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 Jan 16 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, Category Romance, Coastal Romance, contemporary romance, Harlequin Mills and Boon, Interview, Kandy Shepherd, Reunion Stories, Sweet Romance, The Castaway Bride, The Summer They Never Forgot, The Tycoon and the Wedding Planner
I’m so delighted today to bring to the lair my good friend, the lovely Kandy Shepherd.
Kandy and I have shared a long writing journey together. When I plucked up the courage to join my very first writing group, Kandy was a member. I was immediately impressed both with the wonderful stories she wrote and also with her great work ethic. I still am!
Way back in the late 1990s when we met (yes, we ARE going back that far), Kandy was targeting Harlequin Mills and Boon as her preferred publishers. Many years and much writing success later, she’s now released her very first Harlequin Romance THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT.
THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT is gaining some wonderful reviews, including a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews, who said, “Shepherd’s love story is heartfelt and has the potential to reach the hearts of lovers across the globe. The main characters are perfect as a pair and the setting of New South Wales is described so beautifully, readers will almost feel the sand between their toes.”
Here’s the blurb:
It started with a summer kiss…
Sandy Adams is on her way to an interview, but when she sees a signpost for Dolphin Bay she decides to take a detour down memory lane….
Ben Morgan has had his share of heartache. But when a ghost from his youth catches his eye memories of their last summer together come flooding back.
Everything has changed in the past twelve years, and still they’re right back where they started, facing a second chance they deserve…together.
You can find out more about Kandy and her books on her website: http://kandyshepherd.com/
Kandy, welcome to the Bandita lair! Congratulations on the release of THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT, your first romance with Harlequin. I’m so excited about this book. Can you tell us about this story?
Thank you, Anna, it’s wonderful to be back in the lair with the wonderful Banditas! I’m particularly excited to be talking about this story with you because you were there (when we both lived in the same city!) when I first thought of the story and wrote the initial chapters. It got put aside while I worked on other books but the characters of Sandy Adam and Ben Morgan in THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT never let go and I always wanted to finish their story.
THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT is a very emotional, deeply romantic story of rekindled love between Sandy and Ben who first fell in love as teenagers. Twelve years go by between their first youthful kiss and the first time they kiss when they meet again. A lot has happened in the interim and Ben, in particular, is scarred—both physically and emotionally. Old hurts, betrayals, misunderstandings and deeply-entrenched barriers guarding their hearts mean these two really have to work for their happy-ever-after ending! I thoroughly enjoyed getting them there. In Romance shorthand, I call it my Beauty and the Beast Reunion Story!
Lovely! I always wanted to see how that story panned out. What were the inspirations behind this book?
Have you ever found yourself wondering about your first love—your lost love—maybe from many years ago? What would it be like to meet him or her again? Would you do things differently if you got a second chance? Would the old spark still be there?
I give Sandy and Ben just that opportunity when they meet up again in the coastal town of Dolphin Bay—the place where they first fell in love on summer vacation. Dolphin Bay is a fictional town but it is inspired by one of my favourite parts of Australia, the south coast of New South Wales about four hours drive from Sydney. There you’ll find quaint towns, beautiful pristine beaches and unspoiled bushland. I have spent many idyllic holidays there and hope to spend more in the future. Sun, surf, white sand, blue skies, freedom—it’s the perfect setting for both Sandy and Ben’s fleeting, youthful romance—and perhaps a more mature love that can last a lifetime.
(Little did I know as I was writing the setting I loved that it fell into the new genre of “coastal romance”!)
What is coming up for Kandy Shepherd?
I’m delighted there will be a return to Dolphin Bay in July 2014 with the release of my second book for Harlequin Mills & Boon, THE TYCOON AND THE WEDDING PLANNER. We meet Kate Parker as a secondary character in THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT and the second book is her story of finding love when she least expects it. It’s another emotional, romantic story that I really loved writing.
You’ve had such an interesting writing career. I’d love you to share your writing journey with us.
Like you, Anna, I always wanted to be a writer—and I was always attracted to romance. I had my first short stories published in women’s magazines when I was age twenty-one. Then I got distracted by a wonderful career in magazines, in both Australia and the UK. But the dream to write fiction never went away and I kept on writing in the time I could squeeze in between work and family commitments. Eventually I was published by Berkley Sensation with my two award-winning romantic comedies LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. Then I got intrigued by the brave new world of self-publishing and, to my surprise and delight, my sensual romance THE CASTAWAY BRIDE became an Amazon best seller.
Way back when I was very first trying to get published, I targeted Harlequin Mills & Boon in London—as many aspiring Australian romance writers did. That dream never went away and I was thrilled when THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT was accepted for the Harlequin Romance line.
Right now I’m concentrating on writing for Harlequin, which I am really enjoying. But I see myself as a “hybrid” writer balancing a career with traditionally published stories and self-published ones.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Persevere, persevere, persevere! Writing with the aim of publication isn’t for the faint-hearted or thin-skinned. Find critique partners you respect and trust—that has been very important for me. That said, you also need to have faith in your own voice and unique ideas. Keep alive the joy of writing—we write because we love it and should never lose sight of that!
Feel-good contemporary romance is definitely the soupe du jour with readers. Have you any thoughts on the rise and rise of this particular element of the romance genre?
I think readers being able to easily recognise and identify with characters, situations and settings has a lot to do with the appeal of contemporary romance. The people seem real, are relevant to everyday life and the settings are familiar.
Kandy, do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?
I love reunion romances and the idea of second chance at love. I also enjoy books set near the water, there’s something so appealing about a coastal or harbor setting. What about you—do you enjoy reunion romance? Do you ever wonder what would happen if you met up with someone from your past? Do you enjoy coastal settings? I have three signed copies of THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT (international) to give away to people leaving a comment.
Wow, that’s very generous, Kandy. Thank you. Get commenting, people!