The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Honour Him

I love Hans Zimmer. I don't even think love is a big enough word to accurately describe my feelings for him. Let's go German - allumfassende liebe. My brother thinks all his music sounds the same. I have disowned him for this pronouncement. Don't even curr.

In my youthful, hungover days at university, while everyone else was outside enjoying the summer rays, I  was within the library walls, looking on forlornly, wondering if I too would ever enjoy the summer sunshine. Hans soundtracked my dramatic educational imprisonment through the music of Gladiator. I thought it was my first introduction to him. I was wrong. I'd known him in Backdraft, in the music of the Lion King - that bit where Simba claims the pride in the rain? Hans. All Hans. Through King Arthur's battle cry, to Sherlock Holmes' Victorian intrigue, Pirates of the Caribbean's rum soaked parlay, to the magnificent and magic of space of Interstellar - Hans has conjured worlds for me to escape to. I don't see the films any more, when I listen to his music. I see my own characters running around, causing havoc, bringing tears, doing the impossible. In the last few weeks, when writing had been a struggle, I turned to The Dark Knight Rises, and boom! Bitch started writing again. That chanting rise, rise, rise! I feel the power, I feel the urgency, I feel like bloody Batman, I'll tell you!!!

And then came Batman v Superman. The only reason I looked forward to this film was because of Hans. I loved his Man of Steel score with a passion. On the extended album (which I bought without a second thought) the track Arcade conjured the weirdest dream that is now in a story. No lie. What elevated a lacklustre plot (don't @ me, I didn't like it) beyond the visuals was the music. Comic book visuals became memorably enhanced by the collaboration of Mr. Zimmer and Junkie XL.

Junkie knows a drum beat - we get this in spades. But the cello - it's an electric cello - who the hell knew??? for Wonder Woman's theme aka "Is She With You?"... I have never got up to cheer in a cinema before, but I nearly did. I nearly started a Wonder Woman riot. But I had chocolate I didn't want to overturn, so, I barely and I do mean barely kept my bum in my chair.

In the "Men Are Still Good" track, therein lies the Batman Suite. You can definitely hear the homage to Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman theme, ghosting throughout. There are also reminiscent parts of his score with James Newton Howard for Batman Begins. Powerful, dark, enraged, vengeful. Homage, echo, elevate. That solo trumpet towards the end of this track - the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader - alone he stands for justice. Standing damn ovation.

You can't tell me that Lex Luthor's theme - throughout "The Red Capes Are Coming" -  is not reminiscent of Mozart's Requiem. Villains need to have some sort of class, and nothing is more classy than a bit of Mozart on death. Then throughout the scenes of Superman saving reams of people (making up for all the damage he caused in Man of Steel) you have echoes of the stirring and beautifully simple piano theme from his first film.

Then you get to my favourite track - Their War Here. I may be a little controversial here, but it's a little Marvel. A little Sam Rami's Spiderman (again Mr. Danny Elfman) the comic book pages flipping, and then bam! Whack! Wallop! Into the midst of the destruction of Metropolis as Superman battles Zod. It's just brilliance. Artistry at its finest. Each character has their own unique, individual theme music, and something I hope that will play out over the next films as well - even if Hans has officially retired from Superhero movies. (super sad face, I can't even!)

To Sir Zimmer (I'm just arbitrarily going to knight him) thank you. For stirring my soul, for urging me to be a hero, but really, to be a better writer. To match the levels of the music I adore. What Am I Going To Do When I'm Not Saving The World?


Wednesday, 23 March 2016


You know by now that most writers have more than one tale on the go. Since I finished Wynne's Surprise last week, a mature lady just drive by interrupted my self satisfaction with a, "Get me a bloke! It's like the Sahara down there!"
What do you do with that, except start writing? Carole, my darling, dearest, horniest heroine I know. Carole's in her early sixties, has three children, two grandchildren, an ex-husband, her own home and has taken early retirement. She's the embodiment of a woman I know and absolutely adore, and that means this story is me trying to give her everything she deserves, which includes watering the desert. Sorry. Had to. There's one serious, no nonsense, man's man for the job - Aneurin Agnarsson. Sixty-five and more than alive. Big, bearded, buff. I would. I mean, I think about Santa Claus these days, not for presents, but what I can give him. I need help, I know this.
We all have our age comfort zones, and either side of my own is always cause for a little apprehension. This time around I don't even care. Because Carole doesn't give a monkeys. Surgical scars, troublesome family members, not enough coconut oil to tame her hair... She ain't bothered. Hot Muse Hank's eyebrows are right at his hairline. Yesterday, I was bashing away at the laptop, and Hank tried to interrupt me. "Isn't a bit soon for all of that? That's... Yeah, that's a lot."
I told him, nah. Carole's getting laaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyd!
And she will continue to do so, on the damn regular - if everyone stays out of her business. Except Aneurin. That's all his.
Age ain't nothin' but a number! Coz these old folks, they are dirty. Dirty.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


I am firmly on the Beppe and Mimi train! It’s taken a while, and I’ve been told why. I read an article about romance tropes in TV series – and how badly they’re done. One of them was “last folks standing”. Giuseppe and Amelia said nothing while I read it, just sipped on some Marks and Spencer tea, waiting for the penny to drop. Drop it did. With a clang.

I had to convince them that I’m not just putting them together because they’re the last free people of the Italian Knights world. Mostly, I’m handing them to one another just because there’s no one else that can put up with either of them. Hold on Mimi, don’t wave that at me, I’m going to explain.

First, Beppe is strange. No two ways about it. He’s a sandwich short of a picnic. Who else would turn up at his friend’s blessing with a bandana over their face? Or sing to his friend’s ex in the parking zone of a strip club? Or drug said friend to make sure he stayed put to speak to the same ex? Normal people don’t do that. If I told you the things he comes out with in this story, now he’s talking to me... I’m scared. Hot Muse Hank is a little concerned. I need a hug.

Secondly, there’s Amelia. No one gets their name shortened to Mimi unless there’s plenty of cray running around the place.  She’s a surgeon. If you work in medicine, there’s a switch in you that’s off. It has to be, or how else do you cut up people on a daily and enjoy it? It’s her second most favourite thing in the world. Second. To what, you’ll find out.

And they have this weird as hell shared history – of family, of areas they associate with their childhood, of how science saved them both from the spiral of depression... I don’t know how it happened to be that way, but it is what it is.

All of that is definitely not because they’re the last two standing. It’s because they’re perfect for each other. In the oddest way possible, and in ways I couldn’t have imagined before now.

Weird. As. Hell.

Beppe: Should we tell her?
Mimi: No-ho-ho! Let her find out for herself. It’s more fun that way.

Find out what? WHAAAAAAAAT?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016


I haven't any sisters. My mother thought it was quite sad - then again, she didn't know how much I blamed my brothers for things being broken/going missing in our house. It was probably best I didn't have to compete with anyone for clothes, shoes or make up. There may well have been death. My sister's most likely. Thankfully, my father remained the voice of reason and told Lady London in no uncertain terms, there would be no more Londons!

And then, this weekend, I went to a friend's hen party. Slightly disastrous - I got my lipstick on the bridesmaid in the midst of exciting news. Got prosecco on the same bridesmaid. Then telling me more about said exciting news, she chucked yet another glass of prosecco over her bag. At dinner, we all had glo-sticks. I snapped mine. It broke. And spattered the hen's beautiful white and red dress in neon yellow. I could have cried while she laughed to tears as I scrubbed the stains away in the ladies. But by the by. The hen's party had been diligently and lovingly arranged by her younger sister. You'd think a hen party would be the source of all conflict and internalised jealousy. And it was completely the opposite. It was a celebration of sisterhood. Their closeness, how they interchangeably spoke about the same things, almost in unison. How respectful they were to each other. All of the sex questions for the Mr & Mrs the sister refused to read, because her sister does not do anything of the sort. She and her fiance hold hands. Dats it.

It warmed me, more than the several bottles of wine and prosecco and champagne we went through. More than the espresso martini shots. Even more than the huge platter of mac'n'cheese. I love cheese. So much. The point is here somewhere. Yes, there we are.

I've written some appalling siblings. Because they exist, and they do make fascinating characters. The ones I treasure, are the good ones. The supportive ones. Those who will patiently listen, advise, even step into the breach to protect their sibling from anything and everything. The best ones will let you borrow those clothes, make up and shoes, knowing they'll never see them again.

The girl you grew up with. Who taught you how to get around your parents and your grandparents. Who let you copy her essay, she did two years ahead of you. Who picked you up from that terrible party because Dad let her borrow the keys, and took you to Maccy D's for an apple pie to cheer you up. The girl who didn't complain about the sucky Christmas gift you bought her because she knew you'd just lost your job. Who didn't say a word about your evil ex, but slashed tires for you on the sly when realisation hit. The girl who went to birthing classes with you, who sewed the tear in your wedding dress in the toilets, who cried with you through Titanic and made you watch that horror film with her, just so she could scare the crap out of you during a sleepover. Who calls you, just when you need to hear her voice, and who loves you more than you know. The best friend you didn't ask for, but got anyway.

Naturally, biology does not determine sisterhood - but today, for International Women's Day - let's celebrate that connection. It's a beautiful thing to behold.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


I've had some bad reviews in my time, none more hurtful than my first one star critique. It was brutal, and I questioned every single word I'd written. Five years down the line, I'm a lot more thick skinned. I will admit when a criticism is valid and sometimes I'll even revel in it. (Sorry, about Sympathy for the Devil reader - someone was going to come off worse and it was always going to be West. That's life!)

And then came a review on An Art To It. The reviewer didn't understand British slang, they skimmed through pages of it, and they had zero interest in reading about people at college. Well, to be clear only one of them was at university, and the other was still at secondary school. And I went straight back to questioning myself - for a brief moment. Until the lovely members of my Facebook page told me "No, baby, no."

So, just in case someone missed it - I am British. London born African. My experiences are going to be decidedly different from an author who grew up in either Downtown LA or the suburbs of Paris. I cannot overstate how important education is to the people of the African continent, or how education is the gateway to all those dreams advertised on TV in the UK. How can you afford Waitrose (upscale supermarket that lists creme brulee as an 'essential') if you don't get a single A-Level?

We speak a different language. Say "peng" to a North London teenager, and they'll know what you're talking about. Tweet "canny" to a Geordie (someone from Newcastle) and to a Glaswegian and they mean two different things entirely. American English and London English are different languages - ask Word. Search A-Levels and teenagers, and just see the sheer numbers of them crying about having no sleep, wasting time watching Family Guy when they could be revising, or having a joyous night out with friends, because they've been let off the hook by their parents.

Granted, I wouldn't go through that again for love nor money. I've done more studying than God intended me to do - and I'm still sodding doing it! But I wanted to write that story. Because after university, life gets seriously responsible. If it's not holding down a job you probably hate, it's paying bills, it's putting that dress from Zara back down because you can't afford it this month, it's saving for a holiday because you've only got two weeks left, seeing as you used half your allowance on sick days, drinking cheap prosecco at your friend's wedding. It's praying you win the lottery by wishful thinking so you don't have to live with anyone else. All that stuff that honestly makes you long for the days when the worst thing you had to worry about was turning up to school on time.

These stories are first and foremost escapism. What I write in any case, I don't deign to speak for other authors. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - no one is going to like everything I write. Take time to read the blurb, to read a sample, see what you're getting. If paranormal's not for you - you're not going to enjoy Addicted to Witch or Remains. If reading about teenagers getting their parents to pay for holidays while talking in slang is not your jolly, allow An Art To It, or Sympathy for the Devil. Even @Last features younger characters, who will not assess a situation in the same way as a thirty year old would.

Look, if Shelly Laurenston wrote a factual book on The Kennedys tomorrow, I'd leave it. It's not my thing. No offence and I doubt she'd take it as such. Although, if she wrote a romantic fiction based on Leninism in 19th Century Russia, I'd be all over that. History still is one of my favourite subjects.
Don't take a chance on the premise that because it's me you'll love it. Why do that to yourself? It's not for you, and that's okay. I've written others that are.

I've got the list to the right that includes everything I've written in the right genre. But just to make sure, I'm separating things into age groups, just so you know, my sweet spot is around my own age, or a little older. But I do everyone. I don't discriminate. Besides, Hot Muse Hank wouldn't let me. He's planning a Cougar Future for me. Don't ask...

Italian Knights Series

Late 20s Early 30s
On Caristo’s Watch

The Claim
Best Laid Plans
Murano (coming soon)

Verde Bianco Rosso

A Life Sublime


Said the Demon to Little Miss Eva
Angel’s Baby (sequel to Said the Demon)
Put Out the Zombie
Playing Dead
Shibah’s Monster
Addicted To Witch

Late 30s - Early 40s
Nights of Roshan


Late Teens
An Art To It

Early 20s
@Last (Young Adult)
Sympathy for the Devil (Young Adult)

Late 20s - Early 30s
Kissing the Canvas

An Old Cake Tale
Army of You and Me
Sweet Child of Mine

Late 30s - Early 40s
The Baby Gift
Camera’s Gaze (coming soon)

Coming Around Again

Flash Fiction

Christmas Connection
At Midnight
Starting Over
On Set Vintage Pleasures


Lifespan of all ages 
Fairytales of Christmas
Season of Love, Vol One

Season of Love, Vol Two