Kindle Freebies


I’ve been trying not to spend any money on books lately. Fortunately, the wonder of ebooks is that there are hundreds and hundreds of free ones to try. In the last few days, I’ve read Once Upon a Ballroom by Miranda Neville et al, Until You by Sandra Marton, and Love Me by Bella Andre.

Once Upon A Ballroom

Short stories by Maya Rodale, Miranda Neville, Katharine Ashe and Caroline Linden, along with excerpts from their forthcoming novels. The short stories are fun and sweet, and if you’ve never tried these authors it will be a good way of trying to see if you like their voice.

Until You

I don’t generally read romantic suspense, but I really enjoyed this. Total page-turner. I will admit that I did not make a huge effort to follow the plot so I couldn’t tell you whether it hangs together or not. It was suitably tense and convoluted to keep me guessing to the end, but if you are the sort of person who always solves a mystery by the end of chapter one, you may not be so easily satisfied.

Love Me

Bella Andre was one of the first huge self-publishing successes so I was curious to read this. Goodness me, it was tedious. There’s lots of sex, a hero who doesn’t want to be in love but is, a heroine who doesn’t just want a guy who loves her, he has to want to love her, some pointless introspection, more sex, totally predictable happy ending.

I read somewhere else this week that the easiest way to guarantee self-publishing success is to write erotic short stories (3-5,000 words) and sell them at $2.99. Apparently there are enough people who don’t know you can get that sort of thing free all over the internet to make this a profitable exercise. I will not be trying this.

I will be off to scour the freebie list for more hidden gems, however.

As You Wish


Author: Elyssa Patrick

Publisher: Self-published

Date: 2012

Hero: Aubry Riley, has-been rock star, widower, father to a six-year-old girl. I found Aubry hard to understand. Sometimes he’s lovely. Really, really lovely. And other times he’s a total prat. And there seems to be no way of knowing which of those times it is or why. He’s the sort of man I’d always be nervous about coming home to in case I caught him at the wrong moment.

Heroine: Portia Jackson, florist. She’s sweet but also a complete idiot. She hasn’t been making the payments for the lease on her florist’s shop. She’s tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and yet it comes as a total shock when she’s told the bank are going to foreclose. Or the landlord is going to chuck her out. I wasn’t completely clear on this, but on January 1st something terrible will happen. She decides that setting up an online version of her business will help. Which it might, if she’d done it the first month money was tight. Not with three weeks to go.

Other: Portia’s BFF Laura, who’s been in love with one of Portia’s brothers for five years until another one of the brothers finally admits he’s loved her for five years and Laura realises she really loves him. I was not a fan of Laura. Aubry’s sister Caroline, brother in law, Ethan, uncle in law, Gabe, and daughter, Roxie. Roxie is a little bit of a plot moppet, given to speaking more like a three year old than a six year old. There are some good scenes with her and Aubry, but there’s a lot of inconsistency in their relationship.

Marriage: Outside in the snow in the epilogue.

Enjoyment factor: I nearly stopped reading at one point when I just didn’t believe the way Aubry was behaving. I’m glad I finished it, though I was dissatisfied at the end. There’s a weird bit where everyone just suddenly realises they are in love after all and then it’s happy ever after. I wanted Portia to have to fight and save her shop herself. I wanted Aubry to have to confront the reality of moving to Vermont, or taking Portia to LA. I wanted the conflicts underlying the book to be brought to the surface. I wanted to dig deeper into the characters and be made to care about them, instead of feeling like it didn’t much matter either way.

Epilogue: Marriage and baby.

I hate that I have to say it but I feel I do since it can’t be taken for granted, especially with self-published books. The book is properly formatted and has good spelling, punctuation and grammar throughout. There are a handful of typos, but nothing especially egregious.

Also, I don’t know why I don’t have a category for cover art. I should add that. I liked the picture on the cover, but the typography is truly awful.

For Lynne Graham’s ‘Crime of Passion’, which has recently been released as part of the Harlequin Treasury collection. You can read it here at Dear Author.

I wrote another book, too. Well, I edited one that I wrote a while ago and published it. Details are here.

You can buy it for Kindle here (for 86 of your finest English pennies) or in other digital formats here (normally 99c but free until 31st July).

If you do read it, I’d love to know what you think!

Author: Lauren Willig

Publisher: Allison and Busby (UK edition)

Date: 2009 (ebook edition 2011), first published 2005

Hero: The Purple Gentian. Former colleague of, and sometime successor to, the more famous Scarlet Pimpernel. Dashing, handsome, mysterious, English nobleman, fond of rescuing aristos during the Revolution. A spy, of course, with a cunning disguise that gives him access to the house of Bonaparte himself (this is set in 1803). Also has a bad history of telling women the truth about himself and then finding his friends dead the next day. Is on a mission to prevent Napoleon from invading England. Likes classical literature and Egyptian antiquities.

Heroine: Amy Belcourt, half-French, half-English noblewoman whose father was killed in the Revolution and who is determined to join the League of the Purple Gentian to get revenge. It is somewhat unclear precisely what she means by this, but restoring the French monarchy has a part in it. She is not very good at thinking things through, but fortunately she always has at least a dozen backup plans, though admittedly they are not usually very good either. Would like to be a spy but is rubbish at it, only gaining moderate success through complete beginner’s luck. Still, she’s a fab heroine in lots of ways and I thoroughly approved of her. She also likes classical literature and is interested in Egyptian antiquities.

Other: A whole host of wonderful secondary characters: Miss Gwen, the chaperone who is a little like a more competent Amelia Peabody; Jane, Amy’s cousin who would actually make a very excellent spy; Edouard, Amy’s feckless brother; Lord Richard Selwick, the Purple Gentian (I promise this is not a spoiler); Lord Richard’s family, who are hilarious and wonderful and especially his mother who is not very reliable with a pistol.

Marriage: On board ship in a very great hurry.

Enjoyment factor: I adored this. I read it in a public place and laughed out loud a lot. There aren’t many books I get to the end of and wish I had written, but this is one. If I were to write a Regency romance, I’d like to write one like this. It is not tedious, nor missish. It is not a pale imitation of Austen or Heyer. It is not, thank goodness, Julia Quinnish. It is very much in the style of Baroness Orczy only, in my opinion, quite a lot better than Orczy’s own Pimpernel sequels. The plot is ludicrous, of course, but fun. The characters are likeable and plausible. The language and setting don’t read like a history text-book but are vivid and lively so that I forgave the occasional anachronism.

I didn’t dislike the contemporary sections (the book is supposedly the research of an American historian whose own love story happens alongside the historical one, though at a much slower pace), but I didn’t think the story needed them. It’s quite strong enough to stand on its own.

Epilogue: No. There is an historical note, followed by blurbs advertising the next books in the series. The reviews I’ve seen for these are a bit disappointing so I’m not sure whether to rush on to them or not.

All fiction demands that its readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and accept whatever goes on in its pages for as long as they are reading it. Even the grittiest of gritty realistic fiction still deviates from reality in some ways. Romance novels happily inhabit their own world which is different from the real one in a LOT of ways. There are always enough billionaires to go round, for a start.

I think I’m generally very willing to suspend my disbelief about most things in fiction. I don’t notice the kind of continuity issues that really wind some people up and I’m prepared to let almost anything go, especially if the author has constructed an internally consistent, plausible reality.

So I was quite surprised at the weekend to discover a romance that I just couldn’t believe in. I liked the characters, I liked the idea of the book, I liked the voice and the style. I just couldn’t bring myself to believe one crucial thing about the hero and for me that ruined my pleasure in the whole book.

The book was ‘Mistress on Trial/Strictly Legal’ (US/UK titles) by Kate Hardy. The hero is a criminal barrister who is supposed to be very good at his job. I am not a lawyer, but I have a couple of good friends who are and I think they would laugh this guy out of court. The main sticking point for me was when the lawyer said he wouldn’t defend someone who was guilty, because:

1. Barristers don’t get to decide who is guilty; courts do that.
2. Everyone in the UK is entitled to adequate legal representation in court.
3. The legal system doesn’t work if barristers pick and choose who they are willing to defend. Barristers have to work within the system. If you think the system is wrong, become a politician and change it.
4. Even if your client tells you they did do something, it’s not your job as a barrister to decide what that was. It’s your job in court to present the strongest case for the defence so that the jury can decide what, if anything, they can be proved guilty of beyond reasonable doubt. Maybe it was murder, or maybe it was manslaughter. Maybe there were mitigating circumstances that should be taken into account in the sentencing.

So I can’t bring myself to believe that someone who so fundamentally doesn’t get what the job of a barrister is can be one. I also struggled a lot with the idea that the kind of woman you marry can make any difference whatsoever to a legal career these days.

It was interesting to me how strongly I reacted against this, because as I say I’m normally willing to let most things go. What about you? Do you easily suspend your disbelief? What are the things that you just can’t let go?

Author: Elyse Mady

Publisher: Carina Press

Date: 2010

Hero: Lord Jeremy Battersley, sixth Earl of Henley and His Grace Richard Huxley, fourteenth Duke of Wexford. Or Lords Henley and Wexford. Can I just say how much it irritates me when people use titles inappropriately? Thanks. Right, well Henley and Huxley are childhood friends, who have indistinguishable country seats, enormous fortunes and impeccable manners. And if you haven’t guessed where this story is going yet, then I should perhaps mention that it is tagged ‘menage’ on the Carina website. I didn’t notice this when I downloaded it, but it was blindingly obvious even to me from the first chapter.

Heroine: Mary Sue Cecilia Hastings. A tall, even figure (I have no idea what that means but I suppose it’s better than an odd figure), smooth throat, milk-white skin, grey eyes and long chestnut hair. Give me strength. Neither missish nor imperious. Blah blah blah. Dances, sings, recites Italian, heals the sick, raises the dead. And so on. I have no interest and less sympathy for this woman’s ‘dilemma’. To have to choose between the two most eligible bachelors in London. Oh, the hardship. Let me fetch your smelling salts.

Other: A cheeky, cheery prostitute. Actually, I have a question about this. Does anyone know if all 19th century prostitutes refused to kiss on the mouth, or only the ones who’ve seen Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?

Marriage: Yes. In the most irritating manner possible, we are not told whom.

Enjoyment factor: Look, I’m sure there is a market for this sort of book. And if you think that might be you, it’s free right now with the code DEBUTANTEFREE, so go and try it. It’s only a 22,000 word novella, so it won’t even require much of a time commitment.

But for me, the prose was unbearably laborious, giving me little patience to bear with the Americanisms and anachronisms. Also there was a worrying moment when I thought we were straying into Barbara Cartland territory with seven single-sentence paragraphs in a row. The smut was, well, smuttier than I like to read (in fact, I went back to check if it had been labelled erotic romance, but it wasn’t. I think it should have been). Also, I don’t know whether this is a feature of this particular author or threesomes in general, but there was an awful lot of the logistics of the sex which was very tedious. Especially since I couldn’t ever remember which guy was which.

Epilogue: Yes. I hated this epilogue with a passion. If you had asked me to write the epilogue for this story after only having read the first ten pages of the book, this is the epilogue I would have written. By the end of the book I expected a few more details. Also, I would really like there to have been some recognition that this was a book set in the early nineteenth century when issues of inheritance really, really mattered. I just don’t believe this ending could ever have been as happy as we were supposed to believe.

Author: Michelle Reid

Publisher: Harlequin Mills and Boon

Date: 2002

Hero: Ethan Hayes, architect. Also a billionaire but for some unexplained reason, he chooses not to spend any of inheritance and only live on his earned income. Has a complicated Past which I think may have been explored in a previous book. Is a tall, dark, idiot Englishman with no heart worth mentioning. Or not.

Heroine: Eve Herakleides, half-Greek heir to a billionaire. Likes hot pink, short skirts, flirting and Ethan Hayes (when she doesn’t hate him for being a tall, dark, idiot Englishman with no heart worth mentioning).

Other: There is a cast of thousands in this book, which made me suspect that it’s part of a series. Still, you can ignore most of them and concentrate on the main characters quite happily.

Marriage: Engagements: fake and real.

Enjoyment factor: This is one of the most awesome category romances I’ve read in a long, long time. Interestingly, I just checked out the reviews on Amazon and there are a lot of 1 and 2 star reviews. Mostly complaining about the heroine: immature, spoiled rotten, unlikeable, a hussy, obnoxious, manipulative, self-centered, and bratty. I disagree. And especially in light of recent discussions about date rape and the Slutwalk, I think those reviews say a lot more about the readers than they do about this book. Which is awesome.

There will be spoilers.
Continue reading ‘Ethan’s Temptress Bride’

The Riva line has now been going for six months, with four books published each month. I have not read them all but I have read quite a few. If you’re wondering about whether to try this line, here’s my pick of the best (not in any particular order):

1. If The Red Slipper Fits, Shirley Jump
This was a new-to-me author and the book would previously have been in the Romance line (i.e. no sex). It’s a cute Cinderella story set in New York.

2. Walk On The Wild Side, Natalie Anderson
Snowboard champion meets geek girl. Lots of sex, lots of tension, lots of fun.

3. With This Fling, Kelly Hunter
Crazy, crazy Indiana Jones plot but I loved it. Despite it being a pregnancy story. This would have been a Modern Heat (i.e. sex).

4. Juggling Briefcase and Baby, Jessica Hart
The title says it all: it’s a cute kid story and a workplace romance. And yet it works. The hero refuses to become all gooey around the kid (which is not his) and the heroine has not lost all her faculties. No sex in this one.

Author: Janette Kenny

Publisher: Harlequin Mills and Boon

Date: 2011

Hero: Rafael da Souza. Wolfe by birth, but not by name. That’s the illegitimate part. Also a tycoon. Brazilian and a bit of a tyrant but pretty sweet underneath.

Heroine: Leila da Souza, his wife. Brazilian model. Has suffered from anorexia in the past.

Other: Not so much.

Marriage: They’ve been married for years at the start of the book.

Enjoyment factor: Well, I don’t know. The thing is, this isn’t really a romance. The hero and heroine are married and in love at the start of the book and at the end of the book and I never felt that was seriously in danger of falling apart. They have issues, sure, but not about their romance. Their issues are mostly to do with two things: their careers and Leila’s anorexia. Basically the question is whether she can/will have children (she does). I think the anorexia stuff is handled pretty well, though no doubt it will be triggering for some.

Epilogue: No, though Jacob is getting closer to home.



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