Book Review: Love, Second Time Around by Penny Appleton

I came upon Love, Second Time Around completely by chance. I was on Twitter and I saw an author assistant I follow ask if anyone likes sweet romance. I said I do. She then told me she had one that needs a review and sent me a copy.

Before I get to my review, here’s a quick synopsis from the back of the book:

Maggie Stewart is a retired lawyer, working to preserve the heritage of her little English cottage in Summerfield village. Her children have grown and she’s content to ride horses in the countryside and enjoy her retirement.

Except she needs money for her renovations … and she’s lonely.

When she joins her old environmental team to go up against an oil company, Maggie finds herself working in opposition to a man she once loved from afar, many years ago.

Idaho ranch owner Greg Warren is rich and entitled, with a dark past that he hides behind a professional smile. But inside, he struggles with loneliness after the loss of his wife, and the rage of a wild daughter who won’t let him move on.

Love blooms as Maggie and Greg take a chance on a new start, but can they find a balance between their two worlds?

In this sweet romance, set between the English countryside and the mountains and farmland of Idaho, can Maggie and Greg find love second time around?

I have to admit that if I’d come across the book on the shelf, I would have passed it by because the couple on the front is older. Shame on me! That actually turned out to be one of the things I liked about the book. It was refreshing to see two people who are mature in their dealings on love, as opposed to the selfish 20- and 30-somethings that normally populate romance novels. The characters felt real and I could truly believe the heroine, Maggie, and the hero, Greg, have been meant for each other all along. I do have to admit that Greg’s sometimes misogynistic attitude that comes out toward the end turned me off of him a bit, but that is in keeping with the generation he belongs to, so I can give the author that. It is nice to see a flawed hero whose wound is something realistic, unlike a lot of the brooding heroes out there. Same goes for Maggie. I felt really bad for her once I learned her back story. And oh, could I relate to her financial woes!

Two actors immediately popped into my head for the main characters, that’s how well they were drawn. Richard Gere for Greg and Rosemary Dunsmore for Maggie.

By far my favorite part of the book was the settings, especially Maggie’s Square House cottage in England. I didn’t want to leave those parts because the writing was so vivid that I felt like I was living in rural England. (We all know that is a weakness of mine!) Even Greg’s Idaho ranch came to life for me, despite me not generally liking anything to do with the American West. This book is a great example of how setting can teach you something about the character, as their different home lives really serve to show just how far apart they are in what they are comfortable with. Understanding that really made me want to know if they could work past those differences to make their love happen.

I have to admit being a little in love with silver fox Greg. He’s my kind of man: rich and fond of the grand gestures. Yes, this book definitely fulfilled a fantasy for me. But beyond that, he’s kind and truly loving to his family – perhaps too indulgent with his bitchy daughter – and that’s the kind of man I want to end up with. I’ve always liked older men, and now that I’m staring down 40, perhaps this is the kind of man I’ll look for in the future.

This book is short – I read it in a matter of hours – but it has surprising depth for it’s length. It’s sweet, but in a romantic way, not in a religious or sickeningly trite way. It’s a beautiful, old-fashioned romance that will sweep you up and then gently put you down when it’s over. We need more books like that. This would be perfect for a Hallmark Channel movie adaptation. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series, and anything else Penny Appleton (the pen name of a mother-daughter duo) writes.

PS – This book is written in first person from Maggie’s POV, just like Been Searching for You is from Annabeth’s! Yay to more authors breaking the romance “rule” that the book has to be written in third person and be from both the hero and heroine’s POVs.

I’m Giving Away a Box of Royalty-Themed Romance Novels!

Daughter of Destiny is part of this month’s Ever After Box, and I’m celebrating by giving one away!

July is all about kings and queens, princes and princesses. Give yourself the ROYAL treatment with great romantic reads featuring royalty past and present along with themed gifts that will make you feel like queen (or king) for a day. This month features books and goodies from Vanessa Kelly, Jennifer Faye, Gwen Hayes, me, and more.

You can enter just by commenting to let me know you are interested. I’m taking entries through end of day Tuesday, July 18. Then I will use a randomizer to pick a winner and will announce it here. If you win, I’ll send you the promo code, which is good through July 31.

Good luck and thanks for your support!

PS – You can also buy this month’s Ever After Box here. And if you still haven’t purchased Daughter of Destiny, it will be on sale for $0.99 July 21-25 to celebrate the book having an international BookBub ad on July 24!

I’m in the July/August Issue of Ind’tale Magazine

Just wanted to let everyone know I’m all over the July/August issue of Ind’tale Magazine.

  1. I have an article on how to do your own writing retreat. (p. 38-40)
  2. Daughter of Destiny (p. 132) and Been Searching for You‘s (p. 133) audiobooks are reviewed.
  3. I have an ad in there as well. (p. 41)

Happy reading!

 

Been Searching for You is a Stiletto Finalist!

Yes, this is the official symbol of the Stiletto contest.

Been Searching for You is a finalist in the Stiletto contest, sponsored by the Contemporary Romance Writers chapter of RWA! Here’s the full finalist list. We’ll find out who the winners are at the RWA national conference in Orlando in July. So happy I will be there to attend the party and receive my award!

Double Winner at the Midwest Book Awards + Discovering Diamonds Reviews

Midwest Book Awards
I found out over the weekend that Daughter of Destiny won the fantasy category (Camelot’s Queen was also up for that award; I had 2 of 3 finalist slots) and Been Searching for You won the romance category at the Midwest Book Awards!

The winners were covered in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which is my first mention in my hometown paper. (I didn’t enter the IPPY Awards that are also mention in the article. Those awards are of questionable value for their price.)

Discovering Diamonds Reviews
Plus, Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen and Madame Presidentess have all been honored with the Discovering Diamonds badge for outstanding indie historical fiction.

If you read nothing else, check out the review for Madame Presidentess. I wish everyone was as as enthusiastic about the book as this reviewer! Here are the links to the other reviews:

Other Big News
Daughter of Destiny reached #49 in the historical fantasy category on Amazon over the weekend, which is HUGE! It stayed there are all weekend and is still in the low 50s. Thank you to everyone who has bought it and spread the word among your friends, family and acquaintances. We will get to #1 yet, together!

And I know about two more awards, but I can’t announce them because they aren’t public yet.

 

My Ideal Romance Hero (or Alphas, Betas and Gammas, Oh My!)

Image purchased from Adobe Stock

This week’s blog challenge is one I can’t believe I’ve never covered here before: My Ideal Romance Hero. I AM a romance writer, after all.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I am so NOT into alpha males. (Oddly enough I just talked about this during my romance cliche presentation last weekend at the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference.) If you don’t know what that is, an alpha male is your typical romance hero. He’s usually ripped (think Fabio) and is very masculine, confident and bold. He takes charge to take care of his woman. *shivers* I can fend for myself, thank you. All that testosterone is just not for me.

Give me a beta male any day. A beta male is more vulnerable and sensitive than an alpha. He’s shy, sweet, reliable, trustworthy, easygoing but not a pushover, quick to offer comfort, feels deeply, and avoids confrontation. As author Cynthia Eden says: “The beta, well, he’s the guy you hope to marry in real life. Dependable. Steady. You know, a nice guy. The kind you looked for after you were done playing with the bad boy.”

I wrote Alex in Been Searching for You as a beta male. He’s highly educated, works as a professor (as opposed to alpha male careers like military, cop, fire fighter, construction worker, etc.), and he even cries while reading The Fault in Their Stars. He’s got a thing for theatre and the fine things in life. He’s basically my ideal fantasy man. My Lancelot is also more beta (although he may be a gamma), whereas King Arthur is certainly an alpha, which I did on purpose. Aggrivane is all beta. So is Miles from Been Searching for You. Nick? He’s an alpha-hole. (A subcategory of asshole alphas – this is a real thing in the romance community!)

Actually, the ideal man is probably what is coming to be known in romance circles as a gamma male, a combination of alpha and beta traits. There are shy betas who morph into aggressive, take-change alphas when the heroine is threatened, and alphas who hide a softer, beta side. If I had to pick, give me the former. I’d rather have the sensitive guy who will kick ass if I need him to than the one who kicks ass, but occasionally cries. When I think gamma male, I think Ben Pearl from Interred with Their Bones, who is totally my book boyfriend. he’s an internationally security expert and he protects the hell out of Kate Stanley, but he’s also highly intelligent and is able to keep up with her PhD-level Shakespearean knowledge. *swoon*

Ladies (and men who are so inclined) what does your ideal romance hero look like, physically and in all other ways? I want to know!

Another Huffington Post Article & Some Updates

I have another article in The Huffington Post today.  This one is called “Writing a Tame Romance in The Age of 50 Shades” and it’s about why I decided to make Been Searching for You a sweet romance vs. the traditional steamy. (The formatting is crazy; totally not what the preview looked like when I submitted it. I have no idea what they did to it!)

HuffPo-BSFY2

Also, I’ve been doing some updates to the site. The book club questions for  Been Searching for You are finally up, as are deleted scenes and IfList casting for Camelot’s Queen and Been Searching for You. Oh and the iTunes link for the audio book of Been Searching for You is up, too.

Been Searching for You – More Than Just a Love Story

Yay! It’s Been Searching for You‘s publication day! Here are the buy links:

amazon-logo-icon nook-icon-150x150 KoboIconWeb ibooks_icon book-button-smashwords-icon

Been Searching for You eBook Cover LargeWhat follows was actually written as a guest post for another site, but I loved it so much I decided to use it here and over at Spellbound Scribes as well since I have limited time to write these things in between conferences. Some of it will be familiar because of things I’ve said here in the past, but I urge you to read it anyway, as I hope it will give you some insight into why I consider this book more than just a love story, though it is very much one of those, too.

I never thought I’d write a romance. I actually swore I’d never write romance because I really disliked romance books for a long time – until I realized what I really hated was certain types of romance, specifically the more traditional ones where the hero has a pronounced physical reaction every time he sees the heroine, if you get my drift. Those make me want to barf. Others are pretty darn good.

But I still had one pet peeve: most heroines, especially in romantic comedies, are under 30. If there’s a wedding involved, it’s “OMG, I’m going to be 30 and not married!” As a 36-year-old single girl, allow me to smack you. So, what did I do? I went and wrote my own love story, one for those of us who are over 30 *gasp*, still single and still romantics at heart. I wrote it because I wanted to write the happily ever after I haven’t yet experienced.

The book came to life because of the Civil Wars songs “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dust to Dust,” both of which my best friend introduced me to. They seem to be bookends to a love story to me, so I swore I’d write a book that began with the words “To Whom it May Concern” and ended with the words “Dust to Dust.” And I did.

But while Been Searching for You is a fun beach read that won’t set the world on fire, it’s also much more than “just a romance.” It’s about a woman’s struggle to overcome her past hurts, heal and learn to trust again. Even if the reader hasn’t been traumatized in the same way as Annabeth, chances are good there are a few scars he or she can’t let go of; such things are a consequence of dating.

It’s about the struggle to connect in a meaningful way in the modern world, which seems to value hookups more than relationships with actual lasting meaning. Throughout the book, Annabeth struggles with having old fashioned romantic tendencies in a society that wants her to be happy with getting laid. That dichotomy is part of the reason why I chose not to have graphic sex scenes in this book; I wanted to show that it’s possible to have romance while the sex takes place off the page.

It’s also about friendship and the ways we support or harm one another through our interactions, ulterior motives and positive and negative reactions to life. I have had a few frienemies in my life (friends whom you are aware are likely to stab you in the back when it is convenient) and I wanted to explore that odd dynamic, one that I’m finding from contest feedback is much more common among younger readers than older. It didn’t begin with Mean Girls but that movie certainly brought it to the fore of societal consciousness.

Finally, the book also has strong themes of the power of education (especially in literature and writing) to affect students and positively change the world. This is a topic I’m personally passionate about and I’m sure it shows in the novel. In a world fixated on wealth (the quicker the buck, the better) I wanted to show how less flashy, sexy career paths can have meaning. Chalk this one up to the book lover in me!

One element Been Searching for You lacks that most traditional romantic comedies employ is a deception of some sort. You know the storyline: the fake boyfriend/fiancée, the woman pretending to be rich when she’s not, the person with a lie that will have to come out in the end. I think reason for this is twofold: 1) I hate deception, especially when it is contrived, and when it’s obviously contrived its like nails on a chalkboard and 2) I never sat down with the intention of writing a romantic comedy. I was writing a love story, plain and simple. When it ended up being laugh-out-loud funny, I dubbed it a rom-com.

Whether you like it, love it or hate it, I hope Been Searching for You is a worthy contribution to the annals of contemporary romance, albeit on the sweet side (but it’s not totally sweet due to references to sex and a bit of adult language). It was intended to be a standalone novel, but my beta readers are begging for more, so if you want me to extend this into a series, I need you to let me know. Either way, I wish you happy reading and hope that Annabeth, Alex, Mia and Miles are good company into the summer vacation season for all of you.

Daughter of Destiny Takes Home Book of the Year!

Book of Year RibbonI was hoping to write this post a bit sooner than a week after the fact, but with traveling, the day job and other book-related events, I just haven’t had time. (What a wonderful problem to have!)

For those who haven’t heard on social media, my books took home four awards at the Chanticleer Author’s Conference in Bellingham, Washington, last weekend. I knew going in that Daughter of Destiny and Madame Presidentess were both going to get first in category awards, for romance/women’s fiction and historical fiction, respectively.

Chatelaine AwardI had no idea that Daughter of Destiny was going to continue on to take home overall category Grand Prize in the Chatelaine (romance/women’s fiction) Awards. They asked me to speak (which I wasn’t expecting) and I told a short version of how I got here (two years to find an agent, two years with an agent, getting close to traditional publications so many times, then leaving my agent, unsuccessfully trying to get another and finally going indie) with the theme of never giving up, which I almost did many times.

Imagine my shock when it was proclaimed Book of the Year! I will never watch awards shows the same way again. Those reactions you see? They are genuine. I leaned forward, covered my face with my hands and uttered some sort of guttural cry. I think at a time like that, it’s all you can can do. When they asked me to speak again, I felt like the Oscar winner who didn’t prepare an acceptance speech. People told me the next day I was very eloquent, though I have little memory of what I said. I know I thanked my mom, who is always my first reader, and who was there in the room with me. I talked about other things, but I can’t recall them.

Two first place ribbonsLater, when i was trying to hold up all four ribbons at once, i felt like the multi-Grammy winner who can barely hold all her awards. It is so overwhelming and humbling all at once. On top of that, you are in a state of shock.

I can’t even put into words what that night meant to me. I am so thankful to everyone who listened to me complain and be scared and frustrated and reassured me that I would figure it out. All of you who have been with me on this journey (whether from the beginning or just recently) are the reasons why I can now say I have written the Book of the Year.

I still can’t believe it a week later. All I can say is believe with everything in you, put in the hard work and it will happen. Manifestation, or as some of us know it, the Red Feather process, is a real thing and it does work, but you have to put in the work as well.

Thanks to everyone who has read my books or supported me in any way, shape or form.