I write book reviews, I also write books, and occasionally I write about myself!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A new do...

Just a quick post - I have had a fiddle around with the look of my blog.

The previous background was starting to get on my nerves!

Let me know what you think about the new look, I think it's much more simple and clean looking.

I love the notepaper as the background but I wish the image it would go all the way to the end of the blog, if anyone knows if I can do this (and how) it would be much appreciated. I have to admit to not being very good with all the HTML stuff!

All the best.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #165

Undercover Cowboy - Beverly Bird
Silhouette Sensation
Silhouette Books, 1999
ISBN: 9780373077113

My rating

From the back cover:

"Sworn to serve and protect
Secret agent Jack Fain had chased his arch-enemy around the world to a small ranch in the middle of nowhere...and to captivating Carly Castagne. Now Jack was the only thing that stood between the killer and this innocent woman.
Jack's job description didn't include and undeniable attraction to Carly or a fatherly bond with her adorable daughter. Personal involvement would only raise the stakes of the game. But suddenly Jack wasn't just trying to catch a killer, he was protecting the woman he had fallen for. And just one mistake could cost them their lives...and their hearts."

This is a book my husband found for me on a secondhand book stall. I remember that this type of Silhouette Sensation books were some of the first romance books I read when I discovered the Mills & Boon/Silhouette/Harlequin range, the bright pink covers appealed to my teenage self!

The hero Jack is a burnt out secret agent, whom for the last 11 years has been trailing an assassin known as Scorpion. After almost being killed he is ready to give it all in, until he hears that Scorpion has seemingly done his last job, and Jack knows exactly where is heading. The heroine Carly is a down on her luck rancher. Trying to keep her ranch running as well as dealing with her sometimes obnoxious 11 year old daughter as a single mother and tax debts, she is forced to open up her ranch to tourits. Jack follows Scorpion to Carly's ranch, neither of them are expecting to find a bunch of tourists ready to experience a cattle drive, so they both blend in. Jack knows why Scorpion is there; he has come to collect Carly, his wife, after leaving her 11 years ago. Carly has no idea that one of her tourists is her ex husband, as well as being unaware of his 'occupation'. Jack decides to keep close tabs on Scorpion by staying close to Carly, and despite needing all his awareness in order to finally get Scorpion, he finds that he can't stop his growing feelings for Carly and desperatly wants to protect her with his life.

I was intrigued by the plot of this book, it sounded very exciting. Unfortunatly it wasn't as exciting as I was hoping for. The 'action' didn't really happen until the very last chapters. But that's not to say that I didn't like it, as I did. I loved the whole dude ranch/cattle drive idea (although I did keep thinking of the move City Slickers!). Carly is a really well written heroine, I liked her spunk and independent spirit in spite of her vulnerable situation. I didn't really respond to Jack, he had way too many issues. I got a little frustrated at the whole 'tracing the assassin' thing. In my opinion the plot has quite a few holes in it and it dragged on a bit too long.

There isn't really much romance in this book either, but there is enough to satisfy. It also has some nice plot twists that kept me interested. An OK read.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #164

Mr and Mischief - Kate Hewitt
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886634

My rating

From the back cover:

"Will love conquer... her boss?
Beautiful, clever, rich – and determinedly single – Emily Wood is the youngest ever head of HR at her company. Whether dousing corporate fires or matchmaking lonely colleagues, Emily’s at the top of her game. Only her handsome, sardonic boss Jason Kingsley appears to remain immune to her charm...
Jason is used to women falling at his feet, but relationships, with all their illogical demands, are not for him. So why does he find Emily so attractive? She’s a highly unsuitable target for his seduction and merger skills – what with her misguided belief in the power of love..."

Not having read many of her books previous to this challenge, I have now become somewhat of a Kate Hewitt fan! So, I was really looking forward to reading this book.

The heroine Emily and the hero Jason grew up together, Jason was always the sensible and almost authoritative one whereas Emily, 12 years younger, was scatty and a bit of a dreamer. Emily has grown into quite a competent and successful career woman, something that surprised both of them, but still has an edge of spontaneity about her. She likes to matchmake and generally be involved in the lives of the people around her. Jason sees this as meddling and tries to warn her off doing it, of course Emily ignores him. They both find each other frustrating; Emily thinks Jason is boring and Jason thinks Emily is silly. They also have two very different opinions on love, where Jason thinks love is destructive and a marriage should be based on mutual convenience Emily believes in true love and being swept of your feet. They have the whole love/hate thing going on and they want each other, badly. But even the thought of giving in to their desire for a short term affair is terrifying for the both of them, for fear that it simply wouldn't be enough.

It took me a little while to get into this book, through a combination of distractions and confusion, but once I did I couldn't put it down. This book is a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, and while I personally do not like this story I think Kate Hewitt has done a fantastic job in taking all the good elements of Emma and using them (but not copying them) in a way that fits a book in the Modern/Presents line perfectly. I'm so glad that the author didn't make Emily a watered down version of the character of Emma, let's face it one of the best things about Emma is that she is a bit abrasive and a little meddlesome, and sometimes frustrating. These traits are captured in Emily perfectly, she's a great heroine but she's also a little annoying!
I really liked reading the love between Jason and Emily develop even if they didn't realise it. It flowed beautifully throughout. There is plenty of sass and emotion in the book, which makes fantastic reading.

I love how Kate Hewitt's books have a real 21st century feel to them, and this book is another brilliant example.



365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #163

Surrender to the Past- Carole Mortimer
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886719

My rating

From the back cover:

"The return of Ethan Black – the most magnificent man she’s ever met...
Mia Burton thinks she’s seen the last of Ethan Black – the man who haunts her heart. She’s wanted to forget him – but can you really dismiss from your mind the most magnificent man you’ve ever met? He’s a painful reminder of her troubled past and she needs him to stay just a memory...
But Ethan’s returned in all his very real glory – unyielding in his bid to resolve the history between them. Mia wonders what his real motive can be – because it’s clear he’ll do whatever it takes to win her back!"

I found this book in my local library and couldn't decide whether to read it. I wasn't too keen on the last Carole Mortimer book I read but the blurb of this one sounded really good. I really enjoyed it.

After five years of looking, the hero Ethan has finally found Mia, the heroine. Mia is not happy to see Ethan again, she has worked hard to make a success out of her life but Ethan reminds her of her very painful past and the reasons she left five years ago. We discover that she had been heartbroken after her disabled mother committed suicide and then she had found out that her father and Ethan's mother had been having an affair. Ethan and Mia had also been in a relationship at the time and Mia thought he had been using her. She left with only a brief note and has not been in contact since. Ethan was both devastated and angry when she left before anyone had the chance to explain. He asks Mia to come back to visit her father, whom recently suffered a heart attack and has never given up hope of seeing Mia again. Mia refuses but Ethan doesn't give up and pursues her until she agrees, albeit reluctantly. They also realise that the issues between the two of them are unresolved and they still desire each other. However with all the past hurts and the real reasons behind them, it's unlikely they can have a future.

This is a very emotional read that has an original and well thought out plot. The heroine is a wonderfully written character, she has a perfect mix of independence and vulnerability. I really empathised with her reasons for leaving and could really feel the hurt she still carries with her. The hero is also a good character, although I found his anger towards the heroine is a little hard to fully grasp, this would have been helped by more narrative from his point of view. I really liked all the 'family drama' and 'you can never go home again' themes, it is well executed and quite emotional stuff. The relationship is also nicely developed and satisfying in the end.

Overall, this is a passionate, emotional, and warm romance. Worth a read.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

That damn WIP...

I'm back at my desk after the bank holiday weekend here in the UK. It has slightly messed into my 'schedule' (and I use that term very loosely) but I wanted to spend yesterday with my husband since he was not at work! I wish I could say it was a nice weekend, but due to a few family issues, which I am not going to get into now, it was a little tense. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

A couple weeks back I posted about my lack of motivation for writing, if you missed it here's the link. In that post I mentioned that my husband has been setting me tasks in order to try and get me moving, and I'm pleased to say it's still working out well and I have my teeth thoroughly into my current work in progress (or WIP!) I'm currently at around 9k into it.

It's a contemporary romance set in London, and with a heroine involved in a career that is very close to my heart and one that has almost destroyed her and a hero that is suave and sexy and gloriously uncomplicated, with an Italian edge ;-). I'm excited about my idea and SO FAR it has been real fun writing it, let's hope this continues to be the case and I don't get 30k into and decide it's the worst thing I have ever seen and the only cure is for my laptop to be thrown out of the window (writers are prone to histrionics!)

As well as the tasks Richard (oh that's my husband btw!) has been setting, such as x number of words per day or develop character etc, I have also found that talking to fellow writers on twitter about writing helps, you can find so many authors on there and they are all very approachable. I also join in with some '1k in 1 hour' writing challenges on there (#1k1hr) it certainly helps with encouragement. You can usually find me on there at most times during the day and I usually write in the challenges any time in between 11am-5pm UK time.

In order to give my writing a further boost I'm also going to join in with Rachael John's 30k in September challenge (on twitter #30kinsept). Hop on over to her blog for more info on both this and on her, she can also be found on twitter and she is fab :-).

I'm going to leave you with some images that are a little bit of inspiration in my WIP.

All the best.

365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #162

Bride for Real - Lynne Graham
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886764

My rating

From the back cover:

"Their vows have been broken, yet neither is prepared for what this tempestuous reunion will bring...
Tally Spencer is an ordinary girl with no experience of relationships; Sander Volakis is an impossibly rich and handsome Greek entrepreneur. What could they have in common? Little - except an overwhelming sexual attraction. But within weeks Sander finds himself betrayed into exchanging vows with Tally.
Just when they think their hasty marriage is finished, Tally and Sander are drawn back together, and the passion between them is just as strong... However, Sander has dark reasons for wanting his wife in his bed again - and Tally also has a terrible secret...
THE VOLAKIS VOW A marriage made of secrets..."

This is the second part of 'The Volakis Vow' duet by Lynne Graham. I reviewed the first book in my last post, and I really enjoyed it. I liked this book too, but not as much.

The hero Sander and the heroine Tally are on the verge of a divorce. Their marriage broke down after the devastating stillbirth of their son. Tally and Sander had both struggled with their grief in their own way, causing them to grow apart and eventually Tally had left. Now, eighteen months later, Sander realises that he doesn't want to let Tally go, he goes to see her when she is at their former home collecting some of her belongings, and they have an explosive reunion. But it's not enough for the still suffering Tally and she tells Sander that she won't give their marriage another go. Tally later learns that her rather irresponsible mother has gotten into financial trouble so she is forced to go to her father for help. He agrees to help on the condition that Tally reconsiders a reconciliation with Sander. She reluctantly agrees and lets Sander know she has changed her mind, although she doesn't tell him why. Sander is really pleased and promises to try harder and make Tally happy. Things go well between them and they begin to re build a very strong marriage as well as the hope for a second child, Tally knows she never stopped loving Sander. But, once again, their happiness is destroyed when the consequences of Sander's drunken one-night stand during their separation are revealed.

I must admit, I am very confused about this book. On one hand I really liked it and on the other I didn't. I liked that this book didn't immediately follow on from the first book, instead there has been a lot of time and events in the characters lives. Reading about their stillborn son was heartbreaking and the grief they felt, especially Tally's, was handled really well. I could really see how the different reactions from the hero and heroine caused their marriage to slowly breakdown, this is a major plus for this book.
I didn't, however, like the hero's one night stand and the consequences of it. I found it very difficult to stomach and I was hoping that it would would turn out to be a mistake. Sadly it didn't, however I think that it is because of the strength of Lynne Graham's writing that made me accept this in the end. I do think that the character of Tally lost some of the sparkle that she had in the first book, but perhaps that is to be expected after what she had gone through. The HEA is wonderful and not at all rushed, which really helps to balance out some of the unsavoury elements of this book.

This is a flawed, but overall enjoyable book.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #161

The Marriage Betrayal - Lynne Graham
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886689

My rating

From the back cover:

"Careless passion, pregnancy surprise...
Sander Volakis goes his own way. He’s forged his reputation in business, rather than relying on the family fortune, and indulges his darkly passionate, wild streak – he has no intention of marrying... He doesn’t do country weekends, either. Pitching up at Westgrave Manor is a favour to his father and a bore... until he sees Tally Spencer, so pretty and voluptuous that he can’t resist her.
Sander’s looking forward to casually seducing her... little knowing that one night with the innocent Tally could end his playboy existence...
THE VOLAKIS VOW A marriage made of secrets..."

This is the first part of a two part mini-series by Lynne Graham 'The Volakis Vow'. I have been looking forward to reading it, and was waiting for part two to come before reading this one. I will be reading part two straight after, just so you know!

The hero Sander and the heroine Tally meet at a weekend party. Tally is only there in order to keep an eye on her half sister, although she has to pretend to her her sisters assistant. Due to the circumstances of her birth Tally has never been able to acknowledge that she is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Greek businessman. Sander is part of a powerful Greek family, as well as being successful in his own right. He enjoys his freedom and doesn't ever plan on settling down despite pressure from his family. He is immediately drawn to Tally and fiercely desires her, he also recognises that Tally doesn't seem to have any ulterior motives that most women in his acquaintance have. But he doesn't expect Tally to be innocent and despite his attempts to stay away they begin an affair, with Tally constantly challenging him and his own surprise at how much he likes being with her. All that comes crashing down when Tally discovers she is pregnant. Sander is furious thinking she has done it deliberately, especially after he finds out the truth of her parentage and her father blackmails him into marrying Tally.

I really enjoyed this book. As expected from Lynne Graham the plot is very intense, deeply involving and fantastically written. The details of the plot are really well thought out and added to the overall 'angst' of the book. The hero and heroine are brilliant; Tally is a wonderful heroine, she is smart, feisty and genuinely nice. Sander is a great alpha-male, although I was surprised that at 25 he is younger than your typical Modern/Presents hero. The chemistry between them is literally scorching.
What I really like about this book is that even though it is part of a duet, this book ends on a [seemingly] HEA. Which I think adds suspense in wondering what will happen in the next book.

This is a intense and passionate, a fantastic Modern.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #160

A Fair Breeze - Ann Hurley
Silhouette Desire
Silhouette Books, 1987
ISBN: 9780373505883

My rating

From the back cover:

The little New England town of Fairharbor seemed like the perfect place for Leah Mackey to sit back and relax, when she wasn't dealing with an obnoxious ten-year-old, as gossipy neighbor or a houseful of kittens - or scouting the area for local artisans. Jonathon Jericho Wardwell was one of those artisans.
In Jonathon's hands, wood magically became sleek model ships that collectors would pay top dollar for. Only Jonathon wasn't interested in selling his boats. He was interested in Leah. And those same magic hands had Leah purring with pleasure. But there were rough seas ahead, and only time would tell if their love could weather the storm."

The heroine Leah is a divorcee with a 10 year old daughter. She has moved to the small town of Fairharbor for the summer in order to scope out from local artisan craft people for her boss's upcoming gallery exhibition. She meets the hero Jonathon when he comes to do some carpentry work in the house she is staying in. Leah is having a tough time dealing with trying to make a new life for herself after her divorce, building a new career and her at times badly behaved daughter. She and Jonathon strike up a friendship and they quickly become closer and eventually lovers. Jonathon tells Leah he loves her, Leah cares deeply for him but is afraid to get hurt again. With Leah's insistence that she will only be around for the summer and Jonathon's reluctance to tell her about his past it doesn't seem like there can be a future for them.

I enjoyed this book but it took me a little while to actually get into it. The writing style is difficult to grasp at first, it feels very 'old', if you know what I mean. But the story really shines through and this made it easier to accept the writing style. The story itself is quite simple and the love between the characters is wonderfully uncomplicated with the passion between them being no less sizzling. In fact the passion level surprised me for a book written in 1986!
Don't be put off by the boring and misleading blurb, this is a wonderful love story. No point of view from hero though...

Passionate, warm and satisfyingly simple.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #159

The Baby Twins - Laura Marie Altom
Harlequin American Romance
Harlequin, 2011
ISBN: 9780373753093

My rating

From the back cover:

"A pilot's widow, Stephanie Olmstead isn't afraid of flying...until the plane takes off, triggering a panic attack! Suddenly, the single mother of twins has a new man in her life. Brady McGuire, the pilot who saved her from a major meltdown, now sees himself as her protector. And friend.
Between flying and moving across the country to be closer to his daughter, Brady's life is hectic enough. But ever since he played hero, he can't stay away from the gorgeous single mom and her infant girls. That's when things start happening really fast. But is Stephanie ready to move on? Brady has his doubts. One thing's for sure, it's going to be a bumpy ride!"

Another American Romance book. How cute are the babies on the cover! Aww! Anyway, I enjoyed this book.

The heroine Stephanie is flying out to Miami to collect some of her late husband's possessions when she suddenly suffers a major panic attack. The pilot Brady, the hero, helps her to calm down, he was once friends with Stephanie and her husband. Brady worries about Steph as he feels that her reaction on the plane is a sign of an underlying problem. They spend some time together and aside from one very awkward kiss they become good friends. Both Steph and Brady are having a tough time lately; Steph is still grieving for her husband and trying to cope with being a single mother to her nine month old twin girls as well as the pressures of running a business. And Brady is in the process of moving back to his home town in order to spend more time with with 8 year old daughter and deal with his issues over the break up of his marriage after his wife had cheated with his brother. As the weeks go on Brady and Steph spend a lot of time talking and spending as much time as they can together, and they gradually fall in love. But while Brady is trying to come to terms with everything Steph seems to be suffering from ever increasing panic attacks.

I really enjoyed this books, it has a wonderful mix of fun and tenderness, as well as dealing with some tough issues. Both the characters are flawed and, to me, this makes them feel very real and three dimensional. Steph's problems with her grief and depression are heartbreaking and handled well by the author. The conflict was actually quite surprising, I won't give anything away but I actually expected it to go in a different direction than it did, so it was a pleasant surprise. The relationship develops between the hero and heroine wonderfully and is very believable. Although I do feel that the ending is too rushed and let the rest of the book down.

Overall, this is a warm and fun read.


Thursday, 25 August 2011

365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #158

Rebel With a Cause - Leigh Michaels
Mills and Boon Romance
Mills and Boon, 1987
ISBN: 9780263757927

My rating

From the back cover:

"All Fultonsville was going wild about Brett Hilliard, the dynamic factory owner whose chocolate business was about to revitalise the little midwestern town's ailing economy. But Rebel Barclay mistrusted his assurances - he was too good at leading people astray. She couldn't convince her friends and neighbours that their hero might not be as trustworthy as he seemed, so she had to find another way to fight him - in front of the TV cameras. The only snag was that she found herself beginning to understand what people saw in Brett Hilliard!"

Last weekend my husband went out on a bike ride, he came back a few hours later looking rather weighed down. It turns out he found a second hand book stall on his travels, with many old romance books... He bought me 45! Yes, 45! No wonder he looked exhausted. This is one of those books.

The heroine Rebecca hosts a popular current affairs radio show in her small home town and she is known for her almost controversial views, which inspired her nickname Rebel. She interviews the hero Brett about his plans to move his business to their town, Rebecca is cautious about the plans as she feels that the town is shelling out a lot and that it could all end up a disaster for the town if the company pulls out. Her on air challenges to Brett cause tension within her family, he father is the mayor and spearheading the proposal. Brett, however, doesn't seem phased by her investigation and offers her the chance to find out more. It doesn't escape Rebecca's notice that Brett also seems interested in her, although she tries to discourage him. Not only does he fluster and frustrate her but she also doesn't trust him, and she's also aware of her attraction to him despite the fact that she has just got engaged. Pressures from her fiancé's critical family and from her job cause her to start feeling like she has made a mistake. When Brett invites her to Chicago for the weekend she realises her initial mistrust of him was wrong and that she desires him as much as he makes it clear he does her.

I really loved this book, for an older one I was really blown away by it. I adored the character of Rebecca (and not just because she is my namesake!). I loved her ambition and the fact that she realises her mistakes, and admits to them, as the story progresses. She is written with a fantastic mix of spunk and vulnerability. The dialogue and verbal sparring between the hero and heroine is amazing, so witty and humorous, I actually laughed out loud at times. The whole book is written fantastically and the relationship develops perfectly. The ONLY thing I want to complain about is that, once again in an older book, we don't get the point of view from the hero. I really wanted it!

Overall, this is a brilliant book. This has recently been re-released in ebook form so it's easier to get hold of. I would recommend it.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #157

Pregnancy of Convenience - Sandra Field
Mills and Boon Modern
Reprinted in 'Pregnant Proposals' Mills and Boon By Request
Harlequin Mills and Boon, 2007
ISBN: 9780263855272

My rating

From the back cover:

"Joanna Deiter knew Cal Freeman wanted a passionate affair. Was this her chance to secretly conceive her much-wanted baby?
Unable to go through with her outrageous plan, Joanna confessed to Cal. Shockingly, Cal went one step further, suggesting a convenient marriage! But Joanna wanted a baby, not a husband..."

This is the third and final book in the By Request omnibus, as above. It's another enjoyable book.

The hero Cal is driving in a snowstorm when he comes accross the heroine Joanna unconscious after crashing her car. When he learns her name he realises that he actually knows of her by mutual acquaintance and knows all about her sordid past. Joanna has had to deal with scorn from people believing that she cheated on her late husband, caused his death and aborted his baby, when none of this is true. But Joanna is now free from the nightmare of her marriage and is getting on with her life. She's upset that Cal believes the lies about her as she felt that they had a connection. Cal can't stop thinking about Joanna after they part and soon learns the truth about her and knows he has to apologise and that there is a chance she may not forgive him. He visits her where they spend time together and asks Joanna to go on vacation with him and his daughter. Joanna agrees and realises that if she and Cal take their relationship further then she has a chance of having the baby she so desperately wants. However she can't deceive Cal and ends up telling him. Cal actually likes the idea, he wants to get married and provide and mother for his daughter and a wife and family for himself. He proposes marriage but Joanna, having had one disastrous marriage, only wants to marry for love.

I quite liked this book. It has a really exciting and interesting start, the characters have a nice interaction and there is enough information left out to keep you reading. I do thinks the book lost it's way after a while, the pace became rather slow and a bit boring. I liked the plot though. My main issue with this book is that it;s style and structure is almost identical to the previous Sandra Field book I read; The heroine had a traumatic past marriage, husband died in freak accident, hero and heroine hate each other at first, hero takes heroine on holiday where they get together, etc. It's a little off putting.

Nevertheless, this is a quick and enjoyable book.