Review: Crimson Dawn by Fleur McDonald

 

Title: Crimson Dawn

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: Arena: Allen & Unwin April 2014

Read an excerpt

Status: Read from April 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Fleur McDonald’s fifth novel to combine her love of rural Australia and her farming experience with drama and romance, Crimson Dawn is an engaging story of betrayal, resilience, and family secrets.

Reeling from betrayal and tragedy, Laura Murphy throws herself into the management of Nambina, the family sheep station which now belongs to her. Eight years later, Laura is proud of what she has achieved including developing prize winning Merino rams and setting up a successful farm school that teaches young women the basics of managing a property but then things slowly begin to wrong, one of her rams is poisoned, she suspects one of her students is doing drugs and then her neighbour, and former best friend, announces she has a claim on Nambina, and threatens to take away everything she loves.

There are several tangled plot lines in this story which ultimately reveal unexpected connections, including Meghan’s claim on Nambina, the identity of Laura’s mother, a drug and sex party ring and most significantly, the parallel narrative within the novel which tells the story of a young boy, who left his abusive home in the 1930′s, as he grows into a man. McDonald does well to draw these and other minor threads together in a manner that is plausible, though not entirely probable.

The story did feel a little disjointed to me, especially to begin with, as the contemporary chapters move quite quickly from 2000 to 2001 to 2003 before finally settling in 2008, while the parallel historical timeline makes similar leaps. I personally would have preferred for the contemporary story to have been grounded in a single time period.

Laura is a likeable heroine, her own hard work and determination has seen her build a successful property and business and she is satisfied with the life she has created for herself. But she has been unable to move on from the shocking betrayal of Meghan and Josh, once her best friend and fiance respectively, and has become emotionally closed off from all but family. When Nambina is threatened, McDonald gently guides Laura into the realisation that she doesn’t have to face this latest betrayal alone and introduces Tim, the local vet with whom Laura forms a tentative, and ultimately lovely relationship.

While I do think the storyline was just a bit too ambitious and the flow of the narrative suffered as a result, I did enjoy Crimson Dawn. Laura is a protagonist I can admire and I always appreciate the authentic details McDonald provides about everyday life on rural properties.

 

Crimson Dawn is available to purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off by Carolyn Brown

 

Title: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off

Author: Carolyn Brown

Published: Sourcebooks April 2014

Status: Read from April 02 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Across the street from Miss Clawdy’s Cafe (featured in The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee) in Cadillac, Texas you will find ‘Bless My Bloomers’, a custom ‘under-britches’ store owned by cousins Carlene, Alma Grace and Patrice the southern heroines of Carolyn Brown’s latest novel, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off.

The story kicks off when Carlene Lovelle discovers a lacy red pair of panties in her husband’s briefcase, the same pair Carlene sold the week before to a size 4 twenty-something planning a weekend away in Vegas with her ‘sugar daddy’. Furious, Carlene confronts her cheating husband, Lenny, and his mistress, at his car dealership, where she stomps all over a showroom Corvette before installing her self in one the bedrooms above Bless My Bloomers. Carlene’s extended family rally around her, with Patrice willing to poison him, her mother offering to shoot him and Josie dispensing wise advice, though pious Alma Grace can’t help but pray fervently for a reconciliation before she loses her position on the church committee, branded sinful by association.
When it becomes clear that Lenny has no plans to repent for his despicable behaviour, Carlene decides the best way to punish him is to deprive him of the thing he loves most – first place in the town’s annual chili cook-off.

Scandal, sniping and sly acts of revenge ensue, seasoned generously with hilarity, as everyone takes sides in the battle for top honours in the cook-off. The cousins and their mother’s (aka the Fannin sisters) are united in their desire to produce the prize winning recipe and dethrone ‘King’ Lenny and they discover they have plenty of support from the women of Cadillac.

The cast of quirky characters thrive on gossip and grudges tempered by fierce loyalties and unconditional love. Carlene, Patrice and Alma Grace are very different from one another but bound (and sometimes strangled) by the tightest of family ties following the example set by the cousins indomitable mother’s: Sugar, Gigi and Tansy. I couldn’t help but love them all for their smarts, sass, quick wit and crazy.

A lively, warm-hearted story of family, love, feuds and food, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off had me laughing out loud and cheering for The Red-Hot Bloomers in their bid to win that trophy.

For an exclusive excerpt, a delicious recipe  and details on how you can win two great prize packs

click HERE for the Blog Tour post published earlier today.

To Purchase The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million Chapters/Indigo IndieBound iBooks Sourcebooks

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off by Carolyn Brown

The Red Hot Chili Cook Off Cover

Thank y’all so much for inviting me and the cast of The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off  to visit Book’d Out today. We’re enjoying a recipe blog tour and talking about different foods that play a part in The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off.

For those of you who are hearing about this book for the first time, it’s the second in a trilogy set in Cadillac, Texas. Lenny Joe Lovelle has been bitten by an acute case of terminal stupidity. He’s been cheating on his wife, Carlene, one of the three cousins (Alma Grace and Patrice are the other two owners) who own Bless My Bloomers, a lingerie shop in Cadillac. Lenny Joe’s mother, Kitty, has accused Alma Grace’s daddy of coming on to her and Sugar Magee—that would be Alma Grace’s mama—has moved into the upstairs bedroom above the panty shop. Yes, it’s quite a twisted up mess but in the south a good hot cinnamon roll for breakfast can cure a multitude of sins…even if one of them isn’t a low-down, scumbag, cheatin’ son-of-a-bitch of a husband.

First a little excerpt and then the cinnamon roll recipe and your chance to win 1 of 2 great prizes!

 Excerpt

(NOTE: the panty shop is in an old two story house and there are three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Carlene has moved into one and now Aunt Sugar is in one of the other bedrooms.)

The aroma of hot cinnamon slipped up the stairs, through the crack under Carlene’s door, and made its way through the feather pillow she’d crammed over her head to keep out the noise of Aunt Sugar’s snores.

A week ago she’d packaged up a cute little bright red outfit and rang up the sale to Bridget who was going to Vegas with her sugar daddy. That little red pair of panties didn’t have a tenth of a yard of fabric in them. Hell, they didn’t have enough material in them to sag a clothesline and yet they’d turned her world, her family, and the whole town of Cadillac upside down.

She carefully removed the pillow from her head and got an even stronger dose of the cinnamon rolls. What would the scent of cooking do for sales? Would it make the customers hungry and they’d leave without buying anything?

She rolled out of bed, peeked out the door, and made a mad dash to the bathroom before Aunt Sugar claimed it. Mama said that Sugar always took two hours to get presentable in the morning. She didn’t go to breakfast without checking for stray eyebrows, chipped fingernail polish, and saying her morning prayers. Carlene didn’t know if Sugar prayed in the bathroom but she didn’t have time to wait two hours before she went to work.

She passed Sugar on the landing on her way back to her bedroom. Fully dressed in a cute little sundress and sandals, her makeup was perfect, and her earrings glittered in the sunlight filtering in from a bedroom window.

“Good mornin’, darlin’. Did you know that you snore?” Sugar asked.

“Yes, ma’am. And good morning to you, Aunt Sugar.” Carlene smiled. “You’re runnin’ a little late. Alma Grace and I’ve already had devotionals and I ordered cinnamon rolls from Clawdy’s. Trixie was good enough to deliver them for me.”

“Guess I’d better get on the ball if I want to grab one. Patrice loves cinnamon rolls and she’ll eat them all,” Carlene said. “After morning prayers, I’ll be back downstairs. Now you run along and get dressed in something pretty. If Lenny comes by again, you want to look nice.” Sugar blew her a kiss.

Carlene dressed in a fitted bright blue dress with a scoop neck and long sleeves. It was Friday and the appointment calendar said that two wedding parties were coming from Sherman so Alma Grace would need help. She picked up a necklace of chunky blue, yellow, and red stones wet with sparkling crystals between the different colors and fastened it around her neck, then added the matching bracelet and earrings. She carried her high heels down the steps and padded barefoot to the kitchen.

She took one look at the pan of cinnamon rolls and said, “Shit, Alma Grace! You can’t take them right out of the middle. That’s not playing fair.”

Patrice caught the last sentence as she pushed the door open. “She’s right. No taking them out of the middle. Did Aunt Sugar get up this early and get food already?”

“She gets up early every morning. We have devotionals before I come to work.” Alma Grace ignored them and removed her second cinnamon roll from the center of the pan. “And she is always dressed with her makeup done and jewelry on, too.”

Patrice cut two big rolls from the middle of the pan. “We’ll treat this like a Scrabble board. I’m playing off Alma Grace’s choice. So praying is done for the day?”

Alma Grace sighed. “Oh, no! Mama is upstairs doing her morning prayers now. And Daddy says he’s going to church at the CNC with me until she gets over her hissy and that means I can’t sit beside or flirt with Jack Landry. Come on Pat-tee, help me out here.”

“You call me that again and I’ll smack you right in the mouth. You know I hate nicknames,” Patrice said.

Alma Grace slid a nasty look toward Carlene. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t make Jamie kiss Kitty or Kitty kiss Jamie or your mama move in here,” Carlene said.

Patrice slapped Alma Grace on the shoulder. “Stop blaming Carlene for everything that happens. I swear if you got a pimple you’d figure out a way to make it her fault.”

And now for the cinnamon roll recipe that they use over at Miss Clawdy’s. It’s the same one I use in my kitchen here in southern Oklahoma.

  CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 2 cups hot water, not boiling
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 T. or two packages of dry yeast

Mix together and set aside until it bubbles.

  • Add 3 cups of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon salt

Stir well! Now add 2 to 3 cups of flour to that. More flour makes stiffer dough which makes heavier rolls. Less flour makes lighter rolls. Put into a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for one to two hours until double in size. Punch down and roll out on floured surface to about ½ inch thick. Cut up two sticks of butter into think slices and arrange on top. Cover that with brown sugar (I usually use about two cups) and then shake cinnamon over that. Roll it up and cut into one inch sections, place in two 9×12 cake pans. Let rise about an hour, covered with a cloth, and then bake at 350 degrees until light brown. Turn upside down onto cookie sheets or heavy duty foil if you are taking it to a friend’s house. Ice with a powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk glaze while still hot.

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WIN!

Do you have a favorite bread recipe? Share it in the comments (along with your name and email) for your chance to win one of two prizes courtesy Sourcebooks:

Prize #1: a print copy of The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off
or

Prize #2: A Carolyn Brown Prize Pack

o Print copy of The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee

o Print copy of The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off

o Cute recipe card set—so the winner can save the recipes shared along the tour!

*This giveaway is open to US and Canada only – Closes April 13th 2014*

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Be sure to follow along on The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off Recipe Sharing Tour!

  Learn more about The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off and find out some delicious recipes from Carolyn and other readers along the way. Chances to win at each stop!

April 1: Carolyn Brown’s Facebook Page

April 2: Dew on the Kudzu

April 3: Fresh Fiction

April 4: Book’d Out

April 7: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

April 8: Chick Lit Central

April 9: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

April 10: Bitten By Love Reviews

April 11: From the TBR Pile

 

To Purchase The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million Chapters/Indigo IndieBound iBooks Sourcebooks

THE RED-HOT CHILI COOK-OFF BY CAROLYN BROWN – IN STORES APRIL 2014

More Than the Chili’s Heating Up Cadillac, Texas Carlene Lovelle, co-owner of Bless My Bloomers lingerie shop, found a pair of fancy red-silk panties in her husband’s briefcase, and all hell is breaking loose. She custom-made those fancy bloomers herself—and she remembers the bimbo who bought them. If her husband had a lick of sense, he’d known there are no secrets in a town like Cadillac. Carlene’s cohorts—and their mamas—plan to exact revenge on Lenny Joe where it’ll hurt the most: break his ten-year winning streak at the prestigious Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off. Never before has a woman dared to compete. But the ladies of Bless My Bloomers are cooking up a storm…and it seems the whole town is taking sides in the showdown. Welcome to Cadillac, Texas, where the chili is hot, the gossip is hotter, and friends stick by each other, no matter what the challenge.

Praise for The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

“With a cast of characters that will leave readers grinning, Brown’s latest is delightful, humorous “chick lit”… Fun, fun and more fun is on hand in a story that wins a blue ribbon in both originality and wit.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars “Fun, fresh and hilarious… The author showed that laughter is the best medicine and a sure fire cure for the toughest of challenges in life.” —Chick Lit Reviews “The characters are vibrant and engaging, the story is endearingly off beat and full of down home folksy charm. A wonderfully heartwarming and highly entertaining novel.” —Book Reviews and More by Kathy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

carolynbrown2010

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with more than sixty books published. Her bestselling cowboy romance series include the Lucky trilogy, the Honky Tonk series, Spikes & Spurs, Cowboys & Brides, and the new Burnt Boot, Texas series. She has also launched into women’s fiction with a Texas twang. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma, where she credits her eclectic family for her humor and writing ideas. For more information, please visit http://carolynlbrown.com/.

AWW Feature: Who am I? by Jenn J McLeod

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Welcome Jenn J McLeod!

I am happy to welcome back  Australian author, Jenn J McLeod to Book’d Out today. During her visit around this time last year she was celebrating the release of her debut novel, House of All Seasons, which earned her the position of the 5th best selling author on the official Nielsen Bookscan list for 2013.

In Simmering Season, devoted mother, sole breadwinner, and now local publican, Maggie Lindeman is back in Calingarry Crossing with her teenage son to sell the family pub, hoping to turn their lives and finances around. The trouble is, the girl people once called Magpie is so busy protecting everyone else she has no idea the perfect storm is heading her way, until her past and present converge with the unexpected to blow the lid off a lifetime of secrets.

My review of Jenn J McLeod’s second heartwarming novel can be found HERE at Book’d Out, but first please enjoy this guest post from Jenn…

 

Who Am I?

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First of all, the very flexible female in this is picture is NOT me.
The characters in my books are also… NOT me.
It’s common, however, for a reader to assume an author might write themselves into their novel. Having four lead female characters in House for all Seasons I’ve been asked quite a few times: “Which one are you?”.
The thing is, I can no more write myself into a story than I can do the upside-down splits on a balance beam. I like my fiction to stay fiction and prefer to find the physical attributes and mannerisms of a character by loitering in my local shopping mall or having coffee in a cafe. (Tough research that simply must be done!) I doubt I will ever be one of my characters, although Poppy Hamilton (House for all Seasons) and I are both just shy of six feet tall.
But wait! Hold on! Rewind. I’ve just read this draft blog post aloud to a friend who knows both House for all Seasons and Simmering Season very well and it would appear I may have unconsciously modelled ‘bits’ of both books on myself after all. Apparently I have very definite opinions on certain subjects and, according to my now ex-friend – hehehe! – more than a few likes/dislikes that I share with considerable passion from time to time. I am being told right now, in fact, that some of these philosophies have trickled into my plots, finding their way into my characters attitudes!!
Okay, so I have a strong moral code and I’m passionate about certain subjects. (In Simmering Season I guess you’d say reality TV gets a flogging and young driver behaviour gets a very necessary flagging.)
In light of this discovery about myself and my stories, perhaps it’s not surprising that my latest dedication reads: “To my dad — my moral compass in life — for letting me travel my own path through life, for loving me no matter how I strayed, and for letting me make my own choices even when you didn’t understand them”.
My Simmering Season characters – especially Maggie Lindeman, Calingarry Crossing’s local publican – are forced to examine their chosen paths when a school reunion brings home more than memories, and the past and present converge with the unexpected to form the perfect storm, blowing the lid of a lifetime of small town secrets. I think readers will relate to Maggie – a woman juggling way too many things at once (like most mothers) and trying to do it all. She has a few conflicts to overcome and right now I have my own …
Preparing this blog post has sparked a friendly but lively discussion over a bottle of red and I am forced to finish by conceding…
It took someone who knows me well to point out those ‘aspects’ I’ve woven into Maggie’s story. I won’t admit to which ‘aspects’ in particular, except to say …
Balance beams!
Those blasted blocks of wood were my nemesis at school — and also Maggie’s.
We learn this about Maggie at the school reunion. The DJ has just cranked up the volume in the auditorium, the hired mirror ball is hypnotising a few eager couples into thinking they can dance, the strobe light exaggerating the jerky dance movements of mid-life bones that haven’t boogied for years. Maggie heads outside to cool down and, ironically, the only place she can find to give her stiletto-sore soles a break is the balance beam outside the old gym apparatus shed. Not her favourite place at all.
Maggie never enjoyed sports period and she never understood how learning to balance on a lump of wood might prepare her for anything to do with life after school. It hadn’t helped her balance a career with marriage and motherhood; that was for sure.
Like Maggie, I hated P.E class. I may even have developed my storytelling talent by making up reasons why I might be excused from participating. I’m not sure which I hated more: blue gym mats for tumbling upside down, parallel bars and rings for swinging upside down, and monkey bars for hanging upside down. If we were meant to climb monkey bars would we not have all been born monkeys? (Hmm, that’s a whole other discussion, and another bottle of red, for another time, I’m told!)

Click HERE to read an excerpt of Simmering Season

Simmering Season is available to purchase from

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Review: Safe Harbour by Helene Young

 

Title: Safe Harbour

Author: Helene Young

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au March 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 21 to 23, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

From the first pages of her fifth novel, Safe Harbour, award-winning Australian author Helene Young draws the reader into an exciting tale of action, intrigue and romance.

When Darcy Fletcher and Noah Moreton are called upon to rescue a man from his stricken yacht in wild seas, they are not prepared for the tsunami of danger that swamps Banksia Cove in his wake. The stranger’s presence exposes long held secrets and lies, sparking betrayal and violence that threatens to destroy them, and everyone, they love.

Fast paced and gripping, the suspense plot of Safe Harbour delves into family secrets, financial conspiracy and organised crime. The stranger, eventually identified as accountant Conor Stein, proves to be an unexpected link between Darcy’s estranged father, ex-football star turned club manager, Stirling, and the Russian mafia. With evidence of their joint criminal practices, Conor is a target and in helping him, Darcy too is hunted by the ruthless men sent to quiet him at any cost.

Having saved Conor’s life, Darcy feels some responsibility towards him, especially as in the immediate aftermath of the accident he is suffering from amnesia. Darcy’s motivation for helping Conor is altruistic, though tangled with residual guilt involving a tragic event in her past, but quickly becomes personal when her friends are targeted and her father’s involvement in the situation is revealed. The author has created a capable and likeable protagonist in Darcy, whose vulnerabilities – Grant’s death, her father’s abandonment, her mother’s illness and the loss of her restaurant – are also a source of strength.

Darcy also draws strength from Noah, Banksia Cove’s community police officer and childhood friend. Young develops a romance between the two that has been simmering for a decade or more, but is complicated by both the secrets of the past and the present.

Safe Harbour is a first-rate, absorbing romantic suspense novel, balancing a dramatic story with strong characters and an engaging romance. I expect that Helene will adding another ARRA trophy to her case in 2015, I know I will be voting for Safe Harbour to win.

Safe Harbour is available to purchase from

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Review: Skeletons by Jane Fallon

 

Title: Skeletons

Author: Jane Fallon

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 19 to 20, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

British author Jane Fallon’s fifth novel, Skeletons, exposes the myth of a happy family by revealing the explosive secrets and lies they keep from one another.

After Jen Masterson covertly observes an intimate argument between her father-in-law, Charles, and a young woman outside of his office, she becomes convinced he is having an affair. Jen would rather pretend she saw nothing at all but horrified at the threat to the happy family she adores, she decides to confront the stranger, completely unprepared for the shocking secret she will uncover. Now Jen knows the truth, a secret she can’t share with her husband of twenty years, Jason, nor her best friend, Poppy, who also happens to be her sister-in-law but for how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? For how long can she live a lie?

Jen is caught on the horns of a dilemma, her aim is to protect the family she has made her own but keeping this enormous secret is a burden she finds impossible to bear, Fallon shares Jen’s circular debate about the issue until she is paralysed by indecision. I lost patience with Jen at times, even though I could sympathise with her quandary, there is an element of self absorption in the way in which Jen handled the entire affair, no matter how often she claimed otherwise, which is underscored by her relationship with her own parents.

Generally, I thought Skeletons to be well written with confident prose and dialogue, though I did feel the pace dragged somewhat in the middle. The ending is a little surprising but I think it also wholly appropriate. Trust is a crucial element of any relationship after all and it was brutally severed in the aftermath of the secret being revealed.

I found Skeletons to be a satisfying read, exploring a thought provoking moral dilemma which I think would particularly provide interesting fodder for book club discussion.

Skeletons is available to purchase from

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Review: Iron Junction by Charlotte Nash

 

Title: Iron Junction

Author: Charlotte Nash

Published: Hachette Au March 2014

Status: Read from March 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A contemporary rural fiction novel, Iron Junction is Charlotte Nash’s engaging second book, loosely linked to her 2013 debut, Ryders Ridge.

Fleeing a failed engagement and the censure of her family, Doctor Beth Harding accepts a locum position in a small mining town thousands of kilometers from her home in suburban Sydney. Her first week in the clinic, serving the local community and mine workers, runs smoothly but after Beth foolishly gets stuck in the middle of nowhere exploring the surrounding desert, and the mine boss starts interfering in her clinical decisions, she begins to second guess her decision to spend six weeks in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region. Perhaps she had made the wrong choice to escape Sydney, and Richard? But leaving would mean admitting defeat… and giving up on the chance of something new with engineer, Will Walker.

Romance is a significant element of the plot but the individual emotional development of Beth and Will receives equal emphasis. Both protagonists struggle with self doubt stemming from strained family relations as well as external pressures related to their work at Iron Junction. Their budding relationship is additionally hampered by Beth having just escaped a relationship where she traded her autonomy for acceptance and Will is haunted by a tragedy in his past that has made him believe he is not a worthy of a committed relationship. It is a lot for the pair to negotiate and Nash does well to bring them together in a realistic manner.

Rural and medical romance are regarded as two sub genres of contemporary romance yet Nash successfully blends the two in Iron Junction. The reader is privy to Beth’s consultations with her patients, revealing the types of injuries common to mine workers but the most important subplot explores the limitations of regional medicine by introducing an Aboriginal woman suffering from a serious lung disease as a result of untreated childhood pneumonia. A liaison officer with a talent for photography, Caitlin Murray’s health crisis results in one of the book’s most dramatic moments.

Combining romance and drama in a vivid Australian landscape, I found Iron Junction to be an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next novel from Charlotte Nash.

Iron Junction is available to purchase from

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Review: The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster

 

Title: The Wrong Girl

Author: Zoe Foster

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin AU March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 16 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Wrong Girl is the fourth lighthearted chick-lit novel from Australian author Zoe Foster. Despite having several of her previous works on my shelves including The Younger Man this is the first book of hers I have read, though I do read her weekly column in the Sunday paper.

Reeling from an ill-advised one night stand with a friend, Lily makes a pact with housemate and gorgeous bikini model bestie Simone, to swear off men for at least six months. It’s hardly a stretch for Lily who has barely had a date in the last two years and besides she needs to focus on advancing her stalled career. Though she enjoys her role as a cooking segment producer on a popular morning television show, Lily is tired of her supervisor taking credit for her hard work and ideas. The only compensation in her job is the new TV chef, Jack Winters. Though they got off on the wrong foot when Jack first stole her parking space and then her kettle, twice, Lily can’t help but be charmed by his amiable personality and good looks. Maybe she is developing a little crush, just a teeny one, but by the time she decides to risk breaking her ‘SaBOYtical’ she discovers Jack is seeing someone else. Simone. Deflated, she throws herself into a special project aimed at gaining her the promotion she craves but when she is passed over despite its success, she realises it’s time to move on, not only from her job, but also from Jack.

The Wrong Girl is in many respects a coming-of-age novel on Gen Y terms. Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Lily feels as if her life has stalled. She has none of what she imagined she might at her age – a steady relationship, a progressive career, or her own home and Foster explores Lily’s struggle with her inertia and insecurities.

The love triangle, of sorts, between Lily, Simone and Jack is well handled. Lily wouldn’t dream of interfering in Simone and Jack’s relationship, even if she believes they are all wrong for each other.

A more serious element of the story relates to Simone’s struggle with addiction. One quick drink turns into a three day bender, an Ambien to help her sleep needs countering by an upper to get her to work. Despite her stunning looks, her successful career and enviable lifestyle Simone is as insecure as Lily, who has none of her advantages.

Foster grounds the novel in Sydney with mentions of Bondi, Wonderland and the Harbour, recognisable landmarks to both locals and overseas visitors. I’m thankful the author avoided the irritating name/label dropping that usually accompanies novels involving television/celebrity/models, though there is the odd reference.

I enjoyed The Wrong Girl, well written with appealing, genuine characters, it is an entertaining and easy read.

The Wrong Girl is available to purchase from

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Review: Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

Title: Mountain Ash

Author: Margareta Osborn

Published: Random House March 2014

Read a free chapter

Status: Read from March 06 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Mountain Ash is Margareta’s Osborn’s third appealing contemporary rural romance novel set in the Victorian Highlands, loosely linked to Bella’s Run and Hope’s Road.

Single mother Jodie Ashton craves security for herself and her precious daughter, Milly, too much to dismiss the attentions of the much older, wealthy landowner Alex McGregor. Despite his old-fashioned views, Jodie believes Alex is a good man but when he proposes a romantic relationship she needs some time to think it through. A weekend away with girl friends at the Riverton Rodeo offers her the time and distance she needs to make a decision and it’s there that she meets the friendly and handsome Nate with sky blue eyes, a stockman passing through town. Though she initially rebuffs his advances, passion flares and they spend a single night together before Jodie flees, chastising herself for having let her heart overrule her head. Determined to put the lapse behind her, she returns home but is no closer to making a decision about what she wants until her hand is forced by an unexpected discovery and Jodie believes that accepting Alex’s marriage proposal is the only sensible option. And then, on the eve of their hastily arranged wedding, Alex opens the door to his estranged son, Nathaniel, a man with sky blue eyes…

Vivid and realistic characterisation is again the highlight of Osborn’s writing. I always find myself intrigued by the mix of the protagonists flaws and strengths, no one is either all good or all bad and this is especially true in Mountain Ash.
To be honest I didn’t always like Jodie much. I could understand why she would have been tempted by all that Alex offers, including stability, security and legitimacy, and could even sympathise somewhat, some of her actions in this story are not very honourable.
Osborn skillfully reveals the two sides of Alex, who is both a gentleman and a tyrant. While his affection for Jodie is genuine, it becomes obvious he would not consider her a partner in their relationship and his past shows him as an uncompromising man.
Nate has a love ‘em and leave ‘em history but we warm to him as he proves his loyalty to Wal and then later, when Jodie steals his heart. He is the most likeable character and perhaps the least to blame for all that follows.

There are some surprising twists and turns in the story, though mostly reserved for last third or so of the book when shattering family secrets are revealed, along with Jodie’s deception. The final scenes are action packed and tense as tragedy strikes, not everyone gets a happy ending but Mountain Ash is essentially a romance so Jodie and Nate do find theirs.

Though perhaps not my favourite story from Margareta Osborn I did enjoy Mountain Ash. It is well written with complex characters and provides an interesting story of betrayal, family and love.

Mountain Ash is available to purchase from

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Review: The Wardrobe Girl by Jennifer Smart

The Wardrobe Girl - cover image

 

Title: The Wardrobe Girl

Author: Jennifer Smart

Published: Random House March 2014

Read a Sample

Status: Read from March 08 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

There are very few Australians who wouldn’t have seen at least one episode of the nightly drama, Home and Away, currently in its 26th year of broadcast. Debut author Jennifer Smart, who spent five years working on the show as a Director’s Assistant and then scriptwriter, draws on that experience in this light-hearted novel that offers a behind-the-scenes peek at television production, and a close up of the action happening off camera.

After a very public end to her celebrity relationship of three years, Tess Appleby has fled the UK and returned home to Australia, exchanging her role as a costumer designer with the BBC for a wardrobe assistant position on the iconic Australian soap opera, Pretty Beach Rescue. Hoping for a fresh start, Tess is content to leave the drama to the professionals but it seems she is destined to always end up center stage. On her very first day she attracts the lustful attention of the show’s leading man, and the ire of his co-star girlfriend, and within weeks she is back in the gossip pages, her showbiz pedigree outed with her life veering wildly off script. And then she discovers that Pretty Beach Rescue’s new director is Jake Freeman, her ex-fiancé whom she hasn’t seen in eight years but has never forgotten…

Tess’s real life rivals the melodramatic story lines of any soap with her secret celebrity parentage, a penchant for trouble and of course, her disastrous relationship history. Despite her talent for self sabotage, I liked Tess for her lack of pretension, her patience with her awful Mother and sister and her She makes mistakes, big ones even, but she is never intentionally malicious, mostly just confused and eventually she gets it together.

Though Tess is well developed, Smart does tend to rely on stereotypes for many of the cast and crew of Pretty Beach Rescue – the aging diva, the womanising leading man, the beautiful but shrewish starlet and the producer who has one eye on the figures, both financial and female- but in a way its part of the fun, emphasising the soap opera experience. I enjoyed the dynamics of the cast and crew ensemble, which revealed the camaraderie, rivalries and politics of the show.

The only real issue I had was with the portrayal of Tess’s sister as I didn’t understand why Emma was so nasty towards her, their interaction seemed suggest something beyond ordinary sibling rivalry but there was no explanation offered to confirm that.

Smart pokes fun at the Australian television industry as she gives the reader a peek behind the scenes. Though the show’s crew have been condensed into a more manageable cast for the novel, she gives you an idea of the people involved in producing a show, their roles and the work environment.

Ideal for fans of chick lit and soap operas Jennifer Smart’s debut, The Wardrobe Girl, is an entertaining read combining humour, romance and tabloid melodrama.

Click HERE to read a guest post from Jennifer Smart posted earlier today at Book’d Out

The Wardrobe Girl

 

is available to purchase from

 

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 via Booko

 

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