Book Recommendation ~ Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

Book Description:

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I’m a fan of the Cinderella romance trope and enjoyed reading Unnoticed. The story is set in the 1870’s in Hay, a small Australian town in the western Riverina region of NSW.

Jane O’Reilly is your classic Cinderella heroine. She lost her beloved mother when she was young and her father remarried a woman with two daughters. Jane’s stepmother has no qualms about treating Jane as if she is a second class citizen and her personal slave. Jane’s father seems to turn a blind eye to his wife’s blatant favouritism of her own daughters over Jane.

Jane has very low self esteem that’s reinforced by the horrible treatment she receives from her stepmother and stepsisters. Her Aunt Ruby, who is their cook and her stepmother’s sister, is one of the few people who treats Jane with respect and dignity.

Forced by her stepmother to dress in old and ugly clothing, the townsfolk of Hay call her ‘Plain Jane’ and treat her as if she’s the town joke. Jane believes she’s ugly and feels powerless to change her life circumstances.

Price Moreland is an American who recently moved to Hay. He sets up a Barber and Dental Surgery in town but his main goal is to share the gospel with the unchurched townsfolk in Hay.  He has a complicated relationship with his wealthy rancher father and is troubled by his experiences of living in the south during the American Civil War.

Price meets Jane when she turns up at his dental surgery with an infected tooth. He’s the prince charming who is intrigued by Jane and sees both her inner and outer beauty. Jane struggles to believe she can be worthy of Price. They become friends and a sweet romance develops between them as they overcome many obstacles in the story.

Their spiritual journeys are explored and the faith element in the story is both overt and compelling. Price and Jane are challenged on a spiritual level and draw on Biblical truths to resolve their faith issues.

The story addresses social issues of inequality and racism in both Australia and the USA. My husband has Chinese ancestors who migrated to Australia during the 1850’s Gold Rush and lived in the Riverina region of NSW.  My personal connection to the setting added to my interest in the social class dynamics in the story.

I recommend Unnoticed to readers who like historical Christian romances set in Australia.

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Book Recommendation ~ A New Resolution by Rose Dee

Book Description:

Resolution Island is a safe haven for Anika Deumer. A chance to fulfill dreams, find her place in the world, and a new life for her and young son, Kye. But her dreams of a future are shattered when her son’s security is challenged, and the rich and privileged Texan, Nate, sails into the bay. Now Ani must not only fight for her son, but also a growing attraction she has to the one type of man she loathes.

Nate Hollingsworth is on a mission. He needs to fulfill his mother’s last wish and change his life. Dropping anchor in the idyllic Resolution harbour, he didn’t anticipate becoming involved in illegal fishing, a murder or an unexpected attraction to the most exasperating woman he has ever met.

The Australian tropical Island, Resolution, sets the scene again for adventures, dreams and new beginnings. A New Resolution is the final book in the Resolution trilogy, following Back to Resolution and Beyond Resolution.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book. Anika (Ani) is a fascinating character with an indigenous islander heritage. She lacked parental guidance as a youngster and was rescued by distant relatives, Aunty and Uncle. Starved for love, Ani made a decision that changed the direction of her life.

Nate has lived a life of privilege in Texas and his decisions follow in the pleasure seeking footsteps of his father. His mother’s untimely death sends him on a sailing adventure to far North Queensland.

The first third of the book provides the lead up to Ani and Nate’s first meeting at Resolution, which I would have liked to have seen happen earlier in the story.  The sparks fly when they finally meet and a fun romance develops along with a mystery surrounding the source of the illegal fishing on nearby islands.

Ani and Nate discover their faith during the story and they have both experienced intimate relationships with previous partners. This aspect of their lives is explored in a realistic manner in the story. The level of sensuality is higher than the typical Christian romance and includes a bikini top wardrobe malfunction scene that could potentially offend some readers.

The story portrays the very real challenges facing those who seek to uphold Biblical standards of purity outside of marriage. It doesn’t sugar coat the struggles facing people who are not used to suppressing their lustful desires.

I recommend A New Resolution to those looking for a realistic and edgy contemporary romance set in an Aussie tropical island paradise.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Book Recommendation ~ A Simple Mistake by Andrea Grigg

Book Description:

When teenage sweethearts Nick and Lainey meet again after more than a decade, so much has changed. Nick is now a famous celebrity and Lainey is the girl he left behind. As a member of a highly successful band and with an emerging acting career, Nick can have any girl he wants. Now he wants Lainey back. Despite Nick’s promise to keep in touch when he left to seek fame and fortune, Lainey never heard from him. Now that time has passed, she has moved on from what she felt. Or has she? After discovering what kept them apart for so long, they tentatively rekindle their past romance. The feelings are just as strong as before but can Lainey accept Nick’s lack of faith? And can their new relationship survive Lainey’s secret? An Australian romance about faith and trust by debut author Andrea Grigg.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading this fun romance set in Sydney and Gold Coast, Australia. Lainey is an ordinary girl thrown into an extraordinary situation when she reconnects with Nick at a wedding. Nick is a hero to die for and, despite having his pick of gorgeous women, he wants Lainey.

Lainey struggles with her strong feelings for Nick and the knowledge that they would be unequally yoked if they married. We journey with Lainey and Nick as they face a number of obstacles and a big secret from the past. I recommend this book to those looking for a contemporary romance that deals with real issues facing young Christian women today.

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Book Recommendation ~ The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards

The Peppercorn Project

Book Description:

One heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.

After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family’s best chance at a fresh start.

Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he’s found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself, Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family.

Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won’t rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together.

Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?

Narelle’s thoughts:

I loved The Peppercorn Project and I read it in one sitting. The characters are well developed and the emotional depth drew me into Issie and Matt’s story world. I will confess I’m not usually a big fan of the grieving widow romance trope. One reason being the heroine is distracted by her amazing late husband and it can detract from the developing romance with the hero in the story. How can the hero compete with the amazing dead husband?

What drew me into this story was the way the author handled the emotional fallout from losing a loving life partner in tragic circumstances. The story opens with the prologue and we experience in real time Issie’s very painful loss, the roller coaster of emotions, and the consequences for her young family. Issie’s need to stand on her own two feet and establish a new life for her children leads her to the small town of Stony Creek.

Issie and her children are interviewed by a committee of townsfolk for a coveted peppercorn lease. The idea is to provide people with an affordable home for a year to help them get back on their feet financially in a supportive small town community. Issie is desperate for a financial break and willing to move from coastal Torquay near Melbourne to a small town in the South Australian Flinders Ranges to put a roof over their heads.

Matt is a city cop who moved to Stony Creek when his marriage fell apart. Burned by his experiences with his ex-wife, he’s a confirmed bachelor and resisting the efforts by well-meaning town matchmakers to find him a new wife. He’s intrigued by Issie and drawn to her despite his reservations concerning the wisdom of the peppercorn project concept.

The minor characters add flavour and colour to the story, and an authenticity to the idyllic rural romance setting. Matt is a cynical city cop who knows it’s only a matter of time until the Stony Creek community will have to face the challenges of the illegal drug trade. A subplot relating to the ice (methamphetamine) epidemic that’s facing many Australian small towns was realistic and well handled. Issie is a nurse and we journey with her as she faces many professional challenges in a medical context.

The romance between Issie and Matt was centre stage and their emotional journey to love was full of obstacles and baggage from the past. A loving intimate scene between Issie and Matt toward the end of the book was beautifully written and contained emotional rather than physical descriptions that will pull at the reader’s heartstrings. The perfect happy ending for two people who had grown to love each other, and Issie’s adorable children, during the story.

I highly recommend The Peppercorn Project to romance readers who enjoy sweet medical romances set in small town rural Australia.

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a complimentary advanced reader copy of the book.

To learn more about Nicki Edwards and her books, please visit her website.

New Book Release ~ The Bridesmaid’s Hero

Happy Australia Day! Today I’m celebrating our national holiday and the release of my eighth book. The Bridesmaid’s Hero is a contemporary Christian romance novella in my Snowgum Creek series. The story is set in a fictional town in the Snowy Mountains region of Australia.

The-Bridesmaids-Hero-website

Pastry chef Serena Blaxland isn’t staying in the small Australian town of Snowgum Creek. She’s there for her sister’s wedding, and to help out at the family B&B until her mother’s arm heals. Sparks fly when the handsome driver of their bridal car saves Serena from disrupting her sister’s perfect wedding day.

Harry Westmore’s dream of becoming an equine vet was put on hold when his father passed away. He’s working several jobs in his home town to pay his bills and prepare for his future career. He can’t stay away from the beautiful chef when he visits the B&B each day to look after her mother’s horses.

Serena’s home is in Canberra, where she has built a successful career. When Harry’s offered an opportunity too good to refuse, they must decide if their love and faith can overcome all obstacles.

The Bridesmaid’s Hero is a standalone novella and Book 1.5 in the Snowgum Creek series.  It’s available in Kindle Unlimited and for 99 cents from Amazon Kindle.

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter One:

Serena Blaxland leaned back into the soft leather rear seat of the white BMW hire car, her bare shoulders tense. Wedding planning had transformed Debbie, her easygoing older sister, into Bridezilla in her quest for a perfect day. She’d never forgive them if they kept her waiting.

The front door of their parents’ Snowgum Creek home remained open. Serena’s younger sister was inside the farm house. Why was it taking Gina so long to find a missing tube of lipstick? She’d been in there ten minutes already.

Serena fidgeted with the hem of her knee-length pale pink bridesmaid dress, her immaculate French manicure catching the early afternoon sunlight. Her nails had never looked this good, but the manicure failed to hold her interest.

The handsome driver of their hire car had captured her full attention.

He paced the length of the front veranda, his elegant suit accentuating his tall, muscular physique. Harry Westmore. The name suited him.

Harry returned to the car and crouched beside her open window, his fair hair ruffled and eyebrows drawn together. “The rest of the bridal party left fifteen minutes ago. Should I find out what’s holding up your sister?”

She shook her head, meeting his concerned gaze. “I’ll give her a few more minutes before I go inside and yell. Unlike Debbie, Gina has no concept of punctuality.”

“The bride was determined to leave on time.”

“That’s Debbie for you.”

His eyes, the color of the cloudless sky overhead, hinted at his impatience.

An idyllic September spring day, and they had a long drive ahead. The bride had left with her parents in a matching BMW. The chief bridesmaid had snubbed Serena and Gina by catching a ride to Sunny Ridge with her boyfriend in his luxury sports coupe. Debbie hadn’t been impressed by Crystal’s last-minute change of plans.

Gina flounced onto the veranda, slamming the front door behind her. Two inch heels didn’t slow her progress across the lawn. “I found it, finally.” She held the lipstick in the air as if it was a precious gem.

Serena let out a deep breath. If Harry drove the speed limit, they should make it on time to Sunny Ridge Community Church in the large town west of Snowgum Creek. Pre-wedding photos were scheduled in the adjoining park.

He opened the car door for Gina and she slid into her seat behind the driver, her skirt a tangled mess around her thighs.

Gina bit her lip. “I hate this skirt.”

“Be thankful it’s not floor length.”

“True, but I wish Debbie had asked what we thought before she chose our dresses.”

“It’s her wedding.”

“And don’t we know it.”

She let Gina’s comment slide. Her younger sister’s relationship with Debbie was fraught with issues, and Harry didn’t need to hear their complaints. He’d already witnessed Crystal’s emotional outburst. Debbie’s best friend had refused to travel to Sunny Ridge in the bridesmaids’ car.

Harry started the car, a quiet purr compared to the cough and splutter of Serena’s aging hatchback. “Ladies, are we ready?”

“Let’s go.” Gina buckled her seat belt. “I hope we won’t be late.”

Serena suppressed a groan. “Me too, because Debbie doesn’t need the extra stress. Harry, I’m ready.”

“Okay.” He maneuvered the luxury car over the cattle guard at the front entrance next to the prominent Blaxland B&B sign, onto a short dirt track leading to the main road. “We have enough time.”

“Oh, good.” Gina stashed her lipstick in her purse. “I’m already in Debbie’s bad books.”

Serena tightened her grip on the door handle. “What did you do this time?”

Read more in the sample at Amazon.com.

The novella is part of the Love Blossoms box set, available for pre-order for US2.99 on Amazon Kindle. It’s releasing on January 28, 2016, and will be available in Kindle Unlimited.

Love-Blossoms-Jan-2016-3D-cover

Book Recommendation: Ehvah After by Rose Dee

Ehvah After

Book Description:

Ehvah Rowe’s life is in freefall. Her teen queen status is long forgotten, and with a childhood of tragic loss, no family save a diabolical aunt, and no career prospects, her L.A. celebrity world holds no future. It will take a murder, an escape to the Australian tropics, and the friendship of an Aussie bodyguard, for her to discover healing, faith, and a way forward.

David Blake knows how to be a soldier. His army training equipped him to fight and protect. But when it comes to helping a fear-filled celebrity navigate the same post-traumatic stress symptoms he has suffered, David discovers the challenge in forsaking his own strength for God’s plan.

Rose Dee weaves a story of mystery, drama and romance, in her trademark tropical North Queensland Australian style.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading Ehvah After and it’s now my favourite Rose Dee book. The story opens with Ehvah living in her L.A. mansion with her aunt and uncle. She’s an orphan of famous parents who lives off her trust fund and feels jaded with her shallow party lifestyle. Ehvah is frustrated by her bad press in the tabloids, her so-called friends who use her, and her inability to resurrect her Hollywood career. When she witnesses the late night murder of her uncle in her home, she flees to Australia with her aunt who is shooting a film in far north Queensland.

Ehvah has a complex relationship with her aunt that’s revealed during the story. The murder investigation is underway when Ehvah arrives in Australia. David, an Aussie ex-military soldier, is assigned the day shift as Ehvah’s bodyguard, and an unlikely romance unfolds. I like bodyguard romances, and I love how David and Ehvah’s unique and painful past experiences become the common ground in their developing relationship that draws them closer. Her life is in danger, and David takes on the role of her protector and hero.

The murder of Ehvah’s uncle provides a compelling mystery sub-plot that intertwines with the main romantic plot to add an exciting suspense element to the story. The serious issue of post traumatic stress is realistically addressed and handled with sensitivity. Rose’s books tend to be edgy, although Ehvah After is less edgy than her Resolution series. Ehvah’s lifestyle and experiences shape her thoughts and actions in the story, and she doesn’t start out holding Christian morals and values. We see her character growth and faith journey during the story.

The story has a strong faith element, and the gospel message is an integral part of the story. The exotic tropical North Queensland setting is gorgeous and the minor characters add to the Aussie flavour in the story. I highly recommend Ehvah After to readers who are looking for a fun and exciting Aussie contemporary Christian romance with drama and mystery story elements.

I received a complimentary copy from the author.


Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com