Nixon by Xana Jordan & Michelle Rene ~ Book Review

Nixon by Xana Jordan and Michelle Rene, set against the backdrop of a ski resort in the breathtaking Colorado mountains, is the first book in their Winter Haven Series and follows the romance of Walker Nixon Buchanan and Kennedy Russell. This book is exquisite, it has all the feels, way way too many feels actually, but in a good way – happiness, sorrow, fun, laughter, courage and most of all love – in all its magical forms.

Nixon is the oldest of the Buchanan siblings, all of whom have been recalled to their family business – the Winter Haven Ski Lodge – to help run it. At 27, he thinks he knows what he wants, which is all well and good until shortly after his return he, unexpectedly, rescues Kennedy – lead ski instructor at the lodge – from a drunken punter at a local bar.

Their connection is instant, their attraction undeniable, but Kennedy has no idea Nixon is her boss’s son. Neither does Nixon know of the heartache in Kennedy’s past, and for a while it seems as though their blossoming romance will be over almost before it has started. Destiny, however, doesn’t take kindly to being thwarted and a love as powerful as theirs will take more than a few obstacles to be extinguished.

Nixon and Kennedy are beautifully drawn. Both are independently minded, strong people, who consider their lives complete, until the moment they meet and suddenly, a piece they never realised was missing, falls into place.

The thing I adored about this novel – other than Nixon who is drool worthy – is there are no outside forces trying to tear Nixon and Kennedy apart. No jealous ex’s or malicious co-workers or possessive friends. Their family and friends are genuinely warm, loyal and supportive people, whose joy in the love Nixon and Kennedy share is sincere. It is so refreshing to read a book without my stomach getting all tied in knots for fear a nasty piece of work is lurking, determined to destroy that elusive HEA.

Xana Jordan and Michelle Rene have collaborated to produce a story, which flows effortlessly; the interplay amongst all the characters spontaneous and natural. This is reflected throughout the book in the language and dialogue which are completely uncontrived, yet somehow inclusive, making me feel as though I’d always been part of their lives.

Nixon is the first in the Winter Haven series; I couldn’t put it down, totally engrossed from the first page, to the last word and am eagerly anticipating the next instalment. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys an eloquently, poignantly, utterly wonderful, romance.

Nixon is available worldwide from Amazon
USA: Nixon
UK: Nixon
Canada: Nixon
Australia: Nixon


Ships and Safe Harbours ~ Love on a Winter’s Tide

Helena Trevallier first appears, albeit briefly, in Once Upon An Earl and she has been nagging at me ever since to write her story – quite insistent she was. Finally I gave in and Love on a Winter’s Tide is my third Regency Romance, one, which unexpectedly led to two more. So yes, as seems my habit, this will be a series and there will be five all together.

Helena, youngest sister of Giles is desperately trying to avoid being swept up into the marriage-go-round. So, although she attends all the social gatherings expected of a young lady of the ton, she is far happier in another world; a world unrecognisable to her peers, a world where she spends her days helping at a refuge for underprivileged women seeking respite from abusive husbands or situations.

Hugh Drummond, is a wealthy shipping magnate and although not a member of the ton, does move within their circle. He is as determined as Helena not to get sucked into matrimony; he has far more important things to be concerned about than marriage to some air-headed debutante, only interested in dancing and frippery. One night, at a ball, Helena meets Hugh – and yes, you can see where this is going can’t you!

Their relationship is not all plain sailing, as neither is willing to relinquish what they have fought so hard to achieve. Helena has no intention of giving up her work at the refuge – something most husbands of the elite would expect their wives to do after they wed – if they swallowed their pride enough to allow such freedom in the first place. Hugh spends long hours managing his shipyard, which has suddenly become the target of a series of strange incidents that may yet undermine his company. Any thought of marriage while everything was so unpredictable was, to Hugh, untenable. Fate, of course, has other ideas!

Until I started this novel, I knew scarcely anything about ships of this (or any) era. How they were designed, constructed, their purpose, strengths, weaknesses anything. I admit to becoming enthralled by the majesty of the shipping trade and how quickly it was developing. Thankfully, I have read all the Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series, so I had some insight into how competitive and cutthroat the industry was, which inspired the skulduggery abounding in Hugh’s shipyard.

It was also a revelation researching the seedy side of London during the Regency era. The lives of those who were generally beneath the notice of the nobility. Cramped conditions, squalor, disease and poverty was a daily struggle and a dangerous combination, one I imagine exploded far more often than is recorded. This is where Sanctuary House came in, offering a haven for any who needed an escape, if only for a short while. To provide lessons in such basics as reading and writing, or perhaps to teach a skill which might lead to opportunities previously considered impossible, seemed like something the more socially aware members of the ton might get involved with.

Anyway, their tale is told and Love on a Winter’s Tide is now available worldwide from Amazon

US: Love on a Winter’s TideUK: Love on a Winter’s Tide
Canada: Love on a Winter’s Tide
Australia (kindle only): Love on a Winter’s Tide
Australia – Fishpond: (paperback only) Love on a Winter’s Tide (coming soon)

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Writing To Unlock Her Heart

To Unlock Her Heart was born, because, as ever with my characters, I couldn’t say goodbye after the first book and decided I’d like to give Theo Elliott – the doctor in Once Upon An Earl –  his own love story.

The prologue occurs two years prior to the previous book, but the main narrative begins about eight months after Billie and Giles’ wedding. Grace Fitzgerald, abused by a duke and shunned by society, is bequeathed a house in a small village, where she hopes to start afresh away from malicious gossips. Once there, she meets Theo, the local doctor who knows something of her history and the trauma she has endured. Although aware it will take a patient man to persuade Grace to trust again, Theo has long known he wants to be the man to unlock her heart and so begins a tentative courtship.

Sure that Theo will condemn her like so many before him, Grace acknowledges that if this relationship has any chance, she must share her darkest secret with him. She underestimates the gentle (and devastatingly handsome) doctor however, for Theo, already irrevocably in love with Grace is not easily deterred.

Of course, it isn’t all straight forward and just as happiness appears to be within her grasp, Grace is confronted by her abuser and it seems her past is about to ruin her future. As her nightmare becomes reality, Grace fears by the time Theo finds her it will be too late and her heart, now unlocked, with be shattered forever.

Theo was a delight to write, his strong, loyal dependable and totally unflappable nature was apparent in Once Upon an Earl, I just needed to let him step out from Giles’ shadow. Grace – although she has closed down, lost within herself – is a spirited woman with a backbone of steel. It was interesting to see her softening as the days progressed.

Abuse is a hard narrative and I wanted to portray it as sensitively as possible without allowing it to dominate the romance. Balancing the very natural revulsion Grace would feel towards anyone, man or woman, who tried to form a relationship with her after what she had suffered, with the emotions she was beginning to feel under Theo’s tender attentions, was a very fine line. I didn’t want to draw it out, neither did I want to just push it aside, but trust is hard fought and easily lost. It’s not an easy road for either of them, but in most romances, love muddles through.

To Unlock Her Heart is now available world wide from Amazon

US: To Unlock Her HeartUK: To Unlock Her Heart
Canada: To Unlock Her Heart
Australia (kindle only): To Unlock Her Heart
Australia – Fishpond: (paperback only) To Unlock Her Heart

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Writing Once Upon An Earl

While I was researching Etched in Starlight, I started to play with the idea of writing a simple romance. I loved Mills and Boon as a teenager, especially what used to be (I have no idea whether it’s changed) their rather old fashioned style. I came upon Regency Romances and was immediately hooked.

Not even sure I would be able to write one of my own I really wanted to try and the result was Once Upon An Earl, the story of Willow, a young woman with no memory, who appears in the middle of a storm and Giles, the very respectable Earl who, not only rescues Willow (known as Billie), but also unravels the mystery surrounding her.

As we all know love has a habit of striking at the most inopportune moments and that sometimes fairy tales happen when we least expect them. Unfortunately, a burnt house, dead bodies, missing documents and an upturned carriage might just thwart even Fate’s best intentions. Billie and Giles’ path to a happily ever after is strewn with obstacles, not least of which is a French agent who, while searching for a set of confidential papers, is also determined to destroy everything Billie holds dear.

It was fascinating researching covert operations during the Napoleonic wars and the spy networks on all sides, which apparently continued long after hostilities officially ended. It seems enemy agents attempted to infiltrate Society, for as peers of the realm it was assumed they would be privy to government secrets. I didn’t go as far as determining how successful they were, but as the backdrop to a novel it was riveting.

This was going to be a one off but quite unexpectedly it set in motion ideas for several of the characters who appear in this book. Theo Elliott, Helena Trevallier and Duncan Barrington each have their own story, the fifth and final book of this series is connected because the hero is Helena’s brother-in-law.

Where to find Once Upon and Earl

This book – which has two different covers for the kindle version – is available in print and kindle format through all Amazon sites and in print from Fishpond. I hope you enjoy it.

US: Once Upon An EarlUK: Once Upon An Earl
Canada: Once Upon An Earl
Australia (kindle only): Once Upon An Earl
Australia – Fishpond (paperback only) Once Upon An Earl

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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.
USA: The Friend Zone
UK: The Friend Zone
Canada: The Friend Zone
Australia: The Friend Zone