Quinn Hamilton had it all—A grades, a loving family, and a spot on the waitlist for the latest Hermes handbag. The one item left unchecked on her to-do list was her brother’s best friend, Liam, and that was only because Braden was overprotective when it came to his mates.
When tragedy struck, Quinn was left with nothing. Not even the handbag made it.
Three years later, Quinn’s focused on the things that count—getting a steady job, looking after her mother, and playing it safe. Her dreams of working for a fashion magazine haven’t just left the building—they’ve dived into the gutter, never to be touched again.
But when completing a two-week internship in the city, Quinn meets someone who makes her do the one thing she’s been trying desperately to avoid—feel. Will this sexy man who knows so much of her history help her go after what she wants? Or is their brand of passion as outdated as last season’s trends?
She’s running from her past, but her past is running faster.
Life has been pretty hectic for me lately, so what better to read than a novella by the amazing Lauren K. McKellar? Her prose flows so smoothly and her story so quickly that this is truly a fast read — I gobbled it up in two sittings and was left with that satisfying “plentiful and delicious dessert” feeling. And I say this as a person who doesn’t generally read romance.
For fans of the genre, all the goodies are here: the girl, the guy, the obstacles that draw out the process of them getting together (but not too far; this is a novella). Quinn has scars on the inside that are worse than the scar on the outside: a massive case of survivor’s guilt means she subconsciously believes she doesn’t deserve happiness. Liam is an A-grade hottie who struggles with a minor case of the same. Together, they manage to muddle their way through to a place where they might be able to start healing.
Through Quinn’s eyes we also get another glimpse into the world of magazines, a place that the author knows well. It was nice to see Madison, the leading lady from Fame — although Fast had none of Fame‘s steaminess, unless you count the smooching.
I love Lauren’s writing. Regular readers of my blog will recognise the name; she is my editor, the one who I (as a professional editor myself) trust with my books. What this means is that you can buy her books — most of which are self-published — safe in the knowledge that they will be beautifully written and professionally treated. She has a keen eye for story and her editing game is amazing.
If romance is your thing and you’re keen to try a new author, why not give this novella a try? It’s a great way to discover someone new. You won’t regret it.
She’s supposed to cover the stories.
Not be one.
Madison Winters has life in the bag. Gorgeous fiancé? Check. Promotion to become editor of the country’s hottest fashion magazine? Check. Limited edition pair of Manolo Blahniks? Checkity-check. Catching her fiancé with his pants down isn’t something she expects. In the space of twenty-four hours, Madison loses it all—not even her shoes will be saved. Swapping sass + bide for sweatpants and Dior for the downward dog is going to be hell. The last thing Madison’s broken heart needs is a run-in with America’s newest playboy. Can she ever recover from this?
Tate Masters has it all—Hollywood’s latest golden boy has washboard abs, a killer smile, and a leading role in the next A-list movie. Until a secret from his past is splashed all over the headlines, and that ‘good boy’ image fast-tracks to the gutter. Now the media hunt is on, and they’re baying for Tate’s blood. One night of wild behaviour sees him wake up next to a gorgeous Aussie brunette—and she’s everything Tate’s afraid of.
Keeping secrets has never been this hard.
I’ve said before that Lauren McKellar is one of my very few one-click contemporary authors. She usually writes some young adult and some new adult, and I knew going into Fame that it wasn’t a tragedy like most of her other stories. What I didn’t realise was that this is adult contemporary. Adult-y adult. Now with more adult.
The chemistry — and, let’s be honest, the raw lust — between Madison and Tate sizzles off the page from the first time they meet. And the sex scenes (is that a spoiler?) are scorching. *fans self*
At first I wasn’t sure about Tate. He comes across as a cheat at the start of the book, and no amount of megawatt smiles and ripped muscles made up for that in my mind. Still, it’s not too long before we discover more about Tate — his reasons for doing the things he does — and soon I was swooning and wishing for a Tate in my life too.
It turns out McKellar does sex scenes as well as she does romance. The latter is her bread and butter. It’s not usually my favourite genre, but the relationship here, as embryonic as it is, is well executed. Tate and Madison discover in each other someone who will let them be real, not pushing them to do anything they don’t want to or judging them.
The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that the book is just downright funny. Madison attracts the worst kinds of random luck, but at the same time her approach to handling things is kind of hilarious. While she naturally grieves for her failed relationship with Mike and the consequent struggle with who she is, she’s generally quite resilient and doesn’t take BS from anyone. Her disdain for the trappings of “wellness” (a word I rather dislike myself … mostly because it’s just ugly, tbh) had me giggling on more than one occasion. Her banter with not just Tate but her bestie Courtney was hilarious. And I can’t talk about the humour without mentioning Madison’s parents. They only appear in a handful of scenes, but her father — oh my god, what a scream!
The other touch I liked was the shout-out to How to Save a Life with the cameo of Jase, the tattooed bartender from that book. I wanted to give him a hug, like a long-lost friend.
If you’re looking for a sexy, feel-good story, then I can’t recommend Fame highly enough.
Nineteen-year-old Olivia Dean has the perfect reputation, the perfect boyfriend, and an increasingly perfect CV. She has it all, until Christian breaks up with her in public, calling her out as a self-gratifying sexoholic: the kind that plays solo. But Olivia doesn’t masturbate all night — the only thing she does is sleep … right?
Now all the boys on campus seem to want her attention for the absolutely wrong reason — including resident hottie, Logan Hays. He’s pulling out his best moves to gain her attention, so resisting his sexy charm is hard work. With rapidly slipping grades, a disturbingly lurid reputation and demanding parents, Olivia must discover the truth behind her rumoured sleeping problem. If she doesn’t, the perfect life she’s worked so hard for may slip away, including the one person who has Olivia breaking all her rules — Logan.
What do you do when you’re asleep?
Shh! is a story about acceptance, learning to trust and in turn love while facing life’s unexpected difficulties.
This is the sweetest new adult romance I’ve ever read, despite the subject matter. There are some heated kissing scenes, but the sex is definitely of the “fade to black” sort. So if the idea about reading a story involving a girl’s discovery that she has a sexual sleep disorder is putting you off, don’t let it!
Olivia is a perfectionist teenager trying to fulfill her parents’ demand that she get the grades and extracurricular credit to secure herself a job in a top-tier law firm. It’s obvious from the start that she doesn’t really enjoy law, which gave me a pretty clear idea of what kind of parents she has (the kind that shouldn’t be allowed to have kids!). When her parentally approved boyfriend dumps her in a public and humiliating way, her life starts to unravel.
Enter Logan. He’s got his own issues, and has a bit of a “bad boy” vibe—except he really isn’t at all. Sure, he’s from the wrong side of the tracks, but there is absolutely nothing bad about him. His fun nature and support for Olivia encourage her to start questioning the direction her life is taking. Also, because he’s already found the strength to escape the path his parents thought he’d take, he is the best possible example for Olivia.
Unfortunately for the couple, each of their issues discourages them from opening up fully to the other, which results in some inevitable heartache. In some books, a lack of communication doesn’t make sense and is a transparent plot device. But in Shh!, I totally understood why that was the case—if I were Olivia, I’d find it hard to tell my new boyfriend I was concerned I might have sexomnia as well!
My favourite characters were Logan (because duh!) and Olivia’s new friend, Molly. In my mind, she was Willow from the first season of Buffy, only older and a bit less of a nerd. I loved her! I saw a Goodreads reviewer was demanding a book about Molly, and I want to add a big +1 for that!
I found it hard to put this book down, and devoured it in three days. This is Stacey Nash’s first venture into contemporary, and she’s definitely nailed the new genre. The sequel is titled Wait!, but I don’t want to. I need it now!
Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme where you can link up with other bloggers, write about books, and make lists. It’s perfect! And yes, I know it’s barely Tuesday anymore in Australia as this post goes live, because I’m running late. Disorganised? Me?
Today’s theme is: “Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books.” I’ve gone for a little of column A and a little of column B… And not ten, because I have trouble committing. :p
Characters who are friends first. There’s no doubt that the sizzling attraction of lust-at-first-sight is a thing, but I love the slow build of a relationship that turns from friendship to romance. Traditionally this is written as one person realising before the other. Then awkwardness often ensues. But still, I like the basic idea.
The realistically developed romance. This is tied into the point above, but it applies regardless of whether there’s an existing friendship. I’m not saying that sometimes people don’t jump straight into the sack together (that’s basically a new adult trope!), but I like it when the development of the romance happens over a period of time.
Diversity in relationships. I haven’t read much GLBT fiction so far, but what I’ve read I’ve really liked. I want to read more.
Insta-love. I know I said I like lust-at-first-sight, but love-at-first-sight? No. Nuh uh. I’ve very occasionally seen it done well, but only in instances where some supernatural element — reincarnation, say — is at play. I get really grouchy when two sensible-seeming characters decide that they are destined to be together forever after one date. Ugh.
Broody, asshole men* . You know the trope: he’s a prick to her, either because he’s caught up in his own thing or he’s “trying to drive her away for her own good”. I HATE THAT AS A PLOTLINE. It’s so patronising! I’d prefer to see a man who is willing to fess up about whatever the problem is and let the female lead decide what she’s willing to tolerate.
* I realise this may sound sexist. But the truth is that I can’t recall ever seeing the roles reversed in this situation, with the woman driving the man away for his own good, but maybe I’m missing something.Plots that rely on characters not communicating. I hate it when characters don’t speak their mind when everything suggests that they should, including their own personality. I once threw a book against a wall because the husband commented that his wife must really like the father of the baby she just had, and she said yes (trying to be coy and meaning it was him). He assumed she’d had an affair, because his question was in the third person. And she didn’t correct him, even though he was standing right there. I still get mad about that.
Relationships fixing brooding, asshole men*. Fifty Shades of Grey. Enough said.
*And women. But, again, it’s usually men. Written by women writers, which I find baffling.
Well, that ended on a crude note. Thanks very much, Missy!
What would you add to my list? What books would you recommend, or not recommend, based on it? 🙂
Eleven Weeks, book two in the Crazy In Love series
Lauren K. McKellar
Genre: Contemporary Romance (New Adult)
Cover Design: KILA Designs
One heartbeat …
Stacey is good at pretending.
She pretends that the boy she’s in love with doesn’t exist.
She pretends that she’s happy to live and die in this small town.
She pretends that her life is carefree while her best friend’s world crumbles before her very eyes.
But Stacey’s got a secret …
And it’s going to ruin everything.
Read my review of Eleven Weeks here. (Hint: I LOVED IT!)
Interview with Lauren
Where did you come up with the inspiration for Eleven Weeks?
The idea for Eleven Weeks was sort of twofold, I guess. First, I’d decided I wanted to do a novella to make the Crazy in Love series a three-book experience. My good friend and writerly co-conspirator Stacey Nash (also an author, of a whole heap of talent) suggested I write about Stacey and Michael.
At first, I was hesitant. A few people had noted that they found the character of Stacey (the best friend of my protagonist, Kate, in The Problem With Crazy) to be a little unlikeable, but then it gave me the best plan ever. I could use this to show why at times she was a little distant or hostile. This could be Stacey’s redemption!
I believe a lot of things happen to make us the way we are, and hopefully this gives people some insight as to why Stacey wasn’t always there for Kate in book one of the series.
Who is your writing hero?
If I could be any author, it would be hands down Colleen Hoover. I adore her work, and I love her style – for me, writing is all about producing books that make people feel, and that’s what her titles always do to me, by the bucket-load! I don’t want to be the next Proust or Malouf – I just want to offer people escapism and connect with them emotionally. If I can come even halfway close to that, I’ll be stoked.
What’s next for the Crazy in Love series?
Well, book three, The Problem With Heartache, is out on 26 February, and will see Kate do a little bit of a road trip as she travels to America with a massive rock ‘n’ roll band. It’s a dual POV book, which was a really fun challenge for me, as I’ve never written from a masculine perspective before. It was super fun.
Beer or wine: Wine.
MC or paranormal: Oh, tough one! Most likely MC, but I do love me some good paranormal reads!
Indie or traditional: I’m hybrid published, so I’d say both!
Chocolate or candy: Chocolate … but right now I’m on a health kick, so please don’t tempt me!
Rock or pop: Bit of both please. There’s no reason I can’t have a side of Taylor Swift with my alternate music!
The warm sun beats down on my face. I open my eyes, fighting the stickiness that falling asleep while wearing mascara brings. I run my tongue along my teeth, the gross feeling of furry and—
I inch my leg behind me, hoping to feel his warmth. Maybe we can make this work, somehow. Michael seems to think we can.
One inch: warm bed sheets.
Two inches: the bed cools.
Three inches: nothing.
I flip over. His side of the bed is empty, the quilt pulled up, and the sheets tucked in, as if he had never even been there in the first place.
On his pillow lies a note, man-scrawl scratched across its surface in blue hotel-room pen.
I’ll keep your secrets.
I just won’t be one.
About the Crazy in Love series
The Crazy in Love series consists of three titles: The Problem With Crazy, Eleven Weeks and The Problem With Heartache.
Links to Book One: The Problem With Crazy
Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor. Her debut novel, Finding Home, was released through Escape Publishing on October 1, 2013, and her second release, NA Contemporary Romance The Problem With Crazy, is self-published, and is available now. She loves books that evoke emotion, and hope hers make you feel.
Lauren lives by the beach in Australia with her husband and their two dogs. Most of the time, all three of them are well behaved.
I originally read Keir back in the middle of 2013 (I was going to write “last year” but oh, wait, 2015!). I really enjoyed it; I’ve copied my review of it from Goodreads and put it at the bottom of this cover reveal post. (The only sad thing for me is that I ordered the paperback and I love this new cover so much more. Can’t I just, you know, swap them? No? Rats!) — Cass
A demon waiting to die…
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary ‘Blue Demon of Adalucian’ waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.
A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can’t explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.
When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?
Keir is Book One of the Redemption series and part of the Travellers Universe. Previously released by Lyrical Press in May 2012, it has received a SFR Galaxy Award for SciFi Romance for Best May–December Romance (2012), and was a Aspen Gold Readers Choice Award 3rd place finalist (2013), Readers’ Favorite International Book Award finalist (2012), and The Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book Awards Nominee for Best SciFi/Fantasy (2013).
You can add Keir to your Goodreads shelf HERE.
I really enjoyed Keir. It reminded me of some of Anne McCaffrey’s books, which are sci-fi that was light on the science but with a consistent romantic element. I’d forgotten with my recent urban fantasy kick how much I enjoy that combination.
The romance is a slow burn, not a love at first sight thing, which I prefer — although I did start wanting to shake both characters (especially Keir) to get them to just GET ON WITH IT a chapter or two before they actually did.
The world building is great; I especially enjoyed Metraxi but there are a few to choose from. And the characters are interesting, with back stories that give them lots of issues (read: character development arcs).
Ultimately the underlying message of the story is about acceptance: finding those who will accept you despite your differences, and — by seeing yourself through their eyes — learning to accept yourself.
After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 21 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.
Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade.
Sign up HERE for Pippa’s no-spam newsletter for special previews on cover reveals, new releases, the latest giveaways and discounts, and upcoming news. You can also stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.
I was going to write a blog post about alpha males and how they aren’t really for me, but then Nicole Evelina wrote one and I figured I’d just copy off her homework. Check her post out, you guys. I luff it. ❤
For generations, women have been taught that the ideal hero of a novel – regardless of genre, but especially in romance – is the alpha male. You know the type: tan, perfectly muscled, ruggedly handsome, can go all night, likely to appear oiled up/sweaty on the cover.*
I’d like to challenge that stereotype. Actually, I am in most of my books (King Arthur, and Lancelot to an extent, being exceptions because of their existing characteristics).
Why? Well for one, I am so not attracted to the alpha male – it’s part of the reason I don’t like romance novels. Physically, I’ve always gone for what I call the “heroin chic” look: skinny, may or may not have muscles, usually tall. (I think it comes from too many years of hanging out with musicians.) I like someone who won’t crush me under his weight or break me in a passionate embrace…
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As part of the Small Town Charm, Love and Mystery boxed set blitz, some of the many fabulous authors have stopped by to talk about love in mystery. I’d love to hear what you think too — please leave a comment!
Julie Anne Lindsey. I’m a huge fan of mystery, amateur sleuths, cozies and all sorts of who-done-its with a witty heroine and a circle of friends and family that draw me in to sequel after sequel. You could say I’m obsessed. (You shouldn’t, but you wouldn’t be wrong!) In fact, I write cozies as much as I read them. One thing I never leave out is a little chemistry between my heroine and a man smart enough to keep up with her. There’s just something about throwing love into the mix that ups all the stakes. On the one hand, what wouldn’t we do for love? On the other hand, what complicates things faster than a new romance? Right? Watching the heroine juggle her real life, career, family and a budding murder investigation is great fun. Watching her do that while hoping not to ruin things with a cute new friend is just fabulous. I vote for Love in Mystery!
Jennifer Anderson. Yes, yes, yes! A little mystery can add to the angst. The longing looks. The…mystery that is love! And I think in most love stories there is a drop of mystery. Of course, you do have those stories where the heroine is in love with a guy and she’s not sure if he’s killed someone, but I think that’s an entirely different question! In my personal life, which isn’t a story no matter how much I think it is, I like a little mystery. Being married for almost 15 years and with the same man for 20, I’ve found you need a little mystery to keep the spark there.
The boxed set
Small town America has its charm—not to mention its fair share of romance and mystery! Everyone knows small towns have their own unique charm, that’s why they make fabulous settings for stories! Turquoise Morning Press presents the best of their small town settings—all in one volume, and for one very small town price! From Drakes Springs, Florida, to Briny Bay, North Carolina, to Wheeler, Texas, where a little romance and a lot of murder and mystery take center-stage—and then to Honey Creek, Ohio and Legend, Tennessee, where home-grown romance blooms, and love lives right next door. Eight fabulous authors share their views of small town charm, love and mystery in this eight book boxed set—providing you with a satisfying glimpse into the lives and stories of the quirky characters who live in these charming settings.
Release date: September 2, 2014 ISBN: 978-1-62237-334-5 Retail Price: $5.99 Promotional Price: $0.99
Bloom by Julie Anne Lindsey In a town filled with her past, she never expected to find her future. Seven years ago Cynthia left Honey Creek with a broken heart. Three years ago Mitchell arrived with one. If they let it, love will find a way to bloom. Julie Anne Lindsey really brought me back to the books that made me love to read. Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars; Bloom is one of those romances that transports you back in time. Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars
Buried in Briny Bay by Bobbye Terry Roxie Turner finds herself up to her neck in trouble her lifelong nemesis, Georgia Collins, is discovered buried in the town’s landfill. Worse, with her characteristic Southern sass, Roxie has been saying she’d kill Georgia for more than twenty years. I had Janet Evanovich, Julie Garwood, Jill Shalvis and Pamela DuMond all grouped together for this category. But I think the crazy sisters, Roxie and Trixie just had to come out on top. What a feel good book Buried in Briny Bay was, as it kept me smiling from the first page till the last. Another Look Book Reviews Award, Best Book to Bring on Smiles
Midnight in Legend, TN by Magdalena Scott. Midnight Shelby has grand ideas to help her adopted hometown, and she’s not going to let a stick-in-the-mud realtor get in her way. I loved this book and highly recommend it. I must warn you, however, that [Magdalena Scott] will quickly become addictive. Brenda Tulley of The Romance Studio, 5 Hearts
Murder at the Blue Plate Café by Judy Alter Small towns are supposed to be idyllic and peaceful, but when Kate Chambers returns to her hometown of Wheeler, Texas, she soon learns it is not the comfortable place it was when she grew up. Alter serves up a delicious whodunit by stirring up a healthy serving of suspense and a splash of romance, then bakes them to downhome perfection. Add an appealing protagonist, and you have Murder at the Blue Plate Café. Highly recommended. Polly Iyer
Shades of the Future by Suzanne Lilly Mariah Davis loves animals, running, and her hunk of a boyfriend, Kevin Creamer. Everything looks bright for her until the day she finds a pair of sunglasses that allows her to see the future. Suzanne Lilly weaves an engaging world populated with charming and eccentric characters that readers will want to visit again and again. Brenda Hiatt, award-winning romance and young adult author
Heart to Heart by Jan Scarbrough When Jeremy’s aunt gives him a second chance, he must decide if he believes in the unbelievable and the pet psychic who teaches him about faith…and love. If you want a humorous, sweet book for a quick read at the pool or beach, this is it. Ms. Addie is still stirring up things in the town of Legend, even after her death. Amazon Reviewer, 4 Stars
Rebuild My World by Cheryl Norman More than anything, Taylor Drake wants her life back. Suffering from the agoraphobia that has plagued her since a brutal attack, the once confident and successful photographer now cowers behind closed doors with a loaded pistol. …Ms. Norman is a gifted storyteller. I loved Rebuild My World and eagerly turned the pages, excited to see what event would next happen to keep this story moving. Not only is it well plotted, but the characterizations draw you into the lives of these people. Ms. Norman tells a compelling tale that keeps you guessing. Vine Voice Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars
Ice Princess by Jennifer Anderson Mya Newman never minded the routine or quiet that came with living in Honey Creek, Ohio. For her senior year, she craves something exciting to happen instead of it melting into a cookie cutter routine like the previous years. …a wonderfully emotional short story with just the right balance of sweetness and sadness. I recommend it to anyone who relishes a charming story of love and friendship. LASR Review, Great Read! 4 Stars
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. Julie writes sweet romance for Honey Creek Books, the Calypso series with Lyrical Press/Kensington and pens the The Patience Price Mysteries for Carina Press/Harlequin.
Bobbye Terry is a multi-published author of romantic comedy, fantasy and suspense—writing where southern charm sometimes meets macabre reality. Her awards include Eppie finalist and two-time finalist of Detroit’s Bookseller’s Best Award.
Magdalena Scott lives in her own fantasy world of Magdalenaville, Indiana, and spends her time writing stories with small town settings. Magdalena knows that life in a “burg” is seldom dull—if you’re paying attention. She is the Amazon bestselling author of the Ladies of Legend romance series.
Judy Alter, award-winning author, penned the five books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, she moved from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.
Suzanne Lilly writes lighthearted young adult stories with a splash of suspense, a flash of the unexplained, a dash of romance, and always a happy ending. Her short stories have appeared in numerous places online and in print. She lives in Northern California where she reads, writes, cooks, swims, and teaches elementary students.
Jan Scarbrough is the author of the popular Bluegrass Reunion series, writing heartwarming contemporary romances about home and family, single moms and children, and if the plot allows—horses. She is an Amazon bestselling author of the Ladies of Legend contemporary romance series and a RWA Golden Heart finalist.
Cheryl Norman turned to fiction writing after a career in telecommunications and won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort. A mention in Publisher’s Weekly called her one of ten new romance authors to watch. She resides in Florida and is currently writing the Drakes Springs romance series.
Jennifer Anderson wears the hats of Mommy, wife, cat owner, author, and marketing coordinator. She has lived either coast, but has spent the majority of her life in the Midwest, where she says her heart grows with the love of family and friends, and where she finds inspiration for her young adult and romance stories.
High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.
Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I don’t normally read contemporary fiction. I picked this one up because I “met” Dahlia via Twitter and then started following her blog, where she posts all sorts of interesting and informative posts for writers (plus a whole passel of book reviews and recommendations). I love her snark, humour and heart — all of which are things that come across in Behind the Scenes. In spades. Truckloads, even.
Unlike my other recent contemporary reads, though, this book isn’t one that tears your heart out and stomps it into the dirt. I kind of appreciated that — I wasn’t in the mood to be sobbing into my pillow when I read this BASICALLY IN A SINGLE DAY!
The thing that makes Behind the Scenes is definitely the characters. None of them are perfect, not even the gorgeous Hollywood actors. Especially not them. I don’t think there’s a single character that doesn’t make a stupid decision at one point or another, but those decisions didn’t make me feel like I was watching a car accident. Instead, I was so immersed in the story and the characters’ headspaces (especially Ally’s, as the POV character) that I was totally understanding and supportive of them in all their complexity. To the point where when Liam’s friend Josh has a go at Ally for something dumb she did, I was all, “WOAH, WHAT?!” right there along with her.
The friendship between Vanessa and Ally is complex and sweet; it could have very easily have been one-sided, especially given Ally ends up working as Van’s assistant and doing most of the “giving” in the relationship. But Vanessa only hired Ally because the latter needed a way to make money for college, and Ally refused to just take the money as charity or a loan. Plus Vanessa does what she can to help Ally out in other ways.
Also, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Vanessa is a Korean actress, not a blond bombshell. This wasn’t just tokenistic diversity either; one of the reasons Ally is so keen to help her friend’s career is that she’s been there for her with icecream and tissues every time Vanessa was rejected from a role for not being Caucasian enough. It’s one of the layers that form their relationship. The racism Vanessa faces from some quarters is by no means the central theme of the book — Dahlia doesn’t rub our noses in it or anything — but it’s there and feels real.
And then there’s Liam. Ah, Liam. He’s a little bit troubled without being a bad boy (unlike Josh, who is both of those things). He’s intelligent, witty, charming, and — as you are if you’re a Hollywood heartthrob — drop-dead gorgeous. All the talk of his blue eyes and defined abs were enough to make a girl drool. *fans self*
Another key relationship is the one between Ally and her family. It was nice to see a YA book where the family unit is present — for the most part, anyway, as her dad spends a lot of time in hospital being treated for cancer — and all look out for each other. Ally’s little sister Lucy is adorable (and actually, I just realised she may be the only character that dosen’t make a stupid decision — there was one after all). I just wanted to give her all the hugs.
This is a great, light YA read with huge dollops of romance and some of the funniest dialogue I’ve read in a long time. I was disappointed when I finished it. Five happy stars!
Inga Andersson is the envy of every girl in Asgard. On the surface she has it all — great friends, a job as Odin’s personal fight choreographer, and a happy ever after with her realm’s hottest assassin. But when evil invades Asgard, her perfect world comes crashing down. Someone is planning to kill off the gods, and Inga’s best friend Ull is first on their list. With the Norse apocalypse a nanosecond away, Inga has to decide how she’ll spend her final moments of freedom. Because from the moment this battle begins, Inga’s happily ever after will be nothing more than a memory.
Some things are worth fighting for.
TUR is an Elsker Saga novella. It is approximately 10,000 words long.
As I mentioned a few days ago during the launch blitz for book two in this series, I just finished reading Tur, the novella from Inga Andersson’s perspective that is set just before the events of Elsker start to unfold.
I really enjoyed this little tale from Inga’s perspective. There’s enough action and foreshadowing in here to keep the momentum of the novella going, and it seeds the romance between Ull and Kristia in the sweetest way. (That last page or two. Aww!) Ull is a very serious and intense fellow — as you would be if you were the God of Winter being drafted into a different portfolio, one you really didn’t want — and it was fun to see Inga trying to get him to lighten up.
Inga and Gunnar are definitely the focus of the novella, though — Inga’s drive to be taken seriously as a warrior by Odin, and Gunnar’s desire to, well, spend some “quality time” with Inga. This is a sweet romance though, like the rest of the series, so it fades to black at appropriate moments. Part of me regreted that, to be honest, because it was so promising. 😉
One touch that I really love in this series is that the gods are given a modern makeover. Even in Asgard they live in modern houses and wear modern clothes. It made the sprinkling of references to the more ancient parts of their world stand out even more. Fun!
I felt Inga’s frustration at the blokes’ desire to protect her, given what a kick-butt warrior she is. At first I thought it was old-fashioned chivalry or even sexism (she’s weak; we can’t let her go to battle). It was a relief to discover it was more about politics, in Odin’s case at least. Gunnar on the other hand just didn’t want his wife in danger; I can respect that, because who wants to see their loved ones get hurt?
Also, if this has intrigued you, here’s one more thing to consider: Tur is a great opportunity to try a new author, because it’s free. It can be a risky proposition buying a book by an unknown author, but you can, ah, suck it and see. (Speaking of Gunnar…)