All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Trouble With Lucy – L.J. Young

Trouble With LucyThe Trouble With Lucy
L.J. Young
Destiny Romance
2012, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Lucy Lockhart couldn’t be more out of her comfort zone. She has a hectic job in the city, designer clothes and shoes, a hectic social life and an IT-whiz of a boyfriend named Zip. When she suffers some sort of epileptic fit at work, her doctor recommends that she not be alone for at least two weeks. She also cannot drive and most of her friends have other commitments or their tiny studio flats don’t allow for guests. So Lucy has to pack up and go and stay with her parents in a small country town to recuperate and hopefully get through the two weeks without another incident before she can return to her busy life.

Lucy is not equipped for country living it seems and when her friend bogs Lucy’s car, they are lucky when Tom McGregor happens by and assists them. Watching Lucy, Tom can tell she’s not for this life – her impractical stiletto heels and designer label clothes don’t fit in with utes, jeans and boots. Lucy reminds him of another city girl he once knew, a memory that it doesn’t do him any good to revisit.

Lucy settles in with obvious reluctance – her parents don’t even own a computer, much less have the internet so that she can check her emails. Even though she’s on leave she’s still supposed to be working and then of course there’s Zip, who has just zipped himself off to the Big Apple with a big promotion. Lucy keeps reassuring herself that he’s a jolly good boyfriend, even if they have been going out for over a year with no real progression at all in the relationship and the fact that Zip has been mysteriously incommunicado since he left the country. There’s also Tom McGregor lurking around the local area – he and Lucy keep crossing paths and Lucy feels the shivers of attraction every single time. But she has Zip (jolly good boyfriend that he is) and it seems that Tom is promised to a local girl, someone who isn’t too silly to bog her car in the mud.

Despite the interest, Tom and Lucy could never work out…after all, Lucy is a city girl through and through….and Tom is blissfully happy here in the country. It’s best that Lucy just get back to her old life.

The Trouble With Lucy was one of the November Destiny Romance titles that I received along with Her Italian Aristocrat. This one is a rural romance, with our main character Lucy being an espresso drinking, stiletto heel wearing bona fide city girl who is none too impressed about being exiled deep into the quiet country for a couple of weeks. She’s horrified by the mud, the fertiliser, the fact that her parents have a chook that comes inside and a pig that sticks its head into the kitchen as well. There’s nothing to do, no where to get a decent coffee (the local cafe serves instant) and the internet is only available at the local library and incurs a charge. It’s a far cry from the busy and hectic life Lucy is used to.

However the country slowly begins to grow on Lucy. She helps deliver a calf, an experience that leaves her amazed and in awe of nature and of course there’s local Tom McGregor who seems to be lurking around every corner, all handsome and country charm. Lucy’s feeling the neglect of her boyfriend Zip and she can’t help but wonder what it might be like to be Tom’s girlfriend instead. She’s sure he wouldn’t leave her for another country, especially when she’s had her fit.

The Trouble With Lucy is a novel of self-discovery. Lucy seems very young when she arrives in town, concerned with her six hundred dollar shoes and her fancy coffee. She’s only there a few weeks, but it seems like her time in the country teaches her what’s important and that life is for living, not to spend working all the hours in a day in a job that she doesn’t even really like or is appreciated at. Likewise she sees that her relationship with Zip is sorely lacking – they have little in common and there’s nothing to tie them together once he’s left the country. In Tom, she sees the sort of relationship that she thinks she could have, the one that she wants, but both of them it seems, have things to overcome before they can be together, most of all the fact that one of them lives in the bustling city and the other loves the quiet life deep in the country. Lucy does undergo some rapid growth in a short amount of time and I did enjoy that. I’d have liked a little more time spent on the development of her relationship with Tom. They had several interactions but there wasn’t quite enough spice for me! Fans of sweet romances where the action is kept behind a closed door will appreciate this though! It’s a nice story though and it fits in very well with the popular wave of rural fiction.

7/10

Book #284 of 2012

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Rough Diamond – Kathryn Ledson

Rough DiamondRough Diamond
Kathryn Ledson
Penguin AU
2012, 376p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Erica Jewell is a little down on her luck. Her husband walked out on her, leaving her for a blonde bimbo in a sports car. He did sign over his half of the house to Erica but in return for that she had to take responsibility for his gambling debt, which is large. Erica obsesses over her bills, forever calculating how much money is coming in compared to how much money is going out. It’s a struggle for her, a big struggle and she’s only just keeping her head above water.

Her bad fortune seems to continue when she arrives home one night and finds a man bleeding of a gunshot wound in her front garden. He begs her not to call the police and despite the fact that they seem to be everywhere circling the block, Erica decides not to. Instead she phones her friend who is a nurse and together they tend to the mysterious man, calling a number he provides for them. Later they are given instructions where to leave him and they comply. Erica assumes she’ll never see him again.

This doesn’t turn out to be the case – Jack, as he calls himself, calls Erica begging a favour and then explains bits and pieces of who he is and what he does, asking for her assistance in a job he has going. He works for a private organisation helping to stop terrorists before their plots can become reality and he needs a little bit of help from Erica. She will be rewarded handsomely for her efforts but it isn’t just the money that drives her to accept. It’s the chance to do something, to shake up her boring and predicatable life that hasn’t been much fun since her ex-husband walked out. And then of course, there’s the benefit of Jack Jones himself. Handsome and charming when he wants to be, he’s also clearly emotionally damaged. Erica finds herself liking him, the many sides of him, which could prove more danger than she can handle.

Erica Jewel has been touted as ‘the Australian Stephanie Plum’ and there are some similarities. Erica is probably the same age and she’s had her marriage break down, leaving her struggling with debt. Unlike Stephanie, Erica does have regular employment but both of them possess embarrassing and overbearing families and the propensity to stumble into danger. Oh and they also have good looking and mysterious men hanging around them.

Rough Diamond has some giggle moments and some really interesting ideas but some things did have me raising an eyebrow. Jack works for a private counter-terrorist unit and they consider it their civic duty to take out the terrorists before they can take out the population which seems to run similar to the line of Ranger Manoso’s “legally grey, morally right” line of work in the Stephanie Plum novels. He appears in Erica’s life out of no where, bleeding and almost unconscious in her garden and I think that was the only problem I had with the book. It really was quite a stretch to believe that Erica wouldn’t call the police on the man with the gunshot wound in her Melbourne-suburbs front yard or deliver him to a hospital, who would take it upon themselves to call the police, as is standard for those with gunshot wounds. She’s a woman living alone and the character of Jack is presented dubiously enough to have even a brave woman reluctant to admit him to her home, probably without a bullet wound. It is a tiny bit far fetched to believe that someone would do that. Yes Jack turns out to be super awesome – rich, flirty, handsome and dangerous but in the good way. But when he’s lying bleeding on her front lawn, Erica has no idea who or what he is. Likewise it seems unlikely that Jack, who clearly has skills, would involve someone like Erica in the work they were doing, however innocently it seems at first. Of course Erica draws the attention of a psycho with a grudge against Jack almost right away, which is pretty much why it seems unlikely that anyone would think it a good idea to involve someone so clueless about her own safety.

The plot though, is a really workable idea – a truckload of fertiliser (the type used to making bombs) is stolen and the race is on for Jack’s team to stop the terrorists before they put into action their plan to target Australian icons for mass casualty rates. I enjoyed that part, it made me wonder just how much is done to ward off any likely attacks (even if there are any likely attacks) and also made me give thought to how catastrophic such plans could be.

Rough Diamond had some definite positive moments and a strong plot that gave it a good backbone and a very strong protagonist voice in Erica Jewel. I did enjoy the way in which she threw herself into things, whether it be for her day job or for her new found work with Jack and the way in which she was able to fit in, despite not being trained for or knowing much about this sort of work. I particularly liked her burgeoning friendship with Jack’s offsider, which provided quite a nice touch.

I’m curious to see where Ledson takes Erica and her involvement with Jack and the Team down the track in these novels. I do think they have the potential to be a fabulously action packed series with a bit of mystery and maybe some romance and plenty of humour. It’s the type of series that would have broad appeal although hopefully the author will embrace plot and character development and not restrict each book in the series to a similar format.

7/10

Book #280 of 2012

Thanks to the publisher, Penguin AU I had the chance to ask Kathryn Ledson a few questions.

Kathryn Ledson Headshot

1). Hi Kathryn, welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. You worked in the corporate arena for 25 years and then left to tour with bands like Dire Straits and AC/DC as a PA. How does someone go from that to writing a novel? Or did you always write, even while you were working in other careers? Can you share a little about how you came to be published?

I’d never really felt comfortable in my role as a PA, no matter what industry I was working in. When I was retrenched from my last corporate role in 2005, I jumped on that opportunity to do something different. Writing – editing really – had always been a part of what I did, very much so (my husband likes to remind me that when we first met, I was PA to his boss at Wesley Mission. Paul used to deliver his monthly report to my desk and I’d send it back, covered in red pen). But even with strong writing skills, when I did the Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing it didn’t occur to me that I’d one day write a novel. I took mostly non-fiction subjects – journalism and corporate writing – assuming that’s what I’d do.

But Erica Jewell came to me and I felt I had no choice. This character was shouting in my head for me to give her a life. I saw the opening scene of my novel and away I went. That scene has never really changed from day one. Day one being the day after my diploma course ended in November 2008. In February 2011, I sent an email to Belinda Byrne at Penguin asking if she was interested in looking at my novel. ‘Yes please!’ she said. Almost two years later, Rough Diamond is on the shelves. (Sitting here shaking my head in disbelief about that – still!) Mind you – there were rejections before then. Actually, not rejections, just silence from other publishers. I did get to first base in the Hachette Manuscript Development program, but no further.

2). Are you the sort of writer that meticulously maps out your plot and characters? Or do you like to sit down and just ‘wing it’ and see where the book takes you?

Well, because I had NO idea what I was doing when I started writing Rough Diamond, it all just poured out of me. There were reams of romantic scenes between Jack and Erica. It was almost like I had to get it out of my system so that I could get on with writing the actual story. But in the end, there was very little plot. I understand now why other publishers wouldn’t take my manuscript. It was a structural mess. But Belinda loved the voice of Erica, and took a chance that I’d be able to produce the goods. She reckons I have – thanks to her brilliant coaching – and I’m SO delighted with the result.

This current novel – Emerald Island – well, I’m a bit more hesitant about just rushing in there, and I’m doing much more planning. It’s different this time. There’s a contract and an expectant audience and I understand why Book Two can be such a challenge for a writer. I’ll eventually hand it over to Belinda, confident that it’s in much better shape than Rough Diamond was at the same stage. (Confident because I have an angel in the wings in the form of author, mentor, plotting and structure genius, Sydney Smith, whispering in my ear.)

3). Do you have a writing routine? (Do you try and write at set times each day or just when the mood takes you.) Do you have a particular place you like to write, such as a study, or perhaps a café and do you have certain favourite snacks that keep you fueled up?

Hmm. I think I’ve rejected my former life so thoroughly, all my PA skills (apart from touch-typing, thank God) seem to have vanished. I’ve become a terrible time manager. So easily distracted by Facebook, emails, the pretty parrots outside in the bird bath. I seem to need complete silence and visual stillness to be able to write my novel, and nothing else that needs doing (otherwise those things poke at me and I can’t concentrate).

I love writing at the dining table so I can be part of what’s happening around me. I don’t like being locked away, missing out on things (pretty parrots, etc). You can see why there’s a problem.

Yes, eating is very important as another form of distraction. “I’ll just make a cuppa and have that chocolate and then I’ll write the next bit.” A lot of chocolate gets eaten.

So, in an ideal world – if self-discipline and time management skills were things I possessed – this is what I’d do. I’d get up at 6, walk the dog, do some pilates, eat a healthy breakfast, write until 5, organise dinner, spend the evening doing Facebook, emails and the like. But my days are never, ever like that (big sigh) however I’m lucky in one thing. I’m very productive under pressure, and there’s no greater pressure in this business than a looming deadline.

4). Rough Diamond is quite a funny novel but it also contains a very serious issue, that of terrorism. Did you find it hard to balance out the seriousness that threat deserved with the lighter, more humorous moments?

I guess I chose terrorism because I wanted really awful baddies, and for me, terrorists are the pits. I mean, they don’t care who they hurt, they have no fear of death, and that’s pretty scary. How do you stop a bloke who’s about to blow something up? “Stop or I’ll shoot!” This doesn’t work with terrorists – they just go ahead and blow up the thing, taking themselves out at the same time.

The humour’s something I can’t help. There’s nothing deliberate about it really – the balancing act between the seriousness and the humour. It’s what comes out of me. Remember that scene from the second Bridget Jones, when she was singing Madonna songs with the prostitutes in the Thai jail? I mean, really. But how funny! That’s not something a writer plans – I reckon Helen Fielding would have been as surprised and delighted as her readers when that scene came to her.

5). Australia isn’t perhaps a very likely target when thinking about terrorists (or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking on my part!). How did you decide what to choose to be a focus for an attack? Did you ever think about setting the novel elsewhere or was Melbourne always your first choice?

It was always going to be Melbourne because it’s what I know. Personally, I enjoy reading about exotic, mysterious places (I love reading fantasy for this reason), so I was surprised and delighted with so much positive feedback about the Melbourne setting. Readers seem to love travelling to familiar places with Erica.

I guess the Sydney Opera House was an obvious choice for a target, and I think I chose the Melbourne Cup because it was happening around the time I was writing that scene. But I don’t think all the books in this series will be about terrorism. They’ll probably be about unlikely things. And ridiculous and outrageous things. The baddies will be really awful. I also like making my bad guys look stupid for some reason.

6). Did you always plan for this to be the first in a series or did you realise while writing it that there were still more stories to tell about Erica?

As I was writing the final scene of Rough Diamond, I knew I wasn’t ready to finish it. I wanted much more of Jack and Erica. I hope there’ll be at least four or five in the series and Penguin felt it was made for a series. I do have ideas for the next couple and I’m SO excited about Book Three, I’m absolutely busting to get to it. While Emerald Island sends Erica on a very scary, very exciting foreign journey, Book Three will see her back home, involved in one of Melbourne’s iconic annual events.

7). Do you have a favourite author or novel? Who inspires you?

I have a couple of favourite crime novelists but they don’t really inspire my own work. I’m not sure about that – where the inspiration comes from. I certainly learn things from other writers but my voice, the voice of Erica, is just what comes. I’ve learned structural and plotting tricks, writing techniques and the like from other writers and teachers, but not the voice. The story lines come out of conversations with friends and there’s usually wine involved. “I think Jack should go undercover at the ballet.” Yes, I think he’d look pretty hot in a pair of ballet tights! Who knows? There might be a ballet-dancing bad guy in Book 4!

8). And lastly, what’s next for you?

Have a party for Rough Diamond, finish writing Emerald Island, start plotting No. 3 (which I reckon will have a sapphire in it) and go to America on a holiday. I’ve never been – very exciting!

+++

Thank you so much Kathryn (and Penguin AU!) and good luck with Erica and her future adventures.

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Peter Pan – Jessica Owers

Peter PanPeter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor
Jessica Owers
Random House AU
2011, 479p
Read from my TBR pile

Australia has always been quick to fall in love with a racing icon. From the very early days of Carbine to the mighty Phar Lap, to Bernborough, Tulloch and Dulcify. The eighties roared in with the beautiful Kingston Town and went out with the likes of Super Impose and Better Loosen Up. The mid nineties brought us the quartet of Octagonal, Saintly, Filante and Nothin’ Leica Dane. Might And Power kept the seat warm for Sunline and Makybe Diva and most recently the brilliance of the unbeaten Black Caviar has captivated the nation.

With the news that Phar Lap had died overseas in 1932, the country was plunged into mourning. The big red horse had scored himself a legion of fans with his brave victories, often lumping large weights. Because of the might of Phar Lap, his legacy has lived on with many of this generation still admiring the great horse. Unfortunately, the legend of Peter Pan has faded away somewhat, out of the limelight and Jessica Owers has sought to rectify this with her first novel, devoted to bring the story of the flashy chestnut with the unusual flaxen mane and tail roaring back to front and centre stage.

Peter Pan was almost never born – his breeding was entirely an accident and but for his stunning looks, he might have been sold as a yearling by his owner. There was something about the striking colt that led Rodney Rouse Dangar to hang onto him and it would be one of the greatest decisions he ever made. He didn’t know it yet, but with Peter Pan he was going to fulfill many a dream of his: to breed a champion, to win some of the most prestigious races in the land and to add to his trophy cabinet the scalps that meant something. As a wealthy man, Dangar wasn’t out to race Peter Pan for the prizemoney, which thanks to the Depression, was not what it had been. When it became apparent that he had something special, he focused on a goal each preparation. How the horse got there was left to the capable hands of his trainer, Frank McGrath.

From 1932-1936, Peter Pan raced 39 times for 23 wins, 6 seconds, 1 third and 9 unplaced races. His greatest achievements included not one, but two Melbourne Cups, the AJC Derby (at his fourth start), two Melbourne Stakes (now known as the Mackinnon Stakes, one of the primary preparation races for the Melbourne Cup), the AJC St Leger, 2 AJC Cumberland Plates and a variety of other black type races. His preparations were often interrupted by a niggling recurring injury in one shoulder and his racing manners often left something to be desired. But when Peter Pan was right, he was virtually unbeatable. His £34,240 prizemoney, mostly collected at a time when prizemoney was low, would equate to well over $10 million in current times, probably closer to 15. He had an amazing turn of foot and could break a great horse’s heart.

Despite the horse’s brilliance, he was often much maligned in the press. It seems that Peter Pan had come too soon after the country lost the great Phar Lap and everyone wanted to assure themselves that he wasn’t as good, that he couldn’t be as good. Over time, Peter Pan’s star slowly faded from the mind’s of most people and some don’t know much about him at all. Owers’ book aims to set right the idea that Peter Pan was never as good – in fact, it could be argued that he was better….

I bought my father a copy of this book for Christmas last year because I have always known that he was an avid Peter Pan fan and one of those who believe that he was a better horse than Phar Lap. His two Melbourne Cups cannot be ignored by his die hard fans, including one that was run on the wettest track ever and during which the horse lumped 9st 11lb, which would equate to around 62kg on the current scale. He could’ve won a third one but was weighted right out of it with a whopping 10st 6lb which would be 66.2kg. When Dad finished, he raved about it – and this was from a man who might read maybe one book every 2 years. Peter Pan also missed a spring carnival so for some, it’s also a case of what could’ve been for this horse, had he not suffered from his mysterious injury.

Meticulously researched, Peter Pan takes the reader through the unusual way in which he came into the world and from then on through every race start. It’s amazingly detailed, each race lovingly described without the benefit of easy-to-access race replays like in this day and age. You can get a sense of the excitement, the atmosphere that is so prevalent on a racetrack when a champion steps out. This has clearly been a labour of love, it took five years out of the author’s life and the polished finished copy shows just how much time and effort has been spent on constructing it. The characters come to life – the gentleman owner, the astute trainer, the various jockeys and Peter Pan’s devoted strapper.

I’m a little biased, because I’ve been around the racing industry for a long time, even though I am not directly involved. My father is a former bookmaker who spent a lot of time at the tracks – in the late 80s he was privileged enough to see a horse belonging to one of his friends run 2nd in the WS Cox Plate and back it up with a win in the Victoria Derby. In high school my best friend was the daughter of the local top trainer and I spent many an hour at their stables, getting to know the various racers like they were my own. And it is the industry in which my husband makes our living, albeit a different code now, having moved on from his horse racing days some years ago. It’s something I have a soft spot for, the excitement and the passion that envelops its participants. And on Melbourne Cup Day, and other special days around the nation, everyone is a part of it. The sport has its detractors, and probably always will. But it’s an integral part of the Australian landscape, both culturally and financially and it’s virtually impossible to imagine a world without horse racing in it.

Peter Pan is definitely a must-read for the avid racing fan.

9/10

Book #282 of 2012

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The Girl In The Hard Hat – Loretta Hill

Girl In Hard HatThe Girl In The Hard Hat
Loretta Hill
Random House AU
2013, 368p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Wendy Hopkins has arrived in the Pilbarra on a secret mission. She’s searching for her real father after a simple query into obtaining a copy of her birth certificate led her to discover that she possessed two – the first one which listed her father as unknown and the second one after the man she always believed was her father adopted her when she was just a toddler. Wendy has always wondered why her father had looked at her in that broken-hearted way, almost like he couldn’t bear to, from the time she was around six years old. She was shunted off to boarding school not long after and her relationship with both of her parents has never been tight. Her mother was reluctant to give her any information when Wendy confronted her about the birth certificates but finally she admitted several things: her father’s name was Hector, he worked in mining/engineering and had been in the Pilbarra. So Wendy decided that she would track him down. She had to know who she really was.

Things do not get off to a good start when it’s revealed that her Uncle Mike, a bit of the family black sheep, blackmailed Dan Hullog into giving her a job. Dan no longer has the job for her because the person he was protecting doesn’t need it anymore but he has arranged for Wendy to work for Barnes Inc, the company constructing the iron ore wharf. As the new Safety Manager, Wendy isn’t exactly the most popular person in the company, especially as she arrives wearing an enemy uniform. No one is particularly open to her suggestions either, especially the man she’s working with who is clearly not up to coping with the rigorous demands of enforcing safety on such a big site. Wendy, as one of only five women and some 350 men in the camp is subjected to a gentle hazing from most of the men and made the butt of most of their jokes. Notorious womaniser Gavin Jones is one of the main culprits but there are times that Wendy catches a glimpse of a very different Gavin before he slams the door.

Gavin can’t afford to get involved with anyone, tempting as Wendy herself may be. He’s a casual kind of guy, a love them and leave them type. He’s been moving around for far too long now, looking over his shoulder and always wondering. To get close to someone would be to put them in danger so Gavin keeps it casual. Wendy doesn’t do casual though. She wants to know what Gavin is hiding. Danger is coming to the Pilbarra and it’s going to take all of Wendy’s planning and execution of safety plans to keep the entire camp safe. And she might just get the answers she’s been so desperately seeking as well.

The Girl In The Hard Hat is the follow up book to The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots which was probably one of my Top 10 reads of 2012. I was delighted when I found out Loretta Hill was writing another book set around the construction of the Iron Ore wharf in the Pilbarra, focusing on a new couple but still including all of the well-known characters from the first book. They’re all back – Carl, who still cannot stop swearing, Sharon the bus driver, the boys down at the wharf. And if you’re curious about Lena and Dan then be happy because they’re here too and their story continues along with this one in a very satisfactory sort of way. But the spotlight is on Wendy Hopkins and Gavin Jones and it’s quite the ride.

It’s hard not to feel for Wendy right away as she recounts her relatively lonely childhood, discovery that the man she thought was her father isn’t and her mother’s reluctance to even give her the answers she needs. Armed with what little information she did have, she trekked all the way to the Pilbarra only to be told that the job wasn’t actually a real one but Dan had set her up in another one. She faces hostility and ribbing that ranges from the gentle, good-natured type to the more serious. Her accommodations are less than satisfactory but Wendy doesn’t let this get her down. She has a goal and it seems like nothing the Pilbarra can throw at her will dissuade her from that goal. Even Gavin Jones. Gavin is handsome, charming, flirtatious and with the reputation of being quite the womaniser. Wendy knows she should stay away from him but she can’t help but be drawn to the deeper side of Gavin

This book is rife with the same humour and charm that made me fall in love with the first one and it easily leapfrogs sophomore book syndrome. Despite the fact that Lena and Wendy might seem similar at first glance, Hill keeps them starkly very different and the same with the two male love interests. Gavin Jones is very different and the way in which the attraction between him and Wendy unfolds is different as well. The chemistry between them was electric but it was also a bit of a slow burn – there were so many obstacles getting in the way of them, especially Gavin’s reluctance to attach himself to anyone and potentially put them in danger. His protectiveness of Wendy was sweet, at odds with most of the way he behaved. His life had been spent looking over his shoulder for a few years and it had taken a bit of a toll on him. He hated seeing people waste their lives and opportunities.

This is the sort of book that I would recommend to everyone I know, especially if they liked The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots. And if you haven’t read that one then… you definitely need to!

9/10

Book #258 of 2012

This review is part of The Girl In The Hard Hat blog tour. Please check out MrsMichelleS’s review before me and don’t forget to head over to Marg at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader tomorrow to see what she thought!

AUTHOR+PHOTO

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Wrapping Up…. The Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2012

awwc20121This year I participated in the first Australian Women Writers Challenge. Although I always read quite a lot of Australian women authors, due to a lot of the books I like to read, I had no idea just how much I would throw myself into this challenge! At the beginning of the year I think I signed up to read and review about 12 books by Australian women authors. I was so amazed at the way in which this challenge was embraced and promoted by bloggers and tweeters and especially by Elizabeth Lhuede, who has worked tirelessly all year to promote this challenge and the many wonderful authors we have.

I thought I’d do a wrap up of the books I completed for this challenge and have a little look at the most prevalent genres I read this year. It might help me next year to work on areas that I didn’t really devote as much time to this year. So here we go!

  1. The Hypnotist’s Love Story, by Liane Moriarty
  2. Raw Blueby Kirsty Eagar
  3. Liar Birdby Lisa Walker
  4. The Girl In Steel-Capped Bootsby Loretta Hill
  5. Stella Makes Goodby Lisa Heidke
  6. Bella’s Runby Margareta Osborn (includes author interview)
  7. Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta (rated 10/10!)
  8. The Piper’s Sonby Melina Marchetta
  9. Free-Falling, by Nicola Moriarty (includes author interview)
  10. Under Southern Skiesby Anne McCullagh Rennie
  11. On The Jellicoe Roadby Melina Marchetta
  12. The Mistakeby Wendy James
  13. Wings Of Fearby Helene Young
  14. Shattered Skyby Helene Young
  15. Love And Romanpunkby Tansy Rayner Roberts
  16. Bitter Greensby Kate Forsyth
  17. The Lavender Keeperby Fiona McIntosh
  18. Night Beachby Kirsty Eagar
  19. Sweet Old World, by Deborah Robertson
  20. After The Darknessby Honey Brown
  21. The Road Homeby Fiona Palmer
  22. Lionessby Katherine Scholes
  23. Dead Heatby Bronwyn Parry
  24. The Mothers’ Group, by Fiona Higgins (rated 10/10)
  25. Heart Of The Valleyby Cathryn Hein
  26. Mary Bennetby Jennifer Paynter
  27. I’ll Tell You Mineby Pip Harry
  28. The Industryby Rose Foster
  29. The Brotherhoodby Y.A. Erskine
  30. Franticby Katherine Howell
  31. Disharmonyby Leah Giarratano
  32. Hot Island Nightsby Sarah Mayberry
  33. Her Best Worst Mistakeby Sarah Mayberry
  34. Morgan’s Lawby Karly Lane
  35. Showtimeby Narelle Harris
  36. My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson (Discussion – Parts One, Two and Three)
  37. Divine Clementineby Hayley S. Kirk
  38. Jiltedby Rachael Johns
  39. Black Juiceby Margo Lanagan
  40. Burning Liesby Helene Young
  41. Brumby’s Run, by Jennifer Scoullar
  42. Red Queenby H.M Brown
  43. Obernewtynby Isobelle Carmody
  44. Waratah Houseby Ann Whitehead (halfway point of the year)
  45. Zoe’s Musterby Barbara Hannay
  46. The Boy Under The Tableby Nicole Trope
  47. The Farseekersby Isobelle Carmody
  48. All That I Amby Anna Funder
  49. Promisesby Cathryn Hein
  50. Within Reachby Sarah Mayberry
  51. Foal’s Breadby Gillian Mears
  52. Entitlement, by Jessica White
  53. A Duchess To Rememberby Christina Brooke
  54. The Engagementby Chloe Hooper
  55. Ashlingby Isobelle Carmody
  56. A Child’s Book Of True Crimeby Chloe Hooper
  57. The Wedding Seasonby Su Dharmapala
  58. Taming The Beastby Emily Maguire
  59. Mr Chen’s Emporiumby Deborah O’Brien (includes author interview)
  60. Finnikin Of The Rockby Melina Marchetta
  61. The Burialby Courtney Collins
  62. Darkness On The Edge Of Townby Jessie Cole
  63. The Keeping Placeby Isobelle Carmody
  64. Froi Of The Exilesby Melina Marchetta
  65. Quintana Of Charynby Melina Marchetta
  66. Lola Benskyby Lily Brett
  67. The Stone Keyby Isobelle Carmody
  68. The House Of Memoriesby Monica McInerney (Rated 10/10)
  69. Maralinga, by Judy Nunn
  70. Fishing For Tigersby Emily Maguire
  71. Sincerely: Women Of Letterscreated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire
  72. The Gospel According To Lukeby Emily Maguire
  73. No Sex In The Cityby Randa Abdel-Fattah
  74. Losing Itby Julia Lawrinson
  75. Sisters Of Mercyby Caroline Overington
  76. Friday Brownby Vikki Wakefield
  77. Chains Of Revengeby Keziah Hill
  78. Good Oilby Laura Buzo
  79. The Secret Keeperby Kate Morton
  80. Bella’s Impossible Bossby Michelle Douglas
  81. The Island Houseby Posie Graeme-Evans
  82. Holier Than Thouby Laura Buzo
  83. Queen Of The Roadby Tricia Stringer
  84. In Safe Handsby Lee Christine
  85. Scared Yet?by Jaye Ford
  86. Her Italian Aristocrat, by Louise Reynolds (includes author interview)
  87. The Danger Gameby Caitlyn Nicholas
  88. Stand-In Starby Rachael Johns
  89. Drawing Closer, by Jenny Schwartz
  90. A Bush Christmasby Margareta Osborn
  91. The One That Got Awayby Kelly Hunter
  92. The Girl In The Hard Hat, by Loretta Hill
  93. The Winter Wifeby Anna Campbell
  94. Rough Diamond, by Kathryn Ledson
  95. Seven Nights In A Rogue’s Bedby Anna Campbell
  96. Peter Pan, by Jessica Owers
  97. The Trouble With Lucy, by L.J Young
  98. A Convenient Bridegroomby Helen Bianchin
  99. North Star, by Karly Lane
  100. The Reluctant Marquess, by Maggi Andersen

Yay, 100 titles! When I started the challenge, I never could have imagined I’d read this many. I’ll be taking part in the challenge again next year but I’m going to look for a way to perhaps combine it with another challenge. This year my aim was just to read as many titles as I could from as wide a variety of genres that I could and I think I’ve succeeded pretty well in that. I read a lot of contemporary fiction and a lot of YA, so those titles are very strongly represented in my final tally so next year I’m interested in doing something to raise up the types of books I don’t really read that often. I’ll have to have a bit of a think (although I’ll have to figure something out quickly!)

For fun, here are my Top 10 Books by AusWomenWriters that were released in 2012!

  1. The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots, by Loretta Hill
  2. Free-Falling, by Nicola Moriarty
  3. The Mistake, by Wendy James
  4. Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth
  5. The Mothers’ Group, by Fiona Higgins
  6. Burning Lies, by Helene Young
  7. The House Of Memories, by Monica McInerney
  8. Quintana Of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta
  9. Friday Brown, by Vikki Wakefield
  10. Sisters of Mercy, by Caroline Overington

Honourable mentions (published in any year) go to: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar, everything else I read by Melina Marchetta, After The Darkness by Honey Brown, Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry, The Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Hein, The Brotherhood by Y.A Erskine, My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson, The Boy Under The Table by Nicole Trope, Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears, Jilted by Rachael Johns, everything I read by Emily Maguire, Good Oil and Holier Than Thou by Lisa Buzo, In Safe Hands by Lee Christine and Seven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed, by Anna Campbell.

That’s a lot of books but….I read a LOT of fabulous books in 2012 by Australian Women Writers!

Thanks to everyone that dropped by to read, like or comment on my reviews! Hope to see you all in 2013.

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A Convenient Bridegroom – Helen Bianchin

Convenient BridegroomA Convenient Bridegroom
Helen Bianchin
Harlequin Presents
1999, 192p
Read from my Nan’s stash

Aysha is only two weeks away from her wedding to Carlo Santangelo. It’s something of a marriage of convenience – her family and Carlo’s have been friends for many, many years and socialise often. Carlo has been married before but lost his wife only weeks after the wedding in a car accident. Aysha, some decade or so younger than Carlo, has watched him casually date a bevy of women before their engagement which will seek to cement the two families even further and provide the next generation.

Aysha is beginning to find it difficult to maintain the light, casual façade she wears around Carlo as the wedding draws nearer. Although Carlo is attentive and thoughtful, Aysha is painfully aware that he doesn’t love her, especially not in the way that she loves him. For him, she believes this to be merely a business arrangement that is mutually beneficial – he gets an attractive, well connected wife to keep his home and bear his children and she gets a handsome, wealthy man to take care of her and provide the home and children and the means to raise them in the best ways Sydney has to offer. Not only can she probably not live up to the ghost of his deceased wife, but someone from their social circle has made it quite clear that she enjoys Carlo’s company and that there are no plans for this arrangement to cease after the marriage.

It’s not often I read anything from the Mills & Boon line anymore – I read a lot of them in my younger days and after a while they do feel all the same. I’ve read Helen Bianchin before, some probably 14 or so years ago now and this one encompasses everything I remember about her books: society weddings based on mutually successful families merging, the female already desperately in love with the male and believing it to not be returned and a bitchy, society type who will stop at nothing in order to secure the hero. There’s a huge amount of detail paid to clothes, hair, make up, Sydney traffic and day-to-day routines such as driving from one suburb to another and dinner plans. I only read this because I realised I was on 97 titles by Australian Women Writers this year and I wanted to make it an even 100 for the year. I needed a few quick reads so I raided my Nan’s stash again to see what she had. I found enough books to definitely meet my requirements and knew I’d get through this one in less than two hours.

Part of the reason I stopped reading Mills & Boon was as I grew up, I began enjoying the heroes less and less. A lot of them, particularly those rooted in Meditteranean heritage are overtly Alpha to the point of bullying the heroine, which always made me inherently frustrated in reading them. Although Carlo was obviously a successful man used to getting what he wanted and he occasionally did order Aysha around, it was more like “Why yes I am taking you to the Gold Coast for a lovely weekend break, go and pack your bag” than “No you cannot do this because I say so and I am male and Italian and therefore women should cook me my pasta and pour me my wine and go to my bed and that’s about it”. He was relatively inoffensive although he was quite slow on the uptake putting Nina, the society woman attempting to make waves in the relationship, in her place. You’d think a smart man like he was supposed to be would’ve nipped that in the bud early, rather than allow her to taunt his fiancee at every social event they were attending (of which there were many).

Like many of these novels, a lot of the issues could’ve been solved with some simple communication. Aysha refused to tell Carlo what was bothering her and then seemed to think the solution was moving to their Clontarf mansion before the wedding, which seemed counter-productive given she believed her husband was keeping a mistress. He wasn’t, obviously, but if he was then she pretty much gave him many free nights to do what he pleased. All in all though, this book was pretty much what I wanted at the time – something quick and not too inflammatory, to pass the time and add to my tally.

6/10

Book #285 of 2012

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Seven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed – Anna Campbell

Seven NightsSeven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed
Anna Campbell
Harper Collins
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Sidonie Forsyth has made the ultimate sacrifice for her sister, who has incurred gambling debts with one of the most notorious scoundrels. When faced with the choice of paying up in money or paying up in his bed, Rebecca went to Sidonie for help. She doesn’t have the money and if she went to the rake’s bed, her abusive husband would kill her. Sidonie never intends to marry so she agrees to go in her sister’s place and spend a night in the bed of Jonas Merrick at Castle Craven.

What Sidonie finds at Castle Craven is not what she expects – Jonas Merrick is scarred and not handsome but he leaves her alone. When she would leave in the morning, he negotiates that she stay for a week. He will spend the week trying to get her into bed and she will spend the week trying to stay out of it. There’s something about the arrogant but yet desperately vulnerable and insecure man that draws her. Even though she knows she carries a secret that could change Jonas’s life, she doesn’t dare voice it. Not yet.

Jonas is used to being a loner. He’s been denigrated as a bastard his entire life, tolerated because he’s extraordinarily rich but not respected. Despite the fact that he has made a sport of bedding many beautiful women, he never forgets the fact that he is scarred so hideously. Sidonie, innocent Sidonie, does not fear looking upon his scar and the seven days he’s going to spend attempting to seduce her into his bed could have a devastating impact on the heart that has been frozen against love and kindness for so long.

When I read Anna Campbell’s Christmas novella The Winter Wife recently, at the end it contained the first chapter of this book, which I devoured. I knew before I’d finished the first page that I had to read the entire thing and soon – so as soon as I had access to my Amazon account, I downloaded a copy to my computer and transferred it to my kindle. Have I mentioned that my parents don’t actually have proper internet? Yes, I’m holidaying in 1997.

The novel starts with Sidonie arriving at the derelict Craven Castle – Jonas Merrick is expecting her sister Rebecca. In order to forget the cruelty of her husband, Sidonie’s sister finds her fun on the gaming tables and she has run up a considerable debt to Jonas Merrick. Jonas has been tortured and wronged by Rebecca’s husband (his cousin) for as long as he can remember and he knows Rebecca can’t pony up to the debt cash-wise. Cuckolding his cousin would give him great satisfaction and pleasure. Unfortunately, Jonas isn’t in possession of all the facts and it’s Rebecca’s sister Sidonie who is shown into the dining room. He couldn’t be more surprised and he’s ready to dismiss her in favour of Rebecca but then he cannot help but be a little interested. Sidonie is somewhat trapped – she doesn’t want to be ruined, even though she has no plans to marry. But she does want to save her sister’s life.

It is a battle of determination and wits, in a way. Jonas wants Sidonie, who interests him more with each passing minute. Jonas also fascinates Sidonie. She isn’t repulsed by his devastating scars, like many women of society. She doesn’t ever plan to marry, because she’s seen the way women are property and she will be no one’s property and beholden to no one. But she does quickly develop a strong attraction to Jonas and with each passing day, it gets harder for her to withstand his seduction, especially the more she learns about him. The love that grows between them is fragile – Jonas is so incredibly flawed. He presents a façade of not caring about his bastardry and the taunting he has received because of it, not to mention the disinheriting. Likewise he seems to care little about the scars that blemish his face, until Sidonie picks up on the devastating vulnerability that drives him to put mirrors everywhere and blindfold all of his lovers in bed. Sidonie wants to show to Jonas, to prove to him, that she doesn’t care. That she loves him regardless, or even because of, the things he has faced in life. However all the while the secret she keeps hangs over them and you just know it’s going to come out at the worst time, when Jonas has finally placed his faith and trust in her! This leads him to question everything, given the already fragile self-confidence Sidonie had managed to weave together for him and Sidonie always knew that once the secret came out, Jonas would be unlikely to forgive her for keeping it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – the rest of it lived up to the high standard set in the first chapter. I do love a deeply flawed hero and Jonas was written so well – his vulnerabilities were beautifully done and it was impossible not to feel for him at many stages in the book. Likewise Sidonie was a well-constructed heroine, although her devotion to her sister did grate on me slightly towards the end of the book, especially the way in which her sister repaid her sometimes.

I am definitely delighted that Anna Campbell has a lovely decent-sized backlist for me to track down and enjoy now and I’m looking forward to the other Sons of Sin books once they are published.

8/10

Book #218 of 2012

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Stand-In Star – Rachael Johns

Stand In StarStand-In Star
Rachael Johns
Carina Press
2012, eBook
Copy courtesy of the author

Holly McCartney is an anthropologist in Australia, far removed from the bright lights and red carpets of Hollywood. Her late sister Daisy was a famous actress and posthumously is up for one of the most prestigious acting awards that there is. Holly and her parents haven’t spoken to Daisy for some years after an incident at Holly’s wedding and to avoid upsetting her parents, Holly finds herself agreeing to travel to America and attend the award ceremony on behalf of the family and accept the award that Daisy is tipped to receive.

What she doesn’t count on is the paparazzi. They lay seige to her the moment she arrives at the airport and it’s only the intervention of Nate Devlin, a friend of Daisy’s that saves Holly. He takes her to the hostel she has booked in to only to find more cameras flashing there. On a whim, Nate takes Holly to his home, one of the few places she will be protected from the journos all looking for a pic and a story.

Nate isn’t sure why he’s so keen to help Holly – after all he’s heard the story of how Holly and her family cut Daisy dead a few years ago and how much she regretted the estrangement. But one look at Holly, who is so different than all the girls he is used to in LA and it seems like Nate can’t help himself. He finds himself offering her a place to stay and introducing her to his sister, a clothes designer so that she can find an appropriate dress for the awards ceremony. Through Nate’s sister, Holly also finds her hair, tanning and make up taken care of, which is helpful as she has no connections in the country and no idea what she’s doing. She needs all the help she can get!

What neither Nate nor Holly counted on was the chemistry between them. Holly has been hurt before and Nate is her sister’s former lover – she doesn’t want to get involved. Plus she’s only in the country for a short amount of time and she’s not the sort for a casual type of fling. Nate has his own issues surrounding commitment and has always made sure the girls he’s tangled with have known the rules – it’s fun only, no long-term. But both of them are going to challenge the other in many ways as they share secrets and passion. Is there anyway that they can get a perfect happy ever after just like in the movies?

This story is kind of like the ultimate fairy tale. Holly arrives in America and is pretty much besieged by paparazzi, all clamouring to get the gossip on her as she is the sister of famous and beloved Hollywood actress, Daisy McCartney, recently deceased in a tragic manner. She is rescued from this scenario by a handsome stranger named Nate Devlin, former paparazzi himself turned portrait and landscape photographer. When circumstances force Holly to stay with Nate during her time in LA, sparks fly. In more ways than one.

Holly has always been the lesser-admired sister, the one that was overshadowed. Despite the fact that she’s different to all the women he’s used to, or perhaps because of it, Nate is wildly attracted to Holly, even though he wants to resent her because of what he has learned of Holly through his association with Daisy. The attraction between them is definitely complicated by the relationships that both of them had with the late Daisy – Holly was betrayed by her in a pretty bad way, one of the worst ways in which a sister can betray another. Nate doesn’t know the full story of what happened to cause the estrangement between Daisy and Holly, just that there was one and that Holly had no interest in repairing it.

Despite his initial antagonism towards Holly, it doesn’t take long for her to crack through the protective shell surrounding Nate. All throughout his life he’s only cultivated very casual relationships, ones where the women know the score and not to expect anymore than friendship and a mutually beneficial roll in the hay. With Holly however, he finds himself confessing things to her, including the truth of his painful childhood and adolescence and the hard work behind his now-privileged lifestyle. In a short time they connect in ways that are real and serious even though Nate doesn’t actually want to recognise that.

I enjoyed this book so much! Holly is such an everyday sort of girl that it’s very easy to put yourself in her place and imagine how she must feel, travelling to a new country under such circumstances and being harassed from the time she arrives. I’d be super grateful for someone like Nate to come and rescue me too! Nate had his moments where he needed a wake up call but as far as heroes go, he was pretty dreamy – handsome, successful, sweet (the way in which he cares about his sister and his family is lovely) but with a touch of vulnerability that leaves him ripe for someone like Holly to soothe. Holly is down to earth and practical, not prone to dramatics and she’s able to help Nate see things the way they really are, not in the guilt-tinged way that he has previously.

Stand-In Star is a read that delivers on so many levels – it’s funny and sweet but also serious, giving a well-written insight into the dysfunctional family relationships of these characters. Both of them have their issues and things they both need to address and work through before they can really give themselves to each other and that process is so fun to read. Definitely a book that most people will want to get through in one sitting.

8/10

Book #273 of 2012

Book #90 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

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The Winter Wife – Anna Campbell

Winter WifeThe Winter Wife
Anna Campbell
Amazon Digital Services
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Sebastian Sinclair, the Earl of Kinvarra and his bride Alicia have been married for eleven years, separated for nearly a decade. Wed at 21 and 17 respectively, the young couple had several misunderstandings early on in their marriage that led to a rather insurmountable distance springing up between them. Alicia gathered all of her courage to leave her handsome, wild husband and he immediately disappeared overseas for some years. In the time since Sebastian’s return, they’ve met briefly in polite society very rarely, exchanging a few words and then going about their separate business.

Now Sebastian has discovered his estranged wife appears about to at last take a lover. He finds her and her hopeful lover in dire circumstances, their carriage having overturned. When the gentleman accompanying Alicia realises who it is that has stumbled across them, he flees, leaving Alicia to Sebastian’s mercy.

Sebastian is older now, and much wiser. He’s full of guilt for the rough and impatient way he treated his shy and nervous young bride all those years ago and although he hasn’t bothered her since she left, he’s not about to sit back and be cuckolded either. When he’s left alone in the snow with Alicia he is determined to do the right thing, unlike he would-be lover and see her to safety.

Sebastian isn’t the only one who has grown up and changed. Alicia too, has changed and faced with this new, mature version of her husband she begins to see her own faults in the breakdown of their marriage. Previously she has always blamed Sebastian and his callous behaviour but now she can see where she went wrong. Trapped in an inn with Sebastian now, Alicia sees a chance for them to, as adults, right where they went wrong years earlier. The passion that has always been there is still there for her, she just needs to test the waters and see if her husband still wants he after she rejected him years ago.

The Winter Wife is a holiday novella from Australian author Anna Campbell that I happened to see another Aussie author Cathryn Hein recommending on twitter. I was looking for cheap holiday reads at the time to put on my kindle for my three week holiday interstate so I snapped it up. This is my first Anna Campbell read but it will definitely not be my last! This novella is short but well rounded and provided me with a fabulous morning read in my hotel room on the one night my husband and I had away from our children, leaving them in the care of my parents for the first time.

Sebastian, the Earl of Kinvarra and Alicia were married through a family arrangement when both of them were very young, Alicia in particular. Both of them were initially very impressed with what they saw but very quickly the situation deteriorated and Alicia ended up leaving her husband, the two of them living apart. Sebastian went overseas on a tour and when he returned they saw each other very occasionally in polite society and did no more than exchange a few words. Unbeknownst to the other, each of them regret their mistakes made during the early days of the marriage, although Sebastian has had longer to regret his actions. Alicia has always steadfastly blamed Sebastian but when she is forced to spend time with him one snowy winter’s night, she begins to realise the role she had in things going wrong. She was immature and unable to talk to him, instead choosing to freeze him out, which to a young, virile and proud man, was possibly the worst thing she could do. Sebastian regrets his impulsiveness and his lack of control, but even now after 10 years apart it seems that he still suffers from the same lack of control – which is why he chooses to sleep in a chair when they are forced to take a room together at an inn.

I do love a good reconciliation story! And this one is so fun – we get both points of view, the focus switching between Sebastian and Alicia, which really works as it helps give the reader a clear understanding of both characters, their mistakes and regrets when the other is not aware. Sebastian has matured enormously and he seems to be the one that suffers the most with guilt and regret – Alicia has mostly been fueled by anger and resentment. It isn’t until she is forced to deal with this Sebastian, rather than the memory of the 21 year old that she married, that her outlook begins to change.

Apparently this is an extended version of a short story that was published in an anthology so if you’re an avid Campbell fan then this may seem very familiar. It also includes the first chapter of Seven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed, which is I think, Campbell’s most recent release, and I read that after finishing this and all I can say is I must have that book now! I am buying it as soon as I can get on to my amazon account!

This was a fun, well constructed story that was perfect for what I was after. It’s short but not without dept and character development and it makes me super excited to read her full-length novels.

8/10

Book #279 of 2012

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The One That Got Away – Kelly Hunter

One That Got AwayThe One That Got Away
Kelly Hunter
Harlequin KISS
2012, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Evie’s life is going rather well at the moment. She and her friend Matt are running a very successful business, she’s bought her own house and they’ve just put in for a big tender. The only problem is they need capital due to the way the contract is structured.

Fortunately, Matt is the heir to quite a substantial fortune. Unfortunately, he either has to get married or wait two more years until he comes into his fifty million dollars. He proposes that he and Evie have a marriage of convenience in order to secure the funds they need to begin the big project, should they be granted the contract. Evie needs some convincing but eventually she sees the merit in the idea – neither of them are attached. Matt has a succession of partners that never last long and Evie can’t forget the one week she spent with a man nearly ten years ago.

When Matt takes her to Melbourne to introduce her to his mother and announce their engagement, a spanner is thrown in the works in the way of Matt’s older half-brother Logan, who just happens to be the man Evie spent that week with all those years ago, when she was going by the name Angie. It was one of the most intense experiences of her life and the hardest thing she ever did was walk away when it got to be too much. She hasn’t seen him since and she had no idea that he was Matt’s brother.

Logan hasn’t been able to forget her either. Angie, now Evie, made him lose control and do things that he didn’t think he’d ever do, things that he’s not very comfortable with. He doesn’t want to be anything like his abusive father but Evie gave him so much and all he could do was keep taking. He can’t face the thought of her being engaged to his brother – he still wants her.

Logan and Evie are both older now and maybe this time around they’ll be able to better deal with the blistering chemistry between them that pushes all their boundaries…. Evie isn’t sure she would survive if it were to fall apart again.

I’ve never read Kelly Hunter before but I do know romance readers who absolutely rave about her books. This is one of the Harlequin KISS titles and I was very much looking forward to reading it and discovering what Hunter was like. I have to say that the cover for this one is fairly terrible. It does not reflect the story at all and it’s pretty misleadng. It looks like some happy, fluffy romance and that’s not exactly what you get. What you get in this novel is quite a lot of personal and familial angst.

Logan is quite the tortured soul. Ten years ago in another country, he and Evie (short for Evangeline, and she was calling herself Angie at the time) had one week of intense passion that culminated in them breaking a table and Angie injuring her head. This triggered some severe warning bells for Logan, who was the product of a dangerous, abusive man. Logan has a temper that he keeps tightly reined in so as not to become that man and he struggled with just how far he went during that week with Angie.

When Logan is confronted with Angie, now Evie again, the old feelings resurface and he cannot support the sham marriage. He still wants Evie and at first he attempts to give Matt the money he needs for the start-up capital if Matt cuts Evie out of the business and it was pleasing to see that Matt was able to resist the dangle of dollars and refuse to cut out his business partner. It was a total douche move and when it didn’t work Logan seemed to basically switch to rekindling things with Evie. They live on opposite sides of the world and it becomes a relationship based on meeting up for crazy, consensual sex whenever Logan can fit a visit to Sydney into his schedule.

There were parts of this novel that I really enjoyed – the friendship between Matt and Evie, the character of Matt and Logan’s mother and her backstory, Evie herself. However there were other things that didn’t really work for me and I think that was the relationship of Evie and Logan. I don’t think the time they spent together 10 years ago was explored in enough detail to warrant such reactions in the present, it left the reader a bit out of the picture. Logan was very intense at times and sometimes it seemed to make sense and others it didn’t. I didn’t really connect with them as a couple trying to make it work and their struggle often seemed unnecessarily dramatic – manufacturing drama that really didn’t need to be there. Everyone is also excessively rich, which made it even more difficult to connect with their struggles.

This is an extraordinarily well written book but the character of Logan and his story just wasn’t something I got really caught up in.

6/10

Book #276 of 2012

 

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