Showing posts with label romance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label romance. Show all posts

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Book Review: Confessions (New Beginnings, #4) by Michelle Lynn


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Hockey is unpredictable. Grant Mackenzie has lived and breathed the game for most of his life. It’s what he did, but it isn’t what he loved. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you’ve almost thrown it all away. He’s about to face the hardest month of his career. He knows what he wants now, but it isn’t up to him anymore and the damage may have already been done. His secrets are unraveling, his season is over, and it’s now what happens off the ice that matters most. 

Abigail Stewart masks her anger with sass, sarcasm, and a host of bad decisions. It is anger born out of years of emotional abuse. She has a new life now, but it’s a life of hiding who she is and who she used to be. 

From the first time Grant and Abigail met, they knew there was something there. Now, forced to spend two weeks on an island with each other, it’s time to face their feelings, and in order to do that, they must first face their pasts. 


What a cool series this is. The beauty of New Beginnings as a series is that characters of old can make all new stories. Mack and Abigail take centre stage in Confessions, and as an ex ice-hockey player myself, I appreciate all the team talk, manager one-to-ones and yes, the phoning it in that Mack does as a player. I understand it, because I did the same on occasion.

 "this latest certainly a power play in the genre!"

These days I am no less competitive on the football field. But Confessions focuses squarely on the romance between our two primary leads. It's hard not to like Abigail...there's something very girl-next-door about her whilst realising how good she could be as a future wife.

Mack is reckless, restless and annoying at times. But this is not annoying for the reader - he's a real guy doing real things in a believable way.

A short read that is jam packed with drama, but it is never over the top. I have read all of the author's books and this latest release stands amongst her best, and is certainly a power play in the genre!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Book Review: Seven Days to Me (A One Week Romance, #1) by Tracey Pedersen



Two People. Two Stories. So Many Secrets...

Golding Mining is going from strength to strength under the dedicated management of Stephanie Golding. Too bad she dreams of returning to a life that has long since slipped through her fingers.

Brad Peters is living a life he's not quite sure he wants. He's doing it to make his dad proud. When he's roped in to seduce Stephanie he can suddenly see exactly what he wants...and it's right in front of him...

Can two people struggling to be true to themselves find a common ground just by spending a week together? Just how many secrets are too many for a relationship to survive?


I wish more contemporary romances were like this, then I might enjoy the genre a lot more than I do. I realise I am not the main target audience for this kind of story, so I will just give my honest opinion.

When Stephanie and Brad are pitched together, a man and a woman in a work environment suddenly find that sparks fly. Literally. It's not all plain sailing of course, and I loved the elements of drama and mystery that the author worked into the story. It is elevated by its well paced story, excellent narrative, and punchy dialogue. 

"This is a superior novel in a crowded genre."

Perhaps I wanted more from the dialogue. It was functional and worked well between the characters. I accept it was a seven day whirlwind, and so, in this context, deeper narrative is okay to omit as the feelings between the two speak volumes, which is how it should be between lovers.

'The planet had tilted on its axis.' Isn't this a beautiful and rather apt way to describe how we feel in matters of love - especially when this person can drive you crazy in more ways than one?

Add secondary characters such as Myrtle and Meredith who add so much to the story, you have the perfect pot boiler of a romance. Meredith may be an ice queen, but the author clearly had a lot of fun in her creation, and there is one such woman in every work environment. that makes the book engaging to read but also a realistic romance. I liked this a lot.

This is a superior novel in a crowded genre. Seek it out today.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Book Review: Where She Belongs by Liz Doran



Roisin has had enough. After the recession hit Spain, her husband, Javier, has fallen into an abyss of depression and is threatening to drag her down with him. In order to save them both, she leaves Spain and does something she has always dreamt of doing. To live by the sea. She wants to gain control of her life, make a new start and finally follow her dreams. 

With a mixture of sadness and anticipation, she moves back to Ireland, rents a house by the sea, and has a fortuitous meeting with Maggie who runs a craft boutique. 
At first everything runs smoothly. Maggie offers her a job and people are more than kind. Too good to be true? The last thing on her mind is another man. But then she meets Tom, the irresistible Irish man. When Javier follows her and tries to woo her back, confusion sets in. After perfect beginnings, where she meets some of the helpful and colourful characters who live there, things begin to get complicated. The first cracks appear on the façade. Why is her old neighbour, Mrs. Walsh, being threatened? What is she afraid of? And why are people suspicious of Maggie, her new friend and boutique owner? 


Where She Belongs is a slow burner of a debut novel from author Liz Doran. Many of the best authors in the world hail from Ireland, where this book is set. It follows the ups and downs of Roisin, who (in a paradoxically shift of pace in the early chapters) has her life literally turned upside down an decides she has had enough of Spanish beau Javier.

Reading this from the male point of view may actually garner interest in this book. You see, I felt Javier had been hard done by. He’s not the model husband, and he does something that is practically unforgivable, but as this happens early on in the story, we haven’t learned enough to form a strong opinion as to whether he is the bad guy or not.

Clearly Roisin acts at first with her heart and then her head. The time lapse is not that long, and soon enough Roisin has decided to get out from the relative comfort of her life and start over again.

I applaud the author for taking this decision. It’s a woman’s story written for women, but that shouldn’t prevent male readers from reading Where She Belongs. It would have been an interesting angle to see Roisin stay post-the-event but that would have taken the story on a whole different direction.

The pace is steady. There’s a lot of information in the story that from the male perspective is less interesting but I can understand why it is in there, as the book would fall under women’s fiction.

"The author does not give us a cop out ending."

Roisin’s journey through Ireland is strongly depicted and if you have never been to the country, the author makes you fall in love with the place. Everyone knows that one person’s paradise is another’s idea of hell, and despite the brave new world Roisin chooses to go after, not everything falls into place. That would be too easy, and the author does not give us a cop out ending.

That said, whilst Roisin began to find herself and a new meaning to her life, it was only a matter of time before Javier popped up again. He’s not a one-dimensional psycho dumped husband like Patrick Bergin in Sleeping With the Enemy, and again, I was grateful for how the character was drawn.

Where She Belongs is an interesting debut novel that demands the readers’ attention. In some ways it is a very easy read, at other times, it is heart wrenching and touching.

A strong debut from Liz Doran.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Book Review: Dreams (New Beginnings, #3) by Michelle Lynn



Moving on is the hardest thing she’ll ever have to do. 

Taylor Scott sees the world differently than she did a year ago. She’s no longer the love-sick teenager, quick to smile and full of joy. Now she’s the broken college student just trying to get through the day without letting her feelings overwhelm her. It isn’t until she meets Josh that pieces of herself she’d lost start falling back into place and she can finally see that it’s okay to be happy again. 

Josh Walker is a professional athlete whose always avoided distractions. His career is just getting started and he works harder than anyone else. Hockey is his life. It’s the only thing that makes sense to him. When a new coach joins the team, it’s his daughter that threatens to complicate everything. He wants to help her. Needs to help her. But when he needs her to do the same, he finds out what she’s really made of. 

No one ever told him that the hardest part of his hockey career wouldn’t have to do with hockey at all.


"What greater punishment is life when you've lost everything that made it worth living?"

- Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

What an extraordinary series this has turned out to be. Having read, nay, consumed author Michelle Lynn's superlative dystopian series Dawn of Rebellion, I was expecting a light, breezy enjoyable romance from her New Beginnings series.

Readers will get that, but what readers won't be prepared for is the standard of writing, which was always good but has evolved onto a whole other level here.

Characters from the earlier books take a more prominent role here, but each story in this series has been remarkably different and well, this one is the best of the three.

Perhaps it is because of the ice hockey references. As an ex-player myself, it gave me a different angle with which to approach the story.

While I have enjoyed the myriad of characters introduced in this series, I wanted the female characters to grow a little, perhaps show that they didn't even need a man in their life to become whole again after previous hurtful experiences. Anyone, man or woman, can relate to that.

It is in this aspect that the author scores highest for me. This is a real rollercoaster of a book. It plays with your emotions a lot. Some of the characters, like Taylor and Josh, were wonderfully drawn but infuriatingly flawed in parts (not in their creation, but in their behaviours) yet it makes it all the more believable as a romance.

"What an extraordinary series this has turned out to be."

The ice hockey references are well written in the story. The team players act in a beliveable manner (as does Coach Scott) and it made me think did I act like that in respect of other women when I was consumed by the sport.

I also liked the character play between Josh and Zak, the latter playing the role of saying the things that needed to be said. Again, great characterisation from the author.

Without giving too much away, but feeling I do have to mention this, one of the characters is suffering from a condition called ventricular tachycardia. I did not experience this as a hockey player, but through some poor choices, at the age of 35, I was hit hard with this condition. I am older now and it is more manageable, but wow....this book really spoke to me.

Anyway, whilst Dreams is possibly a book you could read as a standalone, it is a far better experience to familiarise yourself with the characters first as they appear in the earlier books.

A heart string puller of the highest order, this is simply yet another wonderful book from the pen of Michelle Lynn.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Book Review: The Sirens of Falkeld by Julie Tuovi

The Sirens of Falkeld


Kade Finley, of the Scottish Isles, was raised on legends of the sea. His Gaffer, Toran Finley said, that beneath Muireall’s wind-swept cliffs, deep under the waves, there lived a legend as old as the Highlands themselves. Of Manannán Mac Lir, the sea god, and his beautiful sea maidens, the maighdean mhara, who swam the tides, luring sailors to their deaths.

But they’re not just legend. 

Kade saw one on his ninth birthday. On that day, a fierce storm swallowed half the island, and his da, Aidan Finley, was never seen again. 

It’s been nine years since Da disappeared, and Gaffer is dying. 

Desperate to save him, Kade decides to capture a maighdean mhara, of whom the stories say will grant one wish if caught. But Admiral Gilbert Owen, commander of the island’s WWII naval base, complicates things. In his quest for power, the Admiral has enraged the maidens, making it dangerous to be human in maighdean mhara infested waters.


When an author creates something out of pure fiction, it has to be written with authority. The characters have to be believable. Most of all, any preconceptions one might have had about the story have to be discarded right from the outset.

The Sirens of Falkeld is the debut novel of Julie Tuovi, but you wouldn't know it from the writing. Here is a story that has rather incredible world building. The author really has a talent for describing literally everything in the book. The titular Sirens, of course, are nothing like the Disney mermaids. It's a risk to describe them as Miss Tuovi has done in her story, but the payoff is wonderful because the main Siren, Cora, is no airhead waif. She's actually something to be respected, and yes - something to be feared.

The style of the book is interesting given its shifting perspective, chapter to chapter. Our hero, Kade, is threatened with death more times than seems fair by the shifty, arrogant and pompous Admiral near the start of the story. Kade's perspective is quite formulaic so we can relate to him easily. Initially, he is not an overly complex character. But as the story advanced and he interacts with Cora, we get a glimpse of the man in this youngish-boy. 

Cora seems too advanced, too wily, too clever and yes - too dangerous for Kade to interact with her.
But inbetween these wonderful character developments, we really are swept along by the author's engrossing story. Not once did I think 'this is a fluffy story about mermaids.' 

"It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end."

However, I did find the book a challenging read at times. The first third of the book takes a little while to find its 'sea legs', but once it does, it rewards readers with action, danger, romance and thrills. 

This could be said of many a debut author's story, so it is no slight on the author, who has created an incredibly detailed and believable world. I like the authentic use of the Scottish language, it's well done and never grates. 

One thing I really loved and rounded off the book just perfectly was the author's notes. I know, some of you will skip that part but I urge you to read it. The author is honest in her influences for her story, which I could see early on in the book. Thankfully The Sirens of Falkeld grows into its own very deep rewarding story.

It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Book Review: Promises (New Beginnings, #2) by Michelle Lynn



Do you promise you’ll always be here for me? 

It was a game they played, only it wasn’t a game. Maggie Marks held on to Elijah’s childhood promises as a way of escaping a life that was far from perfect. Elijah Lugo was her neighbor, her best friend, her family. He was everything her parents refused to be, everything she needed. He was her first kiss and a witness to more of her father’s drunken rants than she could count. He was there at her wedding and then held her when it all fell apart. Elijah was in love with her, but she was afraid loving him would eventually mean losing him too. 

They were no longer kids, pretending everything would work out in the end. 

When Maggie’s father reenters her life in an unexpected way, revealing long held secrets, her world is turned upside down and she will need Elijah more than ever. 
A story of friendship and family. The promises you make and the ones you keep.


"Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way...." 

-Harry, from When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Promises is the superior follow up to Choices, and it introduces characters from the earlier book seamlessly intertwining with the new ones.

And what characters they are. We are introduced to Maggie (Mags) Marks, and her beau Elijah. He's not supposed to be - in a clever bit of storytelling, author Michelle Lynn displays her command of the story by taking us into different times of the principal characters' lives.

In an early telling scene, Mags agrees to a kiss from Elijah, but it is intended to be a one-time kiss only, because they are friends, great friends, and she doesn't want that ruined. Elijah held a candle for Mags even when they were young, and in later scenes where the couple are older, and yes....tarnished, bruised and battered by life and the general life choices they made, the friendship still holds, even though Elijah's promise not to do any more than what was expected of him (essentially a boyfriend without the perks of being her boyfriend) jarred at him a lot.

It's a difficult balance for an author to get right, and yet Michelle Lynn achieved it because I could feel Elijah's frustration with Maggie....he even stays true to her even through her marriage to Jake. Often a friendship, especially between a man and a woman is tested because she may well just want him as a friend, and for him, he will often want something more. It's just the way people are engineered. 

Another layer to the story is Mags' inability to conceive. Now this is where the story really starts to hit home with some powerful messages.

Can a couple stay together if one wants a baby but one cannot be provided?
Is their love based on two people, or three?
Can friends who were asked to keep a promise, do that forever? Is it realistic or even fair to expect them to do so?

Promises has a number of layers that are enjoyable to read. Mags letter from her father is teasingly played out (we don't get the contents of the letter in one go and the story is all the better for it).

Often a friendship, especially between a man and a woman is tested because she may well just want him as a friend, and for him, he will often want something more. It's just the way people are engineered. 

Newcomer Kimberly is a darling little girl who might just provide some happiness for Mags. She instantly takes to Jah, as she so names Elijah, in a sort of playful rebuttal to him calling her Kimmy.

Promises works on almost every level for me. The only slight let down is the character of Chris, who I really liked in book one but was not so strong in this one. Maybe that's okay, as Promises is driven by the very strong characterisation employed in Mags and Elijah. Michaela makes a welcome return from Choices, but the stand out reason for reading this book is to see how the adult Elijah can keep the promise made by his younger self to Mags.

Read it and enjoy it, it is shaping up to be a great series.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Book Review: Love Minuets by Preethi Venugopala


Synopsis: Is there another emotion that can compete with love? When you fall in love, it is the most magical thing you experience in your whole life. The person, who stirred this emotion in your heart all of a sudden acquires the power to make you his/her slave and you become ready to do anything to win his /her affections. 
Nothing matters anymore other than your lover. It is as if this magician called love has put you in a trance, all you hear are his commands, and you become a helpless puppet in his arms. Every thought like a homing pigeon returns to your lover and every moment you invent a reason to be near him/her. It is like a powerful potion, which has been absorbed by each and every cell of your body. If for some reason the magic ends, you find yourself drained out of the very substance that had fed your soul, and you wish that your heart ceased its rhythm. The beating of your own heart starts to hurt you. 
Many lives have perished after falling prey to this ruthless magician while many other lucky creatures have flourished and bloomed just because of its magic. 
Why do we become minions of this crazy little thing called love? 
Sometimes, this emotion is unconditional when it comes to love between parents and their kids, between friends and between siblings. 
Some cases some are in love with their passion. 
What else is Love other than Magic? 
I present to you, dear reader; 24 stories about this crazy little thing called Love. Though the focus is mainly on romantic love, there are also stories which talks about other facets of love. 
Hope you have a wonderful read. 

Review: Certain books can turn out to be quite deceiving, but I mean that in the most positive way I can, because Love Minuets initially seemed to be a musical book or some kind of poetry. Indeed it has a poetic quality to it that people fond of the the kind of imagery an accomplished author can make is the very reason why we read books in the first place.

The stories are short, diverse and very hard to predict in terms of content. But each and every one is enjoyable.

The Veil of Time, The Duke's Muse and Forgotten Memories were amongst my favourites. It is hard to pick an outright favourite because of the diverse stories on offer.

"I was surprised at the depth of many of the stories, contrasting with those that were lightweight and I believe intentionally so."

I believe with this collection that the author could reward her current fanbase whilst attracting new ones.

If you like fantasy, it's here. If you like heart warming and gentle tales of love, it's here. If you like to read something truly leftfield, it's here too.

I was surprised at the depth of many of the stories, contrasting with those that were lightweight and I believe intentionally so.

Often an author will want to write a true one of a kind book. I think this is the kind of thing we as readers look for.

Strongly recommended.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Book Review: The Heir (The Selection, #4) by Keira Cass


Synopsis: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.

Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.

Review:  The Heir is easily the best book in The Selection series, and I was surprised as anyone that after the events in The One, that the author would be penning further adventures in Illea. In full disclosure I must state that I found America 'Mer' Singer from the earlier books a so-so MC. Then along comes her daughter Eadlyn in book four and she is totally different. She's brattish, arrogant and spoilt. You might think this is a recipe for disaster especially when her father Maxon proposes a new Selection take place.

The Heir sees the Selection all grown up.

Here is where the author has got it right - in book one it was lacking a dystopian feel, and by the time of The One it seemed to have dropped the pretence that it was ever a dystopian series. The Heir works better in the understanding of the ruling monarchy and its subjects - Maxon only proposes a new round because it keeps the masses distracted.

Isn't that what all governments want for their people? Distraction, control, with the media (state or otherwise) filling the airwaves with bad news.

And it gets worse for Eadlyn, because some of the guys in the Selection do not want to be there at all. There's no fawning over each other with Eadlyn and Kile unlike the protracted Maxon-Mer-Aspen mess.

The Heir sees the Selection all grown up. It's an entertaining read that fans of the first trilogy may deem unnecessary, but I think Eadlyn is by far the most interesting character, and the story is all the more readable for the focus on her.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Book Review: Mysterious Templar by Adriana Girolami


Synopsis: Dark forces and violence enters the European court of the Duke of Nemours in the year of our Lord 1480. The only hope remains in the hands of the Duke's daughter Polyxena—a stunning beauty, coveted by many men. 
As the princess bride, she arrives at the castle of the Duke of Lorengard-Lorraine only to find her arranged marriage has been foiled. Duke Arsinio has been murdered 
in a coup d'état and she is a virtual prisoner of an evil tyrant. A mysterious knight appears to challenge the power of the tyrant and bring hope to the people. The face of this enigmatic warrior is covered by a red mask and the cross on his chest defines him as a Knight Templar. 
Will Polyxena achieve freedom and find the love of her life? Is the identity of the Mysterious Templar discovered? 
Find out only in the first novel of the Templar Trilogy…MYSTERIOUS TEMPLAR

Review: Think back to the golden age of cinema. Rip-roaring historical blockbusters that combined action with a heart. Were Adriana Girolami's epic Mysterious Templar to make it to the big screen, I would expect some director and screen writer of weight and talent to bring this rich novel to a mass audience.

That said, the author's descriptive narrative and wonderful characters set this story above many 'adventure / quest' stories that go nowhere. In full disclosure, I must state that I read the original Revenge of the Knights Templar and approached this, wondering would it be more of the same.

If anything, this is the better, far more polished work (not that the other edition wasn't, it is just that time has passed) and the inclusion of the second story - a generous chapter to give you insight into where the tale is going, means that this edition is well worth your time and effort.

Never once dry, laced with humour, and always readable, one can only wait impatiently for the soon to be released sequel.

Wonderful story, perfect medieval romance. Loved it. 

Below is my review of the original story, Revenge of the Knights Templar

A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.

This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it.

The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing.

After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly.

It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.

Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife.

Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me.

Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale.

The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution.

The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!

This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence.

It's not without humour, with great lines such as:

"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."

And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:-

"A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"


"It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."

Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Book Review: Hidden Truths by J Kahele (Violet Chain, #2)


Synopsis: Violet and Chain are trying to build a loving and trusting relationship, but life has a few more obstacles to throw at them. 
Violet wants to know more about Chain's rocky past with his father, whilst Chain is more interested in getting Violet to commit to their relationship in a more permanent way: marriage.
To complicate matters, Chain's past holds a secret that could tear them apart forever, and he will do whatever it takes to keep the secret hidden.

Review: "I don't care what it costs." - Chain Alexander, Hidden Truths

In the context of his statement, and the scene in which it takes place, our MC Chain Alexander is a man that I believe many men would like to be like. Powerful, rich, good looking, great taste in women...he would appear to have it all.

He is a confident man who knows what he wants. In book one he comes across a little bullish and possesses the kind of self belief that would make people shrink in his presence. 

What was clear that this high flyer has fallen completely for our other MC, Violet, and it's a roller coaster ride as the book reaches its close. 

I think the series has to been viewed in the context that book one is really part one, so I was more excited at the prospect of a second book in the series rather than think the ending of #1 left me hanging. It did - but in a good way. There is nothing wrong with that.

The revelations about Chain unravel in a paced and measured way, ensuring we are gripped until the very end of the tale. 

I would suggest that author Miss Kahele knows what her fans want, and she delivers here in spades.

I still find Violet a likeable, enjoyable character. She doesn't play hapless waif to Chain - she is a strong character, a woman that also knows what she wants.

The mature scenes are exactly that - from the opening pages Hidden Truths is brutal but utterly realistic.

Let's see where book three takes us!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Book Review: An Independent Woman by Frances Evesham


Synopsis: With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman, some skill with a needle, and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes her tormentor, Joseph, and the dank fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to interrupt her quest for independence and freedom.

Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of a great country house, Philomena hears whispers of the mysteries and lies that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.

Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.

Review: Having read a number of historical romances this year, it's nice to read a book that has engaging characters, but also sets the scene perfectly.

We are familiar with the Victorian era through books and films, but rarely is it presented so well, as it is here in the author's debut novel.

I literally felt I was on the streets of Victorian England. Even though the south is mentioned, it's nice that the south west - Bristol in this case, is featured too.

The cover was a real grabber for me - the thoughtful pose of the character but also the beautiful background detail really gives you an insight into the author's setting for this book.

As a romance, it works well. Philomena, like the women of the period, was not allowed to travel outside alone. So she abounds on her adventure into the outside world dressed as a boy. What will be the repercussions of her behaviour? Will she be in some trouble if / when found out, or much worse?

Fortunately the author has penned an engaging drama that has no need to be over the top with, shall we say...'energetic scenes'.

Yes, the hero, Lord Thatcham, takes a liking to Philomena, but even more so when she reveals her true self.

Maybe the ending isn't in doubt, but that hardly matters. For a debut novel the author shows a real command of her world, one I will be happy to revisit.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: Without You by Preethi Venugopala


Synopsis: When Ananya, a bubbly twenty-year-old engineering student, reaches her Grandmother's house in Sreepuram on a month long vacation, romance is the last thing on her mind. However, she meets Dr. Arjun there and falls head over heels in love.

As it often happens, the path of true love never runs smooth. Circumstances force them apart even though they were madly in love. She becomes a victim of depression. When everything fails to return her to normalcy, help arrives from an unexpected source. Will she ever find happiness again? Will time allow her heart to heal and forget Arjun? What indeed is true love? What is that strange secret that locks all the circumstances together? 

Travel with Ananya to the picturesque Sreepuram, face the chaos of Bengaluru, and relish the warmth of magical Dubai in this heartwarming tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and miracles.

Review: Without You is the debut novel of Preethi Venugopala and it is an uplifting tale of romance that will stir your heart and fire your passion.<

It's obvious from the early pages of this book how passionate the author is about her subjects. The main characters, Anu and Arjun are fun to watch, as their relationship develops and goes through its various ups and downs.

The author's forewarding notes, as well as the quotes that open each chapter are endearing and make you think.

As befitting an Indian author, readers should be prepared for an indoctrination into Indian culture. This is to be welcomed, because the author writes with a style and panache that always engages the reader.

Some lines I liked:-

"If you had given this to Shakespeare, he would have written a thousand sonnets about it." (Anu discussing food).

"Both of us can't bear to live without the other. But we still managed to make our lives a living hell making asinine assumptions about each other."</i> (Anu and Arjun, on the difficulty of relationships.)

Without You is a credible addition to the romance genre, fans of which will see inspiration from all kinds of authors, from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen. There's a hint of Judith McNaught in there too - no bad thing.

It's a lovely story that romance fans will hold dear to their hearts.

On Amazon this book gets five stars.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Book Review: The Elite (The Selection, #2) by Keira Cass


Synopsis (by the author): The Selection began with thirty-five girls.
Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?

America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America's chance to choose is about to slip away.

Review: I'm not often swayed by a cover. It's usually more about the story. The Selection was one of several books I picked up at the same time. I was in a heavy YA reading phase, and wanted more dystopian, more zombie related stuff.

Of the latter, The Selection has none. The former - well the jury was completely out on The Selection. I didn't feel like it was a dystopian world. There were the odd mentions about how the world of Ilea was ruled, but the clear definition was lacking for me.

The Selection is more a romance than a dystopian book. I have the feeling that HarperTeen knew how to market the book, so with the success of The Hunger Games, mentioning a dystopian world, however lightly, ticked a box. There's a strong possibility the author Keira Cass fully meant to explore this darker side of Ilea in later books, and while I will admit that The Elite begins to develop that side, it is still not developed enough in my view. But this is my own personal wish for the story. If the author wished to go another direction with this, that is her right.

Let's start with what I liked. With fewer girls left in the Selection, we get to know them in more depth. Whilst Celeste is perhaps the best known of the girls after Mer, I was pleased to read more about Kriss and Marlee because I liked them from the first book. 

Maxon did a 180 for me near the end of The Selection. I could not help but call him a paper hat (tw*t) for acting the way he did. This time, he seems to understand the weight of responsibility that being King might actually mean and I liked this development for the character. He needs to be more than eye candy for the girls in my view, and again, the author succeeds.

The story overall is better, and though it ends abruptly, just like book one, the announcement that The One was already slated for release, just made sense. It doesn't get away from my belief that the story is a little too stretched out. But as a second book, it works.

Here's what was less certain. Aspen as a guard, in the palace, no less. He dumps Mer in book one, and it's never clear to me why he did that. I know why I have ended relationships with girls in the past. Aspen's actions are at odds with his behaviour. There is something of the night about him. He is too creepy for me, and as a plot device. seems to have been inserted to make the choice for Maxon and America not so plain sailing.

It's not a love triangle. Maxon also does dark things - going into the different girls rooms and one would have to be dense to know that he was playing them, and Mer, for that matter. I was pretty uncomfortable with that. 

Of course, if we are to take the dystopian world at face value, then this behaviour by the prince should not surprise or shock us. Despots do this. Can Maxon rule absolutely in the future? The rebels, such as they are, seem pretty useless, so I believe Maxon and the monarchy are safe to treat Ilea as their personal plaything.

As the book draws to its close, we are no clearer to understanding Mer. For a main character, I think she is poorly conceived. Celeste and Marlee are far better drawn, and the book is better for it.

Ultimately, The Elite works well as a second book of three. I know The Heir is upon us, but I believed that Keira Cass intended only three books for this story. It looks like it could run and run. Would I be persuaded to read The One? Yes, even though The Elite doesn't offer any real surprises. It's good, solid YA fun. I think unlike The Selection, it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Book Review: Violet Chain (Violet Chain, #1) by J Kahele


Synopsis (from the author): After catching her fiancé with another woman at their engagement party, Violet Townsend's world is turned upside down. 

Desperate to numb the pain, she falls into the arms of charming, young entrepreneur Chain Alexander. 

Chain, a notorious womanizer of Philadelphia, not looking for anything more than a night of pleasure with a woman, is drawn to Violet instantly. There is something about her that he needs and wants so desperately and it’s not just sex. 

But Violet is resistant. Can she open her heart again after having it broken so brutally? And more importantly, should she? 

Review: Easily one of my favourite authors, J Kahele once again gives us a strongly narrated adult romance, but with a heart. 

The opening scenes in the book show Violet being viciously and brutally dumped for a fleeting moment of sexual gratification by her ex-fiance Harrison.

He's an idiot, pure and simple. At this point in the story we don't know that much about Violet, but as the tale progresses it is clear that H made a mistake. Unfortunately for him, there is to be no second chance, as Violet becomes the focus of Chain, our main male of the piece.

There's also a wonderful scene featuring Violet's brothers, Vince and Victor - despite having the same initial which one might think leads to some confusion, it doesn't. I loved it, and it gave the book some light comedic relief.

It's fair to say that apart from Archie in Miss Kahele's Crazy on You, her male characters tend to be super rich, super good looking....something I can't relate to all that well! But Chain, for all his apparent good fortune, seems to be her best characterised male to date, and I for one am pleased to see this progression from the author.

The story it told from Violet's perspective, but also Chain's. This is something I am noticing in a lot of stories of late. If they are all as well written as this one, I won't be complaining.

Violet Chain works because the story - a broken heart, finds one to mend it. But this is the tale at its most basic level. It is much more than that, and ends strongly that will have you screaming for more.

Whilst fans of Miss Kahele await a possible third installment of the Mine series, this will do very nicely indeed!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Book Review: Persona by Ceri Bladen

Persona (The Professional Series, #1)

Synopsis: (from the Author): Actor, Daniel Spittle is confident, arrogant and a womaniser… Well, that is what the public see. Only family and Eric, his friend, are allowed to see past this public persona. 

Journalist, Ella Hender is confident and slightly aloof… A professional mask that she uses to hide her feelings of inadequacy. With her personal life in a mess, she struggles with her growing feelings for Daniel. 

When they are forced together through work, the attraction is instant, but fraught with complications. But, there is someone else who is hiding their real personality behind a persona. And this person has the ability to destroy….

Review:  Persona could be viewed as a light read for a Sunday afternoon, and in many ways, it's easy to see why. The story centres around Daniel, who is a model, an actor, a celebrity - and the object of many a woman's affections. Not all of these affections are well meaning, and as the story develops, some of these ladies mean to hurt Daniel and the one he really cares for, namely Ella.

The story bounces around gently for the first few chapters. If you don't stick with it, you'll miss a surprising and very welcome change about a third into the book, where things take a rather sinister and nasty turn. You kind of expect one person to upset the nice future Daniel and Ella appear to have for themselves, only for something completely unexpected to happen.

From there until the end, the story turns from light romance to a rather taut and smart thriller. The kind of I would have seen Ashley Judd in one of the roles.

Persona is made great because of a key thing - the STORY. The characters in the early stages didn't add quite enough to it for me, but as the story grew, my interest in one character - Eric - grew too - for me, he was the best in the entire story.

The amount of newspaper column inches, magazines, not to mention the internet coverage of certain 'celebs' is a bore for me. Daniel is a 'celeb' of sorts and the rather slippery yet exotic Scarlett does add a lot of weight to this tale. In the end, Persona is worth reading because the author has once again shown her talent for holding the reader's attention. It's arguably better than her other notable work - Isca. But having read both, I suggest you do too.

Highly enjoyable, and definitely recommended.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Book Review: On the Run - The Moriya Chronicles Book One by I-Lanaa Twine

Synopis (from the author)

Isn’t it amazing how in a mere split second, the very essence of who you are can change forever? That in just an instant your entire life can be ripped to shreds? 

One night, three years ago, my mother was torn from us. Gone, without a trace. And just like that, nothing was ever the same.

Thrust into a world of darkness and danger, my father and I were forced to flee a past that haunted us and the beasts that hunted us.

As the black walls of despair closed all around me, I felt eternally lost... 

Until I found him. And he helped me find myself. 

Derrick Harris was a beacon of the purest light, guiding me straight into the warmth of his heart.

But sometimes the past has a way of finding you. Lies have a way of catching up to you. And secrets never seem to stay secret for very long.

Now all that I hold dear is at stake, and I must fight to survive, or my entire world will crumble before my eyes. 

I am on the run…

I love any book that starts with an extended prologue. It tells us, without showing us too much - where the story might go. On The Run completely changed my view of prologues - truly it revealed itself to be far deeper than I thought. I ended up re-reading the prologue several times!

When the story begins in earnest we are introduced to Delilah Simpson (super-cool name alert!) and she is being left to school by her father. Clearly there's a lot of growing pains to go through and the author expertly takes us through them from Delilah's point of view.

Even in these early stages, there are hints of the author's wonderful use of words:-

"And while most girls my age were discovering how to embrace who they truly were, I was learning how to mask it."

Each chapter could have been subtitled Secret 1....Secret 2 and so on, because each chapter almost runs like a story on its own reveal bits of the story majestically.

The father-daughter relationship is realistically portrayed and I liked the interplay between the two. The author doesn't shy away from hard hitting scenes between them, and this is to be welcomed. It gives the story extra spice, because if these two cannot work together, what hope for anyone else Delilah runs into?

The subplot of will they / won't they find her mother drives the story, whilst other riveting plot-lines develop.

On the Run is a tremendous achievement, because over its considerable length, I kept on reading. Our story centres around Jade, who is left uncertain of her future when her mother disappears from her life. Her father Keith is a great character. Through his wisecracks and hard father-daughter talk, it's clear he has a heart of gold and will stop at nothing to find Jade's mother.

As someone who knows what it is like to write a long, multi-layered story, and join all the dots together, I felt a special empathy for the author's work. The point-of-view changes are something that readers should enjoy experiencing. Why make it super easy as a read? Surely you want a book that challenges you so you, as the reader, will become actively involved in the story.

The story gets trickier in its complexity when Jade is introduced, so you really do need to pay attention to the plot as it develops. You cannot skip a single page for fear of losing teh thread of the narration, which, whilst easy to read, has a level of complexity all of its own. Readers should welcome this - there's nothing to fear about this style of storytelling, and actually, it is very refreshing to me! On the Run has a stylish swagger about it that I loved. As the story developed, it just got better and better, and during the second half in particular, I thought 'we have a winner here, ladies and gentlemen'.

Like any great fantasy, it has a bit of everything in it - mystery, paranormal, romance, action and much more.

The romantic angle is well done without being angsty. The Interplay between our heroine and Devon / Damion / Derrick...or as he is so called in one first and memorable exchange 'Whatever' I did chuckle.

However, I wanted to see where the story was ultimately going to take me and it is the second half of the book that is truly a treasure and a pleasure to read. By now we are introduced to vampires - which made my ears prick up and my fangs develop. I love vampires - stories well done that is and even when this is kicking off, Miss Twine drops in great lines, such as:-

"Desdemona....was also in a high position of power in the undead aristocracy. Kinda like vampire royalty. The Princess Diana of the underworld."

In summary, this is one of the best fantasies I have read in while, perhaps as good as Lisa Tawgren's Rivers of Time series.

But I think there's more to it. Connect all the dreamlike sequences together and you will enjoy the book just as much as I did.

Final note - look at the cover. The story backs it up too, so get this today.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Book Review: Isca - The Roman Fortress by Ceri Bladen

Isca, by talented author Ceri Bladen, is one of those wonderful tales that sweeps you effortlessly into the world she has created.

That often quoted line 'the devil is in the detail' rings very true here. The world building is impressive. You are left with no illusions with regards to the historical setting. You can literally smell the sand, feel the heat from the sun, and, as befits a story set in Roman times, you are never far from the clashing of swords and severing of heads. And yet, this is not Tunisia, or Rome, or Greece. The story takes place during the Roman's occupation of Britain.

At Isca's heart is a romantic story between Branwen and Marcus. I really loved much of the dialogue between these two. The characters were well drawn and the interplay never came across as syrupy. I even thought some of the exchanges were humorous. It's uncertain as to whether this was the author's intention. Lines such as:-


"Yes, it is another land far off."
"Have you been there?"

Marcus shook his head. "No, Italy and here really. I have marched through other countries, but we don't have time to look around because we are off marching again the next day."

I could understand Marcus' frustration. But couldn't help but chuckle at that. If not for all the marching and fighting, Marcus could go sight seeing :)

I have to say I was not a huge fan of those big budget Hollywood films like Ben Hur and so on. But Isca, given a budget and a great director is one film I could see on the big screen.

There is scope to develop this tale still further, but it is complete story in itself. Jump in, you'll love it!

Monday, 24 March 2014

One Month To Go: Stormling - Book One

Kayla Andaris, from Stormling (Book One)

"So what exactly are you?"
"I am a woman."
"That. You. Are. So what do you do for fun?"
"I hunt, and I kill on sight."
"Do you kill everything on sight?" 
"Only the idiots that ask stupid questions."

Hello friends. I've been a bit erratic with my blog posts this year, but you'll forgive me I hope, as I have been writing heavily for Dark Winter 2 and editing the book that titles this post - Stormling.

Stormling is a good old fashioned epic fantasy adventure that I originally drafted in 2012, which seems a long time ago now. I started writing the book in 2011 following the publication of my martial arts book. Nothing like continuity of genres, is there?

Still, Stormling went through several title changes, successive re-drafts, before arriving at the one that is likely to be viewed by the populace from end of April 2014.

Kinta Pel, one of Stormling's anti-heroes
"Excuse me sir, do you know the way to (gulps)....oh, never mind..."

As with any story worth its salt, it has to have original concepts to make it stand out, and a great hook to make you want to read on. I believe I've achieved this with the book, but as any writer knows, it is the readers who tell us what we have written.

Anadyr, one of the heroes in the book, and the main Stormling of the title.
"Thank the stars he's on our side."

This story ranks as the most difficult one I've attempted. When I hear some authors have written a book in less than a calendar month, I really wonder how they did it. I was going to release Dark Winter 2 straight after the first one, but I wanted to give the residents of Gorswood a rest, and anyway, I felt Romilly and her friends had been through quite enough already!

The story has been a difficult one because it straddles both the fantasy realm and also the real world. With the real world setting, the was originally the main driver for the story, but successive re-writes demanded a re-think, and basically, I was able to swap around the real world setting for the fantasy one, and I believe the story is all the better for it.

Doesn't this just go to prove that even if you know your own story like the back of your hand, you need to step back sometimes...for months even....go and do something else, and then come back to it with fresh eyes, new thoughts, and a different perspective.

Andus Rey, ruler of Caldreah Monus and our story's main bad guy.
Four wings and two swords? That's just being greedy. 

I think the fantasy world is something we all love to get lost in, right? Sometimes I love books that really 'speak' to us and hit the emotional chords. But other times, you just want something totally different, and I really enjoyed creating this world. I don't think I had any grey hairs before but I certainly do now :)

Corianna, Lady Elf and landlady of The Faeries Wings Public House
The Angelic Warrior who clipped her own wings to run a pub! 

Stormling is populated with angels, warriors, immortals, faeries, sorcerers and sorceresses....all the elements I loved in books and video games when I was growing up (I'm still growing up I think).

All the same, the cover, when it is revealed first on **someone's very fantastic blog**, will show the fantasy elements of what is to come, but have a very strong focus on the real world.

Over the course of a 100,000 word book, some memorable quotes have to come out. I've posted just a few on GoodReads to give you an idea of the book without giving any of the plot line away.

Faeries are just awesome, aren't they?

So. Keep a look out for the book. And if by some happy chance you get yourself a copy, please let me know what you think!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Currently Reading: Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

I know, I know!  It seems like I've been mired in romance novels for a while, but historical romances really are something else, and worth a dime (or more) of anyone's time.

This book was hotly recommended to me by two authors I follow, and it's great to read novels in a historical context, because it's something I wish to learn and be good at.

From the GR seems an excellent read and just the kind of thing I would like:-

"When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother is easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton."

Wouldn't we love to have that problem? Anyway, my main problem is, it is nearly 1am in the morning and I am still reading this!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Currently Reading: A Ravishing Redhead (Wedded Women, 2) by Jillian Eaton

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. The author has a very lively writing style, and the characters are believable and well thought out.

The story revolves around Margaret (who detests being called by her title of Lady Winter, though in a very funny exchange her butler faux pas by calling her it aanyway) and Henry, her husband of rather questionable morals.

Spoiler: Henry knows that it is he who has made the Winter household a shambles. Genetics might enter into it, but at some point you have to accept that you make your own mistakes.

Margaret, for her part, does her best to keep the house going, and it's clear that whilst they didn't marry for love, there is a fondness between them.

You might think this is the kind of soppy romance that would turn some people off. I actually think it avoids that by having strong characters with a well thought out plot. If it ends the way I think it will, fine. But that's okay.

This is number two in a series. I've started on this one, because I had a former girlfriend who was a redhead. That may not be a great reason, but it's reason enough for me.