Archive | August, 2016

Book review: If Only I Had A Duke by Lenora Bell

25 Aug

9780349413747 (1)After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family’s scheming. She won’t domesticate a duke, entangle an earl or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt’s Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season . . . well, the duke ruined her plans and now he’ll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage – he uses dalliances to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart . . . and he’s losing it to Thea.

It’s a while since I read an historical romance and I’m always keen to discover new authors so when I was offered the chance to review Lenora Bell’s second novel, If Only I Had A Duke, I said yes and looked forward to a fun summer read. I find that romance covers are a bit hit or miss but this one really appealed to me – I love that blue dress on the front!

This is Lenora’s second novel and the second in a series called Disgraceful Dukes but don’t worry if you haven’t read How the Duke Was Won; I haven’t and this book can be read perfectly well as a standalone story. Lenora’s debut won a top US romance award for debut authors, the Golden Heart Award and I can see why; If Only I Had A Duke is a fun romance read that strikes a brilliant balance of staying true to the historical romance genre whilst feeling like a fresh and modern new take on it.

Lenora’s writing is full of fun and feisty humour and I loved the way that she built the story. From the opening of the book which takes the form of a series of short letters between Lady Dorothea Beaumont and Dalton, Duke of Osborne, I knew I was going to love this novel. The spark was immediately there before I’d even met the characters properly and I couldn’t wait to find out more.

Dorothea is an excellent leading lady and as we meet her she has had enough of being primped and coached to catch a rich husband. Her rebellion finds her exiled to Ireland where she finds she actually quite enjoys the freedom! I loved that Dorothea knew her own mind and was bright and educated. Her correspondence with Dalton starts when she discovers rare paintings in the attic of his house and it made me smile that she was more interested in them than the handsome duke.

Dalton ably plays the part of the rogue Duke; a heart breaker who refuses to settle but like Dorothea, there’s much more to Dalton than first meets the eye. I liked the fact that both characters had their own agendas in this story and neither was afraid to say what they thought. There’s mystery and intrigue, adventure and of course romance aplenty in this novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lenora Bell is definitely an author to watch and if you’re a fan of Eloisa James or Julia Quinn you’ll definitely want to check out Lenora’s books.

4/5

If Only I Had A Duke is released on 30th August in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Lenora and her writing at: http://lenorabell.com/

Guest post: The Honey Trap: my fantasy cast from Hollywood’s Golden Era by Mary Jayne Baker

22 Aug

Today I’m delighted to welcome lovely debut author Mary Jane Baker to One More Page with a fab guest post on vintage films. Mary Jayne’s novel, The Honey Trap has just been released by HarperImpulse and sounds fabulous!

Mary Jayne grew up in Bingley, West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University in 2003 with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, but eventually came back – with her own romantic hero in tow – to her beloved Dales. She lives with him in a little house with four little cats and a little rabbit, writing stories about girls with flaws and the men who love them.

After many years dreaming she could write a romantic novel but never getting around to doing it, she finally knuckled down last year and sat down to write The Honey Trap. The book was accepted for publication by HarperImpulse in March 2016… and she still hasn’t stopped pinching herself. Welcome Mary Jayne!

mjbThe Honey Trap tells the story of handsome – and married – film director Sebastian Wilchester and the journalist sent to set him up for a scandalous exclusive, Angel Blackthorne. After the story breaks the two try to move on with their lives, but when fate pushes them together once again they soon find themselves growing close as they bond over a shared love of vintage cinema.

In the story, the main characters, Angel and Seb, play a game called Remakes – casting a classic film with modern-day actors (they try to cast It’s A Wonderful Life, with Seb suggesting Jim Broadbent as guardian angel Clarence).

Sooo… I thought it might be fun to try the game in reverse! And here they are, my top choices to play the cast of The Honey Trap if I had my pick of any actors from the Golden Era of Hollywood…

Rita Hayworth as Angel Blackthorne

It takes a sassy redhead to know a sassy redhead, and who doesn’t want to be Rita Hayworth, right? Rita has just the right blend of chutzpah and vulnerability to be perfect for go-getting reporter Angel (plus she could do that cool thing with her hair from Gilda…)

Gregory Peck as Sebastian Wilchester https://waldinadotcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/gregory-peck-3.jpg

This was a tough one. I initially thought Marlon Brando, because, to quote Seb himself in the book, “If you can be Brando, always be Brando”. But in the end I decided Brando wasn’t really right for Seb and it could only be young, sizzling Gregory Peck. Phew.

Grace Kelly as Carole Beaumont 

Seb’s wife, A-list actress Carole Beaumont, is described as being a dead ringer for Princess Grace: diminutive, porcelain blonde, fragile yet with a certain no-nonsense toughness – and with the comic timing of a Lucille Ball thrown in for good measure.

Charles Laughton as Steve Clifton

Angel’s sleazy boss at The Daily Investigator is a Yorkshireman and as far as I’m concerned he has to be played by a Yorkshireman – no compromises on my native accent, please! In a modern version I’d love to see a (heavily padded) Sean Bean, but in a classic casting? Scarborough-born Charles Laughton would make a brilliantly villainous Steve.

Richard Ayoade as Leo Courtenay 

This is a difficult one to cast from the classic film era because according to the back story I wrote for him in my plan, Angel’s best friend and ex-boyfriend Leo has dual Nigerian and British heritage. So for that reason I’ve cast the modern actor I’d like to play him instead – gorgeous and hilarious Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd.

betteBette Davis as Emily Graziana

It would take someone with a bit of edge to play Angel’s other best friend, flatmate Emily. She needs to be feisty, tough and occasionally sweet – a young Bette Davis, with her head of Emilyesque golden curls, would be perfect.

Angel and Seb’s top five vintage films

Seb

  1. The Maltese Falcon
  2. Sunset Boulevard
  3. A Streetcar Named Desire
  4. The General
  5. Kind Hearts and Coronets

Angel

  1. The Apartment
  2. Monkey Business
  3. Some Like It Hot
  4. It’s A Wonderful Life
  5. Casablanca

Thank you Mary Jayne!

the-honey-trap-mjbaker-194x300The trap is set – but which one of them is the bait?

Journalist Angel Blackthorne is looking for her next big scoop. When her sleazy editor asks her to use her charms on super successful – and married – film director Sebastian Wilchester for a juicy exposé, Angel thinks what the hell? There’s a staff job on the horizon, and, let’s be honest, no one can make a cheater cheat if they don’t want to, right?

After the scandal breaks, Angel tries to put the story – and Seb – behind her, but fate seems to have other ideas. A near miss at a premiere after-party and a shared love of vintage film brings the honey closer to the trap. But what happens when pretence leads to passion, and a ‘kiss and tell’ becomes something real?

Find out more about Mary Jayne and her writing at:

www.maryjaynebaker.co.uk | @MaryJayneBaker | www.facebook.com/maryjaynewrites

Book review: The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

5 Aug

9780356506852Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a book that leaps out, grabs you, petrifies you and doesn’t let go until the end! Based on a brilliant premise; that author Jack Sparks died whilst writing the book which has now been released by his brother in tribute to him, the story is in turns funny, outrageous and downright scary. I’m not so good with scary stories and this one was too much for me in places (I had to read it in daylight with people around me!) but neither could I walk away from it – I had to know what happened to Jack.

The book opens with an introduction from Jack’s brother, Alistair. As Alistair introduces Jack and his reasons for releasing Jack’s last book posthumously, the reader begins to form a picture of Jack ,who has found fame first as a journalist but latterly as an author of books that look into aspects of the society that we live in. Jack’s previous literary forays include the brilliantly titled Jack Sparks on Drugs – the ‘research’ for which ended with him entering rehab! This introductory potted biography of Jack is of course just his brother’s telling of Jack’s life and we soon get to know the real Jack Sparks as we begin to read his last book.

I loved that this story is a book inside a book – Jack’s final work is presented in its ‘unedited’ format and is fascinating but what adds an extra layer is the inclusion of emails, social media and reports of conversations with others in Jack’s life. Emails to his editor, comments on his Youtube channel and other social media outlets give a wonderful insight into Jack’s persona and keep the reader guessing about the ‘real’ Jack. Initially at least, I didn’t think Jack was a very likeable character – he’s arrogant, self-obsessed and confrontational – as you can imagine, this goes down a storm on his networks.

With no punches pulled, the story proper starts with a recount by Jack of his witnessing an exorcism in Italy. It’s a pretty gory scene but Jack very much sees it as a piece of theatre and that’s where the trouble starts. Jack’s actions that day trigger a chain of events that ultimately lead to his death. As a frightening video appears on his YouTube channel that he knows he didn’t post, the story steps up a gear and takes turns that I could never have imagined.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a very modern take on our fascination with ghosts and the supernatural, amplified through the use of social media. Fans of films like The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project will love this book – it truly is frightening and Jason Arnopp skillfully keeps the shocks and surprises coming wrapping them all up in an enticing mystery. I’m already looking forward to his next book!

4/5

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Jack Sparks at: http://www.jacksparks.co.uk/

Book review: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

2 Aug

family treeAnnie Rush seems to have it all, a handsome husband and their fabulous life in Manhattan. But all of that is snatched away when she is involved is a life-changing accident. Awakening from a coma a year later, Annie finds that the life she knew has crumbled away.

In the throes of grief, Annie grasps her new reality – she has to start over from scratch, which means heading home. Annie couldn’t wait to escape the small town where she grew up, but now she finds herself warming to the close-knit community and its homespun values.

There’s also a face from the distant past − Fletcher Wyndham − and all the reasons she’s never quite forgotten him come flooding back. Annie expects to pull herself together and return to the city, but fate has other plans …

A few years ago I started reading Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles series and really enjoyed it so when the chance to review her new novel came up I couldn’t resist. Family Tree is such a lovely an addictive story; I couldn’t put it down once I started reading and I know it will be one of my favourite books of the year. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to read many more from Susan’s extensive back catalogue as soon as possible!

FamilyTree is the story of Annie Rush. As we meet her she’s a very successful cooking show producer, working with her husband on a hit show The Key Ingredient. I was drawn to Annie as a character straight away; she’s bright, intelligent and successful. She came across as a happy person – the type of woman I’d like to have as a friend and I thought Susan told her initial back story in a very clever way. I was already gripped by the story but as Annie makes a series of discoveries and then falls victim to a shocking accident, I was completely hooked. Tantalisingly, the story flashes back to Annie’s past at this point and left me desperate to know what had happened to her!

The book is broken into sections set ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ and this makes the story a real page turner as Susan leaves each narrative on a cliff-hanger more than once to switch to the past or present. I often find in dual time narratives that I have a preference for one part or the other but in this story I was just as involved with and wanted to know what happened next with both parts of the story. As the picture of Annie’s teenage years and home and school life in Switchback, Vermont built, it all added up to make me feel like I knew her in depth.

Ironically, as Annie begins to recover from her accident, the reader is in a position to know more about her past than she does and this was a very intriguing premise to the book. And then there’s the wonderful romance angle to the story. From her past books I remembered that this is something Susan does well but the feeling and emotions in Family Tree really got me!

Susan captures the excitement of first love just perfectly and the story of Annie and Fletcher is so bittersweet as life and choices get in the way. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Annie as she returned to Switchback to recover at her family home. As well as the romance aspect of the story Wiggs creates a wonderful feeling of family and Annie’s relationship with her beloved Gran is magical, again making this feel like a very well rounded novel.

There are two other themes that deserve mention; food and locations. Annie’s home town is just picture perfect. In fact I could easily see this book as a movie. The food descriptions are mouth-wateringly delicious and it’s clear that Susan did her research on cooking, TV production and maple syrup farming for this book. I also liked the way that she drew in very current aspects like social media whilst giving the story a timeless romantic feeling.

Family Tree considers the conundrum of doing what you love versus being with the person you love and I thoroughly enjoyed following the ups and downs of Annie’s and her family’s lives. This is a story that will leave you with a wonderful warm glow and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5/5

Family Tree is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

 

Exclusive extract: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

2 Aug

I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Susan Wiggs’ new release, Family Tree, today. Susan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lakeshore Chronicles series which I absolutely love. She is the proud recipient of three RITA awards for Lakeside Cottage, Lord of the Night and The Mistress, and is often a finalist for the prestigious award. She lives in Washington. Later today I’ll be sharing my review of this lovely book but first I have an exclusive extract to share with you.

family treeAnnie Rush seems to have it all, a handsome husband and their fabulous life in Manhattan. But all of that is snatched away when she is involved is a life-changing accident. Awakening from a coma a year later, Annie finds that the life she knew has crumbled away.

In the throes of grief, Annie grasps her new reality – she has to start over from scratch, which means heading home. Annie couldn’t wait to escape the small town where she grew up, but now she finds herself warming to the close-knit community and its homespun values.

There’s also a face from the distant past − Fletcher Wyndham − and all the reasons she’s never quite forgotten him come flooding back. Annie expects to pull herself together and return to the city, but fate has other plans …

Chapter 2

So, Dad,” said Teddy, swiveling around on the kitchen barstool, “if the water buffalo weighs two thousand pounds, how come it doesn’t sink in the mud?”

Fletcher Wyndham glanced at the show his son was watching, an unlikely choice for a ten-year- old kid, but Teddy had taken a shine to The Key Ingredient. Most people in Switchback, Vermont, tuned in to the cooking show, not because of the chef or the hot blond cohost. No, the reason was behind the scenes—a quick blip in the credits that rolled while the slightly annoying theme song played.

Her name was Annie Rush—the producer.

The most popular cooking show on TV was her brainchild, and she’d been born and raised in Switchback. Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher had gone to school with Annie. A while back, the show had filmed an episode right here in town, though Fletcher had kept his distance from the production. Since then, Annie held celebrity status, even though she didn’t appear on camera.

That was just as well, Fletcher decided. Seeing her on TV every week would drive him nuts. “Good question, buddy,” he said to his son. “That one looks like he’s walking on water.”

Teddy rolled his eyes. “It’s not a guy buffalo. It’s a girl buffalo. They make mozzarella cheese from the milk.”

“Then why not call it a milk buffalo?”

“’Cause it lives in the water. Duh.”

“Amazing what you can learn from watching TV.”

“Yeah, you should let me watch more.”

“Dream on,” said Fletcher.

“Mom lets me watch as much as I want.”

And there it was. Evidence that Teddy had officially joined a club no kid wanted to belong to—confused kids of divorced parents.

Looking around the chaos of the house they’d just moved into, Fletcher pondered an oft-asked question: What the hell happened to my life?

He was able to precisely locate the turning point. A single night of too much beer and too little judgment had set him on a path that had changed every plan he’d ever made.

Yet when he looked into his son’s face, he did not have a single regret. Teddy had come into the world a squalling, red-faced, needy bundle of noise, and Fletcher’s reaction had not been love at first sight. It had been fear at first sight. He wasn’t afraid of the baby. He was afraid of failing him. Afraid to do something that would screw up this tiny, perfect, helpless human.

There was only one choice he could make. He had shoved aside the fear. He had given his entire self to Teddy, driven by a powerful sense of mission and a love like nothing he’d ever felt before. Now Teddy was in fifth grade, ridiculously cute, athletic, goofy, and sweet. Sometimes, he was a total pain in the ass. Yet every moment of every day, he was the center of Fletcher’s universe.

Teddy had always been a happy kid. The kind of happy that made Fletcher want to enclose him in a protective bubble. Now Fletcher realized that, despite his intentions, the bubble had been pierced. The end of his marriage had been a long time coming, and he knew the transition was hard on Teddy. Fletcher wished he could have spared his son the pain and confusion, but he needed to end it in order to breathe again. He only hoped that one day Teddy would understand.

“The water buffalo is a remarkable feat of nature’s engineering,” said the cohost of The Key Ingredient, who served as the sidekick of the life-support system for an ego, aka Martin Harlow.

“Why is that, Melissa?” asked the host in a phony voice.

She gestured at the sad-looking buffalo, standing in a small pen against a none-too- subtle computer-generated swamp. “Well, the animal’s wide hooves allow her to walk on extremely soft surfaces without sinking.”

The host stroked his chin. “Good point. You know, when I was a kid, I thought I had a fifty percent chance of drowning in quicksand, because it happened so much in the movies.”

The blonde laughed and shook back her hair. “We’re glad you didn’t!”

Fletcher winced. “Hey, buddy, give me a hand with the unpacking, will you?”

The big items had all been delivered, but there were several loads of unopened boxes.

“The show’s almost over. I want to see how the cheese turns out.”

“The suspense must be killing you,” said Fletcher. “Hey, you know what they make with the

mozzarella cheese?”

“Pizza! Can we order pizza tonight?”

“Sure. Or we could just eat the leftover pizza from last night.”

“It’s better fresh.”

“Good point. I’ll call after we unpack two more boxes. Deal?”

“Yeah,” Teddy said with a quick fist pump.

The new house had everything Fletcher had once envisioned, back when he’d had someone to dream with—a big kitchen open to the rest of the house. If he knew how to cook, delicious things would happen here. But the person who made the delicious things was long gone from his life. Still the old dream lingered, leading Fletcher to this particular house, a New England classic a century old. It had a fireplace and a room with enough bookshelves to be called a library. There was a back porch with a swing he’d spent the afternoon putting together, and it was not just any swing, but a big, comfortable one with cushions large enough for a fine nap—a swing he’d been picturing for more than a decade.

They tackled a couple of boxes of books. Teddy was quiet for a while as he shelved them. Then he held up one of the books. “Why’s it called Lord of the Flies?”

“Because it’s awesome,” Fletcher said.

“Okay, but why is it called that?”

“You’ll find out when you’re older.”

“Is it something dirty I’m not supposed to know about?”

“It’s filthy dirty.”

“Mom would have a cow if I told her you had a dirty book.”

“Great. Here’s a thought. Don’t tell her.”

Teddy put the book on the shelf, then added a few more to the collection. “So, Dad?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Is this really where we live now?” He looked around the room, his eyes two saucers of hurt.

Fletcher nodded. “This is where we live.”

“Forever and ever?”

“Yep.”

“That’s a long time.”

“It is.”

“So when I tell my friends to come over to my house, will they come to this one or our other house?”

There was no our anymore. Celia had taken possession of the custom-built place west of town.

He stopped shelving books and turned to Teddy. “Wherever you are, that’s home.”

They worked together, putting up the last of the books. Fletcher stepped back, liking the balance of the bookcases flanking the fireplace, the breeze from the back porch stirring the chains of the swing.

The only thing missing was the one person who had shared the dream with him.

Family Tree is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from HarperCollins.

Find out more about Susan and her writing at: http://www.susanwiggs.com/