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Feature book: The Master’s New Governess

20 January 2021

The Master’s New Governess by Eliza Redgold

Subgenre: historical romance
Release date: 1 Jul 2020
Publisher: Mills & Boon Historical
Format: ebook and print
Length: 288 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $15.50 (print)

Eliza Redgold is a new-to-me author, and I’m not sure how she’s slipped under my radar previously. I was so pleased to receive this M&B Historical to review.

The setting is 1855 rural Cornwall, delightfully refreshing after reading so many English historicals set in cities.

When we meet the heroine, Maud Wilmot, she is on a train travelling to Cornwall to meet the widowed Sir Dominic Jago at Pendragon Hall. Maud is to be the new governess to his young daughter, who is delicate in nature.

We get the impression that Maud is very, very glad to be out of the cities and into the remote country, away from familiar terrain and people who might know her. There is a colossal secret she is nursing about her last job, which ended—we presume—very, very badly, and without the necessary references to procure another situation. Maud has been less than honest about her references and previous employment, from sheer desperation.

All empathy to Maud here. She is wretched, single, something dire has occurred, and we all know how horrendous life was in those times for unemployed women with no income and no way to earn it. There were no rights, no care and little assistance to call on. Often it was through no fault of their own. What a terrible burden to bear.

And Maud seems just so lovely and caring. She defends an unwell woman on the train from a pompous prig who wanted to turf her out of ‘his’ seat, and her giving heart is absolutely evident. She is, it seems, a Woman Who Has Been Wronged in the Worst Possible Way. How, we don’t know yet. But it must have been frightful for her to have such huge secrets and consider herself ‘ruined’.

As it turns out, Sir Dominic Jago is the owner of the Cornwall Railway—a fascinating profession for a hero! I was instantly hooked and hung on all the snippets about the railway through the book. So fabulous.

He is also a very nice man, although a bit flummoxed about his new governess. She is absolutely no nonsense with him, polite but very distant and prim and proper; a real enigma. But she is wonderful with his daughter. The little girl begins to blossom under Miss Wilmot’s gentle and genuine care, and Dominic is quietly thrilled.

What I loved about this story was the sort of ‘Scheherazade’ kind of story-telling that happened every night. Maud would tell some lovely bedtime fairy stories about butterflies and moths and beautiful things—and we get to hear them too. Then the next day she would entice her young charge outside into the healthy fresh air and sunshine to find the butterflies and study them in the grounds around Pendragon Hall. Dominic finds himself just as entranced by these stories as his daughter, and as the stories unfolded, I confess I was hooked too. There is more to the quiet, reclusive Miss Wilmot than meets the eye!

Sadly, when you’re living a lie, the truth will come out … Just as Maud’s feeling her way to a tentative relationship with Dominic, after months and months of being cautious, careful, and telling half-truths (and always looking over her shoulder), the worst is shockingly exposed.

All I can say is, Dominic is a fair and righteous hero. Although everything seems lost, he is absolutely magnificent against all odds.

I loved Maud and Dominic. Slightly unusual and both with huge hearts. I also loved the little quotes from Tennyson’s poem ‘Maud’, quoted at the top of each chapter.

This quiet, sweet book was an utter delight.

reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

 

Feature book: Montana

20 January 2021

Montana by Fiona McArthur

Series: Lyrebird Lake #1
Subgenre: medical romance
Release date: 30 Oct 2020
Publisher: Fiona McArthur
Format: ebook and print
Length: 213 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $24.20 (print)

What a way to start a story. There is nothing like an unexpected early birth to get the reader involved in the story! This is how Montana Browne finds herself, on the side of a mountain giving birth to her baby. The scene is serene and fortunately there are no complications. However, Montana’s thoughts are in turmoil. She is very sad that her husband Duncan cannot be there having passed away months previously.

To Montana’s rescue is Dr Andy Buchanan. He is the brother of her friend Misty. Misty had alerted Andy that Montana needed medical help and he finds her, with baby Dawn on the side of the mountain.

Andy is able to convince Montana to move temporarily to Lyrebird Lake, so that she can get into her new routine with Dawn and to help her through missing her husband. Andy slowly pulls Montana into the daily life of Lyrebird Lake. He is more than happy that she wants to set up a women’s clinic and a midwifery section in the hospital. It means she may stay.

Both Andy and Montana are dealing with the death of a spouse: Andy his wife, and Montana her husband. This weaves a complexity into their relationship as each thinks another relationship is too soon, especially when you loved your spouse, but the feelings they have for each other also bloom and the underlying tone is wondering if it is too soon.

This story is a very gentle and sweet story, and it was such a pleasure to read. There are many threads to this story but the main one is about finding love after tragedy and to me what is considered the appropriate amount of time. Many argue about the length of time that is appropriate, some say five years, some say never, some say a year, but it is really how those two people feel, and this is reflected by Montana and Andy.

I loved that Montana and Andy were such caring and gentle people, it really brought a sense of serenity to the story, as well as the slow blooming of their love for each other. I am looking forward to more in this series.

reviewed by Heather

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

Release day: The Playboy Prince of Scandal

18 January 2021

Today is the official release of The Playboy Prince of Scandal by Susan Stephens (ebook and paperback, Harlequin Mills & Boon). Here’s the blurb:

His innocent enemy…

…could be his ultimate undoing!

Prince Cesar will never forgive Sofia Acosta for the article branding him a playboy! But to avoid further scandal, he has no choice but to invite her to his lavish banquet in Rome—where he’s confronted by her unexpected apology and the very obvious electricity!

Sofia was blackmailed into writing that article. She’ll risk her hard-fought career to make it right. But surrendering to undeniable temptation wasn’t part of the plan! Because that means putting her trust in the man behind the outrageous reputation…

Susan dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:

Writing about powerful brothers always urges me to add a sister to the mix. How could a woman growing up surrounded by self-willed titans be anything but strong, resourceful, and bold; a woman who pushes the boundaries, and who point-blank refuses to accept a false accusation, however strong the evidence against her. Enter Sofia Acosta, a force to be reckoned with, without the Acosta name to back her up. And Prince Cesar, an aristocrat with a liking for polo, danger, and adventurous women. No matter how fiercely Sofia protests her innocence, Cesar is prepared to go to any lengths to lead Sofia into temptation to get the truth out of her any way he can. Sofia may have other ideas, but can she resist the dangerously charismatic prince? No wonder I adore writing romance! I hope you enjoy reading The Playboy Prince of Scandal as much as I enjoyed writing it.

You can find out more about this book at Susan’s website or buy it from Amazon.

Release day: Their Second-Time Valentine

18 January 2021

Today is the official release of Their Second-Time Valentine by Helen Lacey (The Fortunes of Texas: The Hotel Fortune #2) (ebook and paperback, Harlequin Mills & Boon). Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes love is a package deal…

Two sweethearts for the price of one! Rugged builder Kane Fortune has never had any trouble attracting women—he’s just never been the type to stick around. Until he meets widowed mom Layla McCarthy and her adorable toddler, Erin. But just as Kane feels safe enough to let his guard down for the first time, Layla puts on the brakes. She’s worried he’s not up to being a lifetime valentine. Kane will have his work cut out for him proving he’s right for the role.

Helen dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:

I was delighted to be invited to be a part of Harlequin’s Fortunes of Texas continuity for 2021, and enjoyed writing Layla and Kane’s story. Kane Fortune is a good guy—the person everyone goes to when they need a hand, a shoulder, or someone to talk to. He’s also afraid of emotional commitment and isn’t planning on settling down anytime soon. But when a widowed single mother enters his life, all those plans are blown spectacularly out of the water. I loved watching these two emotionally unavailable people fall for each other and hope that readers enjoy their journey as much as I did.

You can find out more about this book at Helen’s website or buy it from Amazon.

Guest blogger: Keighley Bradford

17 January 2021

I recently self-published my debut novel, Once We Were, after what has been a long process. When I started university, I had big plans from day one that I was going to end my degree with a published novel. But … well, that certainly hadn’t gone to plan.

As many of us know, there is a lot of stigma associated with the romance genre, and then again with the self-publishing model. I had a lot of resistance when I first time I tried to pursue the project, with my tutors not wanting to support it due to such associations. It was disheartening at the time because that is what I had spent my entire degree working towards—studying the industry and artform in order to publish my debut novel.

Looking back, it was probably for the best. Having had this past year dedicated *mostly* to working on my novel, I was able to really appreciate every step of the process, much more so, I believe, then if I had done it before. Furthermore, I found that after entering postgraduate studies, I suddenly had a lot more support from my tutors. Everyone applauded me for wanting to pursue such an ambitus project. It was quite turn of events.

Now, one might assume that pursuing a novel as a university major project would be the ideal situation—and for me, it was. The most valuable and desirable aspect of this opportunity was that it gave me time each week to specifically sit down and focus on my craft. Additionally, it held me accountable to someone other than myself, and also provided me with the opportunity to make some industry connections as part of the process.

However, there were also some downsides to completing the book as a university project. Firstly, the project was entirely self-funded. There was no financial assistance from the university—really, when you think about it, you’re practically paying the university to let you do it—and of course the association meant you couldn’t apply for grants. In turn, working with such a small budget, I was often left relying on the generosity of others to help make things happen. Lastly, to top it off, not only did you have the usual deadlines involved in the publication and marketing processes, but you also had all of your academic ones as well, often presenting and re presenting your project instead of actually doing your project.

Thankfully, much like my protagonist, Bea, I seem to be most productive when working on a tight deadline. And while this method isn’t suited for everyone, I am forever grateful for the opportunity it gave me—sharing Once We Were with the world.

Keighley Bradford is an Australian writer and creative industries professional based in Newcastle NSW. She has a background in writing, editing, publishing, marketing and arts administration. Keighley has previously volunteered in various capacities in her local arts/literary community through writing organisations, writers’ festivals, and student media. Her short fiction pieces have won several awards, with her non-fiction articles also published in several publications. Additionally, her debut novel, Once We Were, was released late last year as part of her postgraduate studies at the University of Newcastle.

You can find Keighley here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | GoodReads | BookBub

Once We Were

Best friends or lovers? Nobody really knows.

But the relationship between Bea James and Alex McClay certainly stirs up scandalous rumours wherever they go.

Bea is flirtatious, witty, and knows how to appease a crowd. Alex is charming, determined, and knows exactly what he wants. Their only rule? Honesty, always. Lies and secrets have no place in their relationship; any form of omission could be costly.

Take that one night in Paris, for instance. It was supposed to be a fun, no-strings moment; one that subsequently began their downfall.

Alex may have won back the heart of his ex-girlfriend-now-fiancée, but at what expense? Losing his best friend’s trust. Now Bea is torn between what to do: tell Alex the truth, and risk ruining the relationship she treasures most—or keep her greatest secret yet, and risk losing him once and for all.

You can buy Once We Were here: Amazon | Kobo | Booktopia | iBooks | B&N

 

 

 

 

 

ARRA newsletter #138

15 January 2021

Purple news

The January issue of the ARRA newsletter is out today. Members should have received the download code via email.

Here’s a quick run down on what you can find in the newsletter this month:

  • farewell to 2020 (and some highlights)
  • finds of 2020 (pg 9)
  • more on Bridgerton (pg 10)
  • a special giveaway from Keri Arthur, who is about to release her 50th title (pg 34)
  • win a $10 gift card—if you can Find the Heart!

Plus our regular columns—romance roundup, web watch, publisher news, self-publishing highlights, reviews, freebies and upcoming releases.

If anyone has any publishing news or deals to report, please send information through. And we are always looking for authors to do a Q&A for the newsletter. If you haven’t done one yet, please contact us at arra.editor@gmail.com.

Happy reading everyone!

Feature book: The Christmas Tree Thief

13 January 2021

The Christmas Tree Thief by Phillipa Nefri Clark

Series: Charlotte Dean Mystery #1
Subgenre: cosy mystery
Release date: 8 Nov 2019
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 382 pages
RRP: $3.99 (ebook); $28.57 (print)

It was supposed to be a new beginning. A new town. New job but for some reason she is involved in several mystery thefts.

Charlotte Dean is working in a bookstore. Not her usual occupation but it is something. She is helping Rosie but does enjoy the work she does. Charlotte is also a curious type. She explores the town and takes note of things of interest. Not long after her arrival the town’s Christmas trees start to go missing. The trees from the stores and even the larger one in the town’s square.

Charlotte has informed the local policeman, Sid, but he doesn’t seem to be of much assistance as he seems to be more interested in following her and digging into her past. He sees her as a troublemaker. Charlotte has to be careful, but the mystery of the missing Christmas trees has her intrigued. Slowly Charlotte and the towns folk are able to find out who is stealing the trees and why. The town’s people also help a family in real need.

This story is not a romance. There is not a couple at the end. There is no HEA or HFN ending. We have the moments where it is alluded to that something happened between Charlotte and Trev, Rosie’s son. But that was another place and time.

I wish that I had read the story where Charlotte was a secondary character as some of this story may have made better sense for example, the relationship between Charlotte and Trev, and what happened in the other town. This may have helped me to get my bearings with some of Charlotte’s thoughtful moments.

Did I notice that the last names of some of the characters are some from our own romance community?

reviewed by Heather

A review copy of this book was provided by the author’s publicist.

Feature book: Blackbird Broken

13 January 2021

Blackbird Broken by Keri Arthur

Subgenre: urban fantasy
Release date: 26 Oct 2020
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook and print
Length: 319 pages
RRP: $6.99 (ebook); $29.69 (print)

I prefer to give a good review and leave the reader to search out the book rather than give massive spoilers and I hope I’ve done that here. (Start with Blackbird Rising and follow it straight up with Blackbird Broken. The last book isn’t too far away and I have no doubt Keri Arthur will give us a thrilling third book.)

Gwen, Mo and the crew are at it again—lots of magic and mayhem. This story is sadder and darker than the first book but a lot happens and I had to read it twice for this review.

The second book in the Witch King’s Crown series (Blackbird Rising is the first) carries on the story strongly but more tightly this round—very family-oriented directionally. The Sword has been drawn from the Stone and no-one is sure if the drawer is on the side of good or evil!

Who is the Witch King? Who is on what side? Is it the ‘real’ Sword in the Stone or a fake? Where’s the real one of a particular artefact? What’s the real message carved in the Stone and the throne? So many little threads that all need to be pulled together.

But wait … there’s more.

The team must now refocus and search out artefacts to help them corral the power of the Witch King until they work out what’s going on and who’s in charge. There are more demons and dark elves with big powers to fight the good gals and guys. New critters are crawling out of Darkside and new gates are opening all over the place.

There is still a simmering tension (sexual and otherwise) between Gwen and Luc (Lancelot) so we get to laugh at their antics and manoeuvring. I have always loved the Guinevere and Lancelot story. This time around there is no Arthur (well, not so far anyway).

Grandma Mo is very cool as she calmly wields really powerful magic (we discovered in the last book she was one of only three remaining mages and had been alive for a very long time). Why not take the fight right to the front door of Darkside and put some truth and guard and follow spells on those near and dear to you? All in a day’s work.

Gwen’s awesome blades—Vita and Nex—get quite a workout very early in the story. She’s getting used to wielding their power and they react with her in a way that is totally unexpected. Then there’s a new power too … it’s really heating up.

Biting my nails … I read on only to be gutted by how close to home the betrayal seems. I am saddened and still reeling a little and the third book promises dark and unhappy times. I can’t wait.

Mo’s cryptic comments are opening up into some true education and family history for Gwen but is it too little too late? How does Gwen cope with all the changes suddenly coming at her? What are the right actions to take? Why won’t Luc give in to the super-hot attraction between them?

A real baddie from book one turns up and … it seems he’s pretty darned friendly with a family member who is knee deep in ‘wrong side river’. There is a new set of twins for us to get to know. Gwen’s two best friends and Mo’s love interest all play their part in getting towards the truth.

The story ends on a cliff-hanger and a reveal that you know is coming but can’t quite believe the twist in the old story. I very much enjoy the Arthurian legend and it is at the heart of this series but differently—and that’s a joy given how many times the tale has been told.

reviewed by Sharon

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

Guest blogger: Eliza Renton

10 January 2021

I wrestled for weeks wondering what to share to entice, excite and enthral you into being interested in my first novel Faithful (Sentinel Security Book 1). The muse was silent; my brain preoccupied with COVID.

Christmas, shining its light into a darkened world, and 2021 peeking at me from around the corner finally lured me from my chagrin, showed me what matters most. Family, friends, and memories of places I have seen and hope to visit again. Baking and gardening have glued me to my home during the Victorian lockdown, but I would be lying if I told you they were close to my heart. My son will tell you I am a poor but optimistic cook and my garden is a testament to trial and error. I am continuingly seeking help on both fronts.

My laptop, technology, and social media (heaven forbid) kept me sane, kept me writing and kept me in touch. Google Earth and Zoom were faithful Jedi who beamed light into my darkened world.

I live in Melbourne, but I am a Londoner, born and bred. No matter the miles, my brothers are snug in my heart. My father and one brother were soldiers, men who fought for their country and came home with scars that would never heal. They offered graceful inspiration for my hero, Luke, an army medic fighting his demons.

Faithful is set in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Kate, my heroine, is a midwife working with the local birthing attendants, who soon finds herself in the middle of a terrorist threat.

My first visit to the countries in the region gave me a new way of seeing my life that was transformative. Burkina was where I first learned to play Djembe, a drum indigenous to West African countries. One translation of the word Djembe means ‘together in peace’.

I had to laugh when I realised, Faithful was my version of War and Peace, not that I kid myself the story soars to literary heights.

I wish all ARRA members health, happiness and the very best for 2021 and beyond.

You find Eliza here: Website | Facebook

Faithful

Guard your heart—trust no one

Until his last mission, British military medic Luke McLaren kept his oath, ‘Do No Harm’. When he fails to save his best friend, Mike, Luke’s life implodes.

Mike’s sister, midwife Kate Gibson, doesn’t believe in happy endings, not since her father deserted her when she was a child, and her brother was killed on a mission.

One night of make-me-forget sex and Luke knows Kate is the only woman he will ever want but can never have. Life goes on. He joins Sentinel Security, and Kate focuses on her clinical work in Africa.

When Kate asks for Luke’s help to expose a bomb threat, he agrees. He has no choice thanks to his deathbed promise to protect her. With their hotter than hell connection reignited, Luke and Kate must face their demons and the enemy if they are to survive and claim a future together.

You can find Faithful (Sentinel Security Book 1) on here.

 

Publisher pitch: Pride Publishing, Jan 2021

8 January 2021

2021 starts with a bang for Pride Publishing! We have new releases from Bailey Bradford, JP Bowie, RNA finalists Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead, and more! We’re starting as we mean to go on, and hope that all your wishes for 2021 come true!

You can find more of our titles at www.pride-publishing.com. Take a peek at our upcoming releases on the Coming Soon page and sign up to our newsletter—we’d love to see you there!

Here’s what we have releasing over the next few weeks …

12 January

Teddy’s Truth by KD Ellis (Out in Austin #1). When Teddy thought being born into the wrong body was the worst thing that had ever happened to him, he was mistaken. In order to pay for his operation, he takes a loan from a Mexican cartel, who quickly raise the stakes, leaving Teddy with no way out. Can he save himself without dragging anyone into danger with him?

19 January

Edging Closer by LM Somerton (Tales from The Edge #9). We’re back with fan-favourites Olly and Joe, and we couldn’t be happier! Wedding bells are ringing, but we know Olly, and nothing is quite so simple for this sassy submissive. Can Olly and Joe escape this new danger and finally reach their happily ever after?

26 January

The Reluctant Royal by Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead. A high-stakes bodyguard romance! For Sergeant Joe Wenlock, risking his life to save a princess is all in a day’s work, but his latest assignment—protecting the queen’s step-grandson—is a new challenge. When Alejandro’s life is threatened, can Joe balance duty with love?

Dragon Dreams and Fairy Wings by Bailey Bradford (Fire and Flutter #1). Love fairy Griff isn’t quite sure where he’s supposed to fit in—and now he’s lost his wings and his memory, he’s even more confused. Dragon shifter Blaze is fed up with the fairies, and when he swats something buzzing at his ear, he almost starts an inter-species war. But can Griff and Blaze find a common ground?

2 February

Blood Red Roses by SJ Coles (My Bloody Valentine). Things are looking up for Rick—a new job at a finance firm, a chance to make something of his life, and a chance meeting with a handsome stranger. But when someone is murdered in Rick’s flat, his new life is thrown into a mess of conspiracy, betrayal and intrigue.

Dark Valentine by JP Bowie (My Bloody Valentine). It’s a Valentine’s Day party turned horror show for Brandon and Ryder. The glitzy party they’re promised soon turns grisly, with a seriously injured dancer and a dead body upstairs. Can they find a way out?