Robyn Harding: The Arrangement

It was a pleasure to read Robyn Harding’s the Arrangement. I was immediately hooked into this novel.

The first half of the novel reads like a romantic novel where poor girl finds her prince charming (put aside the sugar daddy and sugar baby dynamics). What woman wouldn’t want the kind of attention and love which Gabe showered so generously on Nat? Think Pretty Woman.

Through Robyn Harding’s intensive research on sugar babies, (which she describes in her Acknowledgements), we get a good glance into this dark and tightly controlled world.

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving. *

The second half of the novel is a mystery/court case/crime novel.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder. *

I was surprised that one of the categories in the product description was kidnapping thriller, which I did not find pertinent to this novel. Unless I’m missing something.

The ending was satisfactory and somewhat unexpected; it had a comfortable feel to it and the novel moved at a relatively fast pace. It was a rather long book but well worth my time.

* Italic text is from the book description on Amazon.

Jill Weatherholt: A Dream of Family

Are you looking to spend some time with some really nice people? People who have values and can touch your heart? An uplifting and inspiring novel?

Then pick up A Dream of Family and hang out with the characters in Jill Weatherholt’s latest novel.

There’s Molly who’s bookstore dream is in danger of being taken over by a big box bookstore. Not only does her dream of adopting Grace – whose foster care abuse is heartbreaking and erringly similar to Molly’s – depend on her financial success with her bookstore, but she also hopes to have enough success so that she could spend time writing her short stories and novel.

There’s Derek who’s still hurting from his father’s secret and must learn forgiveness in order to be able to trust in love and family once again.

Then there’s adorable six-year-old Grace who wishes for a forever family. Derek’s dog Duke, wins over little Grace’s heart offering the reader some precious scenes that are bound to melt your own heart.

I loved the mixture of business, writing and romance. Besides being a sweet story, the novel also offers some practical and realistic advice on how to run a successful business from branding to making use of technology. Derek’s optimism running his coffee shops spills over in his personality filled with infectious enthusiasm.

There are many tender moments in Jill Weatherholts’ signature feel good novel. One of my favorites was this one:

“I get tired of moving. I want my own room with bookshelves filled with books and a dog like Duke.”

“I want it for you too, sweetie.” She (Molly) took in a deep breath. “I’d like to give you all of that and more, Grace.”

I loved every page in this book from Molly’s rocky start to a very satisfying surprise ending.  

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Comingofage #Crimethriller – Just Before Sunrise by Carol Balawyder

Thank you, Sally, for posting my latest novel along with Jacqui’s review of my other crime novel Warning Signs.

Follow me on Facebook at:  https://www.Facebook.com/authorcarolbalawyder

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share the news of the latest release by Carol Balawyder – a coming of age crime thriller...Just Before Sunrise

About the book

A coming-of-age story with a domestic noir twist.

Nadine, tired of running her call-girl agency has upgraded to gold digger as she finds the perfect rich widower to marry. Discovering that her wealthy widower is an abuser she seduces his stepson, Charlie, to plot her husband’s murder.

But things don’t go as planned and soon she is turning to her experience hiring young call-girls to find the perfect girl to save her from going to prison…

Homeless Maya is drifting on the streets, grieving the recent loss of her mother.
When she is offered the opportunity to prepare a lake-side house to be used as a half-way home for delinquent girls, she doesn’t think twice.

She soon falls for Charlie, the attractive boy next…

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Jennifer Kelland Perry: Calmer Secrets

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The Cross family (Darlene, Samantha, Veronica, baby Henry and Cash, Darlene’s boyfriend) are a normal family with its own problems ranging from sibling conflict over a boy, a mother’s drinking problem and abuse.

Calmer Secrets is a novel about good people making bad choices. It is a book about an affectionate family sticking together through thick and thin.

But it is also about romantic relationships. There’s Darlene with Cash, her live-in boyfriend who get along splendidly. Then Veronica’s dating “like you’re going through a box of Kleenex,” Samantha tells her and finally there’s Samantha’s conflict between two guys.

For anyone who has gone through dating in their early twenties, you will recognize the angst, vulnerability and fragility of that period of beginning to date.

Although Calmer Secrets is classed as a Young Adult book there isn’t an age to stop enjoying a book genre. I’ve always loved YA books, often taking me back to my own young adulthood and providing me with a few new vocabulary words:

Girl, you are bangin, says one of Samantha’s boyfriend’s when he sees her appear. To which she answers You’re pretty dope yourself. By the context I took these words to mean cool.

Calmer Secrets takes place in St John’s, Newfoundland, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. It was a pleasure reading about the vibrant painted row-houses, the pubs and the mall and a major blizzard which the author cleverly uses to advance her plot.

It’s a heartwarming book. Filled with love and tenderness and suspense.

Writing Under A Pen Name

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of having an impromptu interview with Carrie Rubin about her usage of a pen name for her cozy mystery The Cruise Ship Lost My Daughter.

Carrie isn’t alone in using a pen name. In fact, she is in good company. Can you identify the well-known writers who wrote under these pen names? (answers are at the end of the post – no cheating!).

Robert Galbraith

Richard Bachman

Dan Kavanagh

Benjamin Black

Mary Westmacott

Claire Morgan

Back to Carrie and her pen name. Here are some questions which Carrie so graciously accepted to answer.

What made you write this book under another name?   

I decided to use a pen name for the cozy mystery because it’s a different genre than what I normally write. Readers develop expectations from a writer in terms of style and plot elements, and using different names for different genres can be helpful to avoid steering a reader down the wrong path. For example, while someone might enjoy the light and clean style of my cozy mystery, they might be put off by one of my thrillers, which tend to be dark and sometimes contain violence and profanity. So, I thought it made sense to differentiate the two genres by using different names.

Has this led to any confusion or marketing difficulties? 

Marketing is always difficult and definitely not my strong suit, but I think it’s actually made it easier in the sense that my website still presents me as a writer of genre-bending medical thrillers. If I add a humorous cozy mystery to my banner of books, it might be an odd contrast. That being said, my various profiles across the internet (e.g., on Amazon, on Goodreads, on my website) mention that I also have a cozy mystery written under a pen name, and Morgan Mayer’s profile mentions she also writes thrillers under my name, so hopefully any interested readers will find their way from one author name to the other.

Are you planning to write other books under Morgan Mayer? 

I’d love to, but I’m not sure how soon because it’ll depend on what happens on the traditional publishing front. Although my agent was wonderfully accommodating and accepted my desire to go indie with The Cruise Ship Lost My Daughter (much quicker path to publication than the traditional route), she currently has one of my unpublished manuscripts on submission and she’ll put another one on submission soon, so if they get deals, I’ll be busy with that for a while. Plus, I’m currently working on the third book in my Benjamin Oris thriller series. But if I get some downtime in between, it would be a lot of fun to write another cozy mystery!

What are advantages to writing under two names?

Aside from what I mentioned above, writing under different names gives an author a chance to experiment a bit. Allows them to write something they haven’t before without clouding the image of their usual line of work.

Here’s what to do if you’re thinking of using a pen name?

Here are the answers to the famous authors pen names.

JK Rowling – Robert Galbraith

Stephen King – Richard Bachman

Julian Barnes – Dan Kavanagh

Agatha Christie – Mary Westmacott

Patricia Highsmith – Claire Morgan

Paperback Writer

Finally, I have my e-books into paperback and it was a frustrating journey. First, the technical designer I hired didn’t work out after three months of back and forth with her. Then, the second technical consultant wasn’t able to put two of my e-books into paperback either because the one of the original e-book cover no longer existed or the owner of the other e-book was asking an exorbitant amount of money to use it. Then, there was the problem of Kindle’s size requirements, which luckily my technical consultant was able to deal with.

In the end, I ended up having to choose different covers for two of my paperbacks. So, three months later, here are my paperback novels.

About the Getting to Mr. Right Series

The series starts off by focusing on Campbell Jones –an award-winning relationship-therapist at the peak of her career. Friendship and support shared between the characters of Campbell’s focus group evolves as the novel progresses.

The underlying theme throughout the original Getting to Mr. Right and the four novellas which follow is “being true to oneself.” The novellas are all expansions of the main story – dating adventures for Missi, a café for Suzy, dealing with an uprooted life for Felicity and an unexpected pregnancy on the edge of mid-life for Campbell. The series has gone beyond the original premise of “Getting a man” and in true women’s fiction style, deals with the issues that come after “happily ever after.” Although all these women are now in romantic relationships, it’s more the by-product of living their lives fully than a pursuit for finding a partner.

Click on the book titles to order

Book 1: Getting to Mr. Right

Campbell’s research into the father/daughter dynamic and how it affects a woman’s personal choices proves that Prince Charming is nothing but a myth. In a few months, she will receive international recognition for her work.As part of her study, Campbell gives workshops to help women still seeking Mr. Right. Her latest group is made up of three women: Missi Morgan, who can’t seem to let go of a philandering spouse; Suzy Paradise, a self-proclaimed queen of online dating; and Felicity Starr, whose life and career are dictated by a controlling father.In the midst of her study, a charming and personable man enters Campbell’s life, putting her theories in shambles. Not only does she now question the validity of her research, but she must choose between her career and having her own Prince Charming. This personal dilemma makes it difficult for Campbell to give these women advice, as she encourages them to find their own paths to happiness and helps them set themselves free.

Book 2: Missi’s Dating Adventures

Missi Morgan is your everyday middle-aged woman who is suddenly thrust into an online dating world after years of married bliss. After learning to let go of Max, her husband who dumped her, Missi explores the world of online dating. Through one disastrous date after another, Missi learns lessons that help her discover what she truly wants. She may not find the perfect match but she finds the perfect self.

A romantic comedy for anybody having to tackle online dating and letting go.

Book 3: Not By Design

Ever since she first appeared in Getting To Mr. Right, Felicity Starr has been struggling to find her own kind of contentment. Now, at thirty-five and living in Rome, Felicity is about to break into the world of fashion design, and caught in a flurry of plans for her wedding when calamity strikes. Her father’s sudden death brings into question the whole meaning of success. Then Marco, the man she’s about to marry, leaves her when he learns of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Forced to return to Montreal, Felicity finds her life thrust into unexpected turns. As she confronts the on-going challenges presented by her disease, she gains the strength to let go of old beliefs and face her inner truths. Love, friendship and rewarding work come in different forms and Felicity finds it all in ways she never imagined – in a life that’s not by design.

Book 4: Cafe Paradise

Most of Suzy Paradise’s dreams died along with her son over twenty years ago.
One thing has re-ignited her passion for living – running her own café, which specializes in home-baked donuts. For Suzy, this is a long-cherished dream come true. Her business is starting to flounder when Donuts-A-Million, a giant chain, opens across the street from her. Her unexpected attraction to Coen Walsh, a regular customer at her café, creates more tension when she learns of his affiliation with her competitor.
Café Paradise is about Suzy’s fight to save her business in spite of the odds. Sometimes, she realizes, dreams have an expiration date and it takes just as much courage to let them go.
Along the way, she must re-define the meaning of work, family and romance so she can find her own formula for happiness.

Book 5: The Longest Nine Months

In Getting to Mr. Right, Campbell debunked the Prince Charming myth, only to meet a special man who turned all her assumptions upside down.
Now she’s married to Chand. But Happily-Ever-After turns out to be another illusion.
Campbell deals with job burnout and struggles to find her place in the world. An unexpected pregnancy and its complications undermine her relationship with Chand and take her to a difficult crossroad. No matter which way she decides to go, nothing will ever be the same!

OTHER BOOKS

Warning Signs

A psychological crime novel about obsession. Eugene’s research into his criminal mind is not about the why, but how to prevent his horrific crimes. Angie, a young woman starving for passion sees Eugene as her savior from a lonely life of caring for her heroin addicted mother. How far is she willing to go in order to save her relationship with Eugene and his promise for a future together? Detective Van Ray is on a vindictive mission as he attempts to solve the murders of young girls in Youth Protection. Their lives collide in a mixture of mistrust, obsession and ignoring the warning signs. A psychological crime novel about human frailty and loneliness.

Mourning Has Broken – A Memoir on Grief

Mourning Has Broken offers a moving and poignant look at grief and loss. In this collection of narrative non-fiction essays, the author speaks from the heart not only about the death of a dear sister but also about the mourning of a mother, a father, a dear friend, a career and a religion. Readers who have known loss will find much to relate to in this book, and will particularly appreciate the author’s ability to be frank and open and at times humorous about feelings that might be difficult to acknowledge.

Ellie Marrandette: Restoring Hope

Through golf the student learns discipline, integrity, patience and the joy of accomplishing a difficult task.

Restoring Hope takes off where Ellie Marrandette’s last novel, Casey’s Journey ended. Casey at the age of five was abducted and adopted.

Adoption is a complex issue. There is the adopted child to consider as well as the adoptive parents and the real parents. The search for one’s child or mother and the fear this brings to the adoptive parents is all part of the dynamics of adoption which the author addresses in this novel.  

In Restoring Hope, Casey – one of the central characters of the novel – is searching for the child she gave up for adoption while in the process of setting up a non-profit Golf Academy for underprivileged young girls.

Golf, as Casey explains, is a rich man’s sport and so her motivation in setting up the Restoring Hope Golf Academy is to offer golf scholarships to girls coming from unhealthy environments: gangs, poverty, racial inequality and abuse among other disadvantages. The Academy’s goal is to teach these at risk young women life skills through golf and provide them with opportunities to succeed.

Hope, one of the students in the Academy,  does not fit the mold of being brought up in poverty or gangs. Yet, she is a disturbed child filled with the sense of not belonging, guilt for her adoptive mother’s death, and fear of being abandoned by her father.

Level-headed pro golfer, Casey, is not naïve to believe that all her students will end up playing on golf tours but she is wise enough to know that some of her students will exhibit business skills and that golf will help them in the competitive world of men doing business on the golf course. 

Even if you don’t play golf or, for some reason or another, don’t like the game, Restoring Hope will make you gain appreciation and respect for it. As a Christian faith oriented novel, the game of golf is used as a means to provide positive guidance through an ethical and moral compass. Plus, if you are a golf fan, as I am, I picked up some interesting golf tips.

In 2011 I worked as a volunteer at the Women’s Canadian Open outside of Montreal. Reading this novel brought back memories of that week which I spent watching some of the best women golfers in the world, how they focused on their game and the smooth, confident intensity of their shots. In reading the scenes in Restoring Hope of preparing for and taking part in a golf tournament, I was brought back to these behind the scenes of pro-golf from the resources it takes to put a tour together, to the practice before the tour and the joys of accomplishment which follow.

Restoring Hope is also full of romance with its twists and turns, which adds an endearing and suspenseful touch to the novel.

In the end, this is a novel about integrity, love and purpose.

It’s a hopeful novel.

Which is something the world needs these days.

Jill Weatherholt: A Home For Her Daughter

It’s so comforting to read about good, honest people who care about each other.

A Home for Her Daughter is the fourth novel in Jill Weatherholt’s Love Inspired Series. The novel is character driven with the three stars Janie and her joyful, whimsical daughter Riley and Drew, a man Janie once had a high school crush on. I found it easy to get into the story and Jill made her characters come alive in a calm setting that I could easily visualize.

Both Janie and Drew have been hurt by love. For Janie hers was by an abusive husband and Jill Weatherholt shows the realistic long lasting damaging effects which abuse can have on a person. Not just physical abuse but psychological abuse. Janie believes that she is good at nothing while Drew carries with him the guilt over his wife and young daughter’s deaths.  

After her divorce from her abusive husband, Janie moves with her daughter to her home town, a beautiful place where everyone helps each other.  There she meets up with Drew, of all places, in a notary’s office, where they are both mentioned in a will. The catch: they must work together to build a camp for young children.

Although there are obvious sparks and chemistry between Janie and Drew their past pain keeps them from going there. Neither feel worthy of having a relationship. And neither is willing or ready to share the cause of their pain.

This is a very tender romance story which I found pure pleasure in reading. It’s compelling how three people can have such a strong loving bond together. This is a story about hope and how the world is a soft place when inhabited by kindness, caring, loving and the unwillingness to hurt anyone.

I’ve read two of her novels in this series (A Mother for his Twins and Second Chance Romance). After reading  A Home for Her Daughter I think it’s safe to say that you can count on Jill Weatherholt to deliver a story filled with tenderness, hope and a longing for goodness.  

Ana Linden: Frames

Ana Linden Frames

 

I’ve always liked Ana Linden’s books. She’s very good at getting inside her characters’ heads.

Frames consists of four short character driven stories. These are not ordinary characters and through their flaws Ana Linden gives us insight into relationships and human nature.

The subjects of her stories range from the damaged educational system, the cruelty of abuse, loneliness, losers and guilt.

Sometimes you just need to feel a bad day for what it is. Unpleasant. Unexplicable. Normal.

In the opening story, Choices, two strangers meet on a plane. One is planning a vacation while the other has been hired to follow her. It is a fresh twist to the “strangers on a train” theme, filled with its high dosage of suspense and an intriguing love story in a noir atmosphere.
The second story, titled Frames, is about two retired teachers, married to each other and disillusioned with the educational system and marriage. As the story progresses each character individually and separately finds meaning in his/her life and a closer connection to each other. It is a story filled with empathy, kindness and hope. Life is not all doom and gloom. There are treasures to be recognized.
Drive, the third story in the collection presents the sad, long term effects of abuse and the power of guilt. In this story, Ana Linden makes us see child abuse from the opposite angle where it is the mother who is the abuser and the father who silently stands by. The secret the son shares with his father is both touching and sad and as the young boy becomes adult we see how his abuse affects his relationships with women until he meets a woman who is worse battered than himself.

Read a sample of Drive here.

The last story Trespasser is also about abuse and once again here we have the woman abusing her boyfriend – both need each other in their twisted ways. Ana Linden presents a very in depth description of both characters and their inner workings, the abuser making the argument why they are not right for each other while the abused seems unable to let go. This is a good story for anyone interested in the dynamics between a dysfunctional couple and why someone stays in an abusive relationship.

Linden’s writing is not ordinary. She is unafraid to show the rawness of human nature in a unique literary voice. She is an artist using words as her medium. It is reflective writing.  The stories in Frames are the kind that you want to savor and allow the beauty of the writing sink in. There is no sermonizing in these stories and we understand what is not being said. This makes for quite satisfying reading.

 

 

Jill Weatherholt: A Mother for His Twins

 

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I love a good romance and in her latest novel Jill Weatherholt delivers. The romantic partners in question are Joy (appropriately named) and Nick who were once high school sweethearts.

The author sets her story fourteen years later, though this time, in a professional setting. Joy and Nick are both vying for the position as principal of a mountain community school. Joy has had her heart and future set on that position, hoping “to fulfill her dream of following in her father’s footsteps,” while becoming principal is why Nick came back to this town in the first place.

After suddenly leaving Joy cold, Nick returns to town as a widower with his twin boys and a ton of guilt on his shoulders. It was truly refreshing to read of a male character who is in touch with his emotions and questions his parental role as much as his professional one.

As for Joy, I found that the author captured well what it is like to come home to the emptiness of a house, to cook just for one, to long for the security of a family and to acknowledge that  “… there was no such thing as a happy ending.”

The author skillfully reveals what happened during that fourteen year separation as she goes back and forth from past secrets to present scars: “both carried shameful secrets from their past that they were unable to escape.”

What makes A Mother for His Twins stand out is the depth of the characters dealing with contemporary issues. Think of the Me Too Mouvement, sibling jealousy and past wounds that have been shoved under the carpet.

The author has a knack of keeping the reader hooked. This is an engaging and enjoyable novel and I loved the unexpected ending.

A love story to warm the heart.

For more on Jill Weatherholt