New Release Book Review: East of Alice by Annie Seaton

This was a really great romantic suspense read by Annie Seaton, I loved journeying to Alice Springs and the East MacDonnell Ranges to Ruby Gap. When I travelled across Australia I made it to Alice and the West MacDonnell Ranges, I didn’t have the right car to go to the East, but I recognised the landscape and the feel of the land, luckily I didn’t come across any criminal goings-on while I was there like the characters in this novel.

The first part of the book is told in two timelines and while I really enjoyed the backstory from the 1800s, I felt it kept pulling me out of the present-day story which annoyed me a bit. I thought Rose was extremely courageous following her husband out to a wild Australia and learning to make a life in such harsh conditions as she encountered in outback Australia at the time. Her story though was a sad one but one she made the most of.

In the present day, we meet Gemma who has returned to The Alice to teach after leaving when her twin brother Ethan disappeared 6 years before. We get a few chapters from Ethan’s story 6 years before that help to uncover the mystery leading up to his disappearance. Also newly returned to The Alice is Saul, Gemma’s ex and Ethan’s best mate.

I enjoyed both the romance aspect and the suspense/mystery aspect of this novel, I liked seeing Gemma and Saul reconnect and Gemma lose her prickliness and let down the walls she’d kept up since her brother’s disappearance and I liked seeing Saul self-assured about his feelings for Gemma and being willing to put himself out there now he had a second chance.

The mystery surrounding Ethan’s disappearance, the rubies which may or may not have been real and the operation which was going on hidden in the remote bush kept me reading, dying to find out what had happened and how it would all play out. I had my suspicions about one of the mysteries and was pleased to know I was right in my thinking, but still unsure how it would play out in the end. Annie Seaton did a good job of melding all the storylines, past and present together and with the aid of a wonderful setting created an engaging story.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: A Family’s Trust by Louise Guy

Domestic Noir/thriller/drama isn’t a genre I read a lot of, years ago I did, but these days I limit my reading to just a few select authors. Louise Guy’s newest novel had me completely hooked whilst also being scared to read on because I was so anxious about what was going on for the characters and what would happen next.

Louise Guy has written characters who seemed so real to me that I was drawn into their dramas, their relationships and their emotions as if I actually knew these people, especially Jess and Reeve. It took me a bit longer to relate to Reeve than Jess, but once caught I was horrified at what she was going through with her possible early onset dementia and the repercussions of things she had no knowledge of doing or saying. Jess’s past trauma within the foster system was terrible and it doesn’t help to know that these sorts of things still occur, I liked that Jess as an adult was working in the foster system in order to try to make things better for those going through now. As things in Jess’s past come to light both good and bad secrets are uncovered.

Not only are Jess and Reeve going through their personal dramas but added to that is the passing of Martin and what this means to both women and the consequences of his life and his death.

As the story progressed I began to have a few theories about what was going on and my anxiety ramped up, I wondered if things were going to turn out well or not. While one of my theories was correct, there were many twists in the story that had me thinking ‘oh my god’ quite a few times.

This was a well-written novel with its secrets woven carefully together to create an engaging read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys this genre.


About the book

Family are the ones you can trust…aren’t they?

Reeve Elliot and Jessica Williams are polar opposites. In contrast to Reeve’s privileged upbringing, Jess suffered intense emotional trauma in the foster care system—trauma she’s tried to bury yet has recently come back to haunt her.

As Jess does her best to deal with her past, tragedy shakes the foundations of Reeve’s present. But heartbreak and grief come with a silver lining—the unexpected knowledge she has a half-sister, Jess.

Discovering their biological link, Reeve pushes to form a bond with her sister, a bond tested by Reeve’s unpredictable behaviour and fears she is following in her mother’s footsteps of early-onset-dementia.

But family is everything, and the sisters are committed to supporting each other. However, that’s easier said than done when a large inheritance is at stake, and the lines between greed and family and right and wrong begin to blur.

Someone is lying. Someone is manipulating the truth. But is it one of the sisters? And are they even sisters at all?

New Release Book Review: Outback Skies by Suzanne Cass

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series, though, with the amount of crime and danger the people of Stormcloud Station deal with, I’m kind of glad I don’t work there. In this 6th and final novel in the series, more danger is afoot for one of Stormcloud’s own, Indy and undercover police officer Finn.

Finn and Indy have a connection from their first meeting, though where Finn is completely taken with Indy, Indy herself is a bit on and off about her feelings for Finn to start with. She also makes some decisions due to her being pretty headstrong that place her in unnecessary danger.

Once again Suzanne Cass has created some complex characters with issues they need to deal with and pasts that could come back to bite them. It’s a fast-paced read with plenty of suspense, action and romance. We meet some newcomers on the muster as well as the found family members of Stormcloud who get drawn into the drama of murder and drug running. Who among them can be trusted is the big question that puts some level of fear into them all. The answers show just how far some people will go for money, power or revenge.

I’m sad to say goodbye to the people of Stormcloud, but I enjoyed the epilogue which set the scene for a positive future for all.

New Release Book Review: The Opal Miner’s Daughter by Fiona McArthur

Fiona McArthur has written another wonderful outback romance which encompasses an outback opal mining town full of wonderful Aussie characters.

In this opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, some people live in the hope they will find the perfect opal, some, like Riley’s mum Adelaide, have become hooked on the whole opal mining process and love the freedom digging their mine gives them. I loved that Adelaide after retiring found something that interested her and decided to follow her heart and do something completely out of character; buying a property in Lightning Ridge with a tin shack and an old opal mine. I liked that she didn’t let her husband’s lack of interest stop her, she knew what she needed and she did it, hoping her husband would join her, but unwilling to live a life of boredom to stay with him.

Riley, an obstetrician and fertility specialist decides she needs to talk sense into her mum on behalf of her dad (never a good idea) and takes up a locum position for a month in Lightning Ridge whilst also using it as an opportunity to run fertility clinics for the women in the community and surrounds. Just as there is a lack of medical care and mental health services in the outback, Riley and the local GP Konrad find out just how needed her clinics are and how many families there are who want to start a family, but can’t and have no easy access to a fertility specialist.

Mel, a young local lady who is struggling with PTSD and has been given a safe space to heal and live by Konrad as his medical receptionist, pulled at my heartstrings with her story and her lack of belief in herself. Big changes are underway for her with a surprise pregnancy and unexpected support from the ladies. Riley and Konrad also both play important roles in helping Mel come into her own.

I really like the way Fiona McArthur brings attention to the needs and struggles of these remote communities, I always learn something new when I read her novels.

I really liked local GP Konrad Grey and liked the way Riley and Konrad connected and how they both changed in the short time they knew each other, each allowing the other to see and experience things they had been missing.

The cast of side characters in Lightning Ridge was wonderful, from crusty old Cyrus, a man who seems to have forgotten what personal hygiene is, to Desiree who knows everything that is going on and the ladies of the Friday night get-togethers who are there to support each other and the rest of the community and Toby, a young man who is going through a lot and barely keeping it together. All of these people make for a great read, one I couldn’t put down until the early hours of the morning.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Excerpt Reveal & Giveaway: Nothing Special by Casey Cox

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NOTHING SPECIAL

by Casey Cox

Excerpt Reveal

Release Date: June 27, 2022

Cover Design: Wicked by Design

Genre: M/M Romance
Trope: Best friends to lovers, opposites attract, feel-good, satire


Synopsis

They don’t write romance novels about guys like me…

Benji:
Trust me, I know. Crafting swoon-worthy happily ever afters is literally my day job. Being a quirky introvert with an overactive imagination, underwhelming social skills, and a few pounds overweight, I’m no leading man.

My best friend, though? He’s total cover model, call the plumber because I just flooded my basement material. He’s also outgoing, charismatic, free-spirited, and basically the best guy ever.

I may know romance, but I’m no dummy when it comes to reality. I’m nothing special. And the truth is, a guy like Darren would never fall for someone like me.


Darren:
I’m the poster child for failure to launch. Twenty-seven, didn’t make it in Hollywood, forced to slump my sorry self back home to Australia with my tail in between my legs.

The only bright spot in my life is nabbing the apartment next door to my best friend, Benji. He’s like no one I’ve ever met. Genuine. Sensitive. Nurturing. A talented author. An amazing cook. So freaking handsome. And yeah…I am so stupidly in love with him it’s not even funny.

When Benji needs some inspiration to clear his writer’s block, I gladly help out. He wants to write a friends-to-lovers romance, and hello, I’m his best friend. This should be a cinch. It’s not as if he’s suddenly going to fall in love with me. I’m nothing special. And the fact is, a guy like Benji could do so much better than someone like me.


Nothing Special is a stand-alone best-friends-to-lovers MM romance with two lovable (yet totally clueless) besties, gray yoga pants hotness, sweet midnight walks, an apartment block filled with nosy neighbours, and one swoonariffic (and oh so special) happily ever after!


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Excerpt

My tongue slid past Darren’s lips and slipped into his mouth. Warm waves floated through me. Our heads bobbed together. Effortlessly, we found the perfect lower lip/upper lip groove. Moving rhythmically to a silent song only we could hear. My chest tingled. Goosebumps speckled across my forearms. I was exploring my best friend’s mouth. Holy shit. Talk about unexpected.

Tonight had produced a number of surprises. Me taking Darren up on his offer for a midnight stroll. Me answering his question on the bridge, sharing a kernel of personal information no one else knew about me. Me now swimming in the velvety heat of his mouth.

Had all these little things been leading up to this?

No, of course not. This was all part of Darren’s Project P2XZ5… Okay. Excuse me if my brain was a little scrambled at the moment. Kinda hard to concentrate when Darren’s tongue was doing this insanely hot, twisty-flicky thing inside my mouth.

His fingers traveled into my hair, forcing our heads even closer. Our mouths were fully opened now, our tongues tangling, taking turns for dominance. The kiss was deepening. My body felt like it was on fire. I was putting everything I had into this kiss, and Darren was giving as good as he got.

God, he good kissed. Shit. I meant, he kissed God good. Gah. Third time lucky—God, he was a good kisser. When did words get so hard?

Speaking of hard—we both were. I didn’t back away, crushing my body against his. He rutted against me in return. It created an intense friction, like two sticks being rubbed together to start a fire. We were combustible.

A crow squawking off in the distance startled us, and we broke apart. He looked as dishevelled as I felt.

“Whoa.” He brought his fingers to his lips, like he was checking for physical proof of what we had just done.

I licked my lips, doing the same. I could feel the imprint of his stubble as I traced the seam of my bottom lip with my tongue.

Yep. Confirmed. We had, in fact, kissed.

“Was that okay?” I asked just as Darren looked up at me and said, “That was the best kiss of my life.”

A flare of happiness erupted in my chest. “Really?” I asked, still in a daze from the kiss. Now even more unsure of everything, hearing Darren make his admission. Confession? Compliment?

Darren shuffled from foot to foot, looking almost a little apprehensive. I took a cue from his playbook from the bridge earlier, reaching down to take his hand in mine. He stilled. I hooked a finger under his chin. His blue eyes found mine. “That was the best kiss of my life, too, Dare Bear.”

His just-been-kissed lips twitched. “Really?”

I loved how we always seemed to mirror each other with words and actions. It wasn’t just a tonight thing, either. It was how we were whenever we were together. “Yeah. Well, best, or a very close second to the sloppy kiss Lucy Aitken made me give her in third grade when she bribed me for it in exchange for a lick of her Paddle Pop ice cream.”

Darren raised an eyebrow as if to say, You allowed your eight-year-old self to get bribed for a kiss?

I shot him a look back, explaining, Gimme a break. It was a really freaking hot day.

He smiled, brushing the back of his fingers against my face. I let my eyes drift shut, allowing myself to relish in this moment.

Knowing it would be brief.

Knowing it would never be repeated.

Knowing it was simply Darren’s way of helping me out with my writer’s block.



Pre-order Link

Amazon Universal


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Giveaway

One of Five eARC’s for Nothing Special

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About the Author

Casey Cox is an Australian MM romance author whose work includes the hugely popular VET SHOP BOYS series.

Casey loves spending time at the beach and is the proud paw-rent to two utterly adorable French Bulldogs – Ralphie and Lilly.


Connect with Casey

Website

Facebook Author Page

Facebook Reader Group

Goodreads Author Page

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New Release Book Review: 12 Weeks of June by Rania Battany

Rania Battany made me cry again. It doesn’t matter what story she decides to tell, I know I can count on her to deliver a fabulous read with very real and flawed characters who are dealing with issues just like we do.

I like that I don’t necessarily like the main characters all the time, that they annoy me in some ways, and I realised on reflection, that in Rania’s novels, the reason I don’t like little aspects of some characters, is because they remind me of my own annoying traits, and this is exactly how I felt about Chloe. Chloe was a great character, I completely understood her desire to find love the ‘real’ way, this is me, I hate the whole internet dating thing, people pretending to be something they aren’t and only being interested in one thing, and this was exactly how Chloe felt. When she tries to go without her mobile phone and revert back to the 90s you really begin to understand just how much we rely on technology to get through each day.

I loved Matteo, he was just the kind of guy I could fall for. His personality worked really well against Chloe’s and he was a genuine guy who understood Chloe and went out of his way to help her when she decides to dig into her grandparents’ past.

Chloe Idolises her grandparent’s marriage and when she decides to reinvent the cafe they owned together for so many years, she stumbles across secrets that have been buried for over 50 years and uncovers things that will change everything she believed.

Interspersed between Chloe’s story, we get Arthur’s story, her grandfather, from 1959 when he meets her grandmother June. Arthur is just beautiful, from a completely different place from June, their friendship and then more is not appropriate, but it isn’t until much further along, that we find out the whole truth about their relationship.

So many secrets and half-truths, Chloe has no idea what she will uncover when she starts digging, and we the reader don’t uncover it all until she does either. The ending of this novel made me cry, both happy and sad tears, tears for what was, what could have been and what still might be for Chloe.

I really enjoyed this novel, and definitely recommend you read it.


About the book: 2018: All Chloe wanted was an eternal love – like that of her grandparents. What she got was a broken heart and a rude reminder of single life in the digital age.
After her fiancé leaves, Chloe decides to re-invent the cafe her grandmother June opened in 1959. There, buried amongst her grandmother’s possessions in the abandoned building, lie long-hidden secrets. Secrets that could shatter everything Chloe believes about love … and her grandparents.

1959: Arthur comes from the wrong side of the city. It’s never been an issue … until he fell in love with the beautiful and wealthy June.
There are many reasons to stay away, but when June asks Arthur to renovate her dream tearoom, Arthur doesn’t say no. Each week he falls more in love with a woman who cannot be his, but his heart refuses to listen, and he finds himself doing what no honest man should do – keep secrets to be with the one he loves.

New Release Book Review: The Felicity Theory by Davina Stone

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with Felicity and Oliver, I am a sucker for road trip books, especially when they cover places I myself have done the same journey, unfortunately, I did mine alone whereas Felicity and Oliver were able to experience it together.

These characters were complete opposites, Oliver the guy who has to have everything planned out (that didn’t work out so well for him) and Felicity who tries to live in the moment, enjoying and making the most out of life. Both of their personalities have been brought about by tragedy when they were younger and they both dealt with it in different ways.

I loved that they both brought something out of each other that neither realised they were missing and I really enjoyed seeing them let down their walls and slowly let the other in if only for the time being, neither willing to look towards the future.

The ‘Shagging Wagon’ was a character all of its own and provided for some dramas along the way which tested them both. As they travel from Perth to Sydney they unwind and Oliver starts to lose his inhibitions and let go a bit.

Still getting over his breakup from six months before on the day of his wedding, Felicity is the medicine he didn’t realise he needed. His ex is a nasty piece of work, one of those women who think only of themselves and what life and people can do for them, and her interactions with both Oliver and Felicity later in the story reiterated my feelings about her.

It was nice to see Alice and Aaron from book #1 The Alice Equation finally get married and see them both completely in love with each other still. it was also nice to get a glimpse of the other two couples and see that they are still together. I loved the update on Oliver and Felicity at the end of the book, it tied it all up nicely.

I highly recommend The Felicity Theory for a fun and happy romantic trip. I also recommend the rest of this fun series. Read my reviews here for The Alice Equation, The Polly Principle & A Kiss For Carter.

New Release Book Review: Our Own Private Fig Tree by Rania Battany

IMG_20210930_173447After reading Rania Battany’s Fleeting Moments two years ago, and her subsequent novels, I knew this book would pull at the heartstrings. As well, it encouraged me to look both inside and outside of myself and think about the different cultures and rules we live by in our society.

This was a brilliantly written novel that explored the importance of culture, and the expectations that families can put on their children to conform to that culture, even if they now live in a different country.

It also celebrated differences in culture. The music, the food, the big family celebrations, the support from large families when tragedy happens, and the way it can give us our identity.

It is a story of two teenagers, Caleb, ‘white boy’, an Australian and Samira, a Lebanese girl, who live across the road from each other, fall in love and have to hide this from everyone because it wouldn’t be acceptable, especially from Samira’s families perspective.

But it is more than a story of forbidden love, it’s a story of true love and how to be true to that love if society’s rules and cultural rules say it’s wrong.

There is a tragedy that nearly destroys a family and separates these two for nearly a decade. When they meet again, nothing has changed, both between them and with Samira’s family expectations. There are secrets that have been kept for decades that come out that cause Caleb to take a look at who he is and his identity, it also helps him see that if he wants a life with Samira, he must fight to gain acceptance in her world, and convince her he is worth the risk. History could be repeated or they could forge a new path, one that combines their cultures and their families.

I really did love this novel, it had everything in it I needed to make it a wonderful read. I loved all of the characters and their differences, I especially loved Jim who was such a special person in the lives of so many and in the choices he made for love.

I went to school with a fair few Greeks, Italians, Malays and various other cultures, but I never really thought about how different their home lives, or their parents’ backgrounds might be. I wonder now, did they feel some of the same expectations on them that Samira did in this novel. Were there expectations that they would choose a partner from the same cultural background, work in a certain job, marry and have children? Did they fight against those cultural expectations or roll with them so as not to upset their families? So many things to consider that I wasn’t even aware of 20+ years ago.

This is a story full of warmth, heartache, acceptance and love. It is about learning about our identities, respecting our cultures, but learning to combine those cultures to take what works from each one and make it something even better.

In this multicultural world, we live in, this is important because there are many more cultures sharing this land we call home, cultures will become blended, but we still need to be able to hold on to the heart of that culture while finding the path that works towards a future for all.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: The Farmer’s Friend by Fiona McArthur

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This was a fabulous read full of complicated and wonderful characters trying to make the best of their lives in the small town of Featherwood.

Gracie and Jed are taking a massive chance and moving to the small town for a fresh start, buying a dilapidated store and house, pregnant with their first child, I really took my hat off to them for making such a big decision. Gracie and Jed were such wonderful characters, they both had a way about them that made everyone feel important. Opening the store gives the people of Featherwood renewed hope and somewhere to hang out. Jed isn’t good with money though and through wanting to help everyone, finds himself in trouble.

Nell is starting a new chapter of her life, a former midwife who dealt with a terrible situation and no longer practices, starts off in the little town by trying to keep herself to herself, but Gracie and the other town members won’t allow this to happen and she is slowly drawn into being part of the community, joining the volunteer fire brigade and making friends.

Liam, who has fought in Afghanistan, is struggling with his own demons, but the town of Featherstone, along with a connection with Nell, will hopefully lead to his healing.

There are some wonderful characters in this novel, Mavis and her grandson, Molly, Blue, all of them make up the sort of community I would love to live in.

The townspeople of Featherstone are in the midst of a drought, people are walking off their farms, and those that don’t are struggling to stay afloat, but the community spirit is strong which is what will be needed when a terrible bush-fire threatens everything they own as well as the lives of those they love.

I think this has to be my favourite Fiona McArthur novel yet, the characters and the setting were so wonderfully written and I struggled along with them in their lives hoping everything would turn out ok.

Thanks to the author and Penguin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Red Dirt Heart series by N.R. Walker

Red dirt heart seriesThis was a wonderful series, I flew through all 4 books one after the other, I  adored Travis and Charlie, such different people who fit together just right.

I felt for Charlie, growing up ashamed of being gay, a father who made him feel less than and unloved, struggling to make his dead father proud while hiding who he is from the community and deciding he doesn’t deserve to find that special someone. Then along comes Travis, a Texan who believes he was meant to come to Sutton Station, meant to meet Charlie and that they were meant to be together if only he can convince Charlie of this.

I loved reading about station life, I can’t even imagine how hard farming is out there in the Territory, but I do know how amazing those open plains were when I drove through 10 years ago. Charlie comes a long way in the Red Dirt Heart series,  he has a lot of healing to do and a long way to go to completely believing in himself as more than just a farmer.

The supporting cast, the other farm workers, who have become his family, a family that grows over the course of the series, and Ma and George who were his true parents in every way were all wonderful characters to get to know.

There were plenty of emotional times throughtout this series as Charlie heals and grows, Ma gets sick, Travis may have to leave the country for good, Charlies mother returns out of the blue, bring secrets long buried with her and Travis and Charlie go through their ups and downs. But there were plenty of laughs along the way as the Sutton Station crew live their lives in a harsh environment that is full of love.

I highly recommend this series.

AWW 2021