Continuing from my interview and book review with the lovely Sonia, here’s some more of the amazing books I’ve read this month. And they’ve all put me through the emotional ringer in one way or another.
Emotion in Chains (Love Under Fire Series Book 4) by Carolyn Wren
Kidnapped, held in chains, beaten and without hope. Wealthy businessman James ‘North’ Northam believes he’s a dead man, until his daring rescue by a woman who disappears before he can thank her. Unable to forget his mysterious saviour, he vows to find her.
Omega has always kept her covert identity separate from her real life, but when James Northam invades her world and her privacy, he gets under her skin and lowers her defences. Suddenly, her plan to deny everything doesn’t seem to be working.
As their unlikely attraction grows, neither North nor Omega realise someone else from her past is also searching for her. Only this time it’s for revenge.
James Northman is a strong, powerful, take-charge businessman, and he’s untouchable, or so he thought. Kidnapped, beaten, tortured, he believed his life was at an end until an angel’s voice whispered in his ear that she was there to save him. Six months later, Northman is determined to thank the angel who saved his life, but she’s disappeared. Never one to take no for an answer, Northman finds the one person who may know where she’s gone, but he has no intention of making things easy for the determined man.
Meg ‘Omega’ Pryce is an extraordinary agent, one feared and respected in equal measures. She’s one of the most competent agents Jared Knight has, but she’s also the one he knows least. When she completes a mission, she moves on and never looks back. It’s safer that way, and she makes damn sure to retain the privacy she craves, so why is one of her former assignments in her place of sanctuary looking as though he’s searching for someone? A call to her boss tells Meg the man wants closure but it’s at her discretion. She’s been to hell and back in her short life. Discouraging a businessman, even one as handsome and sexy as Northman, should be a walk in the park.
But neither Meg nor North anticipated their growing attraction for each other, or their mutual trust and respect for the other’s circumstances. And they certainly didn’t expect to be battling ghosts of the past just as their future together seemed so bright.
Loved it. Ms Wren’s series so far has focussed on male agents. In book four, female agent, Omega, proves she’s everything bit as lethal, professional and skilful as her fellow team members. Learning Meg’s secrets and letting her grow, open up and trust North was an integral part of this story. She was strong minded, feminine, and Ms Wren gave her Omega an Alpha who was worthy of the love she had to give. Readers won’t be disappointed with their romance, nor the excellent tension that develops throughout the story. Can’t wait for the next book in the series. J
Shangri-La Spell (Book Eight of the Old School Network) by Jenny Schwartz
Olga Fisher is a dedicated 13OPS agent. She polices the supernatural. But how do you tell the good guys from the bad guys when a criminal mastermind has infiltrated the government and military? Who do you trust to go undercover with you to expose the villain and bring him to justice?
Former army captain Darius Selbourne is new to his powers of sorcery, but not to fighting evil. For him, the criminal mastermind’s activities have had devastating personal consequences.
Olga needs allies. Darius wants revenge. And the clock is ticking because the villain’s master plan is almost complete.
Olga Fisher is on one of the most dangerous missions of her career, but the criminal mastermind she’s chasing has a long reach. So long, in fact, he’s managed to alienate her from the company she’s served her entire adult life. They thought she was on her own, powerless to act. But they were wrong.
Darius Selbourne has been to hell and back no thanks to a dangerous adversary who thinks he’s untouchable. But now Darius has someone powerful helping him control his new powers and together they’ll take down the enemy or die trying.
But neither Olga nor Darius countered on their growing attraction for one another nor their strengthening emotional attachment. And in a world where romantic entanglements are another weakness to exploit, suddenly the stakes seem impossibly high.
Ms Schwartz’s stories never disappoint me. I know her main characters have inner strength and integrity, and their relationships always maintain a foundation of equality. I’ve followed snippets of both Olga’s and Darius’ stories throughout the series, and I’m glad they had their turn in the limelight. They worked well together once they let go of their early reservations and it was wonderful that they retained their strengths apart as well as together.
As much as I’d love for more characters to have their own story, unfortunately this is the end of the series. (For now.) I can only hope my gentle encouragement (nagging, begging and desperate pleading) might convince her to one day extend this series. J
Beneath the Veil by Bernadette O’Connor
Nobody knows what lies Beneath the Veil. Clara grows up haunted by the dark secrets of her past: a deadly betrayal, unspoken and unspeakable. Clara is too scared to speak her truth, knowing she will be condemned and punished by her brother or Father Stanley or Padraig McDermott. Her silence a betrayal of her soul. As she listens through the silence that surrounds her, the blood-stained truth engulfs her and her family. She must symbolically cleanse herself of her sins while the endless penance to God continues through abuse, humiliation and beatings, is anyone listening to her? Will Clara rise from the darkness of her past and free herself from the indoctrination of her remote Irish Catholic village? Can her gypsy soul awaken and ascend the power of her feminine?
At the tender age of seven, Clara knows all too well the meaning of compliance. She must obey her father in all matters, and when he’s not there, her brother, Vincent, rules their household in an iron, and vicious, grip. And in a close-knit God-fearing community where reputation, appearance, and patriarchal rule are everything, young Clara struggles to follow the confining nature the small village covets. Violated, abused, humiliated and abandoned by the people meant to protect her, Clara grows into a world of pain, horror and the notion she deserves the punishment inflicted upon her. To them, and more importantly, in Clara’s fragile mind, she is nothing more than a dirty sinner, a filthy, slovenly, good-for-nothing female.
But there is more to Clara than any man in an abusive position of power can contain. Through reconnecting with her aunt, who’s experienced similar atrocities at the hands of a priest who violates his position within the church, Clara regains her sanity, her control, and her long-lost love of life. And by confronting her past and the men intent on holding her back, Clara exposes what lies ‘Beneath the Veil’ and proves herself worthy of a Divinity and truth they can only hope to possess.
This book will drag you down to the dark depths, toss your emotions around like a ship caught in stormy, raging seas, and then guide you into the calming light again as you travel through its pages. Clara’s (and Maeve’s) story brings heartbreak, disbelief, anger, (there were times when I had to step away from this tale to regather myself) and then brings you forward. The reader feels what Clara and Maeve feel as they cross from a world of despair into a place of empowerment and knowing and finally a sense of peace. I loved the mystical elements weaved throughout the tale. This story will stay with the reader long after they’ve reached ‘the end.’
Passages – A Serenity Press Anthology
'When one door closes another one opens ...'
Sometimes life can throw curveballs and make us change direction.
Fifteen ordinary people embark on journeys that will challenge, change and, in some cases, almost destroy them, delving deeply into the highs and lows of life's adventures.
From rediscovering a passion for dancing, the harrowing breakdown of marriage, epic travels to and from foreign lands, sweeping love stories, inspirational journeys, and facing our worst fears, these tales give the best and worst of the passages of time, love and travel.
Are you courageous enough to join the ride?
Once again Serenity Press shares a collection of short stories that tug at the emotions and allows the reader to look through the window of other people’s live and understand how they reflect on their own experiences. And I’ll give you the ‘needs tissues warning’ again because there were so many moments where I stepped into those character’s lives and could think and feel every thought and sentiment. There’s a truth in these powerful tales which will speak to many, especially to those touched by that sense of powerlessness to help others. There’s also some brilliant twists (seamlessly clever) and a cheeky sense of humour that exudes from some of these tales. Just so you know they didn’t all make me cry. ;)
Hiraeth by Monique Mulligan
A young mum bravely adjusts to a new life on the other side of the continent leaving behind her family and everything she knows. ‘It’s only for two years,’ they say. Back ‘home,’ life goes on without her, the homesickness is unbearable, and the feeling she’s caught between two worlds never leaves. It becomes impossible not to feel forgotten at times when family events happen without her and makes the struggle harder. But somehow as that ‘only two’ turns into many years, and much heartbreak, comes a grand adventure she never expected.
So many elements of this story spoke to me. I cried many tears when I left my family behind to start a new life on the other side of the country in my own grand adventure, and I know they are back there living their lives without me. And I cried a little more when I read this.
New York, New York by Meagan Dux
When Ariel moves from Australia to live in New York with her mother, life couldn’t be more foreign. The kids laugh at the way she talks and mispronounces things making it easy to retreat into a world of books. Then her mother buys her a puppy named Frankie and suddenly her world is transformed. As they mature together, life becomes more magical for Ariel. She finds love, acceptance and happiness, but it’s Frankie who’s truly changed her world and she can’t imagine life without him.
Freedom by Veronica Gypsy
Claudette longs for happier times before her mother died and the terrible world war revisited her country. Even her father is lost to her, finding his own escape in a bottle to help forget how much his daughter reminds him of the love he lost. So, Claudette runs, escaping her father’s pain, her country’s torment, and her own misery to enjoy the freedom of a new life in a new country and the touch of a man who truly sets her free. Such beautiful sensuality in this story.
The Power of Ten by Sonia Bellhouse
Rick and Cara’s romance burned white hot, which was of little surprise considering he’d rescued her from a burning building. Cara was cautious knowing she already had one failed romance behind her, and so did he. The closer they became, the more outside influences fought to keep them apart until Rick suggested the perfect solution. They’d always wanted to leave their pasts behind them, why not follow their hearts and escape to Australia – a place for new memories untouched by the ones they were eager to leave behind. With the words ‘it will never work out’ echoing in their ears they sold everything and began their grand adventure determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
Flowers from the Heart by P.L. Harris
On the lead up to her twelfth anniversary, Jade convinced herself her husband didn’t love her anymore. He was too busy working to find time for her. But she woke that morning surrounded by her favourite flowers and her husband’s declaration of undying love. But no thanks to a terrible accident, their love did die. Then, on what should have been their thirteenth anniversary, flowers turn up on the doorstep. What kind of a terrible joke is this? Enraged, Jade enters the florist, determined to give the owners a piece of her mind, but life and love work in mysterious ways and Jade discovers even the saddest of endings have a way of sparking beautiful new beginnings.
The Colour of Fear by Priya Chidambaranathan
Along with her young son, Akila sits alone in her new flat in Australia, memories of a home invasion in her homeland still haunting her every thought when screams interrupt her musings. The neighbour insists someone tried to break into her apartment, but when the police arrive, the would-be thieves are long gone. A while later, while sitting in her new friend’s home, Akila notices a captivating painting, its slashes of red and yellow bringing the memories of her own horrible experience into sharp focus. ‘This is what fear looks like,’ she thinks, but out of that fear Akila discovers something more – a new friend, a new life, and a chance to move forward once more.
The Unravelling of Adventure by Amanda Viviers
Melissa never saw herself as brave or noble, but she was determined to return to Nepal and answer her life’s calling – to help the women and children of the remote villages improve their lives. And while she spent countless moments reliving the terror of her previous visit when the ground shook, buildings toppled, and dust filled the air, she loved how the group of women she guided began to see the power the villagers had. The mothers were as proud and hopeful for the children as they were and the connections they made on that tour would make a difference to their futures. But for Melissa, facing her fears gave her an unexpected blessing that no terrifying earthquake could take away.
The Wash by Lisa A. Wolstenholme
Clare couldn’t understand why her brother loved drugs more than his family, so she studied psychology in hopes it would give her some much needed answers. Work placement found her in a prison rehab program observing inmates as they reflected on their afflictions and focused on ways to move forward. There she connected with Michael, an alcoholic. When the study finished and Clare moved on, something always drew her back to him. He spent the next five years in and out of her life, sometimes sober, but when things went wrong, he would always find solace in the bottle. No matter what she did, Clare couldn’t convince him to break the habit, and just like it was with her brother, she felt powerless to help Michael move from his self-destructive path. Then one day she gets the news she’s dreaded hearing and the grief sparks a life changing decision of her own.
Adrenaline Junkie by Kelly Van Nelson
Hayden lived for excitement and the beauty standing before him now promises a challenge he can barely resist. She evokes memories of the last woman to make him feel that way, but she’d been gone for three years now. He remembered every detail about her. Alone and newly arrived in the country, he’d become her first Australian friend and her first date. She’d jumped at the chance to explore Rottnest Island with him. He travelled there first, checking out the museum and enjoying coffee as he planned the day and waited for her to arrive on a later boat. They had a wonderful time exploring the beach and riding their bikes along the trails. He took her swimming far from prying eyes along the reef. It had been the perfect day. And then he never saw her again. Now he smiled as the beauty glanced his way. He knew he was breaking through her resolve when she gave a small smile in return. And as he’d done that day three years ago, he fantasised what could happen once they were alone.
Rock the Boat by Lia Eliades
Sailing in a catamaran with a happily married couple was the last thing Ingrid felt like doing. Not with the brutal sting of betrayal still stabbing at her shattered heart. And now her cheating husband, Gary, expects her to just get over it. The fact that it doesn’t bother him burns even more. ‘Don’t rock the boat, Ingrid.’ Is that what she deserves? To stay married and caught in a loveless life from which there’s no escape? But once they’re out on the open water, Ingrid realises life was never about smooth sailing and it’s about time she loosened the knots keeping her captive.
Not What She Expected by Jean Frost
Sue was a bundle of nerves when she agreed to accompany her outgoing sister, Kathy, on a four-day cruise. Seeing the boat reminded her of being a small child travelling to Australia to begin a new life. Everyone loved Kathy, but she preferred being in the background. But after a night out and way too many drinks, Kathy’s too ill to accompany Sue to any activities. Pushing herself out of her comfort zone, Sue discovers she can still do the dancing she loved as a child and when the opportunity comes, quiet wallflower Sue discovers she’s more than capable of having her time to shine.
Delayed by Tabetha Rogers Beggs
Keen to surprise her boyfriend, well, he was practically her boyfriend, Lexi couldn’t wait to arrive at Ibiza and find herself in Toby’s arms. They’d been instantly attracted to each other when she arrived in England and the singer had fallen in love with her Australian accent. When her flight is delayed, Lexi decides to have a few drinks at the bar and enjoy chatting with the sexy barman, okay, flirting, but she’s already told him her plans to surprise her boyfriend. When she finally arrives at Ibiza after more delays, and one that’s especially suspicious, Lexi discovers why surprises are always more than anyone expects.
Reunion by Jean Jenkins
Maybe it was madness, but after her husband’s affairs and their impending divorce, was Maggie crazy for travelling from Perth to Cairns to meet the man who’d stolen her heart when they were teens? Crazy perhaps, but when Peter knocks on her hotel room door, she feels like a teenager again. She’d be cautious, she told herself, and she wasn’t on the rebound, but oh, how she missed the look of tenderness in Peter’s eyes, to feel loved again and so much more. But while they’re travelling down the Bruce Highway, Peter gets a call that sets her alarm bells ringing. Surely, she can’t be made a fool of twice?
Stage Fright by Teena Raffa-Mulligan
Fifteen-year-old Nina was thrilled when her favourite teacher asked her to represent the school in a public speaking competition. Of course, she would do it. She could already picture the judge declaring her the winner and advancing to the next level of the competition. She wasn’t nervous on the day; she couldn’t wait for her turn. Then minutes into her speech Nina realised she couldn’t remember her words. Devastated and embarrassed, all Nina wants to do is run and hide, but then comes an opportunity she never expected.
To Be or Not to Be by Karen Weaver
Casey lives a full life caring for her young son, being a single parent, working part time during the day and studying at night. When her boss mentions an opportunity, Casey felt it was something she had to do, so along with her sister for support, she attended the interview and was accepted into the program. It meant regular weekends away from her son and from the man she was falling for, but Casey knew she was where she was meant to be. With each new opportunity came the knowledge she was on the right path. Likewise, if it wasn’t meant to be, she trusted life would guide her in another direction. And with that ‘knowing,’ came a valuable sense of powerfulness and a feeling of accomplishment because in her heart, she accepted her life experiences were ‘meant to be.’
This month I’ve celebrated my friend’s debut book launch, joined a short stories writing group, and sent the kids back to school. Don’t tell them I cheered. ;)
I’ve also finished a short story, which I’m letting rest before editing. Meanwhile, more stories beckon. J
For now, it’s back to huddling over my notebook, staring at the computer screen, and more reading. The writing centre has set their next anthology theme – spooky stories, so once I’ve finished my current project, those ghostly ghoulies and long-legged beasties will be spinning their way into my thoughts once again. J
I hope you all have a wonderful month filled with amazing stories. Chat soon!