Thursday, 14 May 2015

Book Review: Silk for Susannah

Silk for Susannah is a delightful short romance, which would be sweet even if it were entirely fictional, but is given an added dimension by the knowledge that it’s based on the real life of Shakespeare’s daughter.  Like the film Shakespeare in Love, it plays off our endless fascination with the Bard of Avon, and evokes a strong sense of time and place. 
Silk For Susannah: Shakespeare's Daughter (Quick Summer Reads Book 1) 
From the first page, we are transported back to Stratford in the summer when Susannah first makes the acquaintance of the young doctor John Hall, and has to persuade her father, the famous playwright, to support the match.  Evocative and charming, this is a light, quick read but demonstrates the same strength of historical detail as Victoria Lamb’s powerful young adult novel, Witchstruck. 

Free on kindle unlimited, and currently only 99p to purchase, what better way to try out a new historical novelist if you've not yet got to know Victoria Lamb's books? 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Book Review: Girl Friday

Girl FridayGirl Friday by Jane Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s ages since I’ve read anything by Jane Green but when a copy of Girl Friday crossed my path and I read the blurb I was instantly hooked. I’ll read anything that features a writer as one of the heroes, and I wasn’t disappointed by Robert McClore, thriller writer extraordinaire and boss to Kit, the recently divorced heroine who is currently rediscovering the worlds of working and dating after too long focusing exclusively on her role as wife and mother.

The bond between Kit and her two friends, Wall Street wife Charlie and yoga teacher Tracy, is brilliantly drawn, and the book has a lot to say about the dynamics of female friendship, as well as post-divorce dating.

So far so predictable, but the secrets kept by Kit’s family and friends ensure that the story develops in a way that’s anything but obvious. Is Steve the romantic computer entrepreneur the answer to Kit’s prayers, or is Kit’s friend and mother figure Edie right to suspect he’s too good to be true? What’s really going on in Charlie and Tracy’s lives, and who’s the mysterious woman who appears outside Kit’s window one day?

All in all, Girl Friday is an easy, fun read which definitely lives up to my memories of the early Jane Green books and makes me wonder why I haven’t read more of the books in between.


View all my reviews

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Wild Rose Press to publish 'Djinn and Tonic'

There are few better moments for a writer than finding out that an editor has enjoyed your story enough to want to share it with the world. Maybe one day it'll get old, but after two novellas and one novel, it certainly hasn't yet. I've just signed my third contract with The Wild Rose Press, which I'm delighted about because I think they did a great job with my first two novellas, 'Desperate Bid' and 'A Santa Next Door.'

My first two Wild Rose Press novellas were straightforward contemporary romances, but this one is a bit of a departure, because although it's set in the present day, it also contains a paranormal element, in the form of a djinn, or genie, who appears in response to the photographer heroine's wish for the perfect model for her photo shoot. What would you do, I wonder, if a perfect man materialised out of thin air - literally - in your studio? If you've followed along with my occasional Sunday snippets, you might remember Sally's reaction. If not, you can find it here.

Sally soon discovers that she'll have to be careful what she wishes for, as a momentary impulse to take off for the beach on a sunny day results in a dizzying experience in this snippet, and comes to terms with the discovery here.

The next steps are to work on edits and a marketing plan, so it'll be a while before I have a release date.  And there will be at least one major difference in the final version - so, sorry to all my friends who have fallen in love with 'Wulf', because he's about to have a name change to something  more fitting for a genie, probably of Persian origin!  Oh well.  I'll just have to keep Wulf in reserve until I find a suitable story for a Nordic hero... watch this space!


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Book Review: Ascend

Ascend (Trylle, #3)Ascend by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Ascend' is a fantastic conclusion to the Trylle trilogy, and brings together all the threads that were tangling messily at the end of 'Torn'. Wendy's planned wedding, her lingering feelings for Finn and growing attraction to Loki, the looming death of her mother Elora, Queen of the Trylle, and the ongoing quest of her father, King of the Vittra, to take over the Trylle kingdom. Of you've read and enjoyed the rest of the trilogy you won't be able to resist this exciting, dramatic and fast-paced finale.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Torn

Torn (Trylle, #2)Torn by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's some time since I read 'Switched' but it was easy to slip back into the believable world of the Trylle.  The book certainly opens with a bang, as Wendy is kidnapped by the Vittra in an exciting sequence. She escapes surprisingly easily, although the reason for this later becomes apparent.

Perhaps the rest of the story doesn't quite live up to the excitement of the opening, but there are twists and turns aplenty and I was kept reading on to see how Wendy will manage to balance love and duty in what rapidly becomes more than a love triangle: there's Finn, the handsome tracker to whom she's always been attracted; Tove, the kindly Markis she's supposed to marry to save her kingdom; and finally, Loki, the dangerously attractive Vittra who was instrumental in her escape.

I loved the magical world of the Trylle, and the Princess-diary-ish strand of Wendy learning to adapt from being an ordinary teenager to livnig as the heir to a kingdom. My only complaint was that we're kept hanging until book 3 for so many of the conclusions, but that's not uncommon for the second in a trilogy.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Book Review: The Scandalous Duchess

The Scandalous DuchessThe Scandalous Duchess by Anne O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't tend to think of myself as a fan of historical fiction, but lately every time I pick up a historical read, I love the escapism and the intensity of the story. Anne O'Brien's 'The Scandalous Duchess' is no exception. Lady Katherine is a fabulously strong, scrupulous heroine, so it's surprising to find her lured into an ongoing affair with the powerful, seductive Duke of Lancaster. More surprising still are the twists and turns in their longstanding relationship. I loved the historical detail and most of all the sense of a very private love constantly challenged by public standards and scrutiny. Still very much relevant today.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sneak Peek Sunday: Cameron

Following on from the last few Sundays, here's another snippet from the futuristic dystopian world of Love by the Book.  This novella was my NaNoWriMo effort from a few years back, and as I still love it, I'm finally getting around to polishing it up. Last week I introduced the heroine, Susan.  This week, we get our first glimpse of the hero, Cameron.

Finally Susan opened her mouth to let out the admission she’d always known she’d have to make: she didn’t know what was happening, or where the Elders were.  But before she could answer, the doors from the courtyard opened and Mother led the usual train into the dining room: first the other Parents, then the Aunts and Uncles, and finally the Managers, until all the Elders were in place.  
But where the procession would normally have stopped, there was a new face.  
As the young man paused at the door, the chatter, which had already begun to subside, fell silent. 
Susan stared at his vivid blue eyes and sweeping blond fringe and his solid frame and sturdy hands.  He was as different from the tall, swarthy Jack as Susan could imagine, and when he followed the Elders to the table, his walk was swift and assured.  
Susan forgot to stop staring as the chatter around her resumed.  All her thoughts were on the young man, the first stranger any of them had seen in… who knew how long? 
Where had he come from?

You can read more Sunday snippets at: http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.co.uk/

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sneak Peek Sunday: Susan

Here's something different for Sneak Peek Sunday - a glimpse into the futuristic dystopian world of Love by the Book.  This novella was my NaNoWriMo effort from a few years back, and as I still love it, I'm finally getting around to polishing it up. Last week I shared the opening.  This week, 6 paragraphs which introduce Susan's role in the House.

Sometimes Susan dreamed of being far away, in a world she’d never encountered where nobody told you how to live your life or who you could love or be friends with. 
Sometimes she woke from a dream where the table was empty, the precious book having vanished along with its thick glass covering, and she was responsible. 
“It’s not my fault!” she would plead to the assembled masses.  Sometimes they were faceless.   Other times it was her mother, or her father, or her teachers, or the gardeners, whose faces stared back at her sorrowfully. 
That was worse.
“But you’re the Guardian,” their voices would echo, “Of course you’re responsible.”
Then she’d wake up and see the slim volume lying on its solid plinth, yellowed pages open at the day’s reading, and she wouldn’t know whether to be glad or sorry.  It was such a small and simple object to rule all their lives with its strange ideas of love and life that had nothing to do with the House and its cold stone walls and strict patterns.  

You can read more Sunday snippets at: http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Writer Wednesday Interview: Melinda Dozier

Today I'm talking with Melinda Dozier, whose new book 'New York Minute' I featured on the blog last week. She's back to talk two of my favourite topics: writing and globe-trotting. Thanks for being here, Melinda!



When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in highschool, I used to fill up notebooks with stories-- usually young adult stuff with The Brat-Pack as my inspiration (I’m aging myself here). Though it was only a hobby, I wanted to become a writer way back then.


How did you come to start writing romance?
I’ve been an avid romance reader since I was a teen and one day I said, “Hey, I could do that.” So I did! On a whim, I entered my first novel into a pitch contest a few years ago, and the editor signed my book right away! That’s when I really felt like a “real” romance writer, when I held that contract in my hand.  


You teach as well - how on earth do you fit it all in?  What are your biggest distractions?
Yes and to be honest I don’t know how I fit it all in. One rule I have is not to bring teaching home. No grading papers, no answering school related emails, nothing (which is a big deal, because ask any teacher...work always gets done at home.) This makes me focus at school and use up all the time I have AT SCHOOL, and writing is only done AT HOME. My biggest distraction is social media, because I love love love Facebook and Twitter. I have to turn it off when I’m in the middle of a story or it’d never get done. Also, Christmas and Summer break are big writing gaps for me. One of the perks of a teaching schedule.


Your website describes your books as 'Love and Amor around the globe'.  How much of a part do the settings play in your stories, and do you have a setting you've never written about but would love to?
I live in Central America and travel is a big part of my life. I haven’t written about Central America yet, but I know it’ll happen. Setting is crucial to my stories. New York Minute takes place in my dream city -- NEW YORK. Also, the hero, Diego is from Argentina and shares his world with, the heroine, Veronica. 


My last release, Time Out, Valentine takes place in Portland, Oregon, which stemmed from a business trip a few years ago. I loved the city and culture. So, of course, the iconic places, like Voodoo Donuts or the International Rose Garden star in the story.


Last year, a few authors and I teamed up to write a Winter Olympics themed anthology which takes place in Switzerland.  As you can see, Love and Amor Around the Globe is what it’s all about.



What research did you do for New York Minute?  
My father-in-law is a New Yorker and has so many stories to tell. In fact, my inlaws have such a beautiful romance story that I’m going to have to write it one day. They met at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. His stories were the best research. I also watched lots and lots of Youtube videos, even though I think it’s kind of pathetic.. My dream is to visit NYC one day soon. I’ll make it happen!

Are you working on another book right now, and if so, can you give us a hint of what’s to come?
I’m currently writing a story that takes place in France called French Connection. It’s loosely based on something that happened to me when I was sixteen living in Paris for the summer.


And finally, where can we find out more about New York Minute and your other books?
You can find my book information at my website: www.melindadozier.com
And like I said, I’m a social media nut, so find me there too: www.facebook.com/melindadoz or www.twitter.com/melindadozier

Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie! I loved your personalized questions.

Book Review: New York Minute

New York Minute immediately appealed to me because it involves my favourite combination of business and music. 

The heroine, Veronica or Vero, is an accountant who decides to break out of her boring life by putting on the persona of an outgoing fashion buyer and having a one-night stand with Diego, a gorgeous guy she meets at a wedding.  When she bumps into Diego again at a speed dating event she’s dragged to by a more outgoing friend, their brief flame is rekindled and the one-night stand rapidly starts turning into a real relationship. 

Diego is a fabulously hot hero, with a successful – and fascinating - career as a musician and a deep devotion to his family.  As Vero learns more about Diego’s apparently perfect life, she feels less and less able to tell him the truth about her career, but of course the secrets she is keeping soon become a threat to their relationship.  Not only that, but it turns out that she’s not the only one keeping secrets, and we’re left wondering what he’s keeping from her, and what will happen when they both find out the truth. 

There were plenty of questions to keep me turning pages; the characters were convincing; and I thoroughly enjoyed the New York setting.  Occasionally things seemed to move a bit too fast between Vero and Diego, but that might just be me, because I’m not a city girl, and as the title suggests, this is a book set at the speed of city life!

I also wanted to shake Vero occasionally for not realising that Diego wanted the real her, not some fantasy figure she’d concocted.  But if she had, there wouldn’t have been much of a story, so it’s probably a good thing that Vero’s perfectionist mother made her feel that her real self was inadequate, so that she could appreciate Diego turning up to show her otherwise!

Altogether this was a sweet and sensual read and a fun story, beautifully told.   

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sneak Peek Sunday: Love by the Book

Here's something different for Sneak Peek Sunday - a glimpse into the futuristic dystopian world of Love by the Book.  This novella was my NaNoWriMo effort from a few years back, and as I still love it, I'm finally getting around to polishing it up. These 6 paragraphs appear at the very beginning, so shouldn't need too much introduction.

Something had changed.  Susan felt it instantly.  The darkness was as dark and the stillness as still as the night before, yet she woke knowing, without knowing why, that everything was different. 
Things had changed a little when she joined the main House, and a great deal when she became the Guardian, but she was used to those changes.  They had to do with where she lived and what she did and how people treated her.  This change went deeper.  It crackled like radioactivity around the edges of her awareness and vibrated somewhere inside her with an excited hum. 
She lay in silence, feeling out the change, as dawn broke through the dusty air and settled onto the grey stone walls and floor like a rosy blanket.  Around her, the usual morning sounds began. 
In the kitchen across the courtyard, the staff were preparing a breakfast of toast and dandelion coffee, with much clattering of plates and humming of kettles.  No voices, though.  There would not be conversation until Susan and Jack put in their appearances.  Now there was only the sound of the well-practiced routine of moving around the kitchen, and Emma stirring in the ante-room. 
“Breakfast?” As if on cue, Emma’s sickly-sweet enquiry floated through from the side room.
“Sure.” Susan made her voice match it in sugariness.  “Just give me two ticks to get ready.”


You can read more Sunday snippets at: http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Book Review: An Autumn Crush

An Autumn CrushAn Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The four seasons books are my favourite Milly Johnson books and although I didn’t love ‘An Autumn Crush’ quite as much as ‘A Spring Affair’, it was still a great read. Juliet is a strong, funny heroine and her new flatmate Florence (Floz) is the perfect sidekick to her, as kind and private as Juliet is noisy and outgoing, but just as appealing in her own way.

The men in the story are perfect too – Steve is a wrestler and Juliet’s brother Guy is a chef who also wrestles. At first it appears that Steve is all brawn and no brain (that’s certainly how Juliet sees him) but as time goes on we see his softer side, and learn about the mystery in Guy’s past that has made him wary of women, even ones as sweet as Floz.

There are some wonderfully funny moments and the humour never felt forced to me. Like most of Milly Johnson’s books, ‘An Autumn Crush’ envelopes the reader in a blanket of warm Northern friendliness, and like ‘A Spring Affair’, it’s a book I can imagine going back to again and again.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Just Out: Melinda Dozier's New York Minute

It's always a pleasure to welcome a fellow Crimson Romance author to my blog, especially when they've got something to celebrate!  Here's Melinda Dozier with her brand new release, New York Minute!


Title: New York Minute
Author: Melinda Dozier
Release Day: March 9, 2015
Publisher: Crimson Romance


Blurb:
Shy accountant Veronica Bass is determined to live it up a little before settling down with a perfectly respectable man to live a perfectly respectable life, just the way her mother wants.


So when rock star Diego Diaz flashes his bedroom eyes at her during a wedding reception, Veronica swallows her shyness and leads him to the nearest hotel room. Now this total sex god keeps popping up in her life, and she finds herself telling some not-so-little white lies to keep him interested.


Diego's world evolves around music, women throwing themselves at him, and having fun. His lifestyle hasn't allowed him to find the right girl to settle down with until now, but his own secret stands in the way of forming a lasting relationship with Veronica.


Is their love destined to last for only a New York minute?


Sensuality Level: Sensual


Book Links:


Testimonials:
"They have the connection, physical and emotion … However, they left out some things from each other and that's the real dilemma here. It's all good because it ends nicely!" — Bookaholic Fairies


Every time I was away from this book, I couldn't wait to get back to it. This is an amazing read...” Reader


“Melinda has done it again!!! I absolutely love the way that she makes us all swoon for her characters in her stories and not be able to put it down until we are done.” Reader


Excerpt:

Time to focus on the Cosmo article she read two days before about flirting. She sipped her citrus martini, and as she brought the glass down, she licked her lips and glanced at her target. He actually flinched, the hunger in his eyes darkening. Barely enough for anyone to notice, but she did. She ran her hand up and down her neck, closing her eyes for a minute. When she opened them to look his way again, he had already started to walk in her direction. No, he didn’t walk; he actually strutted like a man on a mission.


She was his mission. Shit. Shit. Shit. Play it cool, Veronica. You’re a strong, sensual woman. You can do this.


She sipped her yellow drink again to calm herself, and if she was lucky, he wouldn’t notice her shaking. Calm. Sensual. Like a boss.


He positioned himself in front of her, one hand in his pocket and the other holding a tumbler of brown liquid, and rocked on the heels of his dark Dolce & Gabbana brogues.


“Hello.” His voice reverberated down to her core.


She gulped her martini to gain more liquid courage, but rather than bravery, the unthinkable happened. She swallowed the cherry that swam in her drink and the tickle in her throat drove her into a coughing frenzy.


She tried to smile through it, to let him know all was fine and she could still be the sexy seductress. As his large, firm hand patted her back, she fanned the air and grabbed his tumbler, downing the thick liquid.


After a last cough, she cleared her throat one more time. “Whoa. What was that?”


“Whiskey. Neat.” He grinned, his gorgeous caramel eyes lit with an inner glow. “You okay?”


A warmth spread over her cheeks. Holy freaking embarrassment. “It was strong.”


“I could’ve warned you, I guess, but you were busy.” He grinned and squeezed her shoulder with his large hand.


Was that an accent? Damn, could he be more perfect? Immediately, she glanced at his hand that revealed several tattoos peeking out of his jacket hem, from his wrist all the way down to his fingers. No ring. Thank God.


“Can we forget that happened? I’m not usually like that.” She waved her hand in the air and winced inwardly.


God, she wanted to erase that doomed first impression. She was confident, dammit. She didn’t want this dreamy man to know she could be less than sophisticated. Her act was more difficult than she imagined.


“It’s a shame. I kind of liked the unusual first encounter. Not that I want you to choke, but I was ready to save you.” He braced his tattooed hand against the wall behind her, moving closer. His manly smell was soapy, with a hint of wood.


Save her he might. “Who are you?”


He squinted his glowing eyes and turned his head to the side. He didn’t say anything for a long time, just studied her and then rolled on the heels of his feet. “Who are you?”


His “r” rolled off his tongue with a Spanish accent of some kind.


“When someone answers a question with a question, it’s one of two things. Either the person doesn’t have anything interesting to say or he’s hiding something. Are you hiding something?”
He lowered his voice and ran a hand up her arm. “I think we all do. Why are you hiding in the corner?”


Damned if the man’s touch sent shivers all the way to her toes. “So someone like you would find me.”


“Like me? How am I?”


“A man with questions … and a devious grin.”


As suspected, his smile grew and his gaze sought hers. “Well, I came over to tell you how stunning you look, but being a woman of such deep insight, you might take that the wrong way, no?”

“I’ll take it any way you want.” Yep. The alcohol had definitely gotten to her.

Trailer:



Author Bio:

Melinda is a multi-published contemporary romance author with books from Crimson Romance, Swoon Romance and The Wild Rose Press represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. She lives in Guatemala, Central America with her husband/college sweetheart who brings "mucho amor" to her life. Melinda enjoys being the queen of her household and dreams of being pampered fully by her three boys once they are grown. Melinda's guilty pleasures include reality t.v., traveling, blogging and playing Farmville.

Author Links:

Sign up for Melinda’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/vRwpL
Join Melinda’s Street Team, Melinda’s Misfits: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MelindasMisfits/

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Writer Wednesday Interview: J Arlene Culiner

It’s a pleasure today to welcome J Arlene Culiner, whose latest book is A Swan’s Sweet Song, from The Wild Rose Press, although like me, she’s also had a book published by Crimson Romance.  Welcome, Arlene.
It’s a pleasure being invited by you, Stephanie. Thanks.





I liked the fact that A Swan’s Sweet Song has a very grown-up hero and heroine, who have both had some great life experiences.  Do you enjoy writing about mature characters?

Actually, I only write about mature characters. I really do think experience makes us more interesting. When we’re older, we have more to say, we’re not just guided by hormones or the desire to find a mate so we can reproduce. Mature characters can have great discussions; they know, finally, how to communicate — and, for me, that means their romance really does have a chance of lasting.


Sherry Valentine is a country singer and Carston Hewlett is a playwright.  What made you choose these jobs for your hero and heroine, and did you have to do a lot of research about the music and media worlds?

I certainly did — but that was a long time ago. I once worked for Radio France — I had a country music program — but my job wasn’t just to play music. I had to give the history of country music, tell about it’s origins. For that, I read enormously, talked to musicians, delved into archives, dug up the old country music recordings from the Library of Congress. So, the material was all there, sitting in the old folders in my house: all I needed was the funny, feisty character of Sherry Valentine to make all that research come alive. As for theatre, I have, off and on, been working as an actress all my life (I was in British filmmaker Andrew Rokita’s film, Sunflowers, last summer) so there was no great mystery there either — although I’ve never yet met a bachelor playwright as charming as my hero, Carston Hewlett. Sigh.


I loved the scene where Sherry and Carston get caught in the storm, because it's such a contrast to the shiny TV studio we see at the start of the book, and her glamorous stage persona.  What’s your favourite scene in the book?

I love that scene in the barn too. It gives us the first hint that Sherry and Carston are not really those glamorous glittery people most people think they are. There are other scenes that were a delight to write too: the cocktail party at the Midville Culture Festival, or the scene with the dreadful waitress in the Paradise Café. But maybe the most fun for me was the scene when Mrs. Brown gives birth to her piglets, after which we find out who the real Sherry and the real Carston are.


What’s your best piece of advice for newer writers? 

Write and re-write, and re-write, and re-write. Polish every paragraph; make sentences sing;  steer away from ALL name brands or designer labels (you can do better than that if you’re a writer; you’re not here to promote products). And never stop doubting.


Do you read books about writing, and if so, which would you recommend?

A wonderful writing classic from 1934 (I found my copy in a junk shop in Poole): Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande with John Braine’s introduction.


What about a favourite romance novel, or author, to read?

Another classic from 1932: Cold Comfort farm, by Stella Gibbons. It’s romance and satire along with humour.


Thanks for being on my blog today, and for allowing me to review A Swan’s Sweet Song.  I loved it, so hopefully some people who read this interview will be inspired to check it out.  Where can they find a copy, or find out more about your books?

Thanks so very much to you, Stephanie. Here are some links for buying a Swan’s Sweet Song:

http://authl.it/B00RVPIS88
http://www.wildrosepublishing.com
http://prod-www.kobobooks.com


A Swan’s Sweet Song
 A Contemporary Romance from The Wild Rose Press

The air sizzles when a country music star and renowned playwright meet, but can opposites fall in love?

The instant Sherry Valentine and Carston Hewlett meet, there’s desire and fascination in the air…but they’re complete opposites.
Smart-talking Sherry fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, she’s ever in the limelight, ever surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers and paparazzi, and her spangled cowboy boots carry her all across the country, from one brightly lit stage to the next.
A renowned but reclusive playwright, Carston cherishes his freedom, the silence of his home in the woods and his solitary country walks.
Any long-term commitment is obviously out of the question: how about a quick and passionate fling?
But when their names are linked in the scandal press, Sherry’s plans to become an actress are revealed. And the budding relationship seems doomed.
Can you ignore a passionate attraction? Of course you can't. Carston soon decides he'll do anything in his power to bring Sherry into his orbit again. And that also means letting go of a few well-kept secrets...



Born in New York, raised in Toronto, J. Arlene Culiner has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no real interest. Much to everyone's dismay, she protects all living creatures -- especially spiders and snakes -- and her wild (or wildlife) garden is a classified butterfly and bird reserve.
In her perfectly realistic contemporary romances, heroines are funny, and heroes are dashingly lovable. All are proudly over the age of forty.



http://www.j-arleneculiner.com
j-arleneculiner.over-blog.com
https://twitter.com/j-arleneculiner
https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-Arlene-Culiner

Book Review: A Swan's Sweet Song, by J. Arlene Culiner

I loved this sweet story about a country singer and a playwright.  Sherry Valentine is the queen of popular culture and Carston Hewlett is the king of high-brow theatre: Nashville meets New York Times.  When they’re thrown together for a radio interview, neither of them expects much of the occasion, but they quickly find that there’s more to each of them than first appearances suggest.  Sparks fly and they’re soon looking for opportunities to spend more time together. 

The mature hero and heroine of the story were totally believable, and I liked the fact that, while they both had a past which influenced their present-day feelings, their pasts weren’t overplayed.  Instead, the focus was purely on how things play out for them in the present, when Carston finds out about Sherry’s desire to become an actress.  While Sherry keeps her ambitions a secret because she doesn’t want to exploit Carston, his past experience makes him misread her intentions entirely.  The crossed wires here are totally believable and understandable, and this whole strand of the story is a thought-provoking exploration of how fear can get in the way of love. 

Both Sherry and Carston are attractive characters, and there are some lovely descriptions of people and places.  I also enjoyed the frequent humorous moments.  Sherry’s pushy manager provides some delightful comedy as well as some astute insights into her character.  But my all-time favourite scene was when Sherry and Carston were caught in the storm.  I’ll see hay barns and boy scouts in an entirely different way after reading this book!

Altogether, it was a sweet, funny, believable story, brought to a satisfying conclusion, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a love story with a mature hero and heroine, especially if, like me, you have a taste for showbiz.  

Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Review: The Spirit Rebellion

The Spirit Rebellion (The Legend of Eli Monpress, #2)The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came to this book without reading the first in the series, but it was immediately easy to follow and enjoy the fast-paced story. I’ve wanted to read a novel by Rachel Aaron since I came across her brilliant writers’ blog and how-to-guide, ‘from 2k to 10k’.  Could writing at speed really result, as she claimed, in compelling stories and flowing prose, or would the speed show up in the form of poor plotting or sloppy style?  Well, since coming across The Spirit Rebellion (book 2 in a series featuring the incorrigible thief Eli Monpress), I have my answer.  Despite the very occasional typo, The Spirit Rebellion is a superb story, well written, and I would have been proud to have produced it at any speed.

Eli Monpress is an entertaining character: a roguish wizard with a penchant for befriending waifs and strays, and accumulating priceless artefacts. Miranda, apart from being a Spiritualist, is more of your average girl-next-door type, and she’s not too happy about finding herself thrown into the midst of Eli’s chaotic way of life, especially when it leads to her expulsion from the Spirit Court, to which she’s dedicated her life. When Eli’s latest theft and Miranda’s new job bring them both to the Duke of Gaol’s citadel, they are thrown together again in a quest to vanquish the tyrannical ruler of the region.

Their quest pits them against some fearsome adversaries, and the book is peopled with an unlikely but fascinating cast of characters, including a demon-possessed girl, the West Wind, and Eli’s adoptive father. There’s never a dull moment in this high-speed adventure, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the rest of the series.


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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicle of Light and Shadow, #1)A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I bought this at the Romantic Novelists' Association conference in Sheffield, which means it's been sitting on my shelf an embarrassing eighteen months.  What finally prompted me to read it was my sudden fascination with steampunk, which resulted from being introduced to Lindsay Buroker's excellent 'Emperor's Edge' series.  Like the 'Emperor's Edge' series, 'Conspiracy of Alchemists' combines charming whimsy with darkly gritty realism.
Pilot Elle Chance wants nothing more than to fly her airship in peace, but when she agrees to ship a mysterious box back from Paris to London, she finds herself dragged into a dangerous quest to thwart the Alchemists’ plans for world domination. Throw in a mysterious stranger, a pocket absinthe fairy and a trip aboard the Orient Express, and you have the recipe for the ultimate magical mystery tour.
The historically realistic detail combined with lashings of magic and science make for an atmospheric read, while the high stakes in Elle’s adventure kept me turning pages relentlessly.
 No wonder this won Liesel Schwarz an award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association – although the book is so much more than just a romance!

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Six Sentence Sunday: A Taste of Something New

In this week's snippet, a casual conversation over doughnuts (or donuts, for the benefit of the US market), leads Sal to get a taste of a new experience.  She wishes she knew what it felt like to be beautiful (at least, beautiful in a conventional, model-like way, since to Wulf she's already beautiful). And, of course, her own personal genie is happy to oblige.  


They walked and ate in silence as they approached the narrow door alongside the shop entrance.  Sal was surprised to see someone coming out of the building, also licking donut sugar off her fingers, despite being far too skinny and lovely to seem the type to go for junk food. 
And beside her was... the most beautiful man Sal had ever seen.  With familiar violet eyes and dark flowing hair.

She looked down at her fingers.  So did the woman in the doorway.  

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Writer Wednesday Interview: Zrinka Jelic

Today I am hosting fellow Crimson Romance author Zrinka Jelic.  Make sure to read to the end, as Zrinka is kindly offering an ecopy of Rose of Crimson or one of her other books to one lucky commenter.  

Welcome to my blog. I’ve never met a Zrinka before! Is it a Croatian name?

 
Thanks for having me on your blog today. It’s a pleasure to be here. Yes, Zrinka is a Croatian name. It comes from an ancient noble family Zrinski. That last name still exist in Croatia, but the descendants are no longer nobles or they never been. During Feudalism serfs often assumed or were given their masters’ last name as a stake or claim on their lives.

You live in Canada now. Do you make use of your different travel experiences in your stories?

Yes, for over twenty years now I’ve been calling Canada my new home. I always use experiences from my travel in my stories, however sometimes readers have a hard time believing certain things, like you cannot rent a car with automatic gear shift everywhere on this planet. I can’t speak for the entire Europe, but in Croatia this is a rarity. Though the rental agencies may advertise a small number of vehicles in their fleet with automatic shift, beware, the price for such cars is doubled if not tripled and the location you’re renting from may not have it, if you book online, that could be for a different location in a totally different town. But, I don’t often put troubles one can encounter while traveling abroad, there are many pleasant experiences that far outnumber the bad ones and you can expect that not absolutely everything will go smoothly on your travels.

Here in the UK, it's much more common to rent manual cars, but you can get an automatic if you ask nicely!  But that's enough about cars.  Tell us about your latest book.

My 5th novel is titled Rose of Crimson and it was released by Secret Cravings Publishing on December 23rd, 2014. This is a prequel to Bonded by Crimson which was published on January 15th, 2012. I started working on the prequel the day I was offered a publishing contract for Bonded by Crimson. Then it got pushed to the back burner while I worked on other projects. Since then I’ve written and published Treasured Chest, a pirate romance, Love Remains, a time travel romance and Deck the Halls, a Christmas novella.. 
Rose of Crimson is based on a Croatian legend from late 17th century. Local people like to refer to the tragic love story as their Romeo and Juliet, only in this version the young lovers (Miljenko & Dobrila) are from feuding aristocratic families who would stop at nothing to keep them apart. Even when Dobrila’s father accepted the offered hand of peace, he couldn’t deal with the fact that Miljenko won and took his daughter.
However, Rose of Crimson is not a historical romance. In the book the hero, Miles—he shortened it from Miljenko—telepathically projects his story onto the heroine, Kate—who has a special connection with him through her ancestor. I wanted to present the passages of his past life differently than just jump from past to present through the chapters. I wanted a reader to know when we’re entering and exiting his story. Because, he sought her out to write down his story. Both books are stand alone, though the ending in Rose of Crimson may not leave you satisfied, Kate and Matthias do find their happily ever after in Bonded by Crimson.

Bonded by Crimson features a centuries-old immortal hero, and Love Remains includes an angel. What are the challenges of writing paranormal characters, and how do you overcome them?

Lately media plants images of flawless paranormal characters, e.g. vamps, wares, ghosts. They are exceptionally great looking, rich, forever young, hip, and cool, they can eat whatever and not gain weight, and I can’t help it but think this is some kind of a dream. We all wish this. However, these characters were at some point ordinary humans and as such they were flawed. If they continue to live they’d carry the same flaws into immortality. As the saying goes, the trouble with fiction is that it has to make sense. Many paranormal books are bogged down with demons, angels, vamps, and the world they live in. My paranormal books are light on the paranormal world, there’s just enough of it to fit the genre. Paranormal characters have some extraordinary skills or powers, but nothing too drastic. The most I gave to Matthias/Miles is the ability to block the part of the mind of the mortals that would allow them to see him, hence the invisibility, but they could bump into him since he’s present in body. Once he established the connection he is able to communicate telepathically.
The ghost in Love Remains can take an ordinary person and plant them into a what-if kind of life, as happened to Olivia who turned her back on love and family.  

What books or authors do you think have influenced you?

There were many big name authors, I read any genre. One that I’m very fond of is Arturo Perez Reverte, I love all his Captain Alatriste stories. At the moment I’m reading second in the series of A Song of Ice and Fire ; A Clash of the Kings and finding George R.R. Martin pretty influential. However, the only author I’m striving to be like is the better one I’ve been yesterday. In other words, I want to develop my own voice and style. I’ve seen new authors trying to emulate their favorite author, but that doesn’t work, it is simply not their voice or style.

Are you influenced by other media, like TV, film or art?

I don’t have a cable TV and after seeing what kind of program is on lately, I really don’t miss it, but I do love movies and yes, I’m influenced by them. I often think of what if that happened instead of this. That is how I get ideas for the new stories, put them in a different setting and voila. But I also like to resurrect old love legends that often end in tragedy and give them a whole new twist.

Where can we find out more about your books, and where are they available for sale?

Find me on:  Amazon  Facebook   Twitter 


Visit my  Blog   

And now for an excerpt:

He had pulled the door open and there she sat, on top of the steps. Hadn’t he told her to go home and pack? Wait, something was different about her. She was younger, a child almost. Her hair was tied in a high ponytail, her clothes…God almighty! She was naked, save for a few scraps. Could her breeches get any shorter? The threads hung loose form the frail hem, as if she put shears to her leggings. Her long, tanned legs were bare for all to see. Her shirt, if one could call it such, sleeveless, backless even, held by two thin straps tied around her neck, depicted a pony. Whoever put animals on their attire and with glittering mane of all things?
“Oh my God!” Kate screeched, but didn’t pull her hands out of his. “I remember this encounter. That’s me.”
“That is you. The last time I saw your great-great-grandmother was the first time I saw you.”
“Wicked.” Her voice carried her fascination. “It’s some kind of an omen.”
“Something or someone tried to tell me something,” he said. Maybe they were destined for one another, and nothing he did would keep them apart.
“Now I know why you scrutinized me as if I came from some other world. In your eyes, I did. To me you didn’t appear out of place. I thought you pulled your clothes from your grandpa’s chest for the local festivity. I figured the weakness that poured over me as a sign of heat or sunstroke.”
“How do you explain the rose I gave you?” He snickered at her last comment, the old clothes stored together with moth balls in squeaky chests with rusted hinges and used on occasions such as festivity to resurrect the old traditions and attract visitors.
Her long gaze and soft smile settled on him. If she was trying to play cool and not show how much she wanted him, her pretending failed. “My memory has faded a little since then, but I clearly remember you picking the flower and offered it to me. My mom is adamant that I picked it myself. She said good thing the custodian didn’t catch me.”
His heart sunk at the mention of the home he grew up in. It had been decades since he last touched its stone walls. The once mighty castle, closed for the family affairs, was now open for everyone to roam about for the price of the admission. At least the money generated was used to preserve the building and grounds, and employed a few people.
BLURB
KATE ROKOV‘s grades are plummeting. She needs to get the voice out of her head or she will flunk her finals.

MATTHIAS ZRIN, a three centuries old immortal, born into an aristocratic family as Miles Rušinić, is enthralled with Kate. It is his voice preventing Kate from sleeping and her ignorance is testing his limits. He wants her to write down his story to settle his wife’s earthbound spirit. His tragic love story has become Kate’s obsession since fifth grade during her summer trip to Rušinić castle.

You can pick up a copy for your
Please say hi to Zrinka in the comments, and make sure you leave your email address if you'd like to be in with a chance to win an ecopy of one of her books.