London Bound by CJ Duggan

london bound

Title: London Bound

Author: CJ Duggan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th March, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 322

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Like so many of her university friends, Kate Brown is London bound, but unlike her friends – who had the chance to enjoy the beer, sights and attractions of the UK – Kate is instead visiting her grandmother (who may or may not be the devil).

Wanting nothing more than to be a normal, independent twenty-something living it up in ol’ London town, Kate finds herself a prisoner in her grandmother’s Kensington terrace, daydreaming about the holiday that could have been. But when Kate is almost run over by the ridiculously good looking Jack Baker, it leaves her wondering if being out and about is such a good idea after all, especially when she catches herself laughing at his jokes.

One thing Kate knows for sure is that she has to avoid Jack at all costs. But with her balcony facing his, you can pretty much guarantee Kate’s London adventure is going to be anything but boring . . .

~*~

aww2017-badgeNovels that centre on a romance aren’t usually what I enjoy reading, but C.J. Duggan has managed to balance the romance aspect with character and plot development well. In London Bound, Kate Brown has moved to London to experience the city for herself, and work on her blog. Living with her grandmother, who seems to be the devil incarnate to Kate, she has several encounters with neighbour, Jack, who holds back much of his life as he gets to know her. When Kate stumbles across her grandmother’s secret room, she is inspired and begins to flesh out her blog, showing it to Jack and watching it grow. Inevitably, a romance develops and they hit a rocky moment, that is quickly resolved, and like many romance novels, results in a happy ending.

Whilst the romance factor in this book didn’t capture my interest, it was the London setting and Kate the writer that made the book enjoyable for me, even though I could guess how things would be resolved at the end. Jack was a more interesting character than I anticipated, and he was rather entertaining in the bar and at other moments, and during his interactions with Nana Joy.I found that each character had their own growth within the story – whether it was realising something about themselves or other people, or a combination of both, and to me, that made it more than just a romance, it had a romantic love but also a familial connection and love and a friendship.

Kate and Jack’s romance and subsequent relationship didn’t happen as soon as they met, or as soon as the novel began. Instead, it slowly developed along with the plot and Kate’s imagesblogging plans, and her desire to see more of London than the rooms she occupied.

The refreshing thing about this book was the meat to the plot and characters. The mysterious male figure was a bit of a trope but at least Jack had a pleasant side, which made him likeable. I’m still not a total fan but it was an enjoyable and quick read, and suited for fans of the author and genre.

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The Last McAdam by Holly Ford

Title: The Last McAdam

the last mcadam.jpgAuthor: Holly Ford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 22nd February, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This romantic, irresistibly entertaining novel tells the story of Tess Drummond, who’s been sent to turn around the fortunes of a remote sheep and cattle station her employer has taken over. What Tess hasn’t counted on is coming up against the station’s handsome and charismatic head stockman, Nate McAdam, whose family owned the property for generations…

Passed down through the same family for over a century, the remote sheep and cattle station of Broken Creek has recently been taken over by global agribusiness company Carnarvon Holdings. Now Carnarvon has sent its best troubleshooting manager, Tess Drummond, to turn the property’s failing fortunes around – fast.

When Tess arrives to take the reins of Broken Creek she’s faced with a couple of nasty surprises. For starters, her head stockman, Nate McAdam, happens to be the same gorgeous stranger she hooked up with – and ran out on – a few weeks before.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nate was supposed to inherit Broken Creek until his stepfather ran it into the ground. Now the last McAdam on the station leads a team of men whose bonds have been forged through hell and high water and whose mission is to see off Carnarvon and Tess so he can take his rightful place.

A genius with farm work – and women – but a disaster in the office, Nate is everything Tess believes a farmer shouldn’t be. Determined not to give in to her growing attraction to him, Tess sets out to do her job, but she soon finds herself caught up in the battle of her career.

This irresistibly entertaining novel combines romance, suspense and an unforgettable cast of characters.

 

~*~

A rural romance isn’t my first choice when looking for new reading material – it’s never really been a genre I enjoy. So when I started this novel, I didn’t think it would be what it turned out to be. I may never read it again, but it will have an audience out there.

Tess Drummond works for a company – Carnarvon – that takes over farms that are in trouble and replaces the staff where necessary. It is a job where she has to move around a lot in New Zealand, and at the beginning, has no real ties to a place or that many people, something that preoccupies the thoughts of her mother and friends. Tess brushes these off – it is a side affect of moving around all the time for work, and is merely one aspect to her character – albeit one revealed quite early on as to what she feels others expect of her. The story opens with Tess at a wedding for friends, where she hooks up with someone, and then never sees him again. Until she arrives at his farm – Broken Creek. Nate McAdam is struggling with the impending loss of the farm, and his friends, and at first, Tess and her cold, business-like nature alienate Nate, Mitch and Harry at first, until she proves to them that she is trying to help – and a relationship with Nate slowly develops – starting with mutual respect.

Tess must balance the needs of the farm with the demands of her company, and what they are expecting from her. This conflict results in a few arguments that add to the tension they are all feeling. However, the action is a little slow to pick up, and it’s only towards the end of the novel that two accidents start to bring them closer together as a team, and for Tess to reconsider her role and place at Broken Creek.

I felt that the resulting romance wasn’t necessarily needed, because I quite liked Nate and Tess as friends who would end up working the farm together. However, it was a nice, fluffy conclusion. The characters had flaws, and at least the idea of who should be liked and not liked wasn’t forced – as there were times when I wasn’t sure what a character’s true motives were.

I’m still not a convert to romance or rural romance novels, but this one showed me that it can be done well and everything can be given the attention it deserves to give the story a well-rounded and complex plot. A good book for people who enjoy romance, friendship, and farming, it’s not too detail heavy, and a nice light read.

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New York Nights by CJ Duggan

new-york-nights

 

Title: New York Nights

Author: CJ Duggan

Genre: Fiction/New Adult

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 306

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Sarah Williams is a spirited, independent Aussie who has always dreamed of New York City. So when a job opportunity arises to become an au pair for a successful businessman in the heart of Manhattan, Sarah jumps at the chance to follow her dream.

What she didn’t bet on was a beautiful newborn and a distant, abrasive man whose eyes hold a million anguished secrets. Determined to care for his daughter and face the challenges of the impossible Ben Worthington, Sarah was always prepared to follow her heart; she just wasn’t prepared to lose it to a complicated man like Ben.

 

~*~

 

As someone who steers away from romance as much as possible, mainly because it’s not a genre I tend to enjoy unless there’s more to the storyline than a man and a woman chasing each other around without any obstacles or complications that make the plot more interesting, this was my first encounter with CJ Duggan, and my first encounter with what is referred to as New Adult, a classification that comes after Young Adult, aimed at people perhaps in their twenties. In New York Nights, we meet Sarah, an Australian who has travelled abroad to become an au pair for a single father and his newborn daughter, Grace. In a house and family filled with secrets and a seemingly cold greeting from all but Nikki, the one sister, Sarah is isolated in the Greenwich Village apartment with Sarah.

 

As Sarah and Ben grow closer, secrets are brought into the open and the very real possibility of betrayal starts to emerge. It was the lingering secrets and mystery, and the conflict these caused within the family that intrigued me more than the romance. On the surface, one might say this is just a romance, but go a little deeper, and it is about a scarred family, trying to recover, and doing so through hidden secrets and cold facades.

 

It is the sort of book that can be read quickly – a good summer read for a beach day, or just for when you want something quick and easy to read in between everything else and between heavier reads. I may not be heading off to read this again, but there is an audience out there for these books and this author. I hope that these readers enjoy these books as much as I enjoy books by my favourite authors.

Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore

 

country roads.jpg

 

Title: Country Roads
Author: Nicole Hurley-Moore
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 25th January 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 303
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: Rebecca Duprey is working day and night to keep the family sheep station, Bluestone Ridge, afloat. But Bec’s father, who’s been in a wheelchair since a farming mishap, keeps second-guessing her decisions. Now, to add Bec’s woes, her unfaithful ex-boyfriend has started lurking around, and the adjoining farm she’d hoped to buy has been snapped up by a guy from the city called Matt Harvey.

After leaving his job in advertising, Matt became a bestselling novelist. But since the death of his fiancee in a car accident, he’s had severe writer’s block and is desperately hoping his move to the country will help him deal with his grief and allow him to focus on completing his next book. Problem is, he seems to have started off on the wrong foot with his new neighbour, Bec Duprey.

Bec isn’t quite sure when she started feeling attracted to Matt, but she’s determined not to succumb to his charms. And Matt isn’t sure when his feelings changed about Bec; all he knows is he can’t get her out of his mind. Can Bec and Matt overcome their fear of loss to find love and happiness with each other…?

~*~

Rural romances like Country Roads aren’t really novels that I enjoy. In Country Roads, we meet Matt Harvey, an author nursing physical and emotional injuries from a car accident, and Rebecca Duprey, his neighbour. Not surprisingly, they get off to a rocky start, and this is the initial spark that has the book playing ping-pong between the characters and the drive towards their relationship. To make things more complicated, perhaps not surprising for a romance, is the dogged determination of Rebecca’s ex, Zane from the neighbouring farm, and the conflict between their fathers, and what Zane’s father, and the larger community, once expected of Rebecca and Zane. There are conflicts but the stubbornness of each character, and the same arguments rehashed a few times because some people didn’t want to relinquish control, accept no for an answer, or believe their own bull-headed thoughts over the truth worked for a while. Conflict between characters is always good, but I felt that a little variation on how these conflicts played out and what drove them could have made the story more interesting.

The one character, Nathan Langtree was sort of just there – perhaps to help Matt, or for Matt to identify with, but a few mentions and appearances had me forget who he was until he next appeared. His history and character being given more page time could also have made things more interesting. The interactions between Rebecca and Matt were written well, though, but like any characters in books, did and said things that made were frustrating – yet they fit the scene and character for the most part.

One thing I didn’t really like was how obvious I felt the author made it as to who to like and who not to like. Indeed, in some books, it can be quite clear who is good, bad and in-between – however, in this case, I felt like I was being guided into having to like certain characters – and these characters felt a little too perfect at times. I would have liked to see other sides to these characters, to give a little depth to them – depth that comes out in their backgrounds and in the few instances this is discussed, yet a little more might have changed the dynamics a little, and given the promising plot a little more oomph.

The interesting scenes for character development, like farming, writing, hanging out at the pub or the movies – were a little too much tell. It was these scenes that could have really moved the story and characters, but felt a little rushed, as though they weren’t really important.

At the base though, there was an interesting story and the characters did eventually open up and talk, and provide a little character development that gave them deeper needs and desires behind the facade of the girl next door and the mysterious, wounded out of town guy, mixed in with the various gossiping characters. Even though this wasn’t a book I enjoyed or would read again, it is a good book for a lazy beach day, or for readers who enjoy romance and stories like this.

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

beachcomber bay.jpg

Title: Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay

Author: Jill Mansell

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia, Headline Review

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 405

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Love is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…

~*~

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay was a book that took me a little longer than usual to get into. It is a genre I don’t really read out of choice, because I often find romance novels  have characters that are too perfect. In this one, there was a decent mix of characters with their own flaws and individual backgrounds. Set in the small town of St Cary’s the story revolves around a group of people who come to find themselves interlinked through each other for various reasons. Everyone has a secret to keep from someone else, some that they are unaware of until the final chapters of the novel.

Stepsisters Belle and Clemency are always at odds: this is no secret in St Cary – they have been since they were teenagers. Yet in a small town where gossip is rife, anything that they try and hide from each other, themselves or anyone else is sure to come out sooner rather than later. It is this gossip that leads to secrets that have been hidden for years to come to the surface, culminating in an all too convenient ending for each character and what they desire – whether it is love, friendship or family.

Marina, the artist is harbouring a secret of her own, and one she has not been able to share at all. Ronan is adopted, and happy, but always wondering about the woman he loves but cannot have, and his birth parents. Kate, the post carrier, has a secret that not even she knows about. And Clemency is in love with the man her sister is with – but does Belle really like Sam?

Each chapter is generally told from a different perspective at first, at least until everyone becomes linked and eventually, they are all consistently thrown together in one way or another, or at least with one or more people at a time. This technique allows the secrets to unfold slowly and to evolve as the characters come together.

Given that this is marketed as romance, or chick lit, the clean and convenient tying up of plots and characters is possibly expected, and the conflicts that lead to that point work. I would have liked a little more conflict though, rather than just everyone happily getting along. Though this isn’t what would happen in the genre, and even though it did not work for me, there are others who will enjoy it. I managed to make it to the end though, and in the end, did find aspects I enjoyed – The friendship between Ronan and Clemency was perhaps my favourite relationship in the book, and Ronan was my favourite character. His story was indeed the most intriguing, and I would have liked to have it explored a little more.

One thing I did like was that not every character got what they wanted immediately – even if it is inevitable that they will in the end – they had to go on their own journeys to get there. Ronan and Kate’s is perhaps the most interesting too – maybe because it is shrouded in more secrecy than the others, and the result come out quite suddenly – a shock that begins each relationship changing and the convenience of everything working out, and leading to a surprise ending for two characters that aren’t as prominent as Ronan, but just as important.

A great beach read, an easy read f you’re in the mood for something light, and the perfect read for people who, unlike me, enjoy this genre all the time.

The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster-Blake

the-wrong-girl

Title: The Wrong Girl

Author: Zoe Foster-Blake

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin

Published: 12 September, 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 290

Price: $22.99

Synopsis: Sometimes you don’t know what you want until someone else has it.

 

Lily needs a break. A man break. She hadn’t exactly meant to sleep with her friend, Pete, and she certainly hadn’t expected him to confess his love – for another girl – the next morning. If men were going to behave like such pigs, well, she’d happily take some time out.

 

Besides, her TV career requires all her attention right now. Jack Winters – the gorgeous new talent – is definitely proving a distraction, but Lily is determined to maintain her professional distance, even when Jack starts seeing someone completely inappropriate. It’s only when Lily accepts that good things don’t always come to those who wait and takes a leap into the great unknown that life starts making sense . . .

 

From the bestselling author of The Younger Man and Amazinger Face comes a funny, heartfelt novel about what happens when life, love, work and friendships collide.

 

~*~

The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster-Blake is the book that gave birth to the television show of the same name, starring Jessica Marais in the titular role of Lily Woodward. I watched the television show first, and then read the book – perhaps one of the rare occasions this has happened because I only found a copy of the book after the show had started – and I have enjoyed both incarnations. In the book, Lily and her flat mate, Simone are on a break from men – an agreement that is soon broken, and Lily’s work life and her personal life collide when Simone starts dating Jack Winters, the new chef where Lily works on a breakfast TV show. As her relationship with her best friend Pete crumbles, Lily’s work life begins to change and she finds herself applying for a promotion against several people including Nikkii – two kays, three i’s – the celebrity producer who is more concerned with ensuring she looks her best than putting out a good segment and show.

I enjoyed reading this – it was a light-hearted read that had a bit of romance, but also had conflict between family and friends, and had a focus on Lily and what she wanted throughout the novel – in her career and all areas of her life, not just in getting the man. As I read this after the television show, I was prepared for there to be differences. In the book, the television show is called The Daily; in the show, it is called the Breakfast Bar. There are a few name changes from book to show and character additions, but I feel that these differences are needed. It is not often I say this, because often film and television adaptations of books can get things very wrong and it is part of why I do like to read a book first. In this case though, it is something I was willing to overlook. As a booklover, I often find myself thinking of these changes. With The Wrong Girl, they worked for the television adaptation – as changes can be necessary. The novel and the television show have the same spirit though, and Lily is the same person. Zoe Foster-Blake has created a relatable character for my generation – a character trying to balance career, family, and a social life.

I said before some of the changes from book to television show worked – and that is because of the different audiences. There was one character ‘s arc in the book that surprised me, and the way he was dealt with in the book worked just as well as he does in the show. I don’t often compare the different media of a book and its adaptation but here I felt I should, as I have experienced both. Knowing that The Wrong Girl in its novel form is a stand-alone book should make future seasons of the television show interesting to see where they take the characters and if threads of the plot in the book that weren’t incorporated into season one make it into the next season.

A nice light read, and one that can be picked up at any time, without having to worry about catching up on who is who in the story.

Ride Free by Jessica Whitman

 

 

ride free.jpgTitle: Ride Free

Author: Jessica Whitman

Genre: Popular Fiction

Publisher: Arena/Allen and Unwin

Published: 23rd November, 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: When legendary polo player Carlos Del Campo’s will is read to his grieving family they’re shocked to discover he has a daughter, Antonia, he never told them about. Not long after this revelation, Carlos’s eldest son, Alejandro, sets out to find his long-lost sister.

 

Having always dreamt of one day being reunited with her father, Antonia – aka Noni – is heartbroken when the half-brother she’s never met arrives on her doorstep with news of Carlos’s death. Despite her anguish she decides to accept Alejandro’s offer of a job in the family polo business, though she worries about her outsider status.

 

When Enzo Rivas, the Del Campos’ loyal stable master, sees what a brilliant rider Noni is he’s convinced she could transform the family polo team’s lagging fortunes. Complicating things is that he and Noni are rapidly falling in love with each other. Then a secret from Noni’s past threatens both her new life and her budding romance with Enzo …

 

Full of secrets, scandal and passion, Ride Free is about overcoming fear to find happiness in life – and love.

 

 

~*~

 

As someone who is not a big reader of the romance genre, unless the romance and the other aspects of the story are given equal footing, this book wasn’t to my personal tastes. The concept of a secret daughter, one that has been hidden from the family was intriguing, though. Jessica Whitman’s Antonia (Noni) is close to turning thirty after finding out eight years previously about her father’s death and being taken back to the Del Campo family. She hasn’t had an easy life though, and is struggling to find her place. Yet again, polo makes an appearance, and I found that even though it is an important part of the Del Campo family, it perhaps needed a little more background for readers that might not be familiar with it.

 

I found myself wishing that the romance between Noni and Enzo had been given a little more meat, and when it turned into a love triangle between her ex, her and Enzo, I had hoped for a little more than the ex just appearing with her mother and Noni falling into a tizzy over which man to go with. Refreshingly though, she wasn’t the only one flailing in the throes of a romance. Seeing Enzo do so was interesting, and gave him an extra dimension that would have been interesting to explore further.

The one downfall I have had with this, and Wild One has been that the most interesting storylines – the film making and the secret daughter plots, played second fiddle to the others. I felt these would have made the stories meatier, and given the characters more depth, as they all felt either too perfect, or in the case of Noni’s ex, too imperfect. Even though I didn’t enjoy either of these books, and admittedly read them rather quickly to get onto the next review book in my piles, I still think they have their place and their audience. This audience is not me but more likely people who want a relatively quick read that doesn’t need much interrogation of plots and characters, or romance lovers. It is definitely written to these audiences and those searching for escapism.