifically murdered. Obviously scarred and nearly broken, Decker has to use his skills as a detective and his unusual brain capacity to try and catch the monster who killed his family.

Nalini Singh's New York Times bestselling series continues as two Arrows find themselves caught in a chilling conspiracy that spans all three races . . .
Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn't welcome outsiders.

And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she's too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what.
This time, even Aden's passionate determination may not be enough - because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken . . . like Zaira.

Rich, dark, sumptuous and evocative . . . bestselling author Nalini Singh is back with a stunning, dark and passionate new tale.

Aussie Book Review: Making Ends Meet by Anna Clifton

“From Anna Clifton comes a sweet, emotional, beautiful romance about a man whose life has been derailed and the unexpected woman who can help him get it back on track.

‘It’s for other reasons that I won’t need a nanny beyond a month.’

Twenty-three year old nanny Somer Sullivan has never had a job quite like this one: fix the messed-up, out-of-control life of high-profile artist and thirty-something dad Harry Halligan. But Somer is organised, efficient and not afraid of a challenge. She will do everything Harry needs her to do, including bringing his ex-wife home for good.

‘One month, Harry, and I’ll be out of here.’

Harry Halligan doesn’t want a nanny, but he needs one—he needs Somer. She’s the only one who can reach his troubled daughter, who can bring some measure of peace to his home. But as Somer advances her mission to fix his life, a few things become clear: his ex-wife might not be the answer, and Somer just might be. But Somer is running like hell from something in her own life and hiding in his.

Only one thing is for sure. Harry now has less than a month to make the hardest decision he’ll ever have to make—a decision that will change all of their lives forever.”

Anna Clifton first came to my attention at the beginning of this year when she contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her third novel New Year’s Promise (my review here). By way of introduction to her novels, she explained that her sensuality ratings are mild, her characters around the thirty year old mark with her storylines providing good emotional impact.

It sounded like just my cup of tea - after all, I love a story that puts a touch of tightness in my chest. After reading that first one and now, having read Making Ends Meet, I believe that Anna is one of those Romance authors who you can always be assured will bring you a solid romance that is full of emotional conflict, completely rounded characters and great dialogue.

In Making Ends Meet the second in the series delving into the lives of the Halligan siblings, and the novel which follows New Year’s Promise, she brings to the frontline Harry Halligan, thirty-three, on the mend after his operation as he struggles to get back into his painting while looking after his two young children and the life-altering course his life has taken since his divorce from Freya. He’s a likeable character and, from a woman’s perspective, easy to empathise with given his situation.

Deciding he needs a nanny for just four weeks, he contacts a good friend of his who arranges for her step-cousin, Somer Sullivan, to attend an interview with him. Needless to say, they don’t exactly get off on the right footing and Harry has to do a bit of grovelling before she re-considers.

Somer is a sweet character who is fantastic with both the children as well as Harry. She is also the source of the emotional conflict between the adults, promising Harry that he will only need her for that month, which gives her enough time to aid in mending the broken relationship between him and Freya for the sake of their children. It is her own emotional baggage that sustains her as she asserts her opinions about broken marriages – after all, she herself is still emotionally stunted by her father’s abandonment of her and her mother when she was just fifteen.

What she didn’t count on was being on the receiving end of resistance from so many quarters!

With two separate threads also running through the main narrative, this makes for some interesting reading as Anna writes about the larger issues at play in contemporary relationships. This adds a sense of reality to the story which her effortless writing style weaves into a combination of romance and real life – where there are inevitably no easy answers.

She keeps her two main characters at the centre of the story, skilfully using their viewpoints and dialogue with the secondary characters to flesh them out and is careful not to over-dramatise them. Instead, she allows them all to take the reader by the hand as they come to grips with what has brought them to this point in their lives.

Her child characters are lovingly rendered and she gives them plenty of space, blending their dialogue well into the storyline and capturing the dynamics of young children caught between parents who are divorced and the trust they place in someone who gives them the attention they crave which offers them hope. Rosie in particular crept into my heart and some of the things she says are just beautiful.

Thoughtful, touching, warm and sentimental, those looking for something slightly deeper than fluffy romance shouldn’t pass Anna by.

I may still have her first two books (Falling for the Lawyer and Adam's Boys) on my TBR, but I'm definitely looking forward to what she has in store next for the Halligans - could it be Guy?

I wish to thank Escape Publishing for providing me with an eGalley proof for review.

About the Author

Anna Clifton is a lawyer by trade and a mother to several children and a couple of cats.

Her husband is not quite sure how her compulsive writing squeezes itself into the family schedule, but knows better than to stand in the way of the woman he loves on a mission.

Anna lives in Sydney but escapes with her family as often as possible to Far North Queensland where she loves to sit with a glass of wine and watch her husband do the thing she dreads doing most — cooking!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Blog Post: Are You Getting the Most Out Of the Romance Genre?

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I should do a series of blog posts asking what it is that draws people to their favourite fiction and sub-genres, whether it be as an author writing your chosen genre, a book reviewer critiquing that work or a reader being transported into a different world.

As a reader, I guess the reason for me wanting to do this really stems from a number of books I’ve recently read (not particularly in Romance) that have left me somewhat dissatisfied and flat - but then again, what I find dissatisfying someone else may very well find satisfying!

It’s no secret that my favourite genres and their subs are Romance, Romantic Suspense, Psychological Suspense, Crime/Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Historical and some Chick-Lit, with my taste in characteristics varying between them all but there are times in all these genres where I could just hurl the book (or my Samsung Tablet) across the room because I feel like I’ve been cheated owing to the fact that there is some aspect that the author has either not addressed or has saturated the story with.

Which leads me to the point that reading is one of the most subjective pastimes, with everybody taking away something different after that last page is turned – in other words, what I take away from a novel isn’t necessarily going to be the same message that you take away and so on and so forth – just have a look at the various books and reviews that we all write and read, they’re so diverse.

In this first post in the series I’m going to start with Romance, including all its sub-genres, except for Romantic Suspense which I will chat about in another post.

I read a lot of Romance novels (and have been doing so since I was about 15 years old) but I think it’s quite obvious from my blog that my days of reading superficial romances are over – you know, the “formulaic” ones where boy meets girl, an issue arises, they split and then make up for a happily ever after without any real character development, emotion or substance.

Not that I have anything against those early romances (you know the ones) - I practically “teethed” on them as a teenager and used to read about 4 a day - but perhaps my reading tastes have matured as I’ve gotten older?

These days those tastes extend more towards romance with heart and by that I mean those that explore a genuine social, moral, environmental or emotional issue, one that I can literally sink my teeth into with my personal philosophy being that there are too many great books out there to keep reading one bad one.

I realise that most Romance has to be “formulaic” to some extent in that it requires a beginning (where the characters are introduced to each other), a middle (presenting us with an issue) and an ending (always leading to a happily ever after), with some sizzle and even plenty of heat in between, which are the building blocks for penning these stories and the reason why most of us pick them up – to be swept away by the romance of the story - but for me, there needs to be another hook, either in the form of secondary characters whose interactions and dialogue with both protagonists add value to the story, or viewpoint.

Most of you who visit my blog will know by now that characters, depth, emotion, substance and tension are fundamental elements in my reading because they help me to connect with my chosen protagonist and their journey. So, too, are secondary characters, believable emotional conflict that moves the story forward, steady pacing, an external plot that doesn’t require my suspension of disbelief, that all-important “show don’t tell” rule and great dialogue, especially if the story is being told from only one character’s point of view.

For instance, secondary characters who interact with the hero and heroine as well as meaningful dialogue are important, specifically if the story is being told from only one character’s point of view because, by adding these in, the author is able to fully flesh-out the other character whose point of view is not being shared.

In terms of viewpoint, especially in a romance where the story is almost always told from the heroine’s point of view, I also think it’s an added bonus to have the male’s perspective given to us and always feel that in doing this it enables me to appreciate his thoughts and motivations far more.

After all, both people involved in a romance are important!

Regarding Historical Romance, detailed settings, authentic language and fashion are always significant in absorbing a reader and transporting them to another time and place with a historically accurate background. In this respect, the research aspect is essential in assisting the reader to evoke sights, smells, tastes and atmosphere, thus making it historically rich and giving it substance. Without this, there is only the romance holding it together and the reader feels as though they’ve been let down.

I understand that there are limits on word counts and only so much that an author can put into their story without it being edited out to suit the genre’s requirements so, at the end of the day, am I just being picky and does it all come down to reader preference?

I could go on for hours but for the sake of brevity (yes, those dreaded word counts – they even apply to reviewers), I’ll end by saying that in no way do I mean for any of these posts to become hotly debated topics but rather an insight and a conversation starter for what I, as a reader foremost, and you as my followers and fellow readers, would like to see in the Romance genre.

It would also be fantastic to receive feedback from Romance authors regarding their feelings and how they approach their preferred storylines, structuring and techniques.

On that note and, hoping that I have made at least some sense in what I am trying to communicate, I leave you with these questions –

Are you getting the most out of the Romance Genre?

What elements/characteristics draws you to it and why?

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Book Review: The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon

“Set in the weeks leading up to an idyllic New England wedding, this “enticing and refreshing” (Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author) novel sparkles with wry wit, sweet romance, and long-kept family secrets.

Iris Standish has always been the responsible older sibling: the one with the steady marriage, loving family, and sensible job. But all of a sudden, as her carefully-constructed life spins out of her control, a cryptic postcard from her estranged sister Leah arrives at the perfect time: Please Come. Iris seizes her chance to escape to her childhood lakeside home, where Leah is planning her summer wedding to a man their New Hampshire clan has never met.

Against a backdrop of dress fittings, floral arrangements, and rehearsal dinners, Leah hides secrets of her own. And while her sister faces a past that has finally caught up to her, Iris prepares to say good-bye to a future that is suddenly far from certain. As new love beckons and Hampstead Lake shimmers in the background, Iris must decide when to wade in cautiously and when to dive—and, ultimately, how to ferry herself to safe harbors in this enticing novel of second chances and the ties that bind.”

This is the second book I have read in as many weeks where the heart of the story revolves around sisterhood, its ups and downs and a wedding although, unlike the previous romantic comedy, this one has a slight bit of darkness at its core and is more than just a fluffy beach read.

In The Lake Season Hannah McKinnon brings us a story about the complicated relationship between the two very different Standish sisters, Iris and Leah.

Told from the viewpoint of Iris, at the beginning of the novel we see her trying to come to terms with the fact that her marriage to Paul, barren of all intimacy and communication, is over. When a postcard from Leah arrives with just two words: Please Come, she fears the worst, knowing that Leah has always been the irresponsible one and makes plans for her children to attend camp so that she can head to her childhood home to offer some support while Leah plans her wedding. However, when she gets there it’s as if Leah has forgotten that she wrote that postcard.

Keeping her own pain and emotional turmoil to herself, she goes out of her way to lend a hand and an ear, sometimes to her own detriment, and as the days progress, finds herself drawn to a friend from school, Cooper Woods.

But her family is keeping secrets from her and, if there is anything that she is going to learn over this summer it’s that life is full of challenges, relationships (no matter who they’re between) are complicated and should never be taken at face-value, that sometimes our lives don’t pan out the way we plan and that blood is definitely thicker than water. She will also learn to stand up for herself in the face of adversity and realise that no matter how hard you try to help someone, they have to want to be helped in the first place.

I only just finished reading this book at the beginning of the week but I couldn’t wait to get my thoughts onto paper. I'm most amazed that this is a debut adult novel because Hannah McKinnon’s writing is beautiful and nostalgic and penned with the confidence of a writer who is well-versed in her craft.

Life is full of imperfect relationships, not least of all the sometimes tenuous one between siblings and parents, and I think that Ms McKinnon has captured this well. From harbouring petty jealousies, the shifting love between parents and their children, the quiet desperation of a marriage in crisis, the consequences of unrequited love and trying to find happiness within ourselves, she encapsulates every angle and the layers are slowly unfolded.

With plenty of drama to keep you reading, complex characters who are not always likeable, family secrets and an idyllic setting that will warm your toes, this is a thought-provoking story about hope, healing and coming home and I can’t wait to see where Ms McKinnon takes me next.

I wish to thank the publisher, Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), for providing me with an eGalley proof of this book.

About the Author

At the age of eight, Hannah attended her first young author's conference in Mrs. Meyer's third grade class. She was never the same since.  

Hannah attended Skidmore and Connecticut College, where she received her BA.  She later traveled overseas to South Australia, where she earned her MA in Education. Upon returning home, she  spent ten years teaching elementary students the joy of literature. After starting her family, she decided it was time to write some of her own. 

Her first two young adults novels, 'Franny Parker' and 'The Properties of Water' were published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, with FSG/MacMillan.

After signing with Trident Media,  Hannah joined the esteemed team of Emily Bestler Books at Simon and Schuster.

Her next novel, Back to You and Me is due to be published in 2016.

Book Review: Somebody I Used To Know by David Bell

“The breakout author of The Forgotten Girl and Cemetery Girl, “one of the brightest and best crime fiction writers of our time” (Suspense Magazine) delivers a new novel about a man who is haunted by a face from his past….

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She is the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.

The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.”

I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery but for some or other reason I haven’t read too many in the last few months. After considerably enjoying two in a row though, that’s about to change.

There’s nothing fascinating about our main protagonist Nick at all except that he’s a solid and likeable character. An ordinary everyday guy, he has a normal 9 to 5 job as a social case worker; he’s been married before, is now divorced; he and his ex, Gina, are trying to be civil to one another for the sake of Andrew, his step-son; he indulges in nostalgia from time to time; and he has a gorgeous furry four-legged friend by the name of Riley. Just one thing tends to keep him from finding true happiness – he still mourns the death of his college girlfriend Marissa Minor.

One afternoon while out shopping, he notices a girl in the grocery store that looks just like Marissa and thinks he’s seen a ghost.  Who is this young woman and why does she look so much like Marissa who died in a house fire two decades ago? With these questions tumbling through his head he approaches her but she flees and he doesn’t realise at the time how it is going to turn his life upside down. 

When the young woman’s body is found in a motel room with his name and address written on a piece of paper, he suddenly finds himself not only being a “person of interest” but one who needs answers to the questions that have been haunting him since that day he saw her.

As he tries to assist the police in their investigation, he also seeks assistance from his good friend Laurel Davidson who works in security to help him unravel the mystery surrounding her appearance and close resemblance to Marissa. The questions that arise keep him digging and he soon finds himself being transported into a past that has haunted him for years as he discovers more than he ever bargained for.

From the very first line, David Bell grabbed my attention and didn't let go:

“When I saw the girl in the grocery store, my heart stopped."

As I got a bit further in, I found it impossible to put down and every time I turned the page I was faced with explanations that led to more questions and answers that, inevitably ... led to more questions as I was introduced to a number of characters, some of whom I got to know quite well and others who just weren't what they appeared to be.

I think Mr Bell has just found himself another fan because he did a stellar job of keeping this reader in suspense because, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t figure any of it out without Nick by my side all the way.

He has created a suspenseful, tightly plotted story where the grief and curiosity of our protagonist propels him forward as he tries to find closure on the relationship he has never let go of, giving us a well-written and fast-paced novel with plenty of lies, betrayal, moral ambiguities, cover-ups and investigative bungles that will leave you holding your breath.

This book is recommended to those who enjoy their mystery and crime thrillers with unexpected surprises that disclose disturbing truths and lies … but hold on for the ride because Mr Bell is going to mess with your head! And yes, I have no doubt that, like me, you'll be humming the lyrics to Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, the words of which are quite appropriate!

I wish to thank Penguin Books USA and NetGalley for providing me with an eGalley proof of this book.

About the Author

David Bell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. More specifically, he was born and raised on the west side of Cincinnati, which matters - a lot - to people from Cincinnati. The sound of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall broadcasting Reds’ baseball games provided the soundtrack to his childhood.

David attended college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Not only is it one of the most beautiful campuses in the country - and at the time was home to one of the best basketball teams in the country - it was a great place for someone interested in books and writing to study. He majored in English and took as many classes in his major as he could, studying everything from Homer to Saul Bellow and Grace Paley. He only took one creative writing course—and again those stories are lost to the ages—but he did decide, absent any other job options, that it might just make sense to try to pursue a career as a fiction writer.

He worked a series of odd jobs - waiter, bartender, book store clerk, telemarketer - in a series of odd places - Shreveport, Louisiana; Savannah, Georgia; Washington D.C. After six years of that, he decided he had had enough of the real world and went to graduate school for creative writing. First for an M.A. at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and then for a Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. During graduate school, he wrote a few novels, which still survive on his hard drive but have not been published, and sold some short stories to journals large and small, some of which still exist even after publishing his work.

He is currently an Associate Professor of English at Western Kentucky University and when he is not teaching or writing, David watches lots and lots of movies and reads lots and lots of books. He also enjoys walking in the cemetery near his house with his wife, writer and blogger Molly McCaffrey.

His previous novels include The Forgotten Girl, Never Come Back, The Hiding Place and Cemetery Girl.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Aussie Book Review: The Maxwell Sisters by Loretta Hill

“‘You are cordially invited to the wedding of Phoebe and Christopher . . .’

All families have their problems. No more so than the Maxwells of Tawny Brooks Winery. Situated in the heart of the Margaret River wine region, this world-renowned winery was the childhood home to three sisters, Natasha, Eve and Phoebe.

Today all three women are enmeshed in their city lives and eager to forget their past – and their fractured sibling relationships. Until Phoebe decides to get married at home. . .

Now the sisters must all return to face a host of family obligations, vintage in full swing and interfering in-laws who just can’t take a hint. As one romance blossoms and others fall apart, it seems they are all in need of some sisterly advice.

But old wounds cut deep. Somehow, the Maxwell sisters must find a way back to one another – or risk losing each other forever.

The Maxwell Sisters is a heartwarming romantic comedy about three extraordinary women on a journey to find love and rediscover family.”

I was somewhat stunned when I realised that this book had already been published during January this year (where has the time gone?) and that I had only recently got it to the top of my TBR. That being said, although much time has elapsed and many great reviews have already been written, I’ve decided to add my own because I enjoyed the story so much and think it should still be promoted.

Those of us who have ever planned a wedding know how much strain it can place on the most organised of shoulders but throw into the mix three sisters who were once close but now, due to the pace of life, distance and secrets, have grown apart with no idea how to re-connect; two sets of parents hell-bent on giving their children the wedding of their dreams with a bit of meddling; and an estranged husband, former best friend and local Adonis.

In the form of the Maxwell sisters (Natasha, Phoebe and Eve), their parents, Heath, “Spider” (and his parents) and Adam, Loretta Hill brings us this light but heart-warming story about  sisterhood, old rivalries, loyalty, plenty of secrets but ultimately what it means to be a family.

Set over the month leading up to the wedding, the story begins to unfold when super organised Phoebe, adamant to have things her way, decides that their childhood home, Tawny Brooks Winery, is the perfect place to have her wedding, using it as an excuse to bring everyone back together after a fire that destroyed both the restaurant on the property and her sister Eve’s dreams.

Unbeknownst to her though, each of her sisters is facing some type of turning point in their life with Natasha pining after a tragedy and the breakdown of her marriage to Heath and Eve, still trying to come to terms with the fact that while she fell in love with her best friend as a girl, he is now a man on the brink of getting married.

What does it mean to have a sister? For me I think this quote by Erica E Goode from "The Secret World of Siblings" sums it up perfectly:

Sibling relationships ... outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.

I’m always intrigued by stories about sibling dynamics and Loretta Hill has given us a lovely glimpse into the Maxwell girls and theirs. All strong and independent women, she textures them by making them deal with real life in the midst of what should be a time for celebration, writing with an ease that flows from page to page.

Through their different viewpoints she invites you into their lives by sharing their trials, tribulations, laughter and tears, affording us a sense of realism that makes them fully come to life combined with comedy that is not forced but rather flows naturally from their interactions and dialogue.

Engaging characters, an inviting location with a true sense of place and a story about the enduring bonds of sisterhood and family make this an enticing read that is ideal to settle down with next to a warm fire while you enjoy a delicate Pinot Noir which, like sisters, becomes more complex with age.

I wish to thank Random House Australia for providing me with an eGalley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Loretta Hill always wanted to be a writer. As a kid she filled pages of exercise books with stories to amuse her friends. Her father, who never wasted his time on fiction, didn't see much worth in this pastime and pushed her to pursue a 'sensible' career. Fortunately, she had inherited some of his talent for numbers and decided to give it a go. She graduated from the University of Western Australia as structural engineer and took her first job with a major West Australian engineering company. 

A few years later she met a lawyer at a Black Friday party hosted by a friend. She was dressed as the devil and he just came as himself. They are now happily married and living in Perth with their two young sons and infant daughter.

Despite her career in engineering, her interest in law and her journey into motherhood, Loretta continued to write. Not because she had a lot of time but because it was and always had been an addiction she couldn't ignore.

For her bestselling novels The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots, The Girl in the Hard Hat and The Girl in the Yellow Vest, Loretta drew upon her own outback engineering experiences of larrikins, red dust and steel-capped boots. She is also the author of the ebook novella One Little White Lie, which was a no.1 bestseller on iTunes.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Aussie Book Review: Close To Home by Pamela Cook

“A captivating story that shows the only thing harder than letting go is moving on.

Orphaned at thirteen, Charlie Anderson has been on her own for half her life. Not that she minds - she has her work as a vet and most days that's enough. Most days. But when she's sent to a small town on the New South Wales coast to investigate a possible outbreak of the deadly Hendra virus, Charlie finds herself torn between the haunting memories of her past, her dedication to the job and her attraction to a handsome local.

Travelling to Naringup means coming face to face with what is left of her dysfunctional family - her cousin Emma, who begged Charlie not to leave all those years ago, and her aunt Hazel, who let her go without a backwards glance. But it also means relying on the kindness of strangers and, when she meets local park ranger Joel Drummond, opening her heart to the possibility of something more . . .

As tensions in the country town rise, can Charlie reconcile with the past and find herself a new future in the town she left so long ago?”

Charlie Anderson works for the Department of Primary Industries in NSW as a Vet, a job that she is passionate about and one which leaves no time for her to dwell on the fractured and dysfunctional family life she left behind a long time ago … until she receives a phone call from her boss requesting her to investigate a possible outbreak of the Hendra Virus.

Much to her dismay, it is this outbreak that precipitates her return to her home town of Naringup – a place she thought she’d never visit again. Even more dismaying is the fact that the property where she is required to run tests belongs to the cousin she left behind a long time ago. 

Her motto, “Come here, get the job done and get out”, begins to taunt her as her investigation of the property soon brings her into closer contact with Emma and then Hazel. To make matters worse, the investigation is extended and it's not long before all the reasons why she left come flooding back in vivid technicolor and she finds herself putting aside her own pain and hurt to help them.

Not only does she have to dig deep and deal with all of this on a personal level, she also has to contend with the animosity emanating from the townsfolk as her investigations into the virus continue.

When the sassy and sexy local Park Ranger, Joel Drummond begins to avail himself more frequently and offer more than just his assistance, he stirs up all kinds of feelings within Charlie and she slowly begins to wonder if she will ever be able to fully recover and reconcile herself to the past so that she can move on to her future.

Having never read a Pamela Cook novel before, I was looking forward to reading another new to me Australian author and Close to Home definitely did not disappoint.

Her easy writing style and excellent sense of place drew me in while her well-developed characters and sensitively handled storylines merged into a heart-warming and heartfelt story about family, forgiveness, healing the past and hoping for the future.

In the rendering of Charlie's character, it became quite obvious that Pamela writes "people" and I found myself really liking and connecting with her on a very personable level. She’s strong-willed, passionate, sensitive and compassionate which the narrative reveals through her interactions and dialogue. She’s also very troubled, having never really analysed the emotions and feelings she left in Naringup all those years ago in her haste to flee and make something of her life.

While Pamela makes her characters confront the tough social issue of domestic abuse, her own love for horses shines through Charlie as she explores and addresses the very real and deadly Hendra Virus which, since it was first isolated in 1994 in Hendra, Brisbane, has claimed the lives of 81 horses and 4 humans.

Through the medium of fiction, Pamela has given us not only a fully rendered view of the practices and procedures which the government is trying to put in place to extend their own knowledge of this dreadful disease but also a very sensitive glimpse of domestic violence and the manner in which its effects can reverberate through the years.

With rural fiction being one of my favourites and, having read a lot of them, I do believe that Pamela Cook is right up there with the rest of our Australian rural fiction writers who consistently raise the stakes by bringing us real and relatable stories with issues and environmental concerns that are current in our society.

She truly does write "Australian fiction with a country heart" and I cannot wait to read more by her.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Pamela is a writer and teacher whose love of books has taken her from a career as secondary school English teacher to a writer of Australian Rural Fiction.
Her first novel, Blackwattle Lake was published in 2012 after being selected as part of the Queensland Writers Centre/Hachette Manuscript Development Program. Essie's Way was published in December 2013.

Pamela teaches creative writing through her business, Justwrite Publishing and especially loves encouraging beginning writers. She is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room to Read, a global organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries.

A passionate horserider, Pamela divides her time between her home in the southern suburbs of Sydney and her 'other' home on the south coast of New South Wales.

Book Review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich

“Morgan's life seems settled - she is completing her thesis on victim psychology and newly engaged to Bennett, a man more possessive than those she has dated in the past, but also more chivalrous and passionate.

But she returns from class one day to find Bennett savagely killed, and her dogs - a Great Pyrenees, and two pit bulls she was fostering - circling the body, covered in blood. Everything she holds dear in life is taken away from her in an instant.

Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett's parents to tell them about their son's death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. Bennett is not the man she thought he was. And she is not the only woman now in immense danger ... “

This is one of those books that landed on my doorstep and unassumingly made its way into my house – until I read the blurb. It was with trepidation though that I started reading due to my extreme love for our four-legged friends and the fact that I'm well aware of the reputation that Pit Bulls have been stereo-typed into worldwide.

Imagine walking into your apartment to find your fiancé laying on the floor in a pool of blood with your dogs circling around him. Imagine those same dogs you have loved unconditionally being given a life sentence. Then, imagine that everything you thought you knew about your fiancé was a lie!

This is that story – a story revolving around the grisly murder of Morgan’s fiancé, Bennet, and her personal quest to find out exactly what happened while at the same time trying to prove the innocence of her beloved pets who have been confiscated as evidence in Bennet's demise.

As we shadow Morgan in her quest to uncover the lies that she has come to believe as truth, we are thrust into a darker world of betrayal, obsession, murder and animal welfare with a smart villain at its heart. While I did guess quite early on who it was, this didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the book because along with the likeable character of Morgan, AJ Rich created a compelling mystery – one which kept me turning the pages to discover the why and, of course, how it was all going to end.  By the time I got to the climax, I was horrified as to how it was all unfolding … although, I think Morgan may have been even more shocked to realise that what she’d been trying to prove through her thesis turned everything she believed on its head!

To be quite honest, I thought I had read everything that the crime fiction genre had to offer me and then, along comes AJ Rich, the writing duo of Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment, a collaboration which began when friend and fellow writer Katherine Russell Rich passed away from breast cancer leaving behind an unfinished manuscript, the story of which was based on circumstances surrounding a man she had met online – one who it seems had deceived her too!

A sucker for a good psychological thriller, I especially enjoy those with a well plotted story, refreshing premise, creepy undertones, emotional torment and more than one suspect.  This one satisfied those elements in spades. 

Aptly titled because of the observations made in respect of domestic animals, it’s also the underlying theory of pathological altruism that make for a disturbing albeit timely read that raises questions regarding our online interactions - do you really know the people you are conversing with?

I wish to thank Simon & Schuster for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Amy Hempel is the author of four collections of stories. She lives in New York.

Jill Ciment is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, Heroic Measures, and Act of God, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, and Brooklyn, New York.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Pass the Word #1

This week's Pass the Word Meme has a number of great books in it that I have either read and not had time to review or that I have not had time to read at all.

Remember, that Pass the Word could well be the place where you meet your next favourite book.

Happy reading!

"There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.




With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver's story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with 'happily ever after'."

"A fresh, exciting, sexy new voice in contemporary romance, Kate J Squires debuts with a scorching novel about sexy singles, intense competition, a cash prize—and no touching allowed.

Lured by the promise of a million dollar prize, Tara reluctantly signs up for the new hit show Erotic Island, where sexy singles hook up on international television. It’s about as far from her scene as possible, but desperate times call for desperate auditions, and Tara is willing to do almost anything for the cash prize.

The last person she expects to meet when she shows up in paradise in a thong bikini is Chris, a sinfully gorgeous barista with whom she shared a coffee—and an intense attraction. The last time she saw him, he was standing in judgement over her decision to audition. So why is he on the island? Was it all a ploy to throw her off her game and win the prize? And why is the ‘no touching allowed’ rule suddenly so very hard to follow?"

"The hilarious and charming second novel from the author of Husband Hunters. For fans of The Rosie Project, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and all good rom-coms.

Violet is saving money: living on rice and beans and denying herself chocolate eclairs all in the name of saving for a home deposit. Once they save enough, she and Michael can buy a house, settle down and live happily ever after. But when Michael does the unthinkable, Violet is forced to rethink her life choices.

A chance encounter with Chris Campbell (first love, boy-next-door, The One That Got Away) spurs her into travelling to exotic locations she never dreamed she'd explore - Hong Kong, Vietnam, Varanasi - on a quest to catch up with Chris and lead a life of adventure. Armed with hand sanitiser and the encouraging texts of her twin sister Cassandra, will Violet find true love before it's too late? Or will the nerve-wracking experience of travelling send her back to Melbourne in search of safety and stability?

Can she work out what she really wants before she is left with nothing?"

"Learning the art of seduction has never been so much fun.

Lane Davis has never had time for love. Hard work, dedication and focus got her through uni and now she's a successful economist with qualifications in all areas – except the bedroom.

When a colleague airs those bedroom sheets in public, Lane decides it's time to upskill. She's always studied her way to success, so why not hire a teacher to help her out now? It's just a business deal – three months of private tutoring, no strings attached. Easy – or it would be, if the lessons didn't make her weak at the knees . . .

Her proposed teacher, Adam Quinn, has his own agenda. His sister – one of Lane's best friends – wants him to scare Lane into giving up her crazy scheme. But once he meets Lane, he can't quite bring himself to reject her.

If Adam's going to teach Lane just one thing, it's that love can get in the way of even the best intentions . . . "

"USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR "Seriously funny, wickedly entertaining. Davis gets me every time." - Janet Evanovich

It's convention season at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino and Davis Way Cole barely notices. It's hard to pay attention when you live in a Jambalaya Junkyard. But when Special Events Coordinator Holder Darby walks off the job just as five hundred Alabama bankers pour in the front door, Davis steps up. Or would that be in? Definitely in. Davis steps in. It.

Not only has the convention director vanished, but a certain Bellissimo guest is missing. One who forgot to pack the million dollars he left in the bathtub.

It looks like our redhead newlywed Super Secret Spy's lazy summer is over when the Bellissimo vault is robbed. Can Davis connect the dots before it's too late? Can she get her Taser gun back from Bianca Sanders? Will she be stuck with Eddie Crawford's 1962 Cadillac forever?

What Davis needs is a little faith. And a lot of luck. DOUBLE MINT. New money. Old sins. Back to jail. And a cat. (A cat?) Break the Bank."