The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Love Me Like You

Valentine's Day is coming! And with that is the Season of Love. Last year, I completed a set of eleven short stories to comprise a collection, one of which became Coming Around Again - with Stella the Stern and Niels the Naughty. This year, I'm going to try and do one per day from 1 February until the big day. I say try because... Well, I've got stuff to do in February, including sort out my next jaunt abroad. But yes, let's give this a go again! It was fun last year. I'm all about enjoying myself, after all...

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Drink Up!

No we're all up to date! Best Laid Plans is back out and you can find it here:
If you haven't given this story a go, then let me convince you...

Best Laid Plans on Amazon
Best Laid Plans on ARe

Antipasti Blurb

If someone is too good to be true, it’s usually because they’re trying to keep the doors shut on a closet straining with skeletons. That has always rung true with Francesca Abbey, even though she doesn’t want to be a sceptic. It doesn’t help that she’s in the wrong profession, her past relationships have been disastrous and her mother? Hardly a cuddly TV show personality. But there’s something about Luca, a gentle giant who enters her life stage left, as if he was just waiting for the right time. He’s ridiculously gorgeous with questionable taste in shirts but impeccable taste in food. Every woman’s walking fantasy. He makes her want to believe life can be the Disney Channel every day with all the sensual, explicit and downright dirty parts of HBO thrown in.

Gianluca Caristo likes to think he’s a practical man. It comes with the territory of his current profession and certainly helped with his former. He isn’t given to flights of fancy or madcap ideas, but he would never forget the vivid dream he had after being locked up on the lies of his ex-girlfriend. When he comes face to face with his dream girl two years later, he’s sold on fate, karma, serendipity—all of it. Francesca is his future. His reward in exchange for his solemn vow to never do violence again. It’s a shame that everyone is testing the limits of that promise.

As everything pre-Luca and Francesca does its best to derail their fledgling relationship, a future they’ve only imaged happens a lot faster than either of them intended.

The fourth in the Italian Knights series is a front-row seat to fools rushing in, enjoying it far too much, ignoring all advice and knowing you’d do it all over again if you had the chance.

Cena Excerpt

Francesca,” he called, and the whole restaurant went quiet. A flush stained Francesca’s cheeks when she saw him. He held out a hand to her, and she surprisingly took it. Not allowing any of the waiting staff to help her sit, he eased her into the chair opposite him and then took his own seat.
“Scrub up well, don’t I?” she mocked. Luca winced, realising that he’d probably been just staring at her again.
“No scrubbing needed,” he insisted, catching her eyes again. “Thank you.”
“Coming here.” The whole evening smacked of déjà vu. The familiarity of Francesca’s dress, the restaurant, and his strange certainty that she was going to tease him any minute, all scattered over him. A glance at his arms saw the gold hairs were raised.
“I’ll try anything once, Gianluca.” She shrugged, picking up her menu. Over the top he could see the smile in her eyes. “I’m guessing the same is true for you, judging by that shirt.”
He glanced down. “What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s got more work going on than my desk.”
He rubbed his fingers over his forehead, where the razor had caught skin rather than hair. Sometimes he could still feel the cold sting of metal. “I don’t like shopping.”
“You know you can hire people to help you.”
“You obviously have excellent taste. You can help me,” he suggested, in all seriousness.
She put her menu down. “Is that where you think you know me from? A bad shopping experience?”
He laughed. “No. Not at all. And you should call me Luca.”
“Okay, fine. Luca. So?” She circled her hand in an encouraging motion.
Like he was going to play his best card before they’d even had a drink! He leaned back and called for a waiter. “Would you like a cocktail?”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“I’d have a cocktail first, if I were you.”
With a sigh, she picked something that looked fruity and was probably more lethal than anything else. As soon as their order was taken, Francesca started again.
“Was it on a bus? Did I fall over in a gym? Did you fall over in a gym? Was I roasted at a comedy gig? Did I throw popcorn at you in the cinema?”
“You do that? On a regular basis? That’s how you generally meet people?”
She shrugged. “More sociable that way.” Her eyes suddenly narrowed on him with a thought. “Are you a police officer?”
Luca wondered if he’d visibly paled. “No. Why?”
“Then maybe you saw it in the paper.”
Francesca accepted her tall pink-coloured glass and stirred it aimlessly with her straw. “My ex-boyfriend tried to have me convicted for smashing a glass bowl over his head...”
Of course I’m in love with a woman who has a violent temper. Why wouldn’t history repeat itself?
“...only seven stitches and in my defence, he was going to hit me again, so...” She paused and took her bottom lip into her mouth. “It’s best you know now.”
“You defended yourself and you think I’m going to leave?” he asked. “Did any of that glass hit you in the head?”
She gawped at him for a moment before bursting out laughing. It was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard. “It, er,” she swallowed a giggle, “it tends to send normal men running screaming into the night. They think I’m going to emasculate them.”
“With a glass bowl,” he added. “What makes you think I’m not normal?”
“You’re still here, aren’t you?”
“I am. That would be because I have no intention of laying a finger on you in anger.”
He felt her gaze on him. “I’m not into BDSM. Not like that anyway. I don’t like blood. Just in case you thought the hitting with the glass bowl was a regular thing. I used to own some pretty dodgy things, but before professionals started digging around, it was best I got rid. Jesus, lord, what the hell is in this drink?”
“Truth serum apparently,” Luca drawled, taking the cocktail from her, placing his lips exactly where her lipstick had left an earthy rose stain to take a drink. For a moment, he had the briefest vision of her leaving the same rosy stain on his cock. He sipped a little faster than intended to calm himself. It was a girly drink. Too much fruit and sugar…oh, and the alcohol punched him in the back of the throat. “Vodka. And a lot of it.”
“Unintentional drunk,” Francesca said brightly. “You can add that to your list when you name this as the disastrous date of all disastrous dates.”
“Francesca, I’m going to ask you this only one time. Stop it. You know exactly what I’m talking about,” he talked over her when she parted her lips to protest. “I think you are beautiful and sharp and your sense of humour is more than fucked up. If no one else finds that attractive, that’s all the better for me. It’s saving lives.”
She shook her head. “I’m serious—where did you come from? Where have you been hiding? I could’ve done with that pep talk last year.”
Her little outburst gave him free reign to take her hand in his and squeeze gently. “Hiding in a kitchen. Perfecting cooking sud vide.” Trying not to go mad. “Can we eat now? I’m starving. I feel food is a good idea.”
“I tend to be more sensible after food,” she replied, rubbing her thumb over his fingers.
“I doubt that, nice try though.” The smile she sent him was a reward that could never be given any financial value.
“Do you want to talk about normal stuff then?”
“How will we talk about you then?”
“Oh ho, comedian in the house! You won’t find it so funny when we’re talking about what TV show you’re most likely to end up on.”
“Easy, BBC News.”
She nodded. “Same.”
He lifted her hand and gave it a lingering kiss. “Best date ever.”

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Fate and Destiny

I loved writing about Frankie and Luca. All fate and destiny and supermarkets at night. As much as they want to take things slow and have a perfect relationship, it overcomes them like a wave. Family, exes, work, all of it big fat, Shard high barriers to normal, decent paced, let's be together for three years before we take a leap, relationship. For them, everything happens at once. And it's all the more beautiful for it. So for Frankie and Luca, this is the soundtrack to their story:

Best Laid Plans on Spotify

  1. Deco Child Pray
  2. Gomez We Haven't Turned Around
  3. Tinie Tempah ft Eric Turner Written In The Stars
  4. Chase & Status ft. Plan B End Credits
  5. Emeli Sande Heaven
  6. Skunk Anansie Charlie Big Potato
  7. Jamie Cullum Frontin'
  8. Sugababes Stronger
  9. Labrinth Beneath Your Beautiful
  10. Plan B ft. Kano Live Once
  11. Michael Kiwanuka I'm Getting Ready
  12. alt-J Breezeblocks
  13. Wretch Don't Go
  14. Rihanna We Found Love
  15. I Break Horses Empty Bottles
  16. SBTRKT Hold On
  17. Emma Hewitt State That I'm In
  18. Ellie Goulding Anything Could Happen
  19. Kanye West All Of The Lights
  20. Bjork All Is Full Of Love
  21. Lykke Li Love Out Of Lust
  22. Portishead It's A Fire
  23. The xx Angels

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Flame

If you knew what this month is doing to me! And it's still not over!

But I shan't complain. I haven't the time to be honest with you. Here's the delightful cover for Luca and Frankie's story - formatted and soon to be re-released. Missing a few things, though. This was one of them. The interview for the next Italian Knight is right here, and like the other re-releases will be in the back of this sparkling new version. Just so you get to know them a little bit better. Well, it would be if it wasn't like pulling teeth with one of them... What? Oh, nothing Durante! Nothing at all. (Awks). Here's Durante and Ella (Emmanuella) of IK6, Verde, Bianco, Rosso.

·         Who are you closest to?


No one. That’s the beauty of self imposed isolation. What about Massimo? He lives in another country! How is that close?


My beautiful, sweet, darling son, Rufus. He may look like his dad, but the brains, the spirit, the fire? That’s all me.

·         What’s your earliest memory?


My brother, carrying me through our family’s olive farm in Napoli. Just before he showed me a snake, and tried to put it in my arms. My mother never forgave him for it.    


We went to Hamleys. Me, my mum and my sister. My mum told me to hold onto my sister’s hand, but Angela being Angela wanted to walk by herself. I may have let her go, and she may have walked into the path of a number 19 Routemaster and she may have almost got herself run over. I don’t think my mum’s quite forgiven me for that.

·         What’s your biggest fear?


Never being allowed to atone for my sins. Ecco, Billy. Self imposed isolation or not, everyone wants to be happy. In their own way.


Rufus deserves the world. And I’m scared rigid sometimes that I won’t be able to give him everything he does deserve. That I’m not enough as one parent, let alone substitute for two.

·         What are you best at?


Patience. Yes, I said patience. Yes, I am well aware of my surname. The answer remains the same.


I can cook, pretty well. I can speak several languages. Oh, yes, fluently. Maths. Horse riding. Swimming. Socialising. Not committing murder. Forgiving. Everything really.

·         Tell us something that will shock us.


Every tourist who has visited my estate has left alive. Barely counts. They’re still alive.


I’m really not that grieved by my husband’s death. Guilt? Yes. Grief? No. I’m evil aren’t I?

·         What do you value in a partner?


Brain cells.


Normality. I need someone to ground me. I’ve had more than enough excitement for a hundred lifetimes.

·         Describe the last time you felt happy.


Happy? God knows. Content? My first year in Tuscany. For the first time, I felt I’d done something I could be proud of. And I felt content. You can feel content without smiling. I’m smiling on the inside.


Me and Roo in Sicily. Just me and my baby boy. Building sandcastles. Eating lemon cakes. Perfect. I’ve never had a better time since.

·         What’s your biggest regret?


Don’t you mean who? That answers the question in its entirety.


Shouldn’t that be who? Well, it’s a tossup between dear departed David, the late hubs. And Angela. I should have pushed her in front of that bus... But then I’d have to change my list on things I’m best at. Regrets... I’ve had a few... Oh shush, I can sing!

·         What’s the one thing you’d change about yourself?


I’ve done enough changing. You have to take me as I am.


I’d really like to be less flaky. I’m a mum. I should behave like one once in a while.

·         What item can’t you live without?


My coffee machine. It saves lives. By the hour.


My amazing bicycle! Because cycling through Lucca town is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Apart from the bum ache.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Sweet Mother

It was Lady London's birthday yesterday! She cooed over her flowers (a lot of flowers), her cards, telephone calls from around the world, visits, Marks and Spencer cake and scones (her bloody favourite) and tea made by my fair hand. As opinionated as we both are - we had a bit of a barney about holidays but we were sorted before the African News at 8 - we can still talk to each other. She's still here for me to have barneys with and make tea for and to take her Kelly Hoppen cast offs. So many of my dearest friends no longer have that luxury, and regardless of the relationship enjoyed or endured with their mothers, the loss of a parent cuts to the core, a wound that never quite heals. Now, I haven't beaten about the bush about challenging mother/daughter relationships - the two most difficult - Rose Asare's with Lily in Kissing the Canvas, and Joanne Abbey's with Frankie in Best Laid Plans. Yes, I need a moment...
Okay, African women have a reputation of being hard. Sometimes it's a result of being the only parent in a child's life, as in both Joanne and Rose's case, or they've experienced poverty, abandonment or similar parenting during their childhood. Both women take matters too far into their own hands, but I understand their motivation, wrong as their actions may be. And as many times as their daughters call to the Holy Trinity for help, they wouldn't be without their mothers. Don't lie to me Francesca. I know you, heaux. Conflict is easily written. Resolution is the more difficult of the two. It all takes a continuation of conversation and never let it be said Ghanaian women can't talk! When the love is there, however deep down it is, there is hope that there can be a new start and something that will leave no regrets, only the best of memories for what has been shared.
All in all, Happy Birthday Lady London! Keep the stories coming - they're working!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Raise Your Glass

Happy New Year! I was ill (again) over most of the holidays so felt rather sorry for myself. While in some cases a bit of illness spurs some goodness - you're welcome Niels - other times, it sucks any and every bit of energy I have. Let us all play the tiny violin for the trials of Billy...

And refrain. So, 2015. I've got to get busy. Seriously, I really have to get busy with things. I need them off my laptop so I can get on with the rest of my days. So the plan is:

  1. Two knights (a Durante and a Beppe - one is closer to the finish line than the other by miles! How easy is it to write torture and murder after some Night Nurse and a Batman trilogy marathon?!) 
  2. Two witches (the trial by fire of NaNoWriMo which still isn't finished! and to get Helena and Auden's story back into the loving arms of the public) 
  3. A shifter or two (there's a dragon who has been languishing in his thirty thousand words of unfinished story whinging at me. An actual dragon, not a metaphor for something else.)  
  4. Then, I'm definitely going to Morocco. For a much needed break. For some research because I need to work my way through my Season of Love Vol One, start on Season of Love Vol Two (basically to make up for nothing new over Christmas) and what better way that to be in the gloriousness of Marrakesh in the month of lurve! 

I'd like to have it all done by yesterday but the day job, my brain and life won't allow. But I'm doing it. With the might of Hans Zimmer and the unopened packets of Celebration chocolates and Foxes biscuits, it shall be done! Oh crap, diet. Hold on, no one's seeing me in a bikini for at least four months! Yaaaaas! Pasta and writing is what I am made for!

I am on it people! I am on it!