Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 10 2015, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Bandita Booty, Christmas Revels, Kandy Shepherd, Mary Jo Putney, MC Beaton, Nora Roberts, reading, Rebel's Bargain, Romance, The Summer They Never Forgot, The Traveling Matchmaker, The Witness, This Is Your Afterlife, Vanessa Barneveld
Happy new year, Banditas and Bandita Buddies! I hope 2015 is fantastic for you.
That’s enough of the looking ahead. Let’s look back to 2014 and some great books.
I thought I’d devote my spots on the Romance Bandits for January and February to listing some of the wonderful reads I found last year. After all, we all love recommendations for our towering TBR piles, don’t we?
Today, I’m going to talk about romances. Next month, I’m going to talk about books that aren’t romances (or at least not primarily – I find my favorite books nearly always include some sort of romantic plot, even if only as a subsidiary). You’ll notice that I’ve steered clear of books by my tremendously talented Bandit sisters – if I included theirs, we’d be here all year!
I blogged a couple of months ago about how I was on a major Nora Roberts kick. That looks like it might continue this year. Of the many Noras I read in 2014, my favorite is THE WITNESS, her story of a super-intelligent, high achieving teenager who finally kicks over the traces and rebels, only to be forced into a living nightmare when she witnesses a mafia killing. The woman grows up, always on the run, always smart enough to stay alive – but what happens when she falls in love with the local police chief? Is it time to stop running and finally face her enemies?
This one has two wonderful central characters (I love Abigail’s dorky but smart take on life), a lovely romance and some seriously good suspense. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab it now! For a peek at some of the other Nora books I read this year, here’s my blog on the subject: http://romancebandits.com/im-in-the-mood-for-love-and-nora/
The next book, THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, is by a friend of mine. It just happens that some of my favorite reads last year are by people I know – they’re all well worth picking up! Summer is simply gorgeous, a lovely story about two damaged people who were in love as teenagers and reconnect after life hasn’t been kind to either of them. It’s a story about bad timing turning into forever after. I laughed and cried in this one – and you’ll fall in love with the town of Dolphin Bay where the book is set. You can read an interview with Kandy here: http://romancebandits.com/kandy-shepherd/
The next sooper-dooper read for you is THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the debut novel by Vanessa Barneveld, another friend of mine.
This YA is a beautiful story about coming to accept who you are and finding the right person and learning that life is a mixture of happy and sad. It’s also a darn good ghostly mystery story as heroine Keira struggles to answer the questions surrounding the death of high school hero Jimmy and in the process realizes that she’s always loved his older brother Dan. Even if you’re not usually a YA fan, give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed. You can see where Vanessa visited the lair and gave us the lowdown on her book here: http://romancebandits.com/vanessa-barneveld/
With my next recommendation, I’m cheating slightly as it’s a series of six, M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney’s The Travelling Matchmaker books. These are trad Regencies full of wit and romance and classic period touches like duels and highwaymen and marriages of convenience.
When housekeeper Hannah Pym unexpectedly receives a bequest from her late employer, she determines to seek the adventure that her quiet life in domestic service has so far prevented. She sets out on various stagecoaches and meets danger and excitement and young lovers and a chance to discover talents she never knew she possessed. These books are such fun – definitely a series to put a smile on your face. Here’s a link to a more detailed review of the six books that I did on the Romance Dish: http://www.theromancedish.com/2014/06/regency-charmers.html
My next choice from 2014 is a corker of a steamy reunion story from lair favorite Annie West. For some reason, I couldn’t link this one through the cover, but here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J2ZVDSM?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00J2ZVDSM&linkCode=xm2&tag=romanbandi-20
I love all Annie’s stories but this one really hit it out of the ballpark for me. Orsino Chatsfield and his estranged wife Poppy have so much passion between them that when they come together in a glamorous French chateau, they set the Loire Valley aflame! This is part of the Harlequin Chatsfield continuity but you can read the story as a stand-alone. Give it a go – these characters are unforgettable. Here’s a link to where Annie visited the lair to talk about this book: http://romancebandits.com/annie-west-6/
My last favorite book of the year is one I read in December. Who doesn’t like a Christmas charmer? Mary Jo Putney‘s collection of four Regency novellas plus a contemporary, CHRISTMAS REVELS, is uber charming. All the stories are great, but my particular favorite is The Christmas Cuckoo where a capable young woman who believes she’s on the shelf collects the wrong man from the local inn and takes him home for a family Christmas. A lovely story about life delivering some gorgeous surprises just when you think your chances have run out. And you’ll fall in love with Jack Howard just like Meg does.
So that’s my romance round-up. I’ve got a mixture of women’s fiction and mysteries and nonfiction coming next month so make sure you check in.
In the meantime, what were your favorite romances of 2014? I’m always looking for recommendations.
And because I love to share my friends’ books, I’ll give one commenter today their choice from THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, REBEL’S BARGAIN by Annie West, or THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE by Vanessa Barneveld. The prize is available internationally. Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 3 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Authors, Bought by the Italian, contemporary romance, Continuities, Harlequin Presents, interviews, Rebel's Bargain, Reunion Stories, the Chatsfield, The Sheikh's Princess Bride, The Sultan's Harem Bride
Annie researching at Chateau Chenonceau.
It’s always a pleasure to host Annie West and hear about her latest release. This month, she’s put out a doozy of a contemporary romance with REBEL’S BARGAIN, a tempestuous, emotional and very sexy reunion story set in a glamorous French Chateau.
Um, I’ll have what she’s having, thanks!
Here’s the blurb:
When the thrill–seeker strikes a deal!
Five years ago, Poppy Graham married Orsino Chatsfield beneath a confetti of paparazzi flashbulbs. But Orsino spent more time chasing the rush of adrenaline than with his wife and, in her darkest hour, he let her down. Their split was bitter and Poppy’s striven for independence ever since. But now her arrogant husband is back…
Injured in a climbing accident, there’s only one person Orsino can turn to…his deceitful wife! They have unfinished business and he’ll face it before he walks away for ever. But the blazing passion between them reignites in an instant, leaving Orsino to wonder whether it will kill or cure!
You can read an excerpt on Annie’s website here: http://www.annie-west.com/books/rebels-bargain/
I’m not the only person raving about how good REBEL’S BARGAIN is. RT Book Reviews gave it 4.5 stars and called it “imaginative and intensely thrilling.” Coffee Time Romance called it a “delicious concoction of sultry passion and angsty second chance romance.”
Annie, congratulations on the release of REBEL’S BARGAIN, your addition to the steamy Chatsfield continuity for Harlequin. Can you tell us about this story?
Thanks so much for the invitation back to the lair, Anna. You know how I love visiting!
Rebel is my first full-length reunion story and I discovered the situation was rife with emotion and passion. Poppy and Orsino met and married quickly, falling headlong into instant attraction. But when things got tough between them neither had what it took to keep the relationship together. Orsino even believed his wife had betrayed him.
They parted on bitter terms and have spent the intervening years burying themselves in activities that keep them from dwelling on the past. Orsino dives into more and more reckless adventure and Poppy concentrates on building the career she thinks will give her security.
But when Orsino is buried in an avalanche (yes, I DO torture my heroes) then spends time in hospital, he realises he still has unfinished business with his wife since he can’t get her out of his head. He ‘persuades’ her into looking after him while he recovers. He thinks a couple of weeks’ proximity will cure him of his lingering feelings.
How wrong he is!
The pair are stuck together at a French chateau while Poppy finishes a modelling assignment. Sounds hard to take, doesn’t it? But close proximity (and there’s a lot of that) leads to all sorts of fireworks. They’re forced to face all the problems and the feelings they’ve tried to hide from.
I can attest to the fireworks. I think this is one of your most sensual books ever. How does REBEL’S BARGAIN fit into the Chatsfield series?
It’s fascinating seeing how the stories relate to each other. One thing I enjoy is that, while the stories do link, each can be read as a totally stand-alone book, so if you pick one up out of sequence it’s still a whole complete and hopefully satisfying story.
The series centres on the Chatsfield family and their international chain of luxury hotels. Gene Chatsfield has quite a few children and none of them had an easy family life. Now they, and he, are paying for that.
Orsino Chatsfield (yes, it’s an Italian Christian name, because of his Italian mother) is notorious to the world’s press for rebelling, risking his neck again and again in perilous adventures, almost as if he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. My story is about what happens when his devil-may-care attitude finally catches up with him.
There’s a terrific section on the Harlequin website devoted to the series. Here’s the link if you want to check it out. http://www.harlequin.com/store.html?cid=622516
What were the inspirations behind this story?
Well, Anna, I don’t think I need to say much. These photos show you some of the places that inspired the story.
Chateau Chenonceau is a gem of a palace that spans the Loire River in France. I knew I wanted to write about it and then along came this story. I found myself putting Orsino and Poppy in that gorgeous Rapunzel tower near the Chateau. Other scenes take place along the riverbank and inside the Chateau itself though in the book the place is never named as I took a few liberties with it.
Another inspiration was the gorgeous antique jewellery I saw in European museums. Poppy is modelling jewellery for an ad campaign for a fabulous design house that has made jewellery for royalty for centuries (think Faberge and Cartier). In my book I got to put her in all sorts of period settings with matching clothes and jewels from the 18th century to the roaring twenties to ultra modern. It was delicious fun.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m thrilled to have a duet out early in the new year with Harlequin – two linked stories (which can be read as stand alones) called THE SULTAN’S HAREM BRIDE (Jan/Feb) and THE SHEIKH’S PRINCESS BRIDE (Mar/April).
Watch out too for a novella I hope to bring out very soon – the second in ‘Hot Italian Nights’ novella series, called BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN. I’ll leave you to ponder what that’s about.
Ooh, lots coming up for your fans. I know, like many writers, that you’re a voracious reader. Do you have any recommendations for us on books that you’ve recently read and loved?
Some recent fabbo reads have been Christina Brooke’s THE WICKEDEST LORD ALIVE (what a story, Christina!), Cathryn Hein’s romantic adventure quest THE FRENCH PRIZE (sadly not yet available in the U.S.) and among the a non-romance titles, Julia Spencer Fleming’s marvellous THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. In shorter stories, I’m currently reading and enjoying Caitlin Crews’s sexy UNDONE BY THE SULTAN’S TOUCH. Plus of course there’s your new Regency novella, Anna, HER CHRISTMAS EARL, which hit the spot beautifully! Just right for a lush, pre-Christmas escape.
Great recommendations. I’m chuffed you enjoyed my novella! Thank you. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita buddies to get the conversation going?
Poppy gets to wear some glamorous jewellery in this story (from cabochon rubies in old gold to gem-encrusted armbands straight from a flapper’s wardrobe). I find it impossible to choose a favorite.
But how about you? Do you have a favorite piece of jewellery? Maybe something special because of its sentimental value? Alternatively, is there a piece you’d buy for yourself if money were no object?
Get commenting, people! Annie has very generously offered two signed copies of REBEL’S BARGAIN (international) as prizes to people who visit the blog today. Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell Sep 2 2014, 12:03 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Austhors, Bandita Booty, contemporary romance, Damaso Claims His Heir, Harlequin Presents, interviews, Rebel's Bargain, RT Top Picks
I’m delighted to welcome back to the lair one of our favorite guests, Australian author Annie West. Annie is here to tell us about her latest Harlequin Presents, the passionate and emotional DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR.
Damaso is making friends all over with some wonderful reviews, including a Top Pick and 4.5 stars from RT Book Reviews. How’s this for a wrap? “West’s page-turner set in colorful Brazil is impressively perfect, starring her well-matched, rags-to-riches hero and her unjustly scandal-ridden royal heroine. Her illuminating, expert narrative brings the breathtaking story and the explosive lovemaking to life.”
You can find out more about Annie and her books on her website: www.annie-west.com
Annie, congratulations on your Top Pick review from RT Book Reviews for DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR. Well deserved! Can you tell us about this story?
Hi Anna, and thanks for having me to visit again! I always feel warm and fuzzy opening the door into the Banditas’ lair. Or maybe it’s those cocktails!
Snickering here at the way you seamlessly lob in the reference to the RT top pick review. Thank you, dear. I do so love it when someone (other than me) enjoys my characters’ journey.
In DAMASO, a slumdog millionaire meets a society princess and sparks fly. Their passionate affair ends in pregnancy and a proposal. But Marisa won’t settle for less than love. The question is whether she can find it with a man who doesn’t know what love is.
It’s a great read. What were the inspirations behind this book?
I’m fascinated by the idea of people who put on one face to meet the world, hiding a wealth of emotion in private, especially those living in the public eye. I came up with an idea for stories about three royal sisters, variations on that theme of a hidden inner world. But it became obvious that one was a loner and her story would work better if, instead of having devoted sisters, poor Marisa was alone in the world.
Marisa is a twin, and in my imaginings she’s just lost her twin brother. Imagine how much harder it would be for Marisa if she’d only had one sibling, one true friend in a world where she didn’t fit. So the sisters had to go, though I’m hoping to write their stories separately.
So there was Marisa, lost and alone, disapproved of by her extended family and even the public. She hides her true self behind smiles and a penchant for extreme sports. Enter Damaso, who built his wealth and power after a childhood of deprivation. He sprang fully formed into my head some time ago after watching a program about street kids in South America.
Damaso also hides his real self. He’s never learned to love and he’s not interested in it. But he is interested in Marisa. For one glorious night they let down their guards, till things go wrong. Damaso has his own demons that drive him away from anything that makes him feel too much. So of course they were going to have to find themselves in a situation where they couldn’t just turn their backs on each other. That’s when Marisa discovers she’s pregnant. The book is about how two almost-strangers, each hiding their vulnerabilities and hopes, each with problems trusting, deal with this most momentous change in their lives.
What’s coming up next for you?
In November REBEL’S BARGAIN hits the stores. It’s my first reunion novel and a scorching hot lovers-into-enemies-into-lovers story. It’s part of a continuity of linked stories about the Chatsfield siblings and their family hotel chain. Rebel isn’t set in a hotel though. It starts in the Himalayas where my hero has been badly wounded while ice climbing (it’s dangerous being an Annie West hero – I love doing nasty things to them) then most of the story is set in a chateau in France’s gorgeous Loire Valley. Le sigh.
Part of the booksigning queue in Berlin.
My secret squirrel agents tell me you haven’t been to Brazil and yet I found the setting one of the most compelling parts of this story. Can you tell us how you got into a Brazilian frame of mind?
Anna, I’ve wanted to visit South America for years but still haven’t made it, so I made do with books, television documentaries and the web. I’ve been in love with the idea of Brazil since I watched a long running Brazilian TV show years ago and fell for the look of the place and the cadences of the language. On the latter, I was lucky enough to be able to check the little Portuguese I used with a native speaker who was wonderfully helpful. I’ve spoken to people who’ve lived or visited there and tried to use some of what I learned in the book. One day though I want to visit and do some in depth research.
Annie working hard – researching her current wip in Prague.
Those secret squirrels have been busy! They also tell me that you’ve recently had a European trip, including an appearance at the big Love Letter convention in Berlin. Can you let us in on some of the highlights of your travel? Can we expect to see any of those glamorous places making an appearance in forthcoming books?
What is it with you and furry little animals, Anna? Obviously they’re a good source of information.
Yes, I made a quick trip to Europe earlier in the year. Considering that’s 24 hours of flight time from Australia you can tell I really wanted to be there. The Convention was terrific, having the chance to meet up with so many other romance readers.
Other highlights? Prague. Big smile. If you haven’t visited Prague you have a treat in store. I’m just writing a wedding set in the old town there and it’s wonderful reliving my visit.
Annie getting a taste of Italy, researching her next novella.
Also the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy. I got to drive the multiple hairpin bends over the high alpine passes, surrounded by luxury sports cars and still found time to admire the views. That setting is going into a Hot Italian Nights novella I’m currently plotting. And I even managed to fit in a night in an alpine castle. We had a spare night and no accommodation booked so I did an internet search on castle stays in Austria, as you do, and hey presto! More fodder for future stories. Sigh. I do love research.
Sounds like a fantastic trip, Annie. I look forward to reading those wonderful settings in future wonderful stories! Do you have a question for the Banditas to get conversation going? Or should we all just go and have ice-cream? 🙂
I want to visit Brazil one day, especially after writing Damaso and Marisa’s story. I want to taste the food, see the sights and get a feel for the place after all the research I did.
Is there somewhere you’ve read about and long to visit but haven’t yet made it? Have you ever looked forward to visiting a place (maybe after reading for writing a story set there) and then found the reality far different to what you’d imagined? Were you disappointed or intrigued?
Annie has very generously offered two commenters today signed copies of DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR (international). So good luck people!
Posted by Anna Campbell May 5 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Authors, Back in the Italian's bed, Bandita Booty, ebooks, Guests, Harlequin Presents, Hot Italian Nights, novellas, Rebel's Bargain, the Chatsfield, writer's life
Let’s give a lovely warm welcome to Aussie author Annie West who is such a favorite here in the lair.
Annie’s here to tell us all about her brilliant new novella, BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED, featuring a hero called Fabuloso, oh, sorry, that’s FABRIZIO. But he is pretty fabuloso!
This is Annie’s first indie effort and having read it, I can guarantee that it has all the passion and emotion and heat of her award-winning books for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Don’t miss it. Even better, it’s the first of a series called Hot Italian Nights. So there’s more fabulosoness to come!
Here’s the blurb:
No woman walks away from billionaire Fabrizio Armati’s bed. No woman except Jenna MacDonald. Now he’ll stop at nothing to get her back, and keep her there.
It’s love at first sight for Jenna when charismatic hotelier Fabrizio Armati sweeps her off her feet in Venice. That chance encounter sparks a sizzling affair that lasts until she discovers Fabrizio sees her as no more than a convenient, expendable mistress. Then her world falls apart.
Six months later Jenna tells herself she’s moved on. Until Fabrizio walks into a meeting to find her working for his greatest rival. She’s about to discover just how far he’ll go to get her back in his bed.
When revenge turns to passion, will surrender be on his terms, or hers?
BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED is available at the bargain price of 99 cents! If you’ve got a Kindle, just click on the blue cover above and it will take you right there (we make life easy for you in the lair – cabana boys and Kindle click-throughs!). If you’ve got a Nook, here’s the link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/back-in-the-italians-bed-annie-west/1119378950?ean=2940149175154&itm=1&usri=2940149175154
You can find out more about Annie and her wonderful books at her website: www.annie-west.com
And mark your diaries for a special release toward the end of the year when Annie’s entry in the fabulous Chatsfield series hits the shelves. I’ve read REBEL’S BARGAIN and it’s a corker! Here’s some more info: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebels-Bargain-Mills-Special-Releases/dp/0263246272/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395650778&sr=1-1&keywords=Annie+West+romance
FINDING HIDDEN TREASURE
Hi Banditas and especially the divine Ms Anna C for allowing me to visit again. It’s such a warm and welcoming place and it’s great to be amongst fellow romance lovers.
I don’t know about you, but as a child I used to love the idea of hidden treasure. I devoured stories about buried gold or lost heirlooms, secret passages and locked doors leading to neglected gardens or ancient mysteries or, of course, wonderful libraries. The idea of sparkling gems and bullion was fantastic, but I learned that sometimes the best hidden treasures didn’t necessarily have a huge dollar value. Take these:
When I get ideas for stories and when I write them, I make notes in these books. They’re full of cryptic scrawls, reminders of plot points I mustn’t forget, jottings on names for future stories, ramblings about how scenes fit together, even notes for workshops. I use one daily as I write but their value is such that I don’t dare discard even one of them.
Recently I needed to find a reference in an old notebook. It took me a little while to find (see note above about cryptic and rambling jottings) but in the process I found a hidden gem. A couple of lines scrawled at the bottom of a page that was otherwise devoted to an earlier story. It said (I’m translating here from my jottings) ‘What if a powerful businessman walked into a meeting to discover, on the other side of the conference table, his ex-lover, who’d walked out on him six months before with no explanation? What if she was working for his rival?’ Then there were the words ‘Italian, ruthless, can’t let her go.’
Wow! I sat back and stared. I couldn’t even remember writing the note but I knew in an instant I’d discovered hidden treasure. For in that moment I saw the scene in my head, I felt his emotions at the unexpected reunion. I even sensed her fear and dismay in the air, for I knew meeting him again was the last thing she wanted.
Here was the elusive idea I’d wanted for the novella I’d been meaning to write but kept putting off. The timing was perfect too. If I worked really hard I could just about find time to write it between other deadlines. Then too, I had a visit from my crit partner (take a bow, Ms Campbell) coming up so I could nut out any plot problems with her. After all, I’d never written a novella and didn’t know how I’d go with the shorter length.
I’d found hidden treasure, right when I wasn’t looking for it. And I did write the novella – BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED is out now.
I’ve discovered that being a bit of a hoarder means that discovering hidden treasure is one of the ongoing joys of my life. Whenever I do one of my sporadic clean ups I find something marvellous. Take these – not lost but hidden by a plethora of boring beverages bought by other members of the family. I’d been given the teabags as a gift from my husband. He knows I got a kick out of an earlier collection of tea bags featuring famous writers.
Imagine my glee! I’d put them aside, thinking to save them for a special occasion (like when I’m having a particularly difficult day with the writing) and now it’s like the thrill of receiving them all over again. Guess what I’ll be drinking? As for the lovely Klimt mug – it’s one of my favourites but got put in a cupboard I rarely use by a helpful guest a while ago. So now I’ve got something special to drink my tea from too.
Then, the other morning, when I woke far too early to work and the rain was pounding down and really, there was nothing else to do but read, I grabbed at the pile of books I’d rescued from a cupboard in the spare room (my tbr pile spills over several rooms) to discover a book I’ve had for a couple of years but never got to. I was just in the mood for a sweet romance about a put upon Cinderella in a lovely bygone European world. What a find! I love discovering treasures just when you need them.
And let’s not get to the joy of discovering something at the bottom of the ironing pile that you forgot you had! Yes, that’s happened to me too.
How about you? Have you found any hidden treasure lately? An object or a special place perhaps? Or if not, have you found any in your reading?
Annie has very generously offered two people (international) who comment their choice of a signed book from her backlist. So get commenting people. And make sure you pick up BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED. You won’t be sorry!