Monday 27 July 2020

Romance Settings – Small Towns

The Joys and Frustrations of Small-Town Living
by Sharon Bryant 

At their best, small towns are places of community support, warmth, acceptance and constancy. Many small towns have a strong sense of tradition. They afford the writer an opportunity to create quirky characters whose idiosyncrasies might not be tolerated in the city.

At their worst, the conservatism of some small-town residents, and the gossip that can grow within small communities can make life extremely difficult for the residents.

All of these factors make books with small-town settings fun to write, and a delight to read. Here are some novels I hope you will enjoy.

The Long Way Home by Mariah Stewart

Ellis Chapman is relieved to escape from New York, and reach the small town of St Dennis, on Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. She craves anonymity, and the opportunity for a fresh start. Devastated by the breach of trust of her father and fiancé, and their subsequent convictions, she is grateful to still have one asset, the dilapidated house her mother left her. Ellis just needs to live in it for six months before she can sell it, leave St Dennis and start again.

Cameron O’Connor has a tragic past which he has managed to overcome. He runs a small business restoring houses then flipping them. Cameron has a special association with the house Ellis has inherited, and hopes she will sell it to him, so he can fix it up and live there. He is happy to offer advice and help Ellis to renovate.

The warm, 100-year-old caring spirit of Lily pervades the house. Can she work her magic and create an environment in which Ellis and Cameron might learn to trust again, and maybe even find love?

Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli by Portia Macintosh

Single mother, Lily Holmes, leaves London with her eight-year-old son Frankie, to open a deli on behalf of her employers in the small coastal town of Marram Bay. She anticipates small-town life will be good for them both, and she must escape the city. The last thing Lily needs is another relationship. Enthused by the prospect of their new life living in a town that will benefit from the deli she will create, and the chance of a better upbringing for her son, Lily is shocked to find they are decidedly unwelcome.

Alfie Barton, the handsome farmer next door, understands what Lily is going through. He returned home to Marram Bay after his father died. Alfie sold the dairy farm part of the farm that belonged to his father, and developed a business selling fruit-infused alcohol. He encountered strong opposition from the conservative locals which he overcame with time and hard work. He is keen to help Lily and Frankie integrate into the community.

Can these two caring people find love?

Portia Macintosh tackles difficult subjects with sensitivity and caring. Her humour makes this novel a delight to read.

Do you enjoy romance novels with a small-town setting? Which one is your favourite?

I love to love: time with friends.

I love to laugh: the best jokes should be shared.

I love to learn: more about the background of the places I visit.

Monday 20 July 2020

Book Review: The Lawson Sisters by Janet Gover

Photo: Author's own
Full disclosure: The Lawson Sisters by Janet Gover is the first book I have ever been sent by a publisher (Thanks Harlequin – I have discovered I LOVE book mail), and I also consider Janet to be a friend of mine, which is why I was glad I liked this book! It would have been terrible if I had to tell her it stank. 😉

I’ve also not written a book review, all proper-like, since year nine in high school (which was more than 30 years ago <argh!>). So, here’s hoping this is on point… and doesn’t give away too many spoilers.

The Lawson Sisters is a tale of two very different, but very similar, women who also happen to be sisters – Elizabeth and Kayla. Following the death of their parents in a car accident, Elizabeth stays on the family stud, keeping the business alive, while a much younger Kayla is packed off to boarding school. They go their separate ways until Elizabeth needs her sister’s help to rescue the stud and she’s ultimately none too happy with Kayla’s idea to give them the income they need.

I opened the book staunchly on Liz’s side – but as the story progressed, I wanted to just take her out to the stables and shake some sense into her. She’s hard to like. I also started out thinking that Kayla would be a spoiled brat, only to grow fonder of her as I got deeper into the book, so I think Janet does her job in developing multi-dimensional, and realistic characters. I can definitely understand how the sisters got to where we find them in the first chapter, and how they are who they are through the resolution of the conflict and secrets.

Photo: Author's own - Irish National Stud 2014
As for the main secondary character – Mitch – I’d have liked to have seen a little more fire in Mitch… but that being said, I’m a romance reader at heart and this is definitely a romantic elements tale – the story is Elizabeth’s and Kayla’s to tell (not Elizabeth’s and Mitch’s).

I also have to mention the extra ‘character’ in this book – which is the setting. Janet has clearly done her research, and builds a clear picture with her words of the Australian rural landscape, contrasted nicely on occasion with the city. She also does a wonderful job in detailing the Willowbrook homestead, and how it comes alive again over the course of the sisters’ relationship repair.

The one thing that did bug me about the book is the pacing. We get great build up with short chapters that pull you along for the ride but I’d have liked it to linger a little longer in the second half with a little more emotional payoff from the sister’s relationship. Things resolve pretty sharply after the climax and I’d have liked a little more time to sit with the end of the story. I’m also a little perplexed at how Mitch’s parents didn’t do more for Elizabeth at the time of her parents’ death… but these are things we’re left to wonder.

Overall, four out of five stars from me!

P.S. There were also tears, so make sure you have tissues handy.

Kristine Charles writes sexy tales where coffee (and red wine) is abundant, designer shoes and handbags are cheap, chocolate has no calories and men always put the toilet seat down. Find her at or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I love to love... reading. Figures, huh? But I've been reading more this month and loving it!

I love to laugh... while reading The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa.

I love to learn... about myself. This month I'm doing a course about how my personality affects my writing process and... wow!

Monday 13 July 2020

Author Spotlight - Madeline Ash

Madeline Ash is a vegan Virgo with a tea obsession, lives with a labradoodle, and reveals that it was writing Harry Potter fanfiction at the age of 15 (Draco/Hermione all the way, baby) that got her into writing. Please give a warm welcome to Madeline!


Madeline is a two-time RITA award finalist author and winner of Australia's premier RUBY award. She loves to write contemporary romance that digs deep into the hearts and minds of her characters, forcing them to be the best they can be in difficult situations. Her characters are flawed, compassionate and brave, but she always gives them happy endings. She loves to hear from both readers and writers on Facebook or Twitter or you can visit her website:

What is one 'must have' when you are writing?
An emotional connection to my characters. If I'm not feeling with my characters in every moment of every scene (and I mean both my leads, not just the POV character), then I get a sense of disconnection and the words don't mean anything to me. I might as well be writing a shopping list (except I love writing lists, so that's a bad example). This also means that my characters need to be feeling something in every moment for me to connect with--poor things never get a moment's peace!

What are you reading at the moment?
I'm re-reading Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. It's a comfort read--funny, smart, warm, with all the feels.

Name one thing you're scared of.
Having to go the clothesline after dark. It's a spider zone. I inch my way there and run all the way back.

Like to share something that recently made you happy?
Seeing my nephews again after months of lockdown. They're aged one and three--the delight on their faces was like the sun rising in my heart, I swear.

Who is your favourite literary crush?
In literature, oh dear, none. I don't read it! But in genre fiction, I'll have to go with Rhys from Court of Thorn and Roses. Because he is everything. Roarke from JD Robb's In Death series is a very close second.

If you were the main character in your favourite book, who would you be?
Ohh no, this question means I need to decide on a favourite book! I'll go with In Other Lands, because I don't think I stopped laughing the entire time I read it. And despite the main character being a sassy smartarse, he was also hysterical, and I would love to spend all my time around him, including my future, so I guess that means I want to be Luke. He was very gorgeous and sweet and talented, so there are worse characters to be...yes, actually, this is working for me on many levels--Luke!

What is the premise of your latest book?
Her Cowboy Prince came out June 2nd, and is book #@ in my Cowboy Princes series. The series premise is three triplet cowboy brothers unexpectedly inherit the family throne, and book two centres around Kris being a cowboy royal who will never be tamed--and his best friend Frankie, whom he didn't realise had been sworn to protect him their entire friendship.

Meet the cowboy royal who will never be tamed
 and the best friend sworn to protect him.
Kris offers Frankie his future--but her past
 proves the person she most needs to protect him
 from is herself.
Buy link:

What are you working on at the moment?
The third book in my Cowboy Princes series. Tommy is a complex, wounded mess of a character and I can't wait to make him happy.

Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between?
Maybe a little in between. I need to know the story arc, the character arcs, the turning points, the emotional touch points, the reveals, and the reactions. But I don't write synopses ahead of time or outline chapter by chapter or anything. It's really just understanding my characters and their emotional journeys before I start. Like, if the story is an accordion, I need to know ahead of time where I'll push and pull that emotional tension. Everything else tends to fall into place.

What do you love to love?
My family. I love our love.

What do you love to laugh at?
My partner's sense of humour. Our conversations go on epic tangents and leave me in stitches.

What do you love to learn about?
The lives of others. It's my favourite part of being a writer. They say to write what you know--but I don't want to write mirrors, I want to write windows, so every book sees me learning, expanding my knowledge and empathy and understanding in order to know more--then I can write about it.

Thank you for hosting me!

Monday 6 July 2020

The Lure of Medieval Romance

by Enisa Haines

Heavy cavalry knight on horse (

Jan Luyken - Witch scene (

When I think of the medieval era I imagine a time of tribal feuds, religious wars, famine, plague, civil strife and revolts, heresy and the Inquisition. A cruel time in which to live--especially for women, whose lives were considered the property of men. Yet I'm drawn to the period and the romance novels set then, as many other readers and writers are. Medieval romances are ever popular. Why?

Sure, there was many a brutal moment, but for me the medieval era brings a fantasy world filled with adventure, courtly love and a touch of the mystical. Much like in the fairy tales of my childhood, tales like Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel.

Edward Frederick Brewtnall - Sleeping Beauty (

Medieval romance novels are filled with heroines who may have a little more freedom than women of the time really had. Noble by birthright they may live in grand castles or secluded in a convent. The heroes may be heroic knights clad in shining armour or dangerously seductive, kilt-wearing Scottish Highlander warriors. They may be conquering Vikings from the time of raiding Norse warriors. Honour-bound and powerfully alpha, the heroes may go on quests, engage in feudal battles or wars, or rescue ladies from danger and win their love.

John William Waterhouse - The Beautiful Lady without Pity (

The romances may also have touches of the supernatural, with sorcerers using magic and seers foretelling the future living side by side with dragons that must be vanquished.

Edward Burne-Jones - The Fight-St. George Kills the Dragon VI (

What medieval romances have in common is that they are stories of right vs wrong where good prevails over evil and chivalry towards others is a value above others. Those are aspects of life often lacking today so, like in the days of my childhood, I immerse myself in these fantasy worlds. As a reader and as a writer.

Frank Dicksee - Chivalry (

What are your thoughts? Do you like reading and/or writing medieval romances? 

Love to Love: reading medieval romance novels

Love to Laugh: at funny Facebook posts

Love to Learn: about life in medieval times