Review: Love Bites: A Collection of Short Stories by Valeria Kogan

love bitesReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: This is Valeria Kogan’s debut collection of short stories which all centre on love, from heartbreak to redemption, this is what love is all about whether the people in the stories love each other at all, or start out that way and grow apart later on. There are many elements to love and these stories deal with them; secrets, guilt, jealousy, deception and mistrust. As the stories are written in a no nonsense way, this is a collection of shorts for a real modern woman.

Review: In all there are eleven stories where no one knows how a love affair will end. Valeria was born in Russia and has since moved to the UK where she learned to appreciate art and literature. Other than Love Bites, she is working on her new novel, ‘Bi-Pole-Ar’ which is a semi-biographical look at mental health issues and how other people see us. Valeria thinks that by writing a series of short works, she was also writing her first novel and she would be right. Every author has created small tasters to get potential readers use to their style of writing, and Valeria’s style can easily be seen here. Valeria saw the need to create several different narratives with outcomes that could never be predictable. She wanted do see what would happen if she had no pre conceive idea of how the stories would evolve. Love means different things to different people. In Silent, Carla has a husband, evolving around him as a full grown woman who bears children, but calamity strikes the family causing the silence she has come to expect. Nip & Tuck has a man telling his story of how he wanted to change his wife’s looks, her body by using cosmetic surgery as a beautifying tool, eventually coming to regret his decision. Mute is about a woman who was struck dumb when she first met a man and her intoxication with him that urges her to get his name tattooed on her skin. Tonight has a woman who decides that tonight will be the last time she will act as a prostitute, but the fact that she is dreading it tells you something about the person. Matrimony has Tessa wondering what sort of wedding she wants with the man in her life. Each story is matter-of-fact, and honest showing these diverse women and men of what they think love is and the trouble they have getting into the stereotypical woman/man role in society and the result of it.

Good Bits:

  • Silent is beauty stricken with tragedy.
  • Nip & Tuck is a case of never gilding a lily.
  • Mute is part prose, part poetry and all heart!

Summary: Love Bites: A Collection of Short Stories is an interesting look at the lives of eleven people who are each as different as the rest. They all appreciate men and women in their own way, or have been spurned by them in the past. The stories tell of their partners and lovers with me thing that the best ones were Nip & Tuck, Mute, Tonight and Matrimony. The cover art is of a beautiful woman, bound and with her eyes covered ready to cut the red thread of time with her latex gloved hands. It is a deceptive cover in that it looks like the sort that would grace a slipstream horror novel, and there is nothing horrific about the stories in here.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Love Bites: A Collection of Short Stories

Review: The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras

Christos ToulourasReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Leo decides to take a trip to Lima, Peru after his marriage has failed. In leaving for a far off place he has left behind all his pain, loss and depression, yet Leo does not expect to find a new love interest there in Marisol.

Review: The Love of Marisol is separated into four chapters; One Night in Bahia, The Smell of Lima, Nena and The House on White Beach. As Leo had been separated from his wife for nine months ad feels the pain of being apart from her for so long. You get to feel the extent of his depression and differs from the first few pages as he feels how his life has taken a wrong turn he does not feel he can escape from. You share his pain, the loss of his wife he spent ten years with who was his first love. We have all had our first love; the one we want to spend our whole lives with, his other regret is his son who he knows he will miss even though they are getting a divorce. Though he had three affairs with other women, he still misses his ex-wife. He tortures himself for having not been a positive person, believing if he had been, he might not have lost Rafaela. For most of the novel, he spends time with new and old friends in Lima, it is only by the third chapter that we get to meet Marisol, so Christos spends a lot of time keeping us waiting for the moment where he might become happier.

Good Bits:

  • Leo’s puffs of marijuana – naughty boy!
  • The love he has for his son and the fact he misses him so much. The sentiment is truly touching.
  • Marisol is a captivating woman he falls for almost instantly.

Summary: The Love of Marisol is a slow moving story of a man who has lost love, gone through the depression stage of a divorce and decided to change his life by going on holiday only to meet a woman he feels he has fallen for. You can sense how relieved Leo is to have another woman he can relate to and we all hope that we can find the same in our lives.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Love of Marisol

Get into Bed with Julia London (Author Interview)

one mad nightKeira: One of the things I liked best about your rivals romance One Mad Night was that the hero and heroine played fair and it was still fun! Was fair play important to you and why was it important to the romance?

Julia London: To a point, yes.  The novella is short, so if the hero did something unfair (and it would be the hero, right?), there is not really enough time to redeem him.  And honestly, I think rivals can play fair.  It’s healthy competition that makes for healthy relationship.  I sound like a psychologist.

Keira: What made you decide they were competing over a car ad?

Julia: I thought that sort of ad would be a good and natural tension, because car ads seem to slanted toward men or women.  I noticed minivan ads are all about mom and the kids, and then the luxury cars are all about hip, handsome men. Figures!

Keira: What is your favorite part about snowed-in / isolated / desert / intimate (this subgenre goes by a lot of names!) romances?

Julia: That no one can escape.  The characters have to deal.  No one can run away and talk to friends or think, or pull any of that.  They are stuck.  Delicious!

Keira: What do you love best about writing historical/contemporary romances? 

Julia: Well, I love to read good love stories.  I love to watch them on the big screen.  So I guess I am naturally drawn to them.  I love establishing the male and female leads and their first real notice of each other.  It’s always fun to see where it will go after that.

Keira: Your characters always have such lovely chemistry with each other. What to you makes two characters rub along and create sparks?

Julia: Thank you!  That’s a wonderful compliment.  In high school, we did this play about a couple on a train.  I can’t remember the name of it, but what I remember is that it was my first conscious comprehension of the emotional differences between men and women.  Men want everything to be uncomplicated and unemotional, and women are incapable of leaving everything black and white.  It’s fun to push and pull those two dynamics.

Keira: How do you define love? How do you recognize your true love? What makes it last in the long run and not fizzle out?

Julia: In books or in real life?  Mutual respect and admiration is love.  What makes it last in the long run is appreciation and listening.  I think men and women can put up with a lot if they feel they are heard and appreciated by the ones they love.

Keira: What makes a steamy and sexy sex scene?

Julia: For me, the anticipation and sexual tension is steamier than the actual sex scene.  It’s a problem for me as a writer.  Some readers really like graphic sex.  I really like the build up to the actual depiction.  I have to straddle those and find a happy medium.

Keira: If not for writing, what would be your dream job? “Big business” job?

Julia: Writing is my dream job!  I’ve had the big business jobs before.  I would love to learn how to write screen plays, but there is only so much time, you know?

Keira: What is the hardest part and the most fun part of writing?

Julia: The hardest part of writing is actually writing.  I want each book to be better than the last, so I keep raising the bar for myself.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But I have to challenge myself to try new things and execute them well.  The most fun part of writing is meeting fans.  I work alone and I don’t know how my books may or may not speak to a reader.  So when I meet them in person and they are so complimentary and sometimes even moved my meeting me, it makes every moment spent alone with a stinky dog, tossing out everything I wrote the day before and trying again very much worth it!

Keira: What are you working on for us next?

Julia: I have the next two books in my historical Cabot Sisters series (The Devil Takes a Bride and The Scoundrel and the Debutante) coming out in late January and late April, respectively.  The Perfect Homecoming, the third book in my contemporary Pine River series, is coming out in February.  I am currently writing a book about rich summer people and the inevitable conflicts with the year round residents at a lake resort.  I just started it, but you know some worlds are going to collide!

One Mad Night Anthology
By Julia London

Two Romantic Adventures…One Mad Night

Two delightful contemporary romance novellas in one book from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia London.

One winter’s night a blizzard sweeps across the country, demonstrating that fate can change the course of lives in an instant…and fate has got a sense of humor.

One Mad Night

Chelsea Crawford and Ian Rafferty are high profile ad execs in cutthroat competition for a client. When a major winter storm puts New York City on lockdown, the two rivals have to make it through the night together—oh, the many ways in which opposites attract…

The Bridesmaid – Bonus Novella

RITA Award Nominee for Best Romance Novella of 2013

Kate Preston has just moved to New York. Joe Firretti is contemplating a move to Seattle. When the weather wreaks havoc with transportation systems, Kate and Joe meet as they are both trying to rent the last car available… As Kate races to make her best friend’s wedding, and Joe races to a life-altering job interview, it looks like together is the only way they’ll make it at all.

Praise for Julia London:

“London knows how to keep pages turning…winningly fresh and funny.” —Publishers Weekly, on RITA Award nominee The Bridesmaid

Buy: One Mad Night

About the Author

Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Homecoming Ranch contemporary series, the Secrets of Hadley Green historical romance series, and numerous other works. She is a four-time finalist for the prestigious RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction, and RT Bookclub award recipient for Best Historical Romance.  She lives in Austin, Texas.

Connect with Julia London:

www.julialondon.com  | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excerpt from One Mad Night by Julia London

It took a moment for Chelsea to notice him, which gave Ian a moment to admire her. He was going to crush her tomorrow, but that didn’t stop him from appreciating a figure that guys like him dreamed about. Chelsea was wearing a skirt today. It hit about mid-thigh and was tight enough to show off all her curves. She looked a bit taller today too. He glanced at her feet and noticed the shoes. Chelsea was walking on stilts, and her legs, good God, her legs. She was smoking hot in that dress and those shoes.

“Hey!” she said sharply, her voice full of accusation.

Ian’s head snapped up. “Hey,” he said con-genially. “Practicing your pitch?” He settled one hip onto the conference table.

“Do you mind?” She gestured to the door in a be-­off-­with-­you way.

“If you want, I could listen and give you some feedback.”

Chelsea’s mouth dropped open. And then her green eyes narrowed into little slits. “You have got to be the most arrogant man I’ve ever met.”

Ian smiled and shrugged.

“You can go, Ian,” she said, marching around the conference table to usher him out. “I think I’ve got it.”

“Suit yourself.”

“I will.”

“So hostile,” he said with a wink as he stood up. “I’m just trying to help. It never hurts for someone to hear the pitch, right? You’ve had someone listen to you go through it, right?”

“Yes, I’ve had—­Hey, hey,” she said, poking him in the chest. “Are you trying to play me?” she demanded. “Because it won’t work. I’m not some junior account person, you know. You can’t intimidate me.”

“Well, obviously,” Ian said and poked her back. “You wouldn’t be pitching at all if you were a junior account person. I know I can’t intimidate you. It wasn’t a declaration of war, you know; it was an offer to help.”

“It wasn’t a let-­me-­help, best-­friends-­forever offer, either. I’m not playing games with you. This account means a lot to me—­”

“Me too.”

“Oh yeah?” she said, shifting closer. “Well, don’t get too attached to the idea. I’ve got seniority, you know.”

“So why are you so afraid to show me what you’ve got?”

“Because it’s none of your business.”

“On the eve of the championship, it’s okay to go out and shoot some hoops with your competitor. It’s not going to affect tomorrow’s big game. It’s not like I can go out and change weeks of work overnight if I see you’ve got something better.”

She laughed. “Good try, Rafferty, but I think maybe the reason you want to see my pitch is because you’re worried about the strength of your pitch. Is it a little rough? Maybe I should listen to you.” She winked, and her green eyes shone with pleasure at her comeback.

“I’m definitely not worried about my pitch.”

“No? Seems to me if you’re presenting three,” she said, holding up three fingers and wiggling them at him, “then you must be uncertain which one is the winner.” Her smile broadened into sheer triumph, as if she thought she’d really zinged him.

She hadn’t zinged him, but Ian did wonder how she knew what he had…Zach. Of course. That rat bastard. “Have you been talking to Zimmerman?” he asked accusingly.

She shrugged and studied her manicure. “Maybe. Does it matter? I thought we were doing the let’s-­help-­each-­other thing. But if we’re not, would you mind toddling off? I have a lot of work I need to do before tomorrow. I plan to hit the ground running with this account on Monday.”

She was amazingly and annoyingly confident. Ian was generally a confident guy, but she was making him a teensy bit nervous. “You really think you’re going to get this, don’t you?”

“I don’t think, I know,” she said, looking up.

He tilted his head to one side to study her. “Isn’t it obvious to you why they brought me in?”

“I don’t know—­I haven’t given it the slightest bit of thought.” She lifted her chin, and Ian realized she lied about as well as she engaged in verbal volleyball. “I’ve been promised that this account is as good as mine. Didn’t they tell you that when they brought you in?”

A bit more of Ian’s confidence leaked out of him. He’d been in New York advertising long enough to know that the industry was full of snakes. He wouldn’t put it past anyone to feed him a bunch of half-­baked promises to get him to commit. “Who told you?”

She grinned. “None of your beeswax.”

“Come on, tell me—­” His phone rang, distracting him momentarily. He fished it out of his pocket and noticed the number was the Grabber-­Paulson main number. That was weird. “Listen, I’ll just say this,” he said, clicking off the phone. “Don’t be so sure of things. People say things they don’t mean, especially in this industry.” He started for the door.

“Uh-­huh, I know. And I would offer you the same advice, Mr. Rafferty,” she said in a singsong voice, and she flashed a dazzling smile, full of straight white teeth.

“Cocky too. I like that about you,” he said. “I’ll keep it in mind when I make partner.” He winked at her, smiled as if he was completely unbothered, and went out of the conference room.

Buy: One Mad Night

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The Search For A Story When Writing a Book: How to Separate the Suck

ToWishUponARoman_200x300Guest post by Ishabelle Torry, author of To Wish Upon A Roman

As an author and history major still in the midst of my studies enrolled in a university, I often research history that I find to be boring. Why? Because I have to in order to earn my degree, of course! My preferences in history leans toward ancient, the older—the better. However, one of my recent classes was the Renaissance, and I was less than thrilled at first—until I realized just exactly what the Renaissance really consisted of. It was more than a new age, but the revival of the old ways and studies, aided by a new thought process called humanism. This fact intrigued me.

I started to wonder just what exactly lent to this new ideology in history. So I read, and I read. Not only did I read my required texts for assignments, but I did extra research on my own. And you know what I found? Henry VIII. Yep, good old Henry the Horny, Henry the Religion Changer…or dare I say it—Henry the Wife Executioner.

His affairs were fascinating, and his court deliciously scandalous. Aside from Henry, there had been only one other English monarch that dared to marry whom he desired against the wishes of tradition pre modern age. But Henry took it a step further. He made it a habit to search for love. Unfortunately for Anne Boleyn (second wife) and Katherine Howard (fifth wife), he proved to be fickle and untrusting. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! However, the tawdry ending of these two women, not to mention the divorces to the other wives, taught me something—and it was related to the Renaissance notion of humanism and individuality.

There was more to the Renaissance than a revival of classical literature and new methods of painting, such as that of Michelangelo. The people of Tudor England were influenced by humanism and individuality, and they sought it with all their worth. There in fact was a new era emerging in regards to marriage and sex, and most importantly love. In a sense, Henry VIII may have led the way to modern day romance.

And Henry wasn’t alone! His sister, Mary Tudor, also married Charles Brandon against her king’s wishes because she loved him, and he her. Later on down the line, Elizabeth I would also refute the status quo, and decide not to marry at all! See the connection…people were thinking for themselves. They desired, and they went for it.

So, I am sure you’re asking where the creativity is in this brief history lesson? Peeling back the suckish layers of history of Henry VIII’s political endeavors (if that’s what bores you) and other duties to England, there is still an awesome story to be told involving sex, love, lies, marriage and betrayal. It’s almost like a sordid romance novel, per se. And say you’re fascinated with the political aspects, and the suckish part to you is the romance—there is still a story to be found. The point is THERE IS ALWAYS a story where you look if you know how to separate the suck.

I dare anyone who reads this blog to pick a time period in history and read a little about it. Can you separate the suck and form a possible story line?

Author Bio: Ishabelle Torry is a full time mother, wife and student. She enjoys time with her family, and their plethora of pets on the farm. In her spare time, she is constantly dreaming of characters and the worlds they are found in. Occasionally, Ishabelle has been known to argue with her characters and bribe them with cookies when they have a wayward moment.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IshabelleTorry?ref=bookmarks

Follow on twitter @ishabelletorry

Book Blurb:

When Lucy received the locket from the estate of her aunt, it came with a warning to never speak his name…but where’s the fun in that?

Trapped for seventeen hundred years, General Hadrian Marias awaits his release from a crystal prison and a chance to find the reincarnated soul of his wife, Lucia. Instead, upon being summoned into the modern world, he finds Lucy—the descendant of Genevieve, the Celtic witch responsible for his entrapment. Everything he knows about Lucy stems from his experience with Genevieve, but he soon discovers the only thing Lucy shares with her ancient ancestor is an uncanny resemblance. He quickly finds himself drawn to the feisty vixen. But can he ever forgive himself for losing Lucia of the past, and move forward with Lucy?

Lucy Brady was devastated to receive word of her aunt’s death. Her only joy, a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. Inside the golden locket hides a crystal containing the essence of Hadrian. Even though warned to never say his name, she chalks it up to superstition and inadvertently summons an ancient Roman general who demands his freedom from her tyrannical bloodline. Deeming the general’s appearance a prank, Lucy agrees to grant his freedom—in lieu of sex for a fortnight. Will the next fortnight of passion be enough to keep Hadrian at Lucy’s side? Or will he choose absolute freedom from her bloodline?

Buy: To Wish Upon A Roman

Excerpt:

Hadrian was infatuated by the witch’s sudden change. Her demeanor had gone from a scared rabbit to a cunning wolf as she slowly advanced in his direction. She looked ready to pounce.

Damn the gods.

He shook his head in frustration, swearing at his lack-wit brain. He assumed the dark woman with the strange clothing and heavy face paint had been Genevieve’s kin, but instead the innocent angel before him was the vile sorceress’s descendant. How could he have missed it? She even had the same violet pigment as Genevieve. He now knew for certain this pale beauty was his newest captor. “Release me.”

“You never answered me,” she purred prettily, taking slow deliberate steps toward him and emphasizing the sway of her hips.

Hadrian grunted. The witch recognized her powers already. She was another generation warned in advance; already knowing he couldn’t harm her physically as long as she controlled him.

Damn her smugness! He took a step back with each forward step she took. “Stay back, witch.”

He didn’t mean it. He felt himself harden with her approach. He hated her. Nay, he didn’t, but he should. Something about her perplexed him. She has her ancestor’s looks. Genevieve. His last step back was blocked by the loveseat. He thought to sidestep the smiling vixen, but a squared table blocked his path.

Curse her and her second sight! She has me purposely trapped!

The witch appeared to enjoy his uneasiness as she played cat and mouse. She obviously delighted in being the predator, moving in just the right way to keep him cornered. Her siren voice with its otherworldly quality beckoned him as she spoke. Aye, she was just as much the devil’s mistress as Genevieve.

“I ask you one more time, Hadrian Marias: Why should I release you?”

His pulse pounded in his ears. “It would be the honorable thing to do, milady. Seeing your family has held me prisoner for almost two millennia.”

“I see.” She dared to wink. “What’s in it for me?”

His paranoia threatened his temper. He felt the sudden need to hide from this enchantress. He would not make the same mistake again and trust a witch. No matter how beautiful she was or innocent she appeared, she was evil. Genevieve’s blood ran through her veins. “What do you want?” He finally managed to ask, hoping she didn’t hear the apprehension in his tone.

She threw her sultry head back and her laughter floated on the air and teased his defenses.

Devil’s Mistress…

She smirked. “In fourteen days, I will release you, but only if you become my sex slave and guarantee my satisfaction.”

Buy: To Wish Upon A Roman