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 Oct 21 2014, 12:01 am in Afterlife Goes On, Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, Bloomsbury Spark, Debut authors, Ghosts, interviews, This Is Your Afterlife, Vanessa Barneveld, young adult
I’m delighted to host for the very first time in the lair, my very dear friend Vanessa Barneveld, a triple Golden Heart finalist. Vanessa’s debut young adult romance THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE comes out from Bloomsbury Spark today!
Vanessa and I met some years ago, working as captioners on television programs for the Deaf. We bonded over a mutual love for romance and a shared dream to be published romance writers. I’m so happy for Vanessa that her dream has come true in such style!
Here’s the blurb for THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE:
When the one boy you crushed on in life can’t seem to stay away in death, it’s hard to be a normal teen when you’re a teen paranormal.
Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.
Keira’s determined to do anything to find Jimmy’s killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira’s ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.
You can find out more about Vanessa and her books on her website: http://www.vanessabarneveld.com/
By the way, I love the ‘ghostly’ pics Vanessa sent to accompany this article. The cemetery ones are from Camperdown in Sydney – and of course every paranormal writer needs cats, especially black ones!
Check out the great trailer Vanessa made for her book. That Dan’s a bit of all right, isn’t he?
Vanessa, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to host you at the Romance Bandits to celebrate the release of your first book THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. Can you tell us something about this story?
Anna, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be in the Lair as a debut author! You and the Banditas have been so good to me over the years. (Waving to the Golden Rooster and the trusty cabana boys!) THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE was a finalist in this year’s Golden Heart YA category. It’s a paranormal that brings new meaning to “teen spirit.”
Sounds great! What were the inspirations behind this story?
The idea of ghosts is endlessly fascinating to me. As a child, I fed my imagination with a UK series of magazines called THE UNEXPLAINED, which was chock-full of paranormal phenomena. So it’s no surprise that this led me to writing ghost stories!
As with most of my books, it was the title that came first. I don’t remember the exact moment it hit me, but from then on, characters started “talking” to me. Jimmy, the dead guy, had looks, talent and his own fan club. The world was at his feet, but it was ripped from under him in one terrible moment. My heroine, Keira, is clairvoyant. That means she sees dead people. Her character is loosely based on a member of my husband’s family who was psychic and helped police with investigations many years ago. Keira was a card-carrying member of Jimmy’s fan club. “What bugs me is that I’ve been invisible to Jimmy for years. Now that he’s dead, he finally sees me. There is no justice in the world,” she says.
Oh, no wonder Keira’s a bit annoyed! What’s coming up next?
I’m partying for the next week – literally! I’ve got a stellar line-up of YA authors sharing spooky stories on my blog. Once the paranormal party’s over, it’s back to work on my follow-up book, AFTERLIFE GOES ON. I may or may not be traveling to Amsterdam to research that story. I’m partway through a UFO abduction book. It’s a ton of fun! I may or may not be traveling to another galaxy to research that story. Next year, I hope to continue my master’s degree in writing.
We love, love, love call stories in the lair. Can you please tell us yours?
With pleasure! I’ve been writing with the aim of publication since 1997 and have written eight or nine paranormal and contemporary YA manuscripts since then. In 2007, after facing more than 100 agent rejections on three different books, I signed with Writers House. (Third time lucky!) Then we proceeded to rack up so many rejections I was sure I’d make the GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS. The rejections were rarely about the writing—that was comforting!
THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE was the fourth of my books to be shopped. Rejections galore, which I had come to expect. My agent submitted to Bloomsbury’s New York office in July 2013. A few days later, my sister and I went to London and we kept drifting toward the Bloomsbury area. Just by accident, but I thought it was a nice omen.
In March this year, my agent emailed me when I was at the day job and said she wanted to call me. I immediately thought, “Maybe she wants to drop me!” I quickly emailed a very wise and trusted friend who told me I was a total loon. (Not in so many words.)
As it turns out, my agent had the best news of all — an offer from Bloomsbury Spark! My workmates managed to find a bottle of champagne at 10 o’clock in the morning and we had a little celebration. The book received a Golden Heart nomination a few weeks after that.
Great story! Young adult books are huge in the market right now, with all ages. What do you think is the appeal of the genre for the general reader?
I can speak for myself in that teen fiction allows me to see the world through a younger person’s filter. I like seeing how teen characters react against the problems they face and choices they have to make. It brings back great (and not-so-great!) memories of firsts – first kisses, first dates, first time you felt like you were growing into your identity.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Simplest advice? Read! Study the masters of your genre. I recommend reading out of your genre for a fresh perspective, too. If there’s one thing I know about writing it’s that I don’t know enough about writing! So whatever level you’re at, keep learning through workshops or craft books and blogs. Join an organisation for writers (e.g. RWA) where you can find a critique group, learn from others, and importantly, share what you’ve learned. And one last thing—just write. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer Prize-winning prose, not in the first draft, anyway! Good luck! 🙂
Great advice, Vanessa. Do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies to get conversation going?
If you could have a paranormal power, what would it be and why?
Get commenting, people! Vanessa has very generously offered a download of THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE along with a $20 Amazon giftcard for someone who leaves us a message today. Good luck!