Di Marcello’s Secret Son by Rachael Thomas

The challenge: to leave your billionaire lifestyle behind for two weeks…

Italian tycoon Antonio Di Marcello relishes the challenge—but running into Sadie Parker while working undercover as a mechanic rocks him to the core. Four years after their fevered fling stripped away his iron guard, he’s confronted with the shocking consequences…

Sadie has given up hope in her desperate attempts to contact Antonio. Now she has to face the day she’s both dreaded and longed for! And Antonio’s claim over her and her son is hard to resist—especially as he’ll use a sensual onslaught to get what he wants!

 

Rachael Thomas does it again! Sunshine, sizzling passion, and simmering sexual tension abound in this latest novel. Antonio Di Marcello is a real alpha male – the epitome of a rich playboy, with the billionaire lifestyle, gorgeous Italian looks, and a reputation as a real womaniser.

His first marriage to Eloisa has failed catastrophically, and as far as the press are concerned, that’s entirely down to him. His cheating ways are well documented. It seems Antonio has no heart, and no ability to love or be faithful.

Sadie is all too aware of that fact. A tempestuous weekend with Antonio took her to the heights of happiness, but she quickly crashed down to earth when Antonio abandoned her, informing her that he was to be married and telling her coldly that he can offer her nothing more. Finding herself pregnant, Sadie went to his family home to tell him of his unborn child, but was cruelly turned away by Antonio’s mother. Antonio ignored her pleading letter, and clearly wanted nothing to do with her or the baby. For three years now, Sadie has been a single parent, caring for her beloved little boy, Leo, and trying desperately to put the memory of Antonio’s cruel betrayal behind her.

When he crashes back into her life in the most unexpected way, Sadie is in turmoil. No matter what he did to her, how can she resist those dark eyes – eyes which are so like their son’s? How can she hide the passion he still ignites in her? Yet, when it becomes clear that Antonio has deceived her yet again, and that he has a very clear motive for wanting her back in his life, she knows she must hide her true feelings at all costs.

For how could a man like Antonio ever bring her happiness, when he is incapable of love?

Taking the reader on a whirlwind journey through Rome, a Caribbean island, London, and an English country estate, Rachael Thomas creates a page-turning story of a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are high for everyone involved. Can Antonio be the father he always wanted to be? Can he be the husband Sadie deserves? Or will his cold upbringing bring nothing but disaster for his new wife and child? Read it and find out! You won’t be disappointed. 5/5

You can buy Di Marcello’s Secret Son here.

The 20’s Girl, the Ghost, and All That Jazz by June Kearns

1924. The English Shires, after the Great War.
When her jazzing flapper of an aunt dies, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter inherits some silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of love-affair clothes, and astonishingly, a half-share in a million-acre ranch in south-west Texas.
Haunted by a psychic cat and the ghost voice of that aunt Leonie, Gerry feels driven to travel thousands of miles to see the ranch for herself.
Against a background of big sky, cattle barons and oil wells, she is soon engaged in a game of power, pride and ultimately, love, with the Texan who owns the other half.

I have absolutely no idea why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this book. I think I’ve had it on my Kindle since publication day, and I also have the beautiful shiny paperback, too. No excuses. Somehow, time slipped away from me and the book remained unread. Until yesterday, when I switched on my Kindle, scrolled through the long (very long) list of books on the device, saw the pretty cover of this novel and tapped on the image. I began reading and…Wow!

It’s quite a long novel, but I read it in two straight sittings over two consecutive days. I would have devoured it in one day, if it wasn’t the inconvenience of having a pesky day job. Yes, it was that good.

It’s the story of Gerardina Chiledexter – Gerry to her friends. Gerry was the product of two rather selfish, uncaring parents, and spent her childhood being passed around from one reluctant relative to another, until good fortune landed her on the doorstep of her mother’s sister, Leonie. Leonie was unlike anyone Gerry has ever known – beautiful, elegant, and huge fun. More than that, she made Gerry feel welcome, wanted, loved. After Leonie’s death, Gerry is struggling. She misses her aunt. She misses that sense of belonging. And she’s drowning in debt, because, the one thing that Leonie wasn’t, was good with money. Leonie lived for the day, and she didn’t put finances in place to pay her bills, leaving Gerry with a huge headache. She’s running her aunt’s bookshop and it’s in massive danger of closing. She owes money to just about everyone, the building is falling down around her ears, and no one seems particularly interested in buying books. It seems her only option may be to accept the desperate proposal of Archie, in spite of his parents’ very obvious disapproval and muttered objections.

Then, unexpectedly, Gerry is thrown a lifeline. Out of the blue, she discovers that – as Leonie’s only heir – she has been left half of a ranch in Texas, by a man she has never met, but who intended to leave it to her aunt. She is given this news by the owner of the other half. His name is Coop, and he’s not too happy about discovering that the land he thought was all his is now shared with this odd, stubborn, Englishwoman, with a very weird dress sense.

Events – and a ghostly presence – conspire to send Gerry over to Texas, where she is determined to take a good look around the ranch for herself, before agreeing to Coop’s request – or should that be order? – that she sell her half to him. Texas is an alien world, and Gerry struggles to fit in. Coop doesn’t seem keen to help her adapt, and neither does anyone else in that hostile territory, particularly the feral Scoot, and the high-and-mighty Hallie-Lee.  Gerry truly believed she was going to America at the wishes of her deceased aunt. At times, she feels Leonie’s presence so strongly that she can actually hear her aunt’s voice in her ear, smell her perfume, hear the swish of her dress across the floor. At other times, she feels abandoned and alone. Has she made a dreadful mistake in travelling so far away from home?

After spending several awkward and uncomfortable months on the ranch, Gerry makes some discoveries about her business partner, and comes to a decision that is guaranteed to stir up trouble back in England – something which is quickly confirmed on her return. Hurt, bewildered, and absolutely broke, it seems Gerry’s troubles will never be over. But was Leonie’s guidance really just a product of her over-active imagination, or is  her aunt still trying to give her niece the happy ending she deserves?

This book is so beautifully written. The descriptions are perfection. With a few deft lines, June Kearns transports the reader to the dusty plains of Texas, and lets you feel the scorching heat on your back, before taking you back to England, where the cosy, damp, cricket-and-afternoon-tea environment comes alive within a paragraph or two of clever prose.

The characterisations are excellent. Coop is an enigmatic, alpha male, with a brooding presence and hidden depths. I absolutely adored Gerry, with her can-do attitude, and her determination to carry on without complaining, in spite of some pretty appalling treatment by far too many people. I loved the stoic Prim, the kindly Doc, the wildcat Scoot and poor, dear Archie – he of the hideously awful parents and the dark, desperate secret.

I loved the way England was contrasted with Texas, and against all my expectations, I enjoyed the American segment of the book as much as the English ones. The addition of the ghostly presence of the wonderful Leonie was a touch of genius, and as for the quotes at the beginning of each chapter – priceless! For instance, “Women approaching thirty may have lost all chance of inspiring affection.” (Advice to Miss-All-Alone, 1924), and “Try not to have ‘opinions’. Rather, learn to cook a decent dinner.” (How to Attract a Man, 1923). The book beautifully illustrates a serious point, however, which is that in the 1920s, thanks to the First World War and the ‘flu epidemic, men of a marriageable age were in very short supply, and there were many, many women who faced a lifetime of spinsterhood – not half as much fun in those days as it is now! So I could really feel for Gerry, who, fast approaching thirty, had given up all expectation of marriage, and was therefore even more desperate to earn a reasonable living. I could quite understand that she would consider accepting Archie’s proposal, even though she knows that marriage to him could never make her happy.

Like An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy, June’s previous novel, this book contrasts a young Englishwoman, her lifestyle and manners, with a hunky American male, used to behaving in a very different manner to the gentlemen the heroine usually meets, and she does it with love, humour and understanding. I loved her first book, and I actually think this one is even better.  I’m sort of sorry I left it so long, but then again, I’m glad to have had the pleasure of Coop’s and Gerry’s company this last couple of days. An excellent book. I really hope there’s a new one from this author very soon. 5/5

You can buy The 20’s Girl, The Ghost, and All That Jazz here.

Her Forget-Me-Not Ex by Sophie Claire

Luc and Natasha were married too young. It was a relationship driven by passion, but when Natasha became pregnant, Luc felt duty bound to propose, and Natasha, wanting a secure family life for her child, accepted. When she lost the baby, Natasha walked away, leaving behind a luxury apartment that was the loneliest place in the world, and a husband who didn’t seem to care, and whom, she was sure, was relieved that the whole episode was over. Three years later, Natasha has built a life for herself in the country village in which she spent the happiest years of her life – the time she spent living in Poppy Cottage with her mother and father, parents she lost at the tender age of seven. She owns a flower shop, and has dreams of buying Poppy Cottage, as she promised her mother she would. But it seems her plans aren’t as straightforward as she had hoped. Then Luc arrives on her doorstep, offering a solution to her problems. But he wants a favour in return. She must go with him to his family’s home in France and pretend that they are still married. His father is gravely ill, and his wish is to finally meet his son’s wife. It seems Luc hasn’t informed his family of their divorce, and he is determined that his father will get his wish. Against all her instincts, Natasha agrees to his terms. And so they head to France, to the family vineyard, to begin two weeks of deception.

This is a lovely novel – pure, unashamed romance. Luc is a gorgeous hero. The strong, silent type, successful in his work and focused on what he wants. Yet he nurses wounds that make him not only vulnerable to Natasha’s charms, but irresistible to the reader. My heart ached for the two of them, trapped in their unspoken pain – each of them believing the other didn’t care about what happened, each grieving for their lost child and their lost love.

Natasha is confused by Luc. He is too rich, too sophisticated for her simple ways. Throughout their marriage he seemed distracted, too intent on his work. He appeared uncaring, cold, and seemed resentful that he had been trapped into marriage by a gold-digger. Luc is baffled by a woman, seemingly unmoved by the loss off their baby, who walked away from their marriage and agreed to this charade for the sake of a piece of land. He thought he knew what she was, yet she seems to care about his family, about his father’s health, and to worry endlessly about deceiving them.

The one thing neither can deny is the intense sexual chemistry between the two of them. Passion sizzles off the page! Because the reader can see what both characters are feeling, and knows the motives for their behaviour, I wanted to shout at them to sort their relationship out, and stop seeing the downside to everything. Natasha, particularly, seems to feel inadequate, and unable to believe that Luc could have real feelings for her. But then, Luc is confused himself. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling. He’s still terrified of commitment, and can’t make a promise to Natasha that he’ll be able to stay with her long term, so who can blame her, really? If he doesn’t know himself that he loves her, how can she recognise it?

Neither can believe the other cares, but when you’ve been hurt so deeply in the past, do you dare to allow yourself to trust again? Luc has been told he’s a disappointment by his father for most of his life. He’s driven by a need to prove himself, to go it alone. He’s also been hurt and humiliated by another woman.He didn’t trust Natasha’s motives when they were together first time round, and now he’s afraid to take a chance on her again, as he doesn’t believe he’s capable of settling down. He doesn’t want to feel tied down – to the vineyard, or a woman. Natasha felt rejected by her great aunt and her biggest fear is living with someone who doesn’t really want her. From that perspective, Luc was the worst possible man she could have married.

The back story for these two characters meant that, although it was frustrating when they kept misunderstanding the other’s motives, I still felt compassion for them, and could quite see why they were behaving in the ways they did. I loved Natasha’s independent streak, the fact that she had a thriving career of her own, that she’d picked herself up and built a new life for herself. I loved her brightly coloured clothes and the quirky way she did her nails each day. Luc was smouldering, and I fell completely in love with him. The Provence countryside was described beautifully and I could almost feel the sunshine on my back. Luc’s family was delightful, and even the resolution of the father/son dilemma between Luc and the intimidating patriarch was handled realistically and satisfactorily.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and flew through the pages with increasing delight. I’m looking forward to the next Sophie Claire book! 5/5

You can buy Her Forget-Me-Not Ex here

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