Friday, 26 November 2010

Getting Lucky Part II

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to win a competition on Christina Courtenay's blog, and received a nice little goody bag of books from Amazon: Nell Dixon's 'Just Look at Me Now', Sue Moorcroft's 'All That Mullarkey' and of course Christina's 'Trade Winds'. My to-read pile has been shrinking more slowly than usual during November thanks to NaNoWriMo. However, I've now read all three, so it's time to report back on some great romantic reads...

'Just Look at Me Now' was first up, and I loved the sparky, surprising heroine Tia. Tia is the glamorous fashion editor of Platinum magazine, but she has a big secret, in the form of a past life as fat, frumpy Barbara. When school bitch Juliet shows up at Platinum and sets her sights on Tia's gorgeous boyfriend, it's a no-holds-barred catfight to the death. Tia and Josh make an adorable couple, but Juliet is one determined lady and so far life has dropped pretty much everything she's ever wanted straight into her perfectly manicured hands. So Tia, aka Barb, has her work cut out to keep hold of her man, her job and her hard-earned new identity. The glamorous setting makes this a must-read for glossy magazine lovers, while Tia's ill-fated attempts to cover up her past are reminiscent of some of the more enjoyable Shopaholic moments. For me, this book was Nell's strongest yet, and definitely sets her up among the stars of the chick-lit sky.

'All That Mullarkey' was another enjoyable read, this time in a slightly more grown up way. The heroine, Cleo, is a married woman - until one day her husband Gavin announces the end of their marriage by writing her a message on the bedroom wall. Stunned, Cleo responds to his bizarre behaviour by descending into almost equal childishness - going out for a drunken night on the town and falling into bed with handsome, irresponsible Justin. At first I found it hard to empathise with Cleo's childish act of retaliation, but as her feelings for Justin developed, I was soon gripped by this modern twist on a classic love triangle, and the story carried me along to a surprising but perfectly satisfying conclusion.

I'm not usually a great reader of historical romance, but I fell in love with the cover of 'Trade Winds' as soon as I saw it. With a clipper ship and an antique map promising new worlds to explore, and gilded scroll-work hinting at the exotic flavour which takes over from the initial dour Scottish setting, it suggests the wide-ranging, detailed historical stories of the early Phillipa Gregory more than the demure, domestic regency settings that seem to be all the rage at present. When I opened the book, I fell in love all over again, with the strong, independent hero Killian, determined to prove himself a success in his own right despite the disapproval of his wealthy grandfather. Killian meets his match in Jess van Sandt, an equally independent woman struggling under the oppressive regime of her new step-father. With a romantic sleigh ride worthy of Dr Zhivago, a clipper voyage so realistic I almost felt sea-sick myself, and an unexpectedly dramatic denouement in the Far East, the book richly delivers on the promise of the cover.

All in all, three great reads - I definitely got lucky there! Thanks, Christina.

P.S. Just the other day I got lucky at Minxes of Romance, so I have a copy of Christina Hollis' 'The Italian's Blushing Gardener' on its way too. Watch this space!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Remember, remember the fifth of November

Yesterday I was waiting at the traffic lights, and as I watched and waited for the lights to turn green, an unexpected flash of colour in the night sky caught my eye. Right in front of me, a huge firework exploded in a shower of ruby sparks. Beautiful! I love going to watch organised firework displays, but sometimes it’s even more magical when you’re faced with a starburst completely out of the blue (or black).

I love fireworks so much that I chose to set the grand finale of ‘Desperate Bid’ at a firework party. Here are a few tasters to get you in the mood for bonfire night…

Like a firework itself, the tiny spark of their idea had caught a fuse, travelled through the dark city, and sent a shower of fizzing, cracking light bursting outwards through hundreds of lives.

Tonight it was alive and electric. The air sang with voices and music from stalls and car radios. The hiss of sparklers and burgers grilling added to the fizzing atmosphere. Alex was exhausted, but he loved every second of his exhaustion.

Crimson stars exploded like dying red giants into showers of tiny white sparks. Pink fizz rained like champagne being opened, an endless flood of celebration. Circles of white lights danced in the sky and turned into a cascade of green.

Enjoy the fireworks tonight. Be safe. And if you have time, do take a moment to share your favourite firework memories. Mine include New Year fireworks over the lake at Disney World, and the Millennium fireworks watched from an attic window in Leeds. My firework ambition is to see the New Year fireworks over Sydney Harbour. What’s yours?