The Week: 13th – 19th May

When this post goes up I should be in Sydney. It’s just an overnight trip to see The Australian Ballet’s closing night performance of Giselle at the Opera House. It’s my favourite ballet, and the last one I ever danced.

This week was all about edits on my upcoming book. I’ve almost reached the point of I hate this thing and never want to read it ever, ever again! Quite normal when you’ve already read it eleventy-billion times in the past six months!

R.I.P. to Bob Hawke, who was Prime Minister of Australia for a big chunk of my childhood. I was so surprised to hear he’d died, as he’d been active in the election campaign these past few weeks.

On that note: happy day-after-election day to Australia – ha ha. I have zero confidence in the result (though, by the time this goes up we might already have a result). The world has become a lot crazier over the past decade, and – as the US proved in 2016 – anything can happen.

My father has been working at a pre-polling station for the past three weeks, filling in the time before starting a new management job (he doesn’t understand the concept of “retirement”), and he now has zero faith in the average Australian’s intelligence. A lot of people go to vote and don’t even know what the election is for! Voting is compulsory in Australia, and that’s something I have very mixed feelings about.

Book Feature: Jade by Jill Marie Landis

jade by jill marie landis

My review of First Strike (I-Team #5.9) by Pamela Clare

First Strike (I-Team #5.9) by Pamela Clare

Cover Love

Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie

Eurovision

First Strike (I-Team #5.9) by Pamela Clare

I’ve got to say this first: I’m really embarrassed about this cover. I’m not a “topless cover model guy” fan on a good day, but this guy is totally naked!

First Strike (I-Team #5.9) by Pamela Clare

Just a weekend…

Laura Nilsson knows what she wants: a successful career as a broadcast journalist—and a little fun between the sheets now and again. What she doesn’t want is marriage or kids. When a ripped and sexy stranger intervenes to stop a couple of drunks from harassing her in a hotel bar in Dubai City, all she can think about is spending the rest of the weekend with him—in her bed. There’s just one little problem. Unmarried sex is illegal in Dubai.

… of no-strings sex …

Navy SEAL Javier “Cobra” Corbray is on his way home from a rough deployment in Afghanistan when he finds himself having dinner with “the Baghdad Babe.” What she wants from him—sex with no strings—could land them both in prison. Still, he’s more than happy to oblige her. She’s confident and sexually assertive, and he’s secure enough to lie back and let her make the first strike. But, as she’s about to find out, he’s more than her match.

… or the beginning of something more?
Yet, neither Laura nor Javier has any idea what lies ahead—or how this weekend of mind-blowing sex will impact their emotions. Will they act on their new-found feelings in time, or will they let something special slip away… perhaps forever?

First Strike (I-Team #5.9) by Pamela Clare

First Strike is a novella with a cliffhanger of an ending, but it’s a really well-written one, steamier than I was expecting (but I probably should have got that from the cover!) and one that shows you the quality of Pamela Clare’s writing (in my opinion she’s one of the best authors around).

This was originally the opening of the sixth instalment in the I-Team suspense series, but it got too long and had to be cut from the book.

Set in Dubai, I’m very glad that Clare makes a thing about the restrictive laws there, because I was dubious about something steamy set in a country where even rape victims are locked up for “having premarital sex”. In fact, women’s and girls’ rights are the whole theme of the heroine’s work, and now I really need to find time away from my review book mountain to pick up Striking Distance, the book this is the prequel to.

I don’t know if the author has spent any time in the United Arab Emirates, but she seems to know her setting inside-out. It was Dubai as I recognise it, down to the different nationalities and ethnicities, to the expat scene… Except I don’t know anyone who calls the place “Dubai City”.

The UAE is not a country you want to get caught doing – well – anything in. You can buy alcohol all over the place, but if the authorities don’t like the look of you you can be put in prison for drinking it. It’s such an oddly hypocritical melting pot of people from the world over, and that’s what worked so well for me in how the author captured it.

A good read – but be prepared for steam!

Uh, Book Depository?

Striking Distance Pamela Clare Vladimir Putin Life Coach

For weeks now, I’ve been getting generated ads from The Book Depository on every second website I visit. And the two books above? They’re the two the company keeps recommending for me.

The Navy SEAL hero of Pamela Clare’s Striking Distance (read recently; reviewed soon) is a little different to wannabe macho man Vladimir Putin, who only a few days ago failed miserably – and publicly – at riding a horse (skip to 35 seconds into the video for a laugh), putting to rest the propaganda lie that he sexily rides around Russia topless.

Go and buy Striking Distance – it’s good. Vladimir Putin: Life Coach? Not so much.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

I have an Irish surname, so…

For St Patrick’s Day, here are some books I can think of with an Irish main character, or are actually set in Ireland:

The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters book 4) by Anne Gracie

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

IGNORE the AWFUL cover and trashy title! It’s a very good book.

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

Secrets in Scarlet by Erica Monroe

Secrets in Scarlet (Rookery Rogues Book 2) Erica Monroe

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Finally: If you want a book with a hero who came from Ireland centuries ago, you could always try this very popular vampire read!

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

The Week: 17th – 23rd October

yellow-roses-canberra-australia-sonya-heaney-spring-garden-18th-october-2016-nature

white-roses-canberra-australia-sonya-heaney-spring-garden-18th-october-2016-nature

Spring Roses

We booked tickets for the Royal Ballet in London this week. I used to go to Covent Garden all the time when I lived in London, but it’s been years since my last visit. We’ll be seeing The Sleeping Beauty, and the performance we’re seeing is being broadcast in cinemas around the world. It’s a very stressful, difficult ballet to be performing with that extra pressure!

We had a big family thing this week, because our French/Swiss family were all here. My father’s side of the family is HUGE, so a family event means a million people crammed into a house!

This pretty much sums up the US election:

3rd-debate-putin-and-trump-together

Nobody is forcing people to like Hillary Clinton, but I’ve been horrified by some romance authors and their followers this week, women who support Trump so much they are denying women ever experience sexual harassment. So much for romance respecting women!

The we get more stories like this one:

Italy abortion row as woman dies after hospital miscarriage

I am Catholic, and the church is a huge part of Ukrainian culture. I don’t think people understand that I’m deathly serious when I say I’m not going to church ever again. I’m sick of the Catholic church murdering women and then calling themselves “pro-life”. These stories are coming out of Ireland, Italy, Poland, everywhere.

When almost ALL doctors in Italy refuse to perform medical procedures to save women’s lives – because of religion – well, Italy has a big human rights issue. Women matter more than unviable foetuses.

And speaking of wholesome “God-fearing” men:

Arkansas judge who ‘traded sexual favours’ in return for lighter sentences indicted

‘Joseph Boeckmann resigned in May after dozens of men claimed he paid them to allow him to spank them with a paddle and to take photos of the red skin.

…the opportunity to view and to photograph in compromising positions persons who appeared before him in traffic and misdemeanour criminal cases in exchange for dismissing the cases”.’

Seriously, what is happening to the world at the moment…?

My review of Slow Burn (Colorado High Country #2) by Pamela Clare

slow-burn-colorado-high-country-2-by-pamela-clare

Laurell K. Hamilton on research in Ireland

kiss-the-dead-2012-book-21-in-the-anita-blake-vampire-hunter-series-a-novel-by-laurell-k-hamilton

‘Romance Novels Empower My Feminism’

Sarah Mayberry Julie James Contemporary Romance Book Covers

Cover Love

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery book 1) by Deanna Raybourn

Cover Love

the-legendary-lord-playful-brides-6-by-valerie-bowman

Slow Burn (Colorado High Country #2) by Pamela Clare

slow-burn-colorado-high-country-2-by-pamela-clare

Victoria Woodley is done with men. Fresh off a dating nightmare, she flies from her home in Chicago to Scarlet Springs to take part in her best friend’s wedding. Who picks her up at the airport? Eric Hawke. Of course. She made a fool of herself over him last time she was here. He’s cocky, charming, and sexy as sin. But the fact that she’s attracted to him is all the proof she needs that he’s bad news. She would ignore him if she could. But he’s the best man, and she’s the maid of honor. She can’t just tell him to jump in a lake—especially not when her lips are locked with his.

Eric isn’t looking for a relationship. Between running the firehouse and volunteering for the county’s search and rescue team, he has enough on his plate. He doesn’t need to get tangled up with a woman from the big city, especially one whose idea of roughing it is going without designer coffee. Yet from the moment he looks into Victoria’s big brown eyes, the attraction he feels is too strong to deny. Faster than he can imagine, the spark of desire that has smoldered between them since the first day they met will flare into full-blown passion.

But can Eric convince Victoria to set aside her doubts and trust him with her heart before their time together runs out?

Slow Burn (Colorado High Country #2) by Pamela Clare

Pamela Clare is one of the best romance writers around. I didn’t even bother finding out what this book was about before I cracked open my review copy – I knew I’d enjoy whatever it was, and whatever subgenre it was written in.

Slow Burn might be the second in a series, but I don’t think that’s an issue if – like me – you haven’t read the first book. Clare creates completely modern, relevant, believable characters. There is no shame attached to sex (and some parts of this book are fairly steamy – as if the cover doesn’t give it away!). She has created a community of friends who seem like normal, twenty-first century thirty-somethings, with modern, twenty-first century dramas.

The hero and heroine are thrown together in a way that makes the speed of their relationship believable. They’re leading the wedding party of the hero and heroine of the first book, and taking part in days of organised activities in the build-up to it.

I tend to have a problem with books where everyone is moving to a small town because the city is evil, and they are all acting like an older generation with different priorities in life. However, I didn’t find this to be the case at all in this book, which was a huge relief. The small town is made out to be the sort of place that might appeal to people in the main characters’ demographic.

If there’s one thing I’m not so sure about, I think it’s a cultural difference on my part. Where I live nobody would try some of the emotional speeches and grand gestures that these characters do (e.g. at the wedding or at Thanksgiving). We’re a little too sarcastic for that sort of stuff in my neck of the woods!

However, I did really enjoy this one. It felt much more realistic to me than most contemporary romance.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The twenty-fourth anniversary of The Last of the Mohicans

film_lastofthemohicans

I have no idea why, but The Last of the Mohicans premiered in France, not the United States, on the 26th of August, 1992. The US premiere came on the 25th of September.

I credit this film (I’ve never read the book the whole way through) with a lot of my interests now. Of course back then you couldn’t just jump on the internet and learn stuff and find similar stories, but I tried my best!

The Last of the Mohicans 1992

I have a few books I recommend quite often, that are set in the same location and time period as this film.

Into the Wilderness by Sara DonatiSurrender (MacKinnon’s Rangers #1) by Pamela Clare

Untamed by Pamela ClareDefiant by Pamela Clare

Into the Wilderness

Surrender Review and Link

Untamed Review and Link

Defiant Review and Link

And as a bonus: behind the scenes on the film set. What dorks!

Behind the scenes on set The Last of the Mohicans

Best of 2015

2015 was a mixed bag. I read some really great books, and got excited about quite a few things.

However there were also lengthy periods of time where I was either feeling a little blah about my books or I was downright fed up with reading in general, and with the repetition brought on by genre fads.

I saved myself from my reading slumps both by rereading, and also by buying books instead of accepting as many review books as I might have other years.

Every year I post my best reads of the year. Many are 2015 releases, but some are not. Not all of them are the Greatest Read Ever, but every one of these stuck with me in some way, and that’s what counts the most when it comes to a book.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Ross Poldark (Poldark #1) by Winston Graham

Poldark_-_Ross_Poldark

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Brown-Eyed Girl (2015) (The fourth book in the Travis series) by Lisa Kleypas

Collateral Damage (Bagram Special Ops #5) by Kaylea Cross

Collateral Damage by Kaylea Cross

His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen

His Christmas Countess (Lords of Disgrace #2) by Louise Allen

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy #2) by Madeline Hunter

Tall, Dark, & Wicked by Madeline Hunter

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

Demelza (Poldark #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Reflected in You (Crossfire #2) by Sylvia Day

Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Cold-Hearted Rake (2015) by Lisa Kleypas

His Housekeeper’s Christmas wish by Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Marc and Sophie Hunter, Gabe and Kat Rossiter, Holly Andris and the rest of the
I-Team gang find themselves in the same historic Denver hotel celebrating the approach of Christmas at different holiday parties. What starts out as a fun winter evening with friends soon becomes a brutal fight to survive when the hotel is taken over by a group of ruthless narco-terrorists who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

On the outside, Julian Darcangelo, Zach McBride, Nick Andris and others join together with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team to free their friends, knowing that if they fail, the people they love will be…

Dead by Midnight.

Featuring cameo appearances by the men of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, a series by New York Times bestselling author Kaylea Cross.

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

I want to say this is a five star read. It’s close. Even if you have NO idea who all these featured couples are (because this book is about EVERYONE in the series), you will get caught up in the brilliantly constructed suspense story that manages to jump from place to place while still making sense. You’ll LOVE the realistic dialogue and the brilliant research that makes this a believable story.

But it’s CLOSE, not there. My issue is: BABIES. But more about that later.

I’m not up to date on the I-Team series, but I knew almost enough to keep up (even if Marc/Matt and Kat/Kara kept mixing me up!). I think Clare did a great job of dropping hints about who these people are without annoying us with info-dumps.

On top of that, Kaylea Cross is one of the BEST romantic/military suspense authors you will ever read, and her characters appear in this book, so that made it extra great.

It’s really hard to explain why some authors have “it” and some don’t, but it’s there in the text. People act and think and speak like actual human beings. The research is impeccable, so you really feel like you’re immersed in the situation.

While the author clearly favours Sophie and Marc (book three) over any of the other couples (they’re all here in the book, but the page time devoted to certain pairings is really distorted, and even his sister gets more page time than almost anyone), I didn’t mind because the structure of this complex story was so impressive. Few authors could jump from room to room, person to person, and situation to situation without making it jarring. It was pretty brilliant.

As someone who isn’t from the United States, I found the constant mentions of ‘holiday party’ and ‘holiday decorations’ really jarring and distracting; it’s Christmas – call it by what it is! But then I suppose that’s accurate for the setting…

Now, the thing I really didn’t like:

I think Pamela Clare is an incredible author. I also think she is an incredible woman in general, and has achieved amazing things as a journalist (which is why her stories are so believable and accurate).

However, she has a big love of pregnancy, childbirth and babies, and seems to struggle to believe not all women are the same.

The loss of a star for this book comes from one character: Holly (who is otherwise great!). Holly is a super-lady without being GI Jane. An operative who basically saves the day- er, night). She is intelligent and fun and kind, and she doesn’t want children.

However, over the course of one night – even less than that, actually (as the book’s timeline is given to you chapter by chapter) she decides she LOVES babies, thinks childbirth is wonderful, and tells her husband she is giving up on birth control so she can have his babies.

This upsets me greatly.

I am one of those women who apparently MUST be “cured” of their desire to NOT have children. As much as the author loves the whole baby thing, I dislike it just as strongly. No terrorist will ever cure me of that, I’m sorry. Seeing Holly cooing at babies after a few hours with terrorists…

I’d like to see ONE Clare heroine who doesn’t think childbirth is the best thing EVAH!

However, kudos to the author for this (Holly speaking to her husband about having babies):

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one who has to go through it. All you have to do is come.”

But then I remove it for this (and other quotes) – after the attack:

Holly sat next to Sophie, her gaze on the babies.

Well, that’s new.

However, this book is sort of cool. How often do you find a major terrorist issue incorporated into a Christmas romance book without it being ridiculous? The combination of Clare and Cross is about as good as it gets.

Even if you don’t know who all these characters are, I still think I’d recommend this to pretty much anyone who reads this sort of book.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.