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Tag: romance (page 1 of 2)

Rosalind by Judith Deborah

There’s everyone else in the world. And then there is you.

World-class heart surgeon Dr. Peter Sutter runs his life with the instinctive precision of a master of the universe. But when he leaves the operating room, the only living thing waiting for him is a golden retriever. Then a chance encounter with an enigmatic woman changes everything.

Exploring the depths of Rosalind’s intoxicating body and captivating spirit, Peter quickly falls under her spell. Miraculously, the feeling is mutual.  But fate is waiting just around the corner. And it might be carrying a lead pipe.

Rosalind is a sensual, witty, moving story about the joy of real love, the surprise and delight of unexpected passion, and the transcendent power of human connection.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for this ARC!

ROSALIND is a short, sweet story about emotions and life. The relationship between the main characters is heady and absorbing without being overly saccharine. I enjoyed reading about Peter and Rosalind so much that the ending really shocked me and made me think what I would do if I were in that position. The way the author presented the twist made it so much more anguishing than if she had done a great deal of foreshadowing. The book is so short that there isn’t much room for a lengthy buildup, but that is one of the more endearing qualities of ROSALIND.

The only fault I found with the book, necessary though it was to keep the plot captivating, was the fact that both Peter and Rosalind were two gorgeous, rich people with no care in the world. There were never any money issues, or instances of self-doubt (save in the beginning when Peter looks at himself with a critical eye as Rosalind goes off to the gym). The perfection was almost too perfect. However, perhaps that is what the author intended, to make the ending hit harder. If the characters had other struggles in their life, I may have thought the plot twist was par for the course. However, this could be a way of saying that despite money and looks, you never know what life is going to throw at you.

ROSALIND is a quick read with likeable characters and a thought-provoking ending. You can get your copy here.

 

Heart Conditions by Phoebe Fox

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Running a massively successful relationship counseling practice should guarantee smooth sailing in a girl’s own love life…

Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden has spent the last year sifting through the fallout from the disastrous decision that led to her unconscious uncoupling with boyfriend Ben Garrett. Despite advising her clients you can’t be friends with an ex, she and Ben have somehow begun to stitch together a friendship—one Brook hopes is slowly turning into more. That is, until Ben introduces his new girlfriend, Perfect Pamela, a paragon of womanly virtues who is everything Brook is not.

While Brook navigates her newly volatile emotional life, an unwelcome surprise shows up on her doorstep: the ex-fiancé who broke her heart two years ago—one month before their wedding. Between her ex’s desire to rekindle their attachment, her best friend Sasha’s unexpected crisis, and her own unsquelchable feelings for Ben, Brook finds herself questioning the personal progress she’s made in the last two years—and threatened with the highest-stakes Breakup Doctor failures she’s ever faced.

Thanks to the author, Henery Press and NetGalley for offering me this review copy!

HEART CONDITIONS is the 3rd book in the Breakup Doctor series. Each book can be read as a standalone or in order, so I had no trepidation about reading this one as a single.

The Breakup Doctor is a relationship therapist who is having a hard time taking her own advice when it comes to her ex boyfriends. She still has feelings for one, and the other, who broke her heart, still has feelings for her. So there is a very tame triangle going on here, which should delight chick lit lovers everywhere.

In fact, this book is like a “how to” of chick lit: there is a strong yet vulnerable heroine, plus darkly handsome (and sometimes reticent) ex boyfriends, a best friend with a personal crisis, and drama on the job front. So many things to resolve before the book ends, plus gorgeous descriptions of clothing, clubs, and restaurants!

Brook is a likeable character, quick to solve other’s problems but totally unsure what to do with her personal life. She learns a startling truth about herself in the latter half of the book, thereby creating an explanation for some of her strange antics, such as bringing her pregnant friend to a BDSM club simply to get the pregnant one “more comfortable” dealing with babies. (The club caters to all sorts of BDSM situations, and there were people whose fetish was dressing up as a baby – diaper and all.) There is no explicit sex in the book, which was enjoyable. Some writers feel they have to insert a sex scene here and there to offset the saccharine romance, but if the romance is done right, as in HEART CONDITIONS, you don’t need sweaty gropes and moans.

The romantic tension was spot on, as Brook struggled to cope with her ex and his new girlfriend, who has looks, brains, and poise. Her internal monologues described exactly what every woman has gone through when encountering a still-fresh wound. Brook’s problems are real and eminently solvable, yet the answers don’t come easy. She must do some soul searching to discover what she wants, and most importantly, why.

This book was a pleasant and sometimes funny read. The chemistry between Brook and Sasha was authentic, even if Brook was occasionally not on the same page as her BFF. Almost all the problems were solved by the end of the book, plus new things are on the horizon for our Breakup Doctor that should prove to be interesting. Fans of author Phoebe Fox will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B017WNIUI6″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Next Stop: Nina by Robin Raven

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Nina never was one who felt comfortable in this world. As she struggles to cope with the pain of her present and past, the young girl’s life is changed through the beauty of art. When Nina grows up and winds up in over her head in a dark place, she finds herself somehow transported to another time when nothing is quite what it seems. She must fight the horrors of her past all over again. Along the way, she faces greater challenges than she imagined. This is a character-driven novel with a heroine who faces life, love, and overcoming suicidal depression on her own terms.

 

Many thanks to the author for providing me with this review copy!

NEXT STOP: NINA is a book that will touch your emotions and send you into high and low places. I cringed when I read about Nina’s childhood and how innocent she was, always trying to forgive her abusive father. She feels she is never good enough, pretty enough, or strong enough to continue living, and considers suicide.

As she prepares to leave this world forever, something happens, and she finds herself back at home, talking to her beloved brother. Nina’s mental age and her physical age and appearance are very different. Has she gone back in time? Is this a hallucination or a dream?

The story continues with Nina trying to change the events of her past (and more depressing details about her life are revealed). She realizes that some events are always meant to be, and while this is heart wrenching to her, she understands she can grow and become a better person. She turns to philanthropic gestures, trying to help others by volunteering her time and seeing the light within herself grow.

Her first sense of true happiness occurs when she befriends a girl in school that no one ever talked to, in her “past life”. They become best friends and share many years together, bringing Nina more happiness and confidence.

One of Nina’s lifelong dreams was to meet an artist  whose painting made an impact on her during her darkest times. To her endless surprise, once she finally does meet him at an event, they hit it off and eventually fall in love. She self-sabotages the relationship and they break up. At this point I became frustrated with Nina, because her lack of confidence and poor communication was really the issue.

All of a sudden, we find Nina as a young girl again, realizing she has to live her life over yet again, experiencing all the tragedy and loss. Her interactions with others are different and things don’t go as they did during her first reincarnation. As she repeats things she develops a kind of Groundhog Day attitude towards herself, learning to accept things, and learning to change for the better.

Her interaction with Leonard (the artist) develops again in a slightly different way; and we can see the shift in each of the characters as more layers are added to the story. This is the main takeaway of NEXT STOP: NINA — growth and acceptance. Nina still shows lack of communication skills at times, which I suppose was integral in showing just how deeply depressed her character was; but the scenes where all was good between Nina and Leonard were tender and sweet.

As I mulled over the story I wondered if the “back in time” was really just a hallucination or something more sci-fi. There is a sort of explanation towards the 75% mark, but it is vague and unsatisfying, coming from a mostly undeveloped character that seems to be out of place.  I wasn’t sure what to do with that part of the story, and eventually I shrugged and kept on reading to see how the latest incarnation of Nina and Len would turn out.

It is easy for the reader to feel the heartbreak of Nina’s world; as author Robin Raven illustrates that beautifully. Reading about the tragedy in her life the first time was awful, and reading about it again, even though you knew how it would turn out, was no less horrifying the second or third time.

This was a book with an unusual premise and a positive message. Read it for yourself to discover if love truly saves the day for Nina. You can get your own copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0692406298″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Q&A with Lisa Becker, author of Clutch

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Clutch is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit story that chronicles the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer, who goes through a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships she compares to various styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc.  With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to stand up for the handbag style that embodies what she ultimately wants – the “Clutch” or someone to hold onto.

 

We are proud to present this Q&A with author Lisa Becker. The idea of “men as handbags” is a really funny and unique one, and I’m sure we can all identify with it one way or another! Enjoy this post, then go out and buy her book – click [easyazon_link identifier=”0692489894″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link] to purchase it.

 

1) Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m fortunate to have had a series of wonderful careers outside of writing including being a wife, mom, PR professional, college professor and community volunteer.   CLUTCH: A NOVEL is my 4th book.  The book actually started out as a screenplay that was optioned by a production company housed at one of the major movie studios summer 2014.  Unfortunately, it fell out of development.  I was eager to have this fun story with some of my favorite characters told, so I turned it into a short novel earlier this year.

 

2) What inspired you to write CLUTCH?

When I was writing the Click Trilogy, (Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click) I was obsessed with NCIS reruns and would have the show on in the background as I wrote.  There was an episode when one of the characters mentioned that men were like purses – something useless to hang on a woman’s arm.  I started thinking about how men are like handbags and the idea grew from there.

3) What advice do you have for women in search of their clutch?

In the modern classic film, “The Shawshank Redemption,” Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Dufresne, says to Morgan Freeman’s Red, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”  That quote comes to mind when I think about searching for the clutch.  If you feel like it’s not going to happen, then just give up.  You heard me.  GIVE UP!   Just surrender to that notion that you’ll end up alone.  If that is truly the case, do you want to spend the next 30, 40 or even 50+ years wallowing in misery?  Sitting around and lamenting your singleness?  Or are you going to get busy living?  Buy your own home!  Travel to all of the places you want to visit!  Adopt a child!  Write that novel!  Engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy!

Chances are, when you start focusing on what will make you happy – not who will make you happy – you WILL be happy.  Happiness is evident and infectious.  Happiness makes you more interesting and more attractive to someone else.  And when that happens, you are more likely to meet the right person who is going to complement the amazing life you’ve created for yourself.

 

4) What are your plans for the future?

In addition to promoting the new book, I’m looking into making connections within the motion picture industry to try and get a movie version made.  I’m eager to see if there’s interest from someone else on bringing this fun and quirky story to the big screen.  So if you happen to be a well-to-do movie producer looking to make a new romantic comedy, please get in touch!

 

5) How can readers connect with you?

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Lisa’s Books: Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click and clutch: a novel

Find Lisa: Facebook | Twitter  | Pinterest  | Web  | YouTube

 

 

 

 

 

The Poet’s Secret – Q&A with author Kenneth Zak

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Elia Aloundra, a young lit student, sees a reclusive poet, Cameron Beck, recite a poem at a campus pub before he vanishes. Ten years earlier, Beck had published a popular collection of ninety-nine odes to one anonymous muse before dropping from the public eye, leaving behind a decade of speculation over his disappearance and the identity of the muse. Elia always found sanctuary within the pages of great books and raised Beck’s work into that pantheon, memorizing every verse by heart.

But her love life pales in comparison to the great romances of literature, and she sets off in search of Beck hoping to finally leap from the page and unveil the secret to love incarnate. What she doesn’t know is that as her quest begins, Beck is perched atop a cliff on a remote Caribbean island and about to attempt suicide. Decades earlier a Spanish shipwreck entombing mystical Aztec relics was found off that same island.  Elia must win her way through Beck’s protective circle: Isabella, a robust island matriarch with heavy voodoo juju, Paco, a local fisherman and cantina owner, and Fatty, a burnt out, transplanted New Orleans crawdad of a doc. What Elia cannot fathom is that Beck’s secret will change both their lives forever.

This fascinating Q&A was brought to you by Kenneth Zak and PR By The Book!

Watch the book trailer here:

What inspired you to write The Poet’s Secret?

At the time I wrote The Poet’s Secret, I was on a personal pilgrimage. I essentially took a three­year sabbatical, sort of an adult “time out,” and embarked on a new path. I dedicated myself to explore the meaning of life and love and particularly the arc of passion. I became consumed by the idea of living in the present, honoring the “now” as the only real moment in time, the only authentic eternity, which allowed me to both disconnect and connect like never before and let go of the constructs of past and future as fictions created by the mind. I gained a new appreciation for relatively brief moments and encounters as having potentially profound effects. I was living abroad, reading, writing, surfing and slowing down my existence.

The tale that became The Poet’s Secret was conceived in a hovel perched atop a one­table taverna in the hillside village of Avdou, just a scooter ride from the blue waters of the Aegean Sea on the island of Crete. I was sequestered alone, halfway around the world from my home, and recovering from a life, and a relationship, that had left me hollow, or at least I thought at the time. But it turned out words kept flowing out of me, first in raw, chunky verse that faintly resembled poetry and then in images and scenes that bore an even fainter resemblance to a novel. For months I wrote, swam in healing waters and disappeared into this remote, antiquated Greek village. I had never done anything like that before, but at the time it was the only existence that made any sense.

So many miracles happened during those months. I experienced a cleansing, a healing and an awakening, and I began to perceive light and water and imagery and words and the souls around me like never before. I eventually returned to California, and then traveled to Bali, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia and South America, following the sea and surf with laptop in hand and continuing to write. The backstory to writing The Poet’s Secret is a story in itself.

How did you select the locations for the novel?

It was tempting to set the bulk of the novel in Greece, a country I adore. However, as the story evolved the compass for the island setting spun toward the West Indies, and the story’s life raft washed ashore on the fictional island of Mataki. I was fortunate to spend a good part of my sabbatical on tropical islands and coastal villages that certainly informed the setting. As for the early campus setting, I based it on a fictionalized version of my beloved alma mater, The Ohio State University.

What was your particular process in terms of plot, outlining and character?

I essentially began the novel with two scenes that were haunting me. First, I had a reclusive poet on a remote island cliff about to attempt suicide. Second, I had a bookish young woman captured within the confines of the great romances of literature. I really had no idea about their connection, if any, but those two images would not let go of me. As I began to write, the concept of the woman yearning for what nearly kills the poet began to take hold.

The process was fairly organic. I let the characters breathe and lead me into the story. I wasn’t even sure whose story it was until shortly after the first draft. Once the closing scene appeared to me I realized that it was really Elia’s story. I then just had to navigate getting there. While I did not develop any formal outline, I downloaded scenes as they appeared, stockpiled them and later wove them in when they seemed to make sense. It was a bit like swimming across a sea, not sure which direction land might be but hoping that if I kept going I would eventually find my way.

Stumbling, a bit blindly, through this creative process was both exasperating and exhilarating. As I was working on revisions, I attended several writers’ conferences that stressed the necessity of thorough plotting, which made me feel a tad vulnerable. I later read an interview about Michael Ondaatje’s process in writing The English Patient and realized I was in good company.

The novel is filled with excerpts of poetry, which came first, the poetry or the narrative arc?

Most of the poetry was written before any narrative took form. The poetry came in often painful and soul­ searching flourishes, and then was revised over time. There is a line in The Poet’s Secret where Dean Baltutis refers to the poet’s inspiration being “survival.” That is precisely how it felt at times. I also wanted to combine both poetry and prose into one novel and attempt to slow down the reader a bit at the beginning of each chapter to contemplate and absorb the poetry, to be in that moment so to speak, before continuing on the narrative journey.

What in particular surprised you about the process of writing The Poet’s Secret?

I didn’t want to force plot twists or preconceived outcomes. I let the characters find the story. I let go of expectations and trusted the story to evolve. Tapping into this creative process was freeing, exhilarating and challenging, sort of like jumping off a cliff into the sea for the first time. I had never done anything quite like it, but this particular process for me felt authentic. I certainly was surprised how well the early drafts of the poetry and manuscript were received, which bolstered my confidence to pursue the project through publication.

Water imagery is abundant throughout the novel, what is the particular connection for you with water and particularly with respect to this novel?

I was thrown onto a swim team at age 8 even before I passed beginners swim lessons (I was terrible at the back float). But water soon became my life and in many ways my salvation. Throughout my youth I swam, played water polo, lifeguarded and hung around Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio. Somehow, I didn’t even see an ocean until I was 18. But I recall climbing out of the backseat of a Datsun 210 hatchback (or what they claimed to be a backseat) after driving for 22 hours to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break and telling my college buddies to just pick me up in a few hours. I was mesmerized. I sprinted into the Atlantic Ocean and swam and bodysurfed until dark. Today, I surf or swim almost every day. I feel like I am about eighty percent water, the remaining twenty percent made up mostly of curiosity and mischief.

Much of the water in the universe is said to be a byproduct of star formation. I’m no scientist, but I like the way that sounds. Because when I look up at the night stars it feels a lot like gazing west an hour before the sun dips into the sea, at least at my secret little spot by the water. Flickering diamonds scatter everywhere along the surface, and if I squint just right, I forget the sea is even there. Instead, it looks like a galaxy of stars shimmering right into me, washing across my heart, reflecting off my smile and filling me with the belief that I can just float away into the universe. So I often do.

Spiritually, water often represents purification and healing. To me, water represents so many things, perhaps most importantly love and life and the sacred feminine. I once nearly died underwater while surfing in Uluwatu, a place few have ever heard of and even fewer have visited. But I know on so many occasions water has saved me, water has healed me, and water has reset my compass when I have been spinning in some uncontrollable vortex. So for me, my life and my love seem to be tied to returning to the great aquatic source, again and again, maybe just to fill the chasm that still exists in me, and maybe to some degree still exists in all of us.

I have been fortunate to swim with sea turtles and dolphins in the wild on many occasions. When I stare into the eyes of a sea turtle or a dolphin I cannot help but believe that they understand this great aquatic connection, a connection beyond humanity, beyond species, beyond even the stars. So when I am writing about passion, heartbreak, healing, life and love, it is only natural for me to write in a particularly aquatic language and style.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is on that squeaky metal spring cot in that hovel above Mihalis’ taverna in Avdou, Crete. After that, any place as long as I have my noise cancellation headphones. I’ve written and revised all over from kitchen tables to airplanes.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing over thirty years now in one form or another. I wrote a bit of poetry in high school and then did a bunch of required writing in my legal profession. It was sometime after law school that I penned my first novel (unpublished), and then about ten years ago when the idea for The Poet’s Secret first took flight. I also have some published short fiction and poetry.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Paulo Coehlo, Milan Kundera, John Steinbeck, Michael Ondaatje, Jorge Luis Borges, Rumi, A.S. Byatt, Carl Safina, Tom Spanbauer and so many more.

How did those authors influence your work?

My favorite authors inspire, entertain, challenge and provoke me. I don’t try to write or emulate any particular style. But when I read the opening of Cannery Row time stops.

How did you become affiliated with the Romance Writers of America?

Someone recommended I send an early draft of The Poet’s Secret to the RWA. While The Poet’s Secret is by no means a traditional genre romance, it was selected an RWA Golden Heart Finalist in romantic suspense. I was the only male nominated that year (attending the national conference and award ceremony is another story altogether). When my face went up on the Jumbotron in front of thousands of mostly female authors at the award ceremony it was a bit unnerving. Writing anything can be fraught with self­doubt. The RWA could not have been more welcoming and supportive and certainly gave me a bolt of confidence to continue writing and revising, as did the nominee class from that year, the appropriately named Unsinkables.

How did your professional career as an attorney influence your writing and how do you balance the two careers?

I think practicing law actually spurred my interest in creative writing. While I was in private practice, I felt constrained by the form restrictions requisite within the legal profession. I also felt a lot of legal writing often served more to obfuscate than illuminate and writing poetry and fiction allowed me the freedom to explore and express myself in a different medium. The Poet’s Secret is not “another lawyer’s courtroom thriller” in any respect, nor am I particularly drawn to that genre since I’ve lived it. Nonetheless, my legal career (now as General Counsel for a large private brokerage company) is both fascinating and challenging. I draw some inspiration from the poet Wallace Stevens who for years continued his vibrant writing career while an executive for an insurance company. As far as balance goes, my evenings and weekends are spent around the keyboard as much as possible.

Tell us about your involvement with 1% for the Planet and The Surfrider Foundation.

Perhaps only a poet would give away money before it is even earned, but that is what I felt compelled to do given my love of the ocean and conservation causes. In addition to ocean swimming, free diving and water polo, I have been an avid surfer for nearly two decades and have surfed around the world. Subtle conservation themes are laced through The Poet’s Secret, but my love of the ocean and our planet is anything but subtle. I hope to leave this world and particularly our oceans better than I found them. Penju Publishing’s membership with 1% For the Planet and my pledged donations to The Surfrider Foundation are an effort to spread awareness, give back and pay it forward.

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

 

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Scent of Triumph is the story of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented young French perfumer with a flair for fashion and a natural olfactory gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory. The story opens on the day England declares war on Germany, and Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.

Her life takes a tragic turn when her husband and son are lost behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find them, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood’s top stars, then gambles again to win wealth and success as a couturier. Her intelligence and flair attracts the adoration of Jonathan Newell-Grey, of England’s top shipping conglomerate, and Cameron Murphy, Hollywood’s most charismatic star.

Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge; lustful lovers and loveless marriages; and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, here is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this advance reader’s copy  in exchange for a review!

I have read other novels by Jan Moran (see my reviews on Flawless and Beauty Mark), but this by far is her most enthralling and multi layered work. The character development is deeper, the settings lusher, and the sweeping triumphs and tragedies make this book almost larger than life. Moran’s talent as a writer shows on every page and in each subplot. Moreover, her love and knowledge of perfume and its creation shines throughout SCENT OF TRIUMPH.  Scenes are not only described, but experienced with olfactory details: we smell the scent of Jon’s cologne, we breathe in the odor of sweat and salt air as Danielle travels on a crowded ship, and we become aware of not only the squalid appearance of a tenement–we live it as the food odors permate our consciousness.

Another plus is that Moran, as always, gives us a strong female presence. Danielle is master of her own destiny, always pushing forward, seeking the best life for her family first. Her natural ability to manipulate scent and create perfume helps her in her personal and financial growth; and perfume vials serve as weapons, messengers, and signs of hope for Danielle and her relatives. Moran’s treatment of the injustices of WWII are descriptive and hit hard–keep tissues close at hand, for this is not a soporific romance with a little history thrown in. SCENT pulls no punches as the character of Danielle experiences hardship and struggle.

I found it easy to identify with Danielle’s drive; her ambition flows naturally and she is not overbearing. Rather, she is painted as a woman of class and character, determined to make her way in the world. As the plot shifts, there is suspense in the form of missed opportunities. The author knows her audience and creates roadblocks for her characters accordingly.

Finally, this novel is unique due to the author’s affinity for perfume. Each chapter begins with a quote from the fictional Danielle that resonates with the action to follow; and also gives the reader some insight on what goes into creating a lasting and pleasant scent. I love a book where I can learn tidbits about familiar things, and understanding more about perfumes and their creation was what made this book so wonderful on another level. Our sense of smell can evoke many memories and emotions. Moran utilizes this knowledge to create a perfect blend of word, image, and essence.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1250048907″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Matronly Duties by Melissa Kendall PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hundreds of years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and sent it into a new ice age, what remains of the human race lives on in underground sanctuaries. Now, as the bicentennial anniversary of the impact approaches, a new leader prepares to take her place at the head of the government. At least, that’s what she thinks.
Bethanie Greene’s life has been planned out for her since the age of thirteen. Beautiful and intelligent, she’s spent the last twelve years training to become the next Matron of the underground nation of Oceania. But when Bethanie is kidnapped by rogue extremists just six weeks shy of taking office, her world is turned upside down by the handsome stranger who rescues her.
Howard James’ life has been the polar opposite of Bethanie’s. Struggling to survive in a world where those in power wished he didn’t exist, he harbors a deep-seated resentment of the government and all its representatives. Together with his unconventional family, he shows Bethanie a life she never knew was possible, while at the same time, opening her eyes to the injustices of the government she is meant to lead. But can she trust a stranger? And can a few days change everything she believes and desires? Against all odds, Bethanie must decide if her heart and her duties can coexist.

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The office of Matron is the highest a girl can aspire to—but Bethanie learns that she is just a puppet of the government. Darkly manipulative and suspenseful, MATRONLY DUTIES is a book about learning to trust and learning to love.

Parts of this book reminded me of BREEDER by KB Hoyle. However, the government in this book is more threatening and controlling, and the romance aspect is detailed thoroughly, with quite a bit of love scenes. At times these scenes slowed down the action, but I can understand why the author created the plot this way; to develop Bethanie’s growing feelings and to show the reader how she is growing as a person who thinks for herself.

There are close calls as the renegades are hunted by the government, and moments when we are unsure if Howard will come back alive. The world that Kendall creates is bleak and delightfully dystopian, with rules in place that control childbirth and love. Sex is viewed as “fornication” and taboo, and we see how Bethanie goes from prim and proper Matron, to a girl who falls in love, the old fashioned way. I found myself cheering for the family of Traditionalists who help Bethanie learn what life really means.  They were truly an oasis for the struggling girl, losing sight of everything she believed in for so many years.

I felt that there could have been a bit more character development when it came to Bethanie’s office mates–her bodyguard and secretary. She seemed to trust them without question, and I waited for them to double cross her as she shared all her thoughts and hopes with them. No spoilers here–read the book to see how it all ends!

A fairly solid outing from Melissa Kendall, MATRONLY DUTIES is a quick read, one that will make you think about figureheads and the sacrifices they may have made to be where they are.

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2 TWCS-Blog-Tour-Banner Thanks to The Writer’s Coffee Shop for offering this book to me!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

You can also visit the author’s page here.

MKendall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani PLUS GIVEAWAY!

 

alice

 

 

 

“Promise that you will come back.”

Born in 1495 and raised in 2012, Alice Ferro’s life has been anything but normal. The only problem is, she doesn’t know it. As a 17-year-old in 2029, she has an ideal life, complete with loving parents, the latest technical gadgets, and a summer vacation in Italy. Upon arriving in Florence, sensations of surreal memories begin to surface, leaving her puzzled and confused.

Knowing that reconnecting with his lost love could be dangerous for both of them, but willing to take the risk, Claudio Moro seeks out Alice in her new world. His very existence in 1512 is at stake! Having been accused of both treason and murder, he needs Alice to help clear his name and redeem his family’s honour. The question is, will Alice remember their love and care enough to leave her perfect future to redirect his doomed past?

 

 

Many thanks to the author for gifting me this book for an honest review and a giveaway. The link to enter the giveaway is at the bottom of this post.

ALICE OF THE ROCKS is many books at once: it’s a romance novel with time travel, with some history and suspense thrown in for good measure. We are thrown into the world of Leonardo Da Vinci and the grasping and evil Medici empire, mixed with present day Italy as Alice enjoys a summer vacation. The two worlds collide when Alice becomes enamored of a hotel employee. Her strong feelings confuse her, and when she learns she is just a scullery maid, running for her life in 1512, she is forced to make a decision that will not only affect her, but many other lives–both in 2029 AND in 1512. Lots of responsibility for a teenage girl!

Alice is mature for her age, even as she is thinking about where to go to college and how to tell her guy back home the relationship isn’t doing anything for her. All she’s trying to do is enjoy her time in Italy this summer with her parents and aunt and uncle. When she meets a boy her own age, and she starts feeling deja vu, she wonders what is happening. They get a bit closer, and promise to spend more time together. As she and the handsome Claudio tour Italy and see the sights, the truth becomes revealed to her slowly, and she is then given an opportunity to set things right in 1515.

The character of Alice is a strong one, and I enjoyed that. She is a girl with emotions, yes, but she is also imbued with a sense of responsibility and the desire to consider other’s feelings as well. She’snot your typical spoiled rich girl. In fact, her sense of justice is what makes the ending of this book so heart rending. The author paints a picture of two star crossed lovers, with time running out on them (both in the past and in the present). The emotion between them is strong, yet chaste–there are no awkward scenes between them to slow the action down.

Graziani’s knowledge and description of Italy, then and now, is superb. I could see the countryside before me, smell the air, taste the wine. She outdoes herself with the story of Da Vinci and Claudio Moro—there is intrigue, lust, and gossip going on behind those castle walls! Claudio’s relationship with his mother is delightfully familiar, and the manipulative Clarice is well written. She is my favorite “evil” ingenue.

The story moves back and forth from the past to the present, and after a few chapters I found the transition to be fluid and appropriate. The story builds and builds, and then at last Alice is empowered to make things happen. Time seems to speed up, and the suspense and action multiplies. This is the bast part of the book, when things come together and then the ending is dropped on you like a ton of bricks.

The author told me she is working on a sequel–and I’m happy to hear that. I really need to know what the future holds for Alice!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00NMNQNOO” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Here is the link to the giveaway: there is a signed hard copy and an ePub version–so–TWO winners for this one! Good  luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

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From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set.  From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.

Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

This book was on my “want to read” list, and I picked it up from my local library. As soon as I started reading, I was transported into France in the 1600’s–with all the sights, sounds, and smells of the period. Claudette was an easy heroine to like, and her desire to make her family’s life better will resonate with many readers.

One of the best things about THE SHADOW QUEEN is that the author Sandra Gulland didn’t bury the plot in a lot of politics. Rather, she spends her description on the trials and triumphs of stage actors, and later, the sumptuous trappings of Louis the XIV’s Court. Her characters come alive: Moliere, Corneille, and Athenais are alternately drawn to scale and then appear larger than life at times. Gulland keeps the story true to life, for the most part, as she takes historical fact and makes it sing. She brings the hopes and fears of Athenais to the forefront, and helps the reader to see who she was and who she turned into: a cunning and manipulative woman who fears the loss of her youth and vitality, and resorts to black magic to keep the affections of her beloved Sun King. It seemed hard to understand if that affection was true, or just opportunistic.

Claudette stayed true to herself throughout the book, continuing to care for her mother and brother even as her innocence is slowly pulled from her; and she made a stand against her beloved Athenais, which comes back to haunt her and threatens to ruin her life. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how it would end for Claudette.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, and intend to read other novels of Gulland’s. Her research is thorough and her writing is clean. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0345805607″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before Nightfall by Rachel Amphlett (plus a book GIVEAWAY!)

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Many thanks to author Rachel Amphlett for introducing me to this book!

It’s a fast paced action/romance about an executive who must undergo a hostage survival course before she can take a new job. The course leaves her a little scared, but confident that she will survive…..and who really wants to kidnap her, anyway? As the course draws to an end she finds herself developing feelings for one  of the instructors. Finn is the quintessential man: hunky, brooding, strong, confident; but seemingly not that interested in Kate. She is whisked off to Istanbul before they can say a proper goodbye, and that ends any opportunity for a romance.

However, her boss is involved in some shady weapons dealing, and that proves to be trouble. One day she is taken in broad daylight, as an accident is staged and blood is shed. She must struggle to remember her training and stay alive, for her captors only care about one thing: obtaining parts for a massive weapon that is intended to be used in a terrorist attack.

Kate blinked rapidly, a loud noise rousing her from unconsciousness.

She raised a hand to her head, a sticky warmth giving way to a steady trickle above her eyebrow. She looked at her fingers, at the blood, and then groaned.

She’d fallen into the recess between the front and back seats, her legs twisted awkwardly under her body. The car’s engine was silent except for a ticking sound. It took Kate a few seconds to realise that the noise came from the radiator as it cooled down, its contents dripping out through the engine block. She raised her head between the seats and gasped at the devastation to the car.

The front of the vehicle had crumpled under the force of the impact – she could see now that it had careened off the narrow street, stopping abruptly when it had slammed into the far wall of a building. A laundry line had fallen onto the windshield, coloured fabrics now strewn across the glass, shading the interior of the car and obliterating her view.

She frowned. The driver’s door was wedged open on its hinges, and there was no sign of Mick. Traces of blood covered the seat and windscreen.

She sensed movement behind her before the back door was wrenched open. Broken glass rained onto her shoulders. Rough hands grabbed her, pulling her upright, before they hauled her backwards.

Kate thrashed out with her hands and feet, knowing something was desperately wrong with the situation.

Voices, in the rough patois of the city, became urgent, their meaning apparent as another set of hands joined the first and wrenched her from the vehicle.

Kate cried out as her ankle caught and twisted against the door frame. Someone behind her cursed, and then leaned forward and jerked her foot until it was freed, before she was dragged from the vehicle.

She screamed as they passed the driver’s door of the vehicle. Mick had been dragged from the car, his body lying prone on the surface of the road, a bullet wound to his head. Blood and splinters of bone stained the pavement. Kate realised now what the sound had been that had woken her from unconsciousness.

‘Someone! Help me!’ she screamed. ‘Imdat! Imdat! Help!’

A hand clamped over her mouth, and a voice hissed in her ear. She only understood the inference – to stay quiet. The surface of the man’s hand scratched her skin while the scent of motor oil and salty water penetrated her senses.

She began to struggle, kicking out and wriggling in the man’s arms, twisting her head to check the windows and balconies that overlooked the courtyard. There had to be someone, anyone, at a window, wondering what all the commotion was about.

The courtyard remained silent, save for her muffled cries, the urgent conversation between her two captors and the sound of their feet scuffing the road.

Kate’s head snapped to the left at the sound of another vehicle travelling at speed. As it came closer, she bit down on her captor’s hand. He cried out, loosened his grip on her, and she broke free.

Moving as fast as she could with a twisted ankle, she limped towards the entrance of the courtyard and the sound of the oncoming vehicle. She ignored the shouts of protest from behind her and concentrated on putting as much distance as possible between herself and the two men.

The approaching vehicle changed down a gear, then appeared at the courtyard entrance – a silver people carrier with tinted windows. It slid to a halt, the rear of the vehicle filling the small lane and blocking Kate’s escape.

‘Oh no,’ she groaned, realising her mistake.

The side door began to slide open, the inside of the vehicle dark against the bright sunlight. Kate squinted, holding her hand over her eyes, then ran towards the back of the vehicle.

She began to squeeze her body through a small gap between the van and the wall of the building, using the vehicle’s fender to climb up. She turned her head at the sound of a shout, and her heart fell as two men climbed out the other side of the people carrier, rounded the back of the vehicle and smiled at her. She turned and checked over her shoulder, but it was too late – the other two men had caught up with her.

Hands encircled her waist, lifting her backwards.

Kate kicked out and screamed.

One of her captors cursed as her elbow connected with his cheek. He spun her around in his arms and slapped her across the face before pushing her through the side door of the van.

Kate blinked, shocked, and then screamed as a hood was lifted in front of her face before it was shoved over her head.

This can’t be happening.

She began to hyperventilate as rough hands gathered her wrists together, and she felt plastic loops push over her fingers, tightening around her skin.

She felt something soft over her mouth and nose and realised too late what was happening. She struggled one final time as the chemicals consumed her senses.

Her brain registered movement before she slipped into unconsciousness and the van accelerated away.

Finn is called to help rescue Kate, and while he is secretly hoping to see her again and be her hero, he is also haunted by the memory of a previous rescue situation: one where he lost the hostage.  He must put his feelings of self doubt aside and get the job done.  There are surprises and double crosses he didn’t count on, and all the while the clock is ticking on Kate’s life.

I don’t usually read books that have to do with terrorism/kidnapping/Middle East/weaponry; so I did some thinking before I accepted this for review. I’m really glad I did! The emphasis is more on the relationships and the intrigue than heavy political drama. The atmosphere is gritty and authentic, with detail so vivid I felt as if I were chained to the wall alongside Kate. The plot twists kept me riveted and I felt invested in the whole Finn/Kate romance. Each character had sufficient backstory, and the suspense was perfectly created–I was drawn in and could not wait to see what was happening on the next page.  Reading this was well worth my time.

Rachel Amphlett_web_4322

 

Amphlett has written other books in the thriller genre as well; be sure to visit her website and see if any will interest you.

Want your own copy? We are offering a GIVEAWAY just in time to mitigate those post holiday blues! The author is offering TWO copies, either in e-book form, or a signed hard copy. Click below to enter.

If you are not one of the two lucky winners, click [easyazon_link asin=”B00KOAMTRS” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link] to purchase it.

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