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.

Love On the Nile by Ellie Gray

Having read Ellie Gray’s previous novel, Beauty and the Recluse, I was confident that I would enjoy this second offering, and I’m happy to say it more than lived up to my expectations.

Ellie writes such romantic stories, with really sexy and passionate heroes. In this novel, we have the added bonus of the beautiful backdrop of Egypt. I’ve never been to Egypt myself, but reading this book, I really felt as if I was there. I could feel the sun beating down on me, taste the dust in the back of my throat…I was highly relieved when the heroine reached for her bottle of water and glugged down the liquid. I was quite parched myself by that time!

So, what’s the story? Well, basically it’s girl hopes for holiday of a lifetime, visiting the breathtaking sites of ancient Egypt, girl gets unexpected guide on her dream vacation, guide turns out to be gorgeous but annoying, their attraction sizzles hotter than the Egyptian sun, guide has issues and reluctantly pushes girl away, and then…

Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to discover what happens next. Let me just say, though, that there’s a lot more to this story than that paragraph could adequately explain. The almost mythical setting of the novel, the wonderful characters, the likeable and gutsy heroine, and the oh-so-sexy, dark and brooding hero, makes this a sheer delight to read. Natasha and Kyle’s romance is believable, sweet, tender, and smoking, all at the same time!

I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this gorgeous book, and I was rooting for Kyle to battle his demons and take a chance on Natasha. I loved both main characters, but I also grew very fond of Natasha’s younger brother, Nicky, who is very sympathetically and realistically drawn, and on Aunt Lucy, too. Ellie has, in short, done it again, and now I’m very much looking forward to her third novel. Excellent read. 5/5

You can buy Love On the Nile here.

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From One Night to Wife by Rachael Thomas

Gosh, I really loved this book! I confess, right here and now, that I haven’t read a Mills and Boon novel since I was a teenager, but I’ve heard so much about how they’ve changed and moved on since those days (which were, I have to admit, an awfully long time ago!) that I decided I would give one a try, and From One Night to Wife was the lucky winner.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it at first, as I quickly realised that the heroine, Serena, was stunningly beautiful, yet still a virgin at twenty-three, until she was seduced by a drop-dead gorgeous Greek fisherman, who turned out to be a shipping billionaire. Hmm, I thought. This might not be for me, after all.
Well, I’m sorry, Rachael Thomas. I vastly underrated your storytelling abilities. Yes, Serena is beautiful, but we only see her through Nikos’ eyes. She herself states that she’s ordinary, so maybe she is, to everyone but him. Who knows? The point is, Serena holds the key, as Nikos’ grandmother gleefully tells her. The question is, the key to what? It can’t be his heart, surely, because Nikos doesn’t do love. He has been so badly damaged by his parents that he is unable to trust anyone, and refuses to allow himself to feel anything, for any woman, that is deeper than lust.
He has plenty of lust, though! Luckily for Serena, she more than matches him in that department. In fact, when the two of them get together, sparks positively fly, which is rather inconvenient, given that Serena loves Nikos but daren’t reveal that to him, and Nikos is trying desperately to deny to himself that he has any emotional attachment to Serena.
Serena has returned to Santorini to inform the fisherman that she had a fling with that their night of passion has had “consequences”. Unfortunately, she quickly discovers that Nikos lied to her about who he really is, and, faced with his evident fury as she imparts her news to him, she realises that any hopes she had of making a future with him are completely unrealistic.
But Nikos wants his heir to be legitimate. He doesn’t trust Serena, but he is willing to strike a bargain with her. They will marry, and he will be part of his child’s life. In return, he will make sure she has everything she needs and, more importantly, he will help make her sister’s dreams come true. Serena loves her sister, but Sally is going through a terrible time. If she can help her, surely marrying Nikos is the right thing to do? But, given her own childhood, spent being made to feel like a mistake by her own bitter parents, can she really inflict the same on her own baby? Is lust enough to keep Nikos and Serena together? Can Serena hide her true feelings for Nikos? And can Nikos ever open his heart to love, or will his inability to trust anyone poison not only his relationship with Serena, but with his own child?
I read this book in one evening, as I was engrossed in it. I desperately wanted Serena to find a way through to Nikos, and I wanted Nikos to stop unwittingly hurting Serena, who had her own battles to fight. In spite of the fact that I’ve always thought I could never fall for a hero who was a gorgeous Greek shipping billionaire, I did. Rachael Thomas made him irresistible! I just wanted to make everything all right for him. I also, luckily, liked Serena. She wasn’t the pushover I’d expected, and she had guts and integrity.
Their entire relationship was delightful to follow, and at times, reading the sizzling scenes between them, I realised I was turning purple. I’d forgotten to breathe! Those “love scenes” were very well written. I was positively blushing at times! All the same, I got a lump in my throat as the two of them edged tentatively towards each other, and towards a happy ending at last.
I will definitely read more of Rachael Thomas’s books. I may even try other Mills and Boon books. There’s certainly more to them than I’d realised, and I hold my hands up and admit, I was wrong. Fabulous. 5/5

You can buy From One Night to Wife here

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Scotch on the Rocks by Lizzie Lamb

What I loved about this book was how easy it was to see it unfolding in my mind, and how much it reminded me of those old black and white films, where the hero and heroine exchange snappy dialogue and circle round each other, but you just know that they are made for each other – however much she makes sarcastic comments, and however much he tries to play his cards close to his chest. This would make a great film, although preferably in colour! It has all the ingredients, after all:
Setting? The story takes place on the Scottish island of Eilean na Sgairbh, which is cut off from the mainland twice a day, and is reached by a causeway called The Narrows, so there is a fantastic setting.
Heroine? A sassy, independent, intelligent young woman called Ishabel Stuart, who has returned to the island after the death of her father – a man, it has to be said, who was not exactly easy to like. Issy returns to her Aunt Esme’s home, hoping to find peace and quiet, and some sort of refuge, with the woman who has been like a mother to her, since her own mother, Isabella Tartaruga – a famous opera singer – more or less abandoned Issy in pursuit of her career. What Issy finds is that Esme is about to leave the island for one of her “missions” and she is leaving behind a paying guest. Issy isn’t happy about having unexpected company. Not only does she have to organise the service for her father, but she has secretly broken off her engagement to her boss’s son, Jack, and also quit her job. She intends to start afresh on the island, and having to care for a house guest isn’t part of her plan.
Hero? The unwelcome house guest turns out to be Brodie, a tall, auburn-haired hunk of gorgeousness, all the way from America. Brodie is charming and friendly, and soon has the islanders eating out of his hand, not least the impressionable young Lindy, who helps Esme out at her guesthouse.
Secondary characters? Lots of them. Lindy channels various guises, refusing to accept that her future lays on the island. She is determined that one day, she will lead a more glamorous life. When Issy arrives home, Lindy is being Lola, who intends to head back to the USA with Brodie. There are plenty of other characters who add colour and cause amusement, too. Irene runs The Pickled Herring pub, and plenty of fun is to be had within those walls. Then there’s Mary Tennant who is Lindy’s long-suffering mother, running the post office with very little help from her flighty daughter. Best of all, there’s Pershing the parrot, whose vocabulary is colourful, to say the least. Pershing seems to have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on, and provides useful commentary and unvarnished opinions at every opportunity. He also causes some damage to Brodie, which leads to quite a revelation for Issy! Issy’s parents are larger-than-life characters. Isabella, who was actually born in Scotland, has adopted the persona of the grand Italian opera singer, and is desperate to be the centre of attention wherever she goes. Then there’s Issy’s father, a successful businessman who became a lay preacher, strict and unforgiving, leaving his daughter not a single penny in his will – his shadow looms large over her life, long after he’s gone.
Plot? Ah, full of twists and turns. Secrets and lies, heartache and loss, a mission and a hidden history. A mysterious tattoo. A ruined distillery, owned by the Stuarts, which once made the fabulous Twa Burns Whisky. A cruel deception and a big surprise. It’s all there, and it unfolds beautifully through the narrative.
Romance? The best kind. It starts off with mistrust and doubt, sparks fly, passion ignites and then…Well, some romances are forever. There’s nothing so romantic as a hero who vows never to hurt the heroine, never to leave her, and to love her forever. Especially when you just know he’s speaking the truth. And I do love a hero in a kilt, not to mention that auburn hair. Sigh.
So you see, this would be a great film. For now, though, read the book and watch it all unfold in your mind’s eye. Sometimes the imagination is even better than celluloid, after all, and Lizzie Lamb’s assured writing is all you really need. Another winner. Can’t wait for book four. 5/5

You can buy Scotch on the Rocks herescotch on the rocks

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

You know that feeling you get when you close the book, or switch off the Kindle, and you lean back with a satisfied sigh, and a hint of a tear in your eye, and a smile on your face, because everything just suddenly feels completely right with the world? Yeah, that feeling. That’s what I just experienced after finishing this fantastic book, One Wish in Manhattan.

I honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t love about this book. My friend, Helen, has just come back from New York, and although I was pleased for her that she went because I knew how much it meant to her, I can’t say it filled me with envy. I’ve never really been that interested in New York and never had any hankering to visit the place for myself. Well, now I can see why she wanted to go, and why she loves it so much. Mandy Baggot’s descriptions of the city are amazing. The sights and sounds and smells of New York are right there in the pages, and I was transported there in my mind – crunching through snow, feeling the icy wind against my skin, laughing at the ice skaters, catching the scent of Italian food, tasting pizza and ice cream, gazing out from a penthouse balcony at the lights and the traffic and the people, travelling in an elevator with a…No, won’t even go there!

The heroine of the story, Hayley, is lovely. She would be my best friend. She can eat her body weight in pizza and she once ate a full bag of custard doughnuts, so she’s all right by me. I sympathised with her over her fraught relationship with her mother, the loss of her father, and the fact that she’d shelved her own dreams yet was desperate to make her daughter’s dream come true. I enjoyed her relationship with her brother, who was everything a caring big brother should be and more. Most of all, I adored her relationship with her daughter, Angel, who was a fantastic character. I loved reading the banter between them and felt the mother/daughter bond was beautifully depicted.

As for the hero. *Sigh*. Oliver Drummond, billionaire businessman with a bad reputation and a terrible secret. Who could love such a man? Well, Hayley, quite obviously. And me, as it goes. Oliver is one heck of a hunky hero, and there was something so vulnerable about him I just wanted to get into that elevator with him and – reassure him that all would be well. *Cough*.

Seriously, this is a fabulous book. All the main characters are likeable, some are definitely lovable, the plot is absorbing and well-developed, the setting is fantastic, and there’s lots of snow. And lots of food. And lots of…romance. An absolutely brilliant novel, perfect festive reading. Loved it! 5/5

You can buy One Wish in Manhattan here.

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

 

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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The Brick Wall

I’ve hit it. Thirty thousand words into book three and I’ve suddenly realised that everything I’ve written so far is absolute rubbish. I hate this novel. I hate the story. I hate the characters. I don’t know where I’m going. I can’t “feel” it. It’s no use. I’m giving up. Blah, blah, blah.

Gosh, I hate that damn brick wall. It’s easy to feel that I might as well just give up and not bother. It’s such hard work!  Anyone who says writing is easy is either a flipping liar or an utter genius. Either way they’re not somebody I’d want to be friends with.

The irony is, this is the book that was supposed to start the whole Kearton Bay series off. It was the first idea I came up with. The main characters were the first two I dreamed up – the ones  who popped into my head on that fateful journey to Somerset three years ago and started this whole thing off. They were the hero and heroine I thought were going to feature in Book One. Except, I decided to push them back and make their story a slower-growing one that lurked in the background of books one and two. Book Three is it – their moment. They’ve waited for it all this time and now the moment’s here they’re playing silly beggars.

I’m tempted to tell them to shove it. If they’re so ungrateful that they won’t take the opportunity I’m giving them they can easily be replaced. Or maybe they’ve told me to shove it? Maybe they’re sulking because I made them wait so long?  Maybe they’ve simmered for such a long time they’ve now gone off the boil? Maybe I’ve completely lost the plot given that I’m talking about them as if they’re real people?

I don’t know why it’s proving so difficult this time round. It was never this hard with the first two. Actually, that’s an outrageous lie. Now that I think about it, I’ve lost count of how many drafts I did of There Must Be An Angel. The one that’s currently being read by a couple more willing volunteers before I polish it yet again and send it to an editor is definitely NOT the one I wrote back in 2011. I sweated blood over that flaming book and nearly gave up on it many, many times. I think maybe I’ve been spoilt by Book Two which was easy. It just wrote itself. Actually, that’s another outrageous lie. When I look back at the old blog posts written when I was writing that first draft it becomes pretty clear that I struggled then, too. Apparently I couldn’t feel the love for my hero. What? Was I mad? He’s gorgeous and absolutely lovely in every way! But no, back then I didn’t get him, didn’t see a way to understand him or care about him. I can hardly believe that now…

So I suppose the moral of the story is, it’s always blooming hard work and I always think it’s never going to come right and I always want to give up. But somehow, I always get through it. And I will again.  I think the key to the whole thing is to do what I did for A Kiss From A Rose and sit down and chat to my two main characters. Especially my hero. I have to fall in love with my hero. Funnily enough, after that happens, writing suddenly becomes delightful all over again…;-)

Have a great week xx