Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 Wrap Up *&* 2014 Challenge

I signed up for the AWWC 2013 challenge last year – I pledged to read and review at least 10 books by Australian Women Writers.  I was pleased that it wasn’t even a particular effort – that is, I found there were books by Australian women writers that I wanted to read and I didn’t have to “force” myself to read something to meet my challenge commitments. Part of the reason I signed up was because I wasn’t sure how many books by Australians I was reading and I was curious to find out if it would be an effort or more of an organic thing.  I was prepared for effort, but glad that it was more organic.  There are amazing Australian women (romance) writers and I was happy to participate to highlight some of them and also to give a bit of a bump to genre romance within the challenge itself.

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A full list of my challenge books and links to the reviews is after the jump.

A Basic Renovation by Sandra Antonelli

BasicRenoWhy I read it:  I bought this book a little while back, having heard lots of good things about it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  When it comes down to it, rats in the oven trumps Lesley’s desire to never set eyes on another Brennan family member. So Lesley, a pro at property redevelopment, scrambles to Dominic Brennan’s hardware store for supplies. Dominic knows poison — rat and otherwise — and he sees it in Lesley. The woman ruined his brother’s life. Now that she’s back in town, Dominic’s afraid she’ll drag up the past, the secrets, and the pain. They clash immediately, but mix in a teenage boy, a puppy, some white paint, and some loud music, and what starts as cold fury transforms into a nuclear attraction. This basic renovation becomes a major life refurbishment for them both.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Forty-something heroines and heroes appeal to me now in a way they didn’t when I was in my twenties.  From my current perspective, it does not seem at all ridiculous or icky to read a romance with older protagonists.  I am happy enough to read about younger people too, but there is definitely room in my reading for people my age and older.  Lesley and Dominic are both in their 40s, both experiencing some of the visible signs of aging Olay warns you about on the television at every possible opportunity.  (I expect, nevertheless, they look better than I do – that’s okay, I tend to imagine romance heroes and heroines are good looking no matter what the text tells me – perhaps this is a flaw, I don’t know).  Because both are older, they fit well into their own skins – they know themselves, their wants and desires, their tics and foibles fairly well and neither of them are likely to change all that much.  But they have both changed very much from the people they were when they (briefly) knew each other sixteen years earlier, when Lesley was (briefly) married to Dominic’s douchebag brother Terry.  The book presents them as having come into their own – particularly Lesley, rather than just being “not young anymore” and certainly, Dominic finds the current Lesley much more fascinating and attractive than he ever did before. 

Her Favourite Temptation by Sarah Mayberry

Why I read it:  This is the free “novella” released last week by Harlequin.  I enjoy all things Mayberry so I not only downloaded it the same day – I read it too.  I say “novella” because it’s 180 pages so it’s a long-ass novella.  Bonus!

It’s free until the end of August but after that, it’s likely to go up to $2.99 or so.  It’s well worth the money but free is better so get downloading.

Australian readers please note that the title is spelled Her Favourite Temptation over here.

What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  Leah Mathews has always been the good sister, the favored one who could do no wrong. But as her thirtieth birthday looms, she’s ready to step out of her parents’ shadow and make changes in her life. Shes even more inspired by the sexy musician who moves in next door and his seize-the-day attitude. And tempted to take comfort in his arms…

Will Jones is facing the prospect of losing the career he loves–and possibly his life–to a sudden illness. When he meets Leah, he feels a powerful connection to her, and flirting with a smart, beautiful woman seems like the perfect way to spend the weeks before his risky operation.

But as their relationship heats up, Leah still doesn’t know the truth about Will’s situation. Will their bond be strong enough to face the challenges yet to come.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Leah Mathews is a doctor training to be a cardiothoracic surgeon.  Unlike Christina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy however, she doesn’t have passion for the role and is jumping off that train to get on board with Clinical Immunology.  While she is very happy with her decision it also marks the first time that she has stepped away from her parents’ wishes/hopes/plans for her and they don’t take it well.  I was pleased that Leah stuck to her guns even though it brought her into conflict with her family and I liked the way that being on the receiving end of her parents’ disapproval opened her eyes in a new way to how her older sister Audrey has been treated nearly her whole life.   This spurs Leah to reconnect with Audrey and attempt to establish a closer relationship and I really liked how Leah actually does something here.  She doesn’t just lament, she makes a move and by the end, she and Audrey are forging a new bond. I hope this will be explored a little more in the next full length book due out in early September – Her Favourite Rival (Her Favorite Rival for US people).

Lick by Kylie Scott

Why I read it: I received a review copy from the publisher.  But (wait for it) this was also a part of my prize for winning the “name the band” competition.  (Actually, the name wasn’t terribly original, the series was already called Stage Dive – I just piped up and said that would be an awesome band name).  The other part of my prize was that a secondary character in the book was named after me.  Kaetrin is an (awesome) (slightly slutty – but in a sex positive way) groupie with an AMAZING rack. LOLOLOL!    The author very kindly asked me to pick her hair colour and the colour of her dress for her second appearance in the book.  We had a lot of fun on Twitter with it.  I told her to go for broke – but please just make me hot!  (And she did, so: thank you Kylie!). She’s not in the book very much and while I was tickled to see my name in print, that wasn’t the reason I liked the book.  Fortunately, it turned out that it’s a book I’m very happy to have my name in, even if Book Kaetrin is a bit of a skank (I say that with love).

What it’s about:
(from Goodreads)  Waking up in Vegas was never meant to be like this.Evelyn Thomas’s plans for celebrating her twenty-first birthday in Las Vegas were big. Huge. But she sure as hell never meant to wake up on the bathroom floor with a hangover to rival the black plague, a very attractive half-naked tattooed man, and a diamond on her finger large enough to scare King Kong. Now if she could just remember how it all happened.One thing is for certain, being married to rock and roll’s favourite son is sure to be a wild ride.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):
I’m a hero-centric reader but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good heroine.  I was actually pretty impressed with Evelyn.  She holds her own against celebrities and rock stars when she’s out of her depth and in unfamiliar territory.  There was a certain feistiness to her which appealed very much to me.

Wife for A Week by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it:  I was browsing through my reader and this one jumped out and said “read me”.  I picked it up in a Harlequin sale a while back.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Nicholas Cooper must produce a wife for his business deal, and Hallie Bennett is beautiful and intelligent enough to pull it off. She needs the money, and Nicholas has determined some strict rules for their week together. Rule No. 1: Displays of affection in public onlyKeeping their hands on each other in public turns out to be surprisingly easy. It’s keeping them “off” in private that’s the problem. Hallie is falling for Nicholas, but will Nicholas make his contract wife his real-life bride?

What worked for me (and what didn’t): This was so much fun! It’s short, only 120 pages or so but the author manages to create a believable, amusing and sexy romance, not only in a short word count but in a short space of time also – the whole book takes place in just over a week.

Hallie and Nick meet when Nick’s mother is searching for shoes in a shop Hallie is working in and the witty banter and consensual double entendres begin between the two protagonists, egged on by Clea (Nick’s mother), who is outrageous but huge fun.
‘No, they met at a birthday party. Clea was in the cake. I try not to think about it.’
Nick is heading to Hong Kong the following week to cement a business deal which has been months in the making.  His potential business partners is widower John Tey, who has a nineteen year old daughter, Jasmine.  Last time Nick was in Hong Kong Jasmine put the moves on him and to let her down gently, he told her he was married.  Now he feels like he has to keep up the pretense of risk the deal and the feelings of both John and his daughter, neither of which he wants to do.  He also doesn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations, as he’s not in the market for a serious relationship, let alone marriage, so paying someone to pretend seems like the best solution.  After Clea quite outrageously (also shamelessly matchmaking) suggests Nick hire Hallie for the job, things quickly progress to offer and acceptance.

Untamed by Anna Cowan

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.  It’s been on my radar for a while now.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  Outspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. She is more familiar with farmers and her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Have you ever had the experience of seeing something in your peripheral vision more clearly than when you look straight on?  I had that a few times when reading this book.  That sense of something just outside my grasp.While I had some problems with the story, there is also a lot to like. There is some lovely poetry in the writing.

This was the piano as she hadn’t even known it could be played – subdued passion that she was fairly sure wouldn’t be allowed in public. One melody tripped lightly ahead of the other, follow me. The second was slow; it would never catch the first but ran under it, as deep as an ocean.

She had never heard anything so beautiful.

There is also subtlety and cryptic phraseology from time to time.  There are multiple and carefully woven plot threads. A little here, a little there.  I felt, for most of the book, like I was playing a particularly elaborate game of cat’s cradle – it had the potential to be anywhere on the scale from a beautiful and magnificent creation to a crazy tangled mess.

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