The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

It's About Time


Normally I'd be all apologies about how long it's taken - I'm British, it's an automatic reflex to apologise for anything and everything. But I'm rather pleased I took my time. That I absorbed everything during my time in Lucca, Tuscany. That I did drink most of their wine, and use their olive oil on my hair (sooooooo gooooooooood!). That I allowed myself to be swayed by Hank and the romance of Italy to give my best to Durante and Ella's tale. And you will find bits of me all over this story. Make sure your ereader has one of those screen protectors...

So here we are, and if you're not sold - have a read of the blurb and this little snippet to see who's wandering the hills of Lucca with the farmer and his bird.

Verde Bianco Rosso on Amazon

Verde Bianco Rosso on All Romance eBooks

Eau de blurb 

Widow. Sister. Mother. All those labels hung from Emmanuella Harrison, like the 'A' of shame. After so many years of playing it straight, she'd forgotten who the real Ella was. Sometimes, whenever she managed to make the severe Durante Da Canaveze smile, the sparkle of the woman she'd been a long time ago ignited in her. But the Mother label needed to be first and foremost. No messing around with sexy farmers. Farmers! Just farmers. None of that. All right, maybe a little bit of messing around. The tip doesn't count.

The moment Ella drifted into Tuscany, Durante started to doubt the wisdom of his years of self-imposed solitude. With every teasing grin, backless dress and playful conversation, he fell more and more deeply under her spell. As dazzled as he is by her, Durante is convinced his history is enough to not deserve anyone, let alone someone like Ella.

And yet, without the labels, without the barriers, without being afraid of what may be, no two people will ever be as perfect for each other.

The penultimate story in the Italian Knights Series is all about blunt children, loud mouthed opinionated, family members, redemption in farming olives and how love can make one forgive even the most off-key of voices.

Eau de excerpt

He woke with the weighty sense of self-disappointment. He’d done something silly last night before he’d passed out. Even though his body vehemently disagreed with him on the assessment, it had been silly to kiss Ella. It should have been a surprise that he remembered, but no amount of drugs would take away what Ella’s lips felt like on his. Talking in the cold light of day would make sense.
It was half six in the morning. He’d overslept, and right through not only his natural body clock, but that of his actual alarm.
He showered in ice-cold water to eliminate the stubbornness of his hard-on. There was no time to indulge in getting rid of it the old-fashioned way. He didn’t bother to shave, and instead threw on clean clothes.
A knock on Ella’s door found the guest room empty. He could, however, smell coffee.
Surprised that she was already awake, Durante made his way down the stairs. Ella glanced up from her own cup as soon as he walked in. She does not look like an angel, he warned himself. Get hold of yourself, man…
“Morning,” she said, cheekiness in her tone.
“Good morning.”
“Those are some drugs, eh?” she teased.
“Ella…” he began, but she spoke over him.
“You had five calls. I’ve taken messages, but I’d call down to the groves first. They seemed to think I’ve killed you in some sort of ceremony for witchcraft.”
He closed his eyes. They could manage without him for five minutes, goddammit. An unspoken realisation that this was what their life would be like if that kiss was more than just a drug-addled error. Him mollifying his workers. Her on her own.
“Can I give you a lift to the town?”
“I’ve got my bike,” she reminded him gently. “Coffee, muffins, and waffles. Only because I saw you’ve got a waffle iron and it hasn’t come out of the packaging.” She put her cup in the dishwasher and hopped off the chair. “Nice place you’ve got here.”
“Come for a tour,” he offered, feeling there was an opportunity that was slipping through his grasp. “Wine, cheese, and olives. I’ll even smile.”
Ella touched his arm as she passed. “You hate tourists. See you later.”
He rubbed his cotton-covered chest as if he could wipe away the disappointment of being so close to starting something. What was so crushing about ‘just for now’ compared to ‘never-ever’? He knew the difference now. With a shake of his head, he flipped through the messages, written partly in shorthand, but all in Italian.
Clever, exceptionally talented woman.
A call to the groves calmed any immediate nerves. They were expecting a delivery of expensive truffles to add another flavour to a selection of their matured olive oil. The temperature gauge in the fermentation rooms wasn’t reading correctly. Durante made several calls, and within half an hour, all was resolved.
The temperature gauge issue concerned him. Fermentation of the grapes was such a delicate process and if the coolness in the vats were not maintained, the bottles for this year would be a write-off. But the engineer who worked regularly for him was exceptional and would have no issue readjusting the machinery if need be.
Durante would find his way down to the rooms once he’d finished his messages. The others were from the tour company to ensure they were expected and would be arriving in two hours’ time.
The last message was from his brother, Massimo. That could never be good.
“What’s the matter?”
“Hello to you, too,” Massimo said dryly. “I wanted to say thank you for shipping the wine. Are your supplies drained?”
“By you, no. Although your Sofia gave it a go.”
“She does like a drink. Speaking of surprising women, who was that delightful young lady who answered my call?”
Durante could feel himself blushing. “Just a friend.”
“You do not have female friends. As a matter of fact, I do not believe you have any friends at all.”
“And what category would you place Belinda Afriyie?”
“My woman,” Massimo replied without hesitation or embarrassment. “Would you not agree?”
“I don’t know. You didn’t hang around for me to make a full assessment. She’s not Mary Alice.”
“I know.” The relief in his voice was unmistakable. “How many men are fortunate enough to receive a second chance? In any event, let us return to the topic of your delightful young woman.”
God, sometimes Massimo was like a dog with a bone. “Your progeny poisoned me. She drove me home. That’s all.”
“You are lying,” his brother said, and—damn him—there was a grin in his voice. “She was permitted inside the fortress.”
“Did you want something else, Massimo? I need to work.”
“No. Nothing else. I am here when you are ready to tell the truth.”
“To you? The master of artifice? I’ll pass that to the left,” Durante sneered. “Call me when Belinda has you chained somewhere repenting for your sins.”
Ciao, Durante,” Massimo said, laughing.

He hung up and picked up the rest of his breakfast muffin. He’d had no idea he had poppy seeds in his pantry. Ella really was talented. He wished he knew what he could give to her. Without that, he doubted she’d give even the smallest part of herself to any man.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Along The Way





This was a bigger list than I originally intended. Just like this story is a lot longer than I originally intended. It's got everything this soundtrack - from my favourite new band - Vaults - I frakking love everything they do. I can't even describe the stalker mode I have gone into, checking daily for new songs! - to my Christmas staples I had to get in the mood. And singing hymns at one in the morning does not make you friends with anyone. Anyone. Even if you're in tune. From old skool heavies - Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers, Lamb and Fugees (return to the 90s!) to the newbies Ella Eyre and Ella Henderson (heroine namesakes with beautiful voices). Each song fits to every part of this story and I hope you enjoy the music as much as I do and will for a long time to come.

Verde Bianco Rosso on Spotify
  1. Vaults Lifespan
  2. Mapei Don't Wait
  3. James Brown I Got The Feeling
  4. Bombay Bicycle Club Home By Now
  5. Jamie Woon Shoulda
  6. Basement Jaxx Lights Go Down
  7. Chemical Brothers Close Your Eyes
  8. Lamb We Fall In Love
  9. Ivy Quainoo Soul Suckers 
  10. Ghostpoet Survive It
  11. Vaults Cry No More
  12. Solomon Grey Choir to the Wild
  13. Purity Ring push pull
  14. SOHN The Wheel 
  15. Massive Attack ft Madonna I Want You
  16. All Saints Under the Bridge
  17. Coldplay Violet Hill
  18. Fugees Ready or Not
  19. Bastille Oblivion
  20. Ella Eyre Together
  21. Jackie Wilson (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher 
  22. James Vincent McMorrow You Know
  23. Keaton Henson In The Morning 
  24. Lorde Bravado 
  25. Jamie xx Girl 
  26. Sia Elastic Heart
  27. The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge The Shepherd's Farewell
  28. The Choir of Kings College O Little Town Of Bethlehem
  29. Miguel Adorn
  30. James Bay Let It Go
  31. Foals Stepson
  32. Band of Horses The Funeral 
  33. Ella Henderson Yours 
  34. Ellie Goulding Starry Eyed
  35. Florence + The Machine Seven Devils 
  36. Luke Sital-Singh Fail For You
  37. Alt-J Hunger of the Pine 
  38. Giuseppe Verdi Messa da Requiem Libera me
  39. M83 Soon My Friend 
  40. Jose Gonzalez Step Out

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tell Me About It



Yes, I've been quiet. Only because I've been working hard on getting this book into ship shape. I mean it's now 75,000 words (because I confused my editor by writing faster than I think.) But at the very least, you now get a good idea of what the deuce is going on in this story.

Like Winter in Game of Thrones, it's almost here...


Eau de blurb 

Widow. Sister. Mother. All those labels hung from Emmanuella Harrison, like the 'A' of shame. After so many years of playing it straight, she'd forgotten who the real Ella was. Sometimes, whenever she managed to make the severe Durante Da Canaveze smile, the sparkle of the woman she'd been a long time ago ignited in her. But the Mother label needed to be first and foremost. No messing around with sexy farmers. Farmers! Just farmers. None of that. All right, maybe a little bit of messing around. The tip doesn't count.

The moment Ella drifted into Tuscany, Durante started to doubt the wisdom of his years of self-imposed solitude. With every teasing grin, backless dress and playful conversation, he fell more and more deeply under her spell. As dazzled as he is by her, Durante is convinced his history is enough to not deserve anyone, let alone someone like Ella.

And yet, without the labels, without the barriers, without being afraid of what may be, no two people will ever be as perfect for each other.

The penultimate story in the Italian Knights Series is all about blunt children, loud mouthed opinionated, family members, redemption in farming olives and how love can make one forgive even the most off-key of voices.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Power


I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. This is normally what happens when you finish a book that has taken over your life for the better part of a year (looking at you Durante and Ella).

Normally if I finish a contemporary, I switch to paranormal, to effect a bigger change and to disconnect from the characters of the completed book. And it went a little left field. I did a little excerpt of this story, when I was furiously writing to meet the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words. Yeah, I didn't finish the story even though I met the target. It's turning into a never ending gumball. The hero and heroine, to explain, are disconnected because of a whole bunch of complicated stuff I can't really expand on because... it is complicated, and my brilliant idea to make them reconnect is a sex rite. You read that correctly. So paganism, symbolic vessels, nudity and the power of sex. And I wrote all of it.

I'm disturbed. Probably because I'm a good Christian girl (don't laugh, tis true) and it was drummed in early that paganism is wrong and sex is a bad word that you don't do unless you're married and you only do once for babies and that's the last you have of it, and you're not supposed to enjoy it or think of anyone else while you do it, apart from God, because it's for God and God's glory. Christian guilt is real.

While I conjured rain and fire and earth and air, my Sunday School teacher was in my ear, telling me it's all wrong. And yet, I say no, whatever guilt lingers. The power of sex with someone you love, trust, honour and cherish is that spiritual connection. And it's a connection that blooms and grows and deepens each time it's shared. It is powerful and truthful and soulful. I wonder if that's why sex is so feared because of what it can do to the mind, body and soul. My hero and heroine are using it for good. To realign themselves to each other. To defeat the bad guy(s) (thing. Whatever it is. I still don't quite know.) It's good magic. The best kind.

I absolutely refute the implied wrongness of a sex rite for my paranormal hero and heroine. They need it. Or they're gonna die. You know, it's probably a good thing I'm not a pagan. I'd totally fall for that line.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Old Days


This year is the 21st anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda and it made me, obviously, think about the Madelines in the world who were lucky to escape with their lives. I've met some of those women and the shadow in their eyes will never go away. The things they've seen, experienced, survived, will inevitably haunt them. But there are people who have stayed, returned and have made herculean efforts to revive the country; to rebuild lives; to make things better for those who suffered the devastation of their home being torn apart. I suppose it's part of what makes me feel proud of this story. That I gave my Rwandan a happy ending. Even though it's supposed to be about the soldier, it's really about Madeline and giving her centre stage.

I'm trying to get all my books soundtracks finished and public asap, and I almost didn't with this one because the soundtrack is pretty damn short. I honestly couldn't write a lot of this story to music. I wouldn't have finished it, because my river of tears would have killed my laptop dead. If you haven't read it, it's not that depressing, you may be a little in your feels, but you will be as happy by the end as Madeline and Cain. Army of You and Me on Amazon

Army of You and Me on Spotify

  1. The xx - Together
  2. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft Ray Dalton - Can't Hold Us
  3. Mariah Carey ft Miguel - Beautiful
  4. Daughter - Human
  5. John Legend - You & I (Nobody In The World) 
  6. Hans Zimmer - Chevaliers De Sangreal 
  7. Alicia Keys ft Maxwell - The Fire We Make
  8. Ellie Goulding - Explosions

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

And So It Goes...


If you haven't already seen, this is the glorious cover for IK6, Durante and Ella's story. As has now become traditional, the cover means, I'm also preparing for what I believe will be the last in the series (but never say never - one may do a little novel here and there, should the characters berate me sufficiently). Maybe that's why I'm so reluctant to finish it. I don't really want to say goodbye to the nutcases. Speaking of, get to know Beppe and Mimi a little better...

1.       Who are you closest to?

Beppe

“I’m coming out! I want the world to know, got to let it show!” Billy, you lazy cow! What have you been up to? Not me, I can see. What was the question? Oh yeah, that beautifully pomade ridden donkey fucker, Mamione. He knows all my deepest. As do you, my busty love. Have you thought about a breast reduction? I mean your back... Aren’t you crippled?

Mimi

“And so I face, the final curtain!” Aren’t you relieved this is the end of it all? No? Crazy. I’m closest to the cool, leggy, super sharp would break your heart in three words or less, Mrs. Anna Mamione-Taylor. That’s a mouthful! She’s done me a serious solid with so many things, and I’m honoured I could be there for her, too.

2.       What’s your earliest memory?

Beppe

I think I got into the medicine cabinet at my foster mother’s and I may have put a lot into my foster father’s drink. I dunno. Maybe. Can’t admit to anything, don’t want any legacy cases brought against me. But I do know that triggered my love of the chemical. I’ll take a hug. Why?

Mimi

Going shopping with my mum and her telling me I should make sure I have my own money to buy things in future, because I won’t always have a daddy to do it for me. She wasn’t lying.

3.       What’s your biggest fear?

Beppe

I don’t have kids, so it hasn’t happened yet. Still time. Aww, cheer up Billy the Kid, I’m not sure the world can truly handle more than one of me.

Mimi

Leaving a similar trail of destruction in my own family as mine did to me. No one wants to really be their parents, but it kinda is inevitable.

4.       What are you best at?

Beppe

Chemicals. They get me. I mean I’m a people person, but the delight of the combinations of different elements, brings me such peace and joy. Do you want a hug? Come on, let’s have a hug about your lack of chemical understanding. It’s fine. It doesn’t detract from you as a person. Much.

Mimi

Give me a scalpel a bone saw and rib separators and I am ready. This bitch can sew you up like an Italian leather shoe. Speaking of, sweets, have you thought about a breast reduction? Really? Doesn’t your back hurt? Really? Wow. I’m here for you.

5.       Tell us something that will shock us.

Beppe

I keep weapons grade tear gas in my car boot. I don’t know when I’ll need it. Why are you looking at me like that?

Mimi

I may have kept the scalpel from my first operation on a patient. Oh, don’t give me that look! I cleaned it before I stashed it my bag.

6.       What do you value in a partner?

Beppe

Amelia Johnson’s arse. Now that’s weapons grade.

Mimi

Sense. I do, I really need someone to help me keep my feet on the ground. I worry I’m unbalanced. Yes, I have met Nardiello, and he reassures me that the trait of sense is a necessity in my future partner.

7.       Describe the last time you felt happy.

Beppe

When Mimi called me to thank me for getting her a job. Beginning of something beautiful. Don’t cock block, London, I see you.

Mimi

The first day I stepped into my own home. Bought, lock, stock and barrel. What else? Okay, maybe when Nardiello said something complimentary about my work. I will cut you if you tell him. I’m not even joking. I would. You know I would.

8.       What’s your biggest regret?

Beppe

Not knowing my parents. Well, my mum’s dead, so it can’t be her regret that she didn’t know me, can it? Can’t really speak for dear Papa.

Mimi

Ooh, I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. Putting them in order of worst to even worse would not help anyone.

9.       What’s the one thing you’d change about yourself?

Beppe

I think I think too much. I have depths and talents, held back by aforethought. I may also have a slight inclination towards madness. When people say they have rage black outs, they have no idea. I get mad, and I remember everything I do, to the letter. And it doesn’t bother me. Yeah, I’ll take a hug, what for?

Mimi

I’d be a bit more forgiving. I’ve seen enough disease to know my body is fine as it is. Shut up Nardiello! I’m healthy. Forgiveness is like a superpower.
         
10.   What item can’t you live without?

Beppe

Does Amelia count?

Mimi


Don’t make me shallow. It’s nothing to do with Lost Boy. It isn’t! God, maybe I should learn how to lie about that man. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Take Me Away



Morocco was amazing! I wish I could go back now, but - so much other stuff to do this year. Cry face. But look! That's a swimming pool, in front of what looks like a replica of the Arc de Triumph in Paris. My brain could not comprehend! My brain after a half bottle of smooth Moroccan red wine couldn't, however, sober Billy would not have either.

I soaked it all in. Mainly food. And sunshine. Learned a lot about the Berber traditions and the origins of kohl (I have been ringing my eyes in the stuff every night since and regretting the effort it takes to get it off) and I saw the possibilities of romance everywhere. In the rose petals scattered over the pillows after housekeeping. The enormous meals made for sharing. The horses who drew carriages, trotting calmly beside some of the most reckless driving I have ever witnessed. The hammams and massages, and the argan oil I have smuggled in bulk back to the UK. Working out the Dirham to Pound conversion rate whilst trying on a ridiculous amount of kaftans and dining in some of the most incredible settings I've been privileged to see. To stand at the end of the road of my hotel to photograph the glorious Atlas mountains and feel in awe of the beauty of just a small part of the world, made me wish I hadn't left my laptop at home. But then again, I really needed to sleep especially after I had all the knots rolled out of my back and shoulders.

Not that I don't already know this, I really do need to travel more. I live in Europe. I have no excuse. Yo Denmark! When's your weather going to cheer up? You know I only do sun, right??