Tag Archives: romance

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

On the night Cassie Hanwell received the Austin Fire Department’s Valor Award—the youngest and first female—for saving children from a sinking school bus, the unexpected presenter takes her back to the night that formed her opinion of love and family. Her award night again changes her life drastically, returning her reluctantly to family and more than one potential disaster. Center’s skills draw readers into the lives of her complex and deeply flawed characters, causing at least this reviewer to gasp out loud multiple times at wondrous and astonishing events. She brings tears with realistic emotional turmoil and unforeseen joy. Fans of Ann Garvin, Camille Pagan, and Liane Moriarty will appreciate Center’s writing style, sense of humor, and credible, relatable characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Caster’s Blog: A Geek Love Story (15th Anniversary Edition) by Marcus Alexander Hart

Ray Caster follows friendship and romance advice from the followers of his blog. His loyalty to his friend Turbo Dan waxes and wanes, but his love for Shadoe remains true to the end. Hart’s social experiment turned into a blog, turned into a book, turned into a movie, and turned again into a book. He’s getting exceptional mileage from a character he created many moons ago to deflect criticism as an online neophyte. Hart is a unique creative and this shows in his work. I highly recommend anything he writes, no matter how old, how different, how silly, or if it’s not your favorite genre. He transcends genre. He shared his book with me because I’m awesome too. If you love to laugh, you’ll love this!

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Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

LAEL’S REVIEW

Dr. Trisha Raje brings modern day morés and an introverted personality to this Austen classic as she subconsciously creates problems from miscommunication. Unexplored emotions and hesitance toward introspection lead Dr. Trisha to misadventures. Dear Readers watch her spar with the sexy caterer, whose mother’s favorite book inspired her to name him Darcy—he goes by DJ. She attempts to reconnect with her family, guilt-ridden by a long ago transgression of her friend, who has shown up recently to lure in the caterer. Dr. Trisha remains focused on his sister, her patient, how she can aid her in reframing her outlook toward her future as an artist without sight. Dev’s work is, as usual, lush and gorgeous and emotional and sexy as hell, with complex, realistic characters in complicated situations in which they must untangle themselves, eventually giving in to intense feelings. A brilliant storyteller, she carefully weaves into a well-known story a contemporary character, her Indian-American culture, and a romance inspired by, well, gourmet food. Of course. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful story through Edelweiss.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award winning author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Her books have been on NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, and Kirkus Best Books of the year lists, but Sonali is most smug about Shelf Awareness calling her “Not only one of the best but also one of the bravest romance novelists working today.” Sonali lives in Chicagoland with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find more at sonalidev.com.

The East End by Jason Allen

ABOUT THE BOOK

A terrible tragedy unleashes a fateful chain of events for two families from starkly different worlds in a breathtaking new tale of suspense that doubles as a razor-sharp take on class conflict in today’s America.

In his remarkable debut, THE EAST END (Park Row Books; May 7, 2019; $26.99 U.S./$33.50 CAN.), novelist Jason Allen constructs a multi-layered story about the powerful and the powerless, about love and loss, and about self-destruction and the possibility of redemption. Set in the Hamptons over one explosive holiday weekend, this immersive must-read illuminates both sides of the socio-economic divide in a place where dreams of escape drive potentially catastrophic decisions. 

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, THE EAST END opens with the countdown to Memorial Day underway and recent high school graduate Corey Halpern in need of a fix.  A townie, he burns off his resentment of the affluent “invaders” who flock to the community in the summer months by breaking into their lavish mansions and pulling harmless pranks. Staring down a bleak future, he sees his hopes of going away to college vanishing. He can’t disappear, not when his troubled mother, Gina, is barely making ends meet, trying to get away from an abusive, deadbeat husband, and chasing pills with too much booze. Trapped in a downward spiral, she staggers towards rock bottom as Corey and his brother look on helplessly.

Before calling it a night, Corey makes one last stop at the sprawling lakeside estate where he and Gina work. There he intends to commit his first-ever robbery but nothing proceeds according to plan. Married billionaire CEO Leo Sheffield shows up to his ultra-exclusive Gin Lane property early, accompanied by his handsome, much-younger lover, Henry. In an instant, everything changes: Drunk, high, and all alone, Henry is the victim of a fatal poolside accident.  Unfortunately for a distraught Leo, Corey saw what happened—and so did someone else.

For this immensely privileged man who is not used to getting his hands dirty, his very existence now depends on containing the collateral damage. And time is running out. Leo’s overbearing wife and three grown children will be arriving soon, along with a house full of high-maintenance guests. Desperate to preserve his fortune and his freedom, Leo takes irrevocable steps that expose him to scandal and far worse. Over the next few tension-filled days, hidden entanglements, unexpected opportunities, and clashing loyalties propel Corey, Gina, and Leo to extremes—and ultimately, to shocking outcomes no one will anticipate.

Atmospheric, emotionally probing, and complexly unmissable, this kaleidoscopic narrative plunges its brilliantly realized characters into timely, all-too-relatable moral quandaries that defy easy answers and resound long after the final page.

LAEL’S REVIEW

Corey breaks into the houses of the wealthy who summer in the Hamptons, to play pranks on them as a way to vent his frustrations as a local serving these “invaders.” The night he chooses to enter the home of his mother’s employer Mr. Sheffield, he learns a scandalous secret and witnesses a tragedy, and then he falls in love. The weekend brings a multitude of challenges for the Sheffield family and Corey’s mom, who’s fighting a drug addiction and a violent ex, as well as Corey and his new love. Allen brilliantly portrays the blurred lines of integrity and honesty for the haves and have-nots in a scenario that flips dependency from one to the other and exposes everyone’s agenda. No character is truly endearing, nor is any character wholly evil, but all are complex, self-serving and compassionate in turn. Fans of “Somethings in the Water,” “Beautiful Bad,” or “Hunting Annabelle” will appreciate this story. It’s a peek at what we might do if we had the chance, and what happens when we involve ourselves in something that’s not our business. I received a digital copy of this fantastic story from Park Row Books through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

Special Blog Tour: Pixie Forest Publishing Monthly Themed Indie Book Boxes

Pixie Forest Publishing loves the idea of spreading awareness of indie books and anthologies by offering book boxes! Almost all of the books are signed by the authors, who provide swag like bookmarks, candles, pens, necklaces, and more. PFP adds in their own unique swag that’s centered around that month’s theme as well!

They offer up to five boxes of each theme every month. Some past themes include fantasy, horror, romance, kid’s, and young adult. To date they’ve sold nine different boxes! Upcoming themes include another fantasy box, a Mother’s Day box, vacation themed, sci-fi, and dystopian.

Boxes range from $30-$40 depending on the contents. Every box includes a $5 off coupon for a future box and a collectible snap-charm keyring.

You can read the book blurbs every month and decide for yourself at https://pixieforestpublishing.com/book-boxes/

Miss a month? Don’t worry! All the individual books are linked to Amazon on their website for a month following the box it appeared in, along with the author’s information.

Interested in being a part of a box? Email Jensen and Donise at contact@pixieforestpublishing.com to learn more and have a chance at being a featured book box author, poet, or fellow publisher.

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Jessica Strawser—Writer, Editor, and Speaker

Photo by Corrie Shaffeld

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations material and abstract.

I’m an organic writer—I think a lot ahead of time about the characters and what my story’s central questions will be, but don’t outline in detail or swear by any particular tools or strategies, beyond reading voraciously, as much as I’m able. I’m very disciplined, with daily and weekly goals, and believe firmly in the power of forward momentum once I get going on a manuscript.

I wrote my first two novels by night, as my babies/toddlers slept, while working a demanding day job as editorial director for Writer’s Digest magazine. Not long after signing the contract for Forget You Know Me, I scaled back my role at the magazine and shifted to writing by day as my primary focus. A writing career involves a fair amount of evenings and weekends for things like book clubs, conferences and festivals, so this is a much more workable focus for my family, which always comes first.

Describe your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including publishing team and timeline. How did your work in the industry prepare you for the writing world as an author?

It’s been a little different for every book, particularly as staffing changes at my publisher have led to a few editorial team transitions, but I’m working at the pace of about a book a year. I refine a draft until I think (hope) it’s close to working as what I envisioned for the story, then get feedback from a few trusted readers and revise yet again before turning it over to my editor. Then comes another round to incorporate the excellent suggestions from her professional eye.

My work in the industry taught me what a team effort publishing is; I have enormous respect for my editors, having been one, and deep gratitude for the efforts of the hardworking support teams—marketing, publicity, design and beyond.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders online and IRL, and how did you get into the Tall Poppies (beyond being an excellent storyteller)?

My family and friends—who’ve seen firsthand my dedication to this craft since long before I ever got published—are my biggest cheerleaders, and their warm support means the world to me.

Also, at the start, were my colleagues at Writer’s Digest—we were all writers with a genuine love for the work we were doing there, and it was humbling to have them so enthusiastically in my corner—as well as a debut author group called 17 Scribes—it was invaluable to be tapped into a network of other authors publishing their first novels in 2017, and many of us remain connected today.

I’d met some of the Tall Poppy Writers through conferences, WD, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and online, and had admired their collaborative spirit and talented body of work for years; I was elated when they invited me to join.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa? Please share fun details about being the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

While I don’t write directly from life experiences, of course we all are heavily influenced by the phases of life in which we find ourselves and the beautiful (and not so beautiful) aspects of human nature that turn our heads. I’d find it impossible to separate the two!

It’s a wonderful honor to be serving as the newly minted Writer-in-Residence for the Cincinnati library system this year; it encompasses more than 40 branches, and I’ll doing community engagement with local readers (visiting library branch book clubs and hosting a podcast) as well as aspiring writers (teaching free workshops and holding office hours, for instance).

What do you love most about your creativity?

Through dreaming up a story from pure imagination, somehow, I end up feeling more like me.

Connect with Jessica:

Jessica Strawser

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The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Anna Roux’s life changed drastically when her husband moved them from Paris to the American Midwest. Her profession as a dancer fades to history, and she disappears inside herself, despair manifesting as anorexia. In a holiday visit home, her family’s shocked reaction to her appearance prompts her husband to commit her to a strict program at 17 Swann Street, where Anna learns the hard way to eat again. There’s so much more going on than Anna feeling fat, so much involved in succumbing to an insidious disease. Zgheib carefully maneuvers through the complexity of her character’s inner turmoil. As a contributing factor as well as an integral part of Anna’s support system, her husband is explored through his emotional roller coaster, denial, and finally, tough love response to her illness.

This story paints a detailed description of a unique life with an unfortunately common disease, where one cannot point to any one action as a causation. Readers with no connection to this illness still will reel from the pain of a young woman who feels out of control of her own life, who cannot reconcile her less than desirable circumstances with the love she feels for her husband, sympathizing with her as she is forced to confront the voice of anorexia telling her that she is not enough. The slow, challenging journey is well told by a talented writer. This is a must-read for the awareness and understanding it brings. If anorexia has touched your life in any way, offer this story to friends and family. Even if it hasn’t, read and share for the compassion invoked.

Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting portrait of a young woman’s struggle with anorexia on an intimate journey to reclaim her life.  

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound. 

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears—imperfection, failure, loneliness—she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live: women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.
Every bite causes anxiety.  Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

Yara Zgheib is a Fulbright scholar with a Masters degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in International Affairs in Diplomacy from Centre D’études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris. She is fluent in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. Yara is a writer for several US and European magazines, including The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, A Woman’s Paris, The Idea List, and Holiday Magazine. She writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea” (http://www.aristotleatafternoontea.com/).

Buy The Girls at 17 Swann Street:
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Powell’s

Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach

At 17, David witnesses his father’s public assassination for turning state’s witness, his mother collateral damage, his life spared due to spent ammo. He spends decades piecing together evidence to determine the killer’s identity, all while living his life as an NFL quarterback for the Dolphins, a random lover of the famous dancer Sylphide (who lives across the pond from his childhood home) and her protege Emily—introduced by him, and a restaurateur. His sister parcels out relevant information on rare occasions, spending her grief-stricken adulthood playing professional tennis, fighting mental illness, and searching for her parent’s killer against her boyfriend’s pragmatic advice. As Sylphide moves in and out of David’s life, secrets come unmoored and land at his feet every so often. Roorbach has built a fine cast of complex and extraordinary characters, nuanced to the hilt, integrity intact throughout the novel, all maddeningly non-forthcoming for page-turning tension. It can be awkward to follow the timeline back and forth, and David’s discoveries can be out of sync, as when he realizes his sister’s major secret years after his parent’s demise, and then in a following flashback is explicitly told the secret by his sister herself. No opportunity is missed to reference Emily as “the negress”—was that even used as late as the 70s and into the 80s? Her parents could have been a bit more rounded out as individuals instead of representations. These few distractions don’t detract from a unique story with an intriguing storyline and intense meta sex scenes. Roorbach is almost his own genre. He’s the Mainer Carl Hiassen in his dedication to untangling and tying up multiple storylines and presenting humans in all their glory and warts.

Something Worth Saving by Sandi Ward—pub date December 18, 2018

Lily loves Charlie more than any other human, for he rescued her when other potential adopters frowned at her limp. She’d been abused by her previous owner and her broken leg healed without veterinarian intervention. Now he’s being bullied and Lily must figure out a way to help him amid the chaos of Dad’s drinking, Mom’s sadness, his sister’s possible suspect boyfriend, and his big brother’s anger. The unique perspective of a cat gives readers a view from inside the family, but with a pure, some might say naive, but definitely less than jaded, outlook. Lily can be as surprised as a person by such things as Charlie’s choice of “mate” being another boy. Ward’s representation of a gender-fluid, gay teenager comes across as natural and inclusive, even as she shows the challenges he must face, especially from his own family. His mother and sister’s acceptance counter his father’s confusion and his brother’s resistance. Of course there’s a romantic interest for mom, who’s separated from dad and planning divorce. However, he immediately touches her intimately and insinuates himself into family issues, coming across as a bit creepy rather than romantic—too much too soon. This is the only part of the story that doesn’t flow organically, a small distraction. This story presents multiple serious subjects that are handled with compassion: alcoholism, addiction, chronic pain, divorce, and gender expectations. Ward takes her family down a path of resolution surprising, yet realistic. Readers who love main characters off the beaten path will appreciate this story; animal lovers will be vindicated.