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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.
USA: Confessions of a Wedding Planner
UK: Confessions of a Wedding Planner
Canada: Confessions of a Wedding Planner
Australia: Confessions of a Wedding Planner

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)!

USA: Spy Fall
Canada: Spy Fall
UK: Spy Fall
AUS: Spy Fall

The Divorce by Nicole Strycharz ~ Book Review

 

The Divorce by Nicole Strycharz is an astonishing read. It grabbed me from page one and refused to let go, even when I wasn’t actually reading it. The story revolves around Jenzy and Chris, married for seven years, happily for five. The last two, for Jenzy at least have been slowly crushing the life out of her.

College sweethearts, they are complete opposites and their relationship – from dating to marriage – has been tempestuous, but the pros always outweighed the cons. Lately, however all the things that Chris used to love about his wife have begun to irritate him and he is so wrapped up in his job and the gym that he barely notices her anymore. Jenzy has tried everything to rekindle the flame, to little effect. Chris has forgotten so many things over the past couple of years and then to top it all he forgets Valentine’s Day, their special day.

It proves to be the last straw and hurt beyond reason, Jenzy leaves. Chris who despite a multitude of warning signs, doesn’t see it coming and is flabbergasted as the heart-wrenching process that is a divorce, begins.

I went through so many emotions reading their story. I laughed, cried, my heart broke – not once, several times – as little by little Jenzy’s reasons for such a huge step are revealed. I was so angry with Chris; I wanted to punch his lights out. His behaviour was thoughtless and cruel; in fact he was lucky that Jenzy had stayed as long as she had. The shock of her leaving, however, was the kick up the butt he needed and, accepting that he may be too late, he tries to win her back. Unfortunately, sometimes the hurt goes too deep and even though still you love the one who hurt you, the thought that despite all the promises, they may forget again makes you wonder whether the risk too great.

This book is a journey, a long, complicated, messy, tumultuous journey and probably reflective of many couples who have experienced divorce. It is also about the hard work that a keeps a marriage alive and a huge, big, fat, enormous reminder never, ever to take your partner for granted.

Jenzy and Chris are beautifully drawn and are so real they virtually walk out of the pages and I enjoyed reading the story from both points of view, with flashbacks to their first meeting and early romance. They each have traits that we recognise in ourselves, and hereby lies Nicole’s skill. Her portrayal of their disintegrating relationship strikes a chord, eliciting empathy for both Jenzy and Chris, while reminding us not to make the same mistake.

Although the subject matter is painful, I loved and was riveted by this book, desperately willing them to sort it out, that a great love is worth fighting for and sometimes we deserve a second chance to prove it. No spoilers though, you’ll just have to discover it for yourselves, it’s so worth it.

The Divorce is available on Amazon

USA: The Divorce
UK: The Divorce
Canada : The Divorce
Australia: The Divorce

Vehn by LS Anders ~ Book Review

Vehn

Wow! Wow, I am quite simply speechless (and trust me, that takes a LOT). What an incredible book.

Vehn Mathieu is a celebrity and seemingly enjoys the hedonistic lifestyle such status affords. Away from the lights and the cameras and the paparazzi, however, there is an emptiness in Vehn’s life, a hollowness that he believes will only be filled if he can find a woman who will see the man behind the fame and love him for himself.

Callie is a flame haired beauty who is pretty darn awesome in her own field, that of tattoo artist for Exotic Ink. On the surface she appears as feisty and vibrant as her fiery hair, but behind her mask, shadows from her past constantly threaten to undermine her long fought for happiness. Maybe I should mention that Callie also harbours a not so secret (to her friends and clients anyway) fantasy about Vehn.

A new tattoo artist and a fancy dress Halloween party provide the catalyst for Callie and Vehn’s first encounter. Callie however, has no idea that the sexy Spiderman with whom she has just spent a very passionate couple of hours is actually her fantasy. Vehn, wanting to be anonymous for a night, had introduced himself as Lee – Tegan’s roommate – and revelled in the fact that Callie was clearly attracted to him as a person not for his celebrity. Callie agrees to another date but when the man she believes to be Lee arrives and she recognises him for who he truly is, she does the most sensible thing in such circumstances, and faints.

Despite such an odd start, their attraction is undeniable and their relationship flourishes. Unfortunately, just as everything seems to be going right for once, outside forces and personal insecurities may yet tear them apart.

What I loved about this book was the strength of every character. Not just Vehn and Callie – who light up the pages – but the whole supporting cast. They are all beautifully developed, complex people, each with their own long history, both good and bad. The bond they share, the support they have for one another was almost tangible and even though we land in their lives at a less than auspicious moment, the rawness of what they are experiencing is so cleverly portrayed that I felt an instant connection with them. It was as though I’d know them forever.

This book ran the gamut of my emotions; it is funny, poignant, heartbreaking, revealing and most of all hopeful. I was riveted from page one until the last word and didn’t want it to end. The writing is exceptional and the style fast paced yet wonderfully detailed – oh and the sex scenes sizzle – just in case you were wondering!

Vehn is LS Anders’ debut novel and I cannot wait for the next in this series. If I could give it 10 stars I would. Superb!

Vehn is available worldwide on Amazon, and free on KU

USA: Vehn: Exotic Ink Series Book 1
UK: Vehn: Exotic Ink Series Book 1
Canada: Vehn: Exotic Ink Series Book 1
Australia: Vehn: Exotic Ink Series Book 1

Cowboy Games by Audrey Randall ~ Book Review

Yes! Cowboy Games – another book in Audrey Randall’s Celestial Prophecy Series. Having read the previous two – Playing His Game and Playing Her Game – and could not wait for the third installment. This story follows Lana, one of the gaming team and Steph’s (our heroine from Playing Her Game) best friend.

Lana’s long time cyber friend, Solar Cowboy – aka Cody – persuades her that his ranch would be the perfect place for her and Steph to establish their coding school for underprivileged girls. This is an opportunity too good to resist and Lana travels to the middle of Montana, looking forward to meeting her friend face-to-face as well as sussing out the ranch. Unfortunately for Lana, Cody has conveniently forgotten to mention that he is way younger than he’d intimated online, that the ranch is owned by his older brother – Jesse (the sexiest cowboy Lana has ever seen) – and that he hasn’t actually asked said brother whether he would approve the scheme.

Jesse, assuming that Lana is one of his brother’s school friends, is floored when she arrives. Her green eyes, her multi-coloured hair and her curvy body captivate him and, inexplicably, he finds himself agreeing to show her around the ranch with a view to maybe, possibly allowing her to set up some kind of clinic. Lana, in turn is entranced by Jesse; this devastatingly handsome cowboy who is so tall and muscular yet has the grace of a jungle cat. He is doing things to her emotions that are positively illegal.

Confronted by feelings that neither expected nor wanted, Jesse and Lana are drawn to each other and despite being from completely opposite backgrounds, their attraction is undeniable. True love isn’t always a smooth ride though (see what I did there…) and there are a few hiccups along the way!

The thing I love about Audrey Randall’s books is that they are not just all about sex – steamy though it is! She weaves an interesting story around the couple, one that captures the imagination and hooks you in from the get go.

Her characters are so believable – normal everyday people who have normal everyday hang-ups, but who discover that they share a special something that fires the blood.

Cowboy Games does not disappoint and much as I love the previous two in the series, this one is my favourite. A hot cowboy, a nerdy gamer, a sprawling ranch – the perfect setting for a delicious romance – and who needs a joy stick when you have a horse! Go on – enjoy the ride!

Cowboy Games is available worldwide through Amazon from 9/1/17

Writing, Editing and Reviewing

bookreviews

Something that has become, to me anyway, quite noticeable recently, are the comments in certain book reviews. As I expect most people do, I tend to scroll down to the reviews before I buy a book, especially if it is a new author whose title has intrigued me. For the most part, reviewers are generous souls and even if they haven’t enjoyed the story, they try to put a positive spin on their comments. Obviously, there are some who will hate a book, for whatever reason and that is their right – although this doesn’t, necessarily, make it a bad book.

Courtesy ~ She Inspires
Courtesy ~ She Inspires

As a new writer, I appreciate more than ever, the blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating, in your own eyes at least, a masterpiece. The hours spent on research; in producing backgrounds for all your characters; in developing the storyline; in setting the scenes; choosing the place, the era, the clothes, the houses, the politics, the culture, the list goes on.

Courtesy ~ The Book Refinery
Courtesy ~ The Book Refinery

Then, after weeks of banging away on the keyboard, fighting writer’s block, waking at ungodly hours because a plot line just has to be pinned down, and forgetting to eat – you finish. There it is – 100,000 words or so drawn, in some cases, kicking and screaming from your imagination. You set it aside for a couple of days then begin the long haul of proofreading.

Courtesy jims-rohini.tk
Courtesy jims-rohini.tk

After you think you have edited it within an inch of its life, you ask one or two trusted (and responsible) friends/colleagues to read it for you, just to ensure it isn’t actually a load of drivel. Finally, after doing your absolute best to try to make it as perfect as possible, you upload it to one of the sales platforms in the hope that people are captivated by the synopsis and buy it. Waiting for the first review is a nightmare, this could make or break it, others will read it and decide whether you are an author worth trying or should be avoided at all costs. It’s gut wrenching.

So far so good, your reviews are mostly positive, then horror of horrors someone complains about the grammar or your syntax or your style or your spelling. If I’m honest, I too find it disconcerting when I read a book that looks as though the writer/editor didn’t really care about the final product. If you haven’t tried to proof your manuscript at all, or haven’t had someone else check it, then you may deserve some criticism.

The price of professional proofreaders

Courtesy Appleby Editing
Courtesy Appleby Editing

Now this is a bit of a sticky issue. I have noticed that, on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, some people go on and on (and on) about getting your work professionally proofed and edited. Yes, I agree it is vital that your work should be presented in as professional a manner as possible, which is all fine and dandy until you look into the costs of these services. Some writers might be fortunate enough to have a friend who has proofreading experience and is happy to check their work, but I imagine that many indie/self-published authors are not so lucky.

Not long ago, I had occasion to check the costs of proofing and it is staggering. Ranging from $15/1,000 words to $30/1,000 words, or some offer an hourly rate, somewhere between $20 and $60/hour (usually presuming 1,500 words/hour, which does leave it rather open to exploitation). I accept that this is someone’s livelihood and they deserve a decent income along with the rest of us, but herein lies a problem for self-publishing writers.

Courtesy ~ Pipeline Editing
Courtesy ~ Pipeline Editing

My books tend to be around 80-110,000 words, making for me the average cost for proofing around AUS$1,000. A huge amount when you take into account that the majority of self-published authors will never make that sum of money on all of their books, never mind the one they are trying to get proofed.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost. I discovered Word Refiner through twitter, an excellent proof-reading service and most affordable. Moreover, there are ‘pages’ on Facebook, offering free beta reading, and seem legitimate. I know a few fellow authors who have found them to be eminently satisfactory. Of course, any beta readers need to be interested in the genre in which you write and, more importantly, have the time to scrutinise your manuscript thoroughly.

Further, even books released through reputable publishers are not always as well edited as they could be. It makes me wonder whether far too much reliance is being placed on the ability of whichever word refining application the manuscript is run through to pick out mistakes that are then, never re-checked. Quite frankly, if I followed every suggestion Word offered me, my books would resemble a Scrabble board.

author-reviewSo – yes, I’m getting to my point – please, do review our books. For the most part reviews are awesome! They are what attract others to our work; it is the number of good reviews that increase our rating within particular genres and, if you are listed on Amazon, reviews are what get you a recommendation. All I’m asking, is that you remember what went into a book, and that sometimes there may be mistakes. Sure – give feedback on such things, but do it constructively. You might be at a distance when you write your review, but the phrase the pen is mightier than the sword was coined for a reason and the nibs of the most benign looking pens can still cut.