The Spark by Sylvie Stewart ~ Book Review

The Spark by Sylvie Stewart, is undoubtedly one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. In it we discover more about Fiona, best friend of Laney (from The Fix – the first book in this series). She comes from money and although on the face of a bit of an airhead is actually a rather complex and driven individual with hidden heartaches, which are a constant backdrop to her decisions. Enter Mark, Laney’s partner’s friend (are you still with me…) and someone Fiona always rubs up the wrong way. In fact, whenever they meet, they spark off each other – their behaviour at odds with how they treat others, their sarcastic wise-assery (yes it’s a word…) teetering on the brink of downright hurtful.

Then something shifts. Mark’s father is brought to the ER after being beaten up by thugs to whom he owes a lot of money. Fiona happened to be there, after seeing her specialist, and spends a little time talking with Mark,  who begins to see another side to her. As the story behind the beating unfolds, Fiona decides they need to come up with a plan to help Mark’s mother, in case these thugs come after her for payment.

A road trip, a rather unnerving experience and hours together has a huge impact on Fiona and Mark and despite both swearing off relationships they find themselves attracted to each other, an attraction, which threatens all their high ideals.

Sylvie Stewart’s characters are so exquisitely crafted, you feel as though you’ve known them for ever, that you are one of their friends and Fiona’s internal dialogue is priceless. I laughed, I cried then I laughed again and fell in love not once but several times.
The Spark is everything a romance reader looks for; great story, lively characters, a fast paced plot and just the right amount of sizzle! Although there are some very poignant moments they aren’t dragged out, more they add to the depth of the novel and are beautifully counterbalanced by Sylvie’s perfectly timed humour.

I would give this 10 stars if I could, it is the quintessential romantic comedy, highly recommended.

The Spark is available worldwide from Amazon.


The Friend Zone by Nicole Strycharz ~ Book Review

The Friend Zone is another great novel from Nicole Strycharz. I loved The Divorce and was excited to see what happened with Moses, the man who nearly stole Jenzy’s heart in the last book. This story runs parallel to it’s predecessor and, like The Divorce, this is not an easy story – by that I mean it’s a bit of a roller coaster, not that it’s difficult to read – but so worth it. Moses and, his best friend, Chloe share everything and have for years; their ups, their downs, their loves, their losses, they are always there for each other – strong, supportive and loyal. One thing they have never been is attracted to each other…at least this is what they keep telling themselves. After all, they’re in the Friend Zone – once there, the chance of any kind of intimate relationship with said friend is off the table.

This has been working perfectly well until unexpected emotions start to cloud their friendship and they enter a whole new and very complicated zone. Mired in pain and angst, it seems bound to tear them apart but this zone – if they dared to believe in themselves – might just be the best thing that ever happened to them. Of course it isn’t handed to them on a silver platter – love is a tricky path and, despite eventually recognising what is happening – to step out of the comfortable friend zone they have been in for so long take a whole lot of courage.

Nicole’s ability to capture the rawness of a situation is astonishing. Her characters leap off the page and demand your attention. Neither Chloe nor Moses is perfect – far from it and now they are fighting what is obvious for fear they will lose what they already share in order to embrace what has been staring them in the face for longer than they care to admit. They argue, they behave badly, they forget what is important – don’t we all? That’s the essence of this book – shit happens, life isn’t a sunny day but love in all its guises usually finds a way to bang our heads together, forcing us to see the truth, if we are prepared to take the risk.

This book is funny, poignant, harsh, honest, gritty and full of love, all kinds of love from platonic to sexual and everything in between – it weaves a tantalising thread throughout the novel, daring you to chase it through its many knots in search of that elusive HEA.

The Friend Zone, by Nicole Strycharz is available worldwide from Amazon.
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Claiming Xana by Xana Jordan ~ Book Review

Claiming Xana is the second book in Xana Jordan’s Wildcat Graduates Series. I loved the previous story – Loving Noel, and was really looking forward to the sequel. Wow – I was not disappointed; Claiming Xana is exceptional.

Her time at high school over and trying to put the heartbreak of losing Noel behind her, Xana along with her best friend Stacey, are now in college and facing a new set of challenges. Xana has even sort of fallen into a new relationship with Jeff, a friend of her brother’s. Despite the mounting pressure of course work, extra classes and hours of studying; things seem to be ticking over nicely. A year later, Noel and Cade follow the girls to the same college, but Xana won’t go anywhere near Noel, finding any excuse not to be in the same room as him. Noel always knew he’d screwed up and is resolved to win Xana back.

Things come to a head when Xana falls ill, Noel is there for her, whereas Jeff – more interested in himself, his fraternity and another girl, than Xana – is nowhere to be seen. The ramifications of Xana’s illness is another issue she must contend with, concerned it will be too much for Noel to handle, but as she recovers, Xana slowly comes to trust Noel again and the couple begins to repair their shattered relationship. Noel’s attentiveness and obvious care breaks through Xana’s barriers – after all, she never stopped loving him – if she had it wouldn’t have hurt as much. Problem is, Jeff was manipulative and controlling, damaging Xana’s self-confidence and Noel still has a lot of making up to do. Is there any chance that love will be enough to give Xana and Noel the HEA they deserve?

Jordan has crafted a story that flows effortlessly around the ups and downs of college life and it opened a floodgate of memories from my time in those lofty halls of academia; trying to find a balance between embracing the fun and the new friendships against classes, long nights poring over books and pesky assignment deadlines. Jordan’s characters are wonderfully interesting people; a strong, loyal, supportive and tight knit group of friends who will do anything for each other; as well as those whose lights you could cheerfully punch out!

Themes of loss, heartbreak, joy, courage, determination, trust, faith – in others and yourself – are interwoven throughout this book reminding us that even when things seem overwhelming, there’s usually a silver lining, you just have to look for it. The rekindled romance between Xana and Noel is one of the best second chances at love I’ve ever read, beautifully portrayed. This book is a roller coaster of a ride, but the laughter, friendships, tears and love make it a ride so worth taking.

As with Loving Noel, Claiming Xana is YA/NA and intended for a younger audience, however there is something for everyone within the pages what’s not to love about a delightfully entertaining romance!

Claiming Xana is available on Amazon
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Loving Noel by Xana Jordan ~ Book Review

Loving Noel by Xana Jordan is the first book in the Wildcat Graduates Series and, although I rarely even check out the YA and NA books (being rather older…), I’m so glad I read this novel. Jordan not only captures the fun, laughter and friendships we shared as we suffered high school, but also all the angst and insecurities that plagued us.

Xana has been attracted to Noel for a long time, but assumes he would never notice her. Noel feels the same about Xana, but she’s the year ahead of him, so he presumes she wouldn’t be interested. However, because of band practice they spend a lot of time together, both are part of the same group of friends and, after dancing around each other for way too long, almost without effort, they start to date.

Even though they seem perfect for each other, when you are young and in love all sorts of issues rear their ugly heads, for just as Xana and Noel become closer, their relationship is put to the test. Enter Mercedes and Blain. Mercedes wants Noel and will try every catty trick in the book to get him, and Blain, who although Xana considers more of a brother, suddenly sees Xana in a whole new light.

Jordan’s portrayal of her characters was so genuine, I seriously wanted to punch Mercedes’ lights out and slap Noel for not being more forceful when it came to telling her to back off. My stomach wrenched at some of the crap Xana put up with and throughout the tale I was back in my high school days when emotions were exaggerated and we hadn’t gained enough maturity to know how to handle certain situations, our responses raw and unsophisticated (despite believing ourselves very grown up and totally able to handle anything!). I was so thankful for Stacy and Cade who are exactly the sort of friends you need; strong, supportive, loyal and happy to tell you to stop behaving like an idiot.

Loving Noel is a story of first love, the heady romance and intoxicating anticipation – the leap from being friends to dating, tinged with the fear that if it doesn’t work out, your friendship might be ruined. It’s also about jealousy, loss, trust, faith and how we cope with the journey from adolescence to adulthood. Jordan’s style is lively and entertaining, drawing you further and further into the lives of her characters, until you feel you have known them for years and are now part of their coterie. I am looking forward to the sequel, as this story is not over.

Loving Noel is available on Amazon and although intended for a younger audience, I believe anyone who loves a fun romance will enjoy this story.

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The Foreigner by AC Jade ~ Book Review

The Foreigner by AC Jade turned out to be a very intriguing book. The story unfolds in a rather unusual manner and initially I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it. Jasmine, a young lady from the Philippines is now living in America and re-training to be a doctor. On the first day at her new job she gets lost and ends up at a place called The Bookstore ~ which isn’t a bookstore at all ~ where she is greeted by a masked stranger, a stranger who haunts her dreams. Despite visiting The Bookstore several times, Jasmine loses sight of this shadowy figure and decides to move on, since wishing for him was not making it happen.

Subsequently, she meets and falls for Stephen Gates, who just happens to live in the penthouse suite of her apartment block, and unfortunately is suffering from a brain tumour. Although he loves her too and they begin a passionate affair, there is much threatening their chance at a HEA ~ not least of which is Steven’s disease ~ and slowly everything unravels.

I struggled a bit with Jasmine’s character, as initially she seemed quite independent and feisty, but later was easily manipulated by Stephen and the rest of his family ~ of whom there are a LOT and who are extremely wealthy. Some of the brothers consider Jasmine a gold digger and make no bones about their opinion ~ their callous assumptions, unfounded and downright hurtful, leaving Jasmine confused and uncertain. To add to the mix, it turns out Stephen has a twin, who Jasmine meets under tragic circumstances, little realising that they have already spoken, but when and how will shock her. So there are quite a lot of twists and turns in the tale. No, I won’t give the plot away ~ you have to read it.

The supporting cast were well written and some deserve their own stories ~ I’d be interested to see whether this happens. The story ends but doesn’t conclude, I felt that there were a few threads still dangling, so I hope AC Jade ties them off in a future novel.

This is a story of love and loss and second chances, of the tenuous nature of life and how happiness so can so easily be snatched away. It encourages the reader to grab life with both hands and dance like nobody’s watching!

Overall this book was definitely worth the read, although I did find some of the language and phraseology a bit awkward. I discovered, however, that The Foreigner is the Jade’s debut novel and that English is her second language, which clarified it to some extent; I am in awe of authors who take that leap of faith to write in a language other than their own.

The Foreigner is available on Amazon
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Redeemed by Maria Vickers ~ Book Review

Redeemed by Maria Vickers is the second book in the Love Seekers series and follows the lives of Rayne Sampson and Chad Alexander. Rayne is Bryan’s sister (from Exposed, the first book – have you read it yet? You really should) and Chad who fell for Emma (now married to Bryan – are you still with me?) and for whom he still harbours deep feelings. I loved Chad in ‘Exposed’ and was very excited to discover that he gets his own story.

Rayne is a total witch, she hates everyone, well actually she hates Emma and everything spills out from there. She is so hateful, she makes the Wicked Witch of the West seem like the best ever fairy godmother. She detests anyone with a disability, believing them to be frauds and her greatest wish is that Bryan will divorce Emma. This vitriol is not contained within her family circle; it has become so ingrained, it’s now affecting the rest of her life, which is rapidly spiralling out of control.

Chad hates Rayne. He hates how she gets away with her petulant, spoiled behaviour, he hates the way treats Emma and anyone else who suffers from any form of disability, including his own sister, and is determined to teach her a lesson. So he comes up with a plan, at the same time that Rayne decides Chad needs taking down a peg or two…and so begins the dance. 

Every time they meet they fight and their verbal battles are doozies, but as they begin to spend time together something shifts. There is more going on under the surface with Rayne, something that Chad believes might explain her attitude, but her shell is very hard and she is too proud to let anyone get close enough to soften it. To add to the mix, someone at Rayne’s place of work is trying to undermine her, sending Rayne’s stress levels through the roof and it seems the one person who might be able to help her is Chad.

This book carried me away on a tidal wave of emotions. Rayne’s torment and anger is a tangible thing but although she infuriated me there was always a hint of vulnerability that made my heart crack. Chad, despite his womanising ways, is a true gentleman and even when he is furious with her, he still worries about her as she slowly self-destructs. The more time they spend together they more they begin to realise that hate and love are indeed separated by a very fine line which, of course, they cannot possibly cross.

Maria’s book is also a not so subtle reminder that not every disability is obvious, that being judgemental usually hurts those who judge far more than the judged and that more often than not, the nightmares of the past refuse to stay buried. Life is messy, fairy tales are usually rather grim and happy endings often have a tendency to creep up, entirely unexpectedly, and smack us in the face. This is how it is with Chad and Rayne, their journey is hard and they face what seem like insurmountable obstacles on the way. After so much hostility, pain and despair do they stand a chance of, or even deserve, redemption?

Beautifully written with a cast of engaging and gutsy characters, whose lives are inextricably entwined – whether they like it or not. I loved Redeemed.

Redeemed will be available on Amazon from March 17th 2017.
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Exposed by Maria Vickers ~ Book Review

Exposed by Maria Vickers is so many things – an awakening, a journey, an understanding, an inspiration and a love story. The story follows Emma – a bright, funny and very capable young lady who just happens to suffer from a neuro-muscular disease, and Bryan – a navy pilot, as they negotiate the very tricky business of falling in love.

Emma, after yet another frustrating date, pings a disgruntled instant message to her friend – Mel, only to find she has mistakenly sent it to Bryan – said friend’s, best friend and (to make matters worse) the man for whom Emma harbours a secret crush. Bryan, who has actually met Emma once before and therefore knows of her disease, decides she needs his help to discover someone who will love her for herself and they start chatting online.

It seems like a great idea, but Emma is painfully aware that most men – in fact most people – treat her with impatience and often outright disdain.  Emma does not let her illness hold her back, but has come to recognise that she has limitations. Thus, finding someone who will love her enough not only to see beyond her limitations and through the illness to the person she is, but also loving enough to be there for her through better and worse would be nothing short of miraculous. Nonetheless, Bryan is determined – and so begins his awakening.

Exposed isn’t an easy story (the title should be a bit of a giveaway) – it is despair, courage, grief, hope, trust, anguish, humour, faith, passion and most of all love – well it is a love story! That Maria drew on her own experiences, makes it all the more poignant. I was so vested in this couple – I desperately wanted Bryan to realise what he might lose if he didn’t listen to his heart and what Emma might lose if she didn’t trust hers.

This is a beautifully crafted story with a great cast of characters and written in a lively style. A novel based around such a debilitating illness risks becoming mired in self pity – not this story. It flows easily and although there are some harsh moments within the book, they are lifted by the banter and wit among the main characters and Emma’s great attitude to life! This book shredded my heart but then put it back together in such a positive way! A roller-coaster of a story, but so worth the ride!

Exposed is available worldwide through Amazon

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Chasing Us by MA Lee ~ Book Review

Chasing Us is the new contemporary romance from author MA Lee, and revolves around Leigh and Brandon, two friends who decided to take a road trip to follow their dreams.

Of course, there’s way more to it than that, but that’s the basic premise. We are introduced to the main characters on Leigh’s 21st birthday. She and her best friend – Kylie – are celebrating in their favourite club, listening to another good friend, Brandon playing with his band, while waiting for Leigh’s fiancé, Jamie, to arrive. To Leigh, the world seems pretty ok, not mind-blowingly awesome, but ok!

A little later Leigh comes across Jamie and Brandon arguing about her. Turns out, Jamie has been cheating, Brandon found out and was determined that Jamie was not going to continue his games. Some birthday!

Once the shock, numbed by an over-indulgence of alcohol and subsequent hangover, has worn off, Leigh takes stock. For most of her life Leigh has done what she believed to be the ‘right’ thing. Pushing her own dreams and desires aside to keep everyone else around her happy. One day while talking to Brandon, Leigh admits that all she’s ever really wanted to do was write, to become a published author. When Brandon says she should pursue her dream, Leigh reminds him that he’s telling her to do exactly what he hasn’t done. Realising Leigh’s right, Brandon suggests a road trip, a way for them both to chase their dreams. Although, to Leigh the whole idea seems utterly crazy, she knows she wants to do it more than anything she has ever wanted her whole life.

So they set off and along the way their friendship evolves into something far more; deeper, stronger and more passionate than either of them could have imagined. This isn’t an easy relationship though. Leigh can’t understand why anyone as drop dead gorgeous as Brandon would ever want to be with her and her own insecurities threaten to derail their burgeoning romance more than once. Outside forces also seem intent on undermining Leigh’s newfound confidence, not only in her relationship with Brandon, but also in herself.

The main characters are well developed, their personalities the perfect complement to each other. Brandon is amazing, I fell for him from the get go. He has loved Leigh for a long time; patiently waiting for the moment when he could swoop in and claim her. Leigh, although fighting her attraction to Brandon believing it to be some kind of aberration, slowly comes to accept that this is for real. I did find her ongoing issues frustrating on occasion, but I could see where they came from. I just desperately wanted her to trust that Brandon wasn’t playing with her heart, that he wanted it all.

I do enjoy a ‘friends to lovers’ romance and this one’s a doozy. The idea of this happening on a road trip while the couple chase their dreams is refreshing. Not only does it provide an interesting backdrop to their romance, but also, we get to visit, vicariously, all these amazing places – a chance to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Leigh and Brandon’s story is not a smooth ride and but it’s certainly fast paced, well written and, in case you’re interested, the sex scenes are smokin’ hot! Solid five stars!

Chasing Us is due out on 13th March 2017.

Confessions of a Wedding Planner by Michelle Jo Quinn ~ Book Review

Confessions of a Wedding Planner by Michelle Jo Quin is quite simply wonderful! Veronica Soto Stewart – Nica to her friends – is a wedding planner, not just any wedding planner she is an outstanding wedding planner; so good, in fact, that her ex-boyfriend, Jake, asks her to plan his wedding. This sounds almost okay until you realise that Jake is marrying the woman he dumped Nica for and that he and Nica only broke up 3 months previously. To top it off, the wedding will take place in a month; the guest list is huge, they haven’t chosen or booked a venue, the bride – who is French – needs to travel to Paris for her dress fitting, as you do, and the best man – Levi, is a man Nica despises. Not really the best ingredients when you are trying to create the most memorable day of matrimonial bliss.

Sandrine, Jake’s fiancé, turns out to be delightful – typical – and despite feeling as though her heart is being stomped on every time she meets the happy couple, Nica cannot dislike her. What is also clear is that Jake and Sandrine are meant to be together, so when Sandrine begs Nica to be her bridesmaid, it is another request she is unable to refuse. As the wedding draws closer and, even though she still has feelings for Jake, Nica starts to realise that they never shared the all-consuming love he has with Sandrine and has to re-evaluate her heart. It’s all quite a pickle really!

In the midst of all this, Levi starts to get under her skin. To outward appearances not to mention his past history, Levi is the epitome of a playboy, enjoying the thrill of the chase, flitting from woman to woman leaving behind a trail of broken hearts, but he seems bewitched by Nica. Unable to trust him or her own emotions, Nica is determined not let him get close, but once they are in France, Paris works its magic.

Even though you think Nica is cuckoo for accepting the job – who wants to plan their ex’s wedding for goodness sake? – you cannot help but empathise with her. The same goes for Levi, it seems he’s doing his damnedest to make her fall in love with him, but she is afraid to believe it’s real. As ever the course of true love never runs smoothly. Misunderstandings, family rows and her own hang-ups interfere and it seems as though Nica’s HEA is slipping out of reach. Does she find happiness? Will Jake and Sandrine really get married? And what of Levi? No, I’m not going to tell you, go – read the book it’s delicious!

I loved this book. Michelle has written a sweet romance, yet allowed desire to circle relentlessly on the periphery, giving it just a hint of heat. Throwing humour and a lot of fun into the mix, she also prevents the story from becoming melancholy. The characters are beautifully drawn, including the ‘supporting’ cast and the main issues – well for me at least – of heartbreak, denial, grief, hope, trust and love flow in and out of the story with the skill of a master story teller, enough to keep you riveted without overdoing it. Now I can’t wait to read the next book! Five Stars

Confessions of A Wedding Planner is available on Amazon.
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Spy Fall by Audrey Randall ~ Book Review

Yes! I love Audrey Randall’s books, I have come to expect a fast ride with plenty of spice and sizzle and Spy Fall is no exception. This is a stand-alone novel, but does link up with Randall’s ‘The Celestial Prophecy’ series.

Introducing Brandon Ryker an ex-marine and now currently involved in covert ops for the CIA, and Delilah Faber a computer specialist for Nebula One, the programming arm for the world famous ‘The Celestial Prophecy’ online game, and a total nerd. They have been best friends since high school and, since he has been working undercover, Brandon always crashes at Delilah’s apartment between missions.

They love spending time together, hate being apart and are compatible on so many levels but have circled each other for years, each trying to deny their growing affection for the other. Brandon doesn’t think he’s good enough for Delilah and Delilah believes she’s far too nerdy to attract someone as handsome and sophisticated as Brandon – after all, he’s just like James Bond! Fate however has other ideas as an unexpected and, for Delilah, terrifying incident, precipitates things somewhat.

In the blink of an eye, Delilah’s life is turned upside down as she finds herself in the hands of an unscrupulous cartel responsible for – amongst other things – smuggling arms and major credit card hacks, and who would love nothing more than to remove Brandon off the face of the earth. As he heads in to rescue Delilah, Brandon knows he cannot hide behind the façade of friendship anymore. It would kill him to lose her; he just hopes he’s read the signals right and that she feels the same way.

Is he in time? Will the spy get his girl? Can they move beyond the insecurities that have held them back for so long? Now that would be telling. All I’ll say is that Audrey Randall does love a HEA!

The characters are so much fun. Delilah is headstrong, feisty, determined and definitely not backwards in coming forwards. Brandon is strong, protective and sexy as all get out. The supporting cast are great too, developed enough to add to the unfolding scenario and without overwhelming Brandon and Delilah. Yes there are some sizzling scenes – this is erotic romance people – but they have been included thoughtfully and rather than detract from the main plot, slot seamlessly into it

This is a really fun read, if you are into online gaming and Bond movies – oh and really, really hot CIA agents, or just love a good steamy romance – this is the book for you – it is Delish!!

Spy Fall is due for release on 20th March 2017, but is available now on Amazon for pre-order at just 99c (price to go up after release)!

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