Book Review: Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert

I always enjoy Annabeth Albert’s books and her new book Arctic Sun is no exception, the first in the Frozen Hearts series, this was a journey of discovery for our two main characters.

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Griffen, a pilot in his family business, has been dealing with grief and is a recovering alcoholic who struggles to be around people and has the belief that he doesn’t deserve to be happy and isn’t worthy of being loved. River is an ex-supermodel, who has dealt with an eating disorder for most of his life, leading to hospitalisation. He has used travel as a way to heal, and also a way to run away from anything real. When these two damaged men are thrown together on a photography trip in Alaska, sparks will fly.

The descriptions of Alaska on this trip alone made me want to save up and go there ASAP, also, if there are more mountain men like Griffen, I’d be there even quicker. I loved the journey these two had to traverse, both the physical and the emotional journey. Though it was the emotional journey which took its toll on these two guys who are both dealing with so many issues. I was invested in their romance from the start and as I got to know the characters and what they had been through, and what they were dealing with still, my heart ached with hope that they would make the journey and end up together.

This story explored the physical and emotional relationship between the guys and it was a really great exploration. There was humour in their initial hookups and I loved the way River was able to make Griffen lower his walls and have a bit of fun, River was certainly not willing to give up on this happening while they were on the trip. The sexual tension was hard to ignore for both parties.

Hearing River’s story about his eating disorder was sad, I have a friend with an eating disorder and know how badly it can affect someone. Watching him struggle through each day, worried about what he was eating, feeling sick at the thought of eating, was really sad, hearing him explain to Griffen how he couldn’t see himself the ways others, especially Griffen saw him was also really sad. This is such a sad disease that definitely needs more attention, as does the way the fashion industry and magazines etc, portray the idea of perfection. It’s also great to have a male portrayed with this issue, as it is mainly women we think about when we hear ‘eating disorder’.

Griffen’s issues were subtler but no less damaging to his life and his future. Dealing with his avoidance of group situations, especially ones where people may be drinking was hard for him to navigate. As was his belief he wasn’t worthy of good things happening to him. In this River and Griffen had so much in common and were able to connect through this.

A great read, with two guys who deserved more than they had and needed each other to open up and start healing.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin – Carina Press for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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Monthly Challenge Update – March

During the month of March, I didn’t feel I read all that much, turns out I was wrong. I actually read 18 books, which isn’t fabulous, but not too shabby either. I’m a bit late with this update, but I’ve been a bit busy with one thing or another.

March reads

Updating my reading challenges

My Goodreads challenge was at the end of March 69/200 books, which means I am a fair few books ahead of schedule.Click on the link to check out the books.

For the Australian Women Writers Challenge  I read 14 books, all of which were really good reads, I did have a couple of favourites, one of which I will be posting about next week.

In The Aussie Author Challenge I have crossed off 4/4 books by Australian women, 2/4 by Australian men and 4/4 books by Australian authors I wasn’t familiar with. So 10/12 books crossed off already. I have two more Aussie Male books to read this month, then this challenge is finished, I’ll just need to add the links.

See my ook Bingo post to see how I am going with that.

Well that’s it for this month, happy reading 🙂

Book Review: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

This was a really interesting story, one of my favourite movies is Charlotte Grey and this novel is all about the women who went undercover with the Special Operations Executive in London to aid the French resistance, just as Charlotte Grey did. It was an offshoot of the male division and they weren’t expected to succeed. I thought the women who agreed to do the training and risk their lives to be incredibly brave and they possessed something I doubt I’d ever have had.

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It contains a mystery as well, starting when Grace finds some photos of 12 women in an abandoned suitcase and goes in search of answers. We slowly uncover answers to throughout the story. The answer had me taking a deep breath and wondering about the trust we put in people who are in positions of authority. I liked how dogged Grace was in wanting to uncover the mystery of the photos she found in the suitcase, she just wouldn’t give up. She felt these women deserved someone to find the answers for them.
I thought the touch of romance in the story was a nice addition, in both timelines, it showed that love can occur at the most unexpected times, but it wasn’t the main part of the story at all.

An important part of history that we don’t tend to read about too often.

Romantic Rendezvous Perth 2019 ARRA

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Today my sister and I were lucky enough to catch up with some great authors at Australian Romance Readers Association’s Romantic Rendezvous in Perth. There were 16 fabulous authors, some already known to us and some new ones, that we got to chat to about their books and we grabbed a few of their hardcopy books and downloaded a few more ebooks. Because you can never have enough books! We also picked up some cool swag.

One of the highlights was a Q&A with Keri Arthur and Celeste Bradley which was really interesting.

Laura N Andrews writes m/f and m/m romance, I’ve read both of her IMG_20190331_170633.jpgBromley Brothers books so I treated myself to her first two books from the Timeless love series.

 

 

 

Keri Arthur came from over east, I mdedidn’t realise that I had 6 of her books on my bookshelf, I’m not sure I’ve read them all though, I’ll have to do that now, she has way more books than I realised.

 

Leah Ashton was there, if you remember I did a Q&A with Leah mdethe other week and a great review of the first book in her new WASP Team series, Undaunted, well today I had preordered book 2 Defiant for pick up, I can’t wait to read it.

 

 

Claire Boston an author who I have all mdebut 2 of her books, this will be rectified at some point, but my sister bought book 2 in her Texan Quartet series, I’m sure she’ll enjoy it.

 

 

Celeste Bradley and her husband flew mdeover from the US, she’s a new author for me so I bought her latest book (which my sister says she’ll borrow). They were lovely to chat to.

 

 

Demelza Carlton, gorgeous as always with her fabulous swag and reimagined fairytales as well as her new book The Devil’s Work.

Shona Husk whose new book Severed IMG_20190331_195015I’m currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, it’s a different genre a SFR/fantasy romance with m/m/f relationships, it has had me hooked.

 

Rachael Johns had all her wonderful books with her, and being the mug IMG_20190331_195444collector I am I couldn’t go past her new mug.

 

 

 

Lovely Jennie Jones whose new book Lone Star Protector I reviewed and loved the other week had time for a long chat.

I met the outgoing Renae Kaye for the first time, she writes fun gay romance, all set in Perth, I’ve ordered one of her books from the library and look forward to reading it.

Another of my favourite authors Juanita Kees bought her new puppy Stella along to say hi, she was so tired she could barely lift her head (the puppy not Juanita). I recently read Juanita’s Wongan Creek series and loved all three books, check out my reviews from past blog posts.

Gorgeous Lily Malone made it to the venue without getting lost (yay Lily)  she provided us with a few laughs when she signed to Claire Bear in someone else’s book 😂🤣, only Lily…

JO Mantel was the only male romance mdeauthor and delightful to chat to, I picked up one of his shorter novels, due to watching my spending and look forward to trying out this new author who popped over from Victoria for the event.

 

Susanna Rogers was another new author I met, her books sound great and I’ve downloaded Slash and Burn (a rockstar romance) on my kindle to try.

Tee Smith has a couple of great sounding series that I hope to get to soon, she was lovely to chat to also.

Sasha Wasley was once again a delight to chat with, I can’t wait for the next book in her Daughters of the Outback series, out in the wild soon.

Here’s some of the swag I picked up mde

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It was a fabulous afternoon  I do love catching up with authors I know and meeting new ones. Thanks to all the attending authors and ARRA for organising. Now I’m off to finish Severed by Shona Husk and have an early night (well earlier than last nights 2am).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Bingo Round 7 & Book Review: Wayward Heart by Cathryn Hein

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This fortnight I chose to pick the square first and then find a book that matched. I chose the square Book by an Author with the same initials as yours. Which lead me to pick up Cathryn Hein’s Wayward Heart.

davI’ve had this on my shelf for ages and at only 40 or so pages in, I knew I was going to love it. This is definitely my favourite Cathryn Hein novel to date. The subject matter combined with the writing just had something extra that drew me deeply into the story straight away.

There are many reasons we connect to certain stories. I connected with our female lead Jasmine straight away, she was real and flawed, having been involved with the wrong man, she was now trying to get over the relationship. I connected with Digby too, the hurt he felt, so deep inside for the loss of his fiance was heartbreaking.

This story had so many dynamics for me and took my heart for a ride throughout. Cathryn Hein has done a wonderful job making her characters and their circumstances complete. The guilt and blame the characters carried or lay at anothers feet, the healing that needed to be done in order to move on, the jealousy you can feel seeing a loved one succeed in something you feel should have been yours and the loss of direction in life, these are some of the concepts that spoke to me through this story.

This was an absolutely enjoyable story and I’m glad thanks to book Bingo, I got to it sooner rather than later.

New Release Book Review: Undaunted by Leah Ashton

I loved this book, it kept me up til 2am, because I just had to know what was going to happen next. I was lucky enough to preorder a copy of this book last November at the WCFF, I’ve now read it twice as I didn’t get my thoughts down after the first read, thinking I’d remember what I wanted to say.

davUndaunted is the first in a new series, and a new direction for Leah Ashton, and I think she’s on to a winner, I’ve already preordered book 2.

The WASP Team Series is a hot romantic suspense that had me on the edge, not only with the drama going on, but with the chemistry between police officer Luella Brayshaw and WASP operator Nate Rivers.

WASP has brought together every elite police department: tactical response, dignity protection, covert surveillance, bomb technicians, negotiators, snipers – and more – to protect Western Australia from crime. 

At the end of a WASP training exercise Lou (Luella) and Nate end up on a train from Perth to Fremantle where they inadvertently stumble into a situation that will put them in danger and bring to the surface plenty of unresolved personal issues and tension between the two of them, the chemistry was sparking straight away.

I loved reading a book set in my home state, there are plenty set in the Eastern States or in country WA, but few in suburban Perth. I was right there on that train, travelling a trip I’ve done myself once or twice, luckily without an armed crazy man travelling with me.

Nate and Lou are great characters who are completely relatable, as was the backstory of their relationship over a decade previously which comes out as they remember what it was like between them and the way Nate broke Lou’s heart.

A highly enjoyable read that grabbed me from the start.

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Cocktails with Claire: Q&A with Leah Ashton

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Hi Leah and welcome, we are celebrating your new direction and your new novel, the first in the WASP Team series. What cocktail would you like to start with for the celebration?

A gin and tonic with a wedge of lime!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure! I live in Perth, I’m married and I have two awesome girls. I’m an introvert, positive, stubborn, and determined.

When did you start writing and was it something you had always wanted to do?

I started writing in my early twenties when a great friend of mine told me she was writing a book, and took me along to a romance writing workshop. I loved to write stories in primary school, and I used to love having my work chosen to be read out to the class. But when I hit high school my stories were clearly not literary enough (and my creative writing marks reflected this) and so I left highschool thinking I wasn’t particularly good at writing stories. So I never planned to be a writer!

How many books have you published so far?

9 books with Harlequin Mills & Boon (contemporary romance) and the first book in my sexy romantic suspense series is out now. 

Your new series WASP Team is a different direction to your previous novels, can you tell us what triggered the change of direction in your writing and what can you tell us about that new direction and how you came up with your ideas?

When I started writing for publication I targeted Harlequin Mills & Boon as writing contemporary romance felt “easier” than having to come up with a romantic suspense plot – even though I’ve loved reading romantic suspense since I was a teenager! I just didn’t think I had clever enough suspense ideas in my head – I’ve always found coming up with ideas the hardest part of writing. I’m not one of those writers that has a million ideas warring in their head. I generally have exactly one idea, and I’ve fought hard for it! 

But after writing so many books for Mills & Boon, my confidence had grown in my writing, and I’d also started to push my creativity. For example, my last two books for Mills & Boon are set on a fictional island nation, and I had to create all sorts of fictional laws and rules and locations – and it made me realise that I’M in charge of my fictional world, and can make up whatever I like. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think I’ve always taken “write what you know” too close to heart, and it stifled my creativity. 

With my WASP series I’m finally writing the books that I love to read, which are hot, fast paced and suspenseful. I wanted to write a series and so thought an elite policing team would be a great way to link my books. I also wanted to cover more than just tactical (SWAT) police, so WASP is made up of lots of different teams – like undercover operations, police bodyguards etc etc – it gives me way more scope to write different types of stories within the WASP world.

I have been lucky enough to read book one UNDAUNTED, and I loved it, in fact, it kept me up until 2am reading because I just had to know what was going to happen. I especially liked that it was set in Perth and I could relate to all the places in the story. What can you tell us about the story to entice others to read UNDAUNTED and the rest of the series?

Undaunted was supposed to be a short novella, but soon I realised that there was way too much story for that! It was inspired loosely by the movie Speed (with Keanu Reeves) in that the action starts almost straight away, with a hostage situation taking place on a train in chapter two. I’ve aimed to keep up the pace through the whole book, but I’ve also made sure that it is primarily a romance. 

The titles of all my WASP books are related to the heroine, so it is Luella who is “undaunted” in this book. She is a police officer who made a big mistake a few weeks before the books starts, and she’s been stripped of her firearm and put onto desk duties. Throughout the book Luella has to confront that mistake, and eventually learn to forgive herself. Nate and Lou have a shared past, too, that they need to overcome, even if their attraction for each other is as electric as ever. I love Lou and Nate as characters – they are both proud, strong people who are brilliant cops – but they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, they are vulnerable – and they have really fantastic sex 🙂

How long on average does it take you to write a WASP book? And how much research did you have to do for this series in order to keep the police procedures realistic?

I allow about 12 weeks to write a book, but the reality is that I usually write the bulk of it in the six weeks before it’s due.

I am lucky to have access to a police officer who I can ask lots of questions, but Google is also super helpful 🙂 I probably spend more time researching before I start writing, to make sure the general concept is plausible, and from there I just research a little as needed as I write.

Your WASP series is has criminal aspects, what crime would you like to get away with and how would you go about it?

I wouldn’t like to get away with any crime, the guilt would destroy me! 

But if I had to, I’d hack into a bank to siphon money away from greedy corporations that dodge taxes, and donate it to domestic violence and refugee charities. 

Oh I like that crime which is really rectifying a wrong, a modern day Robin Hood

Have you always been a reader, if so what is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer?

My favourite childhood book was A Stable for Jill by Ruby Ferguson. I LOVED pony books, I still have my favourites on my bookshelf now. I used to read voraciously as a child and teenager (and adult until I started writing!) and I’m positive all the reading I did as a kid has helped my writing now, even if I didn’t aspire to be a writer until much later.

Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?

Yes, I do read them. A great review can make my day! And a bad review is always at least a momentary kick in the guts. However the more books I write the more confidence I have in my writing, and if someone really dislikes my book I now tell myself that my style is just not for them, rather than assuming I am actually the Worst Author Ever.

If I was seeing consistent feedback in my reviews I would definitely take it on board. I know I can always improve as a writer.

Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people would know?

I played the flute from age 7-17 and played in my high school band. I wasn’t very good, however 🙂

How has being Australian AND a woman impacted on your writing and/or writing career?

The impact has only been positive for me, as the Australian romance writing community is incredibly supportive, and it’s a lot easier for a woman to write romance than a man. With Undaunted out next week (as I write this) I’m yet to see whether the Australian setting is a plus or minus for international readers *crosses fingers*.

What authors and types of books do you love the most?

I love romantic suspense, historical romance and contemporary romance. Some of my favourite authors are Linda Howard, Karen Robards, Laura Lee Guhrke, Tessa Dare, Tessa Bailey, Molly O’Keefe and Sarah Mayberry.

Is there anything you would like to add before we chill and have another cocktail?

Only to say that if you love a book (whether mine or any authors!), please consider sending the author an email or contacting them on social media to let them know, or writing a review. Writing can be isolating at times, and there’s nothing better than hearing from readers.

Can you tell us what’s next for the WASP Team? And are there any other projects in the pipeline?

Book two is called Definant, and is out about 4 weeks after Undaunter (just before Easter). In Defiant the hero, Damon, is an undercover cop for WASP, and the heroine, Beth, is a recently divorced high school teacher. A one night stand ends in a kidnapping and they end up running for their lives across the desert to escape a murderous bikie gang. It was fun to write, and I LOVED that Beth is a little older than Damon. Plus, it ended up being super hot. Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me – my MIlls & Boon books were so sweet 🙂

For now WASP is my only focus, but I have four more WASP books in the pipeline. Relentless (book 3) will be out in May and is about a politician’s daughter and the bodyguard she doesn’t want – and then in book four (no title yet!) the hero and heroine are both police snipers. 

Thank you so much Leah for joining me for a few coctails and a chat, I can’t wait to read the other books in this series.

About the book:

The first book in the exhilarating WASP Team Series by RITA Award Winning Author Leah Ashton

A gunman. Five hostages. And her ex. Trapped. On a train.

A disgraced police constable

Luella Brayshaw is a great cop. Until she isn’t.

Dumped on desk duties and stripped of her firearm, Lou’s first task is a civilian role in a covert training exercise for WASP. But when that exercise goes horribly wrong, she’s stuck on a train to Fremantle with five terrified hostages – and the man who broke her heart more than a decade ago.

An elite tactical operator

Nate Rivers has dedicated his life to his career. That meant making tough choices – including walking away from Lou. But he’s never doubted that decision… until now.

Twelve years on, Nate is shocked to discover the connection between him and Lou is as electric as ever. But first – they need to get off this train.

A desire they never forgot

The gunman has no idea he has two cops on his train – but unarmed, can Nate and Lou keep everyone alive all the way to Fremantle?

And if they do, Lou knows she can’t make the mistake of trusting Nate with her heart again. But faced with a new threat, they must work together to survive as their passion ignites – and this time, there’s no way Nate is walking away.

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