In Honour Bound by Christine Webber @1chriswebber #BookReview #RomanticFiction #amreading

This is Christine Webber’s latest book and the third one of hers that I’ve reviewed. You can read my reviews of her earlier novels Who’d Have Thought It and It’s Who We Are here on the blog too. Just click on the book title to do so. I also interviewed Christine back in January this year and you can read that post here.

I very much enjoyed this author’s first two books, so it’s safe to say I thought knew what to expect with her new one. And yes, I did enjoy it. And yes, the writing and the storytelling were first class.

But the story content was quite different from its predecessors.

First of all, unlike Christine Webber’s first two books, In Honour Bound is not quite contemporary fiction. It’s set in the 1980s and this is when it was written and first published. This latest edition is a rewritten and revised version of the original.

The story is set in London and it tells of the intense and passionate love between TV reporter Helen and Egyptian, but London-based, heart-surgeon Sam. There are highs, lows, and several shocks along the way. And it’s an emotional and poignant read from start to finish.

I enjoyed being taken back to a time when I too – like the main character Helen –was in my thirties. I enjoyed the insights into how the live TV set up works and into what Helen’s working days involved.

But most of all, I loved being immersed in Helen and Sam’s story which is so beautifully told.

All in all a great read.

From the Back Cover:

Set in 1980’s London, Helen Bartlett, a popular TV news presenter and Sam Aziz, a glamorous middle-eastern cardiac surgeon, meet on a live programme. They dislike each other on sight, and the interview is a disaster. But that is not the end of their story because later that evening, they find themselves at the same dinner party. 
Over the weeks, hostility morphs into passion, and soon they fall desperately in love. 
Both are looking for the right partner with whom to settle down and produce a family. They seem made for each other; they delight in the joy that they have found, and plan to marry. But then, the differences in their cultural backgrounds start to manifest themselves. And a debt of honour that Sam cannot ignore returns to haunt him. 
Struggling with their torment, while she is so much in the public eye and he is performing life-saving surgery on a daily basis, places them under intolerable strain. 
Must they relinquish the most magical relationship either of them has ever known? Can they find a way out of their dilemmas? Or do they have to accept that no matter how modern we are, we cannot fly in the face of the traditions that served, and shaped us, for centuries?

In Honour Bound is available to buy here.

A Model Wife by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #Book Review #amreading

I was looking forward to reading this latest novel from one of my favourite authors. I wasn’t disappointed. A Model Wife is a compelling and involving read.

The story centres around Celia, who readers first met in Isobel’s Promise – one of Maggie Christensen’s earlier novels – and Johnno. At its heart there’s the slow-burning romance between Celia and Johnno. But this is intertwined with other stories of family and friendship, and with difficult issues such as Celia’s abusive husband and Johnno’s precarious and high pressure business life.

The storytelling is excellent. I was hooked from the start and really cared about what happened to Celia and to Johnno. I so wanted them to overcome their difficulties and to be happy and together that it was difficult to put the book down.

This was a first-class story of mid-life challenges and of second-chance romance.

From the Back Cover:

Former top model Celia Ramsay is determined to extricate herself from her bullying husband – a former football hero. Despite his despicable behaviour towards their daughters, Celia agrees to join her husband on the media campaign for his memoir in return for an advance on the divorce settlement. But what she hasn’t bargained for is the spate of sexual harassment allegations against her husband and the media fallout which threatens to affect her entire family, not to mention her own sanity.

Real estate developer Johnno Henderson has always been a commitment-phobe, preferring to have a string of young models on his arm. But, as he nears fifty, he’s beginning to long for something more permanent. On the brink of the biggest deal of his career, a chance meeting with a former top model stirs up feelings Johnno never thought he was capable of, if only his playboy reputation would stop following him around.

Can this unlikely couple make a future together?

Set in Sydney at the height of the same sex marriage debate and the #MeToo campaign

A Model Wife is a women’s fiction book featuring compelling real-life characters, fascinating plot twists and a strong mid-life heroine. If you like feel-good stories of second chances, you’ll love this new book from Maggie Christensen.

A Model Wife is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

The Genre Conundrum Part 3: Age and other issues in Romantic Fiction #amwriting

Read Me
Photo by Us Wah on Unsplash

When I was looking for a literary agent and publisher for my first novel, Change of Life, nearly ten years ago, one of the rejection reasons I was given was the age of my main characters. I was told nobody wanted to read a romance where the prospective couple were in their late forties and especially where they had to deal with awkward teenage children and cope with one of them falling seriously ill. It seemed realism was out and hearts and flowers happy-ever-after romanticism was in.

Things have moved on a bit since then. There are romantic novels, where difficult issues are included in the story. However, romance does still seem to be dominated by the ‘Cafe in the Seaside Village’ type stories with their matchstick female figures on their pastel-coloured covers. But even although the covers are clichéd, and the stories follow a formula, they can be very enjoyable in a hearts-and- flowers, young love, happy-ever-after sort of way.

But it seems to me that romantic fiction with older lead characters is still in the minority – even although the biggest part of the population in the UK is over fifty. I don’t believe it’s because people don’t want to read such novels and I think maybe the big publishers are missing a trick here.

I should also say before going any further that what follows is merely my impression and  my opinion. It isn’t based on any scientific research.

And my final disclosure is one of vested interest – I am 61 and three-quarters years-old.

Oh and PS – I should also say that I’m in no way anti romantic fiction with   characters. I’ve recently read and thoroughly enjoyed three excellent  romances with protagonists in their twenties and thirties. These were June Kearns two historical romances: The Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy and The 20s Girl, the Ghost and All That Jazz. And my most recent read is Kate Field’s The Magic of Ramblings which truly is magic – and poignant and beautiful.

But I also enjoy reading about older characters falling in love. I like romances where the protagonists are in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond. And I like a bit of realism. I like to see the prospective couple facing up to the issues, complications and challenges that come with age. I like it when there are several generations of a family involved in the story.  And I like to see there’s hope and fun and love to be had by us all – regardless of age.

Authors in other genres – crime for example – have created hugely successful older lead characters. There’s Detective Rebus in Ian Rankin’s Novels and there’s the wonderful Vera in the series by Ann Cleeves – to name just two.

And there are some fabulous romance writers who are  nailing it in this regard. Books by Maggie Christensen, Christine Webber, Gilli Allan and Hilary Boyd spring to mind. Do check them out if you like more mature, romance-plus fiction. You’ll be in for a highly enjoyable read with any of their books.

Which brings me to the age of the readers of books – I don’t as an author aim for a particular age group. I have young and old readers. Indeed my children’s novel The Silver Locket seems to have been read by as many, if not more, adults as children.

I don’t get the impression that Crime or Sci-Fi or Fantasy are particularly appealing to one narrow age group – Harry Potter is not just read by children, and I’m guessing the Outlander books appeal across the adult age range to those who like the genre.

Why should romance be any different? Although I do get that someone in their twenties might not want to read about people the age of their parents/grandparents falling in love and you know… But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t mean that older readers shouldn’t be able to read romances centred around people their age.

So I suppose what I’m saying is let’s have romantic fiction that’s a bit more relaxed about age, a bit more inclusive.

As a writer I enjoy writing about characters nearer my own age, facing up to life-changing challenges and dealing with all sorts of issues – as well as finding themselves falling in love. Other writers prefer writing about younger characters regardless of their own age.

As a reader I enjoy all sorts of romances and other genres too – and the characters ages are incidental – what matters to me is that it’s a good story, well told, and with a satisfying resolution.

And in conclusion – I’m no further forward with nailing this genre thing – but it’s been fun thinking and writing about it. I know my books aren’t chick-lit or ‘pure’ romance. But I don’t think ‘love-at-the-last-chance-cafe-for-the-chronologically-challenged-with-baggage’ classification is going to work.

Help!

As always please do leave your thoughts and comments below.

The Genre Conundrum Part 2: Romantic Expectations #amwriting

 

romantic heart Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

As I said in my last post I find the genre thing for novel classification rather tricky. As a writer, I don’t want to mislead prospective readers by getting the labelling wrong. But I also want to make sure my books appeal to and reach my target readership when they’re browsing the shelves in their local bookshop or scrolling through an online book selling site.

Of course, the book’s front cover and the summary of the story on the back are very important too. And, along with my editor and cover designer, I work hard to get those things right. But it will be the place the book is shelved – online or in the real world – that will get the browsing book buyer or library borrower to my book in the first place.

Literary Romance?

So what’s my genre and what are the keywords that best describe my previous and my about-to-be- published books?

And does the fact none of my books fit neatly into one category and that they have ‘serious’ themes woven through them mean they are literary novels?

Let’s get the literary thing out of the way first. I’m not sure I even know what literary means – this despite having studied English literature at university (back in the Stone Age). It seems to me to apply to fiction that doesn’t fit into any of the genres, e.g. crime, science fiction, thriller. But it also seems to imply clever content by a clever writer for an intelligent and educated readership. And I have a problem with that. There’s good and bad literary fiction just as there is with genre. And the term gives very little away as to the nature of the story.

So, I tend to favour John Updike’s view that all fictional works are literary because ‘they are written in words’. Therefore I’m not going to apply the literary tag. I take that as a given.

Contemporary Romance Plus?

At the heart of my books there is a romantic relationship set in the present day. The romance drives the story. So my genre is romance. But it would be more accurate to describe it as romance-plus.

Plus what?

My first novel Change of Life has romance + problems within a marriage, + bereavement due to suicide + facing up to a cancer diagnosis.

My second novel Displacement has romance + consequences of war + Middle Eastern politics + bereavement + infidelity + difficult family relationships.

And Settlement – my soon-to-be-published sequel to Displacement – has romance + crime thriller elements + more Middle Eastern politics where the personal and the political are seen as intertwined + the conflict between romance and realism in relationships.

So, to clarify – I hope: genres are wide concepts. Crime novels can be thrillers or police procedural, and they can be gritty or cosy, and they can feature relationships – romantic or otherwise. Science-fiction novels can deal with/predict scientific developments and their implications, they can include politics at an interplanetary level, and they can include mystery, war and even romance.

And the romantic genre is the same. It can be historical or contemporary, and it can include other issues relevant to the protagonists’ situation. Yes, it can be a straightforward tale of two people meeting, falling in love, overcoming some obstacles and then finding their happy-ever-after. But for me, I like to write and to read books with a bit more going on.

What can my readers expect?

I like reading romantic fiction that is entertaining, intriguing, and that maybe educates or makes me think along the way. I like being taken to new and interesting places, and I like the story to be both satisfying and unpredictable. And yes, I do like a happy, but also realistic, resolution.

So I write the sort of romantic fiction that I like to read, and I hope my novels are as described in the paragraph above. But I should also add that the term ‘plus’ could also apply to the ages of my novels’ main characters as they’re in their forties and fifties rather than their twenties and thirties.

And it’s the topic of genre and age group – of the author, the reader, and the main characters – that I’ll be looking at in the third and final part of this series of posts.

In the meantime, do let me know how you like your genres. Do you like pure genre fiction that sticks to the rules and formula, or do you like a bit of a mash-up? Please do leave comments below.

Book Review: Silent Water by Jan Ruth

Silent Water

Genre: Contemporary romantic fiction

I do like contemporary novels with romantic relationships at their heart, but I also like the characters, especially the women, to be twenty-first century in their aspirations, their experience and their way of life, and now I’m officially an old bat, I especially like them to be at least over forty.

Jan Ruth does not write soppy, unrealistically romantic, relationship tales, and that’s why I like her books. They tick all my contemporary romance criteria.

And Silent Water is no exception. It’s the third in the Wild Water series and I did enjoy being back with Jack and Anna once more. If you haven’t read the first two, I recommend you do so. You could do a box-set binge 🙂

Here are characters with full and messy lives. These are 3D people with flaws and baggage. They are credible, mixed-up and real. Even the children are complex and real. Eleven-year-old Lottie is a particularly vivid character.

Once again, the Welsh landscape is a bit of a character in its own right. There’s the brooding lake of the title and, the wilds of the mountain tracks, but there’s also the market town of Conwy and the seaside resort of Colwyn Bay. And, always, there’s the weather doing its bit to add to the atmosphere.

The plot is a tangle of various strands, the stakes are high and the emotion full on, but the author handles it all beautifully. Love in its many forms including marital, family and sexual runs through the whole story and it sets up plenty of conflict and a fair amount of jeopardy too.

There are moving moments of realisation and new self-knowledge for the main characters, as well as old patterns of behaviour which prove hard to escape from.

There are also twists and a level of suspense which made the final chapters especially hard to put down.

This is realistic, grown-up romance, peppered with grit and a fair bit of intrigue, and it all adds up to a highly satisfying read.

Type of Read: Feet up, comfy sofa, no distractions apart from very dark chocolate and a full-bodied red.

Back Cover Blurb: The tragedy and comedy that is Jack’s life; a dangerous web of lies concludes a bitter-sweet end. Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set and someone who’s broken all the rules. An unlikely hero or a misguided fool? In this sequel to Dark Water, Jack and Anna must face the consequences of their actions. As the police close in and Patsy’s manipulative ways hamper the investigations, will Jack escape unscathed? With her career in tatters and an uncertain future, Anna has serious decisions to make. Her silence could mean freedom for Jack, but an emotional prison for herself. Is remaining silent the ultimate test of faith, or is it end of the line for Jack and Anna?

Silent Water is published by Celtic Connections and is available as an e-book and as a paperback. The other two books in the series are Wild Water and Dark Water

Book Review: Mariah’s Marriage

Mariahs Marriage 2

Genre: Historical Fiction

Charming, beguiling, captivating – all words I most likely used when I reviewed author Anne Stenhouse’s previous book, Bella’s Betrothal. And they most certainly apply to Mariah’s Marriage – both the story and its heroine.

Mariah is a young woman living in nineteenth-century London. But the accepted and expected pursuits of a lady of her age and class are not for her. Mariah is independent and ahead of her time in her outlook. She teaches poor children who would otherwise have no education. Her commitment is wholehearted. The she meets and falls in love with Tobias Longreach (I just love Anne’s choice of character names). But pursuing this relationship brings her work into question and even endangers her life.

Great storytelling, conscientious attention to detail, credible and interesting characters all make for an absorbing read. And there’s plenty suspense, intrigue and romance too.

A warm and satisfying read.

Type of read: Romantic enchanting escapism. A curl up with your e-reader of choice and a glass of something red and full-bodied and prepare to indulge in some delightful escapism.

Mariah’s Marriage is published by MuseItUp and is available from Amazon and other e-book outlets.

Change of Life – an award-winning novel for thinking women…

I’ve not done this for a while and I felt the time was about right for a wee bit of self-promotion. I apologise to those who have either read my novel already or who are sick of hearing about it. This post is not for you.

For those readers still here and who would like to know more about the book – here goes…

‘Change of Life’ is my first novel. I guess the target readership is women – and mainly those in the 40 plus post-chicklit age range. It’s contemporary, romantic fiction for intelligent women – a tale of love, life and loss.

It’s available on Amazon in paperback at £7.99 and for Kindle on special offer at 86p. Click on the book cover in the sidebar to buy.

You can read the first chapter here http://wp.me/PLpGB-3c

Reviews so far have been very pleasing – see them on Amazon. And if you do/have read it and liked it please do click the like button on the Amazon page – and consider doing a review of your own – especially if you enjoyed it 🙂